Each one of us has received the gift of a specific vocation from God. However, our vocation depends on our choice to seek out and persevere on the path of discernment and vocational experience.
Days and months go by, but there is no way to put an end to the pandemic. The restrictive safety measures oscillate with numbers: the number of new infections, the number of deaths, the numbers of those hospitalized; but also, the numbers that drive the economy and politics.
Everyone wants an end to these limitations, as if taking off the mask and/or finding a cure for COVID-19 were enough to live without limits. This pandemic has brought with it chains that have strengthened the ties that, throughout life, we place on our journey. Fears of failure have been joined by fears of health, well-being, and self-sustainability. All this together has led us to a sense of being trapped socially, professionally, and vocationally.
However, if it is true that the bonds of fear and the fatalism of the limits are enforced on us, we cannot deny that “tribulation, uncertainty, fear, and the awareness of one’s own limits, which the pandemic has awakened, resound the call to rethink our lifestyles, our relationships, the organization of our societies, and above all the meaning of our existence” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 33).
We have to be stronger than fear in daring to take concrete steps toward an authentic and fulfilling life. This demand for the fullness of life is not just something that will answer our deepest longings, but a reality that will have repercussions beyond ourselves. Any realized and fulfilled person is a gift to everyone and a triumph for humanity itself.
Although there may be voices that seek to hinder our steps of discernment and discovery in the immediate future, our happiness in becoming a fully realized person changes these doubts and fears to joy and celebration.
The pandemic has made visible something that, until then, was only symbolic. Today, everyone lives “behind the mask”. Though living “behind the mask” has become the norm, it is not acceptable in our path to authentic life. Those who intend to live “behind the mask,” pretending to be “poor fellows,” “incapables” or “powerless in the face of circumstances,” will never be able to assume themselves as persons, and even less as people who truly fight for their dreams and deepest desires.
Taking off the mask of fear and self-sufficiency is urgent! Vocation is much more than a set of empty words and goes far beyond dreams and illusions. To live a vocation is to dare to live for love, with all the demands that are proper to love.
Declared love is beautiful, but without concrete manifestations it is withered and empty. It is the same with vocation: to say that one intends to discern and live the gift received is beautiful, but without concrete actions it is illusion and hypocrisy. Words alone will never generate fruitful life!
Of course, this is not easy. Concrete steps for the liberation from fear and illusions do not happen simply and immediately. Rather, it is a hard road that goes on over time. How do we overcome these chains? By taking concrete steps to decentralize the “I”.
Just as no one is happy alone, no one will be able to walk a path of discernment and vocational experience in isolation. It is urgent to take steps toward those who can help us grow and develop who we are, and, consequently, to go beyond our fears, our circumstances, and our limited view of ourselves.
To walk with others is to keep in mind that this “experience that takes place in a place must develop sometimes ‘in contrast’ and sometimes ‘in harmony’ with the experiences of other people living in different cultural contexts”. (Fratelli Tutti, n. 147)
It is to assume that those who have already lived the experience of discernment and realization will be better qualified to help us go beyond the illusions we create.
Pope Francis warns that at the present time, one notes “a kind of ‘deconstructionism,’ whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture. The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism”. (Fratelli Tutti, n. 13)
This warning should lead us to greater reflection on our daily choices and their impact on our vocational journey and discernment. To close our eyes to the experiences others have had in their vocational discovery is to bury our heads in the sand, like the ostrich, and put ourselves at the mercy of a life built on sand, unsteady and marked by fragility.
How many times have we heard people who regret not having dared to take certain actions in the past? These people were faced with unique opportunities that would lead them to an authentic and happy life, but they wanted to respond to these paths that opened before them without asking anyone for help.
Consequently, adverse circumstances got the better of them and these people had to resign themselves to a good life, but not a happy one; a comfortable life, but not one of fulfillment. Is that what we want for ourselves? Doesn’t our claim to self-sufficiency confine our future to what circumstances offer us? Are we willing to give up happiness for the sake of our pride and selfish whims?
Our limited vision of the world, of circumstances, and of ourselves is not something bad, nor something that prevents our future. On the contrary, at this limit we have the possibility to go beyond what we even dared to dream and discover in ourselves and in others.
A path is only made by walking. This limitation makes it possible to go towards others who live according to a vocation that we think is ours, to enter a path of new possibilities and make hope stronger than illusion and faith more powerful than all fears.
What sense would a vocation have if there were no possibility of fulfillment? What would this gift be? When we resign ourselves to saying, “I wish, but it’s not possible,” we are saying that God has offered us a gift but has blocked all possibilities for us to receive it. What kind of God would this be? It does not make sense to think of things this way. On the contrary, if the gift is there, it is up to us to search for it, to go to meet it and to persevere on a path of discernment and vocational experience. (Susana Vilas Boas)