I’ve never had so many relationships. Friendly corporations and nonprofits want to get to know me and reward me for liking them back. I have digital friendships with social media contacts I’ve never seen except for their profile picture. And I have close working relationships with the digital devices in my life.
In the movie “Her,” set in the not-so-hard-to-imagine future, a man falls deeply in love with his phone’s operating system. We think it’s a little weird but understandable.
It seems to me that we’ve expanded the definition of relationship for the digital age. But no one would ever say a digital friendship is the same as a personal relationship.
Before they tell you a lot about themselves or even where they go to church, some Protestants reveal that they have a personal relationship with Christ and they want to know if you have one, too.
Catholic personal relationship?
I think Catholics sometimes hesitate at this question because it’s not how we’re used to talking about our faith. Do you wonder if these Protestant friends have something you don’t?
As a practicing Catholic, I know I have a personal relationship with Christ because the Bible and the Church assure me that I do.
The word “relationship” doesn’t appear in my Bible concordance, so I looked up “friendship.” Jesus tells us we are his friends in John 15:15:
“…I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
The Catechism makes it clear that a friendship or a personal relationship is what we’re called to:
The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, “the image of the invisible God” is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the “image of God” and called to a personal relationship with God. (CCC299)
Called to relationship
The Lord is calling us to have a personal relationship with him that’s more than emotional. We know Him through prayer but we also come to know him profoundly through the gifts He’s given us in the sacraments. The Catechism states:
Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (CCC1088)
There’s nothing virtual about a personal relationship with Christ. The Lord is personally present in the sacraments and in his Word. According to Father Dwight Longenecker our relationship with him is really more like a marriage—we have to work at it. “That relationship is made solid and real and substantial by day by day commitment to prayer, the sacraments and the works of mercy.”
I like my phone but we will never have that kind of friendship. As I continue to get to know the person of Jesus Christ, I look forward to going deeper our personal relationship.