As Catholics, we tend to view "a personal relationship with Jesus" as something you hear Evangelicals talk about. In reality a personal relationship with Jesus is something we should all seek. Jesus is not in the abstract. Jesus became human. Jesus is not an "object" to be received in the Eucharist. Yet, it can be difficult to express a relationship with Jesus.
It can be difficult to describe God. I wrote reflection papers on how we talk about God ("Why Isn't God Red") and how we express our religious experiences ("Can We Trust Religious Experience To Help Us Know God?"). It is not easy to express what God means to us and I believe that is why we find it difficult to speak of a personal relationship with Jesus. Nonetheless, all Christians have some sort of relationship with Jesus, whether it be close or distant.
We have a relationship when we can begin to express Jesus. To express what Jesus means to you how would you answer the following questions?
Who is Jesus to you?
Where do you find Jesus?
When do you talk to Jesus?
Perhaps it would help think of what it means to have a personal relationship with another person. If you have a personal relationship with a person then you likely trust them and share personal things with them, you are there for each other in the tough times and the good times, you are honest with them and you like to spend time with them.
How does this fit your relationship with Jesus?
One of the things that can impair our relationship with Jesus is the attachments and "addictions" we have to objects or behaviors that keep us from doing as Jesus calls us to. In his book, Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, M.D. reflections on the question of our "addictions." Click here to see my thoughts on his writings as it pertains to our relationships with Jesus.
What Does the Bible Say?
In Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus' family comes and seeks to speak to him. Jesus says "For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." Clearly, if we do the will of the Father (God) then we are members of Jesus' family and thus have a relationship with him (cf. Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21).
Trust is essential to any relationship. Luke 12:22-34 speaks of how we can depend on God to provide. Verse 11 of the Good Shepherd Discourse of chapter 10 of John's Gospel tells us that the Good Shepherd (Jesus) will lay down his life for his sheep. We know we can count on God because he shows his love for us through his death on the cross.
Conversely, we show our love for God when we live the words of John 14:15, "if you love me keep my commandments." God is not interested in our obeying him for legal reasons. What He seeks from us is for us to trust in his love for us. If we truly trust Jesus, then we can believe his commandments are good for us. When we trust in him, we have a relationship with him.
Are Our Personal Relationships With Jesus Perfect?
We all have some level of relationships with Jesus even if we do not realize it. But our relationships are not perfect. Do we always do as God commands? No. If we did Jesus would not have needed to die on the Cross for our sins. One's personal relationship with Jesus deepens to a new level when we accept that we cannot do it all by ourselves. Then one can open oneself to Jesus and accept him as our savior (i.e. the evangelical view of a personal relationship with Jesus).
It takes time. Conversion is not a single moment in time but a process.
For the story of how I developed a relationship with Jesus, check out "What Faith Means to Me".
In reflecting about how we see Jesus in our lives, check out my presentation "Attitude of Gratitude".
"A clean heart create for him, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit." Psalm 51:12
Renewal of Faith
"For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."