Here you will find:
- A sample notice for your weekly Newsletter / Bulletin
- Short summary of the readings
- Some Ideas for a homily
- Sample Prayer of Intercession
- A link to the Message of Pope Francis for the World Day of Prayer
Newsletter / Bulletin – Vocations Sunday Notice
“The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice.”
On this Good Shepherd Sunday we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life, especially for our diocese, that God will raise up good shepherds in our midst. Do you hear the voice of the Lord, the Good Shepherd calling you to a particular way of life?
If you think God is calling you to serve the Church as a priest or in the consecrated life, contact the National Vocations Office, email: email@example.com or your local Diocesan Vocations Director.
Summary of the Readings
FIRST READING Acts 2:14,36-41
We hear in our reading in the Acts of the Apostles that Peter addresses the Jews assembled in Jerusalem. He tells them quite boldly that Jesus whom they crucified, by his Resurrection has been constituted Lord and Christ. Luke tells us that ‘They were cut to the heart.’ The purpose of Peter’s address was to make them realise what they had done to Jesus with a view to getting them to repent and be baptised.
SECOND READING 1 Peter 2:20-25
In our second reading Peter urges slaves to bear their unjust suffering with patience, as Christ, the Good Shepherd, bore his sufferings for love us. To endure patiently, even when life is being unfair, is not simply meritorious: it is Christ-like. Christ did not retaliate; he did not threaten. He bore our sins and he bears with us.
THE GOSPEL. John 10:1-10
On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, we learn from Jesus that he wants us to have life and to live it to the full. To be able to live life to the full we need to hear his voice which can be crowded out by louder voices, such as those which lure us to other paths and ways of life. The lure of material comforts, of success. If we follow the voice of Jesus, he will lead us in the ways of love, and in this way we will lead full lives.
“I came so that you may have life and have it to the full”.
God wants us to have a meaningful life and to live it to the full. Too often people just drift through life. We should live in such a way that we do not look back with regret. Living life to the full does not mean living it up. God calls each of us to follow a certain path, whether that is to married life, single life, or a life in ministry as a priest or religious.
What is God calling you to be?
The homilist might share something of their own personal vocation story? In what way do you feel your life of service as a priest to the people of God has been a full live?
The Authentic Voice
One by one the sheep follow the shepherd – they know his voice, they do not follow the voice of strangers.
Perhaps you know someone who has a deep appreciation for music, and they can identify a particular piece of music from just the first few bars, or indeed be able to identify the voice of one artist over another, even when singing the same piece!
Our world is full of competing voices all clambering for attention. All shouting, calling us to follow different directions to attain happiness – be this material possessions such as cars, houses, clothes, lavish holidays, money, success in career, or perhaps a life of drugs or excessive alcohol?
The loudest voices are not always the wisest. Jesus invites us to attune our listening to the sound of his voice – even if it is only faintly heard amidst the din of all the other voices.
I read that the role of a vocations director is to help the person discerning a vocation to quieten the noise in life, so that they can hear the gentle whisper of God!
The homilist might share something of how they heard the voice of God in their lives, which led them to discern a vocation to the priesthood.
Jesus is the gate of the sheepfold
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus tells us that he is the gate of the sheepfold. If we consider the successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles to be the shepherds, then priests can be seen as the sheepdogs, making sure that no harm comes to the flock. We learn in the story of the Good Shepherd that one – or some – sheep stray away from the flock, get lost in a ditch, break a leg, get stranded on top of a mountain. Some sheep may well think the grass is greener and more tasty on the other side of the fence and break away into someone else’s field. Sheep will go where they can find nourishment.
Bishops and priests have a serious obligation to nourish the people of God with the truth – for, as Jesus says, ‘The truth will set you free’ and Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In order that the nourishment of the Good News may be spread, bishops need the assistance of their co-workers, the priests. Fewer and fewer men are attracted to the Irish diocesan priesthood compared to the first half of the twentieth century. If people feel that nourishment of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments is not necessary for salvation, then the ministerial priesthood itself will not be necessary.
Today we support our seminarians, both spiritually and financially. Christ, the gate of the sheepfold, is the answer to all the problems we encounter in life. Let us pray that young men will discover the true nourishment that is to be found in Jesus Christ and will want to share that with the people of God in the ministerial priesthood. Let us also pray that the people of God will encourage their sons, nephews and brothers to follow a calling that is most fulfilling, challenging and necessary in our world today. ‘Anyone who enters through me will be safe … and be sure of finding pasture’.
Homily Notes by Fr Oliver Skelly PP, Coole, Co Westmeath
Source Intercommagazine.ie May edition.
