Poor King Herod. Which one? Take your pick. They were all pathetic individuals in their lust for power under the boot of the Roman Empire. At the root of that lust was fear; fear of losing the earthly trappings that come with power. Among these are wealth, fame, luxury, ego-stroking and fear itself; all the fear that the Herods could inflict on others. It’s THAT fear that the Herods were convinced would keep them in power. The pathetic thing about such power-lust is that anyone who has it can never be free from their own burden of fear; fear of power-loss.
The legacy of the Herods survives to this day in every seat of power around the world. It’s the cause of all wars and the root of all evil. But it was the laws of man from which the Son of Man came to free mankind. His mission was presaged in this Sunday’s first reading from the book of Zechariah (zec 9:9-10):
“See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”
For the Herods, peace was the enemy because with peace there is no fear, and thus they could wield no power. That’s why Jesus was such a threat to the Herods. His mission was freeing mankind from slavery to the flesh and releasing us to the custody of the Holy Spirit. This would allow us to re-enter the realm of innocence for which we were created. In this Sunday’s gospel reading from Matthew (mt 11:25-30) we are called to reclaim the innocent wisdom God equipped us with at birth but lost as we became enslaved to human folly which evil disguises as wisdom:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. … “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The curse of Adam was that our souls would be weighed down by our flesh. But our Creator took pity on us and sent his Son to free our souls. Paul reveals the key to that freedom in his letter to the Romans (rom 8:9, 11-13)—under whose empire the Herods used slavery to make their own mortal burden lighter:
“If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
A life free of fear is the Paradise for which God created us. Let’s reclaim it.