Young people who are serious about their faith think a fair amount about the importance of finding their vocation. This seems to imply that everything before your vocation is simply a long waiting process. It’s like waiting for your ticket to be called at the DMV. It’s uneventful. It’s dreary. It’s a complete waste of time. And you really, really can’t wait for it to be over. But what would you say if I told you that during that time of “waiting,” you were already inside your vocation? Hard to believe? Well, you are. Get ready to embrace it.
First, we need to think about what the word “vocation” means. It means a call or a summons. The first call of every Christian is to love “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Through our bodies, we must bring God’s kingdom of love to others. This is the first call of every Christian.
This is like the call that Aragorn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings first made to wander the wilderness. Yes, he was a king, but first he needed to serve those like Frodo in the wild. Aragon knew he was heir to a great kingdom, but that was not what he was called to yet. He was called to wander, to fight, and to protect. This is the call of every Christian: to wander the earth, to fight for truth, and to honor and protect the bodies and souls of others by our acts of love.
When we are fighting the good fight in the world, we might discover a second more definitive call summoning us to something deeper. It might mean creating a permanent alliance with someone in this battle (i.e. marriage). Or it might mean becoming a leader of soldiers, that is, becoming a mother and father to many people (i.e. consecrated life or priesthood). To enter into this deeper call, we must make a radical gift of our bodies to our community.
Before entering into this deeper vocation, most likely it might mean first becoming a leader in your community. Aragorn doesn’t become king right away. First, he protects Frodo. Then he leads as second in command to Gandalf, where he learns to lead. Then he leads the fellowship. Then he helps leads the Rohirim at Helms Deep. Then he helps lead the battle to protect Minas Tirith. Then, finally, he leads his people as king against the powers of Mordor. I doubt anyone would say to Aragorn, “Wow, it took you a while to finally get to your real vocation.”
We are in the battle now. We are in our vocation. We must fight the fight. We must run the race, as Saint Paul tells us in Hebrews 12. But then, as you are running, look around you. Who’s next to you? Who’s following you? Who’s willing to fight with you to bring the kingdom of God here to Earth? And who must you become to protect love and protect those around you? How is he calling you to make a gift of your body to those near you?