Vocation and synodality, Pope Francis calls to contribute to “the building of the human family”



Dear brothers and sisters !

While the icy winds of war and oppression are still blowing in these times and we often witness phenomena of polarization, we in the Church have initiated a synodal process: we feel the urgency to walk together, cultivating listening, participating and sharing. With all the men and women of good will, we want to contribute to “building the human family”, to heal its wounds and to project it towards a better future. In this perspective, for the 59and World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I would like to reflect with you on the broad meaning of “vocation”, in the context of a synodal Church which listens to God and to the world.

Called to all be protagonists of the mission

Synodality, the fact of walking together, is a fundamental vocation for the Church, and it is only within this horizon that it is possible to discover and value the different vocations, charisms and ministries. At the same time, we know that the Church exists to evangelize, going out of herself and sowing the seeds of the Gospel in history. Such a mission is therefore possible precisely by bringing together all areas of pastoral life and, before that, by involving all the disciples of the Lord. In fact, “by virtue of the baptism received, each member of the People of God has become a missionary disciple (cf. Mt 28:19). Each baptized person, whatever his function in the Church and the level of instruction in his faith, is an active subject of evangelization” (1). We must be wary of the mentality that separates priests and laity, seeing the former as protagonists and the latter as executors, and carry out the Christian mission as one People of God, laity and pastors together. The whole Church is an evangelizing community.

Called to be guardians of each other and of creation

The word “vocation” should not be understood in a restrictive sense, referring only to those who follow the Lord on the path of a particular consecration. We are all called to participate in Christ’s mission to reunite scattered humanity and reconcile it to God. More generally, every human person, even before experiencing the encounter with Christ and embracing the Christian faith, receives through the gift of life a fundamental call: each of us is a creature willed and loved by God. , for which he had a unique and special thought, and this divine spark, which dwells in the heart of every man and every woman, we are called to develop in the course of our lives, contributing to the growth of a humanity driven by love and mutual acceptance. We are called to be each other’s guardians, to build bonds of harmony and sharing, to heal the wounds of creation so that its beauty is not destroyed. In short, to become one family in the marvelous common house of creation, in the harmonious variety of its elements. In this broad sense, not only individuals, but also peoples, communities and aggregations of all kinds have a “vocation”.

Called to welcome the gaze of God

It is in this great common vocation that the more particular call that God addresses to us is inserted, joining our existence with his Love and directing it towards its ultimate goal, towards a plenitude which even exceeds the threshold of death. This is how God wanted to look and looks at our life.

These words are attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti: “Each block of stone contains a statue and it is up to the sculptor to discover it”. If this is the artist’s gaze, it is much more in this way that God looks at us: in this daughter of Nazareth, he saw the Mother of God; in the fisherman Simon, son of Jonas, he saw Peter, the rock on which he built his Church; in the tax collector Levi he saw the apostle and evangelist Matthew; in Saul, the harsh persecutor of Christians, he saw Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. His gaze of love always reaches us, touches us, frees us and transforms us, making us new people.

This is the dynamic of every vocation: we are reached by the gaze of God, who calls us. Vocation, like holiness, is not an extraordinary experience reserved for the few. Just as there are “the saints next door” (2), so the vocation is for everyone, because everyone is looked up to and called by God.

A proverb from the Far East says: “The wise man looks at the egg and sees the eagle; he looks at the seed and sees a big tree; he looks at a sinner and sees a saint”. This is how God looks at us: in each of us, he sees potentialities, sometimes unknown to ourselves, and throughout our lives he works tirelessly so that we can put them at the service of the common good.

This is how the vocation is born, thanks to the art of the divine Sculptor who, with his “hands”, takes us out of ourselves, so that the masterpiece that we are called to is revealed in us. be. In particular, the Word of God, which frees us from egocentrism, is able to purify us, enlighten us and recreate us. Let us therefore listen to the Word, to open ourselves to the vocation that God entrusts to us! And let us also learn to listen to our brothers and sisters in faith, because in their advice and in their example can be hidden the initiative of God, who shows us ever new paths to follow.

Called to respond to the gaze of God

The loving and creative gaze of God has reached us in a unique way in Jesus. Speaking of the rich young man, the Evangelist Mark notes: “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (10:21). This gaze of love from Jesus rests on each one of us. Brothers and sisters, let ourselves be touched by this gaze and let ourselves be carried by it beyond ourselves! And let us also learn to look at each other so that the people we live with and meet – whoever they are – can feel welcomed and discover that there is Someone who looks at them with love and invites them. to develop their full potential.

Our life changes when we welcome this gaze. Everything becomes a vocational dialogue, between us and the Lord, but also between us and others. A dialogue which, when lived in depth, “makes us become more and more what we are”: in the vocation to the ordained priesthood, to be instruments of the grace and mercy of Christ; in the vocation to the consecrated life, to be the praise of God and prophets of a new humanity; in the vocation to marriage, to be a reciprocal gift, generators and educators of life. In general, in every vocation and ministry of the Church, which calls us to look at others and the world with the eyes of God, to serve good and to spread love, in deeds and words.

In this regard, I would like to mention here the experience of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández Cisneros. While working as a doctor in Caracas, Venezuela, he wanted to become a Franciscan tertiary. Later, he thought of becoming a monk and a priest, but his health did not allow him. He realized that his vocation was the medical profession, in which he devoted himself above all to the poor. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to the sick, affected by the Spanish flu epidemic which was sweeping the world at the time. He was hit by a car as he was leaving a pharmacy where he had bought medicine for an elderly patient. An exemplary witness to what it means to accept the Lord’s call and fully adhere to it, he was beatified a year ago.

Called to build a fraternal world

As Christians, we are not only called, that is to say all personally challenged by a vocation, but we are also “summoned”. We are like the tesserae of a mosaic, each one already so beautiful, but it is only together that we form an image. We shine, each and every one, like a star in the heart of God and in the firmament of the universe, but we are called to form constellations that orient and illuminate the path of humanity, starting from the context in which we live . This is the mystery of the Church: in the conviviality of differences, she is a sign and instrument of what all humanity is called to. This is why the Church must become more and more synodal: able to walk together in the harmony of diversity, in which everyone has a contribution to make and can actively participate.

When we speak of “vocation”, it is therefore not only a question of choosing this or that form of life, of devoting one’s existence to a particular ministry or of following the charism of a family or of a religious movement or an ecclesial community; it is a question of realizing God’s dream, the great project of fraternity that Jesus had in his heart when he prayed to the Father: “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21). Every vocation in the Church, and more broadly in society, contributes to a common objective: to make resound among men and women that harmony of the many and diverse gifts that only the Holy Spirit can bring about. Priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, let us walk and work together, to witness that a great human family united in love is not a utopia, but the project for which God created us.

Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that the people of God, in the midst of the dramatic events of history, respond more and more to this call. Let us invoke the light of the Holy Spirit, so that each of us can find his place and give the best of himself in this great plan!

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