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Have you found your true vocation in life?
Little Billy had just turned 6 years old and his grandfather said: “Well, Billy, now that you ‘re getting older, do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” “Yes,” he said, “I want to be a brain surgeon.” “A brain surgeon? Whatever gave you that idea?” Pulling a dirty, rusty old knife from his pocket, Billy said, “Well, I found this knife on the ground.”
Today, 6 months before the Birth of Jesus, we celebrate the Nativity of his cousin St, John the Baptist. John’s true vocation in life came to him, not from finding some scroll on a street in the hill country of Judea where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived, but from an angelic calling made known to his parents. An angel announced to his father that he would have a son. But, unlike Mary who believed the word of the Angel Gabriel, Zechariah doubted the announcement of this birth, stating that he and Elizabeth were too old to have a child. Because of this lack of trust, the Angel declared that he would be mute until the day the child was born—a child who would be a great prophet whom they were to name ‘John’ (which means ‘God is gracious.’)
So, like Isaiah in the 1st Reading, John’s true vocation was given at his birth. “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb He gave me my name.” And his vocation was not only to be a servant of the Lord to raise up the tribes of Jacob, but to be a light to the nations that God’s ‘salvation might reach to the ends of the earth.’ From the Gospel narratives we know well the great importance John would play in the life and ministry of Jesus. He would ‘go before the Lord to prepare His way’; he would testify to Him as the Lamb of God; and he would give up his life for the Lord. He was beheaded in prison by a weakling King Herod at the behest of a wicked mother and her subservient daughter.
In today’s 2nd Reading St. Paul points to John as the herald of Christ who proclaimed the Good News of his coming. He did so as the humble servant sent to proclaim the way of the Lord. No doubt St. Paul saw in St. John a parallel to his own vocation in life. For, his true vocation was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles bringing the Gospel of salvation to the nations beyond the land of Israel. And, like St. John the Baptist, St. Paul’s final witness would be as a martyr beheaded with a sword not in Jerusalem but outside the walls of Rome.
God expects that each one of us will find our true vocation in life and, that once we have found it, we will courageously live and be faithful to it all our life long. Our true vocation is already in the mind and heart of God from the time of our conception in the womb. But it is up to each of us to discern what that might be. We must first attend to God’s inspiration. Then we must listen to others suggest to us what God has in mind for us as they see possibilities for service to God and others. With all that, we must carefully reflect and meditate on what vocation God truly has for us—as a committed married person, a priest, a permanent deacon, a religious, or a single person.
But, it is certain that we all have one true vocation in common with St. John the Baptist. St. Augustine says it well. “John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.” If we fulfill our common calling to be the voice for the Word of God in time, we will rejoice in the Eternal Word forever in heaven.