Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Personal, Passionate Relationships

Bless me sisters and brothers for I have procrastinated. When Sherry asked me to participate in this blog I was excited. Then I realized that I don't have a writing charism so the task of putting words to the page would not be easy. Yet, here I am, giving it a shot. I am doing so now because of an article I read while waiting to get my hair done yesterday.

The article was in a Christian magazine. The editor was eulogizing a friend of his. The friend was obviously a man of God who had had a troubled past, battling alcoholism. The editor wrote, "my friend was raised Catholic, but he came to Christ, went to AA and became a minister and started a church. He ministered to people in need. He and his wife went to nursing homes each Sunday. He preached, she sang and their children played with the residents. They brought much joy into their lives."

I have to admit that I threw the magazine away angrily after reading that "he came to Christ." Catholics are Christians too I thought.

I am a cradle Catholic, the child of parents who converted to Catholicism in their 20's. I say that I have a mutt faith background. My mother's father was a Baptist minister, my father comes from a long line of Pentecostal ministers as well. I have every denomination in my family that there is. Although I was baptized at 1 month old, attended Catholic schools and went to Mass every Sunday, I found my faith in Christ in the Pentecostal Church.

It's kind of difficult to remain angry at a statement when it's been your experience too.

After reading the magazine article, the NYT articles on the Ark of Salvation church and Pentecostalism and the various posts here, it seems to me that the critical issues in determining whether one responds to Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a Catholic context or in a Evangelical or Pentecostal setting are (1) does the person have an encounter with the person of Jesus, as both human (someone who cares about what's happening to them) and divine (someone who can do something about what is happening to them), and (2) do they encounter and develop a relationship with someone who they know is 100% human but operating with divine power, in the Spirit, with a charism operative.

I have had the pleasure of serving on my parish's RCIA team for the last 8 years. The key to people becoming intentional disciples in my experience has been the development of a personal relationship with Christ and with others who can bring Christ to them as well. Those who "stick with the Church" do so because there is at least one person who makes Christ present to them. I've seen so many people come to the Church looking for a personal encounter with Christ, only receive a referral to social services. Their need for food or shelter brings them, but what they seek is greater than what they are asking for on the surface.

Attending a Called and Gifted Workshop, a coworker of mine asked me how was it. My response was, "it changed my life." Becoming aware of the charisms and the role I can in bringing the kingdom into reality was life changing. I realized that I am equipped to make Christ's love present to another.

As I read more and more stories of people who have left the Church but not abandoned lives of faith, I see also the people around them who have a passion for souls, who are willing to develop the messy, personal relationships just like Jesus does. I know it happens in the Catholic Church. I've seen it done and have done so myself. The key for me was identifying my charisms and operating within them so that I can form relationships with the people I am called to make Christ present to.

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