At that time, Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?” But they said: “Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” Jesus saith to them: “But whom do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said: “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answering said to him: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” -Matthew 16: 13-10
I’m challenged in my faith most days–it doesn’t come easily to me. Where I have a very strong belief in God, I’m challenged when people speak about having a personal relationship with Jesus. Who is this? We have the Four Gospels, we have the letters of Apostles who walked with him. But I struggle to say that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the same way that I would say that I have a personal relationship with my co-workers or friends, or my fiancé.
My relationship with my fiancé is creeping up on four years. While there’s a certain level of comfort that’s come from having spent just about every day together, while there’s a sense of knowing who he is, what his values are, what he believes, what he stands for, there’s a small part of him that I can never really know. But I accept that as part of our relationship. Each day that we spend together building our life together brings me to a more comfortable place of knowing, or relying, of knowing he can rely on me.
I’ve know my mom and dad since I was born. The relationship that I have with them has not always been the best, but there’s a knowledge of who we are that’s very intimate because of the nature of that relationship.
In a sense, I know Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas, Rene Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard, Dr. Alvin Plantinga, and others from their writings and recorded works. In reading their words, I can have a sense of who they are. Even in reading the Old Testament, I have a sense of who David and Jonathan were, of who Solomon was, of who St. John and St. Paul were from the New Testament. But Jesus to me feels somehow like someone I have a difficult grasp knowing. I read the words of scripture, but somehow the presence is hard for me to know.
The writings of St. Francis have helped in that they have guided me to approach knowing Jesus through interactions with the marginalized, through eliminating the barriers that we place between ourselves and the marginalized. And that’s helped. In a weird way though it feels like I’ve connected more with St. Francis than with Jesus.
The later Father Thomas Keating helped in his direction and advocation of Centering Prayer. And in those moments, I do feel a quiet, stillness that makes it easier to hear God’s voice, to feel the Divine Presence that guides me in my prayer.
When I began to truly start to feel that I was getting closer was in practicing reading Mass, at the moments of consecration of bread and wine through the moments of consuming what, is still, bread and wine. And I can’t explain it in any words other than to say that, when reading this passage, I resonate with Peter’s words: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Faith is trusting that knowledge, not knowing completely where it comes from, and accepting that believing it makes life better. It’s not about standing on the soap boxes and shouting about how good it feels, trying to convince someone else about how good it feels, and militantly trying to get them to jump on the bandwagon.
The Faith we find in the Lenten journey is a reminder that it’s ok to have challenges in believing. They’re normal. They have to happen for us to grow, and some of the spiritual greats had the same challenges. This is the desert. The place where we may not have the water of certainty to drink. Lent is about trusting the processes, continuing the practices of devotion, of faith, of charity, of love.
I have a relationship with Jesus today that I can’t explain. It simply is. And it feels to be deepening every day. That’s a challenge for me, for anyone living in a world of science and facts and politics and evidence. I can’t explain it. It just is.