When we observe today the many deficiencies of faith, the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, the lack of real familiarity with the teaching of Jesus Christ, the detachment of some countries from their Christian roots, and what Saint Pope John Paul II called ‘silent apostasy’, it is urgent to think about a new evangelisation. This movement presupposes that we go beyond mere theoretical knowledge of the Word of God; we must rediscover personal contact with Jesus.

It is important to give individuals the opportunity for the experience of close encounters with Christ. Without such a heart-to-heart conversation, we are fooling ourselves if we think that people will follow the Son of God in the long term.

The importance of this personal experience reminds me of a saying of the Desert Fathers that left a deep impression on me during my biblical studies in Jerusalem. Translated from Coptic, it expresses the importance of the indispensable interior life in being a Christian:

‘One monk met another and asked him: “Why do so many abandon the monastic life? Why?” The other monk replied: Monastic life is like a dog chasing a rabbit. It runs after the rabbit, barking; many other dogs, hearing the bark, join it, and they all run together after the rabbit. But after a while, all the dogs that run without seeing the rabbit wonder: Where are we going? Why are we running? They become tired, get lost, and stop running, one after the other. Only the dogs that see the rabbit continue to pursue it to the end, until they catch it’. 

The moral of the story is: Only those whose eyes are fixed on the person of Christ on the Cross persevere to the end.

Many circumstances and deep motives, or the people around us, may have led us to follow Jesus. Then comes the moment of maturity, when only our personal experience of Christ guides us. This personal encounter is decisive for the rest of our life.

Cardinal Robert Sarah

 

Adapted and edited from Cardinal Robert Sarah ‘God or Nothing – A Conversation on Faith’ Ignatius Press 2015 P.144-145

This article can be found in Mirror 0416.