Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Some thoughts on Vocation

Seems to me that if there is one question more than any other i was
asked when i was a kid it it was some form of "what did I want to be
when i grew up?" Also seems that since the question was asked once i
was really old enough to have serious thoughts on the matter, what I
wanted to be when I grew up seemed to influence all the choices that
were mine to make.

I should hope that as Christians we believe all of our choices and
commitments to have a God-given transcendent quality to them, that
they have a faith dimension. And while we may not know which
decisions to make, I think we can safely say that our deepest longings
may well proceed from a developing sense of vocation.

The goal of vocation as i understand it, is transformation by God, our
deification if you will. And by that i don't mean that we become
gods, but that we become the most fully realized individuals it is
possible for us to be. I explain. From the instant of our individual
creation, God implants a spiritualizing direction within our inmost
being, the Imagio Dei. Jer. 20.9 for instance. As he does this, God
consecrates us. We belong to Him from the beginning and are designed
to be completely his at the end. All of us.

When we use the word vocation, sometimes I think we fail to realize
what a comprehensive term it is. I think it refers to 3 separate
'callings' which, similar to the mystery of the Trinity, are 3 inter related
aspects of a complex mystery. These 'callings' are : Who God calls us
to be; How the Lord calls us to become ourselves in Him and What the
Lord calls us to do for God and for others. Or one could also say:
self-identity; lifestyle and mission or ministry. Think of Who, How
and What as 3 intersecting circles and the point of intersection is
vocation. It is also our most truest self, our most true identity.
God desires us to give life, movement and being to that identity, that
our external self we present to the world is as 100% congruent with
our interior self as we can possible achieve, with God's help.

Who: we are called to be fully ourselves; a whole; a person deified
in Father, Son and Holy Spirit; totally realized individuals
transformed by God in participation in God; we may never in this life
know completely who we are; as faith intensifies, we receive an
increasing insight into the 'who'. (Col 1:9 speaks to this, i believe)

How: there are many hows on our spiritual journey such as aspects of
disciple ship ( Jn8:31, 13:35); works of mercy ( Mt. 25-34-40)
implementation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ( Gal 5: 22). But
there is a special "how" which serves as an all-embracing umbrella of
those other hows: our vocational lifestyle in which God calls us to
personal divinization in the context of a certain way of life. Now,
some lifestyle choices are mutually exclusive, for instance, a person
can't be both married and single at the same time. An apostolic
lifestyle can co-exist with any calling.

What: God brings all of us into this life to do something, accomplish
a mission, somehow make a personal contribution to the body of Christ.
And several missions can co-exist at the same time in the same
person. Fr,. Mike Russell for example, my rector, is simultaneously
husband, father, priest, scholar, bread baker. And ministries or
careers might succeed each other. Fr. Eric Funston used to be a
lawyer and is now a priest.

Vocationally Speaking: who we are, how we are becoming and what we Are
sent to do initiate with God and redound to God. The fact that any of
us exist at all is not merely accidental. That our lifestyle is such
and such is not an arbitrary thing. That we are involved in this or
that mission is not by chance. The Lord chooses us to be unique
persons, to become ourselves in a certain manner and to bear lasting
fruit like that of John 15:16

We can't be our true self in the Lord until we become that person in
the way that God wills and until we do that which God desires of us.

It seems to me that it is impossible to discuss vocation, vocational
discernment and lifelong commitment without discussing the mystery of
God's will. I think of Rom 11:33-34 in this regard.

Here are some basics I believe in: we Christians want to know God's
will and God wants us to know His will so that we can intentionally
and lovingly participate in it. This raises 2 immediate questions:
How does God will and What does God will? I daresay that #1 is
something we don't know, that we are not given to know it and that the
answer lies within the inner life of the Trinity. #2, OTOH, that's a
practical question and has it's answer in the core of our own personal
salvation history. I think of Mt:7:24 and 12:50 here.

That we can think and speak of God only by way of analogy is a
formidable limitation to the discussion of the divine will. At best we
conceive of God in terms of metaphor and similitude. And i suspect
that in every analogy there is more dissimilitude than sameness.
Whatever we say of God expresses some truth but in reality the Lord
infinitely transcends our best attempts at truth.

Anthropomorphism is one of analogical models of imaging God, as if the
Lord were merely human and thinks, speaks and wants as we do. How do
we want? What does it mean for us to will? We set our hearts on
something we deem valuable; we direct our will to its attainment; we
want it when we want it at the time we want it (instant
gratification). Our will can be strong, deliberate, precise, neutral,
arbitrary, vague. We might want something specific done in a
particular manner. Or we might have only a vague general objective in
mind without a care as to how it is accomplished.

With this idea of what it means for us humans to will and some idea of
what is good, better, best, many people or so it seems to me, apply
these judgments and characteristics to God's will. They would say
that God's will is immutable, absolute, uniform and rigorously
determined. This is the classic formula of those who believe this
way: God wills good directly; physical evil only indirectly and He
merely permits evil. This idea of divine will is also the context in
which some people think of predestination, foreknowledge and divine

But can't there be a more dynamic view of God's will? Instead of a
static, absolutist view, what about one that is evolutionary and
relational? No matter how dynamic a theology of divine will our faith
understanding remains sorely limited due to our finite abilities and
no matter how much we would prefer it to be otherwise, we continue to
speak of God analogically and anthropomorphically. We see through the
glass darkly.

God is both immanent and transcendent. God is both incarnate and
holy. Associated with God's divine transcendence are the
inter-related ideas of God's absoluteness and self-sufficiency.
Absolute in the sense of to be free from all restriction or restraint,
to be independent of anything arbitrary. Self-sufficiency denotes
self-containment, freedom from every contingency. SO...

How from an evolutionary and relational perspective can we preserve
intact God's utter transcendence while at the same time experience
more deeply God's immanence in terms of His receptivity, relativity
and responsiveness to the whole unfolding human situation?

**Western** Trinitarian perspective: The Father knowing Himself from
all eternity generates the Word, His Son. The Father and the Son
loving each other from all eternity spiriate the Holy Spirit. The
Holy Spirit enjoys a special association with God's loving/ willing
rapport with creation. What is this analogy and possibly theology
tell us? The Holy Spirit is viewed as transcendentally relational,
wholly dynamic and extremely elusive and if this is true of the Holy
Spirit then it is also the fundamental qualities of God's will.

SO.... because God's will is transcendentally relational it can be
interrelated with our own use or abuse of freedom. Because God's will
is immanently dynamic, it can be in relationship with our own will.
Because God's will is mysteriously elusive, it may be considerably
more general than many people think.

I stress these qualities in contradistinction to but not necessarily
in contradiction with the classic conceptualization of God's will as
immutable, absolute and specific.


  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger Patricia Blankenship,ocds said…


    I agree with your comments about vocation. I have more than one vocation: Wife, mother, grandmother, Catholic, Secular Discalced Carmelite, knitter, spinner...the list goes on.

    It is interesting how God intertwines all of these things, including the talents he gave me, to accomplish His will in my life.

    God bless.

    Patricia Blankenship, OCDS


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