Sometimes, I suppose we’re all like Herod the Tetrarch; we keep trying to see Jesus. But like Herod, or like Jesus’ disciples, it’s a Jesus of my imagination and my creation. And the seeking is on my own terms. In the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Herod sings:
Jesus I am overjoyed, to meet you face to face.
You’ve been getting quite a name, all around the place.
Healing cripples, raisings from the dead.
Now I understand you’re God,
At least that’s what you’ve said…
So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ.
Prove to me that you’re divine; change my water into wine.
That’s all you need do, then I’ll know it’s all true.
Prove to me that you’re no fool;
walk across my swimming pool.
If you do that for me, then I’ll let you go free.
Come on, King of the Jews.
I only ask what I’d ask any superstar.
© 1970 Timothy Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
To evolve from a faith in an omnipotent God who protects us and whom we worship and obey and fear – to faith in a God who becomes like us, human and vulnerable – is a move too great for some people to make. Like Herod they turn away. Or when Jesus’ demands are too great (following the feeding of the multitude in John 6, e.g.), and he’s wounded because so many turn away, he turns to the twelve and questions, "Do you want to leave me, too?"
Maybe they want magic, maybe power. But adult faith asks more of us. L’Arche founder Jean Vanier says, "People want a Jesus who makes things right for the world; but Jesus wants us to make things right for the world." In Mark 15:39 the evangelist tells us that when the centurion saw how Jesus breathed his last, he cried out, "Truly this was the Son of God!" Unlike those jeering Jesus, "If you truly are the Son of God, prove it! Come down from the cross!" the centurion is given the gift of faith precisely as he experiences Jesus’ suffering love.
With all the political jousting going on these days, the polarization in government and church, a mean-spiritedness in some relationships, …todays’ readings invite us to find Jesus Christ – in the goodness of a next-door neighbor, the dedication of my child’s teacher, the compassion of a pastor.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. ministers as a preacher of parish missions and retreats. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.