Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Get squish, just like grape...

          Last week I enjoyed another "away" session for the leadership formation program that some priests of my diocese and I are participating in called "Good Leaders, Good Shepherds.  During it, we watched the classic movie "The Karate Kid" and I was inspired by a connection I saw with last Sunday's Gospel.  I'm not sure how well it went over in Spanish, but I think many took something positive from it.  Enjoy!


Homily: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
          Some of you may have seen the film from the 1980’s called “The Karate Kid” (or, perhaps, you saw the 2010 re-make of the film, which had essentially the same story line).  The basic story is about Daniel, an outsider from New Jersey who moves into the upscale Los Angeles suburbs, who overcomes rejection and bullying by training and winning a prestigious karate tournament.  The key to Daniel’s success is an older Japanese man, Mr. Miyagi, who takes Daniel under his wing to train him for the tournament.
          One of the great lines from the film happens on the first day of Daniel’s training.  Mr. Miyagi is about to give Daniel the terms on which he must agree upon in order to be Mr. Miyagi’s “disciple” and he asks Daniel, “Now, ready?”  Daniel replies, “Yeah, I guess so.”  Mr. Miyagi was looking for something a little more committed and so he told him a parable.  He said (and please pardon my attempt to imitate Mr. Miyagi’s Japanese accent), “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do ‘yes’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so,’ [makes squish gesture] squish just like grape.”  For Daniel, this was a lesson in the cost of discipleship.  And the lesson was that, if he was going to do this, he had to be “all in.”
          In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples a similar lesson.  Jesus can see that these disciples have potential to be great apostles and evangelizers, but he can also see some hesitation among them.  And so, as the Good Teacher, he knows, therefore, that he must clarify for them the cost of being his disciple.  Thus, he tells them “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” and “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  These were extremely strong images, because in the culture of the time family was your life and to carry a cross meant you were better off already dead.  But Jesus knew that he had to use strong images if he was going to make his expectations clear.
          Perhaps, however, he could see the shocked faces of his disciples and so he adds a couple of parables to help them understand his reason for using such strong images.  The story of the man who builds a tower and cannot finish it and the story of the king who measures his ability to conquer an opposing army serve to illustrate the same thing that Mr. Miyagi tried to illustrate for Daniel: You had better be “all in” as my disciple, because if you’re not, “[makes squish gesture] squish, just like grape”.
          My brothers and sisters, this is exactly the lesson that the Church is inviting us to learn today by giving us this Gospel reading for Mass.  The Church is reminding us that to be a disciple of Jesus we have to be “all in”.  Does that mean that we must take Jesus’ words literally and hate our fathers, mothers, siblings, spouses and children?  No, of course not!  That would contradict Jesus’ mandate to love everyone, even our enemies.  What it does mean is that we must detach ourselves from everything that we hold dear in this world so as to be ready to turn away from it to follow him.  And why?  Because it’s the right thing to do?  Well, that’s part of it (and I suppose that for some of you here that will strike a positive chord).  More, however, it is because of Jesus’ promise to return to us a hundred fold whatever it was that we had given up in order to follow him.  But first, we have to be “all in”.
          You know, if we take a look at Catholics today, we can find that we all could be classified in one of three categories: all in, all out, or somewhere in between.  If you read the reports (or better yet just look around), you’ll see that a large number of us have made the decision to be “all out”.  Those of us who are here, then, are a mixture of “all ins” and “somewhere in betweens”.  My guess, however, is that the majority of us who are here fall under that latter category.  And I don’t blame us!  It’s hard to live the kind of intense discipleship that Jesus is demanding of us.  The challenge for us, however, is to trust Our Lord, much the way Daniel trusted Mr. Miyagi when he agreed to be “all in” even though he had no idea what it would demand of him.
          My brothers and sisters, Jesus needs us to be “all in” so that through us he can reach out to our friends, neighbors, and family members who have decided to be “all out”.  They have to see that our lives are different because we are disciples of Jesus, and that those differences actually make us happier, if they are going to be drawn back to consider once again Jesus’ promises to those who follow him.  In many ways, this is what we’ve been called to do in this Year of faith: to consider again the Faith and our commitment to it and to rededicate ourselves to being “all in”: to being evangelizers in our words and our actions so that others who have lost the Faith may return to it and be reconciled to God and the Church.  Let us then be true disciples and place all of our trust in the guidance of our master, for he will truly “make our paths straight” so that we can become the apostles and evangelizers that he already knows we can be and so that he can lead us to the eternal joy that we all desire.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – September 8th, 2013
The Memorial of the Birth of Mary

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