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To Know and Be Known



“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).


Prayer should become intimate like the stillness in the conversation of lovers. The quality of relationship Christ asks from us is deep and personal. He wants a companionship: a sharing of who we are and a tuning in to who He is. We make life complicated, but it should not be. We are here to know Him and be known by Him.


“I am the good shepherd…I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:11,14).


In what way does Christ know his followers?


γινώσκω τὰ ἐμὰ - “I know my own.”


He explains what this means elsewhere.


“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”


Many believe in Christ intellectually. Many worship him religiously, and even work miracles in his name, but Christ says to them, “I never knew you.”


Who is known by Christ? “The one who does the will of the Father” (Matthew 7:21).


In 140 B.C., a letter was presented to the Chinese Emperor describing the Way of the Dao. The wise man, it says, “puts aside cleverness and follows Dao…He sets aside all yearnings, abandons all desires, and does away with all deliberation…[in so doing] he has entered the Gateway of Heaven.”


To walk the Way of Christ requires no less determination or detachment. All yearnings, all desires, all deliberation are set aside by the person following Christ — to whom Christ will say, “I know you.”


γινώσκουσί με τὰ ἐμά - “My own know me.”


This is the more radical remark. It is no wonder that Christ knows his creation. But can creation know the Creator? If anyone could speak confidently about God it was Job, and God rebuked him:


“Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man…Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?...Hast thou an arm like God? canst thou thunder with a voice like him? (Job 38:2, 40:9).


We do not even understand rocks and birds, let alone stars and gravity or the human conscious. Science has come a long way, but with all our discoveries, we remain as blind and ignorant as bats. How can we possibly know God? Yet, Christ tells us, His own know Him.


Christianity stands out among other religions. It is the one faith which offers this kind of intimacy with God — to truly know him, to become one with him. In sacraments and repentance, we begin to know God the way wife a knows her spouse, as two companions know one another that have spent their life sharing everything, body, mind, soul, and heart.


“I am the good shepherd…I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:11,14).


As exciting as this promise is, it comes with a warning. In the end, very few actually know Christ. We have to dedicate our lives to these words. We would do well to ask ourselves: How well do I know Christ?


“[My sheep] listen to my voice” (John 10:16).


Are we listening?


The man who knows Christ immerses himself in Scripture.


“His delight is in the ‘torah’ of the LÓRD; and in his ‘torah’ will he exercise himself dáy and níght” (Psalm 1:2).


Joshua tells us, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night” (1:8). “Bind [its words] on your heart always” (Proverbs 6:21-22), “tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”


“To search the Scriptures is a work most fair and most profitable for souls,” St. John Damascene instructs. “For just as the tree planted by the channels of waters, so also the soul watered by the divine Scripture is enriched and gives fruit in its season... Wherefore let us knock at that very fair garden of the Scriptures.... let us not knock carelessly but rather zealously and constantly…Let us not grow weary, but let us persist [in Holy Scripture]… let us luxuriate, let us revel insatiate [on Holy Scripture].”

The man who knows Christ builds his life around prayer.


“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).


It is not just the monks who are called to pray day and night. All of us share this calling. We do not pray because we say we do not have time to pray, but that is nonsense. We have all the time in the world, but we have to choose our priorities. In the end, the only truly happy people are the people who have given it all up for prayer.


The man who knows Christ will contemplate him in everything.


“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 18:2,4). If this is true, we would do well to pay attention to the heavens and the earth. St. Basil told his disciples: “I want creation to penetrate you with so much wonder that everywhere, wherever you may be, the least plant may bring to you the clear remembrance of the Creator.”


The saints call it a life of ‘leisure’: “not being ‘busy,’ but letting things happen…only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear…” a philosopher explains. “When we really let our minds rest contemplatively on a rose in bud, on a child at play, on a divine mystery, we are rested and quickened as though by a dreamless sleep…It is in these silent and receptive moments that the soul of man is sometimes visited by an awareness of what holds the world together” (Joseph Pieper).


We can live a beautiful life if we want to. We have everything we need for it, right where we are, if we step out of the silly rat race and start contemplating God.


“I am the good shepherd…I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:11,14).


In prayer, in scripture, in creation, everything invites us to a life of listening. If we listen, we will come to know Christ and be known by him.

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