The Promise of Mission
This chronological separation is a useful reminder to those who, flush with the zeal of a convert, would rush God and, with little or insufficient discernment and prayer, embark on a Mission that may not actually carry the chrism of the Holy Spirit; this is a mistake all too easy to make and (perhaps all too often) is made. It is not unusual for converts to the Faith, or indeed any cause, to be convinced that God has called them to this or that. Such zeal and passion is admirable and even enviable but - like the hot-headedness of youth - it can be misdirected or misplaced. Rather, as I have learnt and am still trying to learn, God may well call us at a certain moment in time and then He leaves us in that state of Being Called to allow that Call to mature into a Mission, when He will then send us out with the grace of His fructifying and empowering Spirit.
It takes patience, prudence, wisdom and discernment (and sometimes, just the grace of the passage of time) to await that moment of Being Sent and perhaps, sometimes, we are not very good at waiting for the Lord; we rush Him or presume to know His will before it is revealed to us, and consequently we do not bear lasting fruit for Him... So it is with religious and priestly formation - those years spent in the seminary or as a novice are necessary, a kind of 'breathing space' between the Call and Being Sent, for the Spirit to come. Let us learn from St Paul, from the Church's Liturgy and from Von Balthasar:
"On the road to Damascus, Paul encountered the call of God in unmistakable fashion, but the call contained only the promise of his later mission, not the mission itself. Struck by the personal call of the Lord, Paul asked: 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6), only to be referred to the Church: 'Arise and go into the city, and it will be told thee what thou must do' (Acts 9:7). Between Paul's "yes" to the call of God and his "yes" to his mission there stretched a long road, marked by his efforts to reflect on what he had experienced, to identify himself with the Church's tradition (Acts 9:26), to gain the Church's approval of his mission (Gal 2:2) - a road of stillness and recollection: '... Without going up to Jerusalem to those who were appointed before me, I retired into Arabia, and again returned to Damascus... [for] three years' (Gal 1:17-18). The hour of mission did not sound for him until, in the church at Antioch where the prophets and teachers 'were ministering to the Lord and fasting', the Holy Spirit spoke, saying: 'Set apart for me Saul and Barnabas unto the work to which I have called them' (Acts 13:1-2). Only then did Paul's mission to the Gentiles become a mission both from God and from the Church. The meeting at Damascus was a meeting with the Son of God, corresponding to the association of the other apostles with the Lord: 'And last of all, as by one born out of due time, he was seen also by me' (1 Cor 15:8). But the mission at Antioch was an investiture by the Holy Spirit, by whom alone all missions are conferred. It should be noted here that even the Lord, whose election to mission and whose "yes" to that mission were from all eternity, was entrusted with his mission only when he designated historical moment of his earthly existence had arrived: not at the age of twelve when he demonstrated that his election was known to him, but at his baptism in the Jordan when the Spirit of the Father descended upon him so that, from then on, he might pursure his mission 'full of the Holy Spirit' (Lk 4:1). Only after his Passion and Resurrection, when the Holy Spirit had begun to go forth from him ('... If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you' [Jn 16:7]), do the apostles receive their definitive mission: 'As the Father has sent me, I also send you... Receive the Holy Spirit...' (Jn 20:21-22). In the future, every mission, every installation in a particular state or way of life within the Church will be the work of this same Spirit (cf 1 Cor 12:4-11; 2 Tim 1:6-14)."