The Human Vocation
Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

      What difference would it make in the world if the God you believe in did not really exist? Some time ago, this question was addressed to a young lad, who, by circumstances, was forced to live life in a most unfriendly environment. After some moments of putting forth a personal theology on how to care for a fish tank, the boy looked his inquirer squarely in the eye and said, "We never know how much God does every day to keep our world working as well as it does."1

      We presume that, in the above question, we are talking about a God for Whom we lay down our lives every single day, and Who is the Ultimate in our lives. Beneath the whirlwind of daily preoccupations and much busyness, many of us carry within our hearts the often unarticulated and half-conscious questions of, "Why am I in this world? What is my main purpose in life? Is God real?" Francis of Assisi spent much time praying, "O God, Who are you? Who am 1?" In her last days, Therese of Lisieux was tempted to believe that all her dedication, up to that point, was absurd. Who was her God, anyway? Or, more to the point, was God real?

Stages Of Faith

      Walter Brueggemann speaks of "covenanting as the human vocation."2 As human beings, we are shaped for covenantal living. We go through the familiar stages of faith, always hoping to arrive some day at being self-grounded. Gradually, we do become more self-grounded only to find out that self-autonomy is not the final goal. The stages of faith lead ultimately to the human vocation. At this point, we no longer ask, "Who am 1?" Instead, we wonder, "Whose am I? To whom do I belong? Who is it that has such an unrelenting claim upon me?" We no longer spend time meditating on who we are with respect to our significant others, such as family, friends or community members. Instead, we ponder who we are with respect to the One who calls us into relationship, the One Who embraced us from the beginning and the One to Whom we shall return when it is all over. The primary claim of covenantal living is that all "human persons are grounded in Another who initiates personhood and who stays bound to persons in loyal ways for their well being."3 Could anyone ask for more?

      My personal history, then, is a story of being radically oriented toward God and related to this God in all ways. Fundamentally, I am claimed by God. I belong to God. In addition, I am invited into the life and story of God. In every aspect of my life, I am related to this other One, Who takes the initiative in my life and Who wills more good for me than I could possibly wish for myself. This means that I am grounded in the Other and not self-grounded. In passing through the different stages of faith, it would appear, though, that having the sense of being self-grounded is a very necessary phase to experience. However, if we persevere, it could come as a surprise to learn that we will be asked to surrender this self-groundedness and to yield to the claim of the Other upon us.

Newness In Life

      What follows from this school of thought? First of all, this covenant-making God desires, and has the power, to bring real newness into our lives. Such newness is a gift. This gift prompts the natural and spontaneous gift-giving among human beings on different occasions. The exciting thought is that God always has more to give.

      Secondly, this covenant-making God speaks to us every day. God's word is a creating word, making things happen and bringing new things into being. Brueggemann mentions that daily we spring "fresh from the word," to use the lyrics of the familiar song, Morning Has Broken. This creative word brings us out of ourselves and calls us to respond. We are referring even to those quiet, seemingly insignificant words that pass through our hearts and minds on an ordinary day.

      Thirdly, this covenant-making God holds us tenderly in embrace and calls us by name. This God gives us life and our own identity. Such an embrace makes belonging easier. This kind of belonging is set against every idea of human autonomy.

      Lastly, because of covenant, my total life is placed in a new context. I can expect victory when situations get me down. The poor and oppressed will be raised up. The persecuted will be vindicated. The silent, voiceless ones will be heard. I can expect the sick to be healed. Instead of being sad, I shall be radiant at what I see. And my heart shall throb and overflow. Riches of the sea shall be emptied before all of us. Every year and every day shall be a year and day of favor. Instead of a listless spirit, a glorious mantle shall be ours.(Is.60:61)

Our Star At Birth

      Thus we can live in hope, knowing that God's promises and purposes will never fail. So our vocation is not really that of being a mother, a father, a teacher or even a missionary. Our vocation is ultimately the human vocation, common to all of us and still unique.

      Often, we forget the light and joy that rose with our life's star at birth. The star seems afar and, if there is a joy, it envelops us with so much unknowing. No day is really ever a common day, though. Having come from God, we leave trails of glory. Truly, we belong to God Who is our home. (Wordsworth)
1James Fowler, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian. (San Francisco: Harper and Rowe, 1984.)
2Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, Vol.XXXIII, April 1979, #2. (Virginia, Union Theological Seminary) The major portion of this current article was inspired by this writer.
3 Ibid., p. 116.