I do not give as the world gives
In trying to persuade young people to consider a vocation to religious life or priesthood vocation directors often find themselves saying things like: “your vocation will lead to the fulfillment of the desires of your heart.” And though this is true the phraseology contains a subtle virus. It is leaning towards the giving style Jesus described as the world’s.
How does the world give? “You give me, and I’ll give you back.” Looking at vocation as a way to get your fulfillment can lead to consistent disappointment because it has YOU as its focus and not God. But the more that you focus on God’s fulfillment you actually reach your fulfillment quicker.
Giving to get is the way of the world and most of ordinary life. Our parents taught us this as a survival skill that would ensure that we would develop ourselves and one day find a job. When we embrace religion and apply our giving towards God we subtly expect things in return. When these things do not occur, we are dismayed and can become angry at God and ourselves. I recall as a young man praying mightily for a physical cure of eczema, so I could pursue my plan to be a meat cutter. I gave so much prayer and faith that I was even telling people that when I came back from Medjugorje I would be cured. I did not experience a cure as I had desired, but this eventually led to the seminary and joining the Oblates.
Jesus says, “I do not give as the world gives.” Jesus’ giving is based on the giving of the Father. The Father’s giving is without condition. There is no way, habit or method to make God give to us. What our religious efforts are really meant to do is to remove our defenses to receiving what God gives. So, the real question is “what does God ‘give’”?
What God gives without condition is relationship with himself. The way of accessing this relationship is through the way we relate to ourselves and others. When in faith we surrender all of our hostility, shame and doubt about ourselves and similar things towards others we start to experience what truly belongs to us without undue aversion or attachment. Then we are free to fully experience our life as it is. By fully experiencing Divine life Jesus became the witness of the Father’s love in human form. Our humanity is the way by which we begin to taste Divine life by growing in right relationship with ourselves and others.
This giving up of our defenses against God’s acceptance of us as we are is followed by a peace that has no equal in the world. And it is from this peace that we start giving more of our attention to what is important to God and less attention to what we desire, in this the troubles will flee from your heart.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director OMI Lacombe Canada Province
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment.