Vocation Awareness Sunday

Readings: Is. 55.1-11; Ps. Is. 12.2-6; 1 Jn. 5.1-9; Mk. 1.7-11

Today is Vocation Awareness Sunday. Notice in the gospel how John the Baptist heard and pursued his call to prepare the way of the Lord. All baptized Christians have the same general vocation: we are called to holiness. Holiness means "other, set apart for God, not worldly in the negative sense." "Other": we should be different from those who have not committed themselves to Jesus and the Church which he founded. "Set apart for God": we dedicate ourselves to knowing and doing God's will. "Not worldly: As St. Paul instructs us, "we live in the world, but not of the world." We live with our feet planted firmly on earth, and with our eyes set on heaven. All baptized Christians have the same general vocation: we are called to holiness.

Each individual has a particular vocation. Each person is called to praise God and to serve humankind in some particular way. Most people seem to be called to the married vocation. Many people are called to the single life. Some are called to religious life. And some are called to the ordained ministry as deacons or priests.

Each of these four particular vocations has an onus and bonus. These are Latin words. Onus means burden. Bonus means benefit. Every vocation has its share of burdens and benefits. Married people have a lifelong constant companion with whom they can talk, share a home, and raise children. That is the good news. The bad news is that sometimes communication is not so good, and not all couples can conceive and have children. Single people oftentimes are blessed with much freedom, a few extra dollars, peace & quiet, and a chance to travel. The bad news is that single people sometimes wish they had less peace and quiet, and that they had someone with whom to share their wonderful experiences. Nuns are freed from family relationships and responsibilities so that they might spend their lives praising God and serving humankind; they become sisters to everybody. Sometimes, however, they have natural God-given yearnings to be mothers, not just sisters. Priests and deacons are privileged and humbled to be blessed with the vocation to lead the Christian community in Word and sacraments. At the same time, one sign of the ordained vocation is that a good priest or deacon feels unworthy to lead God's people. Friends, there is no perfect vocation. Each vocation has an onus and bonus, a burden and benefit.

Be realistic in living out your vocation: our human life has much mystery to it. Don't set your expectations so high that you set up yourself for needless frustration. We will never attain perfection in our vocation. Perfectionism is a heresy; none of us is perfect. Much mystery occurs in communication, sexuality, and loneliness. Communication is a great art, and most of us spend our whole lives trying to improve our communications. Miscommunication inevitably happens. Sexuality is a mystery in everyone's life; we don't completely understand it. God gives us yearnings which are normal, natural, and holy. Our current society exaggerates the importance of sexuality, and under-appreciates what God intends for our sexuality. That is one reason why we kid oftentimes about sexuality because we don't understand it. Loneliness afflicts all vocations. God has made us social beings. We are interdependent. While our personalities may be either extroverted or introverted, we need other people. And we want to be close to certain people. Paradoxically, at times we need to be by ourselves, and should be by ourselves in order to reflect quietly on our relationship to God and our response to his call.

The two most important points in discerning and living our particular vocations are these, and in this order: first, what does God want me to do; and second, what do I think and desire that I should do. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading teaches us: "Seek the Lord while he may be found. Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what does not satisfy?" Seek God and the things that last forever. Secondly, whatever vocation you ultimately choose or already have chosen requires much passion, much desire, and giving of yourself 110%. Many obstacles, disappointments, hurts, and temptations will occur. All vocations, therefore, need to be a labor of love. What enables us to live our vocations well is the integration of God's will and our will. In the responsorial psalm this morning, we prayed: "God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid." This union of wills allows St. John the Evangelist to boast, "God's commandments are not burdensome." And the mutuality of being loved by God and loving God frees John the Baptist to claim with joy, "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals." Note that Isaiah, the Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, and John the Baptist said "Yes" to what God wanted them to do. May we follow the example of these holy people in living our general and particular vocation.

On this Vocation Awareness Sunday, let's conclude by praying together the Prayer for Vocations which is located on papers at the end of every pew.

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