When it comes to finding God’s will for how you live
out your vocation, I like to say; “God Confirms, not commands!” Discerning God’s will requires looking back as much as it does looking forward! It is not listening for God telling us what He wants us to do, it is offering our service to God as a gift, and then looking back to seeing Him accept it, and use it, or gently change our course.
This week is National Religious Vocation week. We all have a vocation. We are all called to follow God’s will, and live a Vocation. We all share in a common mission; to love God and neighbor, and we all have a unique call; to offer our time, talent and treasure, in our current circumstances (no matter what they are) to serve God’s kingdom. To live as a single person, married, or religious, are all vocations. This week however; we are focusing on the call to serve God as a Priest, Sister, or Brother.
I have heard some people say, they knew from early in their life that God called them to be a Priest, Sister or a Brother. I Praise God for that Grace! But for me, and many others, I think the call is more of a gentle invitation, not a command or revelation on from on high. God respects our free will. If he commands us to serve him, our response would not be a gift of love from a son or daughter or beloved, but obedience from a slave.
Early in life, when people asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would answer; “Happy”! When I graduated from high school, I recall a relative asking me, “What are you going to do now that you’ve graduated?” My answer was, “Figure out what life was all about”. After one year of college, I moved from my home, and began to travel the country. But I soon ran out of money. I felt that in order to have the freedom to discover what life was about, I needed money! I returned home and finished college. I got a good paying job, moved out again, and felt that I finally had the freedom to pursue; “What it was all about”. But as my work hours got longer, and the responsibilities of the job increased, I found that the job did not buy me freedom, instead it felt more like it was becoming a kind of slavery! My job had actually become my God! At this point, I had the grace to recognize that, and ask God “What it was all about”. As I searched to answer this question through prayer, rather than travel (which required no money!), I was greatly aided by accepting invitations to, “Come and See” retreats held by religious orders, and Dioceses.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says to his first two disciples; “Come and See” (Jn 1:39). They accepted the invitation to see where Jesus stayed, and after that, fell in Love with Jesus, and followed him. Many I talk to, when discerning God’s will, share that they would join Religious Life, or become a Priest, if they only had a “Sign” from God! I think this introduction to John’s Gospel, is more often the way Jesus works. Rather than tell us what to do, Jesus woes us. He invites us to follow; to “Come and See”. He wants us to fall in love first, obey second.
I know in my life, I never received a “Sign” from God to join a religious order. But I did sense the invitation. Then, after I made the decision to join and began the application process, I did receive powerful “Signs” that God was please to accept the gift I offered. Additionally, during my first year as a postulant with the Franciscans, I continued to receive many signs and confirmations that God was pleased, and that I could be happy as a Friar. I think of the following analogy. If a married couple had an anniversary upcoming, but one spouse forgets, yes, the other can remind them (or tell them) to buy a gift or a card. But isn’t it preferable that a person do this without the reminder, without the command, but freely out of Love? Perhaps God is waiting for you to freely offer the gift of yourself to him, in Love. “Come and See”. We have upcoming “Come and See” weekends, November 27-29, 2015, and February 12-14, 2016. Whatever it is you think you might be called to do, maybe instead of waiting for God to tell you His will, make a move and try what you are thinking of, and see if God confirms, or lovingly says no thanks, and shows you a better way.