When a couple calls the office looking for a Baptism, I usually ask them to come meet me in my office before we have the Baptism class or schedule a date for the Baptism. I ask them how they met each other, how they got engaged, and if they are married, about the wedding. I want to know what their experience of religion was growing up. Did they pray at home or have any home faith traditions? Sadly, most couples report little to no faith activities at home, beyond Mass and CCD and maybe grace before meals.
Then I ask two questions that I have found to be very enlightening. “When did faith become real for you? Has there been time in your life when faith and religion and God went from something someone else told you about to something that you experienced for yourself?” I’ve gotten all kinds of interesting answers ranging from, “I’ve always known that God existed,” to “When my grandma died,” to “I’ve never really felt close to God.” Almost everyone at least report a time when they felt close to God or had a prayer answered.
The second question I ask is, “If you were to look at spectrum of friendships from BFF to someone you text regularly to acquaintance, where would you put your friendship with Jesus?” Again I have gotten all kings of answers from, “We talk all the time,” to “I call him when I need something,” to “I knew of him but it’s not like we ever personally met.”
How would you answer these questions for yourself: Have you had an experience that convinced you that God was real? What kind of friendship do you have with Jesus right now?
You’ve probably heard me talk about a “relationship” with Jesus. You might think that sounds a little weird. “I might have been friends with Jesus if I lived back in the day, but he died a long time ago and we never got to hang out.” The truth is that everyone who died a long time ago is still around here somewhere. Their bones are buried here and their souls are not very far away, just on the other side of the veil. But Jesus is special, and not just because he rose from the dead. Jesus is special because he is God’s Son, and when God made the human race, he made us for relationships. We are meant to be friends with each other and friends with Jesus.
In fact, I believe that Jesus has always been with humanity. When our first parents rejected God and were cast out of the garden and into the wilderness, Jesus was with then in a spiritual way. Every human being who ever prayed for strength, Jesus was there to lift them up. Every tear that has been cried and every drop of blood that was shed, Jesus was there. He loved us so much that he wanted to be one of us, to become a human being just like us. He wanted to get really small so we could hold Him as a baby, so that when we needed it, we would not be afraid to ask Him to hold us. Jesus is closer to you than you realize. It’s time you started to notice Him.
Peace and joy,
Fr. Joel Sember