My 20-something granddaughter went into a convent last week. Mary Kathleen quit her job, gave away her sizable collection of clothes, handed her cellphone to her mother (families have hand-me-ups as well as hand-me-downs) and began a year of discernment.
I don’t think the material relinquishments bothered her very much — unlike the young man in today’s Gospel (Mk 10:17-22). The hard part for Mary Kathleen was letting go of her family. But despite the differences between them, the two young people, separated by 20 centuries, encountered the same reality.
After Jesus and the young man talked for a while, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” and invited him to give all his stuff away and become one of his followers. At some point in the past couple of years, the same thing happened to Mary Kathleen.
So this “call” thing is real!
But what can it mean for those of us who are, say, 40-something or 60-something, or whatever? Married or single life, religious life or priesthood; this line of work or that; moving far from family or staying close to home — so many forks in the road are behind us. The more major decisions we’ve made, the fewer the possibilities for vocation, right?
Well, yes and no. We do make basic decisions early in life. But we continue to have opportunities. And, unexpectedly, what the young man and my granddaughter experienced may occur to us.
A physician friend in his 50s heard Jesus calling him to establish a free clinic for people without adequate medical coverage. A retired journalist I know has felt inspired to get training in spiritual direction and is building a small retreat center on a lake. At 88, after a great deal of prayer and consultation, my mother-in-law discerned a call to move from Maine to Michigan.
Who knows what Jesus may be calling any of us to?
If the question strikes you as serious and personal, perhaps the Holy Spirit has planted it in your mind.
And if you’re looking for an opportunity to ponder it, there’s today’s liturgy. Jesus will be present and will be looking at us with love.