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Father Muench Says...

What does a relationship with Jesus mean?

Sept. 6, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Thomas Merton wrote this in September, 1967,  as part of an Easter homily that he entitled “He is Risen:” 

“True encounter with Christ liberates something in us, a power we did not know we had, a hope, a capacity for life, a resilience, an ability to bounce back, when we thought we were completely defeated, a capacity to grow and change, a power of creative transformation.”

Today, I would like to share with you something that I developed from the Sunday Gospel reading from a few Sundays ago.  That was the Gospel in which Jesus was alone with his apostles.  Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He was talking about himself.  The apostles had heard a few things – John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet.  Then Jesus asks them: “Who do you say that I am?”  It is Peter who answers – he seems to be inspired to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

On that Sunday, I began my homily by suggesting that each one of us there should give an answer to that question of Jesus , a help for each of us as we approach the Lord  “Who do you say that I am?”

Who is Jesus for you?  This is not about memorizing some catechism answer.  It is rather about being very personal.  And it is important.  When we approach Jesus in prayer, we must recognize just who Jesus is for us so we can recognize our personal relationship with the Lord.

It would have been rather interesting if I could have called upon each person for their particular answer.  But that would have taken much too long.  I decided to share with them my answers.  I would give them an idea of what the question should mean – what it means to me.  I doubt that my answers would be as great as those of Thomas Merton.

However, let me share my answers with you.

First off, my relationship with Jesus gives me confidence.  With Jesus in my life, I know I can do all that I must and should as a Christian and I can do it with confidence.  Jesus gives me support, a support that gives me confidence to live as a Christian, bringing peace and love into my live as Jesus taught me – and do it confidently.

Next my encounter with Jesus brings enthusiasm into my life.  With the Lord, I truly find an enthusiasm for the challenge to do the work of the Lord, striving to make my life better and my world a better place. 

Each day Jesus brings challenges and opportunities into my life, opportunities to reach out to others with the Lord’s peace and love.  My call that I accept as a Christian is to lead others to recognize their goodness in the Lord who loves them.

In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that he wants to be my friend.  I believe that Jesus walks with me as a friend.  As a friend to all of us, Jesus became incarnate and lived among us, he died for us and rose from the dead. 

As my friend, Jesus brings new life and spirit to me through Baptism so that I may develop a good life and accept the challenge to make the world a better place.  Jesus stays close to us – he is always our friend – bringing his love to all that we do.

For me, my encounter with Jesus means forgiveness.  Jesus made it clear in the Gospels that he came for forgiveness. In faith, I know that Jesus forgives me, when I fail, when I sin the Lord brings his forgiveness to my repentance and I find peace in his forgiving love.  Jesus does not give up on me.

His forgiveness brings to me a constant challenge.  Jesus encourages me to continue to live my Christian life and all that it means.

Finally, Jesus brings calmness and peace into my life.  His presence helps me deal with the many upsetting and disturbing things these days.  At those times, I turn to the Lord and I find, in prayer, his peace. Jesus brings a needed calmness to me.

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