Using our strenghts and perfecting our craft
by Ken Rolheiser
There is a story told of a 10-year-old boy, who took up Judo after losing his left arm. An old Japanese tutor trained the boy hard for six months, but taught him only one move. After a while the boy asked, “Sensei, I have learned this move well. Is it not time to learn some more moves?"

And Sensei said, "No. You must perfect this one move; that is all you need." Disappointed, the boy continued to train harder to totally perfect this single move.

One day the Sensei told him that he was enrolled in a tournament. They went to the tournament and in the first round, the boy pinned his opponent readily, and the same in the second round, and through to the championship round, pinning his opponents with that single move.

Here his opponent was much larger and more experienced. The boy looked like he was in trouble. The referee wanted to call the match, but Sensei warned, "No. No. Leave him."

Just then, his opponent made a mistake and down he went. The boy pinned him with the single move and won the championship.

The boy asked, "Sensei, how is it that I was able to win with just one move?"

The Sensei smiled, "Ah, for two reasons: First you mastered one of the most difficult Judo moves there is. The second is there is only one known defense to that move and that is to grab your opponent's left arm to win. So you will win every time as you have no left arm!"

This is a funny story, but it illustrates how God works in our lives. It is a humorous story but it actually illustrates how the Lord works in our lives. God knows our weaknesses and he gives us strengths to compensate.

What is the greatest handicap you are working with? What is the weakness that brings you down?

God gives us something to compensate, to win the victory. Jesus is our teacher. He gives us several strengths, and if we follow his training instructions we will become masters.

Think of the six months the sensei took to teach the boy a single move. Now think of the time God gives us to strengthen our game, to become contenders. I’ve had seventy years, so far.

There are several training practices I try to follow and recommend for us. God sent Jesus to be our sensei, to train us. Just like Moses came down from the mountain with the commandments to guide the Israelites, in Matthew 5 Jesus comes down from the mountain and gives us the Beatitudes which instruct us on how to love.

Then in John 6:56 Jesus gives us a new law: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Suddenly our goal of attaining perfection and winning the match seems less distant.

Encountering the life of Jesus in the Eucharist, in sacred scripture and in the community of the faithful are the practices that will help us compensate for our weaknesses. Again and again we need to go to Jesus for the strength to defeat our weaknesses.

No power of evil can fight against Jesus in us. With that one strength of Christ in us we can pin our opponents and make it to the final match. There is no defense against the power of Christ. Jesus will live in us as we look after the poor with love.

(585 words)