Monday Musings: The Need to Ask The Question Why

Yes, I know it’s not Monday, and that this edition of “Monday Musings” is a day late, but to be honest I wasn’t inspired to write anything on Monday, so I wasn’t going to.

But then Tuesday happened, and the topic of this post raised its head and just wouldn’t go away.

Yet, being fundamentally lazy, I wasn’t going to suddenly in “Tuesday Tidbits” as a one-off title, so “Monday Musings” it is. Shall we just move on folks?

I was always told that the question “why?” is not always a good question to be asked, and in some contexts can be downright unhelpful. It should thus generally be avoided. When it seems to be the only question that is uttered – as, for example, by young children – it can also be extremely annoying. Why? Why? Why? As an automatic response to any explanation, the mode in which it is often used by the young children in question, it’s enough to drive one slightly mad.

The question, however, is not always a question to be avoided. When used correctly, the question “why?” can cause us to reevaluate the reasoning behind our actions, either past or proposed, and thus, particularly in regard to proposed action, ensure that our motivation for doing whatever is being considered is entirely in keeping with our expressed beliefs, values and vision. In short, answering the question “why?” can ensure that our intentions are honourable and true or, at the very least, in keeping with our spoken rationale.

Which is why (see!) the topic of this post raised its head today and demanded attention.

I am currently attending the annual Clergy/Parish Leaders Conference organised by our diocese. This is a week where clergy (deacons, priests and bishop) and the increasing number of lay parish leaders (which come in many different evolutions) come together to discuss and reflect on issues that are impacting on our parishes and our ministry in pastoral leadership. This year’s focus is on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Broadly speaking, the Conference speakers, and our conversations, will focus our attention on the demands of preaching the Gospel in our parishes in this day and age. Pope Francis has consistently reminded the Church of the need to do that during his pontificate and especially in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) which was published in November 2013.

And yes, our parishes need to constantly hear the Gospel being proclaimed. Why? Because it is only through the proclamation of the Gospel that people come into relationship with Jesus, are evangelised, and thus commit themselves to becoming intentional disciples of Jesus. And it is only the proclamation of the Gospel, having produced intentional disciples of Jesus, that allows the proclamation of the Gospel to continue to take place.

And that is why (there we go again!) we must constantly ask ourselves “why?” in the context of parish life? Why are we putting this practice in place? Why are we running this program this way? Why are we running that program at all? Etc., etc.

If the answer to those question is not geared to the making of intentional disciples through the proclamation of the Gospel, then may our actions are no longer in sync with our stated objectives. Or, more seriously, our stated objectives might be completely disconnected from the reality of our parish’s existence, which is not about offering this program and that, but rather the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet it is only asking “why?” that allows us to reflect, as a parish community, on what we’re doing and the reasons behind what we’re doing.

The power of the question “why?” is thus something to be engaged with since it allows us to constantly review how we operate and what we do. Answering the question “why?” permits us to assess our entire life as a community of faith against the imperative that Jesus provided to us – to go, to make disciples, to baptise, and to teach.