Maybe, instead of creating hypothetical situations that disregard the ignorance of humanity, we should ask ourselves a different question. Namely, if life can only be understood backwards, how must one live forwards? The author of Hebrews writes, “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (13:2). Here, we are reminded of Abraham and Sarah who fed angels without recognizing who they were feeding. Without in any way undermining the importance of faith in the lives of the disciples, we must never forget that the reason why we care for the poor, the sick, and the prisoner is because Jesus had a unique kinship with such people. Jesus was born in a stable to poor parents, lived a life of absolute poverty, and died the death of a criminal. Good works are important not because they give us fuzzy feelings or are meritorious (even if they may do all these things) but because without them, one cannot truly have faith.
The disciples did not fully understand Jesus’ life before the Resurrection. They did not understand all his parables or realize that his life was a fulfillment of the Law. But it would be false to say that Jesus’ birth was insignificant before the Resurrection. Not for the disciples anyway. The disciples were able to follow Jesus without knowing what we know today because they realized that faith means obedience. They realized that it is only in being open to another’s needs that one is open to God and it is only in being open to God that one can truly know how to love his neighbor. Jesus shows us that a human person’s life has significance regardless of what we may or may not know about that person because only God knows the end of the story. Any one of the thousands of babies that Herod slaughtered could have been the Son of God. We do not always know the way God reveals Himself but our ignorance should only lead us to love more. And we can only love more if we trust God and live to serve Him. Pope Benedict reminded people in November 2008 that “faith is not opposed to charity.” In fact, apart from charity, faith is impossible. The inn-keepers, the centurions, and the ordinary passers-by may not have been fully able to see who Jesus was, but they (like us) were given sufficient Grace to follow God in obedience. The question is: Will we accept the Grace in faith knowing that faith requires obedience in love? “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” – or the Son of God.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!