Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22; John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
A man once walked by my office while I was talking to someone. After he passed by my visitor said, “Boy, that guy is lazy.” I didn’t know the passerby very well but I heard that he was often absent, got others to cover his duties, and generally avoided taking any extra assignments. I have to admit that from then on I eyed him with a little suspicion. Only much later, when I got to know him well, did I discover that during that time his wife was suffering through a terrible battle with cancer. His manager had very kindly given him consent to work at home as much as possible so he could spend time being with and caring for her as well as for their two young daughters.
Today’s readings remind us that before we say we know someone we should stop to consider whether we are thinking rightly. In the first reading the people knew the just one well enough to know that he was an annoyance; a reminder of what they did not want to be. Somehow, they had strayed so far from right thinking that even the sight of a good person had become too much for them. In reality, it wasn’t the just man himself who was an annoyance to these people as much as it was the voice of their own consciences.
The words from this section of the book of Wisdom may sound very familiar. They very effectively prophesy the mocking that Jesus endured on the Cross; Jesus, the epitome of goodness and righteousness. We would never want to be associated with those who mock, taunt, or belittle Him. However, we must ask ourselves if we do that to any of the least of His brothers and sisters; if so, we are doing it to Him. If we have been annoyed or bothered by the piety or spiritual practices of others, then perhaps the voice of our own conscience is calling us to remember that our standard for piety and all the virtues is not other people. It is Jesus. To know virtue, we must know Jesus.
As today’s selection from the gospel according to John teaches, knowing Jesus means much more than knowing where He was born or raised. Apparently, there was a belief among some Jews of the time that when the Christ appeared, no one would know where he was from. Since they knew where Jesus was from they reasoned that He could not be the one. The evangelist loves irony; it is fitting that these people in fact did not know where Jesus was from. They acknowledged his human origins but were completely blind to his divinity.
The question for us is, do we know where Jesus is from? That is, although we know him as our Savior, do we really acknowledge him as Lord over all parts of our life? Whenever we refuse to give ourselves totally to Christ, we keep Him at a distance. For example, perhaps in the quiet of some evening the Spirit urges me to turn the television off and spend a few minutes in silence examining my conscience. I could do that now; on the other hand, I could wait. This show isn’t really that bad. Maybe I should say grace even when I’m out with my non-religious friends; on the other hand, that might make them self-conscious. As for that pro-life bumper sticker or rally, maybe I should forget it; others might be offended and I don’t want to start any trouble. Isn’t my Catholic faith a private matter, after all?
These are the kind of things that keep Christ at a distance for they are at odds with the example he gave us. Jesus devoted his life and death to showing us that faith is not private, it’s public: He called people publicly, healed publicly, taught about His Father publicly, and died publicly. Again, the standard for our profession of faith is not the feelings or self-consciousness of others, it is Christ. If Jesus wasn’t ashamed to profess God as His Father and act in his Name publicly then we shouldn’t be, either.