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Catholic Spiritual Direction

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Dear Friends, a recent article in Homiletics and Pastoral Review (HPR) advanced a problematic perspective regarding how a Catholic should understand the idea that we must have a personal relationship with Jesus. I asked a scholar of St. John Paul II’s perspective on the topic, Dr. Carole Brown, and Ralph Martin who is a well-known scholar on the New Evangelization, to comment on the piece. Ralph indicated that his colleague Peter Herbeck had composed a solid response on the topic and Peter has given us permission to publish it here. As well, if this important topic is interesting to you, Dr. Brown’s response was also published by HPR and can be found here: The Problem with “Not” Having a Personal Relationship with Jesus.

A Personal Relationship with Jesus  

by Peter Herbeck

 

Is it possible, legitimate or even wise for Catholics to speak about the importance of having a “personal relationship with Jesus?” In the past few months, a discussion about this question has arisen among some Catholic theologians, authors, bloggers and lay folks. Some say the phrase is essentially Protestant and inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

One author concluded that the terminology is “purely subjective,” and often leads those who emphasize it to become “cafeteria Catholics,” people who pick and choose Catholic doctrine and practice based on their own subjective judgments.[i] She argues that thinking and speaking about faith in God in these terms can lead Catholics to base their faith on emotions and a “personal sense” of what Jesus wants them to believe and do. Others say the phrase leads to a de-emphasis of doctrine, sacraments and devotions that are distinctively Catholic. In other words, it relativizes the faith and people toward Protestantism.

I couldn’t disagree more with those who draw that conclusion. There is nothing inherently Protestant about a “personal relationship with Jesus.” It is not simply “an idea” that has “entered the minds of Catholics who have been exposed to Protestants.”

Numerous Magisterial and Papal documents use the exact phrase “personal relationship” with God. It is perfectly clear that the terminology is not inherently Protestant or alien to proper Catholic sensibilities. Consider the following examples.

Made for Relationship

Kathedraal - Bruiloft van Cana - Maarten de Vos (1595 - 97)The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation describes how God has designed the human person in His image and likeness precisely to enable us to know Him personally: “The invisible God out of the abundance of his love speaks to men as friends and lives among them, so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself,”(§2).

God desires to be in a personal relationship with each one of us. He has given us the capacity to know Him. He wants to speak to us as friends, and to “take us into fellowship with himself.” What an extraordinary gift!

The Second Vatican Council and the recent Popes have urged all the baptized to respond to Jesus’ command to “go make disciples of all nations.” The Decree on the Mission [Activity] of the Church says that proclamation and conversion must be, “sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God’s love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ” (§13).

The language here is clear: God seeks a relationship with each one of us that is personal. These same words are echoed by St. Pope John Paul II:

In the complex reality of mission, initial proclamation has a central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man “into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ” and opens the way to conversion. (Redemptoris Missio, 44)

We are reminded that through the words of Scripture God seeks a “personal relationship” with His people:“The word of God is the first source of all Christian spirituality. It gives rise to a personal relationship with the living God and with his saving and sanctifying will,” (Vita Consecrata, 94).

The Bible “gives rise to a personal relationship” because Jesus reveals Himself to us on every page. The Holy Spirit, the one who “searches the depths of God,” (1 Cor 2:10) inspires that word in such a way that we actually encounter Christ in the words of scripture. He speaks directly to our spirit, enabling us to know Him.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called for a “new season” of the reading of the Word of God by all the baptized, “so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus”(Verbum Domini, 72).

He also reminds us that the personal relationship we have with Jesus is deepened and shared most profoundly in the Eucharist:

The personal relationship which the individual believer establishes with Jesus present in the Eucharist constantly points beyond itself to the whole communion of the Church and nourishes a fuller sense of membership in the Body of Christ. (Sacramentum Caritatis, 68)

Conclusion

It’s obvious from these texts that the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” is an important part of the way the Magisterium of the Church refers to our faith in Christ. It’s not foreign or simply a Protestant imposition. Rather, it expresses an essential element of a deeply Catholic understanding of conversion and discipleship.

Normal Catholic Life

Catholics should not feel as though they are treading on dangerous ground when using this terminology or that they are somehow promoting a Protestant understanding of faith. It’s normal, or it ought to be, a normal part of Catholic life.

To say, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus,” is simply to say that I know, with deep personal conviction, that God knows me and He loves me. I know it because while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Rom 5:8); He poured His love into my heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). Through the Holy Spirit, I have seen what God has prepared for me in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 2:9-10); I have come to understand the gifts bestowed on me by God (1 Cor 2:12). By His mercy I have “tasted the heavenly gift…the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4-5).

I know Him in whom I have believed (2 Tim 1:12). I haven’t come to know him apart from the Catholic Church or despite the Catholic Church, but within the Catholic Church. The Jesus I know personally is the Jesus of the Bible, of the Catechism, the Jesus I meet in the sacraments, and in my neighbor. It is the Jesus who has made Himself known to me not simply with “plausible words of wisdom, but by a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 JesusChrist(GermanSteelEngraving)[KnockingAtDoor]Cor 2:4). He did that for me so that my “faith would not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God,” (1 Cor 2:5). And it is that faith, which by His grace, is near to me, on my lips and in my heart, enabling me to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Not only Lord of all, but my Lord and my Savior! (Rom 10:8-13).

He has done all of this for me, a sinner: wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked, (Rev 3:17), a foolish and weak man (1 Cor 1:26-27), who, apart from Christ lived without hope in the world (Eph 2:12).

This great mercy has come to me by grace, “not by my own doing, it is the gift of God,” (Eph 2:8). And now, I gladly boast in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9); I believe and so I speak (2 Cor 4:13). What I say is simple: I know Jesus Christ, in a personal way. I have a relationship with Him. He is my Lord, my Savior and my best friend. Do you know Him in this way? Would you like to? You can. He is here right now, with you, right where you are. He is standing at the door of your heart, knocking (Rev 3:20). Will you let him in?

 

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To learn more about Peter Herbeck you can find his work HERE.

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[i] Boyd, Jay, “The Problem with ‘A Personal Relationship with Jesus,’” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, July 10, 2014.

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Art:  Bruiloft van Cana [Wedding at Cana], Maerten de Vos, ca 1596, CC-PD-Mark; 19th century steel engraving (de: stahlstich) of Jesus Christ, by Peter Carl Geißler, PD-scan|PD-old, both Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Mike17

    Ms Boyd’s confusion is summed up in her own words:

    “So, do we need a “personal relationship with Jesus”? Yes, of course we do! However, a “personal relationship with Jesus” does not seem to indicate fidelity to the Church.”

    • MarcAlcan

      Yes, there is a disconnect there.
      Without the Church, there is a great likelihood that we are fashioning Jesus Christ in our own image – the hippy, flower wearing, lotus-position sitting, zen-smiling Jesus.

      • Martha

        This comment tickled me–wondering about the writer who thinks his own image is a hippy, flower wearing lotus-position sitting, zen-smiling Jesus. I think Jesus is more the long flowing robe, sandal footed, long haired, bearded “hippy”.

        • MarcAlcan

          Unfortunately there are many people who would like to present us with a saccharine Jesus. I’ve seen pictures of him sitting in lotus position with a zen smile on his face. Many like this kid of Buddha-like Jesus – one that does not challenge them.

    • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

      I have a personal relationship with my wife as part of our marriage. I have personal relationships with other people outside of my marriage. Both-and, either-or, neither-nor.

  • MarcAlcan

    Excellent article!
    I used to think this term a Protestant thing as well, way back 32 years ago, when the evangelicals made an aggressive campaign in our town.

    But now I know that without a personal relationship with Christ, then our faiths have no hope of moving in the right direction.

