ColumnsNaming Grace

The most important question

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Johnny, age four, loves adventures! Each day, his mom takes him out to explore a new trail or discover raspberries under a scratchy bush. Recently, we took Johnny to a creek teeming with tadpoles and bugs. Johnny asked what seemed like a thousand questions: “Mimi, why is this frog so green?” “Mimi, why does this bug jump?” “Mimi, why, why, why?” In the book, “A More Beautiful Question,” author Warren Berger claims, “4-year-olds ask as many as 200 to 300 questions a day. … kids ask an average of 40,000 questions between the ages of 2 and 5.” Though often exhausting for parents, questioning proves essential for one’s growth. “… Berger shows, the most creative, successful people tend to be expert questioners. They’ve mastered the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking — and finding the answers everyone else is seeking.”

From this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus, THE expert questioner, asks the questions simmering within each of the disciples’ hearts, but no one dares to speak. He begins with a non-threatening question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples quickly answer: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus could have left well enough alone. But no, Jesus shoots straight to the core by asking the MOST important question: “But who do you say that I am?” Silence. We can just imagine the disciples, heads down, praying not to be selected to answer THAT question. Thankfully, Peter releases the tension by responding: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Well done, Peter, and thanks for getting us off the hook! Except we aren’t.

“But who do you say that I am?” is THE most important question each person must consider and answer. If Jesus was just a good man, an interesting character, or even a wise person, we could take or leave His words. But how we answer this question determines the course of our lives — for now and eternity! If we answer with Peter, we bow before the living God, know ourselves as God’s beloved, and live for a greater purpose.

If not, we remain earthbound, searching endlessly, roaming in all the wrong places. We worship only ourselves, finding life futile and unsatisfying. As parents/grandparents, we pose the big questions in life: “Who am I?” “Why do I exist?” “What is my purpose?” “Who is God?” We name grace — God’s guiding presence — when we encourage our children to pray, think deeply, and discuss the meaning of life through the eyes of faith. We encourage our children to seek truth and wisdom, especially through Scripture, study, and nature. Yet we can only address each big question by answering the most important question: “But who do you say that I am?” Ultimately, it is our heavenly Father who reveals the answer to those whose hearts are open and willing.

My prayer is for each of our grandchildren to ask important questions of faith and then to answer by giving their free assent to Jesus Christ, who is our meaning, purpose, peace, and joy. Each time we come to the Eucharist we encounter Jesus, who asks again: “But who do you say that I am?” With each “Amen,” we respond with Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now, that’s good news!

How will you help your child to the most important question?

Mary Pedersen D. Min. reflects on the Gospel through the lens of parents/grandparents. You may contact her: