Summary: Herod Antipas was the embodiment of Quoheleth's maxim: nothing is new under the sun. But he had a chance to ask for living waters.

Thursday of the 25th Week in Course 2014

Evangelium Gaudii

St. Luke had an informant who had been in the court of Herod Antipas, the old rake and serial killer who had a morbid interest in ghosts, and a flirtation with Judaism and St. John, the cousin of Jesus. Luke records that he liked to listen to John, but never did what John told him to do–put away the adulterous relationship with Herodias, his brother’s wife. Herod Antipas himself was almost an embodiment of the words we read today from Qoheleth, the wise man. His father, Herod the Great, was a great builder and a great tyrant. So was Antipas, who was responsible for building the great city Tiberias on top of an old Jewish cemetery adjacent to the Sea of Galilee. The elder Herod had been a great conspiracy believer, who swallowed whole rumors about plots against his throne, and even murdered his wife and eldest two sons. Antipas had a similar history, but he divorced his first wife instead of killing her, and ultimately involved his kingdom in a disastrous war with his ex-father in law.

So Qoheleth was right. Herod Antipas’s whole life was a vanity, and he was doomed to relive his father’s life because he would not listen to the words of his true Father, God the Father. He lived only for his own amusement and pleasure, so he missed the ultimate joy of life, serving other humans in union with God. He had one last chance when Pilate sent Jesus to him during the Savior’s kangaroo trial. But all Antipas wanted was for Jesus to perform some miracle, some conjurer’s trick. Jesus said not a word, and did nothing, because the king asked for the wrong thing. Like the woman at the well of Samaria, Herod Antipas should have asked for the water of life, which would soon flow from Jesus’s Sacred Heart. He had ignored John’s preaching, and for a brief moment he was in the presence of the greatest preacher of all, the Qoheleth of Qoheleths. But all he wanted was magic, so he got nothing.

The Holy Father believes in the power of the preached Word as the cutting edge of the new evangelization: “A renewal of preaching can offer believers, as well as the lukewarm and the non-practicing, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization. The heart of its message will always be the same: the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ. God constantly renews his faithful ones, whatever their age: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint” (Is 40:31). Christ is the “eternal Gospel” (Rev 14:6); he “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is for ever young and a constant source of newness. The Church never fails to be amazed at “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom 11:33). Saint John of the Cross says that “the thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and so broad that the soul, however much it has come to know of it, can always penetrate deeper within it” Or as Saint Irenaeus writes: “By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness”. With this newness he is always able to renew our lives and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old. Jesus can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativity. Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always “new”. (end of quotation)

Pope Francis doesn’t believe, however, that the new must forget the old. A lived memorial of what God has done and continues to do in the Church is critical to evangelization: “Jesus leaves us the Eucharist as the Church’s daily remembrance of, and deeper sharing in, the event of his Passover (cf. Lk 22:19). The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace which we constantly need to implore. The apostles never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts. Some even remembered the exact time of day they first encountered the Lord. The Holy Father says, succinctly, “The believer is essentially ‘one who remembers’.”

I have for about a year adopted the habit, when I rise in the middle of the night or at my normal wake-up time, of reciting a twin prayer that looks back at the wondrous works of Christ in my life, and forward through the fog to His promise: “Thank you, Jesus” repeated several times, and St. Faustina’s javelin prayer: “Jesus, I trust in You.” It’s a great way to begin any day.

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