Faith, the New Evangelization and Personal Relationship.
With the Year of Faith beginning within the time of the New Evangelization, undoubtedly there are many graces waiting for us to respond to, in order that we might deepen our love for God and bring His love to others. We hear often that we need to have a personal relationship with Our Lord – that our faith is not meant to be simply doctrinal adherence, because our faith is in a Person, or maybe more properly, three Persons. This relational experience of the Faith is not so defined as is doctrinal compliance which seems fairly easy most of the time, though even saints were subject to temptations against doctrine. At least it is easy to see what we are to believe, even if at times the believing might seem troublesome. We might have questions, but we don’t doubt.
Now, how is it with developing a personal relationship with our Creator, our Savior and our Sanctifier? How do we know that we have and are properly developing such a relationship? I don’t know, so I am glad we are having this Year of Faith. I am going to tell you what I think, and then I am thinking about asking others to tell me what they know and pass on their wisdom in future postings.
A “personal relationship” – right off I don’t like the term, and I am not sure why. What else could it be called? But what is clear is that relationship with God is different for each individual. There were twelve Apostles, and each, just through proximity, had to be relational with Jesus, but each one’s relationship was fashioned in accordance with his personality, his emotions, his gifts, his inclinations both virtuous and sinful and many other factors. There is so much that is brought to the table in a relationship. Mary and Martha can give us an insight into such depth and difference of relation. I can relate better to the Apostle’s arguing among one another about who was the greatest in the kingdom and all of them being told by our Lord that they needed to look to a child to teach them, than I can with Mary at Jesus’s feet and Martha working herself to exhaustion and frustration and the dynamics involved. I would tend to side with Martha, but we find out that Mary has chosen the better part. Child-likeness, that’s what is needed, but how do we come by it? We need to consider children, and then try to imitate them in our spiritual life – that seems to be one element in the development of a proper relationship with God. I need to see myself as a child of God and live with confidence in His love for me.
Our love of God and His love for us surely is mirrored in our relationships with others. God identifies Himself as Father, Jesus identifies Himself as Friend and is also our Brother, The Holy Spirit, He is Paraclete, that is Consoler, Advocate and Intercessor. This is a lot to consider, and I think I will overload and crash if I try to address it here. But it does seem to me in the varied circumstances that we find ourselves in day in and day out, that there is some element of one of these relationships that best fits the situation as we pray to God in petition, thankfulness, contrition or praise. I do not think that we have to think consciously , “Now I am praying to God as my Friend,” because that happens automatically given the situation and with Practicing the Presence of God. (Is the Practice of the Presence of God, in essence, developing a personal relationship with God? I like the term better.)
We also know that our loving relationship with God is analogous to our falling in love. Each day we are to fall in love anew with God. I do not know romance in its fullness, that is romance that reaches the proper object of a spousal relationship, but the falling in love I have known, and what I found in those rare and usually short-lived experiences is that one’s very nature seems changed. Not generous by nature, I found myself wanting to give, wanting to do, wanting to please. There was a forgetfulness of self and a real emptying for the good of the other. Just being with and tending to was happiness. From what I see, in matrimony, what was easy in courtship becomes more of a conscious decision to sacrifice and empty oneself for the beloved. The law of the gift in our relationship with God sometimes bursts forth in romantic joy, perhaps when we sing out “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” at an Easter Vigil or when some spectacular spectacle of nature like a thunderstorm shows us His splendor. But more often it is realized in a fast, an effort to contemplate, a sacrifice of pleasure, a bearing of a cross, small or big. These might be the times when our relationship is deepened the most.
I’m stopping here. Though next time, as I wait for responses from others if I do end up seeking them, I want to look to Blessed Mother as guide in our relationship with God.