Life & Soul Life and Soul

Finding our vocation: a reflection on this Sunday’s Mass readings

The Prophet Isaiah (1726-1729), by Tiepolo, at the Patriarchal Palace in Udine, Italy

Fifth Sunday of the Year
Is 6:1-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11 (Year C)

In the language of the secular world, the word “vocation” refers to a personal choice. In a very loose sense, it is used to describe the life choices that we make and the careers we choose to follow.

Throughout the Scriptures, and for those of faith, vocation is centred in the God who calls, and can only be understood as our response to the God who not only calls, but also enables our response.

The discernment of God’s calling, whatever our vocation might be, is rarely a sudden and unexpected insight. For most, it flows from a lifelong attentiveness to God’s loving presence in every detail of our lives. Mundane though our lives might be, such discernment will follow the steps that underpin the vision of the prophet Isaiah’s call: “I saw the Lord seated on a high throne. Above him stood seraphs, each with six wings. And they cried out to one another in this way. ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. His glory fills the whole earth.'”

As we are human, prayer frequently begins with our own immediate joys and anxieties. With humility and persistence, such prayer will always take us beyond ourselves to a God whose perfect love questions our lives. Such was the experience of the prophet Isaiah: “What a wretched state I am in. I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

The acknowledgment of what we are, and have become, opens our hearts to God’s healing presence. Such was the live coal that touched Isaiah’s heart. “See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged.”

Only through this experience was Isaiah enabled to hear God’s call, “Whom shall I send?” In the grace of that same call he responded with a confidence rooted in God rather than himself: “Here I am, send me.”

We see the same dynamic at work in the first encounter of Jesus with the fishermen. They had laboured all night and caught nothing, but at the command of Jesus their nets were filled to bursting. Sensing the presence of God, Simon Peter was brought to repentance. “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”

Such is the humility that enables us to discern and respond to the Lord’s call. “Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.”