Following a vocation to the priesthood or religious life is to live an experience of "exodus" -- to joyfully leave behind all that enslaves and journey to a Promised Land of love, service and mission, Pope Francis said.
"Responding to God's call, then, means allowing him to help us leave ourselves and our false security behind, and to strike out on the path which leads to Jesus Christ, the origin and destiny of our life and our happiness," the pope said in his message for the 2015 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The day will be celebrated April 26 at the Vatican and in many dioceses around the world.
The message, released at the Vatican April 14, was dedicated to the theme: "Exodus: A fundamental experience of vocation."
Every Christian vocation is rooted in this sense of movement, of journeying and going forward since "belief means transcending ourselves, leaving behind our comfort and the inflexibility of our ego in order to center our life in Jesus Christ," the pope wrote.
Just like Abraham, Moses and the people of Israel, all children of God are called to leave behind the land they know and trust completely in God to show them the way to a whole new world.
The journey is not about running away in "contempt" from life and reality, but of finding it anew, in abundance and brought to its fulfillment, he wrote.
"The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call to love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves, 'decentering' us and triggering 'an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self toward its liberation through self-giving, and thus toward authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God,'" he wrote, quoting retired Pope Benedict XVI.
A vocation, just like Christian life in general, demands constant renewal and "an attitude of conversion and transformation, an incessant moving forward, a passage from death to life like that celebrated in every liturgy, an experience of Passover," he said.
The journey is God's work as "he leads us beyond our initial situation, frees us from every enslavement, breaks down our habits and our indifference, and brings us to the joy of communion with him and with our brothers and sisters," Pope Francis wrote.
A vocation to priesthood or religious life doesn't just transform the individual, he wrote, it also has an impact on all of society as the individual feels compelled to serve God's kingdom on earth and inspired "to solidarity in bringing liberation to our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest."
The pope's message called on young people to recognize that "this exodus toward God and others fills our lives with joy and meaning."
Uncertainty, fear or problems can too often "risk paralyzing their youthful enthusiasm and shattering their dreams, to the point where they can think that it is not worth the effort to get involved, that the God of the Christian faith is somehow a limit on their freedom," he wrote.
"Dear young friends, never be afraid to go out from yourselves and begin the journey," the pope wrote. "The Gospel is the message which brings freedom to our lives; it transforms them and makes them all the more beautiful."