Vocation - what is it?

last updated on: 9th Jun 2011

Christianity is a love story. It is the story of men and women and children who have, often to their surprise, discovered themselves to be summoned to respond to a love which will not let them go. Christians are those who believe that everyone is summoned by that love....

(Bishop of Leicester in Shaped by God, preface)

Vocation comes from the Latin vocare – to call – and it begins not with what we do but with what God does, calling us, choosing us, desiring us to be the persons we are meant to be. Vocation is all about hearing that call and responding to it. A vocation might be a “calling” that involves specific work and is followed through in the course of a lifetime. On the other hand vocation could be to the commitment to build up relationships of love, forgiveness and care in our families and communities. It might involve ministry in the Church or work in the world. Just as our relationship with God develops over time, so our response to God and the shape of our vocation will change over time.

What does the Bible say about vocation?
There are lots of examples of people in the Bible who are called by God: judges and prophets, like Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, called to speak God’s message to the people of Israel; the Virgin Mary, called to be the mother of Jesus; the disciples, such as the fishermen, called to leave their nets and follow Jesus; and many more. For all of them there was an awareness that God was asking them to do something for him; for all of them, there was an act of obedience – even if they were reluctant and thought they were not good enough; for all of them, their willingness to say Yes to God was matched by his willingness and desire to equip them for the task. 

(See downloadable resources for some Bible passages on calling).
Each of us is gifted, and our vocation is a calling to realize our God-given gifts. St.Paul describes a variety of charisma, or gifts, being given to the Body of Christ, (e.g. 1 Cor 12.8-10,  Rom 12.6-8). These gifts are not given to individuals just for themselves, but gifts given to members of the Body of Christ for the health of the whole Body.


Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.
Jeremiah 1:5

See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.
Isaiah 49:16

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