|A farmer went out to sow in the field…|
This weekend’s Gospel reading is taken from the book of Matthew. It speaks of a sower who went out to sow. Although he spreads the same seed around, it falls on different kinds of ground and sprouts in different manners. Some seeds fall on ground that will never support it, and it perishes in the rocks. Others fall on thorns, which choke the seed as it comes up through the dirt. Still others fall on good ground, take root and are able to grow to their full potential.
We’ve all heard this parable many, if not what feels like hundreds, of times. “The sower went out to sow…” and then we tune out. Yada, yada, some will grow some will not. Some of us may wonder if this parable is even relevant to us, because most of us aren’t living in an agricultural-based economy, and even if we are, we don’t sow seeds by hand.
Yet this parable applies to our lives today just as much as it applied to the lives of those hearing it originally from Christ Himself.
The significance could vary from person to person, but what really hit me today at Mass while I was listening was the issue of vocational discernment.
Vocational discernment. Maybe the term makes you shudder. Maybe the term doesn’t really have any connotations to you. Despite feelings on the topic, though, it is something that you need to think about.
Every child of God is called to serve Him in a way particular to them. Not only do we all have a universal vocation and calling to holiness, but we also all have a primary vocation as well as a secondary vocation.
|Prayer is a necessity for any level of discernment.|
The Catholic Church has different paths of primary vocations. One can be called to marriage, consecrated single, the priesthood, or a religious community. After that selection, the secondary vocation is what the day-to-day life looks like. It could be what career path you choose, what your specific religious order is devoted to, or daily life with your family.
But let’s focus on primary vocations today. For many, me included, the process of vocational discernment can seem daunting. It could be a long journey from “This is what I’m going to do with my life” to being at a point where you can say “God’s got this, and not my will but His.”
To apply this weekend’s Gospel, vocational discernment can take different paths. Maybe you went to a phenomenal retreat this summer. Maybe you’re going to – Steubenville retreats are a popular destination for many Catholic youth. At many of these retreats, they’ll ask those who are thinking about religious vocations to come down and pray as a group. The turnout of hundreds of Catholic teens thinking about a religious vocations always puts me in awe. #Catholicandproud.
This is a seed being sown. Christ may be knocking gently on the door of your heart. There are a couple of options at this point.
Option one: “Lalalala. I can’t hear you.” This is typically my default, so do not beat yourself up if you can relate to this stage. It consists of avoiding any situation that would spark any talk about vocations. The words “vocations” and “discernment” make your hands sweaty and mind race to escape routes. If anyone brings up the topic, you smile and say “Ummm….it’s an option…I guess.” Don’t be rocky ground. If God is sowing seeds in your life, let them take root.
I’m not saying that you are called to a religious vocation. But everyone should take the steps to discern a call to the priesthood/religious sister/religious brother. You don’t have to discern marriage. Not only is marriage man’s natural vocation, it’s also an aspect of whatever vocation you decide to follow. Either you will be married to another human being of the opposite gender, as a guy you’ll be married to the Church spiritually, or as a gal you’ll pledge yourself as the bride of Christ. Don’t be the heart as hard as rock that never lets even the slightest idea of religious vocations take root.
|Life will require weed pulling|
Option two: Weedville Let’s go back to the same seed being sown for vocational discernment. You feel a tug from God to look into a certain order, you follow the path out. Then you get home and your friends say that you think you are “holier than them” and you must be crazy.
Or maybe you sit around after a weekend and the more you think about it, the crazier it seems. You, a religious vocation? Really? You have a boyfriend! You love wearing clothes that aren’t all one color! You don’t think nuns can even have a Facebook page! That solved that, you “discerned” long enough and it’s just not for you.
Hold on now. While you’re on the right path with an open heart, don’t let the day-to-day weeds pull you down. I’m not saying your friends are horrible people, that your boyfriend isn’t a good guy, that you can’t like fashion or that social media is the son of the devil. What I am saying is that everyone/everything isn’t always going to work in your favor. We’re called to be different. To stick out in the world. G. K. Chesterton once said “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”
|Be like the lilies of the field in
Option Three: Open Heart Open Arms Obviously, the only option left for the seed is flourishing in fertile soil. While this is the optimal option, all of us know that this is the hardest. It’s hard to put God in the center of your life, especially when other things that you really like feel like they should be number one. It also takes time and effort, and that can be a challenge too. There is a lot of effort that goes into making a commitment to daily scripture reading, finding a spiritual director, visiting orders and talking to others who are actively discerning. It can be a lot easier to do nothing and tell yourself that it’s okay, and if God wants you somewhere, He’ll open the doors. He can’t open doors if you don’t leave your house.
Don’t be afraid to bloom to your highest potential. Make your heart a good field for Christ to plant in.