“[I] beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called … just as you were called to the one hope of your calling … But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
This reading reminds me of an exchange in a Washington Post chat from several years ago, in which humorist Gene Weingarten, one of my favorite writers, asked an honest question of his readers as a non-believer:
“Here is my big question, and perhaps some fundamentalistly religious person can answer it. If you are completely convinced that there is a God who is going to punish you with eternal damnation or reward you with eternal bliss for your deeds on Earth, how can you not essentially totally devote yourself to your religion? I mean, TOTALLY. How can your religion not be the single most important thing in your life? How can you not, basically, become a nun or a monk or whatever it takes?”
When I read this, all I could think was, “Good question!” I had wondered something like that before. Believing that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent creator of all things is no small thing to believe. Shouldn’t it color everything you do? Shouldn’t I go hole up in a chapel somewhere and just pray as much as I possibly can? Not, I would clarify, because of the fear of “eternal damnation,” but just because there are a lot of things to pray for. There are a lot of reasons to ask for God’s help, for me and others. Endless reasons. Maybe I should just make it a full-time gig.
I knew I was probably not going to do that, but did not have a defense for why. Thankfully, someone smarter than I am wrote in with an explanation:
“I am not a fundamentalist, but I will try: A Catholic here – God doesn’t expect us all to be monks or priests or nuns. He expects us to be what we were ‘called’ to do. Would I make a good nun? I don’t think so. Am I a good mom? Yes, I think, overall, I am. Has that made a difference in the world? A small one, but yes … So, basically, we are supposed to do what we were ‘born’ to do. Sometimes it takes 67 years to figure out what the ‘it’ is, but hopefully you find it. Really, this matches a very non-religious concept of doing what you are really passionate about, because it will work out for you.”
I’m not sure all of us will meet St. Paul’s expectations in becoming either apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers – it seems clear that many of us have to do slightly less saintly things. But as the poster responded, all of us can respond to a calling in our personal lives. We can be good family members and friends. And regardless of what we do at work, we can be good coworkers. We can do whatever we can think of to help people who need help, and make life easier for others. We can have a calling that colors everything we do.