“‘Who then is this about whom I hear such things?'” And he kept trying to see him” (Lk 9:9).
Herod Antipas, the ruler over Galilee and Perea, heard stories about Jesus. The range of his thoughts, expressed by Luke, is confusion to curiosity. Herod may have started to feel concern over the possibility of a growing revolt, some guilt for his execution of John the Baptist, or just curiosity to see what this man was all about and if this Jesus could accomplish even half of the things Herod had heard about him. One question that did not seem to cross Herod’s mind was if he had any interest in changing his life and becoming a follower of Jesus.
Herod was not the only one in Luke’s Gospel who asked questions about who this man Jesus was. Nor did the asking of those questions die with Jesus on the cross. They continued after his resurrection and ascension, they continued into the first centuries of the Church, which led to the calling of the first ecumenical councils which dealt directly with who Jesus was, and they continued in each following century and continue today. There are even at present in some academic circles, the question arising as to whether Jesus even existed at all. The answer to whether or who Jesus is matters.
One could ask why this question about Jesus persists? One answer is that we are finite beings seeking to understand an infinite Mystery. The full comprehension of the reality of Jesus existing as fully human and fully divine, dying on the cross, conquering death through his resurrection and ascending to the Father transcends even the wonderful intellect and ability to reason that we have been blessed with. Also, Jesus’ invitation is a universal but personal one. Each person as to encounter Jesus for her or himself.
Jesus called the Twelve, one by one as well as Mary Magdalene, St. Irenaeus, St Thomas Aquinas, St Francis and Clare of Assisi, St Catherine of Siena, St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, St Ignatius, St Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and he calls each one of us as well. He did not call us to just merely embrace a new philosophy, a new ethical way of life, or even a new religion. Jesus called and calls us to be a part of his Body, the Mystical Body of Christ.
Who is Jesus, Herod asks in today’s Gospel? It is a good question for us to ask as well. For me, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, who became incarnate, becoming one with us in our humanity so that we could become one with him in his divinity. This same Jesus who called others through the ages invites us to follow him today as well and he continues to walk this journey with us whether we say yes or no to his invitation. We are just aware of and receive more of his help when we say yes.
Life with Jesus isn’t perfect, and we will at times echo St Teresa of Avila, who stated after she was thrown from a carriage into a mud puddle, “If you treat your friends this way, it is no wonder you have so few.” But we will also experience moments of inexpressible joy, of wonder and exhilaration, and feel blessed when Jesus works through us and loves through us to be present for and help others.
The question of why JoAnn died has come up off and on over the past few weeks, though I do not entertain it so much. I am not sure that in this life the answer would be sufficient anyway. I will certainly have a sit down with Jesus when he calls me home and we can discuss it then with more perspective.
I have been focusing more on seeking what JoAnn and Jesus want me to do now. An answer that came very clear to me Tuesday when I rolled my ankle pretty good on the way to noon Mass, which for now to rest. There is a lot of work to do, but I need to heal and renew, prepare and get ready before continuing on. While I do so, I feel they both are guiding me to continue writing this daily reflection each day, so I will.
Who is Jesus to you and what is he inviting you to do?
Not only have there been questions about who Jesus is, but there have also been many pictorial representations of Jesus. Here is a 6th-century icon of Jesus.