As Catholics, we talk about vocations a bit much. Don’t get me wrong: that’s a really good thing. Looking towards the future helps you live with purpose in the present, which is the point of starting discerning vocations, educational paths, careers, ANYTHING, now.
But there’s a tricky flip side to the vocation conversation. It’s all too easy to think you have to wait until that next life step before you can fully live out your faith. You’re just in high school, after all. What impact can you even have? One day when you become a priest or nun or get married and have ten kids, like any good Catholic- that’s when you can really start being faithful, right?
Wrong. Very wrong. This probably isn’t breaking news. Deep down, you know God is calling you to follow Him now. But most times, it sure seems easier to push off going deeper until you enter another phase of life, like in a vocational setting. This thought process doesn’t usually have bad intent. It might even be because you’re not really sure how to live like a follower of Christ in a setting that’s not religious. I think we all struggle with this.
So how? How can you practically live out God’s mission for you right here and now? Sure, there are tons of different ways, that you can discern by prayer, but these three, simple steps, will get you started in the right direction (of course, these should be accompanied by prayer too).
1. Do the next right thing. And then the next…
What do I mean? Exactly what it sounds like.
Forgot to do your pre-cal homework? Don’t copy your classmate’s. Don’t feel like getting up in the morning? Get up anyway; don’t call in sick when you know you aren’t. Have soccer practice after school? Give full effort and have a good attitude throughout, even when you have to do extra sprints. Out with your friends on a Friday night? Be the one person who isn’t drinking. Not in town on Sunday? Find a nearby parish and go to Mass.
I said these steps were simple; I didn’t say they were easy. And often, the right thing is anything but easy. I get it. But Jesus didn’t say, “whoever wants to follow me should pray occasionally and be a decent person, but overall, live a fun and comfortable life.” No, He said, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
On the other hand, I know a lot of those things might seem small. I mean who really cares if you cheat on a homework assignment? But it’s in the little things that we have big opportunities to grow in faithfulness. Additionally, living out your personal mission right now means living in a way where you are a positive example, a light in this world of darkness. Others are watching, whether you recognize it or not. The way you live and the daily decisions you make can make a difference. Most importantly, you can always offer these efforts and little (or big) sacrifices to God, and He will use the graces, every single one.
2. Be open about your faith and who you are in Christ.
I’m not saying be in-your-face about the fact you’re a Christian. That’s obnoxious and might do more harm than good. I’m not even suggesting you need to pretend to be a perfect person or like you have everything together. In fact, don’t do that! What I mean is, be willing to talk about Jesus and things that matter when the opportunity arises.
People might get uncomfortable at first, but they’ll also know who to go to when the need arises. In fact, someone’s need might be in that very moment. So many people are yearning for the Truth or yearning for someone to share faith with. Be open to that opportunity in your conversations, even if you simply open the door to talk about our Lord.
3. Discern your gifts and how you can use them.
Just a reminder that almighty God, in His infinite wisdom, blessed you with specific gifts, talents, and traits that no one else has the full culmination of and only you can fully use for His glory. Don’t feel gifted or special? Tell that to your Creator. He’ll change your mind.
But seriously, pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these gifts to you and how you can use them to give Him glory. If you keep seeking, He will show you.
When you find a trait that you’re naturally blessed with, make a personal mission statement out of it, seeking to live it out every day. If it’s joy, it could be something like, “Jesus, help me to radiate your joy to everyone I encounter.” If you have a servant’s heart, maybe it’s “Jesus, show me how I can serve like You.” Pray about this statement as well, and continually remind yourself of it so that you can live it to the fullest.
You know, when Mother Teresa, THE Mother Teresa, was asked how to change the world, she answered in a way you might find anti-climactic. I know I did. I was waiting for “Drop everything, and move to another country to spread the Gospel” or “Pray for hours on end, and then God will magically reveal everything to you” or “Start your own foundation. There’s so much need.”
But she didn’t say any of that. She said, “Go home, and love your families.” We’re overcomplicating following God. It’s love. It’s all about love. We’re called to love each and every day, to love God and to love those around us. And if we strive to do that, then we’re living out our personal mission.