Callings – Ignatian Spirituality

I recently started watching a television program about passengers on an airplane who unknowingly disappear in flight for five years. While they believe only a few minutes have passed, their friends and families have been without them for five years. (It’s a bizarre series, but I think it’s my escape from the gravity of local and national events.) The show is about how life evolved after the plane landed and how passengers and their families cope with the very deal with different realities that they have previously experienced over the past five years. The interesting thing is that the passengers experience callings, messages from God which, if answered, will have a positive outcome for those around them. It made me think deeper about God’s callings.

It seems that God is sending us “big C” jobs and “little C” jobs. Sometimes God calls us to something great, something that seems difficult to achieve. At other times God calls us to things that are not quite as challenging. Each invitation is just as important as the other. One of my “Big C” professions came almost 40 years ago when God challenged me to have a deeper trust. It came at a time when I was hurt and generally didn’t trust people and projected that distrust onto God. It was a short time, but I heard God ask me to take a leap of faith that would change my life. This is what I would call a great challenge, one that I accepted after receiving many graces from God.

“Big C” calls can often lead to “small C” calls. A colleague recently did something that hurt my feelings. My gut reaction was to storm off in anger after being whipped. But I stopped, took a deep breath, and prayed for understanding. I was able to step out of a potentially bitter scene and eventually make up with this person. This moment of pausing to calm down was for me a “little” invitation to live my larger invitation to see God in everyone else.

Some callings take a lifetime to respond and challenge us, such as the call to forgive or the call to love as God loves. These invitations are more of a way of life than a one-time invitation. The real test is sticking to the invitation and letting it take root for a lifetime. It may take years of prayer and perseverance to make progress in the right direction, but here, too, God’s abundant grace is always offered to help us.

Sometimes calls come in bundles with a domino effect. Answering a call can open the door to hear many others. For example, my response to God’s invitation to retire paved the way for me to see new ways I could serve God in my retirement.

When God invites us to do something, we can accept, reject, or hesitate. It is up to us. If we ask that the heart know and follow God’s will in our lives, we can truly live a life of discernment, that is, a life in harmony with God’s heart. On the other hand, we can completely miss God’s call. Even then, God is patient with us and will lovingly invite us over and over again.

The fact is, we don’t have to return from a mysterious five-year air journey to have a calling. God always invites us, recreates us, teaches us. It is a lifelong journey of sacred listening and knowing what we hear and feel. Following our callings requires fidelity in prayer, letting go of our own goals, and trusting that we will never travel alone. God is always with us, regardless of our calling.

Photo by Natali Quijano on Unsplash.

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