‘I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly’
On this fourth Sunday of Easter we hear the beginning of the Good Shepherd discourse from John’s Gospel. Jesus portrays himself as a shepherd. And what is the duty of this shepherd? To protect his flock, to lead the flock, to know the flock. There is a beautiful line in this passage which reads: ‘the sheep follow him because they know his voice.’ What does it mean, to know the voice of Jesus? It is to be in deep relationship with Him, to know His voice above the ‘noise’ of the world around us.
In order to know someone, we have to spend time with them, being aware of their presence, talking to them, listening, considering them friend and beloved. So, in today’s Gospel we are invited into a deep relationship with the Shepherd; invited to listen out for his voice, a voice that brings peace, not discomfort.
As I write this, our country is dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak. With social distancing, schools and colleges closed, it is a frightening time for many people. As Christ is shepherd to us, we are also called to be shepherds to others. There is a lot of hysteria online but there are also thoughtful suggestions for people, such as: take this time to write a letter to someone you care about; think of three things you love about someone and text it to them; check in on neighbours who might be vulnerable; each church undertake an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and share out the responsibility to phone them each day; practise the Christian discipline of sharing food; offer help and reassurance to others; don’t demonise anyone or any group. As followers of the Good Shepherd, may we live these suggestions, not just in times of crisis, but in all times so that all may ‘have life and have it abundantly.’
Homily notes by Jane Mellett email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source Intercommagazine.ie May edition.
General Intercessions / Prayers of the Faithful
Presider: Let us seek the loving care of our Good Shepherd as we present the needs of our Church and world. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, let us pray for vocations in our Church. We need committed men and women who believe that their call to ordained or consecrated life is from God. The Good Shepherd calls each of us by name. May we respond to that call with the familiarity of truly knowing, loving and serving the One who calls us?
- That our Holy Father Pope Francis and all Church leaders will be filled with the Holy Spirit as they guide us.
Lord Hear Us
- On this Day of Prayer for Vocations, we pray for a new openness to priestly and religious vocations among all people of our diocese and throughout our country.
Lord hear us.
- May the Lord call many people to serve him in priesthood and religious life. May those whom he calls be able to hear his voice and receive the support they need to respond with courage and generosity.
Lord, hear us.
- That all of us develop our ability to listen for the voice of the Lord in our daily lives in a noisy and preoccupied world. May listen intently to the call of the Good Shepherd and have the courage to be witnesses of the Gospel.
Lord Hear Us:
- For all who are struggling to discover their vocations, may they obtain the support and direction of spiritual guides. That our youth may find direction in their lives as they discern God’s call to priesthood, consecrated life, married life, or single life.
Lord Hear Us:
- That parents may be examples for their children and encourage them to pray and listen to God’s call, especially in their teenage years.
Lord Hear Us
- For those who have died (especially deceased clergy and religious who have served our diocese) may they be filled with the joy of everlasting life and that the Good Shepherd will welcome them into his Kingdom with open arms.
Lord Hear Us:
Presider: Loving God, look kindly on the flock your Son has gathered. May we hear your voice and know of your gentle care for us. Shepherd us to follow in your ways now and forever. Amen.
Message from Pope Francis for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2020
(3 May 2020)
Words of Vocation
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On 4 August last year, the 160th anniversary of the death of the Curé of Ars, I chose to write a letter to all those priests who daily devote their lives to the service of God’s people in response to the Lord’s call.
On that occasion, I chose four key words – pain, gratitude, encouragement and praise – as a way of thanking priests and supporting their ministry. I believe that today, on this 57th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, those words can be addressed to the whole people of God, against the backdrop of the Gospel passage that recounts for us the remarkable experience of Jesus and Peter during a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mt 14:22-33).
Indeed, the boat of our lives slowly advances, restlessly looking for a safe haven and prepared to face the perils and promises of the sea, yet at the same time trusting that the helmsman will ultimately keep us on the right course.
After the multiplication of the loaves, which had astonished the crowds, Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and precede him to the other shore, while he took leave of the people. The image of the disciples crossing the lake can evoke our own life’s journey. Indeed, the boat of our lives slowly advances, restlessly looking for a safe haven and prepared to face the perils and promises of the sea, yet at the same time trusting that the helmsman will ultimately keep us on the right course. At times, though, the boat can drift off course, misled by mirages, not the lighthouse that leads it home, and be tossed by the tempests of difficulty, doubt and fear.
Something similar takes place in the hearts of those who, called to follow the Teacher of Nazareth, have to undertake a crossing and abandon their own security to become the Lord’s disciples. The risk involved is real: the night falls, the headwinds howl, the boat is tossed by the waves, and fear of failure, of not being up to the call, can threaten to overwhelm them.
The Gospel, however, tells us that in the midst of this challenging journey we are not alone. Like the first ray of dawn in the heart of the night, the Lord comes walking on the troubled waters to join the disciples; he invites Peter to come to him on the waves, saves him when he sees him sinking and, once in the boat, makes the winds die down.
