The Karate Kid was a popular and heart-warming movie. It was the story about a young boy who asks a man from Okinawa to teach him karate. The old man agrees only on the condition that the boy obey him without hesitation. When the youngster agrees, the man has him do things like wash and wax his car and sand and paint his fence. The boy becomes angry because he thinks the old man is taking advantage of him. He eventually learns that the motions he used for those tasks are the basic motions of karate. Since he was obedient, the old man could teach him karate.
Our three readings this Sunday deal with the issue of authority & obedience:
- The father in the parable had the right to tell his sons what to do. The two sons had the responsibility or duty to obey his commands. One finally did while the other did not.
- The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to the people who had been carried off into exile. The reason for that exile was that the chosen people had failed to obey God and live up to the covenant they made with God at Mt. Sinai.
- The New Testament teaches that Jesus was like us in all things, but sin. St. Paul reminds us that Jesus was obedient even unto death, death on a cross.
The problem between authority and obedience has been around for thousands of years. We find conflict between authority and obedience in homes, classrooms, mines, governments, and churches. I suspect every doctor could tell of patients who instead of getting better — got worse because they failed to follow instructions. Patients feel better and decide to stop taking the medicine and get sick again. What often happens is that those who should obey don’t realize there is a good reason for doing so.
Today we are reminded that we are called to be obedient to the Lord our God. The word “obey” originally meant “to stand under.” The God who created us, who sustains us, and who guides us wants us to stand under his authority. To truly be God’s children we must listen to the Word of God and live our lives accordingly.
In the parable that Jesus told, the 1st son said that he would work, but did not. The 2nd son said that he would not, but then did. Jesus praises neither. How wonderful it would have been if there had been a 3rd son who said, “I’ll do it,” and did it. There was a son like that, the Son of God who was obedient to God, even unto death. The message and challenge of this Sunday’s reading is summed up so well by St. Paul: “Have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.”