It became perennial. I am referring to each new batch of high school sophomores I had to teach, with their innate ability to be, shall I say, ever so politely, “unpleasantly lacking in self-control?”
For some eight years of my 17 teaching high school, I was their Religion teacher. It’s a form of “dry martyrdom” worthy at least of a dented halo. I remember particularly how they would try to take advantage of my decision to offer a relaxed Friday “Q & A” session most weeks. What they would do frequently enough was to pose questions unrelated to the subject matter, or else ask those akin to what the Sadducees asked Jesus. For example, “Can God make a square circle?”
Both types of questions are unworthy of a serious answer. The questioner is mainly interested in annoying the teacher, or at least usher him/her into an embarrassing position. Of course, the Sadducees were confronting the greatest Teacher who ever lived with their trick question. They weren’t really interested in the whole matter of whose wife a woman of multiple husbands would be in the resurrected life. To begin with, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
We know that the gospels are replete with incidents that are like mirrors held up to us. The stories lead us to a little self-examination. For example, have you or I ever questioned God? Demanded answers of Him about one of life’s persistent questions? Or challenged Him to defend one of His decisions involving you? Let me be clear from the outset: to question God respectfully is not in itself wrong.
Many questions, for example, are put to God in the Psalms (Psalm 10, 44, 74 and 77). People asked questions of Jesus that were natural and spontaneous. St. Luke gives us a sampling. Early on, His disciples ate grain from a wheat field on a sabbath. Some Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what our Law says you cannot do on a sabbath?” (Luke 6:2) Later on, some of the Baptist’s disciples asked Him: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20)
After a parable about a sower “His disciples asked Jesus what this parable meant?” (Luke 8: 9) Before a spectacular miracle: “All we have are five loaves and two fish. Do you want us to go and buy food for this whole crowd? There were about five thousand men there.” (Luke 9:13) The list goes on. In short, an honest question is not a sin, but a bitter, untrusting or rebellious heart is. At a certain age in life it is out of place to be sophomoric in our questions to the Lord.
Allow me to add two corollaries: 1. It is not every question that deserves an answer. 2. When somebody says “That’s a good question,” you can be pretty sure it’s a lot better than the answer you’re going to get. Over and above all this is the ever-consoling truth that God loves each of us, by name and forever, unless we turn away from Him. The Bible, the Church, and my faith tell me that’s really and truly…unquestionable.