Over at Aggie Catholics, Marcel LeJeune dispels any myths or rumors that Catholics don’t/shouldn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
This concept of having a personal relationship with Jesus sometimes sounds too Protestant to some Catholics. That simply isn’t true, it is as Catholic as all concepts. We have been using the language long before our Protestant brothers and sisters were ever around and the universal Church has never lost touch with this language, even if some individuals or communities have.
So true! Church teaching, especially as articulated by Popes makes the essentiality of this relationship clear. Marcel names just a few of the quotes that make this oh-so-clear:
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.” -Pope Francis
“Being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.” -Pope Francis
“It is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ, mankind’s only Savior.” Pope Saint John Paul II
“Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” -Pope Benedict XVI
“Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we truly become Christians.” -Pope Benedict XVI
“This mystery (of faith), then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.” -CCC 2558
To his list I’d add one of my personal favorites, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est, §1. Here Benedict calls believing in God’s love [in Jesus Christ] the “fundamental decision” of a person’s life. It’s a decision that “gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” So, I guess, asking “Have you made a decision for Christ?” [not uncommon in Evangelical circles] is pretty Catholic, indeed 😉
So, why doesn’t this get clearly communicated? Here’s what I mean. When I walked into the Baptist church I started attending in high school, there were tracts all over the place presenting this simple teaching and explaining (in less than 4 pages) how I could enter into this personal relationship. Yet, I’d grown up in a Catholic parish (as an active parishioner) and had not considered the possibility nor implications of a relationship with God.
Obviously to truly share this great truth with a parish it has to come from the pulpit, opportunities for faith formation, and more. But, on the level of passive communication, maybe there are easy ways to start, like 1) small cards in the pews, 2) short explanation/exhortation in the bulletin, 3) tracts in the doorway areas of the church, etc. There’s no reason why having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ needs to be one of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church.