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This Sunday (the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B) provides practical advice for young people discerning a vocation.
It comes just in time for the March for Life, too, when young people around the country sacrifice their time and comfort to stand up for life.
Take the readings in order, and you get the perfect step-by-step discernment advice.
1. Don’t ignore God’s voice.
In the first reading, Samuel hears the voice of the Lord calling him and immediately answers, “Here I am,” even though it takes him a while to figure out what is happening.
The same things happens to those who are called. An insistent “voice” won’t leave them alone, but it seems to disturb more than clarify. It comes when we lie awake late at night. Ignoring the voice does no good. It won’t go away. Instead, young people should follow Samuel’s example: Go to a representative of the Church (a diocesan vocation director or a parish or religious priest) and mention what is going on.
Their vocation advice might be the same as Eli’s to Samuel: Spend time listening to God in prayer.
2. Declare your intentions to God.
The Psalm describes the disposition to God’s call we need to develop.
It’s an attitude of openness, where we say: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
It’s an attitude of docility, where we recognize: “Sacrifice or offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.”
It’s an attitude not of resignation but of expectancy: “Your will, O my God, is my delight.”
The Psalm describes a life of happiness — but not the life of happiness we imagine. Its happiness isn’t a life of material prosperity, with us at the center — but a life of generosity with God at its center.
3. Guard your purity.
Vocations directors say that pornography and promiscuity are the great vocation killers of our day. By indulging in them, we train our hearts to see others as means to our own pleasure and we train our bodies not to tolerate sacrifice. There are beautiful counterexamples of conversions from sexual excess to purity, but prevention seems to be safest course of action.
Nonetheless, it can be difficult for young people to understand exactly why purity is important. Today’s second reading explains:
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”
Our bodies are extensions of Christ. They are meant to serve the Holy Spirit. Purity isn’t arbitrary obedience to “thou shall nots.” It is the fundamental way we show God we are his. Through purity we sacrifice intense immediate physical joys for the subtle and profound happiness only a spiritual life can bring.
4. Come and see.
The calling of the apostles in today’s Gospel reveals how vocations are born.
We might expect this order of events: a) Disciples think religious life might suit them; b) They assess their skills to determine if they have what it takes; c) They check out a seminary or religious house and see if the lifestyle fits their personality.
But that’s wrong. Instead, the Gospel suggests this progression:
a) Disciples recognize Christ in a new way.
“John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.”
b) Christ calls attention to the questions they have in their hearts.
“Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’”
c) They start to see Jesus as a guide and companion and desire intimacy with him.
“They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ — which translated means Teacher —‘where are you staying?’”
d) He invites them to his side to spend time getting to understand him more.
“Come and see”.
Pray this week for the young men and women traveling to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., or in their own areas. Pray that, for some, the journey will end in a life spent in the heart of Christ.