I am going to need help from some of you parents, since I do not have children of my own, but what is the age when small children seem to never stop asking questions? Is that the so-called “terrible 2s”? It seems that they are always asking “Why?” – “Why is the sky blue?”, “Why do I have to brush my teeth?”, “Why do have have to go to bed now?” I am sure it can make a parent or grandparent weary, but it really is a sign of the child’s growing up, trying to learn about the world around them.
Their inquisitiveness stands in contrast to the “silence” of the disciples in today’s Gospel reading. In St. Mark’s Gospel, after St. Peter’s confession of faith, there is a shift in the tone of the Gospel. It is often called the journey on the road, for the events in this section of the Gospel are described as being on a journey. Unlike His preaching tour, on this journey Jesus did not want anyone to know about it; only His disciples. It marks Jesus’ final instruction to His disciples as He draws closer to Calvary and His Passion.
For the second time Jesus very clearly tells His disciples that He will be handed over and killed, and on the third day rise from dead. And for the second time, the disciples’ response is shockingly inappropriate. After His first prediction of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, St. Peter takes Jesus aside and argues with Him, saying that it cannot be so. This time, even though they do not understand what Jesus is talking about, “they were afraid to question him.” Instead of asking questions to gain understanding, the disciples decide to allow their fear to keep them in ignorance.
Then, to make matters worse, during this journey with Jesus on the road, the disciples begin “discussing among themselves . . . who was the greatest.” Not only are the disciples choosing to say ignorant about what Jesus is trying to teach them, they are not even sensitive to how Jesus might be feeling about His impending Passion and Death. No, they seem to be more concerned about themselves, and their own status. When Jesus asks them about what they were arguing about on the way, once again the disciples decide to “remain silent.”
Silence is certainly an important part of our spiritual life; in fact we are suppose to encourage sacred silence during the Mass, for example after each reading and after reception of Holy Communion. However, sacred silence arises out of reverence for God and our own humility; not out of regret over our failures and fears. Sacred silence allows us to contemplate the opportunities we have for giving service to others as an outward expression of our loving union with Jesus. This kind of silence is the source of all Christians’ greatness.
The silence of the disciples in today’s Gospel reading, however, arises out of their fear and their self-centeredness. This fear and self-centeredness causes them to have a lack of receptivity to Jesus’ message. This is why Jesus places a child in their midst, for He wants them to learn to have the disposition of a child. A child has an innate love and trust of their parent. They want to understand what their parent is saying to them. That’s the reason behind all those “why” questions.
Jesus is reminding the disciples, which includes all of us today, that through our baptism we have become the adopted sons and daughters of God. As such, we should foster a disposition of love and trust in God, so that we will be responsive to God’s Word in our midst. This is the essence of our parish’s patron, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, “little way.” It is a littleness so that we can respond to the vulnerability and neediness of others, because we first recognize our own vulnerability and need for our Heavenly Father.
From the sacred silence that allows us to recognize the Word of God present among us, we will have the courage to ask God to better understand His will for us. Then, after journeying, after following Jesus along the way – the way that includes the Cross – we will arise to be embraced in the arms of God, our loving Father.