Well into my adult life, I would say my prayers, but didn’t understand that I could have an actual experiential relationship with God. I never considered that Christ knew me and that I could come to know Him as a living, breathing person. Eventually, through the help of God’s grace, and with ongoing formation and prayer, I encountered the person of Christ. It was beautiful to learn that God is there to help me, and each one of us, as He desires this relationship much more than we do, and so He keeps reaching out to us.
As we grow in our relationship with God in personal prayer, we become more attuned to His presence and action in the sacraments. The seven sacraments are the pre-eminent place of encounter with God. Here we meet Jesus Christ most personally, our loving Savior who gave everything for us on the cross. In the sacraments, Jesus continues to give Himself totally to us, as His passion, death, resurrection and Ascension are made present in the here and now. The essential disposition we need is attentive receptivity to the gift that Jesus makes of Himself to us.
Turning our attention to the foremost sacrament — the holy Eucharist — we hear and speak language that describes Jesus’ self-gift to us throughout the Mass. Here is one example: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body.” These sacred words of the Mass, along with the liturgical signs of bread and wine, which become the body and blood of Christ, are Christ’s gift of Himself, offered to us in the holy Eucharist. We want to offer ourselves and every aspect of our lives back to Jesus in an act of self-giving love.
To foster attentive receptivity in preparation for and throughout Mass, and to offer ourselves back to God, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us with readiness and availability. Here is one suggestion: Read the Sunday Gospel ahead of time. Go to
www.usccb.org and click on the desired date. This preparation readies our hearts to encounter Jesus at Mass.
As we grow in our awareness of this opportunity in the sacraments to experience a most profound encounter with the living God, we will want to cultivate attentive receptivity. God loves us so much; He is always waiting patiently for us to respond to His grace by opening our hearts more deeply to His presence. And when we experience more fully the love of Christ in our own lives, we will go out and tell others what we have found!
By Ann Lankford,
Office for Catechesis and Evangelization
Ideas for this article are based upon The Divine Encounter by Dr. James Pauley, the keynote speaker for the Witnesses for Christ Conference.
Witnesses for Christ Conference, Aug. 10-11
If you would like to participate in a more active and fruitful encounter with God in the church’s sacraments and help others to cultivate a desire to encounter Jesus Christ, plan to attend the “Witnesses for Christ” Conference, Aug. 10-11 at Blessed Sacrament Parish in La Crosse. A brochure with details and registration information is available at diolc.org/catechesis or by contacting Susan at 608.791.2658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.