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BISHOP

Most Rev. Oswald Lewis
Bishop of Jaipur

2018 Easter Message By Most Rev. Oswald Lewis

Shepherd’s Voice : AUGUST 2018


Vocation Sunday will be celebrated on the first Sunday of August, ie. 5th August 2018, as the Agra Region has been doing it over the years. The Youth Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India(CCBI) has announced, a few months ago, that the National Youth Sunday be celebrated on the 1st Sunday of August in all the Latin dioceses of India. The commission has proposed that the youth in all the parishes must come together and celebrate the Holy Mass exclusively for the youth and the Sunday collection be sent to the National Office of CCBI, Bengaluru. In the context of Jaipur Diocese, the youth will celebrate the Vocation Sunday along with National Youth Sunday, during the main parish mass along with all parishners. Surely the Parish Priests, Parish Youth Directors, Youth Animators will put in all creativity and efforts to make the celebration meaningful. The Universal Catholic Church observes vocation Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Easter, which is famous as Good Shepherd Sunday. The Easter Season deepens our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus with the evidences of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles. The readings of the 1st three Sundays of Easter are taken up completely by the great central event of Salvation History, the resurrection of Christ, its meaning for the first disciples and its significance for us at the present time. However, fourth Sunday of Easter shifts the importance to the loving care of a Good Shepherd towards the sheep. The Liturgical readings of this Sunday highlight the life of the shepherds, their loving care and concern for the sheep. The focus is on their faithfulness and commitment even to the point of death. Calling himself the “Good Shepherd” Jesus vouches to lay dawn his life for his sheep. Meanwhile the sheep recognize the voice of the good shepherd and respond to his voice. “The sheep follow him because they know his voice”

Being attentive to the voice of the master is certainly a demand of discipleship. Every disciple is expected to be attuned to the voice of the master and follow him instinctively. Discipleship means to follow Jesus and it is the result of a call and a response. Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me”. It is Jesus who takes the initiative. It is he who calls them. It is not a request. It is a command. He did not ask them, can you follow me? Or would you like to follow me? He calls them and keeps on going ahead of them. It was a command, “Follow me”. They followed him. This following establishes a relationship with Jesus, an attachment and loyalty to the person of Jesus. That is the reason why Vocation Sunday is observed on Good Shepherd Sunday.

Vocation is a call from God to follow him, to listen to his voice, to remain with him, to be faithful to him. Living a life of Gospel values with one’s whole heart and mind is a call of every Christian. The call of God comes to every individual with a specific purpose. Cardinal Henry Newman said, when God creates a human being, he gives him a mission, a mission that does not give to another. That is why each person has to fulfill the mission entrusted to him. We can see this in the call of the prophets. Prophet Jeremiah was called even before he was formed in the womb. “He was dedicated and appointed prophet before he was born. The mission entrusted to him was, “To uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant” (Jer 1: 4-10). Similarly the call of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Daniel, Mary, John the Baptist and the likes had a definite purpose and role to play. The Final Document of the Pre-Synodal meeting of Young People on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” published in March 2018 states, “There is a need for a simple and clear understanding of vocation to highlight the sense of call and mission, desire and aspiration, which makes it to a concept more related to young people at this stage of their life”.

Vocation to Priesthood and Religious life is a call for radical discipleship. “Ecclesial Vocations are manifestation of the immeasurable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8). Among the many vocations that the Holy Spirit never ceases to call forth in the people of God, the Vocation to Priesthood calls one to participate in the hierarchical priesthood of Christ and to be united with Him. These vocations come in various circumstances and at different stages of human life- in childhood, in adolescence, in adulthood”. (Ratio Fundamentalis No. 11)

When Jesus called his disciples, his intention was “That they may be with him and that he may send them forth to preach” (Mk 3:14). To the Young man he said, “Go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor” (Mt 19:21). After foretelling about his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24) The radical discipleship demands even denying one’s own father and mother, brother and sister, all loved ones and all possessions.

An acute shortage of vocations is experienced in the Catholic Church. Vocations are drastically decreasing in India too. Concerned about this crisis, Pope Francis has proposed to study this issue in the forthcoming Synod on Young People. It is the mission of the Church “to care for the birth, discernment, and fostering of vocations, particularly those to the priesthood. Welcoming the voice of Christ, who asked all of us to pray the Lord of harvest to send labourers into his harvest (Mt 9:38, Lk 10:2) the Church gives particular attention to vocation to the consecrated life and to the priesthood. Thus it is necessary that vocation offices be established and promoted in Dioceses, regions and countries. Bishops, first among those responsible for vocations, should encourage active cooperation among priests and laity. Leading an exemplary life, priests and religious, must bear witness of their calling. Prayer for vocation should be promoted in the dioceses and families. Families play an important role in promoting vocations. Hence family life, proper up-bringing of children and inculcating of Gospel values is essential. The church should take all necessary steps to promote vocations.

+ Rt. Rev. Dr. Oswald Joseph Lewis
Bishop of Jaipur

© 2018 -Diocese Of Jaipur