Have a personal relationship with Christ

By Bishop David Ricken

The Gospels report that Jesus sought a personal relationship with all the apostles. When some of Christ’s followers walked away from him at Capernaum after his clear teaching about Eucharist, Jesus turned to the apostles and asked, “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn 6:67) The Gospel also notes that John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”

bpricken_headshot_new

Bishop Ricken

During the passion Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus wanted his personal relationship with Peter restored, by asking him three times, “Do you love me?” Peter replied three times that he did love him. Jesus had a personal relationship with Mary Magdalene and honored her by appearing first to her at Easter and commissioned her to announce the resurrection to the apostles. Because of this she is called an “apostle to the apostles.”

Over a three-year period, Jesus established a relationship with the 12 apostles, the 72 disciples and the women who followed him (Lk 3:8). He formed them into community. Later he appeared to 500 people who had remained faithful to him.

In our parishes would it not be a blessing if all the members would have a personal relationship with Jesus? He is alive. He dwells among us, especially in the tabernacle. God is love by nature.

Human lovers hunger for company, companionship, presence. Divine love does not seek permanent isolation from the people whose existence depends on him. The Trinity is God the communion of three persons. Relationships originate with God. The more we tend to our community the more we learn discipleship and become persons in communion.

Saints understand the impact of closeness to Christ. Blessed Mother Teresa visited San Francisco on June 4, 1982. She met with a community that sponsored her trip. In her talk she said, “When Jesus said, ‘My peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you.’ He was not giving a peace which means that we don’t bother with each other. He came to give peace of heart that comes from loving, from serving others.

“We are called to do more than say, ‘I love you Jesus.’ We are called to fulfill our obligation to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We have an opportunity to do that every day. We respond to Jesus’ call when we encourage a depressed person, when you bring a hot meal to a family in need. There are many ways of bringing Jesus to people by your example.” (“The Unseen Power of Prayer,” Michael McDevitt, p. 137)

Modern people stress their search for God. Biblical people emphasized God’s search for us. The Victorian poet Francis Thompson described God as the “Hound of Heaven,” chasing him until he accepted the love God offered him. Victorian artist Holman Hunt created a small painting that illustrates Jesus trying to reach us. It is titled, “The Light of the World.” Jesus is wearing a white robe. In one hand he holds a brightly-lit lantern. In the other hand he is knocking on the door which is framed by vines and branches. There is no knob on the door. Only the person inside can open this door. Hunt based his painting on Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door [then] I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me.” This a scene ready-made for an evangelizer. To be able to show Jesus, the word through whom the world was made, as standing humbly at the door of our hearts is awesome.

Who is the Jesus with whom we are asked to have a personal relationship? A swift journey through the Gospels gives us Jesus. In Matthew we meet a Jesus who is the Messiah. He has come to establish the kingdom of love, justice and mercy. His use of the word kingdom has nothing to do with human politics or the vain ambitions of people who want power. Mark’s Gospel gives the Jesus who is the embodiment of the figure of the suffering servant in Isaiah. The shadow of the cross hovers over Mark’s deep and reverent words. Our Lord comes to redeem us. When asked what we should do, he says “If you would be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Open the Gospel of Luke so you can see the human face of Jesus. Luke remembers the Christ who loved to forgive people, who sought the poor, who liked to make meals an event of table fellowship, and who emphasized prayer for the members of his kingdom. Luke also retains the charming birth stories of Christ which have an enduring presence in our crib scenes, carols and shepherds.

John’s Gospel dwells on Christ as Son of God. The opening words, “And the word was made flesh,” stress the divinity of Christ. The miracles in this Gospel are called signs, manifestations of the divine glory of Christ. After the wine miracle, John gives us the meaning of this event: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (Jn 2:11). All four Gospels present a Jesus who is divine, human and the Messiah who is crucified and risen from the dead in order to save us from our sins.

How do we maintain our relationship with Christ? Los Angeles parish priest, Fr. G. Peter Irving III, offers these actions: “Make room for him in your busy life. Put him into your daily planner or smartphone. Don’t stand him up. Arrive punctually for your times of prayer. Spend time with him near the tabernacle. If possible go to Mass daily and receive him in holy Communion with a clean soul. Be persevering and watch what the Lord will do: ‘Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ (John 1:51)” From Catholic Online.

This is our faith and the faith-based attitudes that will support our calling to evangelize.