First, is God’s calling in our lives necessary? No. We all have received our instruction from God in some way, if nothing else, through the Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Is that comforting and a sign of a personal loving God? Not always but nonetheless, we have heard some calling indirectly.
What does God do when he calls us? He is revealing himself to us. The invisible God is making himself known to us in some way. God, the infinite source of life and love, shows himself to us so that we can better understand or believe, the way to become closer to him. Seldom is this revelation of the divine as unambiguous as Paul’s conversion or as evident as we hear about from the Saints. The revelation of God is God revealing to us his mystery.
How are the mysteries of God manifested so that they can be revealed? They are revealed through prayer, reflection and the Mystical Body of Christ. Prayer and reflection, while not easy, seem to be obvious to many people- to experience the mysteries of God, one should enter into the realm of God.
But, God’s Kingdom is already here! His realm already extends to the earth through Christ’s Mystical Body, which is the community of believers. God’s mysteries are made known to us by us. Let’s take a look at this in context of vocational discernment.
First, we, as humanity, have been created by God to love and serve him. Through the love and service to the Lord, we obtain the ultimate goal: to become closer to him. That in mind, the essence of our vocation is to find a place in this world that we can become closer to God and see how many other people we can bring with us. We are to become closer to God and help aid our fellow brothers and sisters in becoming closer to him.
What is marriage? Among other things, it is two people unifying in each other to reflect the unity of God. It is two people through each other coming closer to God. What is the priesthood? Among other things, it is a man sacrificing his humanity to God. It is someone desiring to come closer to God through sacrifice in order to bring himself and others to God.
God reveals himself through marriage and the priesthood using the Mystical Body. God’s revelation through these sacraments is him extending his call to us.
Has God sat me down on a bench and said “Son, here’s a cell phone. Have it on Sunday afternoon- I’m going to give you a call?” No, but he has allowed me to see him through the Mystical Body and by seeing him, igniting my desire to become closer to him. How you see God is an indication of your calling in life.
While yes, you can see God in all of creation, there is an element of discernment that must come into play. While you can see and acknowledge God in many things, which of those things leads you to desire God through it?
“When I see these things, how I can tell between my will and God’s will?”
Through my own struggle, I have yet to figure this one out. (Then again, when do we ever really figure out things of this nature?) First, God loves us no matter what and is not dependent on whether or not we get married, become a priest, live as a missionary or anything like that. If we follow a particular path because we want it to take us closer to God and we do no harm to ourselves or others through it, there is something noble and diving in that pursuit. Equally so, if we follow a particular path because of our own reasons, there is something flawed.
For example, let’s again look at marriage and the priesthood. If you discern to enter the priesthood simply because you think it would be cool to dress up and be able to say Mass, there is something fundamentally flawed- even though you may do good if you become a priest. If you discern marriage with someone with the primal thought of enjoying sex with yourfiancée, there is something fundamentally flawed- even if the family you create is very loving.
If you date and discern the marriage vocation as a vocation that is primarily concerned with the unification of two people, both different yet both in the image of God to become closer to God through love and sacrifice or if you discern the priestly vocation as a vocation that will require you to sacrifice yourself so that you can bring yourself and others closer to God, then you are trying to discern your calling by being centered on God.
While there is much more to it, if you are discerning centered on God or centered on yourself, that is a very basic way to answer the question. Personally, if you’re centering yourself on God, you’re going to discern the “right” thing. Assuming the God-centered approach, there will be aspects of any vocation you discern that will appeal to you- and that should not be confused with you being selfish regarding it. In other words, there are perks and that’s okay.
Center yourself and your discernment on God and everything will work out.
In this Advent season, we are preparing to celebrate one of the ultimate revelations of God: God coming to earth in the flesh. The season of Advent is for us to prepare our minds and hearts to be ready to accept such a confusing revelation. While most Christians accept this revelation without much thought, it is seriously difficult to accept it. God- the Absolute, the Almighty, the Everlasting, the source of all creation, the father of Justice and Wisdom, Love itself, the Word- has entered the world. He did not come down on a gold chariot of fire. He was born of a woman. The Creator was born of a creature. He was not born fully able to live in the world. He was born as an infant, further dependent on his creation to live in it. That is a heavy revelation. The Church gives us Advent as a month to prepare ourselves to accept such a thing.
In our discernment, we too must prepare our minds and hearts to accept the revelation of God in our lives. We simply cannot wake up one morning and start looking for God revealing himself. While he is always reaching out his hand to our hearts, we must be of an open heart to accept. Through his mercy and grace, we must try to rid ourselves of our vices that complicate and confuse our interpretation of his revelations to us. Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel! This exhortation, one of the options the priest has when giving us ashes on Ash Wednesday, is required of us to follow. We have the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent for us to prepare ourselves to accept the great revelations: The Word made Flesh and God’s sacrifice and resurrection.
Without repentance and attempting to walk in the light, we will forever to blind to God reveling himself. This is true of both the great revelations mentioned above as well as God trying to reveal himself to us in our individual lives.
God loves us. He wants us to become closer to him. He has written on the hearts of us all instructions to lead us closer to him. Turn towards God, listen to your heart and walk in faith. He will not lead you astray. The journey will not always be easy and painless, but it will lead you to the ultimate destination.