When I was in the military, we would do different types of drills. I remember one day doing a ruck-march, where you walk for long distances carrying heavy weight on your back. I was minding my own business and remember hearing my two buddies behind me talking. Their conversation was certainly “less than holy,” discussing the different things that happened the night before. When, out of the blue, my one buddy yells out, “Hey, Santos, are you gonna be a priest?” I remember thinking, “WHAT?!” The question seemed so random at the time, but I did begin to think about that question more and more. The rest is history. Here I am, a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark.
The point of that story is that God is already working in our lives, whether we see it or not. Even before God created us He already had a plan for us – a plan for our happiness – a plan, a calling, a vocation that would ultimately lead us to holiness. Whatever vocation God calls us to, that is what will lead us to become a saint.
Friends, the world is loud and distracting and confusing, our call as Christian men is to seek in our lives that which God is calling us to. And then respond with generous hearts – prayerful hearts.
In today’s Gospel reading we heard the calling of the Apostles. The first mission of the apostles, whom Jesus called to join Him, was not to lead. Nor was it to teach or sanctify or anything else. The first job of the apostles was to be with Jesus.
Being with Jesus, spending time with Him, growing in love of Him was the first and most important step in what later would be a challenging, struggle filled, even deadly life – but because they first loved Jesus; because they first spent time with Jesus, they learned from Him how to love. Later that love would lead them to unimaginable places to do unimaginable things for the glory of God. Nothing else, no other way, could have or would have prepared them for that life. And it was exactly that that gave them true happiness and fulfillment. Doing what God called them to do by first being with Jesus.
Friends, God calls you and me, all of us, to constantly strengthen and deepen our relationship with the Lord. We do so, so that we may discern what His will is for us in this life, and what His will is for us in every moment.
Pope Francis tells us that discernment is an instrument of struggle that helps us to see and know God so that we may follow him more closely. Discernment, the Holy Father says, is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen around us and within us. This discernment done in the Lord guides each of us.
Discernment in the Lord leads us to the point of decision-making, informed by God.
Brothers, may you continue to discern well the Lord’s will in your life and at every moment. May you spend time with God and find the happiness that He desires to share with you. Remember this, our vocation comes out of this relationship of love with Jesus. He shows us the way because He has created us and continually walks with us.
I leave you with these words from our Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel):
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them… Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”