Summary: Herod Antipas is a good example of one who is faithless, who worshiped an idol tied up with himself; true faith is a "break with all idols to turn to a living God in a personal encounter."
Thursday of 25th Week in Course
Luke 9: 7 - 9 7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Eli'jah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen. 9 Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.
St. Luke very probably had an informant in King Herod’s palace, because his Gospel contains stories like this one that had to come from a firsthand source. The other story we have about Herod is set during the trial of Jesus, telling how Pilate sent Jesus to Herod’s palace down the street, but Herod could get nothing out of Jesus. Herod was obviously dazzled by Jewish celebrities, because he arrested John the Baptist, but liked to listen to him. And he thought Jesus was some kind of illusionist, because he asked him to perform some magic.
Chesterton wrote in one of his Father Brown stories that “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” Any person invested with common sense knows that there is no magic potion, no truly superhuman feat. Moreover, anyone who knew John and Jesus also knew that they would never use their connection with God to ask for anything that would pump up their reputations. They were too centered on doing good for others to do such a thing. But Herod did not believe in God, or God’s law. That’s why he took his brother’s wife, and succumbed to the dance of Salome, and murdered John. One who does not believe in God, or God’s rule, will believe in anything else, no matter how absurd. Faith in God and God’s Son is a gift, but it is a gift that can be turned down.
The Popes remind us, “The history of Israel also shows us the temptation of unbelief to which the people yielded more than once. Here the opposite of faith is shown to be idolatry. While Moses is speaking to God on Sinai, the people cannot bear the mystery of God’s hiddenness, they cannot endure the time of waiting to see his face. Faith by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer; it is an invitation to turn to the source of the light, while respecting the mystery of a countenance which will unveil itself personally in its own good time.” (Par 13)
God’s face is a face of love, but it is a love that shows itself according to a timetable that God Himself sets. We want everything good, and we want it NOW. When God’s self-revelation is tardy by our watches, or when God demands something hard of us, we are tempted to turn to some other reality, one without a true face, instead. That is the definition of idolatry. It might not be a physical statue, but rather an object of pleasure–art, music, sex, or even our own reputation. “Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth. Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: “Put your trust in me!”