Perhaps John’s repeated musing… “I did not know him” (which resonates like a refrain during this text) might give us a focus for our reflection on today’s gospel.
John’s testimony reminds us that knowing Jesus is not all our own work. ‘Knowing’ Jesus is both a gift and a grace, experienced as revelation and as a relationship, and asks of us the capacity to live with the mystery of his presence and yet make it manifest to others. Knowing Jesus invites us to be lifelong witnesses and yet always willing to learn.
John relates his knowing Jesus to the action of both the Father and the Spirit. He is called by God into a public role as a witness and emissary, and his faithful response to God’s call is confirmed by the action of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus himself.
Somewhere within this wonderful myriad of divine initiatives and actions, and amid our faithful efforts to respond to the gift that God offers – we all find the place wherein we meet and come to know Jesus. For some it is a knowing that flows almost seamlessly from birth, for others it is a knowing that waxes and wanes throughout the years, for many, it is a knowing that is tested and tried by life’s challenges, and for some, it is a knowing that comes late in the day after a lifetime of labouring without knowing the one who offers meaning to life itself.
Whatever the moment, and regardless of the circumstances that lead us to faith, to know Jesus beyond merely knowing about him, is life itself. He has come not only to take away the sins of the world, as John reminds us, but, to reveal eternal life itself.
In this New Year, let us all seek what John discovered – to know that he is the Son of God and to testify to this in our daily lives.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.