The Jan. 29 ecumenical event at the Chiara Center in Springfield — a Lutheran-Catholic event intended to begin a series of commemorations of the beginnings, in 1517, of what came to be called the Protestant Reformation — was very well attended, giving evidence that there is great interest locally in addressing the mandate, implicit in the fact that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, that Christians seek the unity which Jesus intends for his people. A planning meeting for further events will be held Thursday, March 2, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at Grace Lutheran Church in downtown Springfield.
We Catholic Christians are moving along with our reflections, as elicited by the questions posed to us, the responses to which will aid the process of the fourth diocesan synod. A group made up of parishioners from my four parishes in New Berlin, Alexander, Franklin and Waverly are making progress on these questions, which are available at dio.org/synod.
At our initial session, we made it through the first of the eight questions: “Describe your relationship with Jesus Christ. What does it look like? How did it come about? How can you start/deepen your relationship?”
At the beginning, someone commented that “What does it look like?” is hard, and that it’s more of a feeling than what it “looks like.” This is an important point. Being asked about one’s relationship with the Son of God requires that we respect our own feelings and allow them to speak to us.
This may be quite difficult for many of us. We may have been directed to understand our relationship with God in terms of conformity to rules. Feelings have not necessarily entered in.
Many people in the discussion reported the attainment of feelings of peace. Indeed, a sense of peace and right relationship with our God and with the people in our life is definitely a fruit of seeking a true personal relationship with the Son of God. An urge to “make this a better world” is also crucial. Our life in Christ is not about dismissing the meaning of the here and now. Jesus died and rose in the here and now of human existence, in times which were filled with brutality. Jesus’ endurance allows us to bear the injustices of our existence, that, by the grace of God, the Kingdom of God will break in, here and now.
“How did it come about?” This portion of the question affirms that the personal history of each of us has meaning. If we develop a habit of putting in writing the feelings of our hearts and the insights which come to us, we will be giving proper respect to our own experiences.
“How can you start or deepen your relationship?” We somewhat anticipated St. Jerome’s observation, given later in the questions, about the need to be familiar with Sacred Scripture. Now I, in the years when I was newly in the seminary, decided to read the entire Bible, and I did so twice. But the Scriptures did not get through to me until I heard some verses at Mass; I wrote in an earlier column about how the Letter to the Hebrews and the uniqueness of Jesus’ sacrifice for us became real to me.
My group will keep working; I wish for blessing upon all who are working, whether in groups or alone. And consider how our deepened ability to talk among one another will help us in conversing with other Christians.