Dear Father | By 'dying to self' in vocation, we become a living image of Christ

Q: Sometimes I hear religious, priests or others describe their vocation as a ‘dying to self.’ What does that mean?

By our nature, our will is drawn toward whatever it sees as good. The good is determined by our will to be anything that will bring about greater pleasure, delight or happiness in us. Sometimes this choice will be self-evident, such as taking a drink of water when I am thirsty. At other times, this choice will be more difficult.

Perhaps a woman religious is in a store and sees something she would really like but is not really a true need. She wants to purchase it, but does it conform to her vow of poverty?

A priest gets a call at three in the morning from the hospital, asking him to come and anoint a person who is dying. The priest may want to say no and go back to sleep, but the love for his people tells him to get up and go to the hospital. What does he do?

A husband and father is tired after work and would like to join his friends at a local sports bar to relax. However, his wife just texted him that she has things to do that evening and the kids need him at home. What choice does he make?

These and countless other situations are when we are called to die to ourselves in our vocation.

A vocation, be it to the religious, single, priestly or married life, is a calling from God to us. By walking the path He has chosen for us to walk, we become holier: a living image of His Son.

St. Paul, describing this path to the Galatians, wrote, "yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). While we still live our life in our ordinary circumstances, St. Paul says that the choices we make affect our becoming more like Christ or not. At times, then, we may be called to choose against the immediate good of pleasure, delight and happiness. Instead, we may be called in that moment to choose the other in sacrificial love in imitation of Christ.

Christ chose us in love through bearing the cross. As He bore the cross, it caused Him pain, agony and interior darkness. In faith, though, He knew that this sacrifice would bear the ultimate fruit of eternal life for us who bear His name.

In this same faith, then, we do not exclusively look at our own good when making choices. Instead, we look at which good will bear the most fruit in others. This may cause me to choose at times to lay down what is good for me to choose what is good for the other. In so doing, however, I become a bit more like my Savior. In this act of love, I am united to Him and those He has given to me in love. Such is the road of love leading to eternal life.

Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in St. Charles.

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