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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Christian Formation

Today, in discerning how to address formation for ministry, the Church states its concerns over human formation. True formation requires the addressing of three dimensions of our human experience: 1) Conversion from sin; 2) Accepting and dealing with reality; and 3) Choosing the totality of what Christ has revealed a complete surrender of one's whole existence to Him. Only the Crucified One reveals sin and makes conversion possible. The Risen Lord is the One who teaches us how to accept and deal with the reality of the world and ourselves. We are able to be formed and to offer this formation in true hope because He has given Himself to us and we truly possess Him—not as an abstract idea, but in a personal and intimate way. Indeed, He is more present to us than we are to ourselves. Human formation is about the art of giving the gift of ourselves in love.


Such a gift is not about being a cog in the wheel for a corporation. It goes beyond the conventions of a professional culture where, under the guise of polite smiles, cruelty is promoted. It is not about the indulgence of frenetic activity to gain the approval of others, no matter how successful or impressive or seemingly noble. Is not such activity simply the appropriation of others (who are really only known as a number, a statistic, a generalized idea, a means to an end) for my need to make a name for myself, to get on top, to be successful, to win control?


Christ never gives us one more abstract, nameless customer to be satisfied, but always a living and breathing endpoint in eternity and icon of the Living God. A true gift of self in love demands not so much the self-exhaustive effort to meet expectations as much as going beyond all expectation to offer a moment of recognition, understanding and heart to heart solidarity. Here, one is not lost in activity but suddenly confronts the truth about oneself in seeing the truth about one's neighbor.


This kind of gift of self implicates our most noble thoughts and aspirations but also our deepest needs and desires - forcing us to deal with the totality of who we are before the truth that Christ unveils in my neighbor. It is a crisis for my whole being that only true beauty evokes—something deep in my conscience is awaken. A movement seizes my being the resolves to disavow any impulse to appropriate this Image of God who Christ has given to me. Instead, a new generosity compels me to give no thought to what might be lost but to be aflame for what my neighbor might gain no matter the cost.


True love demands such vulnerability. It can be crucified and often is and because of this, knows many resurrections—for this love is stronger than death. Such love costs a soul all kinds of hardships, daily trials, renunciations and hidden sacrifices. It requires a patience that takes us to the terror of the Cross and, at this threshold where misery and mercy meet, into that unchanging kindness that bears away evil. This terrible patience perseveres to the end—because no one has given himself completely until he has laid down his own life.

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