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Vol. IV, September 1998

 

The Vocation-Director Part II
(cf. Judg 6,11-24)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The holy Angels belong to a higher order of being than man. Notwithstanding, Sacred Scripture shows them so often keenly and compassionately interested in the affairs of men. This interest is selfless for they make no personal "profit", so to speak, from their advantage in knowledge and power. In all they are submitted to the Will of the good God; with their superior vision they see man in the light of his eternal destiny, that is, in the way he really is before God. Human weakness is in the eyes of the Angels, not inferiority; human fragility is to the Angel's mind an appeal to fraternal love, and an opportunity to reveal God's goodness towards man through their goodness and merciful assistance.

We priests are the first who need this friendly presence of the holy Angels; therefore, we can understand very well, how much we ourselves in our priestly mission and pastoral work ought to be as kind as the holy Angels! With the desire to correspond more perfectly to the example and expectations of the Lord and to receive the help of these heavenly servants of the Lord for our ministry, let us observe how the Angel transmitted the call of God to Gideon.

1. a) In this mission the Angel approached Gideon slowly; he first entered into his every-day-life. The Angel greeted him with the common salutation "The Lord is with you!" (Judg 6,12). Wherever the Angel meets man, God is present as the third person: He is the One who sends the Angel and the one to Whom the Angel will lead man. Again and again, the Angel points to God: "The Lord is with you!" The Angel speaks in the name of the Lord, a fact, which we need not to explain again. Scripture, therefore, continues: "The Lord turned to him and said: 'Do not I send you?' ... 'I will be with you!' ..." (vv. 12.14. 16.23). Gideon is assured of the presence and assistance of God four times; so that at the end he confesses: "The Lord is peace!" (v. 24).

b) Peace is the sign for having reached the goal. Peace must be the fruit of any form of union with God: this is the goal of human life, a form of sharing in the possession of the true and highest Good. "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied", therefore be in peace (cf. Jn 14,8); and the Psalmist assured: "Thou art my Lord, ... in whom is all my delight" (Ps 16(15),3). Peace, therefore, can serve as the sign of discernment for an authentic vocation: Whoever is called to a closer Imitation of Christ in the priesthood or in religious life will only find their peace of heart in following this call in all the fidelity and rigor the vocation calls for. Whoever does not find peace, despite all their generous efforts, may well ask if they discerned the signs of their vocation properly.

c) This observation indicates how important it is to be near to human life and to speak of God on this level to souls. "God" is the creative spark! The word, coming from without together with the grace within the soul will enkindle the fire, which illumines the way and helps the soul to understand the call. "God" is the secret which awakens the "inclination" in a person to consecrate his whole life to God. In all the holy Angels there somehow eternally resounds the cry of St. Michael: "Who is like God!" In the darkness of their trial, this faith was the decisive light to which they clung and which, now transformed in glory, is their exclusive light and happiness for all eternity. This personal experience is always present when an Angel brings a special call from God to man.

2. However, from this essential element, common to any religious vocation, we have to distinguish a certain historical dimension in each vocation. In point of fact, we assist at the conversation between young Gideon and the Angel.

a) First, Gideon responds to the salutation of the Angel. He brings up the religious question: Where is our living and attentive God who cares for his people? "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all his wonderful deeds which our fathers recounted to us ...?" (v. 13) The question manifests that Gideon is not looking at himself in the first place, but shows preoccupation for the welfare of the people. This attitude might be understood like an open door for a vocation through which the Angels enters directly, and answers him in this way: "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" In other words, God answers: It is right, what you observe: the people is in need. It needs God's intervention to help them out; but listen: I am with my people and I will continue to work marvels for it, and that is the way how I will help them, through you! Through you I will be near my people, through you I will do for it what you expect: You go, you save them, you with Me and I through you.

b) Gideon, who made reference to the past history of Israel, knows how God guided his people through human leaders like Moses or Joshua and others. Therefore, he cannot bring up an objection to the fact, that God wants to intervene through someone; but that he, Gideon, should be the one, with his nothingness, that seems to him to be a wrong choice: "How can I deliver Israel? Behold my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family" (v. 15). - It is a reaction often found in Scripture, it is so frequent that it almost seems to be part of the authenticity: the individual's consciousness of their own worthlessness. Gideons reaction, looking at himself, is not a rejection of God's choice, but rather the manifestation of its incomprehensibility; he wonders, if God had chosen the right means to resolve the problem. In a way, it is a true interpretation of the facts and the sincere recognition of the reality, it is a true but imperfect humility. St. Paul made the general comment to the choices of God: "Consider your call, brethren, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Cor 1,26-29; cf. Ex 4,11-12).

c) To trust so fully in God that man surrenders his life, he needs a certain security; he has to discern and make sure that there is no deception. So Gideon said to the Angel: "If now I have fond favor with thee, then show me a sign ... Do not depart from here ..., until I come to thee, and bring out my present, and set it before thee" (v. 17-18). The proof will be, that the meal, which Gideon prepares as sign of friendship and disposal, will be transformed into sacrifice before God: Gideon brought the meat and broth to the Angel under the oak, a necessary sign of his readiness to be committed. Then the Angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff ..., touched the meat ... and there sprang up fire from the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and the Angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that he was the Angel of the Lord" (vv. 19-22). - Gideon was disposed to have God enter his life; he was disposed for the confirmation of the divine call. This attitude facilitate the divine confirmation of a calling. Let man open himself to God and desire to accomplish his will. Let him present God his sacrificial offering. If God really is calling, then He will grant some confirming grace.

This is the last lesson which our angelic "vocation-director" gives us: We have to challange the young people; they should have opportunities of committment. They need possibilities to collaborate with the interior perception of grace and to develop it. They need to act, to offer something of their own for real in order to see if they are really accepted.

3. God and the Angel knew Gideon before the call; God does not need a recommendation-letter about man. He knows everyone. The secret of a Divine call lies in this: It is not man, but God who will act through the chosen person; it will always be God in His divine omnipotence, who will enter the missionfield, so that a whole nation is just like one man: "I will be with you, and you shall smite the Midianites as one man" (v. 16). God always cares for His people, even when He works through secondary causes. Grace presuposes nature, as is indicated in the words: "Go in this might of yours"; but nature serves like a building lot with some old construction upon which God builds His own magnificent work; He takes what is there and elevates it, He surpasses it and makes it more perfect. God says: I will need and use your natural gifts, but I will not work just with them. It is My omnipotence with which I construct upon them to built My reign. Therefore, you too should not trust in yourself but in me; you should not look at your abilities but put your confidence in me. As soon as you say "Yes!" to Me, I will show you what it means, that I called you.

It belongs to the accidental but still very real joys of an Angel, when one who is called matures in this understanding of the values of this life with God. Such a soul grows nearer to the Angel, to his thoughts and judgments and to this happiness. When man puts his trust in God alone and disposes all his life to the will of God, he becomes, morally speaking, like the Angels and takes a place in their ranks as a servant of God. To this fundamental truth, the Angel is a faithful guide to each one who is called by God. "God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1,30-31).

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood, how much each one of us desires to lead many young men and women in the vineyard of the Lord! Let us reflect upon this marvellous angelic intervention and lesson for us. Individually as well as in our monthly meetings with the confrères, may we not just theoretically learn from the holy Angels, but also practically be guided by them in our words and deeds. You, holy Angel who called Gideon, help us to find those who God calls and leads them to Him.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC