I was excited recently because I heard that there is a Season 3 of the Netflix series Cobra Kai. Anybody know what that is? Cobra Kai is the continuation of the movie The Karate Kid. I hope you remember The Karate Kid. If you do not remember, it was a movie that came out in the ‘80s. It was one of those films that was not planned to be a successful film, but it turned into this huge film that had a following for years and years. All the kids that were my age wanted to learn how to be the karate kid, and everybody wanted to have a Mr. Miyagi in their life – somebody that really could teach them and show them the way.
The movie The Karate Kid begins with this scene of Daniel and his single mother moving from New Jersey. They move all the way to Los Angeles, California. They move into a dump hotel in Mesito, and Daniel quickly discovers that he is out of place. As he begins to meet kids in his high school and tries to make friends, he realizes that everybody else is wealthy and pretty tough. Before you know it, he meets this girl Ali. He tries to defend her at one point and just gets his butt kicked by these Cobra Kai guys. It happens a couple of times. Over and over again, he gets beat up pretty badly. One day he is in his room at his mother’s house, and he is trying to learn karate from a book. A maintenance man comes in who is from Okinawa, and it is Mr. Miyagi. Some of you may remember him from Happy Days. He walks in and starts talking to Daniel, and says, “What are you doing?” Daniel says, “I am learning karate.” Mr. Miyagi looks down at the book, and he says, “From a book?” For Mr. Miyagi karate was something you learn in the guts of your soul and is taught to people who really want to learn it. Mr. Miyagi became Daniel’s mentor. He would teach him not only about karate, but he would teach him about the truths of life. He would really teach him a spiritual message as well.
I think all of us really want a Mr. Miyagi in our life. We want to have someone that can direct us, mentor us, show us, and help us not to get beat up so badly spiritually, physically, and mentally. We all have that desire. We have those figures in different areas of our lives. Kids, if you play sports, your Mr. Miyagi is probably your coach. He is probably the one that teaches you to play sports. People that are getting elderly must go to the doctor. The doctor is probably the one who helps you with your physical wellness. We also really need to seek out spiritual mentors. We really need to seek out people that can help us in the spiritual life.
When Daniel LaRusso is trying to learn karate, and he is getting beat up on both ends, he is so lucky to find Mr. Miyagi. Mr. Miyagi is teaching him the pure karate, which is a loving way of living. You have Cobra Kai, which is the opposite. They have their master, and they have their teacher who is teaching them no mercy. He is teaching them violence, and he is teaching them pain. He is teaching them to be evil people. We discover Ralph Macchio, the karate kid, does not have a father or a father figure in his life. Mr. Miyagi takes him in as a son. He begins to form him in the ways of this love. The real thing that he teaches him is not so much about karate, but it is about friendship, trust, balance, and spiritual life. He is teaching him all these things. He has a couple of profound lines. One of these says, “There are no bad students, only bad teachers.” If we have not been taught, if we have not been mentored, we do not know any better. He tells him when he is going to train him, “When I am going to train you, you karate do yes or you karate do no. You karate do yes or no or you squish like grape.” He is saying that you have to be all in. If you are going to do this, I am going to teach you everything, and you have to be all in.
It is like Jesus says, “You are either hot or cold but I despise the lukewarm.” Mr. Miyagi makes this sacred pact with the boy. He says, “I will make the sacred pact, and this is what it is. I will teach you karate, and I promise to do my part if you promise to learn. What I say, you do, no question. I say. You do.” He is really a master at teaching him this. This is where we get to the beautiful middle part of the movie. The famous “wax on, wax off” scene where he must wax the car first. Then, Mr. Miyagi tells him, “Paint the fence.” He paints the fence up and down. Then he has to sand the floor, and he sands the floor. Then he has to paint the house, back and forth. He is doing all these things, and he is getting frustrated. He does not understand why he is doing these basic things. Then Miyagi pulls him aside and says, “Paint the fence.” He moves his hand up, and Miyagi blocks the punch. Sand the floor. Sand the floor, and he blocks it. He realizes that Miyagi has been teaching him all along.
I look at that movie, and I think about this young boy who is lost and has no direction. He has no friends. He is getting beat up. I look at Mr. Miyagi, and I think what a blessing to have someone like that in your life. As I said, we all probably have different mentors in different areas in our lives. But I want you to think about your spiritual life. What matters the most in our lives. How do we really become the person God is calling us to be? Do you have a mentor? Do you have someone to lead you in a spiritual life?
We hear in the gospel today that John was with his disciples when he sees Jesus walking by. He points at him and says, “There he is, the Lamb of God.” Two of his disciples immediately go to Jesus, and Jesus says to them, “What are you looking for?” They say to him, “Rabbi,” which means teacher. Then he says to them, “Where are you staying?” They say, “Come and see.” Then he spends a day with them. He spends time with them. Jesus is a teacher. He is someone that wants to be with his disciples. He wants to form them and shape them into the people that they are called to be.
The movie The Karate Kid illustrates for us an image of how we all need a teacher. We all need a rabbi. Some of the current trendy words that we hear are guru, trainer, professor counselor, tutor, sage, mentor, and expert authority. We are looking for that, and we have it in all the other areas of our lives. Do we have it in our spiritual life? We are looking for an authority in everything. Who is the authority on vaccines right now? Who is the authority in different areas of our lives?
In the spiritual traditions of the Catholic faith, a person that would be a Mr. Miyagi for us would be a teacher or a spiritual director. A confessor, a wise person, maybe a youth minister, or maybe another minister in our parish. There are people that are given the gift and talent like Mr. Miyagi for you. I invite you, if you do not have that person in your life, to seek that person out. If any minister here at the church, any of us priests, or anybody offers an opportunity to learn or to grow in your faith and be mentored, take that opportunity. We need it because otherwise we are just going to be beat up by Satan in our spiritual lives.
I hope deep down we all realize that need. I hope deep down we all realize we need a spiritual guide in our lives. Jesus is the ultimate teacher and, any good spiritual director, or minister, or teacher would ultimately point you to Jesus. If we do not have a real person in our life, it is like learning karate from a book. We are never going to understand it.
We enter this season of Ordinary Time to look at Jesus as a teacher and to look at one who forms disciples. He begins now to work miracles. To bring about healings and to cast out demons. He is doing all of these amazing things and he is doing them in our world today through the Body of Christ in the church. He wants you to be his disciples. He wants you to do the same things that he taught his disciples how to do. We need teachers. We need spiritual directors. We need Mr. Miyagi in our lives. Seek them out and, if you are blessed enough to find one, do everything you can to follow them and be like them.