    I quote here from the book Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell:

    In 2004, Dominican Father Mike Fones and I were teaching in a large Canadian city, where a pastor had asked us to interview a few of his leaders. I subsequently found myself listening to a woman who was president of the local Catholic women’s group, but I wasn’t hearing any evidence of how God might be using her. Since charisms do not manifest until one’s faith becomes personal, I reasoned that if she could tell me about a spiritual turning point in her life, I would be able to focus on the years since that turning point. So I asked her a question that I had never asked before: Could you briefly describe to me your lived relationship with god to this point in your life? After thinking carefully for a few moment, she responded briskly, “I don’t have a relationship with God”. Her answer stunned me. My first thoughts were: “That’s not possible. You’re a leader in the parish. You wouldn’t do that without some kind of relationship with God. ..I spent the rest of the hour approaching the issue of relationship with God from every perspective I could think of. By the end of the interview I realized that she had accurately described her spiritual reality in the first place. While God had a relationship with her (or she would not exist!), she did not have a conscious relationship with God. No wonder she struggled to discern her charisms! Her parish involvement is devoid of spiritual motiviation.

    For us to be truly conformed to His will, we need to have a deeply personal relationship with Christ.

    • Jeanette

      Thank you for this. I have read the same book, Forming Intentional Disciples, and remember the example you quote. It’s exactly what I have been saying in the Parish Council…we need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We have been trying to discern how to motivate parishioners in our Church to engage in the ministries of the Church or to initiate new ones. My point has been that once one has a ‘conversion’ or deep personal relationship with Jesus, one would seek out engagement within the Parish or community by the nudges (grace) of the Holy Spirit within us. If one does not have this relationship, any ‘work’ that is done in the Parish or community is for other reasons than love of God…human love, social, ambition, pride etc. One of our Deacons, just yesterday, said to a few of us: “Thank you for your passion. There are not that many in our Parish that have passion.” That passion comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus and from that, we truly love our neighbour because they are made in the image and likeness of God and because God loves them so much. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your Love!”

      • MarcAlcan

        Amen! Let’s all go out there because I think if we are passionate about Christ we will be contagious :-)
        No one wants to listen to half-committed, half-hearted people.

        • Jeanette

          Yes, that’s what the New Evangelization is meant to be about! God bless!

  • Bonita Lay

    Question..and WHO made it so difficult to have a personal relationship with Jesus?

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      The world, the flesh, and the devil.

      • Diane

        Short and to the absolute point! Bravo!

      • Becky Ward

        Amen!

    • MarcAlcan

      Dan has answered your question to the point.
      But the question is not so much who makes it difficult, but WHO makes it possible? After all He is God and we are mere creatures. But He stoops down to make it possible. He’s wooing us all the time.

  • Liz Galvano Harshbarger

    Excellent article. I’ve tried for years to explain this idea to Protestants who believe that Catholics could never have such an experience. Well done.

  • DianeVa

    Excellent article! Thank you for posting it Dan. As a cradle Catholic I did not have a personal relationship with God! By his grace he brought into my life an evangelical friend (ex-Catholic) who introduced this concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. Having this seed planted within my heart and other things going on in my life was the correct mix for me to open my heart to God and He gave me the strength and desire to research my Catholic faith and stay in the Church. like so many have done, I could have just left and became evangelical, but something made me stay put. That something I now see is Truth, aka Jesus! Jesus=Truth=Catholic Church. They are all one, intertwined like the strongest cord imaginable. Passion for Jesus leads to passion for the Church and this takes many paths and various lengths of time. We as Catholics must keep using this terminology to bring our brethren back to their cradle Catholic roots as well as kindle the fire within of those who continue to come to Mass but need fanning into flame. I thank God each day for the hunger and desire He has placed within my heart for the New Evangelization! I too read Sherry’s book and it truly is right on the money! I encourage all to read it and follow Renewal Ministries in addition to this ministry, they make a great resource team for your faith journey!

  • GHM_52

    I agree with the author, but still think that the way the term is normally used is Protestant in nature. That is, the way this term is mostly used has to do with how many parish ministries one is involved in. I read the Forming Intentional Disciples book and did not like it. It felt like reading something written by a political hack enamored with polling. It is very dangerous to talk about the Faith in such binary terms as “active” or “passive”, implying that “passivity” (usually understood as disengagement from parish ministries) is a sign of not living out a “personal relationship with Jesus”. This is just the old and wrong concept of “contemplative” spirituality (bad) vs active spirituality (good). Most people in this world are up to their necks with primary duties such as family (which includes not only spouses and children, but elderly parents or grandparents) and work. It is only by God’s grace that these people are able and willing to go to Sunday Mass and perhaps once or twice during the weak, go to confession at least monthly, engage in their preferred prayer devotions, and offer themselves to God asking for His peace and providential care. These people do not need religious “activists” telling them that their non participation in a zillion parish ministries is a sign of their not having yet established a “personal relationship with God”. As far as I’m concerned an intentional disciple is anyone who (whether Catholic or not) has purity of intention (as the Catholic Church defines that term).

