08 February 2013

Foolishness follows fear

4th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Like any one of us who fall into sin, Herod's devolution into foolishness starts with pride. Salome the Dancer, and her mother, Herodias, take advantage of Herod's pride and lust and turn his generosity into murder. They succeed because Herod is ruled by anxiety and fear. Why else does a powerful king keep a holy and righteous man in prison? Fear makes us foolish, and foolishness is and always will be the enemy of God's wisdom. 

John persists in preaching against Herod's adultery. The king imprisons John, keeping him close but also preventing him from preaching against Herod publicly. We can almost hear Herod's internal conflict. God's wisdom and the king's conscience draw Herod to John's preaching, but power, lust, and misplaced generosity prevent him from choosing wisdom over foolishness. Having consistently chosen to accomplish apparently good ends by evil means, Herod reaches a point where Salome and Herodias tip the scale and the king murders John, becoming, in this deadly choice, a Royal Fool. 

Herod's fall into darkness shows us that fools are made not born. In fact, fools are self-made, constructed, if you will, out of pride, and played by men and women who once listened to wisdom. If Herod's power and pride started his decline, then fear accelerated it, and lust and hard-heartedness sealed the deal. Like all of our moral choices, vice is a habit: we choose again and again to call evil Good. Over time, we are no longer capable of recognizing the Good and come to believe that in choosing Evil we are choosing Good. Herod believes that keeping John in prison prevents political unrest. Even though he is distressed by Salome's request for John's head on a platter, Herod justifies the prophet's execution as an act of fidelity to his oath, fearing embarrassment if he breaks it. The king is motivated at every decision-point by vicious habits and these habits take him—step by step—right into moral foolishness. 

Hearing, seeing, and doing God's wisdom are all habits: choices and actions we must take one at a time, step by step. Each decision we make brings us closer to foolishness or closer to wisdom. If living in God's wisdom is your goal, then let your prayer be: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

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  1. I'd put this homily in the SFNF column (straight forward no frills). I'm not sure I could put anything coherent together that early in the morning! I really liked the third paragraph, and the reminder that habits, both good and bad, come from our choices/actions/decisions.


    1. This is another one where you have to pay attention to the time-stamp. . .5:40am!!!

    2. Anonymous9:04 AM

      I for one never really bothered to pay attention to the time of the post, and thought you posted your homilies here sometime after the fact.

      So you compose them straight on the Blogger dashboard...?

    3. MFT, no, I always compose them in OpenOffice and then copy/paste them here. So, the time-stamp is usually about 1-2 hrs after I started composing.

  2. Anonymous7:31 AM


    Fr. and Shelly.

    Take a look at this, which I just came across. Not particularly insightful but fun...

    1. O Lord, in your mercy, save us from clerical extroverts! Amen

    2. Oh, Matheus! Thank you ... puts so much in perspective. So I guess it really is Just Me :-)!!

  3. Great homily! Thanks