Vocation is an inner requirement that implies courage and faith. Vocation is God’s call, the fulfillment and meaning of our existence.
Very often, the meaning of vocation appears linked to its etymological meaning (vocare) and, generally speaking, it is understood as “a calling,” as something that happens, independently of our will, and it happens at a certain point in our life.
However, how to assume and look at vocation in our own life if the starting point seems to be something external to us? How to perceive and desire to discern our vocation if it does not impel us to something concrete? If it is only a call, then it is something of which we are recipients, and it can exist independently of us. Can vocation exist in such an impersonal way and so separated from us? If vocation is more than a calling, to what extent do we become an intrinsic part of it? How do you conjugate its dimension of divine calling with our personal will?
We all feel apt for certain functions and qualified for many others. But will our vocation be the result of our personal capacities? Where is God’s action if what we live is only the fruit of our human capacity?
It is true that our personal will is implicit in vocation, but it’s not only a result of it. The personal will is often linked to our dreams and/or the desire to walk in ways in which we feel more secure or that, for some reason, give us some security. Now, in this situation, the desire for stability and/or conformity to what surrounds us blinds us to the path of happiness that we can tread.
Vocation leads us to this path of happiness that goes far beyond “to be pleased” and does not imply facilities. Rather, it involves struggles in which God enables us to do something more than what we think we can do.
Has not this happened to Jesus? Did He not have to pass through the Cross so that there would be Easter morning? St. Daniel Comboni, founder of the Comboni Missionaires, himself warns us that the works of God grow at the foot of the Cross (Writings, 1798). He himself suffered in the moment of accepting to follow the paths of his vocation. The path of vocation is not an easy one and an “isolated act”, external to what we are, but rather an inner requirement that implies courage and faith. Without it, there is no place for vocation but only two distinct realities: human will and God’s dream of happiness for us.
We cannot deny that the dream and call of God are part of vocation. Without them, we could not reach our full realization. But … how does God call? God always calls starting from what we are. This call is never done in isolation and without taking into account our deepest desires (even if we often fail to admit them).
Thus, God’s call is an integral part of vocation. This does not happen until we respond to it, it is something of our daily life which implies and demands a continuous and daily response. In this way, God’s call is revealed in the small and great things that happen to us and through the people with whom we interact.
Listening to God’s call does not entail to close ourselves in a radical listening to silence. On the contrary, it means to set foot on the path, seeking help for a true discernment: a discovery that cannot be done in an isolated manner and individually, but which always presupposes a walking together, so that the voice of God is heard and we do not rely only on our will.
Our existence is a gift of God and its full realization happens precisely in the encounter with God. God does not call us to the impossible! He makes everything possible, even the things that by our judgement seem so out of reach and that we could never achieve.
Our existence is the result of the will and love of God, and in this sense, God’s dream for us is not a whim or an arbitrary choice: He, who is the Lord of life, knows what we need even before we ask Him (Mt 6: 8). As a mother knows the care she must have towards her child, so that he/she grows strong and healthy, so does God know how our existence will be fully realized even if we do not even know it.
What, then, is vocation? It is more than a personal will, because it implies the will of God. It is more than a call because it implies our human nature and it does not exist without a continuous response. It is fulfilment and the sense of our existence, which necessarily means that it is ultimately a call to life.
Vocation is the pulsing of true life in us, it is daring to go beyond the mechanics of breathing and obey a set of rules that society and our personal relations somehow impose on us. In this sense, vocation goes beyond a call, it is true life that cannot happen without the human will joining God’s dream.
This union opens the way to a life full of challenges and, almost always, full of obstacles and difficulties, but at the same time, it is a path where there is nothing impossible, because you live in the “possible” of God. This is not an easy path in which we must rise to the challenge, but rather a path in which God enables us to go beyond ourselves, beyond what we often dare not to think or imagine.
In all vocations there is God – there is the true life – but it is in each one’s vocation that it is possible to discover and live the joy of the encounter with Christ who tells us: “Follow me” (Mt 19, 21). But how do we follow Him through a path of true discernment? Jesus Himself tells us to “come and see!” (Jo 1:39), there is nothing automatic – it always requires placing oneself in an attitude of trust and getting your feet on the road. Therefore, vocation cannot be seen as an isolated moment or as something private and intimate. On the contrary, it is life and daily life. (Susana Vilas Boas)