Part 3 of a weekly series.
During his public ministry, Jesus spent three years with his followers. He said to them, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). How true this is. Those three years were spent by Jesus teaching his apostles and providing an example of how to build the kingdom.
At times, the apostles didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching. They carried out their apprenticeship with mistakes along the way. Yet Jesus continued to form them so that their work would bear more and more fruit.
Jesus transformed his apostles personally for the ministry he entrusted to them at Pentecost. Because they had been well-formed, when the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to go forth, they were ready and able to carry out their mission.
The same is true for all of us. The life of God implanted in the soul, with all of its gifts, is but a seed at baptism. When the water is poured over our head and we are anointed with oil, we are only conceived into the life of Christian discipleship. That life must grow in us to the full stature of Christ. Where this is supposed to happen is within our families and within the parish.
If by the gifts we have received in baptism we have a mission from God, these gifts need to be developed. Bishop David Zubik is inviting us to be On Mission for The Church Alive! by committing ourselves to being more deeply formed as missionary disciples.
As Catholics we are good, most of the time, at "informing" ourselves and others about the faith. Where we need growth is in being "transformed" by our faith. When this happens we become radiant and joy-filled witnesses of the Gospel, a lamp on the lampstand as Jesus describes the church in the Sermon on the Mount.
We need to be formed by Christ to be fruitful in the mission field he has given us. Our homes need to be places of formation in Christian discipleship. Our parishes need to cultivate our spiritual growth and help us develop awareness of how God is calling us to serve him and others.
Christian formation is first and foremost a formation of the heart. Our hearts must be enkindled with the fire of God’s love. Our hearts must be trained in the way of the beatitudes and learn the ways of love. Love is what motivates us to worship the Lord and serve others.
We must also be formed in the teachings of Christ as passed on by the church. Rooted as they are in Scripture, church teaching imparts to us true wisdom and knowledge of God. It shows us how to interpret the world around us in the light of faith, and how to pray for conversion. Our minds are always enlightened by these teachings.
Bishop Zubik’s initiative, On Mission for The Church Alive!, is an opportunity to explore new models of faith formation, catechetical instruction, evangelization ministry and social outreach for our diocese. All the faithful, especially our children and young adults, need to experience the formation that will empower them to live as faithful missionary disciples of Jesus in our contemporary world.
Therrien is diocesan secretary for evangelization and Catholic education.