The past few teachings I have had the privilege of sharing with our Catechumenate have emphasized our responsibility as Catholics to embrace and defend Holy Mother Church. I have tried to demonstrate through both Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition and good old common sense that one cannot have a real relationship with Jesus if one throws aside a relationship with His Bride - The Church.
I am not the most learned of Catholics. I am hardly a theologian and I do not pretend to be anything other than a mouthpiece for Truth. However, when I stumble across something that support Truth I appropriate it and then share it. If it makes sense, if it does not contradict Truth, then I want others to benefit by having the same knowledge.
Tonight, after a short work out at the gym, I soaked my arthritic body in a hot bath of Epsom Salts and tried to relax. I tried to forget the hardship of the last week (a sponsee who drank, fighting with Kaiser, stuck in a meeting for the parish with a pious blowhard...you know - the usual) by practicing the 7th Tradition - I took care of my poor body and tried to illuminate my tired mind. I started re-reading Gary G. Michuta's book Making Sense of Mary. I was struck, all of a sudden, by his assertion that the lovely language used by many Christians - the language that evangelicals and born again Christians use to try and trip up Catholics - that emphasizes a 'personal relationship with Jesus Christ' as being the most important aspect of the Christian Life is, well, not Biblically Sound.
Now look, I am not saying it is not important. Jesus Christ, the GodMan, must be first in my life if I am going to call myself a member of His Church. However, the Bible seems to point out a much more intimate relationship as being necessary and I was struck by Mr. Michuta's evidence that supports this teaching.
He talks about the most famous encounter in the Bible - the encounter between the devout and focused Jew, Saul of Tarsus, and Jesus Christ. Those who do not believe in the Resurrection have a really difficult time explaining this transformation. A young man, raised by good, solid Jewish people, extremely well educated, sent to study with the most famous rabbi of the day and so devout that he was not willing to tolerate these weirdly wrong-headed Jews that kept yelling about some criminal nobody executed by the Romans being the Messiah. In fact he was so incensed by their babbling and beliefs that he wanted to stamp them out - drag them from the synagogues and kill them. That is not just some guy that doesn't agree with a religious belief. No sir. That was one pissed off Jew.
When Jesus confronted Saul, what did He say? "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?" (Acts,9:4-5).
Mr. Michuta rightly points out that Jesus does not ask Saul why he is persecuting His followers, His Church or His best friends. Jesus does not ask Saul to stop bothering the people who have a close, personal relationship with Him.
He asks Saul why he is persecuting JESUS. In other words, Jesus identifies so closely with His followers that He sees them as being ONE with HIM.
The chapter goes on to point out that this encounter was so profound Paul's entire life changed. Father Robert Baron states that Paul began to preach Christ resurrected and did so in such a way that many gentiles thought he had come up with a new god named Resurrection. Obviously this encounter was not just some sort of early version of an altar call - Paul did not just accept that Jesus was the Messiah - Paul became one with Him.
The language used throughout Paul's writings describes our relationship with Jesus as being similarly to the one flesh relationship between husbands and wives. We are members of The Church. We are part of what is known as The Bride of Christ. Our relationship, therefore, needs to be much more intimate than simply a personal relationship. I can have a personal relationship with Him, but I have to be in love with Him, to be united to Him, to have that one flesh union He asks of all His followers.
The other night, Father Mark said to the class, "Some people might think Leslie needs to be in love...but they don't realize - she IS in love!".
He is right. I am in love. I am in love with Jesus and I want to do what HE has asked me to do, not what the world thinks I should do.
SO - tonight I challenge those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to go deeper, look for more, become more intimate with Him.
His Church is waiting for you...and He wants you HOME.