Our readings for today have vocation as a theme. “Vocation” comes from the Latin vocare, “to call.” We ponder two accounts of people being called: Samuel in the first reading and the first disciples in the Gospel. In both instances, God is the one who calls; he takes the initiative. “The LORD called to Samuel.” “Jesus said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’” This decisive action of God is the foundational element of any vocation.
Sadly, it often happens that we treat our vocation as if it were entirely up to us. We line up our various life goals and choose our direction. For example: I’m active in my parish as an altar server; therefore my vocation is to be a priest. Or, I’m so attracted to one of my classmates, so I will get married. Or, I enjoy doing charity work; therefore I want to become a nun who does active service. These sentiments are not necessarily wrong, but something essential is missing: what is the will of God? Discernment of a vocation is not simply deciding what we want to do, but rather discovering what God reveals to us about what he has created us to do.
In order to discern well, therefore, we need an intimate relationship with the Lord. We need time with him in order to get to know him and to recognize his voice. The reason why young Samuel did not realize that the Lord was calling him was because “at that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.” In the case of the two disciples, Jesus invited them to stay with him, to build up a familiar relationship with him. Some scholars call this the very first Christian retreat. For us, this intimacy with the Lord grows as we spend time with him in prayer. Regular reading of the Scriptures, frequent attendance at Mass, the reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration, occasional recollections and retreats – all these are proven means of deepening our personal relationship with the Lord. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a most reliable guide for getting to know her Son better; a mother always loves to introduce her children and talk about them.
Today’s second reading teaches us another prerequisite for knowing and following the call of the Lord: “avoid immorality.” St. Paul’s point is that since we belong to God, we must make no room for immorality. We are to be pure and holy as he is pure and holy. The Blood of the Lamb has already been spilt at Calvary to cleanse us of all our impurities: “you have been purchased at a price.” If we are to have an intimate relationship with the Lord in order to discern well his call for us, we need to strive to keep ourselves pure. St. Paul says quite clearly, “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”
Interestingly enough, the Catechism identifies chastity as a universal vocation: “All the baptized are called to chastity” (CCC 348). From this universal vocation stems particular vocations to marriage (conjugal chastity), consecrated life, and single blessedness. In other words, chastity is a prerequisite. To live as God calls us, we must rely on the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. But the Pure and Holy Spirit cannot dwell in impure vessels. Thus, Paul reminds us strongly: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? … Therefore glorify God in your body.”
An important fruit of intimacy with the Lord is the ability to share his life with others. In both the first reading and the Gospel, we see others who testify or who help the one whom God is calling. Eli helped Samuel. John the Baptist helped Andrew. Andrew helped Simon Peter. In our human relationships, when we love someone, we want others to know the one whom we love. We are happy to “boast” about our beloved. We are called to do likewise in our relationship with the Lord. As we get to know him, our hearts are ignited by his love, which bursts forth to others. In today’s Psalm, we express our delight in doing the will of God. We say to the Lord, “I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips.” May we continue to grow in our intimacy with the Lord until our very lives witness to our deep conviction that “we have found the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who brings us truth and grace” (Gospel Acclamation).
Do I acknowledge the hand of God in the vocation that I have chosen? Is my intimacy with the Lord growing daily through the Sacraments and prayer? Does my life witness to others my deep conviction that Jesus Christ is God?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 2. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.