“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least and openness to letting him encounter them…”
An encounter with Jesus is an experience of meeting the living Christ through an event, a person, a prayer, or another circumstance where Jesus reveals his presence. Through this experience, we come to know that Jesus is actively present in our life through the work of the Holy Spirit and that God loves each of us unconditionally. God is no longer abstract, but instead a real person in our life.
The word “encounter” is more than just meeting someone. Pope Francis says in the Joy of the Gospel that we, the faithful, are encouraged “to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least openness to letting him encounter them” (par. 3). He goes on to say, “I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” Encounter is understanding that God is real, that God loves us, and that God wants to journey with us, ever deepening our relationship.
Each of us are invited to a first encounter with Jesus Christ and then to an ongoing commitment to continue encountering Jesus through prayer, study of Scripture, spiritual reading, conversations with people of faith, and all the other ways Christ meets us.
If you have not had an initial encounter with Jesus Christ, pray for the openness to let Christ encounter you and seek ways and experiences in your parish that may open your heart and mind. Know that not everyone experiences Jesus the same way or at the same time. But it requires that we are open.
If you have encountered Jesus, it is important to remember that encounter, to renew the relationship, and to share your experiences with others. You are asked to help others meet Jesus by sharing your faith and who Jesus is in your life. “The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace we constantly need to implore. The apostles never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: ‘It was about four o’clock in the afternoon’ (Jn 1:39)…The believer is essentially ‘one who remembers.’” (EG p13).
Here, listed alphabetically, are several ways to encounter Jesus and/or ways to provide opportunities for an encounter with him.
Participating in worship and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament wherever there are opportunities in your parish or parishes in your community.
Making time to spend with God every day. One of the best ways to do this is through reflective individual prayer. Click here for prayer resources.
Parish-Based Programs and Resources
There are numerous parish-based opportunities that are focused on encountering Jesus. One of those programs is ALPHA, which hosts a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith, typically run over eleven weeks. Each week, there is a meal, a talk focused on a different question around faith, and a conversation with a small group.
There are many avenues to encounter Christ through retreat centers and parishes. These experiences offer time out of the ordinary for reflection on spiritual matters and to listen to God’s voice in your life. Retreats vary in length and depth. They can be a daylong gathering to a weekend away to a week-long experience to a 30-day silent retreat. Find what is interesting to you and be open to how God is speaking to you.