King Herod heard of all this and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.” Others believed that Elijah or one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded; who is this man about whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see him.
It is said in today’s gospel reading that King Herod “was very curious to see him (Jesus).” Now exactly the same words are applied to another man, to Zaccheus, the chief tax collector of Jericho. Yet, in the actual unfolding of subsequent events, the fate of these two men turns out to be quite different.
Let us first consider Herod. When he comes face to face with Jesus, he rejoices. Finally, his curiosity will be satisfied! Curiosity about what? Luke tells us plainly what Herod was curious about: “He had been hoping to see Jesus perform some miracle” (Lk 23:8). In other words, Herod was in no way seeking God. He was hoping to be entertained by some religious fireworks.
Now let us consider Zaccheus. When he comes face to face with Jesus, he undergoes a deep conversion. Zaccheus, it seems, was already tempted to change his ways, but did not know how to go about it. He was not seeking to be entertained, he was seeking God.
We can become interested in religion because of its pageantry, colorful rituals, quaint customs. Such curiosity is worthless. The only worthwhile curiosity is the desire to find God—at all costs. That curiosity is always satisfied sooner or later.
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