My friend is an Evangelical Christian, and she asked me if I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; I didn’t know how to respond to her. As Catholics, do we believe in having a personal relationship with Jesus?
Jesus was and is fully human and fully divine. When he lived and walked on this earth, he was able to develop very close relationships with individuals that became his disciples. They interacted with each other, shared meals together, laughed at each other’s jokes, prayed together and became good friends. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had many disciples, but he also chose 12 to become his chosen apostles, and there were even times such as the transfiguration, when Jesus selected three of his disciples to go with him. Jesus developed a personal relationship with each of his disciples, where he got to know them and they got to know him.
When Jesus died on the cross, that was not the end. Jesus rose from the dead; he was alive and so his personal relationships continued. Today, we believe that Jesus is just as alive and wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. As Catholics, we are not used to this language. The Catholic Church teaches that we are called to have a communal relationship and a personal relationship with Jesus. Our communal relationship is lived out by attending Mass each Sunday, by being of service to our neighbors, and by loving God and loving our neighbor. Our personal relationship is lived by getting to know the Lord, spending time in prayer with Jesus, entering into a relationship that would be no different than a relationship with our friends and family.
As Catholics, we are pretty good at knowing about Jesus. We have all heard the stories of Jesus, but we are called to go deeper than just knowing about Jesus, we are called to know, love and serve Jesus. I know about Giannis or Oprah, but I do not know them personally. We develop a personal relationship with Jesus by spending time with Jesus, sharing a meal with him (Eucharist), taking time to talk with Jesus every day (prayer), by listening to Jesus and listening to what he is asking of us, by loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
When I was a junior in high school, I attended a week-long summer camp where we had speakers that spoke about having a relationship with Jesus; they gave us our own Bible and encouraged us to read it, they taught us how to pray. That summer camp changed my life. Growing up Catholic, I knew how to live the communal aspect of my faith. I went to Mass every Sunday, I was very active in my parish, but now I needed to develop the personal relationship with Jesus. It didn’t happen overnight, but the more I read the Bible and prayed, the more I wanted to draw closer to Jesus. The more I helped others, the more I wanted to do service. I was being drawn in to see that not only did Jesus want a personal relationship with me, but I needed and desired a personal relationship with him. Yes, we believe in having a personal relationship with Jesus, and just like any relationship, we need to put in the time and effort to make it flourish.