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4th Sunday of the Year (B)

This is Vocations Sunday. I have written something in the bulletin for you on the usual theme of vocations. But here I would like to take another angle on the idea of vocation.

St. John, in the second reading, draws our attention towards the future: “we are already the children of God. What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed.” Christians have a vocation to the future. We are called to the future. This is no enemy of our calling to be engaged in the present. On the contrary, it is consideration of our future vocation which gives purpose and meaning to what we do and who we are today. For how can you know which step is the right one to make today if you do not know where you are ultimately going?

Christ rose from the dead to make eternal life possible for us. We have already the pledge of that life by baptism and the other sacraments. But the plenitude of eternal life is what we hope for, what we strive for. It is something for the future, whether that comes sooner or later for any given person. Hence Eastertide is the season to direct our gaze towards our final destiny and to draw from that the consequences it entails for how we now live.

There are three things which the future holds for us as contained in today’s Word.

Firstly, we shall know the Lord as we are already known by him. “I know my own and my own know me.” The knowledge in question here is not just the knowledge of the head: it is above all the knowledge of the heart. Now we hardly know ourselves, never mind God. We see as in a dark mirror. The vision of our minds is clouded by the double veil of sin and mortality. But in the future, when we have been purified of both sin and death, we shall see clearly, we shall know as we are known. And it will not only be God that we will know clearly. It will be ourselves and every other human being. We will understand and contemplate the goodness, truth and beauty of every human person; we will see with stellar clarity how every human person is truly an image and likeness of God. They, of course, will also know us in the same way. The heart of each will know the hearts of all. The hearts of all will know that heart of each.

And this knowing will lead naturally to the second thing which the future holds. We will love as we are loved. Again, we can barely grasp and almost hardly believe that God would bother himself to love “little old me.” But the fact he created little old me is only because he first loved me. And he left a hallmark in each of us which proves that he loves us: it is our own desire to be loved and to love without limits. In the last analysis, he gave us a heart so that we would love him. As St. Augustine puts it so beautifully: “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Our hearts cannot settle for anything less than God. By the same token, however, they cannot rest until they love as God loves. Knowing myself loved by him enables me to love as he loves. Therefore, my heart will not settle until I love everyone he loves as he loves them. As with knowing, so with loving: I will love all and all will love me in a communion of love rooted in the love of the Trinity itself.

But there is a third thing which the future holds. St. John puts it like this: “All we know is that we shall become like him because we shall see him as he really is.” Let me put it this way: we shall see as we are seen. The human being is not just knowledge and love, but flesh and blood. We are corporeal beings. And because of the Incarnation, God himself has taken on a body. If you pay close attention to the Creed, our profession of faith in God, you will see how much of it refers to the body. Two aspects of the Creed are relevant here. Firstly, that Jesus rose again in his glorified body. It was especially St. Paul who saw him in his glorified state after the Resurrection, although Peter, James and John had seen him transfigured before the Resurrection. The description we are given of Jesus in glory uses words like blinding light, sun, dazzling. These are probably very poor attempts to put into words something that actually defies all words. The second thing from the Creed concerning the body is our faith in our own resurrection in the flesh. If we are judged worthy of eternal life, our bodies, too, will be glorified like the body of Jesus. From our flesh we shall gaze on God as Jesus from his flesh gazes on us. In some way, as St. John tells us, this beatific vision of Jesus will transform us more and more to become like him. It will perfect in us the image and likeness of God implanted in us at the first moment of our existence.

To know as we are known. To love as we are loved. To see as we are seen. These three facets of our future destiny have to be what guides us in our present lives. Heaven does not alienate us from earth but perfects how we live on this earth. Heaven is not an escape from the nitty gritty of life, but the secret guiding force which gets us through. Our vocation to the future, if properly understood, gives light and strength to the particular vocation we have in the here and now. Indeed, God has only called us to be married or ordained or consecrated or single in order to enable us to bring ourselves and those we serve in this life to that future plenitude of eternal life which Christ came to give us.

Lord, lift my eyes towards the future to see the rich hope my calling holds for me. Grant me to know you as you know me, Good Shepherd. Grant me to love you as you love me, Sacred Heart. Grant me to see you as you see me, my Lord, my God and my All. Amen.

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