We hear all the time about having a personal relationship with Christ. What does this really mean? As a protestant, we also used that phrase. However, when you really think about it, how do you have a “personal” relationship with someone you cannot see and cannot hear? As a protestant, we were referring to reading the Bible and prayer, but is that really a “personal” relationship? The root of “personal,” of course, is “person,” which means “a human being regarded as an individual.” In Christian theology, it is: “each of the three modes of being of God, namely, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, who together constitute the Trinity.
As a protestant, I also heard that prayer was a two-way street. This is necessary because, otherwise, how could it be a “personal” relationship? One preacher said, “You ask God a question, and the first thing that comes to mind is God’s answer. That sounds great, but it can lead to some very, very serious problems. More often, what we meant by prayer being a two-way street is that God would speak to you through the Scriptures. However, this also leads to tremendous problems. We see the effects of this in the myriad of denominations that are in the world. It leads to private interpretations. It is true that God can speak, has spoken, and does speak to people directly, but this is not the normal way of communication by God. A common result that occurs when a person thinks God speaks directly to them is that they become prideful and will not listen to other Christians. I have had people tell me that they only listen to God, not men. They hold themselves higher than others, instead of making others more important than themselves.
Do we have a personal relationship with Christ? Yes, absolutely. How do we know that we have a personal relationship with Christ? Because, let’s face it, how do you know with certainty that you have a “personal” relationship with God, whom you cannot see? We know this with certainty because of the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ is present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. He is present in His Office, the priesthood. He is present in every Catholic who is not in a state of mortal sin.
Many times, people want a “personal” relationship outside of the community of the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. This relegates the Church into just a meeting place or an organization. This should not be, because the Catholic Church is an organism, not an organization. We are members of the one Church, the Body of Christ. Everything should be for the Body.
Does that mean we should not have private prayer? Of course not, but our prayers should be to benefit the entire Body. Does that mean we should not pray for healing? Of course not. Jesus has given us the Sacrament of Healing. However, when we do pray for something “personal,” we should be praying sincerely that it has an effect upon the entire Body. When we consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary, it is our desire that this is for the benefit of the Church, not for personal gain. We have a personal relationship with Christ inasmuch as the Catholic Church has a personal relationship with Christ because Jesus is her Head. In the Creed we say, “I believe.” We are all saying the same thing, believing the same thing, making us a unity. In this way, we are having a personal relationship with Christ.
This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: stpaulcatholic.net