Nice AND Strong
Opening Question: How do you know someone is nice?
First Reading: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Everyone thought Elaine was a nice person. She smiled, said "Hello" to everyone she met, and went out her way to help other people. She liked people, and people liked her.
But the real test of a nice person is conflict. What does a nice person do when they get hurt? Do they get mad, or do they do something about the hurt? Elaine used to ignore the situation and wait for her anger to go away. But, that created a problem. Elaine's anger didn't go away. It just looked for safe ways to get out.
When Elaine was angry, she would yell at friends, her parents, or her pets. One time, however, Elaine's anger got her in trouble. She yelled at a close friend. Her friend apologized, but that didn't seem to stop Elaine's tempter. She just continued to yell.
"Elaine," her friend said. "This is the third time I said I was sorry. What else do you want me to say?"
Elaine suddenly stopped. What else could her friend say? Her friend was sincere; she didn't mean to hurt Elaine. It was an accident. Elaine suddenly realized it was not her friend who was to blame. It was Elaine's temper.
What could Elaine say? "I sorry for getting so mad at you," Elaine said. "And I forgive you."
Elaine found the real key to being nice. "I forgive you." These three little words fix more problems and spread more love than an other words in the world. These three words help us to treat others the way God treats us.
Bridging Question: Have you ever met a mean person? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus gave the people another parable:
"The Kingdom of heaven is like this story. A farmer planted good grain seed in his field. But, as everyone slept, an enemy of the farmer quietly approached, planted weeds in the wheat field, and escaped. When the wheat plants sprouted and showed new grain, so did the weeds.
The workers in charge of the field said to the farmer, "Sir, you planted good seed in the field, didn't you? Where did the weeds come from?"
"An enemy did this," the farmer replied.
"Do you want us to pull the weeds?" the workers asked.
"No," said the farmer, "when you pull the weeds, you might pull the wheat out at the same time. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I will tell the harvest workers, 'First, pull the weeds. Then, tie them into bundles so they can be burned. But, put all the wheat together in the my barn.'"
Johnny really looked up to his older brother Doug. Johnny tried to play with Doug, share special time with Doug, even told jokes to Doug. But Doug thought Johnny was a pest. He didn't want anything to do with his younger brother. In fact, Doug was mean to Johnny.
One day, Johnny told Doug, "This is a joke." Johnny drew a line with his toe and said, "I dare you to step across this line." Doug crossed the line. "Now you're on my side!" Johnny exclaimed. Doug punched Johnny in the face. As Doug looked down, he saw fear in Johnny's tearing eyes. "Why did you do that?" Johnny asked. "Because you're my brother," Doug replied.
"Because you're my brother." That became Doug's excuse for his mean behavior. Soon, Johnny stopped looking up to his brother and began to wait for the day he would even the score with Doug.
In the meantime, Johnny started swimming in his pool to work out his anger. Soon, his parents signed Johnny up for a swimming club, then a water polo club. Within a year, Johnny grew stronger and stronger. His feeling of anger turned to feelings of pride. Johnny had become a valued water athlete. Hating or fearing his older brother didn't seem that important any more.
After a long water polo game, Johnny returned home exhausted. Doug, in his usual mood, deliberately pushed Johnny as he entered the door. "I did that because you're my brother, you know," Doug said. "Now get out of my way."
Every other time, Johnny moved out of Doug's way. But this time Johnny stood his ground. Doug grabbed Johnny to shove him out of the way, but, to Doug's surprise, Johnny didn't move. He was too strong. Doug tried to push Johnny. Johnny didn't budge an inch. Finally, Doug took his right fist and swung it toward Johnny's face. This time, Johnny ducked. Doug swung so hard he lost his balance and fell crashing to the floor.
Doug looked up to Johnny with fear in his eyes when John shoved his arm down to him. But, instead of hitting his older brother, Johnny reached down to help Doug back on his feet. Doug took Johnny's hand and stood up. "Why didn't you hit me?" Doug asked in a low voice. "Because you're my brother," Johnny replied, "and I love you."
There are evil people in the world, people who treat us mean, who cheat us, and who hurt us. God, like the farmer in the story, leaves these people in our lives so they can change. God invites them to become good people. But God also leaves these people in our lives to teach us how to become strong, like Johnny. When we are strong, not from fear or hate, but from love, these people won't hurt us as much. Like Johnny, we can stand up and be proud of what we are and who we are. Until that day, we can depend on God to take care of us.
Closing Question: Who has treated you mean, cheated you, or hurt you? How can you be wise to protect yourself and those people with love and respect?