Sometimes we ask good questions,
and at other times, poor questions

Readings: 2 Mac. 7.1-14; Ps. 17; 2 Thess. 2.16-3.5; Lk. 20.27-38

Questions. Sometimes we ask good questions, and at other times, poor questions. Sometimes we ask simply social questions, like "How are you" after which we donít expect long explanations. Sometimes we ask inappropriate questions like, "Wow, what did that new car cost you?"

The Sadducees in todayís gospel asked an immature question. They said, "There were seven brothers. The first married a woman, but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Ö At the resurrection, whose wife will she be?" The Sadducees were trying to trick Jesus? Jesus said back to them, in effect, youíve asked a poor question. "The children of this age [on earth] marry and remarry, but in the resurrected afterlife, people "neither marry nor are given in marriage." Because the Sadduceesí starting point was wrong, they asked a trick question whereby they hoped to trap Jesus. They did not ask an honest question.

The ambitious apostles James and John asked Jesus, "Will you see to it that we sit, one at your right and one at your left when you come into your kingdom?" Jesus turned to them and said, "You do not what you are asking. Ö Whoever wants to rank first must serve the needs of all. The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve Ė to give his life as a ransom for the many." (Mk. 10.37, 38, 44) The apostlesí starting point was wrong; they asked a self-centered, self-seeking immature question.

Some people ask questions, but donít wait around for the answer. One of my sisters asked me why has the pope refused to ordain women priests. I began to explain the Scriptural, historical, sociological, and theological reasons, and she just walked away.

Some people of all ages say, "Why should I go to church, I donít get anything out of it?" These people have a self-seeking, immature starting point. We donít go to church primarily to get something out of it; we go to church primarily to praise God, to adore him, to thank him, to seek his mercy; and because God has commanded us to keep holy the Sabbath Day. At Mass, we get something as a consequence, but our primary purpose is mature: to give something.

Some people donít ask enough questions. I like to ask people who claim that the Church gives simplistic answers, "What is your educational level for your job? High school, college, masterís or doctoral degree? Whatever your level of career education might be, my next question is, "What is your level of religious education?" Many people keep learning about their profession with mandatory updates, in-service programs, and on-going education, but oftentimes these same people stop their religious education when they are in grade school or high school. If you have adult questions, a childís education cannot possibly supply adequate answers. Since we need to be lifelong learners in our trades or professions, similarly we need to be lifelong learners in religion.

I know someone who left the Catholic Church and joined a fundamentalist church. He said he disagreed with the pope. I said I too sometimes have disagreed with the pope. But I braced myself and asked, "on what topic do you disagree with the pope?" He replied, "the pope believes in evolution," and this genuinely hardworking tradesman "knew" there is no such thing as evolution. I replied, "I believe in evolution, and I believe that God breathed a human soul into people at some prehistoric time about 2 million years ago." This man should have asked more questions, and he should have been more humble than to imagine that he knows more than the pope or millions of highly educated people.

When I was a college seminarian, one professor on the first day of class assigned us students to read a chapter of our text as homework. The next day, he asked us if we had any questions. We had no questions. He replied, "Fine, since you understand everything from the first chapter. Now, take two chapters to read for homework. The following day, the priest professor entered and asked if we had any questions. We had none. He replied, "Fine, since you understand every thing from these past two chapters, now take four chapters for your homework." And he warned us, "as long as you think you understand everything, and question nothing, I will keep doubling your reading assignments." The next day, when he entered, everybodyís hand went up. He congratulated us and said, "as priests, you must learn to think, to think critically, and to challenge what you see, hear and read."

Questions are great. Questions help us to plumb deeper, to look deeper into human and divine realities. Please donít short circuit the meaning of life by not delving more deeply into life. Doubts. Some people have doubts about our faith and stop going to church. Actually, doubts can serve as occasions for us to deepen our faith. Everybody has doubts. We donít understand everything, and we never will understand everything. There is much mystery to life. If we think that we understand the full meaning of life, and that we can wrap our cerebral arms around God, then we are fooling ourselves. God is a mystery. Positively speaking, mystery means there is always more to be revealed.

So, dear friends, ask your questions. In the parish, we have Theology on Tap in the springtime, Catholics Returning Home right after Christmas and Easter, Advent and Lenten Programs for on-going education, and RCIA throughout the entire school year,. If you have questions, ask me or the other priests. We are all former teachers, and we love questions. And we all know that "he more you know, the more you know you donít know."

Beware and be humble about your starting points. Ask good questions, not self-centered questions. And wait around for the answers to your questions. Ponder the answers you receive to your questions. Please, use your never-ending questions as occasions to develop adult knowledge of your faith and religion, and relationship with God.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley