If you are asked right now “what is your vocation?”, what would you answer?
God calls each of us, but his call is not for a particular person to marry, or to go into business, or to become a missionary, or to take vows or not. God’s call to each of us is simply TO LOVE. We are called to respond to his eternal and unconditional love by following Christ. We all know that from Module One of the BCLP. From one person to another, the call is not different; it is simply, to love. Yet from one person to another, the response is lived out differently.
The root of the word “vocation” is the Latin vocare, to speak. Thus, as God loves us and invites us to respond, we speak to him through our vocation, our CHOICE, as to how we want to follow Jesus. To be a religious or to marry or to stay single or to be a missionary, or a marketplace evangelist, is a PERSONAL CHOICE, not a destiny pointed out by the Lord. Every one of us, at certain moments in our lives, is presented with opportunities to make choices. And by our llves – whether as married or single or religious, whether as businesswomen, homemakers, or with a professional career – we live out these choices. By our lives – however we decide to spend them – we respond to God’s call for us to love, and follow Christ.
When she was alive, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta put it this way: “My vocation is grounded in belonging to Jesus. It means loving him with undivided attention and faithfulness. The work we do is nothing more than a means of transforming our love for Christ into something concrete.”
God’s call to love – the incarnation of Jesus – shows us what we are aiming for, and Jesus’ life shows us how to get there. The rest is up to us. Our response is therefore our VOCATION. The Word of God – beyond being written or spoken only – must be lived out, in actual Christian lives. This living out is embodied in different ways of life, representing the many members that make up God’s body on earth. This is a very interesting paradox: our sameness as called by God is in constant tension with our differentness as responders to His call. And it is in choices we make that our character is molded.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was faced with many choices during her lifetime. She was a virgin from a poor family in an obscure village in Galilee. She lived at a time when respectable women were not to be seen in public; they couldn’t speak to a man in public, they could not make ethical decisions without the supervision of a father or husband. The first-century Jewish woman’s spiritual life was really the property of the family – her access to God was through the patriarchal family system.
Yet, she was visited by an angel; she submitted to God’s plan for her life at great personal risk. She must have endured seasons of confusion, fear, and darkness as the events of her life unfolded. But today, as a result of her positive and Spirit-led choices, Mary is our model as Jesus’ first disciple, our model for mother/parenthood, our model as a true Christian woman.
Because Mary made the choice to LOVE and to respond to God’s call with LOVE and in FAITH and TRUST, she grew from a young, naïve, simple girl, into the Ark of the New Covenant, and became a source of much blessing to the young Christian community and Church, as well as to all of us today. Mary’s choices formed and molded her into the model of Christ-like character that we turn to today. And in all of this, she still maintains her characteristic humility, never boasting about her closeness to Jesus, but always exhorting us to follow Him.
Are we called to be “Marys”? Are we called to be saints? Everyone of us receives God’s call TO LOVE, to everyone the call is the same. The difference lies in our response to His call. Do we accept, obey and follow? Do we complain and grumble along the way? Do we say, “No, I want to do this my way.” Do we reason out that no one else does this …
How do we as women, as sisters in Christ, live out our vocation? By choosing to love. As we look back I am sure that each one of us can appreciate how we have grown over time as we have chosen to love and allowed God and the Holy Spirit to work in us. As we look at and reflect on our growth (or stagnancy, as the case may be) in our character qualities, we can always trace our development back to our choices.
As long as we live, regardless of the vocation we have chosen, we cannot detach ourselves from the world completely. Conversely, a person who does not respond to, nor feel the pull of eternal life will be of no use as a witness in this world. Christianity means to reach beyond this world, even while loving and serving it. Human relationships are therefore not ends in themselves, but platforms from which each member can go out, in response to following Christ. And as we move on and leave the confines of human relationships, each of us becomes stronger in the Spirit, in a sense, more detached, more “virgin”. Christian vocation as a response to God’s call to love makes no sense as Christian unless it looks beyond itself, to the Caller.
There is one Caller, our God. There is one call, the call to love. There are as many possible responses as there are people on this earth. And each of us is called to respond all her life long. Note two of the operative words in God’s call to us: “each day”, “follow me”. To follow means to move, covering a distance; every day means little by little, yet constantly. We are all works in progress, saints-in-training. We are all part-accomplishment, part-failure. Our characters are always developing … either we are propelled forward through moral and good choices, or we stagger backwards as a result of wrong choices and weak response to God’s call to love. This reality calls us to patience and tolerance, for no matter how mature in faith we become, we can never be perfect in the Spirit. Part of us will always be “in the flesh.” We will always be working behind and with Christ as we strive to follow in His footsteps.
Neither marriage and family life, nor the religious life, nor single-blessedness, nor marketplace evangelism, nor corporate business, nor being a career professional is superior over the others. Each is an avenue for following Christ. Each involves the total demand of love, which is dying to oneself. Each necessitates detachment from the desire of all material things and things “of the flesh.” Each can lead to a perfect love, where there are no barriers, and which is therefore completely personal.
Such is our vocation as Christian women of the BCBP. Such a life of perfection-in-progress, of being a saint-in-training, is only possible within the scaffolding, the underpinning, the core of love, of unconditional love, of a holy and godly kind of love.
Is this really possible? Oh, yes, it is! We have Mama Mary as our model. We just need to ask ourselves and reflect: How is God loving me right now? How am I loving God … and responding to His love? How can I cope with the challenge to make the right choices and strengthen my vocation as I respond to His Call to LOVE?
So now you know what your response should be if asked, “Sister, what is your vocation?”
Adapted from articles by Annie Salvador, BCBP Baguio, and Nancy Catan, BCBP Manila.