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Session 2

Encountering Jesus

“The Invitation”

“We have a tremendous opportunity with Catholics today. But first we must respond to Jesus’ invitation”

So we live in a time of immense challenge and immense opportunity. Millions of American adults are seeking a religious identity and are at least potentially open to the Catholic faith. At the same time, huge numbers of self-identified Catholics are not certain that a personal relationship with God is even possible, and their actions reflect it.        Sherry Weddell, “Forming Intentional Disciples”, pg 47

The current landscape of the Catholic Church can seem challenging and concerning to many in the United States. Although this may be true, what is also true is that there is an immense opportunity for us as Catholics to evangelize the hearts of our brothers and sisters. In our last session we discussed statistics about how more and more people are stepping away from Catholicism. Many step away because they believe the ‘secular culture’ will be able to provide what their hearts search for, the real meaning and purpose for their lives. Unfortunately what we continue to discover is this pursuit leads to deeper personal struggles and unhappiness.

Maybe you or someone you may know may even have had moments in life when it seemed like the secular culture was more attractive. In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, St. Pope John Paul II reminds us that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the very answer to one’s search for meaning and purpose for life. “Christ the Redeemer fully reveals mankind to himself. The person who wishes to understand himself thoroughly must draw near to Christ”[1]. It is in Jesus Christ that we will come to understand our true meaning and purpose for life, which is to be fully reconciled in our relationship with the living God. This is why “The Word became flesh”(Jn 1:13).

How do we begin to address this lack of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ among Catholics? Most Catholics know of Jesus through the Liturgical Calendar and stories in the Gospels. Unfortunately, many Catholics have not understood or personally experienced ‘why’ He came. In a recent article by Pew Research it stated “nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion are just “symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”[2] Which means only 30% of Catholic’s believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Church and their lives.

We must begin to answer the question, “How do we lead people to experience the ‘real presence’ of Jesus Christ in their lives?”. In this session we will 1) look at the personal invitation Jesus provides to us 2) discuss what we experience by accepting the invitation and 3) the need for our ongoing response.

It is essential that today’s Catholic responds to Jesus’ invitation to awaken and grow in their personal encounter with Him. This is not a onetime response, but an on-going journey that leads people along their ‘second conversion’. By responding to Jesus’ invitation the individual can truly come to understand the meaning of ‘The Kingdom of God’ for their lives and Salvation. Saint Pope Paul VI stated that our personal liberation of our suffering in this world is incomplete if the Church neglects to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ[3]. Catholics today must be awaken and respond to Jesus’ invitation.

 

[1] John Paul II,”Redemptoris Missio”, art 2d

[2] Smith,”Just One-Third of US Catholics Agree with their Church- Eucharist is Body, Blood of Christ”, Pew Research,  Aug 2019

[3] Paul VI,”Evangelii Nuntiandi” art 34

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