Jesus Is Not A Candy Bar
You can't know Jesus and not be changed. But the change takes work to maintain. So many people are zealous with their newfound faith. They go to Mass, maybe go to RCIA if they are new to the Catholic church, maybe go to a bible study.
It doesn't take long before the new wears off, missing secular activities becomes an inconvenience, and suddenly they find it easier to sleep in than to go to church on Sunday.
Recently, I had someone equate finding Jesus to eating a candy bar. She expanded her metaphor by describing how well-meaning churchgoers are out there handing out candy bars and getting people excited. They extoll the virtues of the candy bar, how it will change a person's life. They share how the community wants them to possess the candy bar, eat the candy bar.
The newly recruited take the candy bar, convinced it is the best thing, ever. They eat the candy bar, savoring the sweetness, the layers of flavorful ingredients. Then it's gone and they don't feel changed. They are left wanting more, wanting variety, even wanting to make their own candy bar then getting other people to eat it. Her response was, "I've eaten the candy bar, now what?"
Then she shared how those same people, who worked so hard to get the recruits to take and eat the candy bar, hold up their hands in surrender and say something akin to "we only have the one candy bar, you ate it, now you have to figure out the rest for yourself."
As I contemplated her rough metaphor, it occurred to me it is no wonder there is such a high attrition rate of newly minted RCIA initiates falling away within the first year of coming to the Catholic church. It is not surprising we have children raised Catholic walking away from the faith when they reach adulthood. It is not surprising we have adults who attended Sunday Mass all their lives admitting they do not believe or practice the teachings of the Church.
If no one is making clear the Eucharist is more than a metaphoric candy bar, why are the faithful shocked? If the faithful aren't equipping seekers with ways to develop their relationship with Christ on their own, it is no wonder they disengage. It is no wonder they never become disciples.
Faith takes real work after we taste Jesus in the Eucharist. The faithful think the hard part is getting people to believe in Christ and in the Eucharist. The reality is the hard part comes after their assent of faith. This is true for cradle-Catholics, converts, and reverts.
The Church has a smorgasbord of tools to help us engage our mind, body, and spirit in developing our relationship with Christ. But we have to make the conscious decision to do the work. You may never feel called to evangelize (aka hand out the candy bar), be a catechist, or serve during the liturgy. This is fine. Make the effort to go back to the Church's buffet of spiritual practices and find other ways to engage with your faith and your relationship with Christ. Do not give up even when it feels anti-climatic to your initial assent. You may find you prefer retreats, community prayer, specific devotionals, Lectio Divina, adoration, or any other spiritual practice people use to begin and deepen their relationship with Christ. Just do not give up. Find what works for you.
As a life-long revert, it took me nearly 40 years to figure out that if I was going to be a disciple of Christ, I had to engage Him. It isn't enough to eat the candy bar and expect to be changed forever. The life-altering experience comes from conversation with Christ; from physically manifesting Jesus through caring for others; from dedicating my time, talent, and treasure; and, from using my gifts to build His kingdom.
This is the spiritual change a relationship with Christ inspires. It is more than just tasting the candy bar. It's getting to share in the life of the candy bar maker.