In this time of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, our faith can easily wane. For many of us, it has been difficult to go to Mass in person for over a year. Many churches are closed for personal prayer. Church activities are curtailed.
How can we nourish our faith at a time that can easily seem like a spiritual desert?
I would propose that we focus on our personal relationship with Jesus.
This is the gift of faith: putting us in touch with Jesus. The whole mission of the Church strives towards this goal of putting the men and women of every time and place in contact with Christ. Many of the usual ways that put us in touch with Christ have been limited or non-existent for the past 12 months.
Maybe we have found new ways of nourishing our spiritual life, maybe not.
The question for us today is: As this pandemic wears on and makes us weary, what new ways can we find of getting in touch with Jesus?
How can we deepen our relationship with Jesus in these trying times?
The first thing to know is that Jesus takes the initiative! He comes to meet us! Relationship with Jesus happens through encounters with Him.
All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus going to encounter people. You could say that encountering people was the bread and butter of Jesus' daily life on earth. But Jesus' encounters aren't just stories from two thousand years ago. Jesus comes to meet us here and now.
Christ is risen not just to go before us and wait for us in heaven. He resurrected so that He could come and be with us at every moment of life.
Our difficulty is that sometimes we have a hard time seeing Jesus, being aware of Him, and feeling His presence with us.
And so our challenge is to open ourselves in order to be more and more conscious of how He is present and active in our lives.
When we let Jesus come to meet us, He changes our lives. As Pope Francis tells us
, "Each encounter with Jesus changes our life
." Coming to encounter us is the means that Jesus uses to change our lives. No encounter with Jesus leaves us unchanged.
How can we encounter Jesus in our present circumstances? How can we welcome Jesus, who comes to meet us here and now?
1) Meet Jesus in prayer
. If this pandemic can make life seem like a desert, prayer is our well. In prayer, we dig deeper and find the water that quenches our thirst. Whatever your prayer looks like now, and whatever it may have looked like before the pandemic, allow yourself to take the next step forward in your personal relationship with Jesus. Talk to Jesus as a friend. Tell Him your frustrations, your fears, your worries, your weaknesses, and your difficulties. Entrust your sins to Jesus and receive His endless mercy. Let His love enter your heart and change your way of loving others. Ask Jesus to help you feel His presence and ask Him to be present in you. Ask Jesus to send His Holy Spirit into your heart so that He can live in you.
2) Go for a walk with Jesus
. There may be few things we can do these days, but we can still get outside and go for a stroll. Take a walk with Jesus. Ask Him to let you feel His presence with you as you walk. See the beauty of God in nature. Feel His love in the warm light of the sunshine. Imagine how Jesus walked around Galilee and went to join the two disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. He comes to walk with you too.
3) Be nourished by the Bible
. Read the Gospels and imagine yourself in the scenes of Jesus' life. Sit quietly and pray with one of the psalms. Take time to go back to one of your favourite passages that you haven't prayed with in a while. God whispers to our heart as we read His Word.
4) Start and end your day with Jesus
. This can be very simple and doesn't need to take much time to be meaningful. Make the sign of the Cross. Entrust your life to Jesus and ask Him to be with you all throughout the day. Lift up to Jesus the people that you love, those in need, all those who suffer. Before you go to bed, look over your day with Jesus. Say thank you for all the gifts in your life and ask forgiveness for any weaknesses. Put everything in His hands.
5) See Jesus in the people in your life
. Your family and friends are gifts of God's love in your life. And you are a gift of God's love for others. See how Jesus is at work in the different relationships in your life. See how you can grow in faith with others. For example, why not offer some friends to pray together over the phone or online. Send people little letters, emails, or messages to let them know you're thinking of them and keeping them in your prayers.
6) Look for resources online
. There are so many resources online to help you grow in faith. Many parishes and dioceses offer tools and materials to help boost your spiritual life. If nothing is being offered by churches in your area, don't be afraid to use things from all over the world! You can find beautiful Christian music online: for example, Hillsong United
, Rend Collective
, Matt Maher
, and Audrey Assad
, whatever suits your spiritual taste! In addition to Salt + Light Media, there are many ministries offering videos via websites and YouTube, including Dynamic Catholic
, Ascension Presents and Father Mike Schmitz
, Word on Fire and Bishop Robert Barron
, the Catholicism Series
, and Catholic Latte
. Listen to daily reflections on Pray as you go
! The Internet is your oyster!
7) Let your hunger for Jesus deepen
. As we go deeper in our friendship with Jesus, we feel our desire for Him grow more and more. We want to be with Him. We want to spend time with Him. We want to speak with Him and be close to Him. Be aware of your desire for Jesus and find ways of being nourished more and more. Offer Jesus the little daily tasks and sacrifices of your day. Let Jesus deepen your desire to receive His presence in the Eucharist. Participate in the life of the Church in any way you can. Watch Mass online, pray the Rosary, pray with the Scriptures or the Liturgy of the Hours
Jesus comes to meet each one of us. What He told Zacchaeus He tells each one of us: "I must stay at your house today" (Luke 19:5). Our homes are the daily sanctuary where God comes to live with us. Let us open the door of our hearts to welcome Jesus more and more.
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.