I took a long sip of my hot coffee to give me a minute to process his question. Sitting across from me was a man in his late twenties who had just asked me, “When did you first encounter the Risen Christ?”
His question made me pause. Not only was I thrown off by the depth of his question within minutes of meeting each other, but I was not prepared to be the one asked this type of question. When he asked to meet, I assumed I would be in the role of spiritual director offering questions to let him reflect on his own faith journey.
It was a challenging question, not because I had not reflected on it before, but because of how badly I needed to be reminded of the beginning of my journey: the early moments when my eyes were opened and my heart burned within me. The moments when I was drawn inexplicably to God by a restlessness and desire to learn more. The moments when I was almost giddy with joy as I became aware of God’s presence in my life.
As the coffee warmed my throat, I realized I saw in the young man the same inquisitive nature that I possess—the part of me that loves to hear people’s faith stories and the part of me that loves to hear when God got people’s attention. I could feel his question hitting me deep in my core, a nudge from God to remember where it all began.
I did my best to share my beginnings of encountering Christ, and then I eagerly listened to his story. It invigorated me tremendously both to share my own story and hear his.
As I got in my car, I continued to reflect. What I realized on the way home was how the majority of my ministry work the last three years was walking with those more often in a season of deepening than beginning. How quickly I had forgotten the joy of the first encounter with Christ!
The joy of the first encounter with Christ is unforgettable. It is the same joy that propelled the disciples forward to spread the Good News with fervor and urgency. It is the joy that propels me along my own faith journey. It is the same joy that draws people into a relationship with God every day.
It was in remembering my first encounters with the Risen Christ and in hearing the young man’s story that both my faith and my ministry work were invigorated.
Reflect on when you first encountered the Risen Christ. Then pose this question to people in your life and listen to their stories.
The risen Christ has accompanied me all of my life, from the time I was a little child who would turn to him for comfort whenever I was afraid of the dark. Christ continued to accompany me throughout my life’s journey and we walked together very closely; however, the real turning point or “Emmaus” experience began during the 19th Annotation. It was indeed transformational as I recognized the depth of God’s love for me. I am deeply grateful for Saint Ignatius and the gift of the Spiritual Exercises.
I vividly remember my first encounter with the risen Christ. It was on January 14 1977 at Our Lady of Peace retreat house in Narragansett, RI. I was on an Ignatian retreat with other Jesuit students taking the spiritual exercises. It was an experience so real and transforming that I will never forget it. Like yourself, I felt the Spirit burning in my heart and was changed forever.
Becky, thank you for this article, it never ceases to amaze me how God is our God. Just two weeks ago this Friday, my parish held it’s 14th Emmaus Mens’ retreat, which the Lord led and I facilitated. To witness how some of these Men came into the Retreat searching for and how some of the met the Risen Christ for the first time. The Holy Spirit was present for sure. It reminded me when my heart burned with in when I experienced the Risen Lord, I still have that burning desire within to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is Risen!!