In today’s Gospel Jesus invites several people to follow him. They don’t see the urgency of this invitation and give all kinds of excuses for not responding. We might be tempted to criticize Jesus for not understanding their needs to bury a father or say good bye. And if we focus only on the surface, we will likely miss the more important invitation to participate in the Kingdom of God.
The same misunderstanding might happen if we only look at the surface of the “Take a Knee” movement. We are in danger of missing the deeper meaning. Many of us ask “why do these players want to disrespect our flag and, by extension, the men and women who fight or fought to preserve it?” This is a legitimate question but it misses what’s underneath the surface. The real question is “what is behind this action?” or “what compels them to do this?” When we get to the real question, we can begin to make progress in correcting it and enable the players (and their supporters) to stand up again.
This opportunity presented to us by the athletes is an opportunity to have real frank discussions about what is happening in our nation today. Yes, these athletes make millions of dollars but what about the communities where they grew up? They had the talent and drive to move beyond the poverty and violence. But most cannot.
At the Dominican Learning Center, we see the effects of poverty every day. Fathers who can’t support their families…mothers who have children in prison…men and women struggling with the effects of past addictions. These are the very real problems that exist behind the actions of the athletes.
Jesus invites us to follow him right now. Let’s accept that invitation and begin substantive discussion about what’s happening in our nation and take action to improve it. Then, our athletes and all of us can stand proudly once again and salute a “land of the free and a home of the brave.”