Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him."
As part of a way to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the Catholic Church in America sponsors an annual Vocation Awareness Week. This year, Vocation Awareness Week is this week, January 13 - 19, and the Gospel passage above just happens to be the Gospel reading from the first day of this week focused on promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education. This week of attention to vocations is also aimed at renewing our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. "Come after me" Jesus says, and Simon and Andrew leave their nets behind and follow Him. Similarly, He calls the sons of Zebedee, James and John, and they leave their nets and their dad and the hired men and they follow Jesus.
"Come after me," Jesus calls. He is hoping we will follow.
The word vocation's Latin root literally means a call or a summons. From a religious standpoint, a vocation formally signifies a persons' call from God to become a priest, brother, deacon or religious sister or nun. In a more generic way, though, it represents the particular plan that God has for each and every individual. Going beyond merely mentioning religious, married or single status, a vocation can be thought of as what God intends for an individual to do with his or her life. It is the specific task that can be done by you and you alone.
It's your authentic swing, your purpose, your calling, your meaning, your passion, your reason for living. One's vocation is the song that God places in the heart that can't be other than sung. It is the thing that sets your heart on fire. It gives you life and it is what you'd be willing to give your life doing.
Discovering your vocation requires prayer, discernment, study, dialogue, patience and hope. In some cases, like Simon and Saul, this discovery starts with an encounter with Jesus that is both name and life changing. It takes Peter a multitude of conversations, foot-in-mouth moments and failures in order to come to terms with his call. Paul spends time in intense study before he can regain his physical sight and gain his spiritual one.
Jesus calls them. He gives them a new name. His gives their lives new purpose, meaning and direction. Together these two men - one a fishermen, the other a soldier - establish the Church and account for the conversion of countless people. Their vocations had a part in the passage of faith that lives on today in those who call themselves Christians.
Perhaps your vocation will be responsible for the passage of faith to future generations for many ages to come. Perhaps your vocation will save even one life. Perhaps your vocation will comfort those who are brokenhearted. Perhaps your vocation will break a cycle of violence, abuse or hatred. Perhaps your vocation will set your heart on fire and give your life new purpose, meaning and direction.
I have heard it said that God's plan for your life is well beyond even your heart's greatest desire and that doing what He wills for you will bring you more joy than you can even imagine.
Getting students to have a sense of vocation is part of the vocation of Catholic educators. Getting students to be able to listen for, recognize and respond to God's voice is what we're supposed to do in Catholic schools. Having a truer sense of our own vocation as Catholic school teachers and believing that our work as Catholic educators is our life's song might actually increase the number of young people answering God's call to priesthood, diaconate or religious life.
Actually following Him, regardless of the nets that we have to leave behind or the people in our lives to whom we must bid farewell, is what He commands of us.
"Come after me," Jesus calls. It's not a question, it's an order.
So, let us Follow Him.
*Please pray for an increase to vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life!*