FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
A Swiss tourist, looking for directions in Germany, pulls up at a bus stop where two Americans are waiting. “Entschuldigung, konnen Sie auf Deutsch sprechen?” The two Americans just stare at him with blank expressions on their faces.
“Excusez moi, parlez vous Francais?” he asks. Again, the two look at him, dazed and confused.
“Potete parlare in Italiano?” No response. “Hablan Espanol?”Still nothing.
With no response from either of them, the Swiss tourist drives off, thoroughly disgusted.
Then the first American turns to the second one and says, “Y, know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.”
“Why?” responds the other. “ That guy knew four of them, and it didn’t do him any good!”
Yes, speaking the right language is often essential when traveling in a foreign country, and sometimes, it can help us avoid problems and misunderstandings when traveling abroad. Well, discovering our calling from God is kind of like learning a new language. Let’s call it “God-language.” To be proficient in God-language, we need to learn how to discern what God is asking us to do with our lives, what has real meaning and purpose, and what is a spirit-driven response to the grace to extend God’s kingdom on earth and by so doing, to make this world and other persons’ lives, a little better because of our presence in it. We get a taste of that God-language in today’s Gospel story of the Good Shepherd. Sometimes, however, hearing and understanding that God-language, is easier said than done! And oftentimes, like attempting to learn a new foreign language, we start out with the best of intentions, only to give up when it gets more complicated and we don’t want to put in the time that’s necessary to integrate the meaning of the new words and meanings into our everyday vocabulary.
But as the saying goes, ‘No pain, no gain!’ No effort, no results! No introspection and reflection, no joy and elation when our life comes to an end! God’s desire for us today is to get a grasp of what we’ve been called to do and then, to have the courage to respond to that divine invitation with our whole selves. That’s what a calling is.
A calling then is different from a job. According to Sister Joan Chittister, in her book, Following the Path, a calling is the intersection between what my individual gifts are and the human thirst for them. Callings are not selfish; they’re other-directed and life-promoting! They cause us to lose our self-centeredness and help us to unmask our true selves. All callings come from God then, are prompted by a deep-down desire to come to wholeness, to complete ourselves, to arrive at that point in our lives where we can say beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we’ve accomplished the reason and purpose for which God created us and placed us on this earth and in this particular moment in history. By contrast, a job may simply be what we do to pay the bills and to sustain our families and enables us to have the sort of lifestyle that makes our calling possible. But what fills our hearts with happiness, what makes our getting out of bed worthwhile each and every day, that we can describe, as our calling. What elicits the best of ourselves and resists the urge to be what others expect us to be— that’s our calling! (Relay your own vocational journey, starting with the invitation from the pastor to consider the vocation of a priest, his happiness and joy were attractive!)
And lest we think we’re done being called, we need to realize that our callings can change in life, depending on our age and our life experiences, too! The one thing that’s true for everyone listening is that all of us have at least one calling in life, one reason for being in existence on this planet. And we’ll know when God is calling us to something new, when we experience what Joan Chittister calls, “an irritating void in the center of our hearts, that is, at the base, the interior echo of an unanswered call to meaningfulness in life.”
Sometimes, we can liken our discontented lives to a maze, where we’re sent off in one wrong direction only to find a series of dead ends, and only with patience and perseverance will the way out of the maze be made pristinely clear to us.
As Chittister puts is, “openness of heart and abandonment of souls are the portals to the future. Unless I’m capable of letting go of the security level to which I’ve become accustomed
— unless I’m ready to begin again, the lack of a sense of meaning in the here and now has the risk of dying in the wind. And with it, will go all the unfinished parts of ourselves, left to shrivel in the face of opportunities not taken. These are the kinds of moments people look back on years later and sigh, ‘if only…’ while the heart beats slower and the present loses another layer of glow.” Following our calling then, requires that we believe that “there is nothing that can happen to us in the process that will do anything other than teach us more or bring us closer to our true selves.” So in reality, there’s nothing to fear in pursuing our calling. Our Good Shepherd is there to guide us!
What we’re passionate about points us to our calling! I had an existentialist philosophy professor in school who used to start every session by saying, “Life is to be lived with a passion!” And he’s right! A passion is something we care enough about, something we spend our lives doing, in sheer and utter delight. It enlarges the scope of our heart, mind and soul; it energizes our spirit; it sparks and ignites our imagination with new possibilities, new hope, and deep, burning love. What we’re truly passionate about never goes away. It stays with us until it gets expressed. It gnaws at us, day in and day out until we do something about it. As Chittister so aptly asserts, “ Passion is the juice, the perfume, the electricity of life.”
Sometimes, it takes a while for us to fully embrace or understand our life’s passion or to use the more theological word, ‘our calling.’ Life is a process directed toward human completion and sometimes, our lives take a lot of meandering detours before they reach their true destination. The trick is, to be honest with ourselves in all the stages of our life’s journey and to know when we’re compromising with the inner stirrings of our heart, and when we’re celebrating them and presenting them as a gift to the world. When many of us graduated from secondary school, we may have made some of our life choices to please our parents, which later on, we found were not our life’s true purpose. Perhaps too, when some of us came to middle age, we found it just too difficult to change the direction of our lives because we had families to raise, bills to pay, and obligations to fulfill.
Perhaps those who are in the twilight of their lives today may have the courage and the wisdom to finally do that which they’ve always longed to do, but never found the right time or the right people around them to make it happen. Perhaps, before it’s too late, each of us can embrace our passionate calling given to us by God and celebrate it for all that it’s capable of being! Remember, our calling is God’s gift to us. What we do with our calling, is our gift, back to God.
To download this page, please click below.