VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Through individual vocations, God calls men and women to be touched and transformed by his love, not use his gift for personal comfort, pursuing business opportunities or self-promotion, Pope Francis said.
“All Christians are called to be missionaries of the Gospel,” the pope said in his message for the 2017 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The message was released at the Vatican Nov. 30.
As disciples, “we do not receive the gift of God’s love for our personal consolation, nor are we called to promote ourselves, or a business concern. We are simply men and women touched and transformed by the joy of God’s love, who cannot keep this experience just to ourselves.”
The day of prayer will be celebrated May 7 at the Vatican and in many dioceses around the world; the theme for 2017 is: “Led by the Spirit for Mission.”
In his message, the pope said commitment to mission is essential to the faith since “a relationship with the Lord entails being sent out into the world as prophets of his word and witnesses of his love.”
However, he said, never be afraid; turn to God when feeling discouraged or concerned about one’s own limitations because he will always purify and equip people for sharing his good news.
While all baptized Christians have a missionary duty, priests, especially, must “go forth from the sacred precincts of the temple” to help all of humanity with confidence, enthusiasm and joy.
The pope offered three images to help people understand what it means to be a missionary, where the needed strength and courage to preach come from and what proclaiming the Gospel looks like.
The image in the Gospel of the humble sower and the tiny seed that grows through God’s hidden efforts, he said, shows how to proclaim the truth.
Unfortunately, “at times, even with the best intentions, we can indulge in a certain hunger for power, proselytism or intolerant fanaticism” when it comes to talking about God’s kingdom, he said.
“The Gospel tells us to reject the idolatry of power and success, undue concern for structures and a kind of anxiety that has more to do with the spirit of conquest than that of service,” he wrote. “The seed of the kingdom, however tiny, unseen and at times insignificant, silently continues to grow, thanks to God’s tireless activity.”
Throughout the whole journey, Jesus is there, like when he appeared on the road to Emmaus, the pope said.
People in the world, even Christ’s disciples, can feel “bewildered, inadequate and hopeless” before life’s challenges, making the Christian mission seem like an “utopian illusion” or at least beyond one’s reach, he said.
But Jesus showed “a true ‘liturgy of the street'” in which, instead of judging or criticizing his sad and dejected disciples, he walks with them and “transforms their discouragement” by opening their eyes to see that he is really alive and will never let them “bear the burden of mission alone.”
The pope called for intensified prayers for vocations, especially for consecrated men and women and priests who are in love with the Gospel because “the people of God need to be guided by pastors whose lives are spent in service to the Gospel.”
Encourage young people, too, he said, because they “desire to discover the perennial attraction of Jesus, to be challenged by his words and actions, and to cherish the ideal that he holds out of a life that is fully human, happy to spend itself in love.”