Sunday, February 13, 2011
Being Formed in the Faith
In my ministry of consultation with congregations in transition, I have observed in recent years that there is a growing and serious intent regarding being forming in the faith, or spiritual formation. People and pastors are realizing that many denominational “programs for church growth” simply do not work because these programs provide little or no understanding of the basic need for Christians to be formed in the faith. What is being recognized is that engaging in spiritual formation is a crucial foundation of that which enlivens and empowers the mission and witness of the Church.
As Christians we are called to be a visible sign of God’s kingdom, and we are meant to be spiritually formed to be this sign. Formation takes place first and foremost through our worship and praise of God in word and sacrament, and continues through catechesis and in the disciplines of daily prayer.
Spiritual formation begins with our baptism, which must be understood and lived out in the context our faith in the gospel proclamation of God’s kingdom; and we proclaim that mystery of faith in the Eucharistic liturgy: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
Spiritual formation requires a humility that is provided by faith. St. Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 NRSV) Therefore the Holy Spirit works through us and in us to form us to be sent into the world to proclaim the gospel.
The purpose of being formed in the faith is broadening and deepening of our love of God and of neighbor. As we continue our spiritual formation we become a means for extending the presence of the Kingdom of God. “What matters is faith that works through love.” (Galatians 5:6) We seek to be formed spiritually so that the power given to us by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit is used faithfully in our lives in the midst of the world.
Richard Hammond Price, OCC, © February 2011