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Trying to Define Formation

While here at seminary, we have one buzzword that goes around often, and it is formation. Formation is extremely important. It is important for all of us, battling the spiritual battles, but is even more important for the priests, leading people toward Jesus. The prophet Isaiah says, “But now, Oh Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isa 64:8). My hope in this post is we understand and accept our role as clay in God’s hands. Without a doubt, as we celebrate the lives of the saints, God has formed the saints into incredible people.

After a while, the word formation sometimes can feel like just a word. Some might wonder what I mean by this. Sometimes it can feel like the phrase “Any Given Sunday” in an NFL football locker room, or “run it like a machine” when talking about how to lead a group toward a common goal. No matter what “buzzword” we put on it, the question is do we understand and accept the objective spiritual nature of our lives? Even if we choose to believe that God does not exist, which is false, our actions shape who we become. We are clay in the potter’s hands.

We as Catholics must understand the importance of spiritual formation. We must accept our roles as clay in God’s hands. The elite athlete playing in the NFL carries a huge cross in order to achieve what might seem to be superhuman. Legend has it the one of the greatest wide receivers in the NFL, Jerry Rice, would spend hours on the football field the day after the game running routes. Instead of using his free time to take the day off, like the rest of his teammates, he would secretly spend his free time practicing the routes he was responsible for running. Jerry knew that to be formed into the premier wide receiver in the NFL he hoped to be; he would have to carry a huge cross. If the average wide receiver spent five hours in practice, he would spend six.

No analogy is perfect, nevertheless, this can help us understand the spiritual formation God wants us to undergo. God does not plan to limit our freedom when we accept we are clay in the potter’s hands, He wants us to feel genuine love. We accept our cross because we trust that God has a great plan for us that will shape us to be incredible people.

What if our crosses are too much? The cross might be too heavy, or it might be a cross we never wanted to carry, and it was not fair that we carried it. What is important to remember is that Jesus never promised the crosses we carry were ones we would seek or we would feel good accepting. Further, what happens to us is important, but what happens in us is also important. We cannot bow to bitterness, cynicism, negativity, hatred of human nature, creation and God.

We have some pretty big crosses to carry in today’s world, both individually and socially. Sometimes it can be sad to watch the news or surf the Internet. We can just imagine the pain people feel with the crosses they carry. For instance, the death of a child or spouse, growing up without a strong family connection, natural disasters, or the suffering and persecutions of people because of religious views.

Without a doubt, we should protect ourselves from these horrific forms of suffering, however, if we can do nothing else to control these things from happening to us, why not turn to God to understand? Why not be shaped by the potter? There are so many stories out there of God writing straight with crooked lines, especially in the lives of the saints. Jesus has promised to always be present with us as we carry our cross. Just as important, Jesus promises us something with the cross: and that is the resurrection. The priceless vase gets formed by the potter only after being placed in the kiln. Our time in the kiln brings us into union with God. He carries our cross with us and we walk with Him upon our resurrection.

I am praying for you all as we all walk on this same journey of formation.

Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers

1st Theology
Christopher Myers attends Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ.
Christopher Myers

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