Opening Question: How many of you earn extra money by doing chores? How long did it take you to do the chores? What did you buy with the money?
First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9
Money give you the power to make choices. But sometimes it takes work to make the money.
Al loved his sports cards. He kept collecting them when they were a fad several years ago. And he keeps collecting them now the fad was coming back. He bought and traded cards all the time.
To earn money so he could buy cards for his collection, Al mowed the neighbors' lawns. He started with his next door neighbor. He did such a good job, other neighbors began to notice and hired him. Now, Al spent much of his Saturday mowing lawns and cleaning yards. He did these jobs on top of his chores at home.
Sometimes Al wished he didn't have these jobs. He would love to have Saturdays off, to play with his friends, to go camping, and to just have fun! Mowing lawns could be such a bore, and was so hard. But he was so happy when he could buy that new card he wanted with the money he earned!
One day, a friend from school stopped by to play with Al. "Hey, Al!" the friend called out. "Let's go skateboarding!"
"I can't!" Al called back. "I've got a job!"
"Job? Don't your parents give you money?" his friend said sarcastically. His "friend" rode off laughing.
"Why do I have to put up with this?" Al thought to himself. But then a little voice in head reminded him of the money he would earn and what he could buy for it.
Al made a choice to work for money. That choice meant he had responsibilities that he carried out faithfully. Even when others criticized him for it.
Jeremiah made a choice to be God's prophet. God called Jeremiah, and he said "Yes." Once he made that choice he lived with it. Like Al, Jeremiah took the responsibility for his choice, even if people didn't like what he said or did. Jeremiah continued to love God and talk about him even when others gave up.
Bridging Question: How much do people give up to build a winning team?
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27
Peter declared Jesus was the Messiah.
From then on, Jesus began to clearly show his followers what he needed to do. "I must go off to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the leaders in the city and it's Temple, and be killed," Jesus stated, " I will be raised up three days after that."
Then Peter took Jesus aside. "It will never happen to you like this!" Peter scolded him. "May God have mercy on you, Lord!"
Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Go away, Satan! You're in my way! You think like everyone else, not like God." Then Jesus told his followers, "If anyone wants to come with me, he must stop being selfish. He must pick up his cross, carry his cross, and follow me. If someone only wants to keep everything they have, they will lose it. But, if someone loses everything they have because of me, they will find true life. How would it help anyone if they gained the whole world but lost true life? What can anyone give in exchange for true life?"
The Son of Man will soon come in the glory of his Father along with God's angels. Then he will repay everyone for what they did."
On the first day of practice, Coach Ralph addressed his young soccer players. "Ladies," he said, "you know I like to coach. And I like to build a winning team. A team that fights hard but fair, a team that plays together, and a team that never, never gives up. Are you ready to be that team?"
The girls screamed "Yes!"
"Many of you know that the team I coached last year won the city championship for their age level." Coach Ralph continued. "They fought hard through every game as if the season depended on it. We had the toughest schedule in the toughest league in the city. They played as one team, with one heart, and one mind. Can you play like that?"
The girls screamed "Yes!"
"I want you to be here at every practice, ready to work. I want you to play together as a team. I don't care if you were on all-stars last year or if you never played before. I don't care if you know fancy footwork or if you trip over your shoe laces. I don't care if your team won or lost last year. All I care about is your heart. Is your heart in this team and in this game?"
The girls screamed, "Yes!"
"Do you know what that means?" the coach said. "You're going to go home some nights hurting. You may wake up hurting. You will be doing homework. I expect you to work an hour a day on the skills I will teach you. You will be learning new skills because you will be working together! Are you ready to work hard to become a team?"
The girls screamed, "Yes!"
The coach went on and on. No swearing, no put-downs. Team drills, team exercises, team cheers. Everything had to be perfect. No one could be out of place. The coach demanded, and the girls agreed.
After three weeks of hard work at practice and at home, the girls had their first scrimmage. They lost to a team with two star players who hot dogged 5 goals. At the end of the game the girls were disappointed but the coach wasn't. "Ladies," the coach began, "the road to winning begins with losing."
The next two weeks were pre-season. The girls continued to work hard. But many of the girls began to question the coach's calls. In spite of losing two more games, the coach continued as if nothing ever happened. "Ladies," the coach announced, "my teams have never won a scrimmage or pre-season game! I'm proud of that fact! The road to winning begins with losing. You've got to know your weaknesses as well as your strengths."
At the first game of the season, Coach Ralph called the girls together. "I know many of you have been discouraged the last few weeks. We didn't win. That stops today. Today we play to win!" The coach explained to the girls he saw the opponents play. He knew their tactics. And he told them what drills they could use and plays they could run to win. The game began slow, but as the girls began to play together, they saw they could advance the ball. They made shots on goal. Eventually they scored.
At the end of the game, the girls walked off the field with their heads high and the hearts happy. They played as one. And they won the game. The coach was right. The road to winning begins with losing, because it showed them their weaknesses. The coach and their hard work turned that around. Not even the team with the two hot dog all-stars could beat them!
Like the coach, Jesus told his followers the road to winning goes through losing. Losing everything you have for something better. Losing this life for eternal life. Jesus gave us an example when he died on the cross to show us the way to his resurrection.
Closing Question: What is your favorite thing? Or person? Can you trust that thing or person to Jