When I was in my mid twenties, I worked in the engineering department of a large company. While I was working there, I became friends with a fellow employee, a young man. This man, in my opinion, was the consummate bachelor. He was good looking, muscular, always stylishly dressed, drove a new Corvette, and he had a small cabin cruiser that he kept in a marina on a popular lake. That boat was his home during the summer months. He had many girlfriends. And from all outward appearances, he was living the lifestyle of a successful, happy bachelor.
He came to me one day and said, “I wanted to let you know that I just quit my job. I gave them my two week notice.” I was surprised, because he had not given any signals that he was unhappy with his job. So I said, “Where are you going? Where will you be working?” He said, “I am not taking another job. I am going into the seminary. I feel the calling to become a Catholic priest.”
He is the last person in the world that I would have pictured receiving the call to the priesthood. But I couldn’t help but think of him as I looked at the readings for this weekend; because the theme of all three of the readings for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time is God’s call and mankind’s response.
In the first reading, God called young Samuel to become a judge and prophet. History tells us that Samuel did indeed respond to God’s call and that he served God faithfully all the days of his life. The reading concludes by telling us that, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” (1 Samuel 3:19)
In the second reading, Paul reminds the people of Corinth of their calling as children of God. Paul says that not only is the human body a temple of the Holy Spirit, but also that our mortal bodies were created to live in constant communion with our Creator. Paul chastises the people of Corinth for their immoral behavior and says, “Do you not know — that you are not your own? You have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
In our Gospel, we read the story of Jesus calling His first three disciples. The Gospel mentions the fact that Andrew and a second unnamed man followed Jesus and that Andrew introduced his brother Simon to Jesus. It is interesting to note that Jesus changes the name of only one of the three. “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas – which is translated Peter.” (John 1:42)
Our Heavenly Father calls all of His children. Every single person on the face of this earth has a calling in life. However, it is not always easy for us to discern what our own personal calling in life might be. We can ask ourselves questions like, what gives my life meaning, or what are my gifts and talents, or what tasks in life do I feel called to fulfill. But how do I, as an individual, find the answer to the question of “what is my purpose in life”?
Aristotle once said that, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” And Helen Keller said, “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
We can listen to the advice of some of the great people who have gone before us, but ultimately we must remember the words of Jesus; for Jesus did tell us how to discern our own personal calling in life when He said. “Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12) He also said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must serve the rest, and whoever wants to be first among you must serve the needs of all.” (Matthew 20:26-27)
As we walk our path in life, God will lead us, one step at a time. Everyone’s path is unique. The path that my friend walked led him to the priesthood. But if the purpose of life is truly to find happiness as Aristotle suggested, then, as Helen Keller said, we can only find that happiness by being faithful to a worthy purpose. God has blessed each and every one of us with our own unique gifts and talents. And there can be no purpose in life more worthy than to use those gifts and talents to love, serve and protect all the lives that God has placed in our path.
May the New Year bring you all the happiness that this life has to offer, and may the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, lead you to discover the true source of that happiness.
REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.