"Catholicism is not simply institutional; it is an encounter with Christ" by Melanie Jean Juneau (CatholicMom.com) Via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain

A Catholic, baptized into the very life of Christ ( CCC 1213), is invited to discover much more about God, Holy Scriptures, the saints and the traditions of his Church than dry facts because Catholicism is, most importantly, an experiential faith. Ironically, most Christians allow fear of deception to impede growth in the Spirit and hinder their participation in the mystical life of the Church.

To counter this self-defeating fear of any inner spirituality, St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis have repeatedly emphasized that Christianity is basically an encounter with Jesus.

Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ — which explains why they don’t see it as a source of joy. Pope Benedict XVI

The evangelization of the person and of human communities depends totally on this encounter with Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI

We must always have the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ, and being heralds of his Gospel. Jesus came amongst us to show us the way of salvation and he entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all to the ends of the earth. Pope Francis

Although Catholics are taught and encouraged to encounter Christ, most of us don’t know how and think such intimacy is reserved for the saints of old. The fact is intimacy with Jesus should be the normal Christian experience because, by definition, a Christian is one who shares in the life of Christ.

A Two- Way Relationship

Think about this for a moment -- if you do all the talking in a relationship with a friend and never giving them a chance to respond, do you think your friendship will ever develop? Yet this is precisely how the faithful usually relate to God. During prayer, we thank, praise and intercede for others. We do not expect to participate in a practical dialogue with the Living God as we pray, so we never stop talking long enough to listen. How can I obey God in my daily life, if I never expect to hear Divine requests and suggestions? Furthermore, if I refuse to engage in a dynamic relationship with Christ, can I even ever hope to live an authentic life as His Presence on earth?

Somehow we mistakenly believe the phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus” is a Protestant slogan even though it is proclaimed right in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The following excerpt clearly explains the importance of a relationship with God in the lives of Roman Catholics.

A Personal Relationship with God (CCC 2558)

The Church professes faith in the Apostles Creed (Part One) and celebrates faith in sacramental liturgy (Part Two) so the faithful might conform to God’s will in the Ten Commandments (Part Three). To believe, celebrate, and live this mystery demands a personal relationship with the living God through prayer (Part Four). ”Prayer is a surge of the heart, a simple look toward heaven, a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (St. Therese of Lisieux).

From the Covenant with the Trinity (CCC 2564-2565)

Christian prayer is a Covenant relationship in Christ, springing from the Spirit and ourselves and directed toward the Father in union with Christ’s human will.

Prayer is the living relationship of the children with the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Kingdom is ”the union of the entire Holy Trinity with the whole human spirit” (St. Gregory of Nazeanzus). Prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the Trinity.

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It is time for Catholics to take the words of the Gospels and the last three popes to heart by taking the time to nurture a personal relationship with Christ while nurturing our sacramental life in the bosom of the Church at the same time.

Copyright 2017 Melanie Jean Juneau