We are in the midst of a peculiar moment in the life of the Church where vocation has been construed as a kind of personal decision that one is free to accept or reject without consequence. Contrary to this assumption, the Bible presents a very different understanding of vocation, an understanding that insists that to resist or even refuse one's vocation means that the purpose of not only one's own life, but also the lives of others can be significantly effected. Today's passage from the Book of Jonah is, in this regard, a case in point.
In terms of this biblical vision of vocation, a person's life is not merely self-directed, and what one decides about one's life is no simply a matter of preference or career. Instead, the purpose for which one has been created is illuminated as one accepts one's life as God-directed and discerns the kind of life that mind of God has conceived as necessary to bring a person to their fulfillment. It seems to me that we are enduring a sad age in the Church's life where too many are drifting, having fled their vocation... or having never even considered the call. The consequences of this flight from vocation are all around us, and the effects on the soul can be as terrifying as the storm described in the Book of Jonah.
Oddly enough, in surrendering Jonah to the power of the storm, the inhabitants of the ship were actually doing Jonah a great service- they did more than just cast him into the sea. Jonah was given up for the sake of his vocation, and there in the midst of the waves he could no longer run, hide or resist. He was now compelled to trust and let God take him where his purpose would be fulfilled.
The lesson? There is an urgency about discerning and accepting one's vocation, and despite the protests of many that insist the contrary, it is no small matter for one to resist or refuse God's purpose for one's life.