Even during the process of “vocational discernment”, although it may be marked by paths and options that lead us in other directions, vocation radiates and guides our steps. It is life, insofar as it presents itself as a light that points us to the path we are called to walk on, demanding a change of direction whenever we move away from it.
Jesus is the light of all peoples. And this light illuminates and shines in the midst of our anguish and difficulties. Everything seems to gain new life! However, how long does this joy last? How long does the glow of this light of joy last in our lives?
The Gospel of St. Matthew leaves no doubt as to the impact of Jesus’ coming: “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16). This is the certainty that leads to the proclamation of the Kingdom, allowing this light to continue to shine in the hearts of those who, through the difficulties of life, feel isolated in the darkness of sadness and loneliness.
With Jesus, the light shines in the darkness of our questions, challenging us to keep this light burning. The light of Jesus accompanies us in our day-to-day fatigues if we allow it to continue to shine in our hearts.
Vocation is the guiding light of our life. It is this call which guides us on the path and decisions we make. Why? Because vocation is not ours, it is a gift from God and, in this sense, “It is God’s light that rules with superhuman wisdom; it is God Himself who, in this unfortunate and difficult time, makes this divine work prosper amidst so many problems.” (St. Daniel Comboni, Writings, 4410).
This does not mean that vocation is an “appendix” in our lives. Rather, it is a gift, a gift offered by God which we, in total freedom, can accept or reject. However, this gift does not happen by chance! It happens because God wants us to be happy, a happiness that starts from what we are, without reducing us to something that we are not and do not want to be.
Thus, vocation is a light that makes our process of discernment, not an agonizing search, but a search of light and hope, on a path that we are certain we are not alone. This is what the disciples of John the Baptist find when they try to discern their own way, when they ask Jesus: “Teacher, where do you live?” And Jesus answers, pointing out the right path of discernment: “Come and see” (John 1, 38-39). The path of vocational discovery is made in following the light that is Jesus Himself who calls us to follow Him and to stay with Him.
To follow the light is to leave our comfort zone, to set out on a path believing that we will be led on a journey that will certainly not be easy, but which leads us to the joy of the encounter with true happiness – the happiness that is the gift of God reserved for us.
No one forces us to follow the light! However, what happens when, in a dark space, a light is lit? We can turn our backs or close our eyes to that light, remaining in the same position where we were before, trying, in this case, not to move around, stay still and do nothing in order to avoid hitting something and injuring ourselves.
It is an option that leads us to take refuge in fear. On the contrary, we may dare to walk towards the light, even though we run the risk of injuring ourselves a little when we leave the place where we are.
To close our eyes to the light is to be lost in darkness, to drift without ever reaching the destination. How do we discern our call without making concrete decisions in the direction to which we think we are called to? Following the light implies taking steps: walking! It is always a dynamic attitude that implies to leave something and walk towards the light that, little by little, becomes path and life.
Vocation, as the light that is a gift of God, becomes hope and strength for a life which, too, is a gift of God. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this light shines for us, and cannot be understood as an element that goes against what we want and forces us to walk in directions contrary to what we are.
On the contrary, this is the light that guides us towards what we want to be, to what God has dreamed for us, to that which will make our existence fully happy. In God, there are no unhappy choices or major or minor choices – all are equally from God. This God who is Father and loves us unconditionally regardless of our choices and, above all, loves us with a love that sets us free, offering us the gift of vocation (gift of happiness) so that it is received and lived in full freedom.
To dare to tread a path of discovery of your call is already a step to accept to live a life in abundance. The abundance of what? Jesus does not promise us an easy life, but a life of happiness, in which He, walking with us, gives us strength in adversity and the ultimate victory of what we most long for.
Susana Vilas Boas, Comboni lay missionary