As I prepared for a conference this week, I re-looked at the thoughts of Sherry Weddell in her book ‘Forming Intentional Disciples’. This was thought provoking: “The majority of Catholics are sacramentalised not evangelised”. It was a platform for her to discuss that “that the majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible”. As a born Catholic I fully understand her thoughts, but my understanding would not be possible without my faith life breaking into the realm of encountering God.
“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (Today’s Gospel)
We need to situate today’s Gospel. The preceding paragraphs were on Jesus proclaiming, “I am the bread of life”. That led to the Jews arguing among themselves as to “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” To which Jesus replied, “In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we receive the bread of life. We receive who we are to become who we receive, The Body of Christ. My padre shared is his homily that the Resurrection in the Gospel is not just Christ being raised to life from his death on the cross, but rather his coming amongst us, deep into our personal lives to be with us and accompany us through life’s many crossings, as the Risen Christ.
“But there are some of you who do not believe”.
I am certainly sacramentalised. And I understand now that I was not evangelised. It was not that I did not believe. As Sherry Weddell put it, I “have the capacity to believe placed within me by Baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit”. But I struggled because I had no idea or concept of what an encounter with the Risen Christ is, or that it is possible to have this personal relationship with God. If you have never experienced that realm, how could you? My catechism classes left me the image that God is the God of the Universe and that He is Almighty.
“Encounter” is seeing the Risen Christ in the realities of our personal life – God in the little details of our everyday life. Most times it is nothing sensational, but yes, a sensation. An “encounter” brings to life the catechism of God’s presence; one can sense, feel, and be touched. It is life and spirit.
We each have a unique story. No two of us are the same. So, when we continue to encounter God in our personal life, we discover that God is personal to us. And we can then be certain that a personal relationship with God is possible. Encounters evangelise us. And as a born Catholic, it led me to a personal ownership of my faith and belief. It was no longer that which my parents gave me. It was my own because I have encountered the Risen Christ in my own life.
With this connectedness to God, and having a personal relationship with him, his words indeed are spirit and life. Together with our inter-connectedness with each other as members of the Body of Christ, our Christian faith becomes this lived experience.
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time 2021