4th Sunday of Easter (b) 2018
Vocations’ (aka Good Shepherd) Sunday
I have asked you young people to come to the front because today’s mass is especially for you. And I want you to know that what I am going to say is for you. Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The reason its called that is because Jesus tells us, “I am the Good Shepherd”. And for many years this day has been seen as an opportunity to get you to consider becoming priests and nuns. However, all that has changed; well, not completely, we do hope that some will become priests and nuns, but there is a change in emphasis; no longer does the church focuss solely on priesthood and religious life, but now it recognizes that you all have a vocation: you are all called by God, given a task that only you can fulfil, and given the tools at your baptism to complete that task. And your real life begins when you find that purpose.
Last month in Rome 300 young people, between the ages of 20-35 met to prepare the Synod of Bishops that takes place in October. A synod is made up of bishops from around the world and occurs every 2 years. And the theme of the Synod this year is you: young people; your faith and vocational discernment.
There has been a haemorraging of young people away from the Church for many years. Earlier this year the Bishops of England and Wales prepared a questionnaire to get you to share what you think of the Church. Several thousand replied. What resulted was a clear message: there is nothing wrong with young people’s faith; that young people have a deep faith and a love for God, but don’t always find the church to be relevant to their lives; they want to be trusted and to be listened to. Well, I think, the time has now arrived.
The results of the questionnaire found that a lot of young people find the Church somewhat boring. But when you’re young, so many things are boring. It’s not just church. The bottom line is: that often young people find themselves boring. I say this not as a criticism but as an observation from my own experience as a teenager and in my early twenties. I thought I was boring, that others were far more interesting than me: and then the anxiety, what young lady would be interested in me. Now, years later, I haven’t really changed: I’m still boring!… No, well, maybe I am, but now I have a passion for God and the gospel.
All of us are called by God to work in and for the Church and the world. It is not just the role of the priests and nuns. Have you noticed that the number of priests and nuns is diminishing? And yet the gospel has still to be preached. God in Christ is looking to you to take up the challenge. He is asking you, young people, to preach the gospel message to your friends and peers because if you don’t who will. We live, as you know, in a world that is full of insecure and anxious people. Young people, and not so young, are anxious about the future; about the enviroment and climate change, the threat of nuclear war. Closer to home there is anxiety about relationships, having a girl friend or boyfriend, also, job insecurity, the fear of unemployment. Among the youth there is so much self harm, eating disorders, drug abuse and tragically suicide. God is asking you young people to go out and change the world; make it a better place to live in, show your peers that they are both loved and lovable. You see, you are the best evangelizers of your own generation. We priests and nuns haven’t got a chance:… “what do they know”? Just as peer pressure can lead you into trouble, so it can have the opposite effect; you can have a good influence on the lives of others.
Young people are crying out for the truth, for authenticity, to be taken seriously and above all, to be loved. Most don’t come to the church, but you do. The Lord is asking you, challenging you, to go out there and help them, help your own generation; be their role models. The Church needs you, we priests and nuns need you. This is your vocation in Christ and in his church. We who are less young in the Church will be praying for you.