September 24, 2020
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 452

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Luke 9:7-9

Praying Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time Symbols in Our Home

“Vanity” is a vain attempt to be in the eyes of others, the person you feel you cannot be in your own eyes.  It is an empty pursuit, because of the deep underlying self-disappointment which results in the fear that others really will find you out as you are.

So, we have Herod, the chief executor of Galilee, the main area of the workings of Jesus. When the insecure are in charge, they must constantly be looking behind, listening to all possible networks and controlling all his or her forces.

Power does not naturally corrupt, power in the hands of the corrupt, corrupts power. The Apostles have been sent out to proclaim by word and deeds, the gentle power of Jesus. They take no signs of physical power or independence but just the mission of extending Jesus’ redemptive love.

What we hear in today’s Gospel from the Eucharistic Liturgy is Herod’s worrying about this Jesus and whether Jesus will make him look good or bad. He seems to run around asking others about this Jesus. He hears various opinions, including that Jesus is a newly-risen John the Baptist. This possibility threatens Herod who knows he had John’s head delivered to him on a platter during dinner.

The last words of our reading are frighteningly intense for Herod’s vanity. He kept trying to see “Him.” Why? Ah that is a very good question with all kinds of possible answers. Just why would an insecure power-broker desire to investigate someone else who is gaining a name and following? Herod would wish information that could lead him to dismiss Jesus as a hoax and so not be threatened. He could size Jesus up as only an overly-religious fanatic whom the dominating Romans will dispel as a minor annoyance. He had done away with the risen-important character of the Baptist. His vanity is attempting to find security within his constant sense of personal and political insecurity.

Here is a strange idea or prayer-experience. My insecurity is the foundation of my faith which in no way obliterates that insecurity. (Pray with that last thought a while as I have done before writing it.) Faith is fragile and not meant to be so solid and unshakeable that God is an observer of my solidity, false though it might be. Vanity is a pretense, faith is a poverty. Pretenses have to be defended. Poverty needs to be enjoyed as the most basic of human realities.

Herod would see Jesus and desire to know Him as fact and so would always want more securing of facts. I enjoy the freedom from the restrictions of facts so the faith is something living and freeing. I enjoy seeing Jesus as a relational and ongoing mystery. Herod wanted to capture Jesus in a convenient concept which would allow him to dominate in the vain attempt to be all-powerful.     Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” (Henry IV, Part II, Act III, Scene I) The uneasy head of Herod would finally see Jesus wrapped in the poverty of His Passion (Luke 23, 6).   Most likely Herod remained uneasy in his own vain search for life. He was so glad to finally be able to ask Jesus questions and hoped Jesus would entertain him with some miracles. Jesus did not flatter Herod’s vanity and so Herod assumed his own political crown and had Jesus mocked and mistreated. In vain was his hunger for vanity. How impotent was his power.

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