God of My Vocation
My dear sisters and brothers, on occasions such as this, one is led to consider how much of all that one is, and all that one has, one owes to others. I think not only of family and friends, teachers and formators, benefactors and parishioners, but also of people of different times and places. Many of whom I have never even met: People whose books have enriched me, whose lives have inspired me, whose achievements have benefited me, even those whose mistakes have been lessons for me. It is this sense that little about me is truly original that gives me the courage (some would say thick skin) to share with you the following words, which I have shamelessly stolen from a prayer written by the late Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner. The prayer is entitled God of My Vocation.
O God of my calling.... Can I preach Your Gospel, if it has not struck deep roots in my own heart? Can I pass on Your life, if I am not alive with it myself? .... It’s unavoidable: Your official business and my private life cannot be separated.
And that is precisely the burden of my life. For look, Lord: even when I announce Your pure truth, I’m still preaching my own narrowness and mediocrity along with it. I’m still presenting myself, the “average man.” How can I bring my hearers to distinguish between You and me in the frightful mixture of You and me that I call my sermons? How can I teach them to take Your word to their hearts, and forget me, the preacher? ....
O God of my vocation, when I consider these things, I must confess that I don’t at all feel like taking my place in the proud ranks of Your confident and conquering apostles. I rather feel that I should be on my way, simply and humbly, walking in fear and trembling. I don’t mean to criticize those among my brethren who can be so happily sure of themselves, those of Your servants who so unmistakably reflect the inner confidence that they are coming in the name of the Lord God of Hosts, and who are quite amazed if anyone does not immediately recognize in them the ambassadors of the Almighty.
I cannot belong to that fortunate group, O Lord. Grant me rather the grace to belong to the number of Your lowly servants who are rather amazed when they are received by their fellow (human beings). Let my heart tremble again and again in grateful surprise at the miracles of Your grace, which is mighty in the midst of weakness. Let me continue to marvel that I meet so many (people) who allow me, poor sinner that I am, to enter into the secret chamber of their hearts, because they have been able to recognize You hidden in me....
O God of my vocation, I am only a poor mask, behind which You have chosen to approach (people) as the hidden God. Grant me the grace day by day to be ever more free from sin and self-seeking. Even then I shall remain what I can’t help being. Your disguise and Your unprofitable servant. But then at least I shall grow ever more like Your Son, who also had to envelop the eternal light of His divinity in the form of a servant, to be found in the garb and livery of a (human person).
When I bear the burden of Your calling, when Your mission weighs down heavily upon me, when Your Majesty humbles me, and my weakness is taken up into that of Your Son, then I may confidently trust that the hindrance which I have been to Your coming may still turn out to be a blessing to my (sisters and) brothers. Then perhaps You will transubstantiate my servitude... into a somehow sacramental form, under whose poverty You will be the bread of life for my brethren.
O God of my vocation, let my life be consumed as the Sacred Host, so that my brothers (and sisters) and I may live in You, and You in us, for all eternity. Amen.
My sisters and brothers, thank you all for coming. May your presence here tonight be an ongoing channel of grace, for you and all your loved ones, in the days to come...