by Sr. Emily Beata March, FSP
The next day John was there again (John 1:35).
The Gospel of John contains many beautiful and unique passages. This month’s Lectio Divina is at the bank of the Jordan River, “where John was baptizing” (John 1:28). John has been calling people to repentance and baptizing them for the forgiveness of their sins. When the Pharisees went to John and asked him about this, John told them about “the one who is coming after me” (John 1:27).
Three times in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, John the Baptist points Jesus out to others: to the Pharisees, to the people who came to be baptized, and to his disciples. “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). This is a quality in John the Baptist that I often associate with vocational discernment: attentiveness to Jesus, and to the people who point him out to me. Who are the “John the Baptists” in your life—the people who have pointed out Jesus’s love and action to you over and over again?
"Showing Up" for Our Discernment
Another and perhaps less-often noted quality in this passage has to do with perseverance, faithfulness, and plain old “showing up.” It is intriguing that the passage begins, “The next day John was there again” (John 1:35). This is the third time in ten verses that John is standing by the Jordan River, pointing Jesus out to others. John is faithful, in the fullest sense of the word. He believes in God with every square inch of his life. He trusts that God is acting in his life, and he surrenders himself to this loving action. Faith that believes, trusts, and surrenders is the basis for our journey of vocational discernment.
Faithfulness to “showing up” is one of the most valuable qualities to have in vocational discernment. John has been at the Jordan River again and again. He’s been there when Jesus has passed by, and when people have come to be baptized, but perhaps he’s also been there when Jesus didn’t walk by, and when no one came to respond to his call to repentance. John was there when he didn’t feel like being there. Discernment is not easy. There are days when we feel very close to God, and other days when we feel very far from him. Some days things are very clear, and other days things are cloudy and confusing. What keeps us going at times like these? Our relationship with God and our memory of God’s faithfulness to us certainly form a big part of our motivation. John the Baptist shows us that a little “stick-to-itiveness” doesn’t hurt, either.
Discernment: the Journey of Discovering How We Can Best Love God
Love is shown in the little things. We enter into discernment because of love. We’ve experienced God’s love, and we want with all that we are to love him back. Discernment is the journey of discovering how we can best love God back. And the first step of that journey is the journey itself! Showing up to our discernment every day already shows God how much his love means to us and how much we want to love him.
We show up in discernment by being faithful to prayer, especially when it feels like we’re not receiving any answers. We show up by being honest with ourselves and with God. And we show up by asking God for courage, so that in time we are able to live by what he reveals to us about our call, our mission, our vocation.
I remember a time in my vocational discernment when I needed to make an important decision, a decision that would impact the next couple years of my life and my discernment. It was very much like standing at a crossroads and not knowing whether it would be better to turn right or left. There were days when I wanted to run away from the decision and just let things play out. But the moments when I felt the most peace were not the moments when I was closest to a decision. Rather, they were the moments when I entered honestly into the conversation with God—the moments when I showed up.
We’re midway into Ordinary Time in the Church’s calendar. Let’s make a commitment to showing up, like John the Baptist and so many others before us. Let’s keep the “again and again” in our relationship with God and in our discernment.
A Discerner's Prayer
Heavenly Father, what I desire most is a deep relationship with you. Help me to see the signs of your faithfulness in my daily life. Help me to love you by my faithfulness and perseverance. Amen.
Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She recently professed her final vows in June 2018. She is currently serving in the Pauline mission of evangelization through the media and in the vocation apostolate in Alexandria, VA.