Head of Herod composed of the bodies of the Innocents,
Painted by an anonymous artist, follower of Giuseppe Arcimboldo,
Oil on wood,
Painted late 16th century,
© Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck

Head of Herod composed of the bodies of the Innocents,
Painted by an anonymous artist, follower of Giuseppe Arcimboldo,
Oil on wood,
Painted late 16th century,
© Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck

Gospel of 26 September 2019

Herod was puzzled

Luke 9: 7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

Reflection on the Painting

Today’s Gospel reading shows how confused Herod got with all the events. He is intrigued with the figure of Jesus and wonders if He is the same person as St John the Baptist etc… This short passage reading does make one very important point though: to just ‘know about’ a person or having ‘heard about’ a person, is very very different to ‘actually’ knowing that person. Herod heard about Jesus and judged Him, without actually ever knowing Jesus and who He was. Through prayer we can actually know Jesus. Through prayer we move from having heard about Him, to Him becoming an acquaintance and then a very close friend…

During Herod’s time, lots of stories about Jesus were circulating. Herod was not really interested in getting to know Jesus, but he was just interested in listening to all the stories and gossip which is a whole different thing. Even at the time of Jesus’ trial, Herod is looking more at Jesus as an ‘interesting’ person, without taking any real interest in Christ or what He stood for. It is the same with our own friends and acquaintances. Some of them we really know well when we make the effort and spend time with them. Others will always remain at a more superficial level as we don’t spend enough time with them. So, only through prayer and grace and spending time with Christ, can we really get to know Christ.

The painting here is done by a follower of Giuseppe Arcimboldo in the 16th century. It is a portrait of Herod composed of the bodies of the innocents… A very powerful and unusual portrait. Yes the massacre of the innocents defined who Herod was, it defined his face on this painting (look closely at the image)… far removed from Christ, without any desire to truly wanting to get to know Him…

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