I did not know him.
These are strange words coming from John the Baptist. Wasn’t Jesus his cousin? Surely they spent time together growing up, attending family gatherings, and the like. Even the most distant families have some knowledge of one another. And yet John makes this stunning statement regarding Jesus: I did not know him.
But each and every one of us can also utter these words regarding our relationship to Jesus. Even the most devoted follower of Jesus in their most private moments of prayer asks, “Do I really know Jesus? Do I really know myself?” In a million moments of each day we often overlook the presence of Jesus – in the tabernacle, in our neighbor, in the homeless person, immigrant, refugee, or any other person we encounter.
In the time after Epiphany the Church asks us to consider the different ways Jesus manifested his presence to us in the Gospels. Both before and after the resurrection we find the disciples failing to know the presence of Jesus in their midst. These stories are designed for us to be ever attentive to Jesus present in our lives so that we can find our way to the reign of God.