If you could ask God just one question, what would it be? (Yes, I am quoting Joan Osbourn). However, this lyrical line came to mind as I read the Gospel for this week. We see the Apostles following Jesus for three years. They must have had many opportunities to ask questions of him. Even a few of those questions are recorded in the Gospels. However, today, we hear that they were afraid to question him. Why would this be? What would cause them to be afraid to inquire? Certainly, it would be beneficial to understand what the Messiah is saying, so why be afraid.
What is important to note, is what Jesus said, right before the comment about their fear. Mark writes, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” (Mark 9:30-31). Their fear arises from the demands of being a follower of Jesus. They were not afraid to ask the question...they were afraid of the response that they would receive, namely that to follow Jesus would require sacrifice.
They had been following Jesus and had seen some miraculous cures; they heard some beautiful teachings of mercy, which are all very comfortable and pleasant. They liked that, but then Jesus speaks about suffering and death. Now, all of the sudden, there was a part of Jesus’ mission and work that made them uncomfortable. As a result, they were inclined to “hide” from that portion of Jesus, desiring not to speak about it or understand it further. They may have been hoping that it would even go away if they never inquired...and how many times do we choose the same approach to Jesus.
We do enjoy the statements about mercy. We delight in the offer of an eternal happiness. We delight in the resurrection, though we often desire to hide from the crucifixion. We try to have Jesus without the cross. Though, as Jesus stated today in the Gospel, this is his whole mission and if we desire to follow him, we must accept the entire Jesus. We must seek to know and embrace Jesus in his life, his death and his resurrection. We need not fear, as the disciples did, to go deeper into the mystery of his suffering, for it is in his suffering where we find the mercy and the love that God truly has for each of us. And even, we will be called to follow Jesus through our own trials, our own sufferings. Though, if we choose to follow Jesus through the sufferings, it is there where we discover the glory of the resurrection. It is in the resurrection that we discover the meaning of the suffering, and even our own sufferings.
In your prayer, do not be afraid to speak to Jesus and ask him the questions that are longing in your heart. Be ready to listen to his response, to what he shares with you. I know that in my own personal prayer, I rarely receive the message that I desired. I am often tempted to go into prayer with a list of demands that he must meet, with results that I am convinced (at the time) would be best and must occur. And all that I discover, is that his response to my prayer is one that is different...and better for me, than what I originally expected. Because Jesus knows what is truly good, even though it is not the easy response...but that is why he is God and we can trust him. In your prayer, do not be afraid to question God about any of your trails or his teachings. And then be open to the totality of his response because his response will always be a response of love for us. In your prayer, do not be afraid to question God about any of your trials or his teachings. And then be open to the totality of his response because his response will always be a response of love for us.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl