Today’s Gospel story reminds me of a cherished (now) memory from my adolescence. The apostles arguing about who was the greatest among them brought the incident and a lesson to mind.
When my sister, Sister Pat, and I were in fifth and seventh grades, respectively, we attended St. Clare School in Santa Clara, California. We had to ride the Greyhound bus from Mountain View, where we lived, about 10 miles to Santa Clara, the nearest town with a Catholic school.
I have many fond memories of those Greyhound commutes with my two siblings and our friends. There were about eight of us from our town. One day on our bus coming home from school, my sister stabbed me in my right forearm with a number two Ticonderoga pencil. Oh, yes she did! I still have the tattoo, although it has faded somewhat over the decades. I don’t recall all the details and the circumstances precisely, but I remember that it seems to have had something to do with my teasing her and she said something about getting even with the devil. So as she saw it, I guess, it had something to do with protecting the other kids from Satan, doing God’s work—her vocation—inflicting upon her brother penance for his transgression.
Now, I don’t recommend taking God’s role in everything, but doing His work—our vocation—is another matter. We are all called to do God’s work, in some form or another. None is more worthy than another, nor necessarily finds more favor with the Lord.
Vocation does not necessarily mean a calling to the religious life. No, our vocation is simply and literally our calling. Each of us is beckoned to a unique vocation in life, based upon the desires God has placed within us, as well as our talents, skills, and personalities. These are gifts from God for our own happiness and for the good of others as they are shared. And vocation can be about more than just work, a job, or career. Our deepest vocation is to become who we are, to become the persons God created us to be.
When we accept that God loves us from the beginning, without conditions, without reservations, without favorites, then we know that He loves us as we are, the persons he created. It is not necessary to become a great saint or a brilliant scientist, or to feel more instrumental in fulfilling our calling, or to be the “best” in that pursuit. For each of us, our own vocation—not someone else’s—is the path to happiness. We needn’t follow or copy anyone else’s roadmap because God has placed within each of our souls our own GPS that contains all the directions we need.
So it is not necessary to become holy, to find favor with God in a manner as my sister has. None of us could likely ever become quite the teacher, social worker, caregiver, lover of all God’s children precisely like she has. Nor should any of us ever desire to become the single point impromptu tattoo artist that she once was on that day in the early 1950s. It is only necessary to be who we are. Those apostles should have known that.
It is my vocation to be the Bill that God created and to be the best Bill I can be.
And as for you…?