In this column, we reflect on our vocation as Christians: all invited, called by Jesus to follow him, to be his disciples.

The First Book of Samuel (1 Sam (3:3-10, 19) tells us about God’s call to Samuel to become his prophet. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah was barren. She asked the Lord for a child that she would offer to him. She had Samuel and offered him to the Lord: “As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord” (1 Sam 1:28), that is, consecrated to him. And, thereafter, the Lord calls young Samuel to be his voice to the people, that is, his prophet. Samuel responds to God’s call humbly and makes himself totally available to God: “Here am I Lord, your servant listens.” Pope Francis invites us repeatedly to practice the art of respectful and compassionate listening: listening to one another, to creation, to God (cf. EG 171).  

After the sublime prologue, St John begins his wonderful narrative with the testimony of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35-42) and the election of the first disciplesEach one of us has been called by God by Jesus as priests or consecrated religious or lay apostles – married or single. Each one of us has a story to tell concerning her or his personal vocation. In my case, it was my high school teacher who told me in school: “You will go to the Dominicans”, although the mover of my vocation – after God, of course – was our mother, who asked God daily to give her a priest among her male children (by the way, according to our father, our mother had two special friends: the saints and the poor).

What are the usual steps of a vocation? From the call narratives of the Gospels, there are three main stages in Christ’s call:

          (1) The initiative comes from Jesus: “Follow me” (Mk 1:16; Lk 5:6-7; Jn 21:4-7, 15-19). The call, the vocation, is his initiative: “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you” (Jn 15:16). The call is a grace, God’s gift; no one merits it. Jesus our Savior and Redeemer, invites us to be his followers, his brothers and sisters and his friends.

(2) Our response is now, for tomorrow never comes! Hearing Jesus’ invitation, the disciples followed Him immediately (Mk 1:38). One day we were called – like Samuel, John the Baptist, Andrew and Peter, Matthew: Here am I Lord, I come to do your will. Like Mary: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord”(cf. Lk 1:38). We were called to follow Jesus.

(3) Following Jesus means making Christ the priority of our life. Following Christ becomes the determining factor of human life, of the everyday of our earthly life. It means “a total attachment to the person and message of Jesus” (S. Galilea, Following Christ).  It entails taking up our cross, and also helping other people carry their cross – with patience and, if possible, with joy.

There are different calls, various vocations. We have different paths to follow Christ, who is the only Way for all called – women and men. Nevertheless, essentially, all vocations are equal, that is, neither better nor worse, simply different (M. Gelabert). What really matters for all of us is to respond to our personal call to follow Jesus.

What does it mean, essentially, to follow the Lord?  To follow Christ means to know him, and to know him implies to love him; and to love him, to keep his words, to practice his commandments (cf. Jn 14:21-26). Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6). Our permanent question: Is He my Way, my Truth and my Life? Jesus is the way to walk on, the truth to be proclaimed and lived, and the true way to the Father, to Life. Kempis writes: Without way there is no possibility of walking; without truth, we cannot know; without life no one can live; “I am the way you have to follow; the truth you have to believe; the life that you have to hope for” (Imitation of Christ, Book 3). St. Augustine explains: “I am the Way. Where to does the Way take us? It takes us to truth and life.” Christ is the way that leads us to love, to God our merciful Father to happiness – to heaven.

The spiritual life – in reality, the whole Christian life – is centered on “living with Christ” in becoming “another Christ” today and always. Living in Christ means basically living as children of God, as brothers and sisters of one another in Christ, and as temples of the Holy Spirit: to become, more and more what we are, namely – we repeat – children of God, sisters and brothers of one another, responsible creatures of God and responsible creature in the universe, in God’s creation. It entails to be dead to sin and alive in love.  It implies living our life as missionaries: As the Father sent me I also send you (Jn 20:21). As Christ was sent by the Father in the Spirit to preach the Good News, his disciples are also sent to the world – to work for its salvation.

Following Christ means being faithful to the call, to the vocation to which Jesus has called us (cf. Jn 13:15-17; I Pet 2:21). Like Samuel, we have to listen to the Lord. Like Andrew, we have to tell the world: “We have found the Messiah, our Savior, who is the Savior of all. As disciples of Christ, we have to tell the inhabitants of the world that Jesus loves them.

Let us not forget that our vocation is a gift from God, and requires from us fidelity: “fixity, and stability, contemplation and meditation” (J. M de Prada). This truly means total attachment to God and basic detachment from the world, in which we are but are not of the world, and trying committedly and humbly to do the little we can, always with God’s grace, to save humanity.

          Words to ponder upon: What matters more is not to be called by God, but the outcome of the call: Judas was called by God and ended betraying him; Paul, who began in apparent reluctance, was crowned with triumph (Boniface Ramsey OP, Prologue to his edition of Cassian’s Conferences).

We are pilgrims in the word, journeying towards full happiness, which is Love, to Jesus our only and true Way:O Lord, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (St. Augustine, Confessions).