A Most Humble Question


Life is full of questions. From the time we wake up to the time we spend on the clock to the time we have for relaxation—we ask questions all the time: What’s next? Where do I go from here? When is the next thing going to happen? Am I doing this correctly? Questions pervade our daily life; they occupy our minds. Our questions can be as mundane as “What is today’s date?” or as life-determining as “How am I going to pay for these bills?” When we ask a question, we wish to receive an answer: What’s next? This is next. Where do we go? Let’s go there.

In a sense, questioning is a type of movement. It is a movement from potentiality to actuality, a movement from ignorance to knowledge. The answers to our questions help us to get going throughout the day, to get ourselves moving on with life, to get from point A to point B. Our questions arise in the context of certain situations both good and bad. If I have a pie to share, I should ask how many pieces I need to cut in order to satisfy everyone at the party. If upon coming home I discover one of my house  windows broken, I’d better ask myself why the window is broken before I go through the door.

The Blessed Virgin Mary asked a certain question when a certain situation entered into her life. When the angel Gabriel appeared to her to announce the conception of Jesus in her womb, Mary asked a simple question: “How can this be?” This is an honest and intelligent question: how is it that a virgin is able to conceive without having relations with a man?

One could make the observation that Mary’s question is a question of doubt: how dare she question the almighty power of God who can do all things? But such an objection doesn’t do justice to Mary’s human nature. It denies man’s natural desire and capacity for understanding. Mary does not doubt God’s omnipotence; rather, she seeks to understand the meaning of God’s presence to her: why does God care to come to me and what am I to do?

Mary’s question is a question marked by humility, a humility so profound that it leaves no room for prideful doubting. Giving voice to a question springing from great faith, Mary teaches us that it is okay to question the great deeds of God if one trusts in Him. In faith, Mary was disposed with humble attention to receive the answer for the meaning of her existence. And it was in this way that she let the Holy Spirit come upon her.

May we too ask in humble faith before our God the questions which preoccupy every human life: Who are You? Who am I? How can this be?

Image: Wassily Kandinsky, Movement I

You May Also Enjoy:

Filling the Potentiality Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Isaac Jogues and companions. St. Isaac Jogues was a Jesuit missionary priest martyred on October 18, 1646 by Mohawk Indians in present day upstate New York. After entering the Society of Jesus in 1624, Isaac Jogues was sent to North America in 1636 where he set to work evangelizing the different Native American nations he encountered. Six years into his mission, Jogues and his traveling party were ...
Poor Francis My brothers, the Lord called me into the way of simplicity and humility to have me poor and foolish in this world . . . God will confound you by your own wisdom and learning, and, for all your fault-finding, bring you repentance whether you will or no. No, these words of reproach were not leveled at a Dominican ensnared by intellectual pride. These are the words of St. Francis exhorting his own Franciscan brothers to the life of simple poverty f...
Fulton Sheen and the Playfulness of the Gospel This post is the second part of a series on Archbishop Fulton Sheen.   St. Philip Neri once remarked to a Dominican friar, “All that I have of good I owe to your fathers of San Marco.” Could the same be said of Fulton Sheen? In his autobiography, Sheen speaks movingly (and amusingly) about his friendship with a certain Fr. Smith: For many years our dean in the School of Philosophy was Father Ignatius Smith, a Dominican, who was not...
Above All Superstitions Every time that Friday the 13th rolls around, superstitions abound in the news. Black cats, ladders, and broken mirrors receive special attention, and many people avoid travel on this day for fear of accidents (though it was on Friday the 13th that I first drove here to Washington to visit the House of Studies). Popular use of the term "superstition" suggests a belief in any sort of supernatural power that cannot be explained by natural reason...
Br. John Baptist Hoang, O.P.

Written by:

Br. John Baptist was born in Lemoore, CA and grew up in Woodbridge, VA. Before entering the Order, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in religious studies and sociology from the University of Virginia. On DominicanFriars.org