By: FRATER BOVIOUS
Kung Fu is a word that conjures up images of deadly acrobatics. But the word simply means extended effort. Not part of the definition, but critical to it, is the idea of humility. To subject yourself to authority, to subject yourself to long and intense effort toward a goal requires humility in its fullest sense. And that does not merely mean being self-effacing.
Humility is simply knowing who you are.
In today’s Gospel, Paul is writing to the Corinthians about his preaching to them. After talking about how he handed to them what had been handed to him (A master, student, student becomes master, gets his own students, kind of relationship – a staple of virtually every “kung fu” movie) he talks about how the resurrected Christ appeared to the apostles and then:
Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the Apostles, not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.
Now that seems to be the type of humility most people think about – especially the aberrant understanding of Christian humility, a breast pounding mea culpa. But, read what he says next:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Paul understands who he is. He owns where he came from, he owns his present status as Apostle, and he owns the efficacy of God’s work in and through him. And he understands that achieving anything of worth involves a daily slog:
Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.
For anyone that has studied a martial art, anyone that has spent hours mastering the piano or other instrument, anyone that has applied themselves diligently over time to achieve a level of skill, the idea of kung fu or slogging through is understood. As it was put by Leonardo da Vinci:
“Oh God, Thou sellest all good things to men at the price of effort.”
Quick aside – This line grabbed my attention:
Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.
It would seem that our current cultural measurement of human value is not quite in sync with that of Jesus.