Formation in Our Faith
Picking up from the Gospel of John last Sunday, which recounted John the Baptist’s handing on of the baton to his cousin, Jesus, and his consequent instruction to his disciples to follow HIM, we turn to Mark’s account today which depicts Simon and Andrew, James and John dropping and abandoning everything to do just that—follow. Last week I wished to underscore the obvious theme of “Call and Response.” And, of course, the most important call and response of one’s life, has to be one’s vocation from God. But the readings of this Sunday actually bring about a shift in theme as they draw our attention to what has to be the first request on the lips of one who follows, “Teach me your ways O Lord!”
How could it be otherwise? Except that when we figure out that life is indeed a vocation, then we must also realize that we need to be schooled by the Master in the ways of that vocation—His ways. The people of Nineveh demonstrated that it is possible even to have learned God’s ways, but then to willfully stray from them for whatever motive. And St. Paul, like Noah long before him, reminds those who stray that time could be running out on repentance: “For the world in its present form is passing away.” So if vocation was the word for last week, FORMATION is the word for this week.
Last week I asked, “Do people see their lives as vocations?” This week I must follow up with, “Do we recognize our constant need for formation?” If we are not so aware of our daily lives as vocations from God, it is not a wonder that formation in God’s ways can too easily, even too tragically escape us. For that reason, personally, I welcome and celebrate all the new opportunities in our Church for continuing education and formation. Please God we will make many of those opportunities more available and accessible here in our own parish of St. Rita. From pre-K to senior citizen, from hospitality to bereavement there is not a program or ministry that does not have an accompanying syllabus of formation these days. Actually, formation and education in spirituality and ministry have been afforded to more of the Church’s lay people than any time in history.
This is a good thing. After all, we entrust our lives to all types of professionals and civil servants upon whom we depend to be formed and educated in the best and the latest. What harm is possible—and how horribly wrong things might go—when someone presumes to practice or minister without true know-how and expertise. What havoc has been foisted upon our own Church by ministers and leaders (from volunteers to the ordained), who have been found lacking in even the basics and fundamentals of their service, like “keeping boundaries”! We are right to expect training, education, certification, license, and degrees for those entrusted with our education and spiritual formation in the Faith.
Then as you and I consider today, Simon-Peter and Andrew, James and John, let it not escape our notice that before they were “licensed” and sent out at Pentecost, they literally walked and journeyed with the Lord for three years being mentored and schooled by Jesus himself. What education and formation could be more important for any one of us than formation in the ways of the Lord—our formation in Christ? For all of us at St. Rita and for all in our church who would be teacher and/or student, let our prayer be “Speak, O Lord, your servant is listening!”