“And he kept trying to see him”
This short reading about “Herod the ruler” is situated in Luke’s gospel just after the healing of the “dead child.” We are told her parents were “astounded.” The curing is followed by Jesus giving the twelve “power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” Then comes today’s reading about Herod saying he was “perplexed” about what Jesus was doing and who Jesus was. “And he kept trying to see him.” The feeding of the five thousand men follows. Just imagine the consternation of the apostles at the prospect of having to feed five thousand hungry, tired men! Who wouldn’t be perplexed as was Herod and yet we are told that “he kept trying to see him.”
What is the good-news being offered?
There may be a clue in the first reading from Haggai: “Consider your ways.” It is about consuming and not being filled. It is about eagerness, restlessness, emptiness, and being incomplete.
I, too, experience a spiritual eagerness and emptiness, longing, confusion and perplexity – all the while consuming and doing what I think will satisfy my hunger. I keep trying to figure out what it is that will complete me. I can be like the child with the hollow leg who keeps eating, but not much sticks to the bone. There is an innate emptiness inside me, but where does it come from and how do I satisfy it? At times it can be a longing, or a loneliness, or a craving that can not be denied. It may be an incompleteness that cannot be fulfilled by a loving spouse, partner, child, parent or friend, by a successful career or financial security. And at times, it seems to disappear all together and I do feel satisfied and whole; if only for a moment. Still, I experience it as something wholesome, but ineffable – what is it?
Indeed it is a lure that draws me to God alone! It is a holy hunger, a sacred loneliness, a textured tension of wanting and waiting, an earthly yet eternal emptiness yearning for completeness. It is good and beautiful and designed to be. It is my humanity in full glory – “be perfect even as my heavenly Father is perfect.” It is to be fully human in sincere yearning for completion with the Creator.
What does my emptiness look like?
What does my loneliness feel like?
What does my hunger taste like?
Where do I experience the tension?
Is there a form or color or melody, or words attached to my longing?
The good-news is that we are all designed to “keep trying to see him” – not to deny it, but to recognize it, name it, nurture it, own it and keep on trying!
By Joan Blandin Howard