When Elizabeth Scalia shared Encountering Jesus (the latest read from the Patheos Book Club) with me, I was definitely interested in reading it. The book (compiled by James Stuart Bell) is a collection of people seeing Jesus or witnessing a miracle in their lives that they attribute to Jesus’s intercession.
I’ll admit that I like this book, but I don’t love it. I completely understand the idea of encountering Jesus through prayer or through a miracle that they can’t explain, but the problem is that it lacks depth. I mean, there’s a story about the compiler of the book encountering Jesus through drugs, for crying out loud! I’m sorry that I sound skeptical, but while I believe that God can work with us through whatever bad things we experience, I highly doubt that Jesus would appear during a drug-induced haze.
I also wonder how the encounter with Jesus has affected the lives of the people who contributed to this book. It’s one thing to encounter Jesus, but if you don’t let that encounter change you, then that experience was all for nothing. I will give the people who contributed to this book the benefit of the doubt.
I definitely agree that we can encounter Jesus outside of the Church. I still remember the day that I felt that I was drowning in my anxiety and how Christ pulled me out of it one rainy afternoon. But I wish I could’ve seen stories of encountering Christ within the Church. I love hearing stories of Eucharistic miracles, especially knowing that they still happen. (Pope Francis witnessed two of them! How awesome is that!?) I love the peace that I get whenever I go to Adoration. I love teaching kids about the faith and seeing Christ in them. I love what Mother Teresa said about Christ being in distressing disguise of the poor. As much as I loved reading this book, there weren’t any wonderful stories like that.
I am definitely glad that Jesus can come into the lives of anyone who asks for his presence and that he makes miracles happen even now. It’s just that compared to the myriad of ways I encounter Christ, the book feels a bit like swimming in shallow water.