Vocation is the gift from God that we welcome (or refuse) at all times of our existence. It fulfils us as persons and generates life, because its fruits are always for the benefit of others.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2020
The challenges of vocation are numerous. Discernment is a long way which, contrary to what we would often wish, we cannot go alone. We are not self-sufficient in any aspect of life, especially when we desire a full and fulfilled life. There is no place for selfishness and self-centeredness when one wants to live an abundant life.
Vocation places us before our own limitations, fears and disabilities. However, because it is not only ours but God’s gift, vocation gives birth to a plurality of gifts that we never realize we have. What we once thought were weaknesses are actually our strengths. What fears we once had are in fact possibilities for growth. However, we must remember that vocation is not for superheroes only! Rather, it is something that elevates us and enables us to overcome all obstacles, not by gaining superpowers, but by living “in God’s lap” and holding hands with those who help us in discerning and following the ways of vocation.
To better understand the first steps of discernment, let us remember the story of Jesus’ first disciples: as they listened to John the Baptist, they heard the call to follow Jesus. Not knowing very well where they were going, they remained behind Jesus without knowing if this would be the way (vocation) for them. As always happens on the vocational path, when we seek God, He turns to us and speaks to us.
The disciples asked Jesus: “Master, where do you live?” The disciples were not after Jesus’ biographical data, but after an orientation, a meaning of life. Jesus answered more than what they had asked, “Come and see.” (John 1, 38-39) Thus began the vocational discernment of these disciples: from being followers of Jesus to becoming His companions. They came to the full realization of life and the full acceptance of the gift of vocation in this way.
Gift Of Life
Vocation is not something totally external to us, nor is it totally dependent only on us. As a gift, it is always God’s gift. As a possibility of fulfilment, it always depends on our acceptance of the gift. In vocation there is the desire for happiness that inhabits with the gift of happiness that God has for us. In welcoming the gift of vocation, we become “the one to whom the divine vocation rises above the sphere of the noblest and most brilliant human endeavours.” (St. Daniel Comboni, Writings, 1550) We become strong, holy, and capable in God! How great is this unceasing gift that is not just an isolated moment!
Vocation is a gift of life that we welcome (or refuse) at all times of our existence. The initial discernment of the vocation is already a first step towards its reception. However, this is not compatible with apathy and inaction, and cannot be reduced to a certain period of life. Rather, it implies continual action to discern what is in agreement with the vocation we have received and what, misleadingly, is only the result of our whims and selfishness.
We can think of vocation as a gift of life as much as we can think of our existence. We usually associate the beginning of our existence with our birth. However, we know that long before we began to exist within our mother’s womb, we already have a part in God’s plan. Moreover, we know that our existence is realized throughout our entire lives, not only in a certain period in time. The same is true of vocation: we may even situate some time by calling it “the time of discernment.” However, vocation is a continuous gift, continuous discernment, and continuous life. Hence there is a demand for a continuous “yes” throughout life.
One of the most compelling manifestations of vocation, in addition to human fulfilment and happiness, is that, being God’s gift, it is always life-giving. It is like a little seed that welcomes the water being poured over it: it not only welcomes the gift, it not only germinates, it also becomes life for everything around it (in the ground and in the underground). If the seed had the capacity to perceive its surroundings, it would probably not realize the effects of its reception of the gift.
The same is true when we welcome the gift of vocation. We often feel the immediate effects of this around us (not always the effects we would like to see) but we are unable to fully understand the repercussions that happen in us. The vocation we welcome becomes a flower garden. Some will feel uncomfortable because they wish there were other plants there, but many will learn about the effects of receiving the gift; others will see their lives transformed by the beauty God has placed before their eyes; still others, though not seeing the garden, will glorify God as they smell its perfume.
To refuse the gift of vocation is to prevent the blossoming of life around us. We cannot pretend to keep all the fresh and crystalline water given to us and at the same time wish to have a pond or have a flower garden. When the wet season comes, we hear a lot of people complain about the rain. They would always long for the sun, and walks without getting wet. However, the same people complain about the prices of vegetables, the lack of fruit, and the drought that leads to destructive fires during the dry season. We cannot have everything, and as far as vocation is concerned, if we choose it, then we are willing to choose life in abundance, not just for ourselves but also for the whole of Creation.
Life In Abundance
Vocation challenges us to live a complete life that, despite its obstacles, is fully realized and is a gift for all. One day I read on a city wall: “We only throw stones at the trees that bear fruit!” This phrase makes me think of the effects of vocation: on the one hand, it fulfils us as people, it makes us fruitful; on the other hand, the fruits of vocation are always for the benefit of others, even if it means suffering and not realizing in what hands will fall the fruits.
The beauty of the gift is this: living in continual reception of gifts and continual giving; in continuous “yes” to the true life entrusted to us and in continuous “yes” to the gift inherent in the reception of the gift. Difficulties? Of course there are! For St. Comboni, it is the cross that validates the vocation that comes from God. However, there is no need to despair: the Lord of life who calls us is the one who overcomes all pain and all scandal of the cross. “Let us, then, get to work with more courage, because God is with us.” (Writings, 2181).