Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
It isn't immediately obvious what the Gospel passage for today's liturgy is trying to convey. The translation used by the Lectionary for Mass says that Herod "kept trying to see" Jesus. Perhaps a better translation would say that Herod was "anxious to see" Jesus.
Being anxious can be two sides of a coin. If we are standing on the corner waiting for a bus, we can be anxious for the bus to come. Children become anxious around December waiting for Santa. However, being anxious can also mean that a person is filled with concern, with dread, indeed, with anxiety. I suspect that this is really Herod's reaction to Jesus. He is filled with anxiety which is a direct result of his guilt. He is guilty of murder, of living in opulence while his people suffer in poverty, of adultery (stealing the wife of his brother), of cooperating with the Roman occupation of Israel. Like the Old Testament kings, Herod is filled with anxiety because he hears that a prophet is once again walking among the people. Just as Ahab lived in dread of Elijah, Herod lives in dread of John the Baptist come back to life, or of another prophet like him.
This episode comes to us with a question inherent to it. What is our reaction to the news that Jesus is coming? Our we filled with anxiety or are we anxious to see Jesus face to face?