Credible Witnesses

St. PaulThe article to follow wonderfully articulates the importance for ongoing faith formation.  If we are to be credible witnesses, of who we are and whose we are, to our children, co-workers, family members – to all who might be watching – it is imperative to attend to our relationship with Christ.  Like any valued relationship we must nourish it with effective and regular communication, self-sacrifice and fidelity in thought, word and deed. And as a cherished relationship we continually seek greater knowledge of our beloved.

In chapter 11, verse 23 and in chapter 15, verse 3, of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he uses an old and solemn rabbinic formula.  In both places he says, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”  Paul clearly understands that he is an instrument, a vehicle for sharing the person of Jesus Christ and the content of faith. At the same time, he knows that he can only share because he has already received what he is to share and the One whom he is to proclaim.  Paul does not use our language or turns-of-phrase. He would not speak of “adult faith formation,” but, in fact, he is deeply involved in it. He is fully conscious that he is not merely sharing knowledge about Jesus Christ or information about faith. He is sharing himself as one who has been touched, formed, and reformed by Jesus Christ.  Paul is aware that his faith is the critical and necessary instrument to foster faith in the people he serves. This awareness becomes evident in the power of his conviction, in his passion, and in his creative eloquence in proclaiming and presenting Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

Over a thousand years later, Saint Thomas Aquinas coined a phrase that has become the motto of the Dominicans and a well-accepted definition of preaching: contemplata aliis tradere, to hand on to others what we ourselves have contemplated.  This thought follows a straight line from Paul.

Our best proclamation, our best preaching, our best faith formation has its foundation in the Word that has taken root in our hearts. What you have received as a gift, give as a gift (Matthew 10:8).

When we want to serve or help people, of course we hope to succeed and do something good for them. That mindset can put too much focus on our performance. If Paul is correct and if Saint Thomas correctly echoes him, then our first and guiding focus must be on our own faith. We hand on what we have received. Indeed, the whole of our lives in faith are marked by this rhythm of reception and donation, acceptance and gift.

                                                                                                                                                              Rev. Louis, J. Cameli, STD; for Echoes of Faith Plus, RCL Publications

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