I am continually astonished by social media and new technologies. And although I find Instagram, Twitter and instant messaging fascinating for various reasons, the new smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon Echo really impress me. How does Google appear to know the answer to everything I could want to ask?
I recently Googled “Brother David Henley” to see what the search engine actually knows about me. It knows quite a bit! It knows that I am a Glenmary missioner and that I am vocation director for the community. Google knows that I have blog and a YouTube channel and that I am on Twitter. I don’t doubt that through its data collecting, it knows more about me that I cannot see.
This information age, with all the data about each one of us being shared and stored, suggests that there are no secrets or mysteries anymore. Often, I hear people say, “There are no secrets with Facebook” or “It’s no mystery….”
I believe that we sometimes use the word “mystery” when we really mean “secret.” But a mystery is not a secret. A secret is something that is knowable but only known by a few. A mystery is something that is difficult to understand or is beyond our human understanding. Hence, the reason we meditate on the mysteries of the rosary and not the secrets of the rosary.
Christmas is not a secret. Walmart has had Christmas decorations up in its stores for months, and Amazon has been promoting Christmas sales since early October. But Christmas is a mystery. One of the mysteries surrounding Christmas is contemplating why God would become man like us. In our creed, we profess: “For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.” But I still frequently ask God, “Why?”
Likewise, I think our vocation can be called a mystery and not a secret. How do I know if God is calling me? How do I know which is God’s voice? How do I know what God is calling me to become? You can try asking, but Google will not be able to tell you definitively if you are called to be a Glenmary brother or priest. Our call is mystery.
Too often, I hear young men who contemplate, discern and attempt to unravel the mystery of their call asking the questions like, “Why would God be calling me?” “Why not call my brother who goes to Mass more often than I do?” “Why not call my friend who is holier than I am?” Too easily, they give up on their vocation because they don’t think they are smart enough, holy enough or good enough.
Don’t get discouraged if you do not understand the mystery. Ask your questions in prayer and be assured that part of the mystery will begin to be revealed. God is calling you, and it is for your own salvation and because God loves you.
The Christmas mystery continues. We know that the shepherds were told, “You will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). Pope Francis said in a homily last year that “This is the enduring sign for all who would find Jesus. Not just then, but also today. If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the frail simplicity of a tiny newborn child, the meekness with which he is placed in a manger, the tender affection with which he is wrapped in his swaddling clothes. That is where God is.” If God came into this world as a tiny, helpless baby, why could he not also call someone like you to share his love as a Glenmary missioner?
It is a mystery that God — who is more powerful or bigger than anything I can imagine, who is more knowledgeable than Google and is a God so great — would humble himself and become human like me. But it is a wonderful mystery that fills me with gratitude. Likewise, my vocation is mystery. Why would God be calling someone as weak, fragile or unprepared as me?
You may not ever understand all of God’s mysteries, but you should know that God is in each one of us and that God has chosen you. So, as you celebrate Christmas, contemplate the mystery of your vocation, asking God, not your Google Home, where you being called, and then respond with gratitude to our God who has called you for something special.