Life is vocation to joy

Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, January 14, 2024. 

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 01.11.2024).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, January 14, 2024.

Vocation in everyday life.

After the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus that last Sunday ended the Christmas season, today the liturgy presents a passage from the first chapter of the Gospel of John to complete the narrative of the events of the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God calling us to follow him.

It is no coincidence that even the other two readings of this Sunday’s Mass, the Second in Ordinary Time, have vocation as their central theme. We have all been called to follow a «vocation» to be realized in our everyday life. We are all called to live our vocation as children of God in the only Son in the apparent banality of everyday life. We are all called to be with Christ before to do something for Christ. The greatest example in this regard is Mary who, before «performing” as a mother, «was» and «is» still mother. Even the apostles mentioned in the Gospel today before doing something for Christ, were with Christ. To John and Andrew who asked him: «Master, where do you live,» Jesus answered: «Come and see”. He proposed to «be» with him before to «do» something with him.

It is no coincidence either that the liturgy of ordinary time makes the priest wearing green vestments to indicate the green time of our lives. It is a time full of hope that accompanies and illuminates our daily life to be “spent” following Christ. The ordinary time is not a lesser time. It is the time when the Mystery of Christ’s life, and of us in Him, flows under our eyes in an ordinary way and we are called to welcome Him and understand Him to pursue the path of salvation in Christ Jesus, our Way.

Every existence is already a call: God brought us out from the confused abyss of nothingness giving us existence. He also gave us a project to accomplish, a design to realize that was even drawn «on the palm of his hands» (Isaiah 49). This is the meaning of our life: to be with God and work to the great project that He from all eternity has on each of us.

We are often tempted to believe that the vocation that God gives us is a painful duty, a mandatory and annoying virtue. No. The calling by God is for men to intertwine a love relationship with Him. He invites them to his home and welcomes them back home when they return to his love. And not only they can be with Him, but He is in their hearts. The dynamism of the man who is always in search of his house is the longing for his homeland, his birthplace. The German writer and philosopher Novalis (1772 -1801) wrote «Philosophy is the longing to go home.» The passage of today’s Gospel shows how to come to this house following Christ, asking him where he lives and staying with him.

The most beautiful consequence is that we become his home. In fact, becoming close to God is to become a living cathedral. Receiving his presence in us, we understand the magnitude of the «human» condition to which we are called. The Bible is full of stories of vocation: Abraham, Moses, David, individual prophets, the little Samuel, of whom we read in today’s first reading (1 Samuel 3.3 to 10), the Virgin Mary and the apostles.

We all, each in different forms, are united by this invitation to give to our existence the supreme value of opening to a relationship with God, saying like Mary: «Amen, Fiat, be done to me according to your Word.»

The three verbs of vocation that is not a job.

The readings of today’s Mass show that the vocation «has» three verbs:  to call, to listen, to respond.

To call. Except for a few exceptions of a direct call, the calling takes place through other men, as seen in the today’s episode. For the two disciples of John the Baptist, it is through him who indicates the Lamb of God; for Peter it was his brother Andrew; for the child Samuel it was his «guardian» Eli.

To listen, as did the little Samuel who to God who called him by name replied: «Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.»

To respond, going to live with the One who says to us, as to John and Andrew, «Come and see.»

Let’s go back again to the passage of today’s Gospel, in which we are told that, seeing that John and Andrew were following him, Jesus turned and asked, «What do you seek?» Jesus asked not to be inform, but to provoke the response and to induce them to become aware of their own search. Jesus compels man to wonder about the reasons of his journey.

The search must be questioned. There are two kinds of search. There are those who truly seek God and the ones that actually seek themselves.

Therefore, the first condition is to continually check the authenticity of the search for God. The second is not to try to understand vocation as a search to fix the world or to settle down in the world, because vocation is not the result of a human project or an organizational strategy. Vocation is Love, received and given. Vocation is not a choice, it is being chosen: «You did not choose me, but I chose you» (Jn 15, 16).

Vocation to happiness through an exodus.

In Mark’s Gospel we read: «He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them:» If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (…) Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, «You are lacking one thing ‘Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me «(Mark 8: 34-35; 10:21).

In today’s Gospel, with other words, Jesus repeats the invitation to John and Andrew so that they also take their journey and follow Him. In both cases, Christ asks to go with him to the new exodus, which is not only liberation from evil andfrom all other physical or moral slavery, but for freedom, truth[2], love, joy that we hold very dear.

An example of a saint who accepted totally to do this exodus with Christ, was St. Francis of Assisi (1182 -1226) who expressed his experience of liberation and vocation with the words now called the Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Centuries earlier, another Saint expressed the experience of being called in a very profound way. It is Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) whose vocation-conversion was obtained by the prayers and tears of his mother Monica. In the Confessions, written to tell his vocation and give glory to God for his mercy, the great Saint says that «the weight of love lift one up» (Pondus meum amor meus – Confessions, XIII, 9, 10). It is as if the Bishop of Hippo had said: “Wherever love takes me, I’ll be there.»

He too had found love and not only did not want to lose it, he wanted to remain faithful forever.

For years he had sought truth and love. After having encountered them in the person of Christ, he remained faithful forever.

Even to him Christ asked “What are you looking for?» and to the question «Master, where do you live?»  the reply is still «Come and see.»

The witness of the consecrated Virgins in the world.

The vocation of John and Andrew was awaken by the testimony of their «old» master John the Baptist who had indicated Jesus as the «Lamb who takes away the sins of the world», but it became clear in the dialogue with Christ «What do you seek?» «Master, where do you live?» “Come and see.”

To John and Andrew, as to the endless line of people who seek Him and ask «Where do you live?” Jesus replies with an imperative («come») and with a promise («see»). The search is never finished. The discovery of God is never ended. Jesus does not say what they will see or when. It is being with Him that the future will unfold and blossom.

To follow Jesus doesn’t mean to know where he leads; it means to have faith in Him and trust in Him completely. This total abandonment is experienced in a particular way by the consecrated Virgins. These women testify that the vocation is to recognize Christ as the center of affection of the human life. Following their example, to Christ’s question «Whom, what do you want?» let us answer «You». In their daily «yes» (fiat) these women conform to his plan of love, faithfully renewing the «yes» pronounced in the hands of the Bishop the day of their consecration.

We all know that God’s love for man is faithful and eternal. «I have loved you with an everlasting love» says God (cf. Jer 31: 3). The consecrated Virgins testify that we too can live the vocation to God’s love that is light, happiness and fullness of life on earth and for eternity.

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