October 28, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have been away a while and have missed my daily reflections. Today we’re back in Mark in chapter 6:14-16.
King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
It’s unclear exactly what the “it” is that Herod heard about. This immediately follows Jesus’ rejection by his fellow villagers in Nazareth and the commissioning of the Twelve to preach, drive out demons, and cure the sick.
It seems to me that Herod’s assumption that Jesus is John the Baptist resurrected is more about Herod’s guilty conscience and superstitious beliefs than a genuine interest in finding out who this man Jesus was. Herod seems to have been a man filled with fear — fear of his wife’s derision, fear of his peers’ judgment, fear of his loss of authority. Fear and its synonyms occur more often in the scriptures than any other word. So, in this respect I am like Herod, too often driven or frozen by fear.
Who is Jesus? That’s a question that was posed to all of those who encountered or heard about Jesus during his lifetime and ever since. It’s a question that comes to my mind over and over again. I cast about for an answer that makes sense in terms of what I know from my experience or what I have learned. Just as some concluded that he was a prophet, perhaps even the great prophet Elijah, the herald of the Messiah. They all reasoned that Jesus was sent; he was a messenger, the voice of God.
None of these answers come close to the truth, though, because there was no one like Jesus before or since. I have finally realized that I can’t answer the question of who Jesus is; it is beyond my comprehension, my intellect’s ability to know. I can’t figure him out in my head; I can only grow to know him by experiencing him, by heart knowledge. Really, how can I begin to understand his incarnation? How can I understand that he is the son of God? How can I understand his resurrection? It is beyond me and I think I’m finally giving up trying, because the point is that it is Jesus’ spirit, God’s very own spirit, that I am to touch and be touched by and thereby be transformed. It is his spirit I come into contact with in the eucharist and in those I love and in those I don’t. Jesus in all these stories and teachings tells me how to behave, how to love as God loves. That comes from the heart, not the head. That is where God’s spirit resides waiting to be freed from my head.
Who is Jesus? He is the pure joy that infuses my heart when I feel God’s unconditional love for me and when I let that love flow out to others without holding back or attaching strings. That happens a lot less often that I want, but more often than it used to! These days that’s what I pray for — accepting God’s love and choosing to be an active instrument of His love in the world, His kingdom. For me that means overcoming fear and trusting God.