“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” (John 10:14)
My son, Emmett, turned two last week, causing Briget and me to reminisce. We were trying to remember what it was like before we knew him. We reflected especially on those nine months he spent in the womb, how strange it is that he was with us for so long, in such an intimate way, before we’d ever seen him or held him in our arms. He was so completely of one being with his mother that he could not see her, could not have even imagined her—in whatever way an infant in utero might imagine—as anything other than himself. He abided in her, and they were one.
To ask an adult about Christ is perhaps like asking in-utero-Emmett about his mother. Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me,” and this is true, but most of the time it is a knowledge so complete, so encompassing of us, that we cannot see it. We can only abide in it.
If Christ dwells in us, and we in him, then we know him as a fish knows water–that is, mostly unknowingly. I think about how much of my life thus far has been an attempt to “get out of the water” as it were, to find a vantage point from which I might see Christ—Andean mountain peaks, great European cathedrals, complicated yoga poses. It’s not that Christ isn’t in all of those places. Of course, he is. It’s just that the knowledge of him is so much closer than all that. Sometimes it is because of our looking that we can’t see.
Jesus gives us the Eucharist to remind us how close he is. As we take his flesh and blood they become our flesh and blood—not something to be seen by our eyes, but our eyes themselves. The Good Shepherd knows us as us. It is a knowing beyond human knowledge, a womb-like abiding, he in us and we in him.