Cultivating a mature friendship with Christ
Priests are often asked, “Father, how did you hear the call? How did you become a priest?” There are as many stories to answer those questions as there are priests, and no two stories are the same. Yet what is even more intriguing is the point when a young man considering the call from God decided to go all in. This is not something unique to a vocational call because mature discipleship also involves that critical point in one’s journey of faith when one decides to make God the center of one’s life. According to popular misconceptions, Catholicism is a list of dos and don’ts or a series of hoops to jump through to go to heaven. The refreshing truth is that Christ intended the gift of faith to be lived in the context of friendship with Him and in the family of the Church: “I no longer call you servants. … I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Father desires that we spend our lives in friendship with Christ, and all friendships require time and attention to develop. If we spend enough time relating to Christ, living for Christ, talking with Christ and learning Christ, at a certain point He will invite us to go all in and become mature friends of His.
Along my journey of faith, the invitation to mature friendship came when I personally discovered what — or rather who — the Eucharist is. Unfortunately, I drifted from my faith during my college years and had some misgivings about what I thought the Church taught on certain issues. After exploring the WHY behind the WHAT of her doctrines, I returned to the Church’s teaching on the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. While pondering how this mystery could be solved, I remember a priest saying to me, “It’s all about the Eucharist. If the Church is right about the Eucharist, and it is NOT just a symbol or sign, but it’s Jesus’ glorified body, blood, soul and divinity…then she’s right about everything. If the Church is wrong about this teaching, then she’s wrong about everything.” That statement launched me on an intellectual investigation into the doctrine of Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist, which became a personal journey of faith that not only led to mature friendship with Jesus but to my vocation as a priest.
What I discovered was not only true, but beautiful. Jesus chose this most perfect way to fulfill His promise, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” by instituting the Eucharist. Even more, He is not only Emmanuel — God with us — but our daily bread — God within us. Growing in friendship with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament opened me to understand that the only way to have “life to the full” (Jn 10:10) is a life centered on Christ’s presence in the Eucharist — not a mystery to be solved, but one to be entered into.
—Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.