Well, one out of two ain't bad: I gained a great deal of knowledge designed to further a career, but it didn't teach me squat about what I was (or am) as a human being.
That is not to say I was abandoned, however, although it seemed that way at times especially the Christmas I spent alone after my Dad's death.
In fact, I had a friend who faced down death in the form of cancer. For a time he'd been in the seminary, and that time had bolstered his own faith. I remember one evening at a party, quite a secular one, where among a few of us, spirituality had become a topic and in particular, the call to Holiness and the reality of Death.
I can still remember my friend looking me in the eye, speaking of Particular Judgment and in his gentle voice, hand against his own chest, looking me straight in the eye and asking in the words of Jesus: "Do you know me?"
Jesus will ask us all, in that moment, "Do you KNOW Me?"
I'll never forget the agony in his eyes, unspoken, hopeful, even as he repeated the words.
I resolved on the spot that if I didn't know Him...I wanted to.
And it took several years and I admit, quite shamefully now, that I wanted to know Him then because of what He could "get" me, for you see, it took a long time to experience the true beginning of conversion.
Now I hear those words differently and reach out for Him in a different kind of agony. for as I see His pain, I can only offer my own, recognizing in that eternal question all of my years of rejection, of "doing it my way", and a deeply hidden fear that perhaps, maybe...by my choice...maybe I still don't really know Him.
Not for lack of His effort.
The other day while working on my Icon I was listening to Miriam Marston's song, "The Gardener", and as the song continued to penetrate my soul, I couldn't help but recall the words of my friend, those ancient words, the ancient question Our Lord asks of each of us, individually: "Do You Know Me?"
In Marston's song, she juxtaposes the theological reality of the Creator; the Gardener as St. Mary Magdalene meets Our Lord on the day of His Resurrection.
As she weeps in her grief he confronts her and she queries, "What do you care? You're just the Gardener's Son".
I can imagine His loving gaze as He replies so patiently to Mary Magdalene and to all of us, waiting for us to make the connection, and when He knows that we do or only wants to prompt that leap, He queries, "Do you recognize me now?"
We are taken back to the Garden of Eden, the parable of the Master of the vineyard and his son murdered by the workers, the Garden of Gethsemane, and ultimately the Garden where Jesus is laid to rest...and Rise.
We cannot help but recognize Jesus as the beloved Son, our eyes opened in wonder, in love, as we really see the One sent by The Gardener to open the gates and restore us to original Beatitude..and beyond.
"Do you recognize me now?"
None of us ever needs to ask Our Lord "Why do you care?"
Still, deep in our souls, we DO ask, and we NEED that answer, individually, and we need to eventually lift our eyes and hearts and souls to Jesus, who stands before us, simply waiting for us to recognize Him.
Wherever we are...He is HERE.
But....we still have to respond to that question, "Do you know Me? DO YOU RECOGNIZE ME?"
** Go to the link, scroll down and find the song title to listen