In the beginning

Questions are often more important than answers

by Father Mike Stubbs

Where will I ever find the money to pay these bills? How can I communicate better with my spouse? What can I do to get along with the kids?

Those types of questions often dominate our thoughts. Unfortunately, they do not have an easy answer. That is why we spend so much time thinking about them. As we attempt to address those questions, our efforts to do so shape our lives. The search to find an answer to the questions we ask determines the direction of our life. It is not so much the answer, but rather the question itself which points us in the direction we go with our life.

In that sense, the questions we ask are more important than the answers we find. That explains what is going on in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 6:24-35. After the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Jesus once again tries to escape the crowd. But they pursue him. The ensuing dialogue between Jesus and the crowd makes up the bulk of the Gospel reading.

When the crowd asks Jesus, “Rabbi, when did you get here?,” it appears as though Jesus is evading their question.

His response does not include any mention of a time element. Instead, he answers, “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

In effect, Jesus is telling the crowd that they have asked the wrong question and that they are seeking the wrong things. They should have asked themselves why they were looking for Jesus and what Jesus could offer them.

Jesus is attempting to redirect the crowd by giving them answers to questions which they did not ask, but should have. He is trying to point them in a different direction.

The dialogue between Jesus and the crowd reaches its high point when they ask Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Their question is not a mere request for information, but for something far more valuable: It is Jesus himself — “I am the bread of life.”

Does that mean that Jesus is the answer to all the questions of the crowd, and by implication, to all our questions as well? Yes, but beware.

We cannot look upon Jesus as an easy answer. On the contrary, Jesus brings along with him all sorts of difficult and challenging questions. They are incorporated in the very person of Jesus.

As we nourish ourselves with the bread of life and assimilate Jesus to the core of our being, those questions will disturb and push us to respond: Who is my neighbor? How do I forgive those who have hurt me? What do I need to change in my life?

None of those questions has an easy answer. It takes a lifetime of searching. And that searching is part of what it means to follow Jesus.

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Fr. Mike Stubbs

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