Ps. 90:3-6, 12-14, 17c
The Gospel of Luke is characterized by individuals asking questions, e. g. Zachariah, Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Scribes and Pharisees, and in today’s gospel, Herod. This device is used to explore the question of "Who is Jesus?" Eventually, Jesus will ask the question and Peter will speak for the disciples and will declare that Jesus is the Messiah of God!
Unfortunately, Herod asks the question, but for the wrong reason. He is not a true seeker. He is curious because Jesus is the great miracle worker he has heard about from his courtiers. But Herod’s personal life is in such disarray that he can’t entertain a truthful question. He is married to his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. His political life is being challenged. The father of his former wife is the Nabatean king Aretas IV, whose armies are circling Herod’s borders because of the treatment his daughter received from Herod. So he can’t trust anyone, even his courtiers, to help him probe beyond the surface of the miracles, which give life and signal the in-breaking of the Reign of God in the person of Jesus. Herod’s conscience is so clouded and guilt-ridden because he beheaded John the Baptist that he can’t see the Light or Hear the Word.
The Church from the beginning of its history in its Councils struggled with this question of "Who is this Jesus?" Is he human? Is he divine? It is the same question that we need to constantly ask also. Who do we say Jesus is? Unlike Herod, we do have guides to help us answer that question. Henri Nouwen reminds us of what he called "disciplines." We have the Church that makes Christ present to us through the sacraments, the preaching and teachings of the Church. We have the book, the Bible, that speaks to us about God’s faithful love and who this person is we call Jesus. We have the "disciplines of the heart," spiritual directors who accompany us on our journey, on our quest. We have pilgrim companions who walk with us in search of the answer to our question. As we mature in the life of Christ our questions deepen and our search is more profound. Like the honest seekers: Zachariah, Mary Elizabeth, John the Baptist, and Peter we can say that Jesus is the Messiah of God, our God, Redeemer, and Savior, who loved us so much He died on the cross for us, and overcame death in His resurrection.
Kenneth O’Malley, CP, is an archivist at Catholic Theological Union