September 27, 2012 - Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17
Luke 9:7-9

In the traditional teaching of the seven deadly sins, there is included, under the sin of sloth, the sin of curiosity. This is somewhat surprising for us; our culture is always trying to encourage curiosity in children. Growing up, I was always told to be curious. However, we can understand the sin of curiosity, because it is rampant in our culture. Curiosity means seeking out information that has no purpose. It is a temptation to waste time. In surfing the Internet or watching television or reading magazines, even when what we are looking at or learning or reading is not bad in itself, it can be a complete waste of time. Why do we want to have our minds filled with trivia and useless knowledge about celebrities or various lists or the same redundant facts about the presidential election?

In our first reading today, Qoheleth is making the point that so many things in this world are useless, even knowledge can be useless. Jesus says that the purpose of our lives is love. Anything that is not contributing to that purpose, ought not be done. This is not to say that learning in the many subjects has no place, but we should be aware that when we are tempted to learn more about something, this can be bad temptation. If we are wasting time, if we are not working for the purpose of our lives, we are just filling our minds with clutter. After we have seen every bit of news, which all happened before, and filled our eyes and ears and minds, will we be any better at loving?

In the gospel today King Herod shows another sign of curiosity: its inability to commit. The devil uses curiosity to prevent us from doing anything useful. Sometimes curiosity comes as a vague desire to learn more. The gospel today says that Herod was trying to see Jesus. Of course this is ridiculous. Jesus was a public preacher. Herod could have easily seen him any time he wanted to. Instead he sort of, kind of wanted to see Jesus. This half-hearted desire replaces any real effort to learn. A person who feels curious about some subject feels as if they have already learned what they needed to. Curiosity keeps us from what is really important, distracting us. The opposite of curiosity is study, where we carefully pick a subject and then work to learn about it.