Why Am I Here?
Do you realize just how special you are? Yes, I realize that you may not feel special, and others may not treat you as special, but the fact is that you are very special. You are not only special, you are unique, a one-of-a-kind expression of God’s love and creativity. In all the world there is no other person exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been another person like you. God dreamed you, created you and cares for you.
Besides being special and unique, you were sent here for a purpose. You are not here by accident. A special destiny was prepared for you. You have something to do here that can be done by no one else.
To be born, then, is to have a mission. Your responsibility is to find out what your mission is and then carry it out with all the deliberateness you can muster. This destiny is what is commonly called your “vocation”, your call.
- In what ways has God created you as a unique person?
- What characteristics of yourself make you special and unlike others?
- What do you think God’s dream is for you?
- Name a few ways in which you can discover what God’s dream is for you as a person.
- If you were to write a personal “mission” statement, what qualities or ideals would you include in it? Are these qualities and ideals present in your life today? If not, how can you develop them?
What Is A Call?
In the opening pages of the Bible, we read about the very first call. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Shortly after that, Scripture tells of God’s calling the world and, finally, human beings into existence. Every call since then has been a call to form, a call to each of us to become our true selves. A call is only a monologue. A response creates a dialogue, an invitation to be in communion with that which is bigger than ourselves.
Our unfolding requires that we be in constant dialogue with the God who calls us into being. In that sense, we are called to co-create ourselves, to do something with our lives and to contribute to the world God has given us. We can be called to do something or be something. We can be called toward something, away from something or to change something. Whatever the call, it is always God who does the calling. It is God who helps us answer our call and then equips us when we respond.
- How have you responded to God’s call in your life?
- How do you hear God calling you daily?
- Can you name any people in the Bible who received a call from God?
- What were these people called to do?
How Do I Hear My Call?
We can hear and understand our call by listening to our hearts. This requires that we spend some quality time with God and with ourselves. We must know God. We must know ourselves.
A few people in the Bible received their calls in visions and dramatic events. But most of the calls we receive (and ignore) are the “quiet knowing”; the proverbial still, small voices; the daily call to pay attention to our invitations, to be authentic, to live what we already know. Most of the time, calls are not shown to us directly, but mediated through people, symbols, dreams, symptoms, happenstance and synchronicities. Therefore, we need to recognize that our calls can come in many disguises.
A call is not something that comes from on high as an order, but rather it comes as an invitation. We have a choice. We can tune out the longings we feel rather than confront and act on them. We do that because we fear what they might demand of us in pursuing them. This fear blocks us from acknowledging that we do know, and always have known, what our calls are. Others – peers, schools, society, habit, our own cowardice, and sometimes even our parents – lead us away from becoming who we are. We must listen to our own hearts.
- In what ways are true happiness and peace found when you unite your will with God’s?
- Do you believe that God desires your happiness? How is this evidenced in your life?
- When you listen to your heart and to the God within your being, where do you feel God is calling you?
- What do you want to say to God? Take a few moments to talk to God quietly within your heart, or if you would like, write your responses to God.
Where Will My Call Lead Me?
Your very happiness depends on discovering your call, your vocation, your purpose in this world. If you are in rhythm with your call, you will realize that God is one with you, takes care of you, and brings you fullness of life. If you are out of rhythm with your call, your life will be painfully out of sync. You will be unhappy without knowing why. You will be driven to look for love in all the wrong places. You will be going against who you are, who God so lovingly created you to be.
Following your call brings both exhilaration and terror. Calls are essentially questions to which you need to respond, explore for yourself and kneel before. Your call is not a question you can answer once and then put on a shelf. Rather, it is a question that will offer you a lifetime of pondering, one that will lead you toward becoming what God invites you to be – to be all that you can be. Answering your true call in life will bring unimagined happiness and peace of mind.
- How do I recognize the signs of my call?
- How will this call be different from other inquiries about my life?
- With whom can I discern my call?
- How do I make time in my life for deeper listening?
- When have I sensed a “tugging” in my life? A “tugging” to what or whom?
- In what circumstances have I experienced a feeling of deep joy and peace in my life?
The Call of Jesus
We would know nothing of God unless God had freely chosen to reveal himself to us. These divinely revealed realities are contained in sacred Scripture. In composing the sacred books of Scripture, God chose certain people to consign to writing everything and only those things he wanted to reveal. The church holds that the books of both the Old and New testament in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical. Having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the church.
In the history of the Old Testament, God’s revelation came through the words and actions of the patriarchs, kings and prophets. At some point in history, it became necessary to reveal God as human. In the person of Jesus, we have come to know the true manifestation of God. Jesus is Son, Savior and Redeemer.
There are many details of Jesus’ life that are missing. Yet many non-Christian sources give some support to the existence of Jesus and his ministry. We do know from these sources that Jesus was born shortly before 4 BC (in the year of King Herod’s reign and death) to Jewish parents, Mary and Joseph. While Mary’s presence is continually made known to us in the gospels, what happens to Joseph is unknown. We can surmise that he probably died before Jesus’ public ministry began.
Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth, in the hill country of southern Galilee, about 100 miles north of Jerusalem. Even though Nazareth was small, there were at least four other sizeable cosmopolitan cities within about 15 miles of Nazareth. Since traders from all over the world passed through that part of the world, it was possible that many or most Jews of Galilee were bilingual, speaking both Aramaic and Greek. Since 63 BC, Galilee had been under Gentile control, part of the Roman Empire and ruled by “client kings” appointed by Rome.
