“Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?” That’s a question that can make a Catholic feel uncomfortable.
Recently, in a talk by Dr. Brant Pitre, titled “The Bridegroom Messiah and the Eucharist” on a CD published by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, I came across a different kind of answer:
“No I don’t have a ‘personal relationship’ with the Lord Jesus Christ because a ‘personal relationship’ isn’t adequate for what Jesus wants with me. I have personal relationships with my neighbors, with my car repairman and the woman who cuts my hair. My relationship with Jesus is more than ‘personal,’ it’s nuptial!”
In the Old Testament, a nuptial relationship was promised by prophets like Hosea (2:16) and Ezekiel (16:8) and is celebrated in the Song of Songs. The New Testament opens with identifying Jesus as “the bridegroom” who has the bride (Jn 3:29), and it climaxes with a wedding supper and the marriage of the Lamb (Rv 19:7-9).
A nuptial relationship is exclusive. I can only have one spouse (Gn 2:24). My relationship with Jesus is also exclusive — there can be no others before Him (Ex 20:3).
A nuptial relationship creates a family. My spouse’s family becomes mine and we can call each other’s parents “Mom” and “Dad.” Jesus’ relationship with me has made His Mother mine (Rv 12:17) and His Father has become “Abba” to me (Gal 4:6).
A nuptial relationship is for life. No human power can end a marriage (Mt 19:6). My relationship with Jesus is forever, it’ll last even beyond the limits of this life.
A nuptial relationship is ongoing and requires that rough edges be smoothed out. Jesus left us the sacrament of penance (Jn 20:23) as an ongoing way to get over the rough edges of sin.
A nuptial relationship is fruitful. It reaches into the next generation through the children it generates (Ps 69:36). My relationship with Jesus is fruitful. The credibility of His message depends on me and my love for others (Jn 17:21) — Catholics are the ones who are concerned enough to ask questions such as “Was Marilyn Monroe Catholic?”
A nuptial relationship is intimate. It’s sad that modern biblical translations become “dynamic” when translating the biblical word for “knowledge,” depriving modern readers of what might be involved when God declares that He “knows” us as in Jeremiah 1:5. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 indicates that my relationship with Jesus is leading to a “knowledge” which is far deeper than the superficial knowledge sufficient for a “personal relationship.”
A nuptial relationship is bodily, two people give themselves totally to each other and receive each other totally in return. My relationship with Jesus is bodily. At every Mass He gives His body to me as a bridegroom gives his body to his bride, and, like a bride, I take His body into mine (Jn 6:56).
St. Paul said marriage “is a great mystery” (Eph 5:32) because it refers to Christ and the Church. “Marriage,” is more accurate and more biblical than “personal relationship,” to express what the Lord Jesus has with me — so, “No, I don’t have a personal relationship.” TP
Father Dobrowski is a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix and pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Bullhead City, Ariz.