Personal Jesus

My grandma’s funeral was yesterday. My uncle, who is a pastor, ran the service, and my dad gave the eulogy. Although the two of them are different as “chalk and cheese”, they both did a nice job remembering my grandma. But both of them made me feel ragingly and compulsively Catholic. At every prayer I wanted to cross myself. When my dad spoke of my grandma praying for us all “right up to the end”, I wanted to add “why not now?”, especially since we all hope and believe she is a part of the great cloud of witnesses. Why would the witnesses be limited to only viewing? Why not hearing and praying for us? Why would souls who have gone to be with God not be able to speak to Him?

Please don’t think I was just sitting and criticizing the Protestant run funeral. I’ve had my time of mourning, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the spontaneous Catholic feelings that sharing time with my Protestant family has brought on, and me trying to sort them out afterward.

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Protestant prayer and preaching and it brought on some reactions that were kind of hard to pinpoint. The way my uncle was talking about Jesus and praying to God was familiar to me. It was warm and personal, and I like it and have missed it. There’s also something about it that makes me uncomfortable and feels a little off. Last night I was asking Chris what this difference I was noticing might be, and I think maybe we’ve figured it out.

My uncle quoted a song by Misty Edwards called “See the Way”, which says “God is a lover, looking for a lover, and so he fashioned me”. This is such a lovely, personal view of our relationship with God. It’s attractive, but it’s not quite right. Maybe the reason there are so many evangelicals who believe Catholics don’t have a personal relationship with Christ is because Catholics don’t have a personalized relationship with Christ. This song, and the prayers I was listening to yesterday are very individual. They’re about me and Jesus.

In the Catholic Faith, it’s not about me and Jesus, it’s about us and Jesus. It’s always, always about the corporate Body of Christ and God’s loving relationship with them. Our prayers are said together, our confession is made in unison. Like Chris says, the Catholic view of the universal Church has a way of beating down the “ego” and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

While Catholics are prevented from saying “me” instead of “us”, they are also prevented from viewing Jesus in whatever way they want to. Although Jesus is personal, He is not personalized. The Church reveals to us who Christ is in a non-negotiable way. Then we must change, with God’s grace, and conform to His image. As a Protestant, my view of God changed as I grew and got to know Him better. Of course, that’s always true to some extent, even for Catholics. At least for me, the difference is that as a Protestant my image of God changed. As a Catholic, the image remains the same but my understanding changes, because it’s not just me trying to figure out who God is.

It’s hard to explain, but that’s the best I can do. It’s strange experiencing this world I used to belong in, feel a draw to it, but at the same time feel completely separated from it. There’s no going back, even for the things I enjoyed, because I see everything differently now. It’ll be nice when I officially join and belong in the corporate Body of Christ.

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6 Responses to Personal Jesus

  1. lenetta says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these parts of your journey with us – it is really something to follow. I will pray for your grandmother and your family.

  2. trent13 says:

    Very, very well put. All the saints have had a very personal relationship with Our Lord. There is a deep, deep love for Him, a personal love, as if though He is (and He is) as real a Person to them as one of their relatives. This image of Him is presented by the teaching of the Church (as you say and I agree). Their deep love for Him, while in unison with the rest of the Church, is personal to them. So a protestant claim that Catholics do not have a personal Christ would indeed be unfounded. It ‘s not a point I’ve contemplated explicitly before, but just understood, and I appreciate that you wrote about it.

    On a side note, as you seem to be one to truly desire to grow in spirituality and grace, I urge you to get a copy of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. I’m sure you have plenty to read, but I cannot recommend this book enough as an aid in interior prayer. She is so approachable, understandable and inspiring, and I share her wisdom as much as I can with every Catholic I know.

  3. kkollwitz says:

    “Although Jesus is personal, He is not personalized.” This is a very fine post….the kind of reflection a CradleCat can’t make, I don’t think.

    Kind of reminds me of when I was teaching RCIA. We’d be looking a chunk of Bible text in the context of something such as Petrine authority, and students would want to digress about what the passage meant to them. I’d say classtime isn’t for us to learn what each other thinks about Scripture; it’s for us to learn what the Church thinks about it.

  4. kkollwitz says:

    I read parts of this post to my convert wife, who also found it very interesting.

  5. lenetta says:

    Saw this today and thought of you. To have the faith of a seven year old!! http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com/2009/12/todays-spiritual-wisdom-brought-to-you.html

  6. Stacey says:

    I like that 🙂

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