Jesus quite likely went to school in the synagogue in Nazareth, where the emphasis would have been on reading and writing, with the Jewish scriptures as primary text. He probably learned woodworking from Joseph as a trade.
Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish home, learning stories, hymns and prayers of the Jewish tradition. He would have observed and celebrated the great Jewish holidays, even the three big ones that were ideally spent in Jerusalem, one hundred miles away. Like most Jews, he would have prayed twice a day, upon rising and going to bed. He no doubt observed the Sabbath, which included attending the synagogue weekly for scripture study and prayer.
At some point in Jesus’ life, probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s, he recognized a call to begin his ministry. Led by the Spirit, he was baptized by John the Baptist and began preaching and teaching in Galilee. As he traveled, he spoke about many challenging things – how to treat others, how to pray, how to love and mostly, how to live out the Kingdom of God.
By using parables and various teachings, he could reach out and attract many people. He spent much time with “outcasts”: the sinners, the sick, the poor, the criminal. He healed many, performing miracles of healing, raising some to life, defying acts of nature and performing exorcisms.
Knowing he couldn’t do this alone, he invited others to walk with him. Twelve men accepted his invitation to become apostles, while many more men and women became his disciples. Not everyone accepted his message, however. Opposition to him from within Jerusalem reached a climax during a Passover celebration in Jerusalem when he was arrested, tried, crucified and died. Three days after his death his followers, finding the tomb empty, claimed to have seen the risen Lord.
After the resurrection, these disciples experienced a sudden and marvelous transformation as they reflected on the meaning of the life and death of Jesus. Upon Jesus’ return to them, he commissioned them to go out and do as he did: preach, teach and heal. His message spread throughout all of Galilee, Samaria, Judea and, eventually, beyond the boundaries of Palestine.
- What is your family background, and how does it play a role in your religious beliefs now?
- Do you have certain times when you pray or remember God? When and how often is that? Could it be more often?
- How is it that you view God (judging, gracious, compassionate, generous…)? Do you know God in an intimate way?
- Do you ever find yourself standing up for something in which you believe? How does this reflect on your Christian beliefs?
- Who do you consider your community? Who is it that you are friends with, play with and maybe even pray with? Do these people share your values and beliefs?
The Call to Carry on the Work of Jesus
Before Jesus left this earth, he commissioned his followers to carry on his work and to make more disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So that we might be equipped for this work, he sent the Holy Spirit. He even stated that with the power of the Holy Spirit we could do what he did and even more.
All the baptized, then, are entrusted with the building up of God’s people, the church, and the carrying on of some part of Christ’s work.
There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one the Spirit gives wisdom in discourse, to another the power to express knowledge. Through the Spirit one receives faith; by the same Spirit another is given the gift of healing and still another miraculous powers. Prophecy is given to one; to another power to distinguish one spirit from another. One receives the gift of tongues, another that of interpreting the tongues. But it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as he wills.
There are, then, a variety of specific calls within the general call to carry on Christ’s work. The possibilities are endless. Some are called to marriage and parenthood. Others are called to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, counselors and administrators. Still others are called to ordained priesthood, diaconate, religious life or full-time lay ministry.
Jesus calls us to follow him as his disciples and to carry on his work, to be his body in today’s world. The divine life needed for carrying on the work of Jesus is dispensed and celebrated in the church’s seven sacraments.
Sacraments of Initiation
Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ. Baptism incorporates us into the church.
The apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of baptism. They did this through the laying on of hands. This imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of confirmation.
The Holy Eucharist completes the Christian initiation. Through baptism, persons are raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood, and by confirmation, they are configured more deeply to Christ. Now they participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.
Sacraments of Healing
The forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament called reconciliation.
The sacrament of anointing the sick confers a special grace and healing on the Christian who is experiencing difficulties due to illness or old age.
Marriage and Holy Orders: Two Calls Within a Call
The five sacraments mentioned above are ordered toward the salvation of the one who receives them. Two other sacraments, holy orders and matrimony, are directed toward the salvation of others. They confer a particular mission in the church and serve to build up the People of God. Those who receive the sacrament of holy orders are consecrated in Christ’s name “to feed the church by the word and grace of God.” Those who receive the sacrament of matrimony are consecrated for the duties and dignity of married life. Married partners marry not so much to be loved as to give love. They marry for the benefit of their partners, their children and the community as a whole.
- According to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, you are a member of the “Body of Christ.” We are sometimes asked by someone who doesn’t know another person to describe that individual.
- How would you describe the “Body of Christ”? What qualities would you expect from someone who is a member of the body of Christ?
- With what talent or gift would you like the Holy Spirit to fill you so that you might build up the church? Perhaps this desire is an indication that you already possess some degree of this talent or gift.
- How would you like to make a difference, to build up the church? What life choice would help you to make this desired difference?
- In what ways do you give evidence of your trust in the Holy Spirit to help you to use your gifts?
- How do you experience Christ’s presence in your life through the reception of the sacraments?
- When you receive the Eucharist or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, how can you take the gift of Christ’s presence that you have received and share it with others?
- Think about a time when you were keenly aware of Jesus present within you. Describe that situation and the feelings you had. How was that a sacramental moment?
- What graces does Christ bestow on those who marry? What responsibilities accompany these graces?