Getting Personal

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls each one of us to an intimate, personal relationship with Him. Unfortunately, some Catholics are uncomfortable with this “personal relationship” terminology.

Yet Christianity is not a mere moral code, ethnic club, or cultural phenomenon. Nor is it about rooting for Notre Dame instead of big, bad secular colleges on Saturday afternoon.

Rather, at its very core is the acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our personal Lord and Savior. He saves us as His family, the Church, but He does so by saving each one of us personally. [more]

As we take positive steps to nurture this personal relationship, we must continually return to this fundamental point: It is God who initiates the relationship. God has first loved us, and our vocation is to respond to that love. And God does not merely initiate the relationship; He goes looking for us! That’s what the Incarnation–the Word becoming flesh–is all about.

This awesome truth helps us to see the Eucharist in a new light. Before we enter God’s world as His beloved children, He first enters ours. Since the pre-eminent way that God remains in our world is through the Holy Eucharist, then the Eucharist must give us important clues as to why Christ assumed human nature in the first place (see Catechism, nos. 456-60). The Eucharist points not so much to God’s “inaccessible transcendence” so much as it does to His “divine condescension.” The Eucharist is about God coming to us.

Our Heavenly Father has willed our existence from all eternity, called each one of us by name, and prepared a place for each one of us in heaven. While we remain free to accept or reject His gifts, He earnestly desires our salvation.

Now, what human father would give his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread (cf. Mt. 7:9)? In other words, even flawed human fathers generally strive to do right by their children. How much more has our heavenly Father taken into account our needs and desires in His plan of salvation for us. His will for us is truly “for our own good” or, as we profess more formally in the Creed, “for us men and for our salvation.”

We can see this principle at work in our Lord’s response to criticisms of His disciples who were picking heads of grain on the Sabbath. He says, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mk. 2:27). In keeping the Lord’s Day, we are not submitting to oppressive, arbitrary rules. Rather, the Lord’s Day is for our own good. Our participating in Sunday Mass and observing a day of rest corresponds with the basic human need to worship God outwardly, publicly, and regularly (see Catechism, no. 2176). It also addresses the need to put our all-consuming human endeavors in their proper context.

Similarly, Our Lord has taken the initiative with respect to the Eucharist. He gives it to us as the memorial of His suffering and death, commanding us to “do this” in His memory. He further advises us that if we don’t “do this,” then we have no life in us (see Jn. 6:53).

Our Lord assuredly does not place unnecessary stumbling blocks on the road to His Father’s house. Rather, as a God who seeks us out, who is intimately involved with the human family and who knows what’s best for us, He gives us His own Body and Blood to help us experience the salvation He won for us and to strengthen us in our Christian pilgrimage.

It is incumbent upon us, then, to thank the Lord for this sublime gift and to beg Him to increase our faith and devotion. Then we can in some way relive the “Eucharistic amazement” of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. After all, our God is truly with us.

More to the point, He is with you, and He is with me.

3 Responses to “Getting Personal”

  1. JohnE says:

    "Yet Christianity is not a mere moral code, ethnic club, or cultural phenomenon."
    I think this ties in nicely with some of your earlier posts. If it was a mere moral code, ethnic club, or cultural phenomenon, perhaps excommunication would be a much easier task. But God is our Father and wants each of us in his family. There are still probably many cases where excommunication is called for and would be helpful to bring someone back, but it does give me an appreciation for the difficult jobs our bishops must do.

    p.s. The quote, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath", is actually from Mark. I only know because I”m in a bible study on the Gospel of Matthew, we”re on chapter 4, and I didn”t recall reading that yet.

  2. leon says:

    Good catch, it is Mark 2:27. The parallel page in Matthew doesn”t appear until chapter 12.

  3. Carole says:

    Hi Leon!

    Just found your blog! I just finished my dissertation, on "conversion" in the writing of JP2, and he emphasizes personal relationship with Christ with great gusto–as does our current Holy Father.

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