Thursday, 25 August 2016

162: Lectio Divina in Daily Life 10: Lectio and Vocation

Continuation of : 156: Lectio and Mission

This post on “Lectio and Vocation” is motivated by a frequent and painful observation: the question of what one will become in life, of what form one’s life will take is often asked. Religious consecration? Marriage? Celibacy? Commitment? And so on… We suffer greatly from this preoccupation. And, conversely, we give much less importance to our daily faithfulness to God. In fact, we invert the order of our preoccupations; and this does us harm. We are able to go on a retreat just to find out what we should do in life, but that we should have as great an “anxiety” concerning our faithfulness to God in day-to-day life is a thought that never really touches us.

The aim, then, of this fourth paragraph is to propose an important point of discernment so that we may live better on a daily basis and bring our life to fulfilment  We will come to perceive that there is actually only one call: to follow Christ, to know him – no matter the form in which this will be incarnated. Indeed this call resembles a tree; and lectio is one of the strongest means to ensure its growth. Whereas, the incarnation of our vocation (marriage, religious consecration, etc…) appears in its time like a ripened fruit of this unique tree of faithfulness to God.

To help us in our reflection to determine our practical vocation, let us take the example of the tree. If we do not have much knowledge of the many kinds of trees, and if we see a tiny little tree, we cannot say of what sort it is: an orange tree or an apple tree… We will be able to determine what kind of tree it is by seeing its fruit. The same is true of a vocation. It appears on the tree in the form of a ripened fruit and tells us what kind of tree it is. If we see an apple, we will know that it is an apple tree. So, instead of asking ourselves, and torturing our minds, centring our prayers on this preoccupation, we should instead apply our attention to watering the tree. In fact, if we spend our time asking questions instead of watering the tree, we will be preventing the realisation of our vocation.

Lectio is offered as one of the best means for helping the tree to grow. Through it, we may know directly, when the time comes and not before, what we are destined to be. God could indeed reveal this to us, but this knowledge might lead us to travel too quickly, missing some important steps and inverting priorities. This is why he often hides this knowledge from us for a long time, and sometimes right up to the last moment. He is then using a pedagogical method which teaches us to attach ourselves to what is essential: Himself, day after day. Because what good is it finally to know what we are to become if we are unable to listen to the Lord on a daily basis. Our fidelity in the accomplishment of our vocation will not last.

Let us consider this more closely.

1. Vocation

   a) What is a vocation?
   b) Christ is the Way
   c) We are all called
   d) Conditions for answering the call
   e) The Vocation, following Christ, a tree
   The growth of the tree
   The vocation is the fruit of the tree

a) What is a vocation?

The Calling of St Matthew by Hendrick Terbrugghen
The etymological meaning of vocation - from the Latin vocare - is “call”. In order for a call to exist there needs to be someone who calls and someone who is called and a relationship between the two. The Gospel is neither an ideology nor a comfortable nest. It is a living and personal relationship with Christ today. A relationship presupposes movement and progression. Christ is not static: He advances and invites us to follow him. His call is a personal one; he comes to each human being, looks at him profoundly at a given moment in his life, reveals His Life to him and offers him His hand, inviting him to walk in his footsteps.

b) Christ is the Way

Christ is our basic vocation. The particular vocation (marriage, religious consecration, celibacy, a particular mission as a lay-person, etc.) is the manner in which each of us is going to live out his or her basic vocation; in this sense the particular vocation is secondary. On account of our deformed inclination, we have a tendency to invert things and we give more importance to the particular vocation than to the basic one of following Christ. But following Christ step by step - no matter what our situation may be – should be the heart of our life: Christ is our Way.

c) We are all called

All of us are called to follow Christ; this is our basic vocation. He died for all people on the cross, thus everyone is called to follow Him. Lectio will be the royal highway to listening to the One who is calling us, and He will teach us to become like him by following in his footsteps.

St. John, in Chapter 6, contains statements that may make us doubt about our being chosen or called by the Lord1. How can we explain this complex problem that, whether we like it or not, plunges us into the divine plan concerning predestination? All have been tormented by this problem, those who are famous the same as those of humble origins.

We actually find the answer in the fact that God calls every person, since he wants the Salvation of all and died on the Cross for everyone. So I can have no doubt about God’s calling me. In other words, the sun can only shine, and if I am overshadowed by darkness or doubt (my own thoughts) they do not come from Him. Above these clouds, the sun is always shining. In fact, everything is determined by my answer. I can answer by myself, taking myself as the starting point and constructing my own way of following Christ. But I can also ask the Holy Spirit to help me listen to the One calling me, to follow Him step by step at his rhythm, by doing his will. This is of course much more demanding, but, in this way, the call is accomplished. Otherwise, I think that I am responding, but in reality my actions are coming from my “ego”. I direct the answer to the call. At the end, I will say to the Lord: “I preached your Name, and did this and that for you…”, and He will reply: “Go away from me; I do not know you.”
The Lord is the one who addresses the call, He gives the strength to accomplish it day after day, in the manner he chooses, and it is He who realises its accomplishment.
We enter lectio with the idea of discovering some plans, to get a general view of our life or our future as related to God’s plan. But this is impossible because we are called to change. We cannot know what we will become, so how could we understand an entire plan or orientation? Divine pedagogy does not work like this, it does not blind us with sudden revelations; it advances progressively. Our human haste more often than not obstructs his work with our own. We have the task of discovering, day after day, what we should understand and do in daily life. He has His plans. It is the task of our intellect to execute them.

d) Conditions for answering the call

One may only decide on a vocation freely and after being well informed. It is therefore necessary to acquire a minimum of experience, of acquaintanceship with Christ, and to be freed by Him in order to be able to choose. Maturity is therefore necessary, as well as being rooted in Him.

e) The Vocation, following Christ, a tree

Thus, a vocation is like a tree. On the one hand, it needs to grow and, on the other, seeing the fruits, helps to determine what kind of tree it is.

The growth of the tree

As we have seen in the first book, through lectio Christ becomes flesh in one “mouthful” at a time. Each day a part of us is renewed. The new man slowly takes his place and grows, while the old man perishes. One area of our will after another is renewed and recreated daily. Christ truly grows in us. He slowly takes possession of us, transforms us and directs us. He comes to life in us. The Kingdom of God is like a seed, the tiniest of all seeds, which becomes a big tree. This is the growth of Christ in us.

The Vocation is the fruit of the tree

One cannot determine a vocation, i.e. it is impossible to say what kind of fruit our tree will bear until it has reached its full size. The growth of the tree, of Jesus in us, which receives great sustenance from lectio, allows us to determine our particular vocation. So let us see how lectio is integrated in the discernment of our vocation! We recognise a vocation by its fruit. Faithfulness to God, by listening to him each day, through the solid friendship based on His living Word, strongly helps the tree of vocation to grow (whatever kind it may be). Then discernment becomes easy; sometimes it is harvested as a mature fruit, just in time! Moreover, lectio, since it fosters maturity and the capacity to make decisions, leads us also to the fundamental choice of truly becoming friends of Christ, thanks to a personal acquaintance.

1 “All that the Father gives to me will come to me” (Jn 6:37); “No one is able to come to me, if the Father who sent me does not draw him” (Jn 6:44); “No one is able to come to me, if it has not been given him from my Father” (Jn 6:65).

Note 1: This is an extract from the book: "Lectio divina in daily life" (please click here)
Note 2: To know more about Lectio Divina see: A keynote on Lectio Divina
Note 3: Please remember to subscribe to this Blog so you can receive the posts directly to your email.

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