Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel begins with the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5). In the Beatitudes, Jesus says that the blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those who are persecuted and ridiculed on account of their faith in Christ.
The Beatitudes turn the normal operation of the world on its head and reveal instead the wisdom of God in blessing those who, in the eyes of this world, are nothing. Indeed, the cross of Christ looks like a shameful defeat to the eyes of the world, yet through the cross we have salvation and all these blessings in the Beatitudes come to us, the Church, because we are the people Christ is talking about.
This is because Christ has made us his people. He has made us the blessed. As so as his people, as the Church, we are his incarnational agents in this world. Jesus says to you: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Jesus Christ brings light into a darkened world. Well, there in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is also saying that you are the light of this world. You bring his light to others. As you carry out your vocations in this world people see that you are Christ’s people, bearing his name, and so “give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” People ought to look at us – the people of the Church – and wonder why we do the things we do and why we are the way we are. They ought to be able to recognize in us a light that they do not often see.
It makes me think of an Army cadence that I know. A cadence is a song that soldiers sing as they run, in order to mark the time and stay in step with one another. Many cadences are not appropriate for me to mention. But, there’s one that goes, “Everywhere we go. People wanna know. Who we are. Where we come from. So, we tell them. We are Airborne. Mighty Mighty Airborne. Rough and tough Airborne.” And so it goes.
The point is that when people see a group of soldiers, they tend to be curious about them. Particularly when they’re running in unison and singing the same song. And most times even when soldiers are alone, you can tell who they are, because they tend to be a little different. It’s their bearing that marks them off as soldiers.
Aren’t we as the Church a little bit the same? Aren’t we called to run in unison and sing the same song? Isn’t our bearing to be a clue to people that we are different, marked off as children of God?
St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said that when he came to them, he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Jesus gives us our unity with each other and enables us to sing the same song, the good confession of him as both Lord and Christ. So, people ought to be able to recognize that we are his people and be curious about us, asking us who we are and where we come from.
We are Christians, appearing weak in this world, but mighty with Christ. We are rough and tough because Christ is rough and tough for us, since he died and rose for us and gives us the Spirit of power to proclaim him to others.
So, you could ask “What is My Vocation?” A vocation is just a “calling” from God. We all have multiple vocations at the same time: employee, employer, spouse, parent, child, teacher, student, friend, sibling, and so it.
At it’s core, though, the Christian concept of vocation means to be the light of the world. You’re different. You’re marked off. You come from God through Christ, baptized and reborn into the light and now shining this light yourselves. And a light is not meant to be hidden, but placed on a stand to give light to others so that they may “give glory to your Father who is in heaven” as they too are brought to faith through this light. For people to see the light, we need to be out there with them in the darkness, allowing the light of Christ to shine through us.
Jesus also uses the image of salt. Salt seasons and preserves. Every kid knows that to make something taste better you put salt on it. You, as the Church, make the world better, because you are Christ’s people. You also help to preserve the world, keeping things from decaying further and getting rancid.
So, Jesus calls you the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You are his people, baptized into His name, and you do his work in this world. That is the core foundation of all your vocations.
So, you are soldiers of Christ, wearing the uniform of baptism, running the good race, salting the earth, spreading the light. People ought to see in us, as the Church, the peace and reconciliation and forgiveness that Christ brings to this earth. People ought to see in us the care that God has for people and all his creation. People ought to see in us the firstfruits of the restoration of all things as we engage in the arts, sciences, services, construction, our personal relationships, and all that we do.
So, as you carry out your vocations, you do so as Christ’s people, spreading the restoration that Christ has in store for all creation wherever you go. You bring a piece of heaven with you on earth. And this will eventually cause people to ask who you are and where you come from.
So, you ought to see the immense value of your works within your vocations. They’re to help care and tend for God’s creation and show people the love that God has for them through Christ and that you bring with you. Your works do not save you, because God saves you freely through Christ, simply because He loves you and is gracious to you. And then God works through you in your vocations to care for His world and to spread the love of Christ through you.
So, the things you do are important and sanctified by God. God came in the flesh; does that not tell you how important humanity is to God that he took on our flesh in order to save us? Jesus was a baby, a boy, a man, a son, a friend, a carpenter. Mary was a mother, a wife, a friend, a homemaker. Likewise, his other family members had their own vocations; Joseph cared for and raised his son, even though he was not his biological father. Does that not tell you how valued these and all vocations are to God?
All of these vocations, and those like them, are sanctified by God in Christ, and you – as those who have been called into your various vocations by God – serve God by helping to care and tend for His creation. And you do so as priests of God, because Christ has made you priests and God’s people. You are the salt and light in a world that needs seasoning and preservation and light.
God cares for this world enough to send His Son to die for it and you to tend it until the Son’s return. You are living witnesses to the restoration, reconciliation, grace, and mercy which comes through Jesus Christ. The world first encounters Christ through you as you carry out your daily vocations.
(Image of The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew by James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABrooklyn_Museum_-_The_Calling_of_Saint_Peter_and_Saint_Andrew_(Vocation_de_Saint_Pierre_et_Saint_Andr%C3%A9)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall.jpg)