by Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon
You have a vocation! This is a truth you may not have wrestled with deeply enough as a Catholic man or woman. From your mother’s womb, God called you by name! Think about this for a moment. God knew you, and called you from the moment of conception, from the moment when he imprinted you with a soul, giving you the kiss of the Divine (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 33, 363). That is when God first called you by name.
Isaiah says: “Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (49:1). The prophet is speaking about a spiritual truth that we have lost sight of. This God of ours knows us intimately and has a purpose for our lives—for our sake and the sake of the Kingdom. The prophet Jeremiah puts it this way, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (1:5).
In biblical language, the verb to know speaks to intimacy. Adam knew Eve and she conceived a son (Genesis 4:1). So, from the womb God knew us with an intimacy that is the most profound human experience of connecting with another. But the prophet also says the intimacy was connected to vocation. He was set apart for a sacred purpose.
You have been set apart for a sacred purpose; a purpose that only you can accomplish. And if you leave it unfulfilled, no one else in the entire world can fulfil it for you. This is the uniqueness of the soul as imprinted by God.
The Catechism (CCC, 357) says: “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.”
This text is so rich. Because of our origin in God, we are persons with dignity; we have self-knowledge, self-possession and so are capable of giving ourselves freely to God. This speaks to the capacity of the human. We have the capacity to answer God’s call. So we have a call and a capacity to respond.
Vocare (Latin) means to be called from and to be called to. We were all called from using our gifts and talents, and our whole life, for the sake of vainglory, to using our life for the building up of God’s kingdom. Regardless of your vocation, you are called from your mother’s womb to give your life completely to God. This is the truth of your existence. You are destined for God.
There is another truth. When we live our life as a response to God—giving God all—we live in intimacy with God and experience profound happiness. The happy life is the life dedicated to God. I know what the world has told you—the happy life is a life of money, pleasure, honour and power. These are all illusory and fleeting.
Here is the fundamental. We either live our life for God, or we live for ourselves. The first is the greatest adventure ever had, the latter a series of frustrating and limiting experiences where we become lesser versions of whom we are called to be.
God is the only being whose will and love are identical. This is why God’s call and God’s will is the most profound path to human happiness. Our vocation is a path to true happiness. We often think the opposite. We somehow think that our love and devotion to God limits our human freedom. The opposite is the truth: we become truly free when we give ourselves to God, when we give ourselves to our vocation, with generosity and love.
We often think of vocation as the call to priesthood, religious life, consecrated lay life etc. This is so because we are anxious to have all the priests, religious and lay consecrated persons we need for the Church.
I have a burning desire in my heart that the whole People of God live their vocation with generosity and love. For this to happen we need to discern our vocation. In this way the Church will become a community where all of its members are continually discerning their vocation. Then from the youngest to the oldest, the religious to the married person, the aim of our lives will be to give ourselves to God in love. This is the key to unlock incredible spiritual power in our Church and for our society.
Message: Each of us has a vocation, a call from God that is unique.
Action Step: Spend some time in prayer discerning your vocation. Ask God to show you how you were called from your mother’s womb and what purpose you have for the Kingdom. In the prayer speak and ask God, but also listen, and do not be afraid to sit in silence with God.
Scripture: Consider these biblical texts; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Mark 1:14–20