Yes or No? Yes and No!

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, November 2004. Taken by me.

I was not going to post today but as I prayed earlier and as I got ready for work, the need to write about the Feast of the Assumption and/or yesterday’s Gospel about Jesus and the Canannite woman was persistent. It was even more pressing after finding these three thought provoking posts, one from Ginny Kubitz Moyer, one from Philomena Ewing (ok two from Phil, see this one also,) and one from Claire Bangasser.

Which brings me to a question I would simply like to pose for today… Yes or No? As usual, I go for the both/and approach and come up with Yes and No!

The Canaanite woman will not take no for an answer. She went to Jesus in good faith for healing for her daughter and was not going to go away quietly. Once again we meet a woman, not even a Jew, persistently going to Jesus for help. He is even pretty clear that she is not who he came to save!

She says – no, you must help me. Even the dogs get scraps!

Today we have another Marian feast to ponder, the Dormition of the Theotokos or what we Catholics call the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary has not said no – in fact, she has said “yes.” It is Mary’s yes that changed the world!

What is it for you  in life – the Yes or the No?

We must exercise both? How does this work in your life? I hope you comment here; I’d love to know what you think.


Asking the Questions and Then Living Them

“As long as we are unquestioning, we are part of the problem.”- Rosalie Bertelle, RSG

Frequently I find myself in some interesting conversations in the comment boxes of some of the faith blogs that I read.

Yesterday I read the words of one commenter regarding a post about obedience, teaching authority and women’s ordination who said:

There is no such thing as a “progressive” Catholic in good standing. The whole point of our religion is that it conserves the teachings of Christ given to us 2,000 years ago. To want to change or modernize the Church is to want the Church to cease to be the Church of Christ and change it into the Church of modern man.

Alrighty then! How sad it is to me to assume that the revelation of God’s Word in Jesus has come and gone. Is it just me, or isn’t it still unfolding?

Then there was this:

Forgive me if I am dense, but it seems to me the question of women’s ordination has been definitively addressed by Pope John Paul II, who taught authoritatively out that there is no authority in the Church to ordain women. To continue to advocate women’s (sic) ordination after that clarification is a stubborn refusal to accept the teaching of the church. Given that, why on earth is there any upset about removing from a teaching position a nun whose teaching is clearly contrary to that of the Church. Obedience, anyone? Assent of faith?

Once again, the definitive answer has been given, no more questions.

Well, maybe not exactly. I respect that that is the current answer, but I do not accept it as the answer for all time.

I actually do not think that women’s ordination is a one stop solution to all the problems of the church any more than I think that a married clergy is. What I do think however, is that if we can’t question and discuss such matters, we have a problem. So right now the discussion of this topic is off-limits. And some brave souls keep at it, even if it puts their participation in community at risk.  I don’t know if they are prophets or not, but most prophets are resisted, reviled and rejected in my experience. To keep silencing people only encourages cowardice on one side and subversion on the other. True obedience demands neither!

This is not a recap of my evening with Richard Rohr, OFM, although I will touch on some of what he discusses.

One of the things that Rohr mentioned is that in the Gospels (not sure if he meant synoptic or all of them), Jesus was asked 183 questions.

And gave direct answers to only 3 of them.

What Rohr followed with was this quote:

“Jesus is not an answer-giver. He is THE answer.”

I would be inclined to agree, although I realize that is not the case for all who read this.

In the great rabbinical tradition, Jesus often answered questions with other questions. And I don’t think that he minded being questioned. In fact – I will posit that he encouraged it so that we might come to understand just who He is!

Yet we live in this bubble of authority-issues sometimes that drives me mad. Where is our inner authority? My own sense of inner authority developed over the past 20 years in direct proportion to the development of my Catholic faith. Now that seems counterintutive, but it is true.

Inner authority means asking questions sometimes. My faith also tells me that I won’t always like the answers I get. It is a process, dynamic and alive, that I am actively engaged in. Sometimes those tough answers just need to sit and I continue to work with them, questioning and surrendering and living in that in-between space of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” (This is the thrust of Rohr’s new book actually.)

Anyone who has ever been a teacher knows that the best students are the ones that ask questions. First of all, it might indicate that they are actually paying attention. Second of all, it means that they are using their critical thinking skills.

I put this post up to say that there are no answers without questions in my estimation. And the questions may be more important than the answers. For me and for others, Jesus is the answer but we must still ask the questions.

Spending time with those on the left and the right does give me a glimpse into the lack of questions from both sides at times. I spent plenty of time in that no-question of the self place and I still do, despite wanting to do otherwise.

I hope that we can all engage in some healthy and necessary self-examination of who we are as human beings, who we are as a society and for some of us, who we are as a community of faith. Questioning things is not just a matter of faith, but of life.

You see, the real risk with questions is that you might not always like what you hear in response. I know that has been very true for me and as a result, I struggle and wrestle with answers and Answers, truth and Truth, as I make my way along The Way.

The Truth, and I do purposefully use a big T for what my Truth is, is a big enough to withstand the questions and it actually demands those very questions.

I think that the questions are the point of demarkation for those who make an idol of Jesus and the Church and those who are truly followers.

And I am only partway along on that journey. It is the questions that are like little lamps, posted to guide me on my way.

I’ll close with some words of wisdom from Rainer Maria Rilke:

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.- Rilke