26 Sep 2012
Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 23, 2012
By Deacon Scott Carroll, seminarian for Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
My name is Scott Carroll, and I am a recently ordained deacon from the Diocese of Toledo. I am currently studying for the priesthood over at St. Meinrads, and I am due to be ordained this coming June . . . thank goodness! It is during our last two years of training that we are assigned to a parish in order to gain experience in ministry. I was present to this parish last year in a variety of ways, such as making visits to the school, attending youth group activities, RCIA and some of the weekend liturgies. Now that I am in my last year, I will be attending the masses here at the parish once a month in order to practice some of the things that deacons can do, such as reading the Gospel and giving a homily . . . like I am about to do now. I thank you for this opportunity, and I will try not to be too long!
Like I previously mentioned, I have had the chance to participate in a number of ministries here at Holy Family, but the one that I might value the most was my visits to the school. As a former teacher myself, I feel comfortable in a classroom and I really enjoy the educational setting! The teachers who invited me into their classrooms would typically have a question and answer session with me, and I always enjoyed the questions. Some were unique, or off the wall and unexpected, and sometimes it became a chance to stump the seminarian, but they were always fun experiences and there were plenty of good questions.
Those experiences gave me a chance to think about what a question really is. There is something about a question that is bigger than just the answer. Each question reveals something in us that is seeking, or curious, or openness to something new or needed. A question fills us with that sense of discovery! Ever time we ask one, we are being honest about our self in that we are admitting that we need help . . . each question is an act of humility! We all know that it is important to change; to convert, to grow . . . that’s what our faith teaches us, and that is what questions do!
Sometimes, I think, it takes a kid to remind us of this. The innocence and interest with which they ask questions that are sometimes tough but often to the point. Most often, they don’t have a lot of fear in asking them. Do they always have the best of intentions? Well, not always . . . sometimes, I am sure, they are asking just to be annoying or to stall class before that spelling quiz, but more good come out of their questions than anything!
In our Gospel story today, we find that Jesus is walking and talking with His disciples. And to read a short section here . . .
He says to them “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.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
What a profound thing for Jesus to say to them. What a powerful and mysterious thing to say. What a difficult thing for them, or anyone, to understand . . . but nobody had any questions. Jesus said that, and nobody had a question?
I can relate to this, and I am sure that I am not alone here on this. When it comes to asking questions, I can be the worst. Oh, sure, as a teacher I had plenty of questions to go with all my supposed answers, but not as a kid myself, nope, no questions. I just wanted to sit quietly in the back of the classroom . . . and it really isn’t any different even now over in that seminary. It might be a dumb question, I would say to myself, so let someone else ask it. They might ask me a question, and I didn’t want to be wrong in front of everyone. Sometimes, I just didn’t want to know the answer . . . I was afraid that it would be something that I didn’t want to hear, or something that would change what I didn’t want changed. Call it a little too proud, or a little too scared . . . in short, I was hiding in plain sight!
Maybe we hide for some good reasons . . . questions aren’t as easy to ask now as they used to be. There is no shortage of things for us to learn, of course, but many times asking a question is a tense and awkward thing. Some questions are meant to trick, or embarrass, or insult . . . and we shouldn’t want to do that. If we do it wrong, then our relationships, or our reputation, or our job is at risk. Somewhere along the line, questions get loaded and asking gets dangerous . . . especially for adults. But, the problem with this is that nothing gets said when it needs to be.
From the second reading today, in that letter from James, we read the following line . .
“You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
With that in mind, we can turn now to the rest of the Gospel story. As the day went on, Jesus knew that they where asking each other about something, but not to Him. What was it, Jesus insisted, that they were talking about? What was their question? At last, He found out, of course. The question that they were asking among themselves was “who was the greatest among them”. That is what they wanted to talk about. That was their question. That, sadly, was the question you get when one follows their individual passion.
So, How did Jesus answer them? What did He do? Jesus turned to the kids who were there also, and to one in particular. We will never know who it was, and Jesus didn’t ask that child any sort of question, but placed that boy or girl right there in the middle of the group for a reason. That child was a powerful sign or symbol of innocence, curiosity, vulnerability, humility, openness . . . of trust. That child was an example of all the things that should be behind every thing we ask of God and every question that we have for Him. Whoever comes to Him with these will grow and be changed by the answer. That child, right then and there, was Jesus’ answer to their question.
What a strange scene that must have been for all of them . . . child now standing at the center of a group of adults who, most recently in their debate about being the greatest, were acting like children. What Christ had said to them earlier in the day had to be confusing, but in not asking about it, they ended up hiding from Him . . . and everything He wanted to give. Fear, selfish passion and a lack of trust got in the way of everything that Christ came to offer us. May we all place our trust in God, and ask of Him in true openness, humility and love.