Intimacy with God — Homily January 20, 2013

“Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”  I repeat, “do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” or maybe I should ask you another version:  Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?  Unfortunately, this question has sometimes been over-asked by some Christian faiths, particularly as a question posed to Catholics.  Maybe not.  Maybe you’ve never heard it before.  It is a question that might make some of us immediately shut down, roll our eyes, and mumble, “Oh boy…”  But it really shouldn’t; because it’s a great question.  It’s an awesome question, and it’s not a bad question to ask as long as its ask honestly and in charity.  Hopefully we can answer with a resounding YES. 

This question really has two main parts.  It wants to know if your relationship with Jesus is PERSONAL and if your relationship with him is a SAVING one.  Let’s not get into the theology that Jesus is our one and only Savior, he died once and for all for our sins, broke the spine of death, and opened the gates of Heaven.  Hopefully we all get that; but if we don’t I will talk about that some other time.  What I would like to focus on is this notion that our relationship with him is supposed to be PERSONAL. 

To have a personal relationship means to be somehow invested in a relationship in a way that only a person can.  There needs to be some kind of mutual sharing between two people who are truly capable of sharing some kind of communication, love, work or other common endeavor.  That is why it is not entirely correct to say that I can have a personal relationship with my dog or my cat or fish or spider monkey or whatever you have.  They kindof respond, but not very personally.  That being said, I indeed CAN have a limited personal relationship with the girl behind the Starbucks counter, the bus driver, the janitor of the school that I see a few seconds a day, and the list goes on.  DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT THIS IS THE KIND OF RELATIONSHIP THAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE WITH JESUS.  JUST PERSONAL? 

I think that Jesus wants a relationship that’s not only personal, but far more intimate and far more intense.  The question “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior” is a great question and we should answer with a resounding YES.  But I don’t think the question goes far enough.

Let me just offer you a few examples from Scripture.  God told Moses that not only was he a prophet, he said, “You are my intimate friend.”  Even God the Father extends his friendship to man. Or what about on the night he was betrayed, he said, “I no longer call you disciples or slaves, I call you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my heavenly father.”  These are not the words of a man who simply leaves behind a few rules to follow.  They are the words of an incarnate god who wants us to join him in an epic adventure to save souls.  I wonder if we have ever thought of our faith this way?  Or maybe we don’t believe it.  But my guess is that if you don’t believe it, then you haven’t really tried it; and when I say TRIED IT, I mean you haven’t really made your intimacy with God number one on your bucket list, and made it a matter of life and death.  As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found too difficult and left untried.”

Just how close are we willing to be to God?  Let’s try to be honest here.  This church is full of people who, to either a small or a great extent, are mad at God for allowing certain unpleasant things to happen to us.  And yet have we truly been willing to do everything he has asked us, sacrifice for him, and spend the time it takes to build the very intimacy that would take away that anger, console us, and possibly even give us so much peace and joy that we would forget about what made us angry in the first place? 

Have you ever reflected on the face that Jesus had a close, intimate group of friends just the way that most of us do?  Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  He seemed to hang out with his sisters Martha and Mary a lot.  Jesus even seemed to have a special group of friends among the apostles – Peter, James and John.  He brought them up the mountain to see him transfigured.  He brought Peter, James and John closer to him than the rest of the apostles in the Garden of Gethasemani and desperately wanted them to stay awake with him in his agony.  When I traveled to the top of Mt. Tabor where Jesus was transfigured, I found myself praying to be in that special group.  I DON’T WANT TO BE JUST ONE OF THE TWELVE — I WANT TO BE ONE OF THE THREE!  BUT WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE THAT, LORD?

THOUGH WE WILL ALL BE JUDGED IMPARTIALLY, JESUS DOES NOT HAVE THE SAME LEVEL OF INTIMACY WITH EVERYONE. 

What if our God didn’t only want us to be his friends, but he wants to literally sustain us as our physical and spiritual food?  Jesus told the disciples things like “you live in me as, as I abide in my father.”  “I am the vine and you are the branches.  Without me you can do nothing.”  He said not once but several times, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.”  When he was born, he was born in the city of Bethelehem which means “the house of bread” and was laid in a manger, which is a feeding trough for cattle.  COINCIDENCE?  One of his greatest miracles was the feeding of the five thousand from just a few loaves.  COINCIDENCE?  His first miracle was the wedding at Cana, where he transformed water into wine.  Coincidence?  His last miracle at the last supper was to make his own body and blood into food and drink, made possible by his death and resurrection.  COINCIDENCE?

