Friday, January 11, 2008

National Vocation Awareness Week, Jan 13-20th

I looked at my calendar and realized how fitting it is for the start of National Vocations Awareness Week to fall on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, until I read the Mass readings for this upcoming Sunday. I did my homework, so it makes a bit more sense.

The Readings

Is 42:1-4, 6-7 God speaks through the prophet Isaiah: He has a chosen one who will bring justice to all the nations. Additionally, the chosen one will be formed by the Lord and He will establish him as a covenant for the people, to bring them light.
This chosen servant of the Lord can be seen to symbolize historical Israel, an idealized Israel, or even the prophet Isaiah himself, but when the New Testament is considered, Christ is the Messianic fulfillment of this passage. God chose that Mary should carry His Son and be given the name Emmanuel. God's Chosen One brought spiritual justice and eternal light and Life to all who believe.

Acts 10: 34-38 The whole of chapter 10 is about God's revelation to St. Paul that His resurrection and ascension are not reserved to the Jews for salvation, but also to the Gentiles. However, in light of the baptismal and vocational undertones of this Sunday's (01/12/2008) readings, it may be seen that God not only directly calls people such as St John the Baptist, Mary the Virgin Mother of God, St Joseph and so forth, but He will also call gentiles -- ordinary everyday people like you and I who have not seen or heard Him like our spiritual fathers. We are called differently but called nonetheless.

Mt 3: 13-17 (I'm still reading and praying about how to adress this passage).

The Vocational Call

I could start to describe my own vocational calling, but I won't do that. While I could ignore the Latin root for vocation, I don't want to do so. I have read many introductory articles and chapters on the vocational call, and all say that vocation comes from vocar which comes from the Latin "to call," but being the nerd that I am I also know that vocat means "to invite." God is gently, persistently and quietly calling and inviting us into relationship with Him. Sometimes He calls people to different missions and purposes in life; that is understandable if you know that the ways in which God's Will will be accomplished is likely to take many different skills, tasks, and proficiencies. Some things can be accomplished through the vocation of a career, a relationship status, a locale, and so forth. Therefore, should there be any wonder that God calls people to matrimony, single life, consecrated virginity, the diaconate, and the religious life? Not really.

However, given the prevalance of marriage in our society, the vocation that January 13 - 20th is trying to expose are the ones that need more thought. People get engaged and married everyday, but how many decide to remain single and chaste? Even if people do so, it's not to the same fanfare of a wedding ceremony and reception. How many women become consecrated virgins? Not many, but they do have a ceremony. How many enter religious life or the priesthood? Still fewer.

"No one -no one individual and no community- can proclaim the Gospel to himself: 'faith comes from what is heard' (Rom 10:17). No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ's authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered" (CCC 875).
"Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God" (CCC 915). The consecrated life is rooted in baptism and is fully committed to God, just as Christ called the disciples in saying "Come, follow me." The disciples immediately left their families, their homes, and their possessions. (Although we know Peter had a stepmother, which indicates the presence of a wife, she is not mentioned and family is not addressed thereafter.)

Poverty "Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me' " (Mt 19:21). There are many ways to be poor, but one of the ways to follow Christ closely is to become poor as He was poor, and to be poor as are the sinners He served were poor. Although this active love for the poor is one reason to practice voluntary poverty, I think it has largely to do with how we show love for God. God loves us, and the ways in which we can show Him love in return is to love eachother, especially if we believe that the Spirit of God is in each of us, then we will be loving not only each other but God simultaneously. We can especially see the ways to serve others when Christ tells the apostles in Mt 25:34-46. To the 'goats' on his left the shepherd will say "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me." We know from the continuation of this passage that Christ tells the accursed that if they never did anything to clothe, feed, visit, or love the less fortunate, they refused to serve the Lord. While serving the Lord is the "duty" of each disciple, the vocational call asks it more and more fully of the called. How can we freely give if we are concerned about our own material and finanical wealth? Additionally, does it not encourage a total dependance on God, which was forgotten the moment when Eve ate the apple, because she was convinced by the serpent that she knew better than God did what she needed and desired?

Chastity In Malachi Martin's Hostage to the Devil, a book on exorcism and the ways in which the Father of Lies grabs hold of people and the ways in which the name of Jesus releases people, a priest reflects on how the gift of life to God for the purpose of His Will eliminates the need for sexual relations. "He now sounded more or less like the Gerald who had entertained me earlier that evening. We started walking back to the house. As we passed out through the hall and front dorr, he quoted Jesus: ' 'In the Kingdom of Heaven, they neither give their daughters in marriage nor are given in marriage.' No marriage there,' he commented musingly. 'No need for it.' He broke in on me. 'He was -- is -- God. No woman, no human lovemaking was needed to enrich him. [...] Once possessed of God and possessed by God, there's no point in making love. You have all that human love can give you and much more. Love itself" (p. 186-7; emphasis added). A biblical support for celibacy/chastity can be seen in Mt 19:12.

Obedience Especially obedience to God's Will, transmitted through the Spirit by so many conduits. God works through our friends, our family, our subordinates and superiors. How better else to learn submission and obedience?