by Father Mitchel Zimmerman
The voice of Jesus is clearer than you think.
Do the following words sound familiar to you? “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” “Go sell all that you have, give it to the poor; then come, and follow me!” “Whoever puts a hand to the plow and looks to what is left behind is not fit for the kingdom of heaven!”
These words do sound familiar to us. We recognize in these words the voice of Jesus. So often in life we can pretend that we do not hear God’s call clearly. We torture ourselves with the question: What does God really want me to do with my life? This is a good question, of course, but oftentimes when we ask it, we are not really asking Jesus to make his voice clearer. We can be guilty of asking Jesus, instead, to save us from our confusing and changing desires and to give us what we want.
The voice of Jesus is clear. It always asks us first to consider leaving everything, if we can, to follow him. It is important for us not to water down this call from Jesus. The voice of Jesus does not tell us to follow our hearts, because he knows that our desires change. He does not ask us to keep his call as a last resort, just in case following our desires does not work out.
No, Jesus does us the favor of demanding that we listen to his call, and that his will be the first priority of our lives.
There are many of our young people who can set aside their own desires to follow Jesus wherever he would lead them. The voice of Jesus wants us to consider the priesthood or the religious life at least as strongly as we consider marriage. There is nothing wrong with a young man or a woman considering the religious life as a first option, even if they also have a strong desire to be married. It is normal for our young people to desire both.
The two calls are both beautiful. They oftentimes grow together, and must be discerned with prayer. The reality is that many vocations are lost in our church today because we follow our own desires before we listen to the voice of Jesus. Those of us charged with forming the young people of our church must never cripple them by telling them to save the priesthood or religious life as a last resort.
Our young people want to develop their friendship with Jesus, and they want to hear his voice. And they do have the courage and faith to follow it, if only we do not let them down. It is fine for us to encourage our young people to follow their hearts. But it is better for us to encourage them to follow the voice of Jesus.