Thursday, April 23, 2015

We are all Witnesses: Lebron James and My Cousin Vinny


We hear this notion of being a witness in today's reading. In the first reading, we hear from Acts that, “God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” And then we hear in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus himself saying, "He opened their minds to understand all of the Scriptures," and He says, "You are witnesses of all these things."

So what is a witness? In June of 2007, we got to experience the huge billboards that went up in Cleveland with LeBron James on the side of them, black and white, and they said, "We are all witnesses."


Whether you realize it or not, if you have been to a Cavs game or not, we are all witnesses of LeBron James. If you live in Cleveland, you cannot help but be a witness. I myself have not had the experience of seeing him play. However, I hear from people that have, what an amazing thing it is to see him play. His power, his strength, his speed, it is an amazing thing to behold.

But what does it really mean to be a witness and why does Jesus say that we are witnesses of His death and Resurrection? How do we witness that today? How do we experience His Resurrection?

In the court of law, there are two different types of witnesses. There is what is known as an eyewitness, someone that sees something firsthand; they actually saw it, and they experienced it. I have to say that there is no one that actually got to experience the moment of the Resurrection. There are no eyewitnesses. No one was there at that moment; however, there are eyewitnesses, like in today's Gospel, that experienced Jesus in His Resurrected form. We can also be eyewitnesses today. We can experience Jesus in the Body of Christ.

We heard in the Gospel, Jesus said, "You will witness the Gospel being preached in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem." We witness something today that the disciples never got to witness when they were alive. Literally, the message has been preached all over the world. So we are eyewitnesses of that. However, there is something that kind of holds even greater credibility in the court of law than an eyewitness, and that is an expert witness. We are all actually called to be expert witnesses.

Would you consider yourself an eyewitness of Christ? 

 Have you experienced the Resurrection of Jesus in the mystical body today? 

 Would you consider yourself an expert if you had to be brought to court to be an expert witness? 

 Could you be an expert witness?

One of my favorite movies that deals with this is, "My Cousin Vinny." This is a movie from back in the '90s. Some of you are going to love this homily; some of you are going to have no clue what I am talking about. If you have no clue what I am talking about, go watch the movie.

I almost cracked up at the first reading because it talks about youthfulness. I could not help but think of how Joe Pesci says "Two yutes." And how the judge says, "What are yutes?" And he says, "Two youth. I am sorry." In the movie, "My Cousin Vinny," here is the setup. It is in the final scene. Marisa Tomei won an Academy Award Oscar, amidst all these other dramas, for her supporting actress role in this film.

So here is one of the final scenes. I will not give you the spoiler. I am just going to set up how Marisa Tomei, this girl from Brooklyn, New York, was actually an expert witness. She has no law, she has no degree, she has no certification, but she is an expert witness. And this is how it happened.

There is a moment when Mr. Gabini, who is Joe Pesci, says, "Your Honor, the defense calls its first witness, Miss Mona Lisa Vito," who is his girlfriend, and she is wearing a leather dress, by the way.

The prosecutor says, "I object, your Honor. This is not an expert witness, nor is she on the list."

And Mr. Gambini says, "This witness is an expert in the field of automobiles, and is being called to rebut the testimony of George Wilbur."

The judge says, "Officer?"

"Would you please instruct the officer to escort Miss Vito to the witness stand?"

And the bailiff says, "Hold up your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

And she says, "Yeah."

"Miss Vito, you are supposed to be some kind of expert in automobiles, is that correct?"

She does not answer.

"Is that correct?"

Now, as she is doing this, she is mad at Joe Pesci, by the way. His fiancé is literally turning her head away from him. So the judge finally says, "Will you please answer the counselor's question?"

"No. I hate him."

"May I have permission to treat..." then he says, "May I have permission to treat Miss Vito as a hostile witness?"

She says, "You think I’m hostile now! Wait till you see me tonight."

The judge says, "Do you two know each other?"

He goes, "Yeah, she's my fiancé."

And the judge says, "Well, that would certainly explain her hostility."

