‘What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Most of us, if not all of us, have been asked that question at one time or another in our younger days; and in turn, as we have got older, we may well have asked that same question of others. It’s a good question. But today, Vocations Sunday, we are all asked to consider a better question: “What does God want you to be?”
Because, in and through our baptism, through our sharing in God’s life, everyone of us has a Vocation, a calling from God, to share in his Mission, his ongoing work in the world. A Vocation, a calling, is not then so much about what we want to do with our lives, but it’s more about discerning what God wants us to do, or more accuratedly, its about discerning what he wants to do in and through our experiences of life. Blessed John Henry Newman expressed it like this:
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission…I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do his work…If I am in sickness my sickness may serve him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about”.
In this inspiring prayer, Cardinal Newman is reminding us, that each of us is precious in the eyes of God; each of us is special. Each of us is a unique expression of God’s love and creativity. In all the world, and especially in God’s eyes, there is no other person exactly like each one of us. Besides being special and unique, each of us is not here on earth by accident, we have been created to serve God in and through the varying circumstance of our daily lives. Through our baptism we each have a specific sharing in God’s mission here on earth; we each have something to do here that cannot be done by someone else. The responsibility of each of us is to find out what our specific vocation is, our specific calling from God, and then to pray for the grace, the help of God, to carry it out as generously as we can.
Now I wish to speak to the young people, the young adults who might be reading this, because you often have people pulling you in one direction or another, suggesting that you should do this or that with your lives, do you not? So how do you each manage to hear what God is actually calling you to do. The truth is that you, and all of us, each have a better chance to hear God, to listen to the abiding presence of his Holy Spirit in our hearts, when we regularly spend some quality time alone with Him, in prayer, perhaps in the silence of Eucharistic Adoration, away from social media, the internet, TV, and the many other distractions. Because, as we all know, very few people hear God’s word directly, but very many people come to know their calling from God by being attentive to the still small but persistent voice of God’s Holy Spirit within them, and through the encouragement of good friends.
Young people, some of you are perhaps still searching, just beginning to think about how God may be calling you to serve Him. Please do bring this to God in moments of prayer and quiet reflection; seek the guidance of His Holy Spirit, and then pray for the grace, the help of God, to respond generously to what you feel he asks of you: ‘Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will’. God might be calling some of you to be priests, to be Deacons, to be religious women and men. The Church, the diocese, has always great need of good priests, deacons and religious, and especially at this time. There are indeed many, many, ways in which God calls his people to share in his mission here on earth, and all of these vocations are good, and of great value to God and the Church; but if you are a young man or woman, please don’t exclude from your mind, too quickly, the possibility that God might be calling you to become a priest or religious. Of course that thought might fill your heart with fear; it did mine as a young person! But I responded, not so generously to the Lord, by demanding that, if I trained to be a priest and was ordained, that he would be there every day, every moment, to guide and help me. Almost 40 years into priesthood, I am pleased and relieved to assure you the Lord is still keeping his end of the deal!
In his excellent Message for this year’s Vocations Sunday, Pope Francis says this: ‘Today the Lord continues to call others to follow him. We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond with our generous “Yes”, nor be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead to listen to and open our hearts to the voice of the Lord, so as to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us.”