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear GHM – I think your concerns are important to consider but it really doesn’t matter if a Catholic uses a term that is used similarly in Protestantism. The question is, the validity of it. You might peruse the Vatican web site and search for “personal relationship with God” and “personal relationship with Jesus”. You may be surprised to find more than 100 references – all positive. The context of these references may bring you some solace as to the truly Catholic nature of this idea.

      • GHM_52

        Thanks, Dan, for your kind response. I never doubted, Dan, that the Catholic Church has used that term many times. After all, who has ever had a more personal relationship with God than the Jews in the Old Testament and then us, the followers of Jesus Who is the “summit” of it all? I do not mind the term as long as it is used in the Catholic sense. Its use by Catholics in a “protestant” sense is what irks me. I find it very dangerous in its capability of making Catholics who DO have a very personal relationship with God doubt themselves and that relationship. That indiscriminately used term in many of our parishes is also tempting quite a few Catholics to forgo primary duties in a futile search for a personal relationship with God via participation in parish ministries. As I said in my first comment, I agree with the author that the term is very much a Catholic term and not a Protestant one. However, that misunderstanding (of the term being Protestant) is, as far as I’m concerned, not the main issue. The main issue is how the term is used by many Catholics who have seemingly “discovered” the term, but, in its Protestant sense. That is the issue being discussed in many Catholic blogs and I agree with the concern of those writers.

        • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

          I’m a cradle Catholic raised in the Bible Belt…having a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ was/is part of the vernacular of Christians in general here.

    • MarcAlcan

      I read the Forming Intentional Disciples book and did not like it. It felt like reading something written by a political hack enamored with polling.

      To view the statistics presented in the book as “being enamored with polling” is to miss the point. The point of the statistics is to shed light on the haemorrhaging of the Catholic Church in terms of “membership” and to show the state of Christianity in the west today. It was not a matter of numbers per se but using numbers to understand the rather dismal situation in the western Church at present and why.

      implying that “passivity” (usually understood as disengagement from parish ministries) is a sign of not living out a “personal relationship with Jesus”.

      That’s not what the author meant at all. In fact, at the very beginning, she cites a woman who is very active in the parish who does not have a personal relationship with God at all.
      What the author was getting at is discernment or emergence of charisms – which she said manifests itself when we have a profound conversion to Christ. Many Catholics need a re-conversion or even a conversion because some do not even have an initial conversion at all.

      Most people in this world are up to their necks with primary duties such as family (which includes not only spouses and children, but elderly parents or grandparents) and work. It is only by God’s grace that these people are able and willing to go to Sunday Mass

      I don’t know about others who read this statement but there is something that just sounds askew here. It sounds like Sunday Mass is a hurdle that we need to overcome by God’s grace – something like a trip to the dentist. If we think of Sunday Mass in this way, then something is wrong somewhere – what Scott Hahn refers to as “Resisting A Rest”.

      These people do not need religious “activists” telling them that their non participation in a zillion parish ministries is a sign of their not having yet established a “personal relationship with God”.

      I’m sorry but you really missed the point of FID. If one really does have a personal relationship with Christ, then Sunday Mass would not be the hurdle, the obligation that it seems in your statement above. I think when one develops a very personal relationship with Christ, then He takes precedence and so one’s life is then ordered around Christ. The caring for families and everything else then start to revolve around the central figure of Christ. Going to Mass becomes a joy.

      We are currently conducting evangelization programs in our parish and some of the reasons that people give for not turning up are: have to go to football, have to go shopping or watch a movie. And these are people who are involved in parish ministry who plan barbeques and dinner dances. As Jeannette mentioned in another post, reasons for involvement in parish ministry can be social or for the ego – anything but the Lord.

      As far as I’m concerned an intentional disciple is anyone who (whether Catholic or not) has purity of intention (as the Catholic Church defines that term).

