In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house.
Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: "Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord.
Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen.
Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he wanted to see Jesus.
The prophet Haggai makes one simple demand: they are to fetch lumber and rebuild the house of the Lord. He says it in plain, unadorned Hebrew. All other prophets spoke in poetry with eloquent symbols and parables. Haggai was not going to write high literature in a corner slum or produce the golden poetry of an Isaiah or the wrenching pathos of a Jeremiah. But alone of all the prophets, Haggai lived to see his mission accomplished. In 515 B.C. the temple was completed, as we read last Tuesday : The elders of the Jews continued to make progress in the building, supported by the message of the prophets, and finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus and Darius (Ezra 6:14).
Haggai reminds us not only to put aside any pompous airs and address the practical side of people's lives, but also to realize the crucial importance of temple or church and of community in prayer. Without a strong symbol that we are a people of God, with spiritual and moral aspirations, we easily sink into materialism. Even in our poverty we will still cling to our trinkets and be jealous of others for theirs. Without community or family prayer, we will miss the encouragement to be men and women of prayer. Without prayer we end up saying, what's the use of it all?
In the Gospel, we have the sad portrait of Herod the Tetrarch, for whom religion was a curiosity, an anodyne to soothe conscience, a clever way to win the people's allegiance. It is tragic to think that his wish to see the Nazarene prophet was fulfilled only when for political reasons Pilate sent him the captive Jesus. We are told that "Herod was extremely pleased to see Jesus" (Luke 23:8). Religious curiosity can be used for politics and pleasure, merely to relieve boredom!
King Herod Antipas ruled Galilee on behalf of Rome. Luke gives us a portrait of how Herod reacted to Jesus. When he heard about all that was being done by Jesus he was puzzled. He was wondering, "Who is this?" and was anxious to see Jesus. When finally he did get to see Jesus it was in the course of the passion, when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for a second opinion. Although Herod questioned him at great length, in the end he treated Jesus with contempt and mocked him. Herod was curious about Jesus, but his curiosity did not lead to faith.
There were other people in the gospels who were curious about Jesus and whose curiosity eventually led them to faith. Nathanael and Nicodemus come to mind. Even for people of faith, there is much to be curious about in regard to Jesus. The question of Herod Antipas, "Who is this?" is a good question for us all. It is a question that keeps us searching for Jesus and we always need to be searchers in his regard because we can never know him fully in this life. As Saint Paul says, "now we see as in a mirror dimly." We are all on a quest to know the Lord more clearly so as to love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.