  • So God wants to have a personal relationship.  Fine.  But he wants more than that.
  • God actually wants to be our FRIEND.  Fine.  But he wants more than that. 
  • God wants to actually be our nourishment and live inside us.  Fine.  But what if he even wanted more than THAT.
  • He wants a union with us now and for eternity.  But do we have the patience, faith and courage to make that relationship first? 

Listen to what God tells us through the prophet Isaiah, that we heard in our first reading:

NO more shall people call you ‘Forsaken,’ or you land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My delight,’ and your land, ‘Espoused.’  For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse.  As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a Bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”

Could this really be true?  The church in her wisdom connects this reading to Jesus’s first miracle which is where?  At a wedding feast?  Do you think that is an accident?  Do you think that God might be trying to tell us something, and maybe even being just a little fun and coy about it?  That is how Jesus’s public ministry begins.  But what about the end of the bible?  Do you know that image that the whole bible ends with is a WHAT?  AN EVERLASTING WEDDING FEAST.  Wow.  How about that 

So how do we start this union?  How do we make this marriage or find this friendship?  That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?  Everything that Fr. Frank or I say from this pulpit, this mass, and that confessional are suppposed to be partial answers to that question. 

But let me end with one final reflection about intimacy with God.  As you heard, the gospel was about the wedding at Cana.  As we know, there was a wedding feast at Cana where everybody was partying and eventually ran out of wine.  Mary notices and almost pushes her son to do something about it.  At first he balks and then he agree.  There were six stone water jars that were near the entrance to the wedding feast, because it was customary for the jews to ritually purify themselves before entering a home.  (OUR MESSIAH’S FIRST MIRACLE WAS MAKING ABOUT 200 GALLONS OF WINE — NOT A BAD SAVIOR, HUH?)

Stewards filled these to the brim and Jesus changed them into wine without saying a word.  Exactly how did they change from water into wine? 

This was a question that I had on the retreat that I took this week, so this reflection is actually quite important to me. 

First of all, the stewards weren’t allowed to have wine since they were working.  If they were caught drinking they would be FIRED.  And of course, all the party-ers were having fun.  There are probably many times when we would prefer to be one of the party-goers.  We don’t want to be stewards.  No fun, huh?  But the ones who stayed close to Jesus — the stewards, particularly, the payoff for them was that they got to see the miracle.  Instead of being drunk on wine, imagine how they felt as they served their brothers and sisters this miraculous drink.  The stewards were drunk on a miracle; intoxicated with the first love for a savior who do such marvelous things.  And the party-goers remained oblivious.  I wonder how often we drink our own wine rather than work like the stewards and wait for a miracle.  If you keep drinking your own wine, whatever it is — a distraction, a particular sin, a grudge, an addiction, a selfish pleasure — it’s no wonder that you don’t experience the wine that Jesus might make if just worked and waited patiently.  JESUS SAID NO WORDS TO CHANGE THE WATER INTO WINE.  IT ACTUALLY CHANGED WHEN THE STEWARDS GOT BUSY DRAWING IT OUT AND SERVING IT TO THE PEOPLE.

  • So God wants to have a personal relationship.  Fine.  But he wants more than that.
  • God actually wants to be our FRIEND.  Fine.  But he wants more than that. 
  • God wants to actually be our nourishment and live inside us.  Fine.  But what if he even wanted more than THAT.
  • He wants a union with us now and for eternity.  But do we have the patience, faith and courage to make that relationship first?

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found too difficult and left untried.”

Maybe it’s time we really tried it. 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Spirituality

2 responses to “Intimacy with God — Homily January 20, 2013

  1. victoria

    Always stay good and beautiful. The Holy Spirit is using you as a great tool, Father. Thank you for just saying yes! I really needed to read those words.

  2. Cindy

    Love your sermons. Love that you put them in writing for those of us who learn visually more than auditorily. You are an asset to the parish…..glad you listened to that call!

    You are in communication with a friend of mine from work in reference to her son. Her name is Lori Hessler. I want you to know that l am praying that God be with you when you speak with the troubled young man……that He puts the words into your mouth that will make a difference. Thanks for being there!

    Cindy l. Strecker Parishoner

    Sent from my iPad

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