In Defense of Asking the Dumb Questions
A Reflection for Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
I cannot help but laugh when I read today’s Gospel. Jesus tells the Twelve, “Pay attention,” and they do—kind of. They hear Christ’s words that predict his destiny: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,” but they do not understand and are afraid to ask Jesus what he means, so they let the conversation move on. The Twelve’s response is reminiscent of those awkward head nods in a conversation about a book you’re too ashamed to admit you haven’t read, or a student’s diverted eye contact when a teacher asks, “Any questions?”
This is not to say that asking would have resulted in an answer from Jesus, who only directly answered three of the 183 questions posed to him throughout the Gospels. That success rate would suggest that in all likelihood, the Apostles would not have found a direct answer to their query. In Christ’s parables and follow-up questions throughout the Gospels, we uncover the questions we should continue exploring. Jesus does not offer easy answers. Instead, he sends listeners down a rabbit hole. If you think you’ve hit bottom, you’re not digging hard enough; this is the nature of faith, revealed through Jesus’ ministry.
Where has my pride obstructed my view of the presence of God in my midst? What could have been revealed if only I hadn’t been afraid to ask?
I laugh at today’s Gospel because it is one of those readings in which we are reminded of the humanity and fallibility of those who followed Jesus. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,” Jesus says, and if you’re anything like me, you want to reach through the page and shake the Apostles. This is serious! This is at the heart of the Gospel! Pay attention!
But then, I think of all the times that I’ve nodded and said “I understand” while my head is swimming, the times I don’t even remember doing so. Like us, the Apostles are afraid to ask the “dumb questions,” to appear dense in front of their friend and teacher whom they so admire. They did not know what they were living through—neither do we.
Where has my pride obstructed my view of the presence of God in my midst? What could have been revealed if only I hadn’t been afraid to ask? Like a high school teacher, today’s Gospel reminds us that there are no stupid questions.