Two weeks ago I had my belt testing in taekwondo. Along with me were others who were testing for the same level as I was, but there were also two others who were testing for a much higher level, a level that we lower levels do not know anything about. The first one of the higher belt level to test performed her routine in a way that to us seemed flawless and showed mastery. The series of movements that she executed showed great balance and symmetry that we could not help but clap our hands after she was done. The second one though performed a seemingly different routine, not quite like the first one. He also fumbled through. He kept losing his balance, often on the verge of tripping, and paused many times at each transition. He was very tentative and seemed unsure what to do next that it was very painful for us to watch, and we wondered if the master would give him a passing mark. After the test, it was customary for our taekwondo master to give comments about what we did, by addressing us individually. However, when it came to the two who tested for the high level belt, he looked at us instead and asked us all: who did we think did it right? The first who gave a beautiful execution, or the one who was fumbled through the routine? We were all bewildered by the question. Unfamiliar with how the routine should be performed, we had let our judgment be guided only by what we saw.
Many times we find ourselves being asked, or asking even, the same question about matters of our Catholic Faith: is it truly the Body and Blood of Christ, or simply a sharing of bread and wine – is the Eucharist really that important? Was the multiplication of the loaves and fish really a miracle, or simply people sharing their packed provisions? Is there hell, or not? Is it ok to be as we are, or are we called to be holy? Is it ok for us to continue committing sin and not worry about it since Jesus already died for us and secured our salvation? Are we already forgiven even if we don’t ask for forgiveness? Did the Resurrection really happen, or not?
If we do not make an effort to know more about Scripture and go back to the Bible, these questions become a real stumbling block to our own understanding, and we lose the chance to help others advance further in seeking Jesus. If we doubt or do not know, how can we lead? And if we do not know, how could we tell which shepherd to follow, which is the truth? Recently someone asked me if Jesus and His story were really true, if it really happened. We went to the Bible and found many accounts, one of which is Luke 24: 35-48:
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”
When the disciples doubted and had questions in their hearts, Jesus Himself came and showed proof, in His own words. All of His disciples lived and strove to be witnesses and, except John, to be martyred later on rather than renounce the glorious Truth. Through the centuries Jesus continues to speak to us and longs to set our questions at rest and give our hearts peace, through the words of Truth, His words in the Bible. However, to have our Faith set firmly on the Truth, we need an openness and humility of heart and mind, toward a lifetime of learning toward eternity.
After giving us some time to think about his question, our Taekwondo master explained why it was the second one who tested that did good, not the first one. Apparently, the first one who tested came to class only a few times to learn the routine. Thinking that it was all she needed to know, she had stopped going to class and practiced the routine on her own. Over-confident, she did not see the need to learn any more than what she received on the few times she was instructed. Consequently her routine, although it looked good, was flawed both in content and further made flawed by her attitude. On the other hand, the second one who struggled did so because he tried to follow what was required. He came to class every time and made every effort to do each step correctly, even if he had to open himself to a lot of corrections. He had come to understand that what he was to learn was not just the steps, but the attitude.
As for us who were unable to discern who did right and who did not, we learned a great lesson that day, a lesson that wisely applies to the learning of our Faith as well: continue to learn the correct ways, the one Truth.
Let us ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the Scriptures and reveal to us His words, not as we would like His words to be, but how they truly are.