Vocation is a gift from God that reveals our authenticity. In this path of self-discovery and discernment, listening, dialogue and accompaniment are fundamental elements.
PUBLISHED ONSep 2020
These days, someone asked me about the pertinence of writing about vocation. “Isn’t it always the same thing? We already know that each person has a specific vocation and that only by fulfilling it we can be truly happy.” These were the fundamental questions that were repeated throughout the dialogue. These are also the questions that often lead us to evade the fundamental question about vocation that is addressed to each of us. That is, the vocational challenge that we must discern and which we have to answer in concrete actions and not as abstract thoughts.
There is a common aspect to vocation. As Pope Francis says, it is “a gift from God.” Now, when we offer a gift to a true friend, we don’t give him something that we like, but something that will really make our friend happy. This is how God presents us with His gifts. The Pope affirms that God offers you “a charism that will make you live your life fully, transforming yourself into a useful person to others, someone who leaves a mark in history. It will certainly be something that will make you happy in the most intimate part of yourself and it will excite you more than anything else in this world.” (Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ is Alive, n. 288).
Although this is the essence of vocation, we cannot say that it “is always the same thing.” Why? Because we are not always the same!
Vocation is not a superpower that transforms us into something different from what we are. Rather, our vocation reveals our authenticity, what we truly are. That is why, from the beginning of the call and the giving of the gift, God has been looking for different ways of making us come to Him and welcome Him.
For example, think of giving someone a gift. For some people, the surprising thing will be to hand the gift to him or her. But, as it is a valuable gift that we think will make our friend completely happy upon receiving it, we oftentimes just leave the gift somewhere so that our friend will find it out by himself. We can also do a kind of treasure hunt for heightened expectation and greater satisfaction. There are many ways to give a gift and God, because He knows us well, knows which one will make us happier and more capable of welcoming the gift.
Listening And Accompaniment
There are many languages of God and, consequently, languages of vocational discernment. God has found a way to communicate with us–He communicates through other people! Yes ... but, how do we know who can help us discern? Is anyone capable of truly understanding us?
These are questions that delay us in answering our call from Him. In fact, if we are to receive that gift from God, we must do something at the present time. We know in our hearts what “we would like to be” and we know people who have followed a path somewhat similar to ours and have subsequently lived fully realized lives through their vocation.
However, it is difficult for us to risk a dialogue and a path of accompaniment–not because we doubt that God can speak to us through that person, but because we are afraid to hear what we don’t want. As long as fear rules our lives, we will neither become who we really are nor will God have a chance to act.
Let me give you a practical and personal example. When I am doing my academic research, one of the first things I do is try to talk to someone about the topic I’m working on. First, I choose to speak with someone who is credible, who has more knowledge on the subject than I and who, more or less, has a similar line of thought to mine.
After that, I engage in dialogue with someone who thinks very differently from me. In this dialogue, I am confronted with the weaknesses of my arguments and, in trying to answer the questions I discover my own way of approaching and thinking about a certain subject. In the end, I am able to produce something that is not the thoughts of any of the people I spoke to, but something mine, something that results from a personal discernment.
In a similar way, in vocational accompaniment we are accompanied by someone we regard as credible who makes us confront our beliefs and challenges them, not because he or she wants to plot against us, but because he or she wants to take us on an authentic path–a path where vocation is not a whim, but the result of this encounter between us and God.
God Always Surprises Us!
Sometimes we are so self-centered and so obsessed with an idea that we are blind to ourselves and the reality that surrounds us! Sometimes what we dream for us is not so far away from our vocational path, but the fact that we walk alone leads us to look at that path in a biased way that gradually becomes selfish and capricious.
God always surprises us! For this reason, we must not refuse to live and discover God’s surprise. We look at the present, often gray, and the future becomes something difficult marked only by black and white or, despite the gray of today, we live the illusion of a pink future. God gave us the rainbow. In Him, the present takes on new colors and the future in God is never just one shade!
God does not reject our dreams, but raises them to the fullness that we cannot even think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). God’s dream for us does not correspond to our whims, but it is always in accordance with the authenticity of our being. He does not respond to what we want, but to what we are and want to be. He does not live up to what we want, but always takes us further.
Exit The Roundabout
Fear blocks us, leads us astray, and prevents us from moving forward. Fear is hidden by the illusions of not being afraid and of excuses for our inaction. Despite being young, we easily become resigned to the circumstances of life. Our discourse on vocation is reduced to an eternal whine: “I wanted ... but ...” In God everything is possible (Philippians 4, 13). There’s no “but”!
Isn’t it our selfish fear that keeps us from moving forward? Is it not our fear of risking happiness that prevents us from leaving the roundabout of “I wanted ...but ...”? Isn’t our fear of appearing weak what prevents us from seeking help?