Pope Benedict XVI said, “One does not really know a person if one knows this person second hand… and only experiencing life with God does the evidence of his existence appear.” A young priest who is a Professor of Theology discovered this truth himself. He explained: “For the major part of my life, even after I’d been ordained a priest, my faith, for me was like listening to a conversation that someone else was having. Occasionally someone would even say ‘I’ve spoken to God’ and I would get that word second hand. But I would be pleased and I would enjoy listening to what they had to say and what they have learned from God. So attending mass and being involved in the life of the Church was like a second hand experience, but it comforted me and I didn’t feel unhappy initially.
Then I went on a retreat where many of the people there had encountered the Lord and were joyfully speaking about him. I asked them to pray with me so that I could know him as well. It was then when I first discovered that faith is about a personal encounter between me and God, and that really transformed my faith completely and deepened my relationship with God incredibly. To know that God was calling me personally and was involved in a personal relationship of love was quite, quite different from a faith which was second hand and was based on what we receive from others. I did trust the faith which was given by others and I did respond to that faith wholeheartedly and I was sincere in that response. But it is quite a different thing and a transforming reality when that faith becomes a personal encounter with the Lord.