Homily Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle A Jan 19, 2020
I am impressed with John the Baptist. Twice in our fairly short Gospel John confesses his ignorance. John states, “I did not know him.” This is, I think, quite surprising. It certainly was surprising to John. He confesses, “I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”
So if anybody was going to know Jesus, it should have been John the Baptist. But until John saw the Holy Spirit come down and remain on Jesus, John did not know Him.
John may have seen the Holy Spirit come down and remain on Jesus, but what was really happening, I think, is that the Holy Spirit came down on JOHN, so that John’s eyes and heart and soul were opened, so that John was able to see that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Lamb of God, the Savior.
But what else should we have expected? Faith is a gift. We don’t deserve Faith. We don’t accomplish Faith. We don’t earn Faith. Faith is a gift.
And so it was for John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit had to open John’s eyes. He could not perceive it on his own.
And the same is true for us. I may be a baptized and confirmed Catholic, went to 9 years of Catholic Grade School, four years of Catholic High School taught by the Brothers of Mary, have a Master of Arts degree in Theology from The Catholic University of America, be ordained a priest for over 40 years and even a pastor, but that does not, thereby, mean I know Jesus. It means I know a lot ABOUT Jesus. Knowing Jesus, and knowing ABOUT Jesus, are not the same.
And it is also true for you. You may be a faithful Catholic with all your Sacraments, years of religious education and years of faithfully attending Mass, and you may know a great deal ABOUT Jesus, but that is not the same as KNOWING Jesus.
KNOWING Jesus is a gift. A gift of the Holy Spirit. Knowing a lot ABOUT Jesus doesn’t help. Sometimes it can even get in the way. Someone with a PhD. in Theology is not necessarily any holier, or any closer to Jesus, than someone whose religious education ended with First Communion.
So what should we do? I think John the Baptist gives us a good example. First of all, we need to admit that we do not know Jesus. At least we do not know Jesus completely or well. We need to stop thinking that because we know a lot ABOUT Jesus we therefore know Jesus.
Like John the Baptist we need to open our hearts and our minds to the gift of the Holy Spirit so that our eyes are open to see. To really see Jesus. Most likely in places we did not expect: in places that are simple and everyday and commonplace and even boring. // In places of loss and sorrow and defeat. // In places that are odd, or strange, or weird. // In the faces of loved ones, and in the faces of enemies.
But first, like John the Baptist, we have to let go of our self-assurance, of our sense that we have Jesus figured out, that we know how God is going to act in Jesus.
We need to say, fully and deeply and completely, “I did not know Him.” And thereby open space in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to introduce us to Jesus, so that we might truly know Him.