Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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Some time ago a retired Military Officer came to me and said that he was not a Catholic but he was so impressed by the Catholic Chaplains in the service that he wanted to know more about the Catholic Church. I talked to him for a while, answered all his questions and gave him something to read. As he was leaving he asked, “If I become a Catholic do I have to give up my personal relationship with Jesus?” I was dumbfounded.

Are we giving the impression that Catholicism is something other than a personal relationship with Jesus; that Catholicism is something other than to know Jesus more intimately, love Him more ardently, and follow Him more closely? Isn’t the very purpose of the Catholic Church is to initiate, develop, renew when broken and bring to fruition a personal relationship with Jesus? The Pope and Bishops are representatives of Jesus, the Sacraments are actions of Jesus, the Mass is the Sacrifice of Jesus, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the Saints are disciples of Jesus. Have we been mistaking the rite for the reality?

THE TRINITY: The essence of the Trinity is a personal relationship of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each needs the other to be the Triune God.

CREATION: Genesis tells us that in the beginning God created light, the universe, plants, fish, birds and animals. And he saw that it was good. But it was an impersonal world, a world that was determined by physical, chemical and biological laws and instinct. In this world there was no one with whom God could have a personal relationship. So God said, “LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR OWN IMAGE.” And so he did. Now God had someone with whom He could have a personal relationship. Now he had someone to whom He could speak, and someone who could understand and respond freely without compulsion. Then God looked at everything and saw that it was very good. Created in the image of the Trinity, we need one another to be human. Assisted living is not just at the beginning and end of life but throughout life. We identify our self and become the unique person God created us to be through personal relationships with other people.

REDEMPTION: To redeem us God sent a Person. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) At Christmas what you see wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger is not a book but a person. The book is all about this person.

PASCAL MYSTERY: The Son did not give a doctrine, He gave Himself: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) In Jesus, the medium is the message. He gave Himself in the Eucharist, “This is my body which will be given for you…This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20) Then he gave Himself on the cross. “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2: 8)

SANTIFICATION: When Jesus returned to his Father he sent a Person, the Holy Spirit. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26) “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to do.” (Acts 1: 4)

THE APOSTLES: The faith of Simon Peter was in the person of Jesus. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe that you are the holy one of God.” (John 6:68) The faith of Paul also was firmly rooted in the person of Jesus. “I have been crucified with Christ; yet, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Gal.2:19-20) The faith of the doubting Thomas was also in the person of Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

OUR FAITH also is in the person of Jesus Christ yesterday, today and the same forever. The immediate object of faith is not a truth but a person. The immediate object of Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Jesus is the final and definitive revelation of God. All the truths of Christianity are abstracted from the person and the life of Jesus.

Our moral life is influenced more by significant persons in our lives, and how closely we identify with them, than it is influenced by explicit moral laws and instructions. The essence of being a Christian is to have an intimate personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus gives meaning and purpose to our lives thus satisfying one of our greatest needs. Jesus also gives love to our lives. We all have the need to love and be loved. Jesus gives forgiveness to our lives. Human nature being what it is, it is not possible for humans to love very long without having to forgive and be forgiven. We are all sinners, actually in the past, potentially in the future and always carrying this great treasure in fragile vessels.

Jesus gives security to our lives. Every one today is looking for security. We look for it in weapons, treaties, stocks, bonds, insurance, wealth, in the stars, in crystal balls and tea leaves. Life is a risk in which there is no security. The only security we have is in Jesus. We don’t know what tomorrow holds but we do know Who holds tomorrow.

Jesus gives us life. “I am come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” The great human dilemma is that with all the fibers of our being we want to live and yet we know we have to die. Jesus gives us the answer to that dilemma. “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live.”

A personal relationship with Jesus is the greatest therapy ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness here as well as hereafter. And if we knew Jesus more intimately, loved him more ardently and followed him more closely we would do more for the national health problem than anything that will ever come out of Congress or the Medical Profession.


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