NOT YOUR WORK: A HOMILY ON THURSDAY, THIRD WEEK OF EASTER
Pride, they say, goes before a fall. The pride of the formator happens when he believes he is the one forming the formandi. The pride of the formandi happens when he thinks he can form himself. Our desire to be God manifests itself both in a formator and in a formandi. It manifests itself in the formator when the formator wants to be the primary player in the formation process. In our First Reading, we can see Philip as the formator and the Ethiopian eunuch as the formandi. One remarkable thing about the Acts of the Apostles is that it can be easily called Acts of the Holy Spirit, because reading it, the Apostles never attribute any action to themselves. It was an angel who ased Philip to to towards where he would meet the eunuch. When he got there, it was the Holy Spirit who told him what to do. It was the Eunuch who ased Philip for an explanation. After the baptism, it was the Spirit of the Lord that took Philip away. We all want to do things, but we do not want to be sent. We want to do it of our own accord and that is how and why we fail. Jesus told the crowds in the gospel that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Someone asked ‘What is the role of the Holy Spirit in formation?’ Wow, the Holy Spirit must be the main driver and the formator the conductor, then the formandi the passenger. Jesus always has an identity of Himself as someone who has been sent. The Apostles had an idea of themselves as people always sent and led by the Holy Spirit. So should we if we want to be like them.
One big problem we have in the world is that everybody want to learn, but not everybody want to be taught. The eunuch in our First reading went to Jerusalem to worship God and was returning. On his way back, he met Philip and allowed Philip to teach him. This man can be said to be open to the formation process. We should not pride ourselves as wise people, but we should pride ourselves as people taught by God, but in the case of the formandi, through the formator. Jesus said that only those who have learned from the Father can come to Him. The formator should not be the one sending himself and the formandi should not be the one teaching himself. In both cases, we will fail.
Two sacraments are very important in the formation process. The first is baptism. We begin to lose our way when we minimize the importance of baptism and maximize the importance of our profession or ordination. It should be the other way around. All our ministries are rooted in our baptism. The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are rooted in our baptismal promises to reject satan and all his empty promises. From our baptism we already belong to the christian community and share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry of Christ. The eunuch, after baptism went away preaching the gospel. This is important, because being a good christian is fundamental to being anything else, like being a religious or being a priest. One would wonder if it is possible to be a good priest or religious without being first a good christian. We have to be faithful to our lives as baptised persons before we can talk about anything else.
This brings us to the other very important sacrament, the Eucharist. When I was in school, one of my classmates once asked why we have to celebrate mass everyday. I wondered the same myself. But now I know that a person who has no relationship with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will have problems in the religious life. The kind of life to which we are called is so sensitive that it cannot be sustained without the Eucharist. If the Eucharist is not at the center of our lives, things we fall apart, because the center cannot hold. The spirit of the Eucharist is kept alive through the divine office. The Ethiopian eunuch had been to Jerusalem to worship God, and on his way back he was reading the scriptures. A person who is praying the divine office is doing just the same thing. He would had been to Jerusalem to worship God, symbolising the Holy Mass and for the rest of the day, keeps that spirit alive through the divine office. It is always beautiful to see a christian sitting in a plane, or waiting for his flight, or just sitting by the sea-side, praying the divine office. This is a very important way not to lose it. In my life, I find the Mass and divine office as the only reason why I have not gone insane yet.