The Call to Serve
By Brigid Hoagland, Catholic Charities Volunteer (Benedictine College, ’19)
Photo of an Hogar Education Services Volunteer teaching English as a second language class.
Second in our summer series, you can read the first part “The Role of Laity in the Church” here.
We hear time and time again that we are called to serve. 1 Corinthians 7: 17 says, “Everyone should live as the Lord has assigned, just as God called each one.” But, what is a call and how can we recognize and respond to God’s particular call for our lives?
A call is a recognition that we are being asked to serve the Lord in a particular way. We each were given a different vocation that is necessary to improve ourselves and to benefit society. In fact, the word vocation comes from the Latin word “vocare” which means “to call”. Each person has a particular vocation, or calling, to participate in God’s plan while also finding personal fulfillment and benefiting the lives of others.
A call encompasses what we do and who we are. God has a specific mission for each of us and gives us the gifts and talents to fulfill that mission. In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Talents in which two servants are given talents. One servant saves his talents and doesn’t do anything with them. The other servant uses his talents and presents his master with twice the amount of talents he was first given. The master rejoices in the servant who used his talents to bear fruit. We are given talents by Christ and are called to serve. Which type of servant will we choose to be? Will we waste your talents or use them for God’s glory? Let’s give our Heavenly Master a reason to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
If you are struggling to recognize your call, reflect on your experiences. God speaks to us through our own lives and circumstances. Often, God will put certain people or opportunities in our path to give us clues on the way He desires for us to serve Him. Furthermore, our call should involve our personal passions. Frederick Beuchner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Service shouldn’t feel like a burden. It is an opportunity to improve the lives of others by engaging in work that we are passionate about. Evaluate the emotional response you experience when you are presented with different issues. The cause you are most passionate about is most likely the place where you are called to serve.
Sometimes our call may not always be clear. In 1 Samuel 3, God calls Samuel but instead of responding to Him, Samuel runs to Eli who wearily responds with “I did not call you. Go back to sleep.” After this occurrence takes places three times, Eli says to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’” Oftentimes, we feel a lot like Samuel when we are being called by God. So, how do we know that we are being called? A call can feel like a certain restlessness or dissatisfaction with the way things are. When we find ourselves frustrated with different aspects of our environment, that may be God’s way of calling us to action.
God also speaks to us through other people. Listen to how people affirm and compliment you. They may be able to help you better discern your gifts and talents. In addition, people may also suggest different opportunities to serve in a conversation and the Lord could be using them to direct you on the right path. Other times, certain opportunities come across our path and open our eyes to a clear outlet for service. Your call may not seem clear, but trust that the Lord is at work guiding you in the right direction. Another way to determine your call is to just start serving. God can’t steer a parked car so get moving! Say “yes” to different kinds of service. Through serving, you can better determine your own gifts, talents, and passions.
Everyone is called to serve and each person is called to serve in a different way. Each call is unique and specific to the individual. A call to serve looks different for a young person versus that of an elderly person. Sometimes, a call might not be to “do” but to “be”. For example, someone is hospice may be called to reflect on God’s presence in a new way and grow in dependence and trust. Every call is different and no one call is better than another. God may call one person to be a priest and another to sort clothes at a thrift store. Both callings are good, noble, and necessary.
When we are obediently responding to our call, we should experience a certain response. We will feel satisfied and fulfilled by what we are doing because it is in align with our identity and our gifts. In addition, we will be effective and fruitful. God equipped each of us with certain gifts so that we would be successful in our mission. Furthermore, we may receive positive feedback from others that confirms our call. On another note, we may experience a sense of unworthiness for the work we are called to, but remember that God not only calls but also empowers.
There is no road map to Christian living. Instead, Christ says, “Come and see”, “Walk with me”, and “Do not be afraid, for I have called you by name.” Our lives are meant to be lived in response to God’s call for each of us. A call to serve manifests itself in different ways according to the gifts and talents of each individual. Therefore, we can best respond to God’s call by examining ourselves and our best qualities and being aware of the needs of our environment. Our lives are meant for others. Acts 21:24 says, “Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.” In order to live lives of humble service, we must be aware of what life is asking from us. Our circumstances and the needs of our environment can serve as signs for how we are called to serve.
When opportunities begin to arise, hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” and respond with the words of Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).