In my own discernment, I have been reflecting a lot recently on the relationship between vocation and love. I have come to the conclusion that a vocation is a response to love, with love.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’, he tells us of such giving of, and responding to, love:
“Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn. 4:10), love is now no longer a mere "command"; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.”
Deus Caritas Est, 1
God loves us and wants to be close to us. A vocation is a gift lovingly given to us by God, our positive response to our vocation is done with love.
St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 all about love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
St. Paul offers us a great challenge in his epistle, as he reminds us that love is something we need to work at, that sometimes can seem impossibly difficult, but also that love something which can be so beautiful. That little four-letter word that we use so often we lose sight of its reality, is a force so powerful that it is without question supernatural. For when we get love wrong it can feel like our very souls are being ripped apart, but when we get love right there is no better feeling, no more perfect feeling. Some say that to love is merely to be human, but I think that belittles something which is beautifully complex, something which is divine. For if we are created in the image and likeness of God, then we are created in love.
It is with good reason that St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians features frequently in weddings as for if a couple united in the sacrament of marriage are to use his description as a template for their relationship then there will be patience, kindness, and rejoicing in truth; there will be love. A love between two persons that will demand hard work, but love does demand hard work; love demands compromise and sacrifice. In our vocation however, whether marriage or otherwise, we do not do it alone for the God who loves us draws us near and remains close to us.
When reflecting upon love and vocations a good saint to count on as a friend is St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
"I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places."
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse said that her vocation was to love, but she also points out to us that that at the core of every vocation is love; my vocation, your vocation is rooted in love. A vocation, in whatever form it takes will demand hard work, it will demand compromise and sacrifice. Like any love we will get it wrong sometimes, but more often we will get it right. That love from God given to us as our vocation will bring a joy which is supernatural, it will bring us a life that will transcend the ordinary and will deliver us to an understanding of a most powerful love.
"Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for."
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
We are created out of love for love. It is in our vocation that we respond with a love-filled yes to God to be the best versions of ourselves we can be – to be who He created us to be. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the most perfect expression of a perfect love. It is a sacrificial and unconditional love. It is a saving and a freeing love. It is a love without beginning or end. It is a love which is patient and kind. It is a love which is freely given; it is our choice to accept that love.