One thing you can be sure of. God is after you! Which means you have a calling, a vocation.

I hope the thought of God coming after you is not intimidating. God is not out to “get us,” let alone scare us. That may be why he is always playing catch-up. God has our back and wants to walk with us, like Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. If, like those disciples, we let Jesus into our lives, our thoughts, our conversations and even arguments (with ourselves and others), then he will stay with us and open up his heart, especially in, to quote St. Luke, the “Word” and the “Breaking of the Bread.”

Every one of us has a vocation, an inkling of what we would like to do or be that is more important even than any job or position. We may not recognize it at first as God’s voice any more than the disciples heading to Emmaus had any idea who Jesus was — although, strangely, they were talking about him, actually arguing. And maybe that is exactly why they did not recognize him. They were only discussing things “about” him.

Like most of us Catholics, we have heard and been taught a lot about Jesus Christ. In fact, many non-Catholics can tell us more about him than we know. But it’s still all hearsay. It’s all about Jesus as a personality, but not as a person. When we come to accept and know Jesus as a real person who wants to be in our lives, everything changes.

That’s what happened to those disciples. That is what happens when the call comes. We get the sense that we are being invited to follow God’s lead, God’s voice, something that we feel in our heart, first as desire, but something that then leads us out of ourselves on a path that has an ever-opening horizon. And we do not do this alone.

Don’t get me wrong. There are reasons many people enter into ways of life that we are accustomed to call “vocations” — marriage, priesthood, consecrated life — which are not rooted so much in God’s call, but in some more earthly ambition, drive or duty. Unfortunately, we have seen examples of careerism, materialism and exploitation in the less-than-exemplary lives of those who have not gone down this path in pursuit of love but out of some worldly motivation. In some ages and in some countries, women were induced by families to enter convents for economic reasons or they themselves did so to flee violent or abusive domestic situations. We know people often enter marriage for similar bad reasons, out of some fear or pressure, to “get out of the house” or because “it’s time.”

I saw many such patterns over the two decades in which I ministered in the diocesan tribunal in Brooklyn. Those who married for wrong reasons, often without sufficient reflection. 

A vocation to follow the voice of God requires patience, prayer and discernment. It is a wonderful thing to be able to follow one’s heart and know that the Lord is with you, leading you. Many couples today choose to live together, avoiding marriage altogether. They know in their hearts that they desire to have a relationship that lasts, and is faithful and unconditional. But they may fear the duties of marriage, as the law prescribes, will be too burdensome. Yet it is precisely the promises of the marriage vows — to live and love together, faithfully, generously and unconditionally for life, with hearts fully open to the family members yet to be born — that will protect them from the despair that they can never love or be loved in this way. With God, all things are possible, because God is pure love.

Rooting the callings in our hearts firmly in the Lord gives a stability and authenticity we cannot put there ourselves. This journey of preparing for a vocation, whether it be to marriage, priesthood, consecrated life, diaconate or some other life commitment is not something we best do alone. God’s people accompany us at every stage. 

All vocations are a call to love, to a way of loving. If marriage shows the depth of love, then priesthood and consecrated life bear witness to the breadth of love. Learning to grow into our vocations as ways of loving comes through our walking with Jesus as he is present in Word, Sacrament and Prayer — and in the community of faith.

It is not enough for a seminarian, for example, just to be schooled in theology, pastoral practice and canon law. An essential mission of the seminary is to ensure that his full human formation is healthy, that his personal — individual and social —life is well-integrated emotionally, physically and spiritually. So also with those in formation for consecrated life.

Preparing for marriage is something in which dioceses and parish families want to walk the walk and to work hard with young couples so that they are enriched by the treasures of our faith, and can build their home together on the solid rock of God’s love in their everyday lives. 

Jesus will lead your heart. He will send you his Spirit and give you the freedom to follow your heart’s desire with love. After all, that is why he keeps catching up with us, gets our attention and invites us to follow — as a disciple. Following him is the way to find the love we long for. That is what a vocation is all about.

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