St. John Paul II loved young people. He witnessed this love at many World Youth Days, which he established, including Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, Toronto, Cologne and Sydney. The theme for Paris in 1997 was “Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This “come” is a calling, a vocation to a specific way of life. The great spiritual writer Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) speaks of vocation in this way: “Vocation is not rare. Everyone has a vocation. It is God’s call to the soul, partly disclosed in the gifts he has furnished us with, partly in the opportunities that come to it and partly in the secret inward voice suggesting a special course” (cf. “The Ways of the Spirit” – NY: Crossroads, 122-123).
Secret inward voice! Jesus spoke directly to Simon and Andrew, James and John and his invitation demanded a response. Amazingly, they left everything and followed the Lord. We call this discipleship.
Opportunities! A significant factor in our vocational choice depends upon social, economic and even political elements. Some cultures offer multiple options for one’s vocation: doctor, teacher, engineer, counselor, lawyer and more. In other cultures, those without educational opportunities, the choices one might choose are limited. But everyone can decide or not decide to follow the way of Jesus, the way of love, compassion and forgiveness. Here we have the universal vocation, the call to holiness that comes to us through baptism.
Gifts! Beyond the universal vocation to holiness, we are called to discern the gifts God has given us. If asked “What is your gift?” reflect on the times you are happiest and most alive. You are probably in your gifted areas. For some, vitality and happiness arise when teaching or cooking or coaching or tending the land. Naming one’s gift is important in our vocational discernment.
In our first two readings we hear about Jonah and St. Paul. Jonah got a direct vocational message from God. He was to set out for the great city of Nineveh and issued a warning. If people do not repent, their city will be destroyed. St. Paul, also the recipient of direct calling from God on that road to Damascus, reminded the Corinthians (and us) that “time is running out.” The clock is ticking. Things are passing away. It’s time to be “done with unnecessary things,” as the poet Mary Oliver states.
“Come and see!” Every day we are invited to come and see Jesus in the cry of the poor, in the lonely and abandoned, in the refugee, in the wounded and the sick. Our vocation is one of caring and sharing, of being good stewards of God’s gifts and faithful disciples of Jesus.
Bishop Morneau, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese, serves as sacramental minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay.