Zech 12:10-11, 13:1; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24
Philosophers and theologians speak about two kinds of knowledge. The first one is “conceptual knowledge” which also is known as “head knowledge”. An example would be the knowledge that 2 plus 2 is equal to four or that the moon is smaller than the sun. The other kind is “evaluative knowledge” which also is called “heart knowledge”. My mother’s love for me is something that I know not only from the head but from the heart. It is something that I know experientially. This conviction is an example of an evaluative knowledge.
The distinction is important because sometimes we know things intellectually but we do not value them in our hearts. For example, one may know that loving the neighbor is a way of loving God, but that knowledge does not make him act on it. Another person may know that justice is a Christian virtue and he acts on this by working fairly with others in his office and in his community. The latter is an example of evaluative knowledge because the person not only understands but also makes his own the value that he knows. He manifests his love of the value by putting it into practice.
The two kinds of knowledge also qualify the kind of relationship we have with God. Can you imagine a person who has great knowledge about God, about Jesus and the mysteries of the faith but lacking of a meaningful relationship with a personal God? The person knows about Jesus but he doesn’t really know him personally.
Jesus’ question “What do people say about me?” was really quite different to his other question “Who do you say I am?” Actually, he was not really concerned about what people say about him. To be praised or to be appreciated was least of his concerns. What mattered to him at that moment was his disciples’ knowledge of him. Do they really know me already? Are we really friends? Have we opened up to each other enough? At one point in John’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples: “From now on I call you friends because I have already made known to you everything I learnt from my Father.” Intimacy or friendship involves self-disclosure and this was something that mattered a lot to the Lord. He wanted his disciples to be his friends, to possess an evaluative knowledge of him.
What about us? Who do we say Jesus is? Do we know Jesus personally? What kind of relationship do we have with him?
Intimacy or deep friendship is only possible when the people involved are willing to give their quality time. Many parents come to me every now and then with all their complaints about their children. “I don’t understand my son”, “I’m not sure if I still know my daughter”. The complaints speak a lot of truth. How much quality time do children have with their parents? How much time do parents have with their children? Years ago, a reliable survey informed us that children have more time in front of television than with their parents. I guess today, children have more time listening to their Ipod than to their parents. How then can meaningful relationships be established in the family if people have no time for each other? If we don’t change our ways, I’m afraid many families will suffer and we will end up not knowing each other well.
And it’s the same thing with our relationship with God. If we are not willing to give God our time, we will never know him well. By our human capacity, we cannot understand or know God; it is God who makes himself known to us. All we need to do is to open our hearts to him. Pope Benedict XVI encourages people to establish a personal relationship with Jesus. He says that the only way to know God’s will is to have a personal experience with Jesus. The pope made the point that God always wants to relate intimately with us through Jesus.
I would like to end my homily with a short story with the hope that we too will come to know God from our hearts.
A famous actor was invited to a function where he was asked to recite for the pleasure of the guests. Having recited a few common verses, he asked if there was anything in particular they wanted to hear. After a moment or two, an old pastor asked to hear Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd”. The actor paused for a moment and then said, “I will, but on one condition – that you will recite it also, after I have finished.”
The pastor was taken by surprise. “I’m hardly a public speaker, but if you wish, I shall recite too.”
The actor began quite impressively. His voice was trained and his intonation was perfect. The audience was spellbound and when he finished, there was great applause from the guests. Now it was the old pastor’s turn to recite the same psalm. His voice was not remarkable, his tone was not faultless, but when he finished, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The actor rose and his voice quivered as he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I reached your eyes and your ears; he has reached your hearts. The difference is this: I know the Psalm but he knows the Shepherd.”
(The story is from the book Throw Fire by John Fuellenbach, S.V.D)