The Birth of a Vocation
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lover the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
Out of the pain of childbirth comes new life, so from the difficulties of our life comes our vocation.
In our first reading, King Uzziah of Israel had died. During his half-century reign, he had brought Israel prosperity and strength. Then, toward the end of his life, he tried to usurp the role of the temple priesthood. It led to a bad end. Isaiah witnessed all this. In the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah received a mission while in the temple to speak God’s word of truth to people in the corridors of power. From the confusion and pains of Uzziah’s last years, Isaiah’s mission was born — to speak truth to power.
St. Paul was an educated Pharisee blending the cultures of Rome, Greece and Judaism. He had been sent to arrest Jewish people who had become Christians. While on the way for this persecution, he had his Damascus experience — a wrenching, blinding call to a new direction for his life no longer as a persecutor but as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Out of this sudden and dramatic reorientation of his life came a new mission to bring the Gospel not to the Jews but to Galatians, Thessalonians, Romans, Ephesians, Corinthians and Philippians. From this rupture in his life, St. Paul’s mission was born — to bring the Gospel to a cosmopolitan audience.
Peter had been a natural leader. He and others had been fishing all night but caught nothing. The Lord told him, “Put out into deep waters.” Then, there was a great catch of fish. The Lord’s words have been a profound source for reflection for the church in every age. Jesus’ directive here is not geographical. It is a call to be bold in our discipleship. No one follows a shallow or hesitant leader. No one wants to be part of a shallow or hesitant community. These words were directed specifically to Peter and to his successors and to all of us. To Peter and to those who would succeed him, the Lord says, “Be bold in your discipleship.” And so from Peter’s hesitation was born the call to be courageous — to launch out into the deep waters.
What was true of Isaiah, Paul and Peter can be true of ourselves.
From pain, frustration, disappointment and hesitation can come the birth of a vocation. The call or vocation from God is not like the old “blue plate special” in diners of years ago, the same meal for everybody with no variations. Out of the particular circumstances of our life rises our personal call.
The Lord calls us in the circumstances where we are. Most of us are not called to speak Christ’s truth to the people of distant and exotic lands. Ours can be the more difficult task of speaking the Gospel to our family. Some of us may be called to bring the Gospel to the world of politics. Maybe we are called to speak of Christ to our friends. Maybe we are called to bring the light of Christ to social media — what retired Pope Benedict called the “digital continent” that is wide open for our missionary work.
The Lord also calls us from within our experience. A person who has been an addict, who lost a child, who experienced betrayal, who has battled cancer, who has been the victim of gossip is especially equipped to walk the path of recovery and healing with another.
Finally, the Lord calls us with the faith we have. Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Peter all acknowledged their sinfulness. Yet God used them in a powerful way. The Lord calls us with the faith we have and gives us the grace we need.
When we feel discouraged, inadequate, hesitant, disappointed or a failure, we should not be afraid. We are experiencing the birth of a vocation.
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