Children usually have dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. They go through phases, changing aspirations frequently. With maturity, some get a clearer idea of what they desire to pursue, while for others it gets cloudier. At some point, however, most people do find a passion for something, even if it is by stumbling onto it. Part of this process also involves developing a vocational sense; that is, we discover whether we are called to be a spouse and parent (if God so gifts us with children), to be a priest, deacon, or religious, or to remain single. It is essential to discern a vocational call, but having a deep desire can be a good indication that we are moving in the correct direction. However, no matter what way of life and career we discern, we all share a common call to know, serve, and love the Lord. And regardless of what career and vocation we are called to live, love is the root and center of every soul. God made it clear from the very first lines of His revelation (recorded in Scripture) that life is sacred because it is all about love: we were created from Love, in love, and to love. Thus, our every action should be a witness to love. To help us, God offers His grace: that is, if we draw from God Himself, we have an endless wellspring of love from which to drink. (John 4, John 6:54)
Because God is Love, He wants us to share in His very being. Therefore, at Baptism He lays a powerful foundation by offering the grace of love (along with faith and hope). All the Sacraments provide graces which build on love because they all flow from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who is the greatest gift of love God has ever offered His people: the salvation Jesus offers cleanses and heals all our unloving acts and tendencies, but it also empowers us to fulfill our mission as disciples. Therefore, it is our responsibility to offer the gift we have received as a gift to others. (Matthew 10:8) In the gospel we specifically hear Jesus declare the importance of love when He states the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” In other words, love God with everything you are. Without the slightest pause Jesus continued, “The second is like to it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on it.” (Matthew 22:34-40) That is, if you want to love God, love His people: you cannot love one without the other. Everything depends on love.
If we are uncertain as to how we are to serve God, especially in trying times when the ways in which we used to proceed are either on hold or are tenuous at best, or if we are feeling like a boat adrift, unsure of how we can make a difference, it might be good to ponder our call, remembering that we are created for a purpose, a unique way to express our love. St. John Henry Newman wrote a reflection which could offer some insight; read it while remembering that we are created from Love, in love, and to love. Our love may take on different expressions, but the fact remains that all of us, if we can do nothing else, can love.
Newman wrote: “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission …. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an Angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. Therefore, I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us…. He knows what He is about.” *
Let us accept the call to serve in love. This means allowing God to forgive us our trespasses so we can forgive those of others; it means accepting that others are loved by God equally as to the way we are loved by Him; it means praying for the grace to be less selfish and then taking challenging opportunities to do just that. It means not only praying for love to ‘somehow’ work in others, but acting with love in order to be a model, (we are the ‘somehow’), and praying for our enemies, but then acting like we mean it. This is not about being disingenuous, but rather it means that we are willing to enter into the struggle to love when we truly feel that we cannot. ** If we draw from our baptismal gifts (of which love is central) and spend time in prayer, perhaps we will also find some peace amidst the chaos. No matter what it is we do or what our limitations may be, we can all drink from the wellspring of love, who is God, so that we might live the purpose for which we were made.
May we trust in God’s love and let His love empower us to love in turn! May we discern and then live our unique purpose and mission as a disciple of Christ! And may we take to heart the words of Jesus, understanding that when we love, we live the entire gospel message through our efforts! Let us meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Meditations and Devotions 400-401; Prayers, Verses and Devotions 338-339, St. John Henry Newman.
If you are interested in more on St. John Henry Newman I wrote about him in June of 2018, specifically referring to his famous poem, "Lead Kindly Light." You can find it in my archives for June 2018 or click here: https://www.catanesesd.com/micheles-blog/hope-the-heart-of-the-good-news (You can access just about everything I have ever written in the archives, too.)
** Remember that love does not mean ‘like’ nor does it mean that we condone everything.
1. My photo, lilies in a lily pad, outside Washington, D.C.
2. Icon, La Sangre de Cristo, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. If you are interested in this icon you can find it at: fineartamerica.com/featured/la-sangre-de-cristo-242-william-hart-mcnichols.html
3. Icon, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. (At the time this icon was written Newman was not yet canonized.) You can find this icon at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/blessed-cardinal-john-henry-newman-221-william-hart-mcnichols.html
4. Painting, First Steps, After Millet, by Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh was recovering in an asylum when he painted this, inspired by the paintings of Millet. For more go to Van Gogh www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436526
5. My photo, mountains in Colorado outside Silverthorne.
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Heart Speaks to Heart