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During Ordinary time these readings before Lent allow us to speak about the beginning of Christian living: our vocation from God.If you notice in today’s first reading, where we heard the call of Samuel, and the Gospel, where we heard Jesus calling his first disciples, there are some important foundations about the essence of a Christian vocation.
But before we go into those points, we should first ask what is a vocation? Ultimately, a vocation is a calling to live a God-centered life. A life with God’s will at the focus. This definition makes it clear that vocation is more than just priesthood or religious life, even though we commonly misrepresent that in language nowadays when we say things like “I think that boy might have a vocation!” Well of course he has a vocation - everyone is called to live with their focus on God and His plan for them! Okay, so now we see everyone has a Christian vocation, because all of us are called to live a God-centered life.
So what do we learn about Christian vocation from today’s readings?
First, we see that vocations come from God. It is not about our ideas of doing something nice for God. Rather, God always takes the initiative. It isn’t Samuel who calls out to God about what he wants to do. Peter doesn’t reach out to Jesus with his plans. This is present in th second reading, too, where Paul reminds us that we “have been bought at a price,” at the price of the blood of God who loved us before we could ever have earned it, because love can never be earned. If it starts with God, then any vocation require a relationship with Him, a relationship that He initiates.
So vocation starts with God, but on the other hand, we aren’t passive in this process. We have to cooperate with God’s grace every step of the way. God has given us freedom and will not impose His Will on us. He speaks his invitation and then he waits for us to respond. Vocation starts with us hearing God say “come and see.” So like any relationship, it can only flourish through our spending time with the one we love.
Thirdly, God knows more about us than we do. This shouldn’t surprise us. For one, God is outside of time, so he knows our future and our past as intensely as we know the present. Secondly, just as a painter or author knows more about his work than the thing itself, so too should our creator know more about us than we ourselves do. This is signified in the readings by calling the name of those chosen: Samuel, Cephas (Peter), and in other passages Nathaniel, Zaccheus, Levi/Matthew, etc.
Finally, God knows our desires and the way to our true happiness. This is signifies in the question Jesus poses. The first words in John’s gospel spoken by the Son of God, the Word Made flesh, are an invitation for us to examine our hearts: “what do you seek?” God asks those first disciples to reflect on their desires, not so that they can let them drive their hearts any which way, but so that those dreams can be lifted up and made new by this relationship, by this person who stands before them (and before us).
“Glorify God in your body!” Paul concludes today. This is a short summary of Christian vocation, since our bodies express our interior lives, indeed the rest of the world knows us through our bodies. I can’t mind meld with someone on the other side of the planet - that only works with God himself (and the saints and angels who are in union with God). So if God is glorified in my body, I am living my vocation, a God-centered life, founded on a relationship of love with Christ Jesus.