      CCC 2520 purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything
      Discernment is very much required in deciding whether one is indeed fulfilling God’s will in everything and what is God’s will in a particular situation.

    • MarcAlcan

      I read the Forming Intentional Disciples book and did not like it. It felt like reading something written by a political hack enamored with polling.

      GMH, I’ve replied to your post before but I am just wondering, did you read beyond chapter 1? Because after the data in chapter 1, the rest of the book is replete with examples, stories of conversion, etc, etc.
      It is such an incredible book for anyone who wishes to become an intentional disciple of the Lord.
      Jeff Cavins asked in one of his webinars on discipleship are we fans or Jesus or are we Disciples of Jesus. And I think that is a very important question that we all must ask ourselves. I suppose we will move in and out between these and the only way we can remain a disciple is if we choose consciously – intentionally – to become one.

      • GHM_52

        Yes. I read beyond chapter 1, which required much discipline. Just for future reference, I am a trained speed reader. My usual reading method is as follows: 1. Quick first read to absorb the main ideas; 2. Second slow read with highlighting and taking notes; 3. Final re-examination of highlighted material and notes in order to clarify any doubts or further check concepts of special interest or applicability to me. So, after reading the FID book in my accustomed way, I found it significantly wanting. As for the Jeff Cavins question, I would have responded that the way the question is formulated, it implies a dichotomy between being a fan and being a true disciple. I believe there is no dichotomy. Being a true fan of an idol implies a belief in the idol’s worthiness and greatness as well as a commitment to follow the idol to the end of the world, if necessary. So, a truly committed fan is indeed, by default, a truly committed disciple. In the same manner that you appear amazed by my less than enthusiastic response to the FID book, I am amazed that so many Catholics seem to have “discovered” by reading it what a “personal” relationship with Jesus is and/or what following Jesus “intentionally” is. Not only Christ Himself teaches that particular lesson in His Gospels, but we see what intentional discipleship is in the person of His Most Immaculate Mother and His Most Chaste foster father, St. Joseph. All of them clearly explain and show what intentionality means in the context of our Faith so much better! And, in case we needed further prodding we have access to such amazing teachers of what that means in practical terms such as St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, De Caussade, Thomas Kempis, St. Therese of Lissieux, St. Padre Pio, St. Ignatius of Loyola, etc. Perhaps, I’ve been spoiled by having read some if the works of such luminaries of the Faith…They are a really hard act to follow!

        • MarcAlcan

          Yes. I read beyond chapter 1, which required much discipline.

          Okay. I find it strange then that you seem to have reduced it to chapter 1.

  • http://wasteyourtime.mtgames.org/ Scaevola

    The problems which prompted the response piece are not problems with a personal relationship with Christ, but with a misunderstanding of what it means to have a relationship with God. True relationship to Jesus would not result in the de-emphasis of His teachings or a subjectivization of the Truth He has preserved for us in His Church. Rightly understood, this sort of relationship with Christ can be fostered most fully *only* in the Catholic Church, via the Sacraments and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

    • GHM_52

      Excellently put!

    • MarcAlcan

      Amen!!

  • A. Crawford

    I went back and read the original article, as well as a lot of the comments that follow. A few things: First, it seems to me this conversation wouldn’t even be happening if classic Catholic spirituality had been taught faithfully, in which the goal of a spiritual life properly formed in the Church is mystical union with Christ. Second, Catholics do speak freely of having a relationship with Mary, the Mother of God. Mary is our way to Jesus; friendship with the mother is our way to friendship with the Son. I haven’t seen anyone in the controversy mention this, but it may be subconsciously bothering some Catholics that the emphasis on a “personal relationship with Jesus” is implicitly short-cutting the process (and, the way Protestants mean it, it does, there’s no question). Finally, I think no one is questioning the need for a relationship with Jesus on either side of the controversy. What is bothering some people, apparently, is the terminology. For Catholics, a relationship with Jesus is more analogous to a marriage than to a friendship, and the terminology of “personal relationship” doesn’t quite convey that, whereas the language of mystical union does, describing the vastly deeper relationship we have with Christ in Holy Communion. I think, though, that calling attention to what we have as Catholics in Holy Communion and making Catholics aware of what they have is a very good thing. In the controversy, I’m noticing a divide between converts and cradle Catholics, with the converts, by and large, being against the use of the “personal relationship” language. I think there may be a fear that Catholics will cheapen this great thing we have through using Protestant language. They might be right; language does matter. However, I also think that we may get Protestants’ attention by using their language to emphasize that no one needs to leave the Catholic Church to have this great privilege.

