Sunday Sermon for February 10, 2019, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Is 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Cor 15:1-15; Lk 5:1-11
In the readings today we have the theme of vocation. This can have several meanings, the most common of which regards the state in life to which one is called by God. However, as we see in each of the readings, there can be a further refinement or a call within a call. It is this latter concept I would like to address today.
In the first reading we are told about the vision Isaiah was given and his subsequent call to his prophetic vocation. However, we also know he was married and had at least two children because they were given prophetic names. It seems Isaiah’s wife, whose name we do not know, was also a prophetess. This means Isaiah and his wife were called to the vocation of marriage before being called to the prophetic vocation.
When we consider the Gospel reading and the call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, we know Peter was a married man. Therefore, his vocation was marriage. However, Jesus called these men to be “fishers of men.” This is not merely an avocation or occupation as being a fisherman was for them, this is a call from God that directs them to serve God in a particular way within their larger vocation. We know St. Paul was single; James and John were probably single as well, therefore, their call to be Apostles was primary, even if it was not the primary vocation of St. Peter.
In the cases of both Peter and Isaiah, their wives were an integral part of their apostolic or prophetic vocation respectively. Their marriage did not interfere in God’s plan for them, but it became an essential part of that deeper vocation. Clearly, if God is calling someone to a vocation, He is not going to ask them to do something contrary to that vocation.
We have no idea what happened in either of the situations of either St. Peter or Isaiah, but one can envision some possible challenges in the relationship between husband and wife because of the call to serve the Lord in a particular way. We do not know whether or not Peter and his wife had children or grandchildren; all we know is Peter’s wife traveled with him on his missionary journeys. If there were children, it would have been difficult to pack everyone up and leave, but this is what would have happened.
We need only to look to the Israelites on their journey out of Egypt to know God will sometimes ask people to make arduous journeys with children. So, while it may be difficult to have children along, it is not out of the question that God might ask this. Again, consider the Prophet Isaiah, there were times when God told him to bring his son with him for whatever prophetic task God was asking. Even now, we most often think about Priests or Religious as missionaries, but many families, including some with young children, serve as missionaries.
All this is necessary background information to make the point that God may be asking something of you, your spouse, your children, a friend, or an acquaintance to which we might naturally respond negatively because of their vocation in life. Often we assume we know what God wants of us. Tragically, this is frequently the case even with one’s primary vocation: many people never pray to know their vocation, they just assume they know what God wants for them. But even if a person has prayerfully come to know God’s primary call for them, they may neglect to pray to know God’s will regarding the area of employment needed to support their vocation.
Even Priests and Religious do this. For instance, someone may enter a Religious Order because she wants to be a teacher or a nurse. These are good, but because the primary vocation is to be a Religious the Superior of the Order may assign her to something completely different. In single or married life, there is no Superior to make an assignment, so it is even easier for the person to determine what they want to do and how they want to do it without discerning God’s will.
It is natural to seek a profession that supports one’s vocation; however, we need to pray and make sure it is what God wants for us. Even for those who have worked in a position for a long time and assume this is what God wants them to do in the future, we need to pray for detachment and discernment so we are always open to whatever God asks of us. God may be asking you to do something you have never considered. So, put out into the deep; God’s grace in you will not be ineffective, but will make you a Saint!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.