The very first words my (future) wife ever said to me were “do I know you?”. She thought I looked like someone she went to high school with but it came out as being a bit… cold. We still joke about it today.
The Gospel this last Sunday wasn’t quite so funny but amounts to the same question. The reading was from Luke 13:22-30 and is the story of the master of the house barring the gate and telling those outside that he doesn’t know them. They reply that they ate with him and he taught in their streets but the master replies that he simply doesn’t know them. This, obviously, leads to an undesirable result for those who “thought” they knew him.
Few passages in scripture make me more nervous than this one. I’m a plain ‘ol Catholic. I don’t do particularly much or particularly little. I think I know Jesus. This passage reminds me that there may be some surprises come judgment day.
I think the difference between those inside and those outside the house in Jesus’ parable is the difference between relationship and proximity. It’s easy—particularly for Catholics—to be in close proximity to Christ. We go to Mass, we say our memorized prayers, we cross ourselves with holy water, and so on. We get very close to Christ but it’s very easy to get close in the sense that two strangers get close to each other on a bus. They may be right next to each other and have no relationship at all.
Closeness in relationship looks subtly different. It’s not the difference between going to Mass or staying home to gear up for the football games Sunday afternoon; it’s the difference between going to Mass and being bored and going to Mass and encountering Jesus in the Gospel and the Eucharist. It’s the difference between reciting a memorized prayer while daydreaming about something else and spending quality time with Christ as you would in any other real relationship.
Trust me, these are hard words for me to hear (and write). As I’m typing this I’m shaking my head thinking of all the times I’ve recited my daily devotions like a machine while my mind is elsewhere or that I’ve spent more time keeping my kids quiet in Mass than communing with Jesus. That’s why passages like this exist, I suppose, to remind us that holiness is a process but we at least need to be going in the right direction.