In case you haven’t yet noted the date and time of our Diocese-wide “Hearts Aflame” Eucharistic Congress on your busy calendar, it’s on Sat., Sept. 22, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. The shrine is also known as the “Shrine of the North American Martyrs,” because it is where the first Jesuit martyrs shed their blood, proclaiming the name of Jesus.

Now, here’s why you, your whole family and your friends should go.

We know our faith tells us that Jesus Christ suffered and died to save us all. Deep in our hearts, we have come to know — or, at least, we have been told — that the more we trust in Jesus and come to know him, the more we find our true path in life and who we really are.

To put it simply, in Jesus we find our true humanity, our real identity, our most authentic self.

Every living being has to grow. Wherever you and I may be on our life’s journey: at what age or state of emotional or physical health; in whatever walk of life or relationship; or in whatever economic, developmental or transitional situation, Jesus wants to meet us right there. He wants to give us himself.

The beautiful image of Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts, which artists have depicted, comes from the last book of the Bible: specifically, in the Book of Revelation 3:20. Jesus says that he stands at that door, waiting for us to let him in so that he can sit down with us and dine with us.

Yes, Jesus wants to feed us. The only miracle that appears in all four Gospels is the account of Jesus feeding the hungry crowds who are drawn to him. He never refuses anyone who seeks him and asks for help.

Jesus knows our hungers, longings and fears. He seeks to bring us healing and fulfillment. The food he wants to feed us with, we come to learn, is himself. Everything he has is ours! This draws us into the mystery of his eucharistic presence.

In chapter six of the Gospel of St. John, from which we are hearing in these mid-summer weeks at Sunday Mass, Jesus announces his presence to us as “the new manna,” the bread of heaven that we learn is he himself, his eucharistic presence.

Nowhere does heaven come closer to Earth than at the Mass. The same Jesus who enters our hearts to stay with us is the same Jesus whom the saints behold in heaven! There is only one Jesus. The whole Jesus — body, blood, soul and divinity — enters our inmost being if we simply say, “Yes,” “Amen!” and open up the door to him in holy communion.

This mysterious and life-changing message is what we will contemplate and celebrate at our Eucharistic Congress as people from every parish and community of faith in our Diocese come together. But what is there to learn and experience that we do not already know?

As in any relationship, a person whom we love always remains something of a mystery. The flames of true love never really go out, but seem to become more intense as we penetrate that mystery.

Unfortunately, some of our human relationships can grow stale or dormant for a number of reasons. Usually, however, it is because, one or both parties are not listening to each other or have taken for granted that they “know” the other person well enough.

Remember, this even happened to Jesus himself: Some of his family members and neighbors in Nazareth could not accept the miracles and sayings they were hearing about him, because they “knew” him as “just Jesus.”

In our relationship with Jesus, of one thing we can be sure: No matter how much we may think we know him, it is never enough. In fact, not even eternity is enough “time” to discover and “unpack” the mystery of his burning love for us. Just accepting there is more to learn of Jesus and his love for us is an act of faith, a response to a grace and great step forward along the way.

St. Paul uses an intriguing metaphor to suggest how we might get to know Jesus and experience his love more deeply (Rom 13:14, Gal 3:27): He says that we, the baptized, have “put on” or “clothed ourselves” in Christ.

Maybe Paul was thinking of the age-old game children play, dressing up like Mommy or Daddy. Young people who are impressed by certain popular or heroic figures often try to take on some of their ways of behaving and even dressing, too. We sometimes observe in humor how long-bonded couples start looking somewhat like each other, or even their pets!

All kidding aside, we do become somewhat like the person or persons we admire and hang around with. So, what is it about Jesus: What can we learn of and from him that will change us for the better?

In the weeks ahead, I would like to share with you some of my own thoughts about what one might call the character traits and habits of Jesus, which I personally have admired, been mystified and challenged by, and have come to see as key in the growth and formation of my own human identity.

I make no pretense of originality. The traits and actions I will point out are available to anyone who reads the Scriptures and listens to what the saints, our spiritual ancestors, have had to say in their prayer and reflections. No doubt, you have found and will find others, and I hope you will tell me about them!

What is the true identity of Jesus? How does knowing and loving him more and more shape our own identity? This is a lifelong adventure for each of us who respond to his humble and gentle invitation to “come and see.”

As we continue on our journey of faith, wanting to encounter the real Jesus and to become more like him, we learn that “putting on Christ,” as St. Paul invites us to, is not something just for show.

It is not about putting on sandals, sporting long hair or a beard or wearing long and flowing garments — if Jesus actually did any of these. It is about seeking and finding our truest identity as a human being: the person God the Father sees and loves in us, as he sees and loves his own Son, Jesus.

(Follow the Bishop at and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)