We are supposed to know things from school and the newspapers but often what we know, to borrow from Plato, is a shadow of what really is there. Shadows do not tell you much of the person. If the sun is high in the sky the person looks short. If it is low, they look tall. But it is the same person.
Migrants look different to those who read about them from a distance in the papers and to those for whom they are family members. But it is the same person. If we knew what a person is, behind the label ‘migrant’ or ‘Muslim’ or ‘Christian’, we would respect them. I heard someone’s description of a migrant last week as, ‘a visitor I have not yet met.’ The description immediately suggests a relationship, however it might be worked out.
Our knowledge of others – even those close to us – is like a shadow. The ancient Greeks used to talk of substance and accidents. Substance is the real thing which you cannot see. Accidents are the things you see: a person is tall or short, old or young, black or white. Plato imagined people sitting in a cave with their backs to the entrance, where the light came from, and looking at a blank wall in front of them. On the wall they saw the shadows of themselves projected. This is what we see in life – just the accidents, the shadows – not the real.
The real, the real person, is harder to see. What lies behind all that my eyes see and my ears hear? When the Good Shepherd says “I know my sheep” he is saying He knows us and there is nothing hidden. He knows the substance. He is not interested in the accidents: how I look, how tall I am, whether I am wearing a nice suit or a wig or the colour of my nail varnish. He knows the person in depth.
This might sound frightening but we should not be frightened. All that he knows about us is not matter he uses against us in judgement. He knows we are weak, but he also knows we are made in his image and are destined to share the fullness of life with him. He is not interested in our faults but in our efforts to follow the gospel, to live generously and truthfully each day. This is what interests him. Others may know a bit about us but he knows us completely.
And what is more he loves us as we are. He loves us more than we love ourselves. He has plans for us which we have no knowledge of. So the Greek philosophers were right. We live in a land of shadows. We do not see the reality. We do not know each other and so we see others as a threat to our way of life. We reject, sometimes even kill, each other, because we are migrants or Muslims or Christians. But He knows us and draws us to himself.
Our response depends on our knowledge. “My own know me.” How do we know Him? It is clear that Mary Magdalene did not know him at first; neither did the two going to Emmaus. They had to grow in their knowledge. So do we! Those early disciples came to know him through listening to him as he revealed the scriptures, touching him and sharing in the breaking of the bread. So do we!Post published in: Faith