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Called by the Good Shepherd

In today's gospel reading (John 10.11-18) Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd. How appropriate, then, that the Church invites us today to think about vocation. Everybody is called to Christian living. When we were baptised, the priest anointed our heads with holy oil and said, 'God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.' Each of us is commissioned to go into the world and make a difference.

We do not do this alone. By our baptism we are able to draw upon the life of Christ, who promised that he would be within our lives like a spring of water that was always flowing, bringing refreshment, cleansing, and life itself. Through Christ we also share his work of helping others in our world to know and love God. This is the priestly calling of each person, to bring others to Christ and to bring Christ to them. Parents, for example, have the most profound influence on their children, helping them to have faith in Christ which will strengthen them and guide them as they make their own way through the perplexities of life.

Yet the shared priesthood of the Christian and Catholic community depends on the specific priesthood of those who are ordained to bring the sacraments, to preach and to be pastors. We also need the special witness of religious sisters, who put their gifts at the disposal of the church and who give example to us all by their dedication. Without these special vocations, priesthood and religious life, the Church is poorer. In times of change, like the present time, it takes courage to hear and answer God's call to these vocations. It also requires commitment; a love of the world that God made and Christ died for; and a sense of adventure. In the last century, that adventure was obvious. Many priests and sisters went out to Africa, Asia or Latin America, to found churches and to build up the caring work of the church in schools or hospitals. Nearer home they did valiant work in the slums of Britain, a costly ministry that meant living among the poor. Today the adventure is rather different: it means being a person of faith in a society where there is doubt and scepticism. It means seeking spiritual values in a world where material values have been regarded as the supreme prize.

At a time of shortage of vocations, it is natural to wonder about the future of the Church. Yet there is much to celebrate also. Within the Church today there are many gifted people who use their skills and talents for God. Priests or sisters today do not need to do everything. There are many hands and hearts to share their ministry of encouragement and reconciliation. Yet it often takes a priest or nun to help others in deepening their faith. Looking back many of us can see how we were encouraged by a priest or sister. It is a crucial ministry, that nothing else can replace.

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