    • MarcAlcan

      Second, Catholics do speak freely of having a relationship with Mary, the Mother of God. Mary is our way to Jesus; friendship with the mother is our way to friendship with the Son.

      I have a bit of a problem with this assumption because I know some who are very Marian because they feel that Jesus is unapproachable so they go to His Mother.

      There is like an assumption that Jesus might deny them but Mary never will and so will cajole the Lord into giving in to their wishes because she asked.

      One lady said that she always prays to Mary. When I asked her why she couldn’t pray directly to Jesus, she said Mary will take her prayers to Jesus. And that is of course true. But I found it sad that she feels she can have a good relationship with the Mother of God but can’t have a relationship with God Himself. It is no wonder that Protestants accuse us of Mariolatry especially when the only Catholics they know are those like this woman.

      For Catholics, a relationship with Jesus is more analogous to a marriage than to a friendship

      Thanks for that very important point. However, I would qualify this statement this way: For Catholics who are committed disciples of Jesus the relationship is more like a marriage than a friendship. And I wholeheartedly agree with this. This is the whole point of the Eucharist – the wedding supper of the Lamb.

      I don’t like much referring to Jesus as my friend, I think it is too banal. The matrimonial, betrothal images I think capture it much more fully. Besides, you cannot get more personal than a spousal relationship.

      I’m noticing a divide between converts and cradle Catholics, with the converts, by and large, being against the use of the “personal relationship” language. I think there may be a fear that Catholics will cheapen this great thing we have through using Protestant language.

      That’s actually a really valid point – that we might forget that God is at the same totally other – transcendent.
      However, I don’t think that will happen for those who become true disciples of God.

      • A. Crawford

        MarcAlcan, have you ever read St. Louis de Montfort’s *True Devotion to Mary*? If not, do! Wonderful book.

        Re your answer to my marriage point: there are bad marriages and good marriages. My point was made in relation to the reception of the Eucharist–its utter intimacy–and to its reality, without reference to any other aspects of a marriage. I think Catholics who are not committed disciples of Jesus Christ are still in the marriage–but they are not experiencing it as a good marriage, if you see what I mean. In fact, they may very well be eating and drinking damnation to themselves. The relationship with Christ is objectively there, whether the person who is receiving the Eucharist realizes it or not. When Catholics don’t realize what they have…it’s nothing short of a tragedy and even disaster. Can you imagine what the world would be like if every Catholic realized what we have?

        You misunderstood my last point that you responded to a little bit, but I agree with everything you say, so I won’t try to clarify. :-)

  • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

    I was blessed to grow up in a household where a personal relationship with Jesus was encouraged. It was a given that faith was to be personal. I did not think of that in terms of “subjective.” It’s so important for Catholics to know that faith is not just a matter of going to Church on Sunday! Heaven will be relating with the Trinity in a deeply personal way. Perhaps if more Catholics heard and were formed in the correct meaning of the term–that it does not exclude the institutional Church or our connection to others in the Body of Christ–fewer would be swayed towards Evangelical Protestantism. Our hearts long for this relationship with Jesus, and if we do not find it as Catholics, we may search for it elsewhere.

  • Paul Beecher

    We’re the relationships Jesus had with all those He touched during His ministry here on earth not personal? I would imagine His apostles each thought they had a personal relationship with Jesus.

  • Pam

    Great article! What kind of Dad would our Lord be if we didn’t know him intimately?! And when we participate in the Sacraments, we really get to know him. The awesome part is that he reaches out to us and makes the relationship possible — not just possible — really special and unique. What a gift of love! I am glad to know the Lord personally. I am glad to know Jesus personally and I am blessed to have the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit guiding me. All of this is possible because I have the awesome privilege of experiencing Jesus in the real presence; and asking his forgiveness directly when I mess up. Doesn’t get any better than that!! Thank you Lord! I’d say we should get to telling everyone how blessed we Catholics are and invite them to meet Jesus up close & personal too! They are missing out on the best the Lord has to offer.