"Your Honor, I object to this witness. Improper foundation. I am not aware of this person’s qualifications. I would like to voir dire this witness as to the extent of her expertise."

And the judge says, "Granted. Mr. Trotter, you may proceed."

A voir dire is when you actually see if they are an expert witness or not. The prosecutor is allowed to question her. If he does not think that she is suitable, he can kick her out. So he begins to question her.

"Miss Vito, what is your current profession?"

She says, "I am an out-of-work hairdresser."

"An out-of-work hairdresser. Now, in what way does that qualify you as an expert on automobiles?"

She says, "It doesn't."

"And in what way are you qualified?"

"Well, my father was a mechanic, his father was a mechanic, my mother’s father was a mechanic, my three brothers are mechanics, and four uncles on my father’s side are mechanics."

He says, "Your family is obviously qualified, but have you ever worked as a mechanic."

"Yeah, in my father's garage, yeah."

"As a mechanic? What did you do in your father's garage?"

She says, "Tune-ups, oil changes, brake relining, engine rebuilds, rebuild some trannies, rear end."

"Okay, okay. But does being an ex-mechanic necessarily qualify you as being an expert on tire marks?"

"No. Thank you, good bye."

The judge says, "Sit down. Don't move until I tell you that you can leave."

Mr. Gambini, Joe Pesci, "Your Honor. Your Honor. Miss Vito’s expertise is in general automotive knowledge. It is in this area which her testimony will be applicable. Now, if Mr. Trotter wishes to voir dire the witness, I’m sure he’s going to be more than satisfied."

The judge says, "Okay."

"All right, all right. Now, Miss Vito, being an expert on general automotive knowledge, can you tell me what would the correct ignition timing be on a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air with a 327 cubic inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor?"

And she says, “________ (I can't say what she says.) It's a BS question.”

"Does that mean that you can't answer it?"

"No. It's a BS question. It's impossible to answer."

"Impossible because you don't know the answer?"

"Nobody could answer that question."

"Your Honor, I move to disqualify Miss Vito as an expert witness."

The judge says, Miss Vito, can you answer these questions?"

She says, "No. It's a trick question."

The judge says, "Why is it a trick question?"

"Because Chevy didn’t make a 327 in ’55. The 327 didn’t come out till ’62, and it wasn’t offered in a Bel Air with a four-barrel carb ’til ’64. However, in 1964 the correct ignition timing would be four degrees before top dead center."

And the prosecutor says, "Well, um, she's acceptable."

Thus, Mona Lisa was able to qualify herself as an expert witness.

Now, she did not have any degrees. She did not have any qualifications that would make her an expert witness. She grew up with it; she knew it; she worked on them; she experienced it; she knew all the cars' makes and models because she lived and breathed this. Her father was one, her grandfather was one, her brother was one, her uncle was one, and she was one. She lived it and experienced it. So that is what it takes to be an expert witness.

So the reality is ”You are all witnesses.” Christ says this, "You are witnesses. You have experienced and seen what I have been and done."

Now, as I said before, some of us are eyewitnesses. In last week's Gospel, Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." So we are actually more blessed to be expert witnesses than eyewitnesses.

You do not need to have a degree. You do not have to be a priest. You do not have to be a nun. You do not have to be a theologian or even educated. However, you do have to have the experience. We all have to live and breathe this experience of our faith and our religion and of Christ.

There's 2000 years of history for to us tap into. And the truth is, most of you have probably been coming to Mass every single Sunday since you were a child. You have been living and breathing this from the time you were a child. You are an expert witness in this. And the question is, if you were called to be an expert witness on the stand, like Mona Lisa, could you pass the test?

If a prosecutor were challenging you on your voir dire, could you reasonably argue your faith? Could you actually share your experiential knowledge of the Resurrected Christ? Because one day you will be put on trial. We will all be put on trial. We will all have to go to that stand and witness to our faith. We must be able to speak the truth. We are all witnesses. Some of us are eyewitnesses, and all of us are called to be expert witnesses. We are all called to speak to the truth.

So, could you, if you were called to the stand, be that expert witness?

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