How we find fulfilment in life is more than a decision we make as isolated individuals; above all else, it is a response to a call from on high.
The first word of vocation, then, is gratitude. Taking the right course is not something we do on our own, nor does it depend solely on the road we choose to travel. How we find fulfilment in life is more than a decision we make as isolated individuals; above all else, it is a response to a call from on high. The Lord points out our destination on the opposite shore and he grants us the courage to board the boat. In calling us, he becomes our helmsman; he accompanies and guides us; he prevents us from running aground on the shoals of indecision and even enables us to walk on surging waters.
Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm. “Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019). We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives.
When the disciples see Jesus walking towards them on the sea, they first think that he is a ghost and are filled with fear. Jesus immediately reassures them with words that should constantly accompany our lives and our vocational journey: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (Mt 14:27). This, then, is the second word I wish to offer you: encouragement.
our first reaction is often from the “ghost of disbelief”. Surely, this vocation is not for me! Can this really be the right path? Is the Lord really asking me to do this?
What frequently hinders our journey, our growth, our choosing the road the Lord is marking out for us, are certain “ghosts” that trouble our hearts. When we are called to leave safe shores and embrace a state of life – like marriage, ministerial priesthood, consecrated life – our first reaction is often from the “ghost of disbelief”. Surely, this vocation is not for me! Can this really be the right path? Is the Lord really asking me to do this?
Those thoughts can keep growing – justifications and calculations that sap our determination and leave us hesitant and powerless on the shore where we started. We think we might be wrong, not up to the challenge, or simply glimpsing a ghost to be exorcized.
The Lord knows that a fundamental life choice – like marriage or special consecration to his service – calls for courage. He knows the questions, doubts and difficulties that toss the boat of our heart, and so he reassures us: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” We know in faith that he is present and comes to meet us, that he is ever at our side even amid stormy seas. This knowledge sets us free from that lethargy which I have called “sweet sorrow” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019), the interior discouragement that hold us back from experiencing the beauty of our vocation.
In the Letter to Priests, I also spoke about pain, but here I would like to translate the word differently, as fatigue. Every vocation brings with it a responsibility. The Lord calls us because he wants to enable us, like Peter, to “walk on water”, in other words, to take charge of our lives and place them at the service of the Gospel, in the concrete and everyday ways that he shows us, and specifically in the different forms of lay, priestly and consecrated vocation. Yet, like Saint Peter, our desire and enthusiasm coexist with our failings and fears.
If we let ourselves be daunted by the responsibilities that await us – whether in married life or priestly ministry – or by the hardships in store for us, then we will soon turn away from the gaze of Jesus and, like Peter, we will begin to sink.
If we let ourselves be daunted by the responsibilities that await us – whether in married life or priestly ministry – or by the hardships in store for us, then we will soon turn away from the gaze of Jesus and, like Peter, we will begin to sink. On the other hand, despite our frailty and poverty, faith enables us to walk towards the Risen Lord and to weather every storm. Whenever fatigue or fear make us start to sink, Jesus holds out his hand to us. He gives us the enthusiasm we need to live our vocation with joy and fervour.
When Jesus at last boards the boat, the winds die down and the waves are calmed. Here we have a beautiful image of what the Lord can do at times of turbulence and tempest in our lives. He stills those winds, so that the forces of evil, fear and resignation no longer have power over us.
As we live out our specific vocation, those headwinds can wear us down. Here I think of all those who have important responsibilities in civil society, spouses whom I like to refer to – not without reason – as “courageous”, and in a particular way those who have embraced the consecrated life or the priesthood. I am conscious of your hard work, the sense of isolation that can at times weigh upon your hearts, the risk of falling into a rut that can gradually make the ardent flame of our vocation die down, the burden of the uncertainty and insecurity of the times, and worry about the future. Take heart, do not be afraid! Jesus is at our side, and if we acknowledge him as the one Lord of our lives, he will stretch out his hand, take hold of us and save us.
Even amid the storm-tossed waters, then, our lives become open to praise. This is the last of our vocation words, and it is an invitation to cultivate the interior disposition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Grateful that Lord gazed upon her, faithful amid fear and turmoil, she courageously embraced her vocation and made of her life an eternal song of praise to the Lord.
Dear friends, on this day in particular, but also in the ordinary pastoral life of our communities, I ask the Church to continue to promote vocations. May she touch the hearts of the faithful and enable each of them to discover with gratitude God’s call in their lives, to find courage to say “yes” to God, to overcome all weariness through faith in Christ, and to make of their lives a song of praise for God, for their brothers and sisters, and for the whole world. May the Virgin Mary accompany us and intercede for us.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 8 March 2020, the Second Sunday of Lent
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