In Sunday’s Gospel reading (January 20, 2008), John the Baptist admits, “I did not know him,” referring to Jesus. This may seem odd to us. How could John not “know” his own cousin? Surely they played together as children. But perhaps John only meant he did not initially recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
This gets me thinking: Will I recognize Jesus when he comes again? Or, even more to the point: Do I really know Jesus?
John the Baptist saw a dove descend upon Jesus when he baptized him. That certainly gave him an inkling that this seemingly ordinary man was indeed the Son of God. Unfortunately, most of us don’t witness hovering doves or even neon signs screaming, “This is the Lord, with whom I am well pleased.” But that doesn’t mean he’s not here. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get to know him better.
For me, one of the best ways I’ve come to know and to serve Christ better is through the holy office of motherhood.
Once, after I’d lost my temper with my oldest daughter, I apologized to her and gave her a big hug. I then told her that she has someone in her life who will never, never disappoint her.
“Who?” she asked.
“Jesus,” I told her.
A few days later she was tugging on my pants wanting me to play with her. “In just a minute,” I told her as I tried to quickly finish the task at hand.
“Not now! Can’t you just leave me alone for a minute?” I screeched.
I felt guilty as soon as the words left my mouth and I reached out to her. She was staring at the crucifix on our wall. “I want Jesus,” she said.
Ouch. That was a much-needed wake-up call. It’s not always easy to see Jesus in a tantrum-throwing preschooler who refuses to poop on the potty or fall asleep at night. (If you’re a frequent reader of my blogs, you may be wondering if my life ever will revolve around something other than the bowel movements and sleep patterns of my children; I occasionally wonder the same thing!) Even when I should see at least a shadow of Jesus in my sweet child when she says softly, “Mommy, I need some lovin’,” I too often turn away. “Not right now,” I say. Or, “Let me finish this email.” But would I make Christ wait if he needed me? I hope not.
My children truly are dwelling places for the Lord. They are children of God and they more than need my attentiveness, patience, love and care – they are worthy of it.
Parents are called to serve Jesus in everything we do – from raising children in the faith to simply giving of ourselves when our children are sick, scared, smelly, hungry or just looking for a playmate. Every time I put my kids’ (or my husband’s) needs before my own, I’m getting to know Jesus and his cross a little bit better. I’m learning what it means to “lay down one’s life” for another.
There will likely never be a dove descending upon this household, but maybe, just maybe, if I serve my children as I would serve Christ, they will see something in me that John the Baptist saw in Jesus that historical day down by the river. I hope they will see sacrificial love. I hope they will see not only a mommy who loves them with her entire being, but perhaps they’ll catch a glimpse of Jesus in me and will one day be able to say, “I met him and got to know him a little better through my mom.”
That would make all those fights over potty time and sleepless nights well, well worth it.