What is Vocation?
“Walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called.” says St Paul in today’s Epistle. He then goes on to say how we should behave – with humility, mildness, patience and mutual support in charity, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Today I want to speak about vocation particularly in the context of God who acts outside of usual human expectations.
How best to describe this vocation to which we have been called?
In one of his best known books Love and Responsibility Karol Wojtyla, who was to become John Paul II, observed that “there is a proper course for every person’s development to follow, a specific way in which he/she commits one’s whole life to the service of certain values.”
This was how St John Paul described vocation. He went on to say that only the human person can have a vocation. It is not something that belongs just to the living beings but it springs from our human personhood; from our value in the eyes of God and from our dignity as persons.
Vocation will not be realised in a person’s life unless there is a genuine experience of God’s presence alongside but also beyond faith, doctrine and morals. It is only then that the divine life poured into us at Baptism can be placed within the dynamic of our natural lives.
In a sense we are only half human until this happens because we have not reached what God made us to be and wants us to be.
Pope Benedict said in one of his general audiences that “…holiness is not a luxury, it is not a privilege for the few, an impossible goal for an ordinary person; it is actually the common destiny of all [who] are called to be children of God, the universal vocation of all the baptised.”
So, our vocation is to be holy. Another way of putting this is that the salvation of our souls should be the most important business of our life. And the welfare of our souls our daily duty.
Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati
Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati was a lay Dominican and one of his favourite Dominican saints was St Catherine of Siena, herself a lay Dominican.
He kept her book “The Dialogues” near him and read it often. He told one of his close friends in the week before he died that his favourite from the book was the day on which St Catherine was granted an encounter with Christ.
Christ appeared to her while she was saying the Divine Office. At the end of each psalm when she arrived at the verse “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.” she modified it and bowing towards Christ she said trembling, “Glory be to the Father, and to Thee, and to the Holy Spirit.”
Pier Giorgio said to his friend, “How fortunate St Catherine was to see Jesus in this life! I envy her.”
This is part of Pier Giorgio’s appeal to many people. Not only that he died young and was generous to the poor but that he had a deep longing for Christ. Above everything else he longed to see Him and to be with Him. Pier Giorgio had had that genuine experience of God’s presence in the midst of his natural life; a natural life in which he was blessed with wealth, good looks and athletic ability. Because of that deep genuine experience of God he is holy and he’s beatified and on the way to canonisation.
State of life
Whatever state of life is grafted on to our baptismal vocation – the sacramental vocation of Marriage or Holy Orders, or the public profession of religious vows – each comes in a genuine way only if a person has had that experience of God’s presence in the reality of their natural life.
It takes time to discern one’s post-baptismal vocation and it cannot be rushed. Equally so it can be very surprising, not only to the person but also to those who know him/her. God freely acts outside the usual human expectations.
But God equally does this with amazing generosity. God is never stingy. God wants to fulfil the desires of our heart.
What our vocation is, when we will discover it, how we will know it from all the other possibilities of life is a mystery that unfolds in the appropriate way for each person.
If a person thinks that the only way he can get what he wants is to do what he wants, then that person is heading for misery and a fruitless search that ends only is self.Christ told us and showed us that the only way to gain our life is to lose it; to let it go.
One of the best way to do this is not to focus on what I want or desire but to focus on becoming holy, on the salvation of my soul, on getting to heaven.
We don’t come to Mass to worship a god of our own making, a god like us, a god bound within our own community. There is wildness about God, an untamed quality. This sovereign and almighty God will not be trifled with and his awesome power demands our worthy reverence. Equally with great respect for us God bestows the call to holiness on each of the baptised and allows it to blossom and bear fruit in the vocation and state of life that is right for each of his sons and daughters.
“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father who is above all, through all and in all.”