There is a particular irony worth noting in today's Gospel. It's about the relationship between John the Baptist and his cousin Jesus. John must have known Jesus all his life. Their birthdays were close together in time: Jesus born of Mary, John born of Elizabeth. They must often have played together as children. The two families most have journeyed in caravans together to worship God in the Temple of Jerusalem each year since this was a highlight of all deeply religious Jewish families. Yes, John was sure he knew all there was to know about Jesus! Yet in today's Gospel, John admits rather embarrassingly that he missed something important: he failed, from early on, to recognize Jesus as the Promised One, the Messiah..
How could this happen to someone as good and as focused as John the Baptist? The answer is not at all difficult. John was so totally dedicated and absorbed in the work of preparing the way for the Promised One, of encouraging people to change the way they were living their lives, that he didn't see past the physical appearance of his cousin to recognize who he really was. His very busyness narrowed his vision of Jesus. He didn't recognize Jesus for who he was!.
If this happened to John, it certainly can happen to us. In very fact, it does happen! In particular there are three things we tend not to recognize. The first is the presence of the Living God in our lives: God's comfort and loving warmth. We rarely if ever experience this comfort and warmth because we're not looking for it. We are so absorbed in the multiple details of our everyday lives – the worries, concerns and responsibilities that fill our time. So God's offer to embrace us, though not rejected, is not accepted.
The second thing we tend to miss is the goodness that is already within ourselves.. When God creates us, God makes us good, as is all creation. The Loving God makes us loving women and men. There is a basic goodness deep within us that we fail to appreciate. Like John, we simply don't recognize it for what it is. Because we don't value it, we neglect it. Thirdly, we tend to overlook the basic goodness of other people. We allow our baser, less loving selves to guide our relationships and then wonder why we don't get along well with each other!
So how so we stop the downward spiral? How do we learn to recognize the basic, overwhelming goodness that defines the Living God and inhabits the human heart? The essential answer to this question is to develop and maintain a deep, daily prayer life with the God who is the Essence of Love. Through prayer we keep contact with the Source of all love, and then we can recognize the mirrored reflections of love in the hearts of the people we encounter our lifetime. When we begin to see others as the Living God sees them and us, we are well on the way to recognizing what John the Baptist finally recognized in his cousin Jesus. AMEN!,