The action of the Spirit manifests itself smoothly, but it cannot go unnoticed. “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
On the path of vocational discernment, this is the starting point: to know that the Spirit is blowing where it wills, and being difficult to perceive where it is going (where it leads us), one must ask for help, taking steps for an accompanying discernment.
Listening to the voice of the Spirit is similar to listening to the sound of a gentle breeze: it requires time, attention and predisposition. Here, the way of discernment is to let oneself be touched by Him and, consequently, to accept His effects in us and in our life.
The Spirit provokes us, literally “calls us to move forward” (pro-vocare). He challenges and demands an answer to see if we dare to “move forward,” to go forward in our yearnings and to plunge steadfastly into God’s dream for us.
However, contrary to what we might think, this pro-vocare of the Spirit is not a provocation in the sense that we often use the term in everyday life. In fact, just as the soft breeze caresses our faces on a summer’s day, so does the Spirit caresses the wholeness of who we are, with the sweetness and freshness of what we desire to be.
Not listening to the Spirit or refusing to listen to Him is to refuse to move on, it is to stagnate at a certain point in life and existence, closing the door to the dream of the future. It is in this pro-vocare that we understand vocation, insofar as it is the Spirit that gives it as a gift, as a divine breath capable of generating new life in each one of us.
The Holy Spirit is the first agent of vocation. Through Him the gift is offered, and only in Him can it be welcomed and lived. If pro-vocare is the action of the Spirit, then vocation is the gift, the matter of this action.
It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to discern and tread the paths of vocation toward the fullness of existence; an experience which, being human, is also divine, inasmuch as it is an experience of encounter with God and with the very humanity that inhabits us and makes us be with others.
St. Daniel Comboni makes this journey of discernment which fulfills his vocation – a path which, because prophesied by the Spirit, allows him to recognize the traces of this same Spirit in his life and in the lives of those he meets, allowing him to affirm without reservations that “it is obviously the Holy Spirit who is guiding.” (Writings 3682)
A Call to Love
This is the provocation of the Spirit: a call of Love to which only love itself can be the answer! Without Love there is no vocation, there is no vocational discernment… no full happiness. Thus, to refuse to respond to the Spirit’s pro-vocation is to deny the fullness of Love, a love that is given to us first and that longs for an answer.
To postpone or place constraints on the response is to postpone the acceptance of the Love of God and, in this sense, to put oneself on a path of rejection of that love, refusal of the pro-vocation of the Spirit, refusal to move on.
What happens when we have a long walk to do? Don’t we try to have the right equipment for the type of road ahead and the ideal company so that we do not do this whole journey alone? The same is true of vocation.
To say yes to the pro-vocation of the Spirit is to dare to say yes to a way and to a life in God: a full life that totally respects who we are and what we want to be.
The Holy Spirit and Us
The book of the Acts of the Apostles narrates, with excellence, the action of the Holy Spirit in the ways of vocation. The disciples, after Jesus’ Ascension, seem to be at a dead end in their lives. They, who thought that their vocation was to follow the Master, now have to live in danger of death, without the Master and without realizing very well what to do next.
In the full realization of the vocation to which they were called, this community dares to say “is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…” (Acts 15, 28), not because it disregards the decision (or is resigned to it), nor because the decision is the will of the majority, but because they dare to live vocation (respond with love to the one who loved us first and provoked us) is always to place the Holy Spirit as part of who we are as a central element of our life and our community.