The great Jewish sage of the Middle Ages, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or as he is best known, Maimonides or Rambam, concluded his medical oath with these words. “O God, You have appointed me to watch over the life and death of Your creatures. Here I am, ready for my vocation.” To invoke the Divine in this way is to make the Divine present, to bring it out of hiding into the open space of encounter and engagement. I begin my prayers each day making God present in each moment of my day and my activities. I am able to do this because God has appointed me to a life of prayer as well as a life of work or vocation. Prayer, as Maimonides knew well, has less to do with saying than with being. Prayer is vocation. Vocation is prayer. The essential nature of prayer is unconditional surrender to God, to be completely disposed, body and soul, to the invitation of the Divine. To be ready for my vocation means that I come before the Divine as I am, sinful and unclean, willing to stand under judgment and grateful to be forgiven by grace to fulfill the call that addresses me in the Gospel. Yet, I am so very aware that to be ready for my vocation is always a threat to the self I so carefully protect.
The voice of the Gospel breaks into the open spaces between the Divine and me bearing contemporary and immediate sounds that can be confusing. With effort, I can sometimes hear an ancient voice that no longer speaks with the force of will, but with the favor of remembrance. It fades quickly, displaced by the urgency of the moment. Now I readily hear the voice of joy and laughter with their distinct timbre beckoning me to a casual self-forgetfulness that pretends to be liberating. I ponder fleetingly whether I am deceived by grace. I push aside the voice of illness and pain when they appear. They are an unwelcome intrusion into my life so skillfully designed to avoid all unpleasantness. It is much more pleasing for me to drink from the fountain of joy than to sip from the cup of bitterness. The Gospel does not push me into an unwanted embrace with the bitter ordinariness of my life. Neither does it force me to accept grief, loss, defeat or disappointment. Rather, the Gospel always arrives ahead of me, prepares a place for me in the heart of grief, loss, disappointment and defeat, awaits my arrival with patience and when I am there anoints me with its comforting love. While there it is revealed to me that the vocation for which I am made ready is gratitude, i.e., Eucharist.