Complexity, richness of Catholicism calls for a lifetime of formation
Discipleship/formation is the third area for reflection and discussion as presented in Bishop Hying’s pastoral letter, “To, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” Discipleship is a term we hear often, not only in Scripture, but in most Christian faith traditions. As followers of Jesus, by virtue of our baptisms, we are all called to be disciples.
So what does it mean?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1816), the disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it.” Discipleship is something we are called to do, not just by the pope, the bishop, or our pastors from the pulpit. We are called to be disciples by Jesus himself.
That should lead us to believe discipleship is pretty important, right?
Being a disciple calls us to embrace Jesus and his saving act on the cross. We are called to put our Lord at the very center of our lives, always. I imagine some might think that a fairly self-centered request on the part of Jesus. What the heck? What about my spouse, my children, my work and my friends?
When we think through this concept of discipleship, we see its demands, in fact, all us into a deeper love with Jesus. When we put the Lord at the center of our being, all others in our lives and beyond, fall into place with more ease and intimacy. We see more clearly; we act accordingly.
The catechism goes on to say that “Being a disciple of Christ requires that we die to ourselves, embrace the cross and radiate Christ’s love at every moment of our lives.”
Okay, you might be saying now, but I don’t feel well-equipped to profess, bear witness and spread the faith. That, my brothers and sisters, is where formation comes in.
Too many Catholics today believe that with the sacrament of confirmation comes the end of faith formation. No, no, no! Confirmation needs to be thought of as just the beginning of our faith formation. With the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are inspired - we hunger to learn more and more about our faith and our God.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Hying makes note that “Sadly, many Catholic stop learning more about their faith in any substantive way when they get confirmed. Imagine applying for a technology job based on a computer class you took 27 years ago.
“Our Catholic faith is so richly complex and substantively deep that we need a lifetime to even being to plumb its depths.”
This isn’t as hard as you might think. Consider if we made it a goal to learn one new thing about our faith each week. One small thing, that all!
Over the course of a year, we will be 52 tidbits richer in our knowledge and understanding. We would be that much better equipped to profess and bear witness confidently. With that knowledge come confidence and a deepening of the faith we claim to embrace. It’s a good start!
And here’s the interesting – and most compelling – thing. Once we start this quest for knowledge, our hunger grows and we long to learn more. There’s so much we want to know about God, but we will never learn more than an iota this side of heaven. As daunting as that might be, our love for the Lord should never stop us from wanting to learn more.
Watch for a new feature in the Northwest Indiana Catholic, starting June 1, entitled “Faith Matters.” This won’t be lengthy; just something that might take a minute or two to read. Also included will be a question, a thought for reflection, a suggestion on how to incorporate this fact about the faith into your life or additional resources in order to learn more.
If we dare to call ourselves disciples of Christ, we need to take seriously the need to be well-formed.