HAVE you ever met someone who is passionate about their subject? A skydiver, horse-back rider, a sports fan, or an anthropologist, scientist, or antique restorer who lives and breathes their hobby or career? While they can inspire us, and even spark an interest in us toward their subject, Christianity is different. For it is not about the passion of yet another lifestyle, philosophy, or even religious ideal.
The essence of Christianity is not an idea but a Person. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, spontaneous speech to the clergy of Rome; Zenit, May 20th, 2005
CHRISTIANITY IS A LOVE STORY
What sets Christianity apart from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a host of other religions is that it is foremost a love story. The Creator has condescended not only to save man, but to love him, and love him intimately. Jesus became like us and then gave His life out of love for us. He, in fact, thirsts for your love and mine. cf. John 4:7; 19:28
Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us… God thirsts that we may thirst for him. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2560
It is a beautiful reality… but one that many cradle Catholics have missed, often because Jesus has never really been presented to them as one who is knocking on their hearts, wanting to be invited in. So it becomes easy to fall into a “routine of rites,” a sense of fulfilling an obligation rather than a destiny. What destiny? To be in a deep and loving relationship with the Holy Trinity that transforms every aspect of your life, goals, and purpose.
Sometimes even Catholics have lost or never had the chance to experience Christ personally: not Christ as a mere ‘paradigm’ or ‘value’, but as the living Lord, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition of the Vatican Newspaper), March 24, 1993, p.3.
That is, we need to become a character in the divine love story…
PERSONALLY KNOWING JESUS
Ask yourself: Do I talk to others only about the tenets of the Catholic faith, or do I actually speak about Jesus? Do I speak of a God-out-there, or of a friend, a brother, a lover who is right here, Emmanuel, God-with-us? Do my days center around Jesus and seeking first His Kingdom, or me and seeking first my kingdom? The answers may reveal whether you allow Jesus to reign in your heart or perhaps keep Him at arm’s length; whether you know only about Jesus, or actually know Him.
It is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us… Knowing God is not enough. For a true encounter with him one must also love him. Knowledge must become love. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Meeting with the youth of Rome, April 6th, 2006; vatican.va
In one of the many beautiful images of this love story is again the one found in Revelation where Jesus says:
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. (Rev 3:20)
The fact is that Jesus is often left standing outside the door of many Catholics who have in fact been going to Mass each Sunday their whole lives! Again, maybe it’s because they have never been invited to open their hearts, or told how to open their hearts and what is involved in developing a relationship with the Lord. It begins, really, by knocking on His door.
One must start by praying and talking to the Lord: “Open the door to me.” And what St Augustine often says in his homilies: “I knocked at the door of the Word to find out at last what the Lord wants to say to me.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Meeting with the youth of Rome, April 6th, 2006; vatican.va
Jesus is waiting to cross the threshold of faith into your heart, while He invites you to cross the threshold of fear into His. Don’t be afraid of what Jesus can and will do in your life! I have often said to the young people that I have shared the Gospel with in schools: “Jesus did not come to take away your personality—He came to take away your sins that destroy who you really are.”
Man, himself created in the “image of God” [is] called to a personal relationship with God…—Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 299
When he became Pope, Benedict XVI said in his first homily that each and every one of us is a “thought of God,” that we are not “casual and meaningless products of evolution” but rather that “each of us is willed, each of us is loved.” God is just waiting for each of us to give our “yes” to Him. For His “yes” for us was already spoken through the Cross.
When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me… (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
Drawing near to God, who is holy, means pulling away from sin, and all that is not holy. But here is where many become afraid, believing the lie that a personal relationship with Jesus is going to take away the “fun” of life.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship him. If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived for our freedom? No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No!… Only in friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, St. Peter’s Square, Inauguration Homily, April 24th, 2005; vatican.va
And so, dear brothers and sisters, before we speak further of doctrine or pastoral approaches and all that we’ve been discussing since the Synod in Rome, we have to make sure that we have the essential in place: a relationship with the Lord. And the Catechism teaches:
…prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2565
Going back to what I said at the beginning, it is one thing to have knowledge and even passion about a subject, but Christianity is different. It is not knowing about Jesus, but knowing Jesus, which comes through a committed sacramental and prayer life and friendship with the Lord. Being witnessess for Christ is not about clever techniques and formulas, but allowing the power and life of the Spirit to pour out of your relationship with Jesus like “rivers of living water.” cf. John 7:38 Because that’s what happens when you are in love with Love.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you! —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 29
May the Catholic Faith never be a sterile list of do’s and don’ts, a custom to keep rather than a life to be lived out.
Great theologians have tried to describe the essential ideas that make up Christianity. But in the end, the Christianity that they constructed was not convincing, because Christianity is in the first place an Event, a Person. And thus in the Person we discover the richness of what is contained. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Ibid.
Jesus is knocking upon your heart and mine, bringing with Him the riches of a heavenly banquet.
Have we let Him in yet?
- Pope Francis on feeling “spiritually comfortable”: Homily
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