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  • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

    Gee whiz, people have been having personal relationships with God since Eden.

  • Sista T

    Thank you.
    For the great example for me to share with others a better way of understanding what it is i’m trying to say when I do go out and share my story.
    It is hard to share and sometimes these experiences are full of emotions and it is overwhelming to explain.
    You have given a Bible text version of a easy to understand way of saying;
    I have a relationship with Jesus, can I share it with you, and maybe you can share yours too!
    Maybe I can combine your opening and closing to my experiences? But, anyway,
    I am truely grateful for your guidence and direction.

  • Carlos Caldera

    Catholics have a personal relationship with God through and in the Sacraments and the Church. We should be careful when we use the term that we make this clear so it is not confused with the Protestant meaning.

    The Protestant have a different meaning that implies no religion, no priests, no church, nothing between one person and Jesus. I saw a t-shirt at a Christian store implying just that. It said “It’s not about going to church. It’s about a personal relationship with Jesus”. My immediate thought was that whoever wrote that knew nothing about Catholicism.

    After thinking about that t-shirt I realized I go to Church because that is the biggest part of my personal relationship with Jesus.

    • MarcAlcan

      Good point!

  • http://www.brandyouresumes.com Lynn

    I’m a bit late joining the discussion, but as a protestant, I never had a personal relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t until I became a Catholic that I began to form one.

  • Robert Burns

    Here is Blessed Mother Theresa’s letter to her sisters on a personal relationship with Jesus. A mature intellectual and emotional personal relationship.

    Jesus wants me to tell you again, how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all that you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love?

    Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books, but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for this grace, He is longing to give it. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as a real living Person – not just an idea.

    How can we last – even one day living our life without hearing Jesus say “I love you” – impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead – meditation is only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him – speaking in the silence of your heart.

    Be carefully of all that can block that personal being in touch with the living Jesus. The hurts of life, and sometimes your own mistakes – [they] make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really clinging to you. This is a danger for all of you. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you.

    Not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. Even if you are not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes – He is the one who always accepts you.

    My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe – you are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet – only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.
    You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you – but in this letter Mother wants to touch your heart instead. Jesus wants to stir up our hearts, so not to lose our early love…

    Why is Mother saying these things? After reading [Pope John Paul II's] letter “I Thirst”, I was struck so much – I can not tell you what I felt. His letter made me realize more than ever how beautiful is our vocation. How great is God’s love for us in choosing [us] to satiate that thirst of Jesus, for love, for souls – giving us our special place in the Church. At the same time we are reminding the world of His thirst, something that was being forgotten.
    I wrote to Holy Father to thank him. [His] letter is a sign… to go more into what is this great thirst for Jesus for each one. It is also a sign for Mother, that the time has come for me to speak openly of the gift God gave [on] Sept. 10th – to explain fully as I can what means for me the thirst of Jesus.

    For me, Jesus’ thirst is something so intimate – so I have felt shy until now to speak to you of Sept. 10th – I wanted to do as Our Lady who “kept all these things in her heart.” Jesus’ words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? If so, you will hear, you will feel His presence. Let it become as intimate for each of you, just as for Mother – this is the greatest joy you could give me.

    Jesus Himself must be the one to say to you “I Thirst.” Hear your own name. Not just once. Every day. If you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand.

    Why does Jesus say “I thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words – if you remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this – “I thirst” is something much deeper than just Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.

    Before it was Our Lady pleading with Mother, now it is Mother in her name pleading with you – listen to Jesus’ thirst.

    How to approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret – the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst. “Repent and believe”, Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor – He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time.

    Whenever we come close to Him – we become partners of Our Lady, St John, Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name. Make my joy and yours complete.

    Let us pray,

    God bless you,
    M. Teresa MC.”

    • LizEst

      Ah yes! It’s an excerpt from her famous “Varanasi Letter” dated March 25th, 1993 to the Missionaries of Charity for Easter. Thank you for sharing.