When Jesus saw the crowds, “His heart was moved with pity for them, because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” He saw that the people around Him were suffering from physical need and illnesses, from ignorance of God, and from a lack of spiritual guidance and nourishment. This moved His heart profoundly. He had chosen to come as a human being, like us in all things but sin, in order to interact with us and save us. As a result of His humanity and the short time He’d spend on earth, He could only work directly with a relatively small number of people through His preaching and miracles. He chose to rely instead on other men and women who would bring His word to every corner of the world and dedicate their lives to shepherding His flock.
When He looked out and saw the crowds, He didn’t see only the people right in front of Him; He saw the masses of humanity around the world and throughout the ages, who would need shepherds to teach them and bring them the sacraments as the means to receive and cultivate spiritual life, and to receive the gift of eternal happiness. With good reason, He says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest..” We all need to pray that people young and old will hear God’s call to dedicate their lives to serving Him, whether it be as lay missionaries, as consecrated men and women, or as priests. I know I don’t need to convince you of this need; we are all feeling the effects of the lack of priests and nuns, which are a factor in the closing and consolidation of Catholic schools and parishes.
And it’s not enough just to say from time to time, “Lord, send more vocations.” As for any important intention, we need to pray with patience and persistence. During His weekly audience on May 25, Pope Benedict used the text of today’s first reading to talk about how prayer is a sort of struggle in which we persist despite difficulty, at the same time as we beg God to give us His blessings. (I heartily recommend you read the pope’s commentary on this text – it’s very interesting.) The psalm today also conveys to us the frankness and trust we should have in prayer.
Many people continue to stray like sheep without a shepherd, and all of us need guidance to help us to stay on the right path. Let us make prayer for vocations to full-time service of God, a part of our weekly – and even daily – routine, asking the Lord insistently and trustingly to send more laborers for the harvest.