Excerpt from "Personal Vocation: God calls everyone by name" by Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw
Every year in the spring the Church celebrates a World Day of Prayer for Vocations when Catholics are urged to storm heaven more than they are accustomed to do on behalf of this noble cause. In 2003 the fortieth of these annual observances fell on May 11, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The theme was “Vocation to Service.”
In his message for the 2003 vocations day, Pope John Paul II cited Jesus as the universal model of service. Then, having made this point, he joined it to vocation in these words:
In the Bible, service is always linked to a specific call that comes from God. For this reason, it represents the greatest fulfillment of the dignity of the creature. . . . This was the case in the life of Jesus, too, the faithful Servant who was called to carry out the universal work of redemption.
Service, vocation, and the work of redemption: central in Jesus’ life, central also in the lives of Jesus’ followers. And not just vocation in a generic sense, but vocation in a sense that is special, unique, for each individual. The Holy Father continued:
How can one not read in the story of the “servant Jesus” the story of every vocation: the story that the Creator has planned for every human being, the story that inevitably passes through the call to serve and culminates in the discovery of the new name, designed by God for each individual? In these “names,” people can grasptheir own identity, directing themselves to that self-fulfillment which makes them free and happy.
These “names” are personal vocations.
That needs explaining of course. Personal vocation is enormously important yet probably not widely understood. We have written this book with the hope of remedying that.
Start with the basics. In creating us as human beings, God gives us the capacity to make free choices. Confronting two or more possibilities, we often say, “I could do this or do that,” or “I could do this or not do it.” Having thought it over, more or less, and sometimes struggled with our feelings, we make up our minds and carry out our choice, realizing that it is ours in a profound sense: we are responsible for it rather than just experiencing it.
Although God gives us this capacity to make free choices, He is not indifferent to the choices we make. We can make bad choices, do things that hurt others and ourselves, and even though God allows that, He does not want it. He always wants us to make good choices and has made that clear from the beginning. So when we choose and act wrongly, we disobey God. We sin.
Often, though, we need to choose between two or more good possibilities. Whichever we choose, we will not hurt others or ourselves, nor will we disobey God and sin. Is it then the case that God is indifferent to what we choose?
No, not at all.
Not all good possibilities are equally good. As a loving Father, God prefers that we choose the best. If we always did that, we would make the best use of our abilities, take advantage of the greatest opportunities, and benefit others and ourselves as richly as possible. And, as with our other good choices, we also would meet the most serious threats and challenges, and care for others and ourselves as effectively as we could.
God has given each of us a unique set of gifts. By revealing himself, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, he also has given us far better possibilities than we would otherwise have had. Specifically, each of us is offered a unique role in the drama of salvation. By making the most of our gifts and playing our role well, we will make a contribution to the heavenly kingdom that no one else can make, and we will be all that we can be, not just in this life but forever.
This is what God wants. But, while commanding everyone to choose what is good rather than what is bad, he commands no one to choose what is better rather than what is good. Instead, he extends an invitation. He calls each of us by name, and if we listen to his call and try honestly to respond, he will guide each of us personally to what is best for us and everyone else.
Personal vocation is that divine calling and guidance.
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