In the 2019 Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, Pope Francis opened by writing, ‘The very first words that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive’. (CV 1) I believe these words are significant because at the heart of discerning and discovering a vocation is the reality that we can only truly be alive when we discover ourselves in God, and choose to walk with faith, joy and trust along the path which he leads us.
This is no one-time encounter, rather it encompasses the journey of our whole lives, and it involves responding to the invitations and challenges which come our way. This does not mean that everything in life will be easy or go the way we expect or hope, but a desire to live in the reality that Christ wants us to be alive can encourage us to persevere in those more difficult times.
It can also encourage us to learn what it means to dream with God and to allow him to broaden our vision of what is possible for us in our lives. Pondering this question reminds me of an experience I had in my ministry in youth justice. I was chatting to Tim (name changed) and in the course of the conversation I asked him where he saw himself in five years. He started to laugh, and then named an adult men’s prison. I looked at him and said ‘Nah, what else, if you could do anything you wanted, what would it be? Is there anything you dreamed of doing when you were younger? (Note to reader … in other words, what brings you to life? Or what does it mean for you to be alive?’)
Tim was taken aback and paused for a moment before relating a story about his uncle being a carpenter and how he had really enjoyed the opportunities to work with him. As he relayed this story, he visibly relaxed and I wondered if it was one of the first times someone had encouraged him to see the possibilities for his life in a new way.
Yet what does this have to do with me and with you and the whole idea of discerning our vocations? I think we all need to be encouraged to see the possibilities for our lives with fresh eyes, with God’s eyes. When I was sharing this story with another sister, she did exactly that for me. She said, I wonder whether God says that to us as well… nah - like he wants to challenge us not to limit him and the ways he can work in our lives.
Now I reckon there is a lot of truth in this, whether we are already living our vocation or still seeking it out. I certainly don’t imagine that I will be in adult prison in five years (at least not as an inmate), but there are surely other ways that I place limits on what is possible for me in my life. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to dream and remember that God has so much more in store for us that what we can possibly imagine. Ponder and dream with him what it means for you to be truly alive and with courage boldly take the steps which he invites and challenges you to take. May you deepen in the knowledge and reality that Christ is alive and that he wants you to be alive.