The God Who Speaks: Ask, and it will be given to you
By Br Gabriel Theis, O.P. | Asking questions has become unpopular in our culture: We prefer the clarity of opinions over the insecurity that asking questions creates in others and ourselves. However, our relationships with our fellow human beings, but also our friendship with God can only thrive if we find the courage to refrain from stating opinions and start asking questions.
“Ask, and it will be given to you – for the one who asks always receives.” Asking questions seems to become increasingly neglected in our societies. If we look into politics, science, and even religion today, most leading figures in these areas seemingly feel obliged to give answers and explanations – often before anyone has even asked them a question. This also contributes to the division in our culture that many people lament about: Instead of asking questions, thereby learning more about each other and for ourselves, we confront each other with our opinions. Obviously, this prevents any real understanding from happening: in Germany, the word alternativlos (‘without any alternative’) has become a common phrase used by politicians to present their policies in a way that tries to forbid any debate on them.
This approach cannot be our solution for problems in our relationships: imagine someone from your family would never ask a question, but just give you his or her opinion about every topic; or imagine yourself talking to a friend just in the form of statements, and how your friend would most likely react. Real conversations need an open-mindedness that is narrowed down with every absolute opinion we proclaim; for conversations of any kind, but also for every relationship, asking questions is vital.
This is also true for the most important relationship in our life, which is our friendship with God. While we might be more or less on equal terms with other human beings, our relationship with God is different because it is asymmetrical: He is omnipotent, omniscient, and pure love; we are weak, limited in our knowledge and understanding even of ourselves, and often find it difficult to love other human beings without looking for our personal gain.
Yet, God gives us space by asking us questions! In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us by putting questions to his audience: “Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?” In return, our relationship with God should consist in a lot of questions: we should ask Him about our lives, and what our everyday experience means; what we can do to help other people; we should ask Him to help us and others in accomplishing our duties, in being patient with ourselves and others, and in our growing of love for Him and our fellow human beings. If we would just confront God with our opinions, what would we get after all? My experience is that God does not respond to statements – but that he almost always has an answer of some kind for my questions.
Maybe one of our intentions for Lent could be to stop confronting others with our opinions, and to begin asking each other questions – and to do the same in our relationship with God. “If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Photo: The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio, via WikiCommons
The year 2020 has been declared a year to reflect on the importance of the Scriptures in our lives as Christians, coinciding with the 1600 years of the death of St Jerome and the 10th anniversary of Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of the Lord. Here you can find more information about activities coming up in the dioceses of England and Wales.