'An Urgent Need to Respond to the Divine Call'

Pope Benedict XVI Releases Message for 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI sent a message for the upcoming 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated on April 21st, 2013. The event, which also falls on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, will reflect on the theme: "Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith."

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations was established by Pope Paul VI while the Second Vatican Council was still in session as a "day of worldwide prayer to God the Father, asking him to continue to send workers for his Church."

Reflecting on the significance of the event, Pope Benedict stated in his message that through prayer and reflection, the faithful may be aware of the "urgent need to respond to the divine call."

"Indeed, this significant annual event has fostered a strong commitment to placing the importance of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life ever more at the center of the spirituality, prayer and pastoral action of the faithful," the Holy Father stated.

Recalling the history of the people of Israel during the time of the Exile, Pope Benedict reflected on the fact that hope in the midst of tribulations gives way to God's faithfulness to the eternal covenant with man which is fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"At every moment, especially the most difficult ones, the Lord’s faithfulness is always the authentic driving force of salvation history, which arouses the hearts of men and women and confirms them in the hope of one day reaching the "promised land," the Pope said.

"This is where we find the sure foundation of every hope: God never abandons us and he remains true to his word. For that reason, in every situation, whether positive or negative, we can nourish a firm hope and pray with the psalmist: 'Only in God can my soul find rest; my hope comes from him' (Ps 62:6)."

Christ's Invitation

Pope Benedict exhorted the faithful to recognize Christ's call in their everyday lives and to look towards him as the only source of hope.  "He lives now among the community of disciples that is the Church, and still today calls people to follow him. The call can come at any moment. Today too, Jesus continues to say, "Come, follow me" (Mk 10:21)," the Pope said.

"Accepting his invitation means no longer choosing our own path. Following him means immersing our own will in the will of Jesus, truly giving him priority, giving him pride of place in every area of our lives: in the family, at work, in our personal interests, in ourselves. It means handing over our very lives to Him, living in profound intimacy with Him, entering through Him into communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit, and consequently with our brothers and sisters."

The Supreme Pontiff also stated that vocations to the priesthood and the religious life are born from a "personal encounter with Christ" where in sincere dialogue, one may follow his will. Pope Benedict stressed that by living the faith "intensely" while being nourished by the sacraments and a fervent life of prayer, would enable the faithful to respond positively to God's call.

"Deep and constant prayer brings about growth in the faith of the Christian community, in the unceasingly renewed certainty that God never abandons his people and that he sustains them by raising up particular vocations – to the priesthood and the consecrated life – so that they can be signs of hope for the world," Pope Benedict said.

"Indeed, priests and religious are called to give themselves unconditionally to the People of God, in a service of love for the Gospel and the Church, serving that firm hope which can only come from an openness to the divine. By means of the witness of their faith and apostolic zeal, therefore, they can transmit, especially to the younger generations, a strong desire to respond generously and promptly to Christ who calls them to follow him more closely."

Concluding his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Holy Father expressed his hope that today's youth, who are constantly presented with "so many superficial and ephemeral options", would ultimately desire what is truly worthy: "service to others in imitation of Jesus."

"Dear young people, the Holy Father concluded, "do not be afraid to follow him and to walk the demanding and courageous paths of charity and generous commitment!"

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For the full text of the Holy Father's message for the 50th World Day of Prayer, go to: http://www.zenit.org/article-36192?l=english