In the school of Jesus, our only Master, we learn the art of forming ourselves as well as those entrusted to our care. Our Blessed Mother Foundress constantly points to Jesus, who is the best Shepherd of our souls. He is the One who “guides us along right paths” (Ps23). From Him she learned the art of wise formation of her spiritual daughters.
“You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.” (Jn 13:13
Jesus of Nazareth, our only Master, called us to follow Him. He desires that we learn to live as He lived; that is for the Father and for the fulfillment of the mission received from Him. We desire that our whole life be centered on Jesus, the Incarnate Word, who for 30 years lived hidden in Nazareth together with Mary and St. Joseph
Jesus is our best example of educating individuals, but also of the formation of disciples as a community. Jesus formed them as individuals and also as a community when He “appointed Twelve” (Mark 3:14). He invites us also to follow this example.
Jesus’ way of forming His disciples is permeated with the Paschal perspective. He is firmly heading towards Jerusalem, where He will give up His life for us. We desire that from the very beginning, our road of formation would be marked with this same perspective. At the same time, Jesus clearly shows us that this road of self- emptying and kenosis is the only way to true life. This is entering through “the narrow gate” (Mt 7:13) in order to become His true disciples. “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). In the process of formation there is a gradual growing toward the likeness of Jesus, who willingly gave up His life. “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own” (Jn 10:18). The entire journey of formation is meant to lead us to the radical decision to willingly offer our lives for others, as Jesus did.
In Jesus’ formation of His disciples we can observe complete agreement between His words and actions. Jesus teaches and heals; he teaches with authority. Hence comes his authority. His word is reliable. “… the crowds were astonished by his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes” (Mt 7:29). Jesus as a master of formation teaches us the importance of the formators’ credibility as well as the congruity of their words and actions.
Jesus also shows us the importance of reaching into the depths of people, and understanding their needs and difficulties. It is not enough to just propose certain values. From Jesus we learn how to help ourselves and others in the process of examining their life in the light of the Gospel values and identifying more and more with them (see Jn 21:15-19). In order for the disciples to know the truth (see Mk 8:32-33), Jesus reaches out to them in various ways: through individual conversation, through dialogue with all the disciples and through direct confrontation. Asking questions was one of Jesus’ instructive methods.
Jesus, our Master, teaches us also to accept mistakes, failures and failings. The Gospels repeatedly show how all of Jesus’ activities; His powerful words, His presence with the disciples, His caring, filled with love and mercy, were still not enough for the disciples to respond wholeheartedly to His love. We learn from Jesus to respect the freedom of those in formation. Their response might be limited for a variety of reasons. We cannot count on immediate results from our efforts. We should not blame ourselves too quickly, but need instead to persevere and continue to offer our life for others. We learn from Jesus how to take our cross anew and continue in the ministry of formation entrusted to us.
Way of Love, Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth