When I was in my undergraduate program at Eastern Connecticut State University, I took a class called the Philosophy of Religion taught by an ex-Jesuit priest. There was a small group of us in the class, maybe 10 to 15 students. Now learning philosophy only really works if you know which questions to ask in the search for understanding of the physical and spiritual world around you. Thus I was not good at Philosophy. I never know the right questions in the moment to ask and I rarely can make sense out of the answers the ancient philosophers came up with. They always seemed to lack in logic to me.
But there was this one student who truly knew how to use questions to delve deeper into understanding. If he got one answer from the professor, he had another question to back it up that poked and prodded at the foundations of understanding. It drove our professor crazy but I remember admiring this student a bit because he was not afraid to question; he was not afraid to search openly for answers to the questions that would bring understanding to the meaning of life. My questions, if they came, would always come later in the middle of the night after I had time to digest the information I absorbed in class and in my studies; they never came at a convenient time.
Philosophy intends to help people grapple with the most difficult questions of life. Questions that often find no real answers but rather more questions that help us delve further into exploring our relationship with the holy. The Gospel reading for today is perhaps one of the more challenging of the scriptures for people. We hear about the flight of Jesus and his family to Egypt narrowly escaping the fearful wrath of King Herod. But then we are left with all those people who lost their babies at the hands of a monster. We are left with the grief around such heinous acts and the inevitable questions that come with it.
Many people who are left with such questions want definitive answers from God, from religious leaders, from philosophers, from someone that can help them deal with the type of life changing grief that this episode depicts. I will tell you all the “answers” made available by thousands of years of theologians, clergy, and philosophers all fall short. The answers can only come from exploring the questions with God on an individual basis. They only come when we feel free to ask, with all the emotions that go with it, unhindered by guilt for questioning God and allowing our faiths to go through the tough times of life. Confucius, a 5th century Chinese Philosopher, wrote “He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions”.
In the act of asking questions, we are getting to know the holy through the search and the mystery. Jesus would participate in this as a 12 year old child and encouraged his future followers to do the same. We are being called to get to know God. We are called to see God at work in the world around us and to use our questions as a way of opening our minds to the possibilities of God in all the life experiences good, bad, and devastating. Questioning is not bad, but rather it is natural and a gift from God. It is considered a spiritual gift by Paul and if used right is a way for us to come to know the mystery and strength of God that can deepen our faith experiences. It can be used to derive meaning in life. It can be used to determine God’s call to us as individuals, as families, and as communities of faith.
To ask a question, means to seek an answer, an answer does not necessarily mean more statistical information. But rather an answer is a resting place with the questions. In faith, the same questions may arise again and again depending on the experiences of our lives. The “facts” may simply be our experiences or the experiences of others of the Lord in the world. This is evident in the praises of our Psalmist this morning.
So this morning, this week, feel free and open to ask your questions and to openly seek. No question is wrong or evil. Use your questions to open the mysterious world of God and see the works of God as the answers to those questions. Seek out God because that is what Christ sought to help people to do, to connect to the holy in new life changing depths. Remember to search for God in the words of our scriptures, the conversation we have with friends and loved ones, in the daily experiences of your life, and in the happenings of the world around us both socially and naturally. Remember the words of our Psalmist this morning, “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!” God has made his works known and continues to do so. Seek out the works of God and allow them to open new depths to your faith in the wondrous love of our God. This is our responsibility as a people of faith.
 Confucius, 5th century BC.
 Psalm 148: 13-14, NRSV.
(Based on Psalm 148 and Matthew 2: 13-23)