I’m told an unreasonable child at two or three years of age will refute all of mom’s declarative statements seeking a reasonable response to the question, “Why?”
Mom tries her best to show her best reasoning by speaking to a mind that’s the size of an acorn but will grow to its fullest many years later. Mom gives the kid her best shot and the kid replies with a second dose of “Why?”
Mom, unflustered with her college degree tucked away and a full-time working profession, offers the unreasonable but adorable child a second plausible explanation to her declarative directive. Mom smiles to herself at her quick offer of her second response when the first one was just as valid.
Nada, not a second passes before the still unreasonable-but-seeking-a-reason-but-now-becoming-a-precocious-child says back to mom without hesitation, “Why?” Mom now with clenched teeth offers a sterner reason, with less reasonable reasoning than her first two reasonable responses. (“Three strikes and you’re out, kid?”)
A young person asks, “Why?” and we fill their opening heads with concepts and formulas that we hope will see them throughout life. The “Why’s” of the young are rarely answered but only signals and clues are slowly planted into their growing heads. During the child’s high school and college years, the “How” begins to play trying to figure out the “this from that” from every arena of life. (The “How’s” of our lives are more easily explained.)
When the child’s mind is fully developed that silly “Why” still arises only without mother and her canned, clever responses. The “How” is understood and then made into a job or career. (A “job” is something you do for money, a “career” is your investment in something important.)
But what is the remaining, unanswered question? That’s easy, it’s the “Who” question. “Who” are you at any given point in your life? “Who” do you want to be? How do other people answer your “Who” question for you? “You’re going to this college and that’s that!” When you are the only person on this planet to answer your “Who” question. “Who” have you become and are you content with that self-definition? And why do these three kids keep saying, “Who?”
Or, as Jesus asked, “Who”‘ do others say that I am?” So asking that question of ourselves puts us in pretty good company. “Who” will you continue to be with all your habits and routines already cemented in your life? Simply stated, can you answer this simple question that God asks of you every time you enter this sacred space or seek God out in prayer, “Who” are you?
Jesus answered all those preliminary questions but his only remaining, unanswered question always was, “Who are you?”
—“Are you the Son of God or just one of the prophets? “What good can come out of Nazareth?”
—Constant demons, every step of Jesus’ way says, “I know ‘Who’ you are!” —“If you are ‘who’ you say that you are, then jump off the cross and save yourself.”
Jesus gradually grew to know his “Who” in this life and then acted on it. His actions spoke for the “Who” that he was. He didn’t need to define it to anyone. If you believe that you’re a good person but cheat on your taxes because everybody does it, then your “Who” becomes a “What?”
Mom just wanted the (first cute-then precocious-then obnoxious) kid to get into the car. We just want to get through life with meaningful purposes in both our personal lives, relationships, and occupations.
Jesus just wanted to show us that if we answer the “Who” question first, then the “Why” of our lives will be resolved and solved.
books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
“The Who” and “Who Are You,” vintage rock ‘n roll