Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thoughts On Personal Relationship With Jesus

Years ago, an Evangelical friend of mine was talking about a friend of hers who was a Catholic. She said this gal seemed to have more of a relationship with the Church than with Jesus. I didn't think anything of it. Of course Catholics didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus. Everyone knows they're usually well meaning, but woefully deceived. Everything was about Mary or the Mass or the Pope.

As a Protestant, we clung to our Bibles & prayed to the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. The angels- Gabriel & Michael- were the only ones we ever heard about & we never talked about Mary except at Christmas. She was just some peasant girl who became a surrogate mom. The Apostles were inspiring role models & historic preachers & teachers were considered “saints”, but once they died, that was it. They went to sleep & nobody's "waking up" til Christ comes back. Suffice it to say, I remember feeling very alone... 

Since I've been a Catholic, I think I'm the one who was woefully deceived. I can't help but be astounded by the blessing of “family” in the Catholic Church: Father, Son & Holy Spirit, Mary, the apostles, the saints... even the Old Testament prophets like Moses & Elijah... they're all alive, right now. I am, at this moment, in communion with all of the Church, both past & present. Time is no barrier. We're all connected because God is a God of the living, not the dead (Mt 22:32, Mk 12:27, Lk 20:38). Hebrews 12:1 says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Chapter 11 tells us who those witnesses are and guess what? They're all "dead". How can that be? 

The Catholic Church believes there are 3 different regiments of Christians- the church triumphant, the church militant and the church suffering. We who are alive on this earth are the church militant because we are still fighting evil in our midst. The dead in Christ, who have gone onto their rest in Heaven, are the church triumphant & those who have died in Christ but remain in purgatory are the church suffering because they're still being purified from the effects of their temporal sin. Since Jesus' death & resurrection, death no longer separates us from one another. Those who have shuffled off their mortal coil are still very much alive. The church triumphant can intercede for me & I, in turn, can intercede for those in purgatory. 

For instance, when I'm struggling with something (say... anger or purity), I pray to God and suddenly a saint I've never "met" before comes into my life. Their names start appearing in books I'm reading, talks I'm listening to, online searches and other places. When I dig for more info, I discover the help I need in the form of a word of advice, an encouraging story or a prayer they prayed. This is exactly how I "met" people like Dymphna, Germaine, Gemma Galgani, Angela Foligno & my own patron saint, Francis De Sales. I know it sounds ridiculous to think this means they're alive or that their "presence" in my life is equivalent to intercession, but I can't help but wonder... Sometimes you just have to take things on faith. Even if God is the One Who determines which attributes of a particular "dead" saint in history would assist me most, that person is, in a sense, made alive to me once again... 

If someone were to ask me if I have a personal relationship with Jesus, I don't know if I would answer the same way I did years ago. The old "Jesus & me" mentality seems... limiting and kind of selfish. It actually serves to isolate me from the Church because it rejects those who have gone before me. Only when I'm in relationship with the entire communion of saints can I have a "personal" relationship with Jesus. Its His Body, the Church, that makes His presence real in my life.

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