In 1984 I went on my first Cursillo retreat. It was one of those “mountain top” experiences of closeness to Jesus and His Body. It was also a weekend of learning about what it means to be a Christian. Cursillo is short for Cursillos de Cristiandad (A short course in Christianity). Throughout the weekend we hear talks about the three legs that hold up our faith life: Piety, Study, and Action. After the weekend we are encouraged to join small faith-sharing groups to talk about how we are living these three important aspects of our faith and to share our “closest moment to Christ” since we last met.
Over the years I have been in a number of small groups and my favorite part of the time together was sharing our closest moments. I like it because it challenges me to reflect on my walk with Jesus and determine when I felt close to Him, or when I needed Him the most or when I really saw his hand at work. I will admit that sometimes I could not think of an especially close moment, but I learned that was OK. After all, Jesus is always close to me whether or not I feel Him.
In my life I have had a number of significantly close moments to Jesus. The first I remember was when I was 16- years-old. I was on a retreat and was asked a question: “Who are the two most important people in your life?” After some time to think about the question, the retreat master asked: “Was one of those people Jesus?”
That seemingly innocent and rather obvious question rocked my world. I had never thought about Jesus being a “person in my life.” He had always been a loving God watching me from a distance. Thinking of Jesus in this personal way really transformed my faith. Another especially close time with Jesus was early on in my marriage when my wife and I experienced six miscarriages in about 30 months. That year-and-a-half was a very tumultuous time. Every emotion imaginable, from joy crashing down to loss, and grief giving way to hope only to be dashed again, was just about unbearable. It was a time of loud questioning. “Why us?” “Where are you God?” “How will we ever get through?” “What now?” Through it all, though it seldom felt this way, God was by our side seeing us through the labyrinth of emotions, sustaining us, and reshaping our lives.
Working in ministry for 25 years has provided countless close moments with Jesus. Every retreat has these special moments when students open their hearts to let in the love of God. Every session of Camp Fort Worth shows how serving the poor, praying, receiving the sacraments, and making new friends transforms people’s lives. But encounters with Jesus come in smaller moments too: religious education classes, heartfelt conversations on a whim, and in the frustrating times that come with leading teens and young adults through life.
Encounters with Jesus have always been transforming. In this Easter season, we continue to hear the Apostles post-resurrection moments with Jesus. They bring about doubt, fear, and a cautious hope. As the Easter season continues, we will hear Jesus calling himself a Good Shepherd. These Gospels share how he cares for us and wants to be in a relationship with us to the point that we know his own voice. He also says that he is a vine and we are the branches; if we stay connected we will bear much fruit.
These two images reveal that Jesus wants to have encounters with us, just like he did with the disciples before and after his resurrection. Sure, we probably will not experience him walking through walls and appearing in human form, but that does not mean that we cannot have a real encounter with the risen Christ.
Having a close moment with Jesus does not mean that you are so overcome with emotion that you are reduced to a babbling, weeping mess. Rather it simply means that you are graced with a glimpse of the truth that Jesus is alive and closer than you could ever imagine.
Copyright © 2012 by North Texas Catholic