Christmas, 1976. Or somewhere thereabouts. I unwrapped a present under the tree to find a box. Inside was a pair of boxing gloves. My brother got a pair too. My father liked boxing, and so it was time to pass along one of his joys.
So I was excited to put on the gloves, with the help of my father. When they were all set, he got down on his knees in front of me and showed me how to hold my hands like boxer. He showed me how to jab with my left and how to finish with the right, moving my hands with me, adjusting them when they were off. Then, he said, “Go ahead and hit me.” His face was right in front of me. So, I sloowly moved my hand like Green Line train until I softly made contact with his face. “No, harder,” he said. So the next time it was with a little more force. “No, hard.” Bit by bit, as I saw it wasn’t affecting him, I put more force into it, until I was throwing with all I had. That began how my Dad taught me the basics of boxing. He would show me how to do it, and then it would be my turn.
Last year, I was covering a religious ed class for about 10 nine-year-olds. At the beginning, it was difficult to get the kids’ attention, and everyone was doing their own thing. So I thought, “It’s time to do this my way.” So, I stopped the class and started to talk about how to be in a classroom. But I didn’t explain it to them. I went and sat on one of the seats just like them, and pretended to be a student. I started to model behaviors that were acceptable and good, and explain why. I then showed them behaviors that were not acceptable and explained why, sprinkling some humor in. Then I explained that there would be practice, and each student then took turns showing me those examples of behavior that are acceptable and what isn’t. After that came the class rules and explanation why.
After about 5 minutes of students testing out my limits, and once they saw that I would follow through on all the consequences for rule breaking, the classroom became a place of bliss for everyone. We did fun activities, some basic teaching, got out to visit the church for show and tell, some coloring and simple follow-up activities. All in a state of bliss. Yes, several students climb the stairs on the consequence list. But they fulfilled them all, and they were happy. I got hugs from them the next day.
It was all because I didn’t tell them how to behave. I showed them what to do and then let them practice it. I modeled it, and then said, “Your turn.”
In the Gospels, there are some people who call Jesus, “Son of David.” The two blind men looking for a cure. The Canaanite woman looking for a cure for her daughter. The children with the crowd as Jesus prepares to enter Jerusalem for the last steps of his life. It always means that they recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. That is what it is to be the Son of David.
There is only one other person, and one other instance, where someone else is called the Son of David in all the Gospels. It is when the angel visits Joseph in his dream, and calls him “Son of David”. Why does he call him that? It’s because Joseph is going to show Jesus how to be a Son of David.
Joseph isn’t going to tell Jesus what to do. He’s going to show him, and then say, “Your turn.” He’s going to show him how to use tools, and then say, “Your turn.” He’s going to show him how to relate to others, how to relate to women and men and children, coworkers and bosses and clients – how to do everything – and then say, “Your turn.” Joseph is going to show Jesus how to say, “Follow me,” and lead others to life. He’s going to show him how to be the Son of David. The Messiah.
With whatever experience we have in life, we have the opportunity to pass it along to others. Not by telling them what to do or just explaining. By showing others. By inviting them to follow. Then, we too can be Sons of David – Messiahs.
Now, it’s your turn.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.” (Jn 5:19-21)