What does it mean to have a vocation?
As we do every year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, this Sunday we join the universal Church in praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious and consecrated life.
In his message for this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis invites all of us “to listen to the voice of Christ that rings out in the Church and to understand what their own vocation is.”
Every life is a calling, a vocation. We would not be here, we would not have been born, unless God called us into existence. God calls us into being from his very heart. And he calls us into being for a reason.
Every vocation requires conversion. We have to overcome our selfishness and make Jesus and his Gospel the center of our lives. We have to change all those ways of thinking and those ways of acting that are not in keeping with his Gospel.
Jesus calls each of us by name and he calls each of us to conversion. He calls us to live — not for ourselves, but to glorify God and to serve our brothers and sisters.
Following Jesus means listening to his voice and his example. He is like a bright light who walks before us in the darkness. Jesus wants to draw everything in our ordinary lives into the light of his divine life.
He wants us to understand our lives in the light of his life. He wants us to see the beautiful life that God sets before us — the beauty of walking by his light. He wants to share his light with us, so that we can radiate his light and share his light with others.
Each of us is called to radiate his divine light in a unique way. Your life belongs to him, just as my life belongs to him. But every life is different and what Christ is calling you to do in this life — he is asking this of you, specifically. He is asking something specific of me, too. This is true for everyone.
Because our lives are different, the way we are called to follow Christ will be different.
There are many paths, many callings. But the call of Jesus is always a call to share in his mission. He is sending all of us out into the world. Most of us, he sends to serve him in the worlds of work and family, the worlds of culture and civic duty.
But some are chosen by Jesus for a special calling, to conform their lives more closely to his image of Jesus. Some he chooses for his priesthood. Some he chooses to follow him in one of the many forms of religious and consecrated life in the Church.
So we have to listen for the voice of Christ and we have to respond to his call with all our hearts and all our strength.
We are not born in isolation. And we do not listen for the call of Christ alone. We are born into families, communities and parishes. We are part of God’s own family, baptized into his Church.
A vocation always has a context and that context is always the Church. So our task in the Church — at every level — is to welcome and accompany people and to open their hearts to know God’s calling in their lives.
In our parishes, schools, and ministries we need to encourage people to seek the path of holiness and friendship in Jesus. If we guide our people on this path, if we inspire them with the beautiful ideals of the Christian life, we will see new vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Vocations begin in the hearts of those who want to be true friends and followers of Jesus Christ. So our homes and our Church must become places where Christ’s voice is heard and where people can learn to follow him — through prayer, study and service, and through the bonds of fellowship and mutual love.
Growing up in Monterrey, we were asked by the Archbishop to say this simple prayer asking for vocations every day. This would be a beautiful practice for us as well, especially as we prepare for 2015, which our Holy Father has designated as the “Year for Consecrated Life.”
So this week, let’s rededicate ourselves to the habit of praying in our homes and parishes for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We can say this same simple prayer that I prayed in my youth:
Lord, we ask You to grant us vocations.
Grant us many vocations.
Grant us many and holy vocations!
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us also. That we may all hear and answer God’s calling in our lives and know the joy of living for him.
Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.