I think if we do the math on what we know about the life and age of John the Baptist, we know the Prophet who “prepared the way for the Lord” was relatively young when he was martyred for Christ. We know that he himself prepared (throughout his young life) for his calling and he gave everything to that mission. As he nears the end of his life, from prison, he reaches out to inquire. Did I do what I was meant to do? Are you the Lord who is to come? Jesus replies to John’s disciples who inquire by pointing to the works of the Lord which have taken place; effectively answering the question and giving John something to reflect upon in his own life. If John can look to his actions, what he called people to and see the connection to the works of the Lord, then not only can he know with certainty that Jesus is Lord, but he also has an intimate and personal connection by his own works.
What we might ponder today is to ask the same question in faith: “Jesus reveal yourself to me. Where are you present around me here today?” We know He is the Lord Messiah, we are not waiting for another to come – but we can’t be waiting for an other invitation than the one the Lord has already implanted in our own heart of our true calling and vocation. There are lots of reasons young people don’t seem as eager to respond to the Lord’s call to ecclesial or religious vocations (priesthood & religious life). Might one be that there’s a sense for many of us that discernment is too complicated? I entered seminary at 34 years of age and my life and life experience helped form me to be the priest that I am (in good and not-so-good ways). I remember thinking to myself, and expressing a few times that I wanted the shortest possible route to ordination at the outset. I spent seven years in formation and needed every one of those years! It’s amazing that I now meet young men who feel they are ready immediately to be priests and I need to help them to slow down without discouraging them. What I find the most effective thing to do is to help them to see every experience from the time they say yes to the Lord until ordination or whatever is the entry point into their vocation otherwise (marriage, religious life, generous single life in Christ) is not sitting in the sidelines. Preparing ourselves for our vocation is active work. Especially because we know the importance in ecclesial vocations of being able to inspire, motivate, invite, welcome and embrace everyone – the active work is in developing humanly, spiritually, intellectually and pastorally. I know that many people suggest to me that our seminarians should be with the people more. I can assure you that the seminarians would love this. They are generous and love people very much. But their active work is becoming the men they need to be for the future. Of the religious communities of women and men I know, this very same principle applies. And they must stay close to Christ and His active work through others just as John the Baptist, who did not have his liberty while in prison gave witness to Christ there.