Monday, July 1, 2013
Personal Relationship with Jesus: An Insider's View
This guest post was written by Chris Patterson, a good friend, longstanding Young Life leader, and practicing attorney in Kansas City, MO:
Several years ago, I had a wonderful conversation with the Catholic mother of one of my Young Life kids. “I appreciate what Young Life is doing for my daughter,” she said. “The Catholic Church does a good job of helping us have a relationship with the Church. But Young Life does a good job of helping kids have a relationship with Jesus.”
As a Protestant at the time, I appreciated her words. In fact, I had a bit of an honest arrogance about how well our ministry does at helping kids personally know Jesus! I even found her statement to be true of various Protestant denominations. My two thoughts were: “What good is it to have a relationship with the church if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” and “There are a lot of Catholics and Protestants who don’t have a clue as to what it means to have a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’.”
Then I became Catholic. Things always look different from the inside. In the Catholic Church I found wonderful Christians with strong, personal relationships with Jesus. I also found some who looked confused when I mentioned the concept.
During my journey to Catholicism, I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (BTW, if you ever want to REALLY KNOW what Catholics believe, in depth and beauty, the CCC is well worth reading). Divided into four parts, Part Four, on Prayer, begins:
"Great is the mystery of the faith!" The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. That relationship is prayer.
I was delighted! And excited! The Catechism of the Catholic Church was telling me that Catholic stuff – what we believe, the way we worship and the life we live in Christ – MUST flow out of a living relationship with Him! Sounded pretty Young Life-ish to me!
At the same time, I saw how the Catholic Church helped me understand faith, gave me access to sacramental power to worship well, and helped me to live and love like Jesus. All of that flowed out of relationship with Jesus, but it also made a relationship with Jesus possible! I started to understand that I needed a personal relationship with the Body as well as the Head!
Even though the Catechism clearly teaches us about relationship with God, why does the concept sometimes seem to be a well-kept secret in the Catholic Church?
The answer is complex. But, I know this: We Catholics need to learn…
1) to talk to Catholics (kids and adults) about relationship with Christ,
2) in language and ways that they can understand,
3) through relationships with each other,
4) recognizing that we need to earn the right to be heard.
Young Life does this well, and can help us learn. In doing so, we all will grow in our relationship with the Body, as well as the Head.