DISCERNMENT ARTICLES

Vocation and free will

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Did you realize that you do not get to choose your vocation? That does not mean you have no free will regarding your vocation. On the contrary, a vocation cannot be lived without free will.

Think about what a vocation is: it is a call from God to live your life in the way He has planned for you. Long before you existed, even before God created the universe, He knew you and planned you for your specific purpose. So your vocation is God’s choice, not your own.

Consider also that a vocation is a gift. God is offering you a chance to participate in His plan of Salvation in a specific way through this call. When you are offered a gift, you don’t get to choose what the gift is — that’s the decision of the giver. However, you are free in your decision whether to accept the gift.

Similarly, although God calls you to a particular vocation, you are free to choose whether you accept it. In fact, free will is essential to living a vocation. Obviously, if you reject God’s call, you are not going to be living your vocation.

But consider this scenario: you have determined that God is calling you to become a consecrated religious. You go through formation for several years and make your perpetual profession consecrating yourself to God for the rest of your life. Is your free-will assent to your vocation finished? Have you “completed” your vocation?

Of course not! The free-will assent to your vocation is not just a one-time act, it is a continual act of the will. Once you know your vocation, it requires a daily, even moment-to-moment, commitment and recommitment of your life to follow God’s call.

This is what love really is; dying to yourself to do what you know you are called to do. A married man who does not freely choose to overcome the daily obstacles to selfless love for his wife and family is not living his vocation. The same is true for every vocation; choosing to not selflessly love those to whom one’s vocation is directed is essentially a rejection of the vocation itself.

Even though you cannot choose what your vocation is, you must choose whether to accept it — both by the initial acceptance of your vocation and the daily renewal of that choice.

Don’t be afraid to follow your vocational call! It is by doing so that you show your love to God and to others.