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"Catholicism: an encounter with Christ" by Melanie Jean Juneau (CatholicMom.com) Guercino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have repeatedly emphasized that Christianity is an encounter with Jesus. A Christian is not a person who merely accumulates intellectual knowledge about God nor simply fulfills tradition and the letter of the law
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
Pope Benedict understands that when Catholics are living out a vibrant relationship with Jesus, their joy will attract others into the Church. Christianity is above all an experiential faith, a living relationship with Christ. Holy Scripture is filled with God’s promises of an exciting relationship between the Almighty and man:
And I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them. (Revelation 21:3) Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)
Yet somehow Catholics mistakenly believe the phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus” is a Protestant slogan when it is proclaimed right in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The following excerpt clearly states the importance of a personal relationship with God in the lives of Roman Catholics.
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). (A Personal Relationship with God, 2558) 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. (From the Covenant with the Trinity 2564-2565) 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. During prayer, the Spirit of God slowly transforms our inner spirits into the very image of Christ. To live in truth means I discover my real self in the ground of my being which is hidden in God. It is not a process for the faint of heart because the longest, toughest journey we can make is from our heads to our hearts. Since Christianity is not simply an intellectual assent, there are entire seasons in our spiritual lives when God invites us to “close the wings of our intellects and open the wings of our hearts” (Catherine De Heuck Doherty, founder of Madonna House).
A Personal Relationship With Christ IN the Catholic Church Although my conversion to the Catholic Church was the result of direct intervention by God, it was also the result of the words and action of God’s disciples. My spiritual experiences occurred in the family of God. Pope Francis explains that a relationship with Christ is not just for Protestant evangelicals but for Catholics who are then safeguarded by the Roman Catholic Church. An authentic Christian cannot be a "free agent":
On the contrary, you cannot love God without loving your brothers, you cannot love God outside of the Church; you cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church, and we cannot be good Christians if we are not together with those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, as one single people, one single body, and this is the Church.
The teachings of the Catholic Church encourages intimacy with God and at the same time protects us from delusions and mistakes as we struggle to draw closer to Christ.
Copyright 2019 Melanie Jean Juneau