Papal retreat: God’s vocational call comes as a surprise

The retreat director of Pope Francis’ annual Spiritual Exercises reflects on how God calls Moses to lead His people, and warns against the temptation to resist God’s will.


Source: Vatican News

By Devin Watkins

As the Pope continues to follow the Roman Curia’s Spiritual Exercises from the Casa Santa Marta due to a cold, Fr Pietro Bovati picked up the themes of vocation and our resistance to the grace of God.

Day 2 afternoon: Vocation as a turning point

In his Monday afternoon reflection, the Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission told members of the Roman Curia gathered at the Divine Master House in Ariccia that God calls each of us individually.

Vocation, said Fr Bovati, “is a decisive encounter in which God speaks to us”. Since it marks a turning point in our lives, he said, we should frequently return to that moment of “rebirth” to recall the voice of the Lord.

Fr Bovati focused his reflections on readings from Ex 3:1-12; Mt 16:13-23; and Psalm 63.

“God is always at work to orient the person toward the discovery of a higher dimension of living, of a more useful self-giving and service to our brothers and sisters,” said Fr Bovati.

“God calls in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, even in its moments of fatigue. These are the conditions for aspiring – even unconsciously – to a higher reality: that which God alone is capable of revealing and fulfilling.”

Vocation is revelation, not self-determination

Turning to the encounter with the burning bush, Fr Bovati said Moses was not even aware that he was drawing near to a holy place.

His ignorance of what was about to happen, said Fr Bovati, is essential to understanding the prophetic dimension of vocation. “It is always a revelation of God, never a lucid self-awareness or self-determination.”

When God calls him by name, Moses is able to give his personal response, saying “Here I am” and opening himself to “a journey of awareness and obedience”.

Day 3 morning: Resisting God’s grace

On Tuesday morning, the retreat director turned his attention to the ways we resist the outpouring of God’s grace, reflecting on readings from Ex 5:1-23; Mt 13:1-23; and Psalm 78.

Fr Bovati gave the example of Pharaoh, who resists God’s call through Moses to release the Israelites from slavery. He said Pharaoh’s question – “Who is the Lord?” – is the “incarnation of power as a force to destroy all opposition.”

But the God of Israel, said Fr Bovati, promotes “a radical change in perspective when He advances the rights of foreigners, the oppressed, and the exploited”.

Danger of arrogance

Fr Bovati said that opposing God’s desire to put the last in first place is a form of “resisting grace and opposing the Spirit.”

In our modern era, a form of arrogance drives us to refuse to obey God and His prophets, said Fr Bovati.

“Even without the trappings of riches, culture, or coercive power, it takes the form of a person’s pride, simply in name of the right of self-determination, personal choice, and personal free will.”

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