By Rev. Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

A person’s vocation is communicated to others in the form of dialogue of religious experience hence you often heir some people say: “Deep within me, I feel a strong motivation and zeal to serve in a unique and particular way. I feel like bursting the skies to pour down the rains for the torrents defines my vocation.” “The Holy Spirit ministered to me to open a Church and serve him.” “I am wonderfully made to serve and worship God.”However, the big question is what exactly is this motivation to bloom and bud in mission? Into what area or field is a person called to actualize his or her potentials? God believes in each person in a unique way. The gift of Peter is not the gift of Paul. God has an assignment for each individual in a very special way. This is why a person needs time to identify his or her vocation through discernment that calls for spiritual direction. Someone else needs to confirm the vocation or profession of a person through ordination, profession or graduation after which the person is given faculty, certificate or license to practice. These could be withdrawn if the person undermines the ethics of the vocation or profession. A self-ordained minister reports to himself hence he is a serious threat to humanity. No one questions him when he is under the influence of an unknown spirit. Some organizations do career and vocational training to enable the young ones and applicants identify their true callings. Some do aptitude test before placing workers in different fields. If a person gets his or her vocation or career right, the result is job fulfilment that gives rise to the joy of service.

Once a professional is given a wrong task, one of the consequences could be the fear and risk of manipulation and failure. This could explain why some professionals who dabble into partisan politics end up with disgrace. I wonder how a historian would perform well if made a Consultant in a Specialist Hospital. This is how some professionals have mortgaged the joy they could derive in their proper fields. Every professional needs courage to blossom in his or her unique garden. You can actually blossom in your field if you ask God for wisdom and prudence. Let us further illustrate this point with the parable of Jotham when the people requested him to be king. “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem that God may listen to you. The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honoured and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon’(Judges 9, 7-15).

If we identify our talents and obey the capacity in us, we shall be respected for our efficiency better than if we manipulate our ways to become a President whose inefficiency becomes a security risk to life and property. If we are in the right vocation and profession, we can succeed if we ask God for wisdom and courage to serve selflessly. If we are sincere and determine to become saints through our work, we could find it easy to carry out our legitimate duties to the glory of God and to the joyful happiness of humanity. In our professional expertise, we must never forget that it is God who gives the task. So we need to go to God the owner of the manual to ask for support. The successful prophets of old depended on God even in their fears for support. Robert J. Furry puts this in the context of hope: “In the midst of our darkest hours we carry with us the potentials for hope.” The courage to serve comes from the Lord and nurtured by our dedication, confidence and prayer. God always accompanies those who respond to the call to serve without strings attached.

When God called Isaiah, he felt so unworthy that he was afraid. He examined his life and said: “Woe is me; I am lost for I am a man of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the king, Yahweh Sabbaoth” (Isaiah 6, 5). Because of the courage that comes from the Lord, Isaiah accepted to be a true instrument in the hand of God; he summoned up courage to say: “Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning, he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple” (Isaiah 50, 4). In the call of Jeremiah, he responded, “Ah, Lord Yahweh you see, I do not know how to speak I am only a child” (Jeremiah 1, 6). All these show that a servant is not a person who campaigns and tells the electorate that he would do what he knows very well that he would not do. The beginning of the failure of a servant (leader) is when he consciously lies, promising to do only that which God alone can do. Having discerned our talents and what God intends for us to do to serve him and humanity, we should still constantly get back to him for courage and direction. By so doing, we would recognize the voice of God who shows the way and gives the green light. This is what God told Jeremiah: “Do not say, ‘I am a child’, for you must go to all to whom I send you and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of confronting them, for I am with you to rescue you” (Jeremiah 1, 7-8).

In any work that involves the management of human beings, listening, courage and obedience cannot be underestimated. Education plays a prominent role in human resource management so we must be humble to learn from one another. To succeed in our vocation, ministry and profession, team spirit is a necessary condition without which we become like a foolish tree that thinks it can make a forest. Service involves a lot of suffering hence everybody needs somebody. When I became a parish priest for the first time in Udaba-Ekperi, with seventeen outstations that had no good roads, electricity and portable water, I could only find joy in my work because of the value I placed on the people I was working with. They were ready to support and assist me because I made them co-workers in mission. During rainy season when we were completely cut off, they made their canoes available and paddled me to outstations for mass and sick calls. Sometimes, we trekked for hours from the main station to say Mass in some outstations. The people did not leave me alone. When you truly serve the people, you will never go hungry.

My mission in Udaba-Ekperi of Edo State, Nigeria, gave me occasions and moments to contemplate how Jesus did his work without vehicles. Each time I found myself in a canoe; I realized and appreciated Jesus’ effort in preaching while in a paddled canoe. When I was in darkness, I remembered the Apostles in the catacombs. The suffering of the people opened my eyes to the reality of the person of Jesus. I had to be everything to the people. I discovered that I had to spend my life in the service of the people. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that “what matters is not how much we do, but how much love we put in what we do, little things done with great love.” Our mission is a call to give all like Saint Oscar Romero who was born in 1917 and killed while celebrating the Eucharist in 1980. However, you don’t have to be a priest to be a saint. The lay faithful are called to be saints in their various fields of service.  We must therefore defend the truth with courage even in danger of death. So live fully and serve fully to be saints. May God give us the grace to open our eyes to the needs of the poorin our service to God and humanity!

(Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (



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