One of the constant tensions of our lives is the tension between service and formation. There needs to be time for both. Without the formation we may not know how to serve. And what use is the formation unless we actually put it into practice! If we read the Gospels we notice that Jesus is careful to set aside time for His own prayer and thus formation in the mind and heart of His Father. We also notice that He often calls His disciples aside and speaks to them, gives them formation in the ministry He will eventually leave in their hands.

In today’s Gospel we see the tension in Martha’s life. She is so consumed by her perceived need to serve that she misses the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus and be formed by Him. In this case the better choice would be to sit and listen rather than be busy with the serving. Sometimes serving even becomes an excuse not to be formed. After all, somebody has to do all those jobs do they not?

We need to be aware of this danger as we try to balance the tension in our lives between service and formation. The most important point to remember is to ask ourselves what Jesus wants of us at this particular stage of our lives. Whatever our ministry, there is always a need to be updating our skills and formation.

Probably one of the areas of the Church’s life that needs the most attention is that of formation. Unless our formation is properly done there is a grave danger that we may cause more damage than good in the things that we do. A little bit of formation can be a dangerous thing! We must carry our formation through to its completion in order to avoid being more of a hindrance than a help.

Formation is always a two-way reality. There needs to be someone to receive the formation and also someone who can provide it. Bringing the two together at the same time is not always easy. As disciples of Jesus we must take a certain responsibility for our own formation. We cannot expect to arrive like the mail at our doorstep.

How comprehensive is my formation? Can I defend my faith when challenged about what I believe? Where is my formation lacking?

Lord Jesus, the Gospels relate how you took time for prayer. Help me to be committed to both prayer and formation so that I will be better able to serve you.