As a priest it is my continuing privilege to witness the union of a husband and wife on their wedding day. The Christian wedding is the celebration of the binding of a man and woman in a sacrament based precisely on the conviction that the couple has been brought together not by happenstance, nor coincidence nor some vague notion of “fate” but by nothing less than God’s own providence and love. The Christian sacrament of marriage is a beautiful, increasingly counter-cultural and needed witness to our world.
Through my years as a priest working with couples and celebrating with them on their wedding day I have found that through this ministry I continue to have my own life vocation strengthened as well as gain more insight into the reality of vocation itself – whether that vocation be marriage or priesthood.
A recent realization that has struck me is how a vocation from God is never something that we own or control. Vocation is always fundamentally a gift that we are called to safeguard and continually nurture. I do not “own” my vocation to the priesthood. It is not mine to do with as I please. Neither does a married couple “own” their relationship to one another nor do they “own” their spouse nor their children.
A vocation is a gift pure and simple. It is a gift from God. We cannot own it nor control it according to our wills but we are meant to safeguard it, to nurture it and to live it – specifically in service.
A Scripture reading (often proclaimed at weddings) that expresses this truth is the very tender scene of Tobiah and Sarah on their wedding night. Before all else, the newly married couple brought themselves before God in the humility of prayer.
On their wedding night Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, ‘Sister, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.’ Sarah got up, and they started to pray … They began with these words, ‘Blessed are you, God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.’ They said together, ‘Amen, amen.” (Tobit 8:4b-8)
Tobiah and Sarah gathered in the humility of prayer because it is only humility that can lead us into the true awareness and realization of vocation as gift. It is precisely humility; Scripture tells us again and again, that is the key to true wisdom and insight.
And it is precisely when we fool ourselves into thinking that we own or control a vocation in order to do with as we please and shape as we will, either individually or as a society, that we get ourselves into trouble.
If you are trying to figure out your call in life then my advice, first and foremost; is to pray, and pray again, and pray some more for the gift of humility. And for us who have answered a call to a life vocation; pray, pray again, and pray some more for the humility to never take it for granted and to continually safeguard the great gift that we have been given.
“Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance … Amen, amen.”