We live in an ID-obsessed culture. You can't fly without proper identification (heck, you can't even wander around the airport without it). Gone are the days when we used to be able to stand at the doorway of the gate itself, to welcome some relative back from their plane ride home. This past Lent when I went to hear confessions at a Catholic high school, all the students wore lanyards with a photo ID attached (so much for anonymity in Confession). Last week, we needed a photo ID just to pull into the hotel parking lot where we were having dinner. Have you ever actually counted the number of passwords and PIN numbers you're required to use? The identification, of course we know, is for safety and security. It verifies that we are who we say we are. There's no way any one person can know everybody, and so the ID helps to assist in the recognition.
A lot of the Gospel passages we've been reading since Easter Sunday have revolved around recognizing Jesus' identity. On the Tuesday of the Octave, we heard about Mary Magdalene recognizing Jesus, after first thinking he was the gardener. On the Wednesday, the disciples on the road to Emmaus thought he was a fellow traveler (and a slightly ignorant one at that) before recognizing him "in the breaking of the bread." On the Octave's Friday, John told us that none of the Apostles dared ask Jesus his identity on the seashore of Lake Tiberias, because "they realized it was the Lord." On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we heard Thomas' recognizing Jesus with the words, "My Lord and my God." At Mass yesterday, Luke told us the eleven went from being "startled and terrified" to "incredulous for joy and amazed" after Jesus convinced them of His identity.
So how about us? Do we recognize Jesus in the ways He makes Himself known in the Church? Do we recognize Him in the Scriptures? First the Emmaus disciples, and then the eleven, got the Scripture lesson of their lives when Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." I've gotta tell you, I love the little blurb that Joel Osteen has his congregation recite at his services: "This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I'll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I'll never be the same, in Jesus' name." Neat, eh? There's nothing in that statement that we as Catholics do not believe about God's word; Can you imagine the pastor of a Catholic parish that has his parishioners memorize and recite that passage just before his homily? Come to think of it, a parish where Catholics brought their bibles (or Missals) to Mass each Sunday might be enough to give a pastor some sort of cardiac episode.
St. John's letter (the 2nd reading yesterday) gave us the litmus test for knowing Jesus Christ: "The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments." John is pretty clear on this: If you do that, you know Him; if you don't, you're a liar. You've gotta love John, no gray; You either do or don't.
Most of us heard that 2nd reading yesterday and said, "uh oh". We try, but we blow it sometimes. St. Peter tells the crowd of people in Acts (our 1st reading) that they blew it when they condemned Jesus to death. But he also gives them hope when he tells them that all is not lost; that they should "Repent ... and be converted, that [their] sins may be wiped away." Again, that involves recognizing Christ in the Confessional. And, while we're at it, do we recognize Him in the Eucharist? In the Priesthood? In the Magisterium? Do we recognize Christ in the ways He makes himself known?
Or perhaps the bigger question is, when we die and face judgment, will He recognize us?