GOD CALLS EVERYONE TO HOLINESS. Listening to God’s Call and acting on it changes everything in your life. For many, God’s Call is the threshold between childhood and adulthood; the point when one stops being told about God and begins truly seeking God and building a life on that new-found relationship. As demonstrated by so many who have come before us like Abraham, the Twelve Disciples, and Saint Benedict, leaving one's familiar life behind and seeking can be God is challenging, frightening, and at times painful. But the Call to Holiness is not only for each person’s private and individual benefit, but a vocation also returns to the community, strengthening it, healing it, and leading it. Consequently, the strength and wisdom of the Christian community are with you in your vocation discernment. You are not alone in this challenge when you a part of the Body of Christ. Responding to God’s Call and seeking Him and your role within the Body of Christ, is the first act of a mature spirituality in service to God, self, and the Catholic Church.
But not everyone responds to the Call. Not everyone seeks. Not everyone returns. God created us to be free, free as people and free before God: free to say “yes” or “no” to the Call. Many will delay responding to God for years, even decades out of a sense of duty and obligation to their current lives and relationships, only to end up trying following whatever path remains for them, or even none at all. Still many are afraid of the unknown set before them, insecure and convinced of their inadequacy to follow God. However, in the face of these pervasive challenges, remember the words of Jesus, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16)
God chose you; you are not alone. Upon accepting the Call to Holiness, before you shall stretch a Way seeking God, conversion, forgiveness, amends, and holiness. No one can undertake such a quest alone, nor does the Catholic Church expect anyone to do so. God has a way of bringing people together, and together in the Name of God, God is with you. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) At the outset of your response to the Call, look for support, advice, and wisdom from your community, family, and parish. You may be surprised how readily help is available, and from whom it may be offered.
A world of difference stands between the first step of reading, discussing, and imagining God’s Call, and the second step of acting on your careful research and sincere prayer. Prepare yourself to request and receive advice. Pray, decide, then begin – don’t continue researching, don’t continue to wonder, don’t continue to dither with your spiritual director. BEGIN. The adage says, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.” You do not need to shake the foundations of the world with your decision; you do not need to plan for the rest of your spiritual life; you do not need to come to the end of your quest for God with this one decision.
YOU MUST CHOOSE TO START. As one prominent Catholic author has advised, “It’s the job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)
TAKE THE FIRST STEP: visit a monastic community, visit a seminary, enroll in a school of theology, volunteer, even meeting new people can be the first active step. Then take the next step, and the next. Follow the Call to Holiness even if the path is uncertain, it may not work out on the first try, but wisdom comes from experience – if you're paying attention. Learn to be comfortable with the long work of seeking God, and in time you will see that the burden has become light. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) Develop the courage to follow God’s Call through every realm of the Catholic Faith; you may discover yourself wandering in God’s Call, but not lost.
Following Jesus, means letting go of your old way of life. Letting go is very difficult, but in the search for God, in response to His Call, it is necessary. Jesus instructed the young man who sought to follow Him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21) Christ may ask something different of each of us in our vocations. To the fishermen who would become His disciples, He asked that they set aside their nets; to Matthew the tax collector and one of the Twelve, he asked that he accepted His mercy; to the wealthy young man, He asked that he preferred Him over his wealth. Your vocation – your relationship with God and His Church – articulates what God asks of you, but each step towards your Call, each sacrifice, each act of mercy, every moment of trust in the Love of Christ is an effort towards union with God following His Call to follow.
God's Call to Holiness is constant throughout the entirety of our lives, even after discernment. When we decide to become a monk, a priest, to marry, or remain single, it is an exertion towards a particular relationship with Jesus and away from "lukewarm" discipleship where we "wait and see," or wait for "God to decide." God has given us the freedom to choose and act, and that is just what He requires of us, as we learn from the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). To the servant who buried the talents given to him, who made the decision not to decide and to not take the risk demanded by the effort of building his Master's Kingdom – all was lost. God will give to us what we need to follow Him, He will guide us, He will support us through His Church, but we must still do the work of discipleship and trust in the Lord.