Knowledge is Not Enough!
by Sebastian R. Fama

On September 20, 2000, Pope John Paul II speaking to 40,000 people gathered for his general audience said, "Through the Holy Spirit, Christians are brought into a personal relationship with God." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, speaking to a group of religion teachers and catechists at the Vatican was more explicit. He said, "Catechesis is not so much a matter of transmitting knowledge as it is a question of leading people to a relationship with Jesus."

Knowledge, as valuable as it is, is not enough. Christianity is much more than a collection of facts. The loving God who created us desires to be in a relationship with us. When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). Think about it! Do you really believe that you can love anybody that much without knowing them?

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul refers to the Church as "the Bride of Christ." Paul's marriage analogy is a good one, as it illustrates the type of relationship that should exist between God and us. You can read a biography and learn everything that there is to know about a person, and yet still not have a relationship with them. Likewise you can read and understand Scripture and still not have a relationship with God. A true marriage is a covenant. A covenant involves a giving of oneself to the other. Jesus gave Himself totally for us on the cross. We return that love by humbly submitting our lives to Him.

Some who recognize the need for a relationship with God feel that doctrine is a hindrance. They relegate the intellect to a position of insignificance. Ultimately they are guided by their feelings. If they feel strongly about something they attribute it to a prompting of the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit certainly does guide us in a personal way, it is sound doctrine that confirms that the guidance is from the Holy Spirit and not from those who would deceive and manipulate us. Paul rightly warns Titus to "teach what befits sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). When we attach more importance to our feelings than we do to sound doctrine we can end up with a god of our own making, a god who is subject to our beliefs rather than a God who tells us what we are to believe. In reality we have only two choices: we can say yes to God or we can say no to God. Under no circumstances can we ever tell Him how to be God.

In Psalm 42:1, David expresses his need for God: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." It is perfectly natural for those who have a relationship with God to long for Him. But where does such longing come from? Paul gives us the answer in Phillipians 4:13, where he says, "I can do all things in Him [Christ] who strengthens me." That would include everything that is expected of the believer. Not only avoiding sin and being charitable but even the simple act of recognizing and desiring God. All that we do that is right is accomplished by the grace of God working in us. We do nothing good on our own. Indeed Jesus tells us as much in John 15:5: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

The grace of God is administered by the Holy Spirit and is available to all that ask. Jesus teaches us this when He declares:

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:9-13).

Now it is true that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at Baptism. However, like any gift, it is useless if it remains in the box. Many claim to embrace the Faith, but it seems to have little or no impact on their lives. Faith demands a response. We must consciously cooperate with the grace received at Baptism for it to be of any value.

So what's the secret? How does one respond to grace and establish a personal relationship with God? Well, you can ask Jesus into your life with a simple prayer of commitment such as the one below. Note that these words are not magical. If the sentiments expressed in the prayer do not exist in your heart, nothing will happen. However, if you truly desire God you will find Him. And when you find Him, you will know "the peace of God that surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).

Dearest Jesus: Thank you for loving me. I realize that I am a sinner. Please forgive me for all that I have done wrong. I realize that I cannot live this life without you. Come into my life and help me to be the person that you want me to be. Amen.

Copyright 2001 

For Further Study

Books - Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand

Prev.   Essays