Peace and Loyalty
Opening Question: How many times have you seen someone hurt someone else for the way they looked? Did you see it on TV? What happened?
First Reading: Isaiah 50:1,6-7
Last week I told you the story of Jamie, Sammy, and Chuck. All three are different. Jamie is Hispanic, Sammy is an Arab-American, and Chuck's grandparents came from Canada. Yet, all are friends and all of them shared good times at Chuck's house.
Last week, we heard the story of how the power went out at Chuck's house when the boys went for a night time swim. Chuck's mother came out with a candle and brought them into the house where it was warm.
Suddenly the power came back on. And the three boys relaxed. Their nervous laughter turned silly. They all sat around Chuck's big screen T.V. and watched a comedy to forget the power outage. Chuck's mother made popcorn for the boys. She was really happy Chuck had such nice friends. "May be Chuck can grow up in a world where looks or language or national background doesn't matter," Chuck's mom thought.
God created us all and loves us all. He wants all people to worship him. That's why he had Isaiah make an invitation to everyone in the world come, visit his city, and worship at his Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem no longer exists, but God still wants everyone to come together and pray and treat each other like His children.
Bridging Question: Have people put you down for the way you look or act? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28
After he left Galilee, Jesus traveled near the towns of Tyre and Sidon. Approaching Jesus, a woman from this area cried out, "Lord! Son of David! Help me! A demon has infected my daughter!" But Jesus did not answer her cry. Just then his followers came up to Jesus and kept complaining, "Get rid of her. She shouts at us no matter where we go."
Turning to the woman, Jesus said, "I was only sent for the lost sheep, the Jewish people."
The woman who came all this way fell at the feet of Jesus and begged him, "Lord, help me!"
"It's not good to take food from children so dogs can eat," Jesus said.
"Yes, Lord," the woman answered, "but even dogs get to eat the leftovers that fall from their owner's table."
"You must trust me a lot," Jesus reassured the woman. "Your desire will come true." At that moment, her daughter got better.
Lucia, Matthew, and Chan listened quietly as Mrs. Ashley read the story of Jesus and the foreign woman. Afterwards, Mrs. Ashley began a discussion with a simple question: "Did Jesus like the woman?" Everyone agreed Jesus did like the woman. "Why did he did he try to put her off? Why did he say he only served the Jewish people?" The group fell silent. They didn't have an answer. Then Mrs. Ashley asked the hard question: "Why did Jesus call the woman a 'dog'?"
At that point, Lucia jumped up and shouted "Jesus did not! He loves everyone! My Grandmother told me so!" Mrs. Ashley could see the fire in Lucia's eyes. Lucia's fine dark hair and deep brown eyes told everyone in class her grandparents were from Mexico. It was clear from Lucia's answer that her grandmother had passed along a deep belief in Jesus.
Matthew sat quietly, but Mrs. Ashley could see he was angry. "Matt, what's wrong?" the teacher asked.
"I don't like the word 'dog.' It's a real put-down. Jesus didn't have to do that," Matthew said quietly. Mrs. Ashley knew Matthew's mother was from the Philippines, while his father was African-American. Both parents taught Matthew that put-downs were unacceptable, especially when someone has a different color or is from a different country.
Finally Chan spoke up. "I have a pet dog, named Brillo" Chan said. "He's a chow-shepherd mix and he loves me a lot. He's loyal and he trusts me. He always licks my face, even when I tease him. Last night I turned the hose on him. It took him forever to shake the water from his super-thick coat!"
Everyone in the room laughed, including Matthew. "Thank you, Chan," Mrs. Ashley said. "You are all correct. Matthew, you're right about the put-down. But Jesus didn't hate the woman. He wanted to see if she really trusted him. Chan, you're right. The woman saw herself with the qualities of a pet. Someone who loves and trusts Jesus, even when times get hard. Someone who is always loyal, no matter what anyone said."
Finally, Mrs. Ashley turned to Lucia. "You're grandmother is right, too. Jesus loves all of us. But he wants us to trust him even when its hard, even when people put us down for it."
The world is full of people different from us. They may not like the way we look or act. They may put us down. But we should not be afraid. Like the woman in the story, we should trust Jesus and be loyal to him. In the end, the differences won't matter. Our relationship with Jesus will matter.
Closing Question: How can you stop put-downs? How can you spread the good news that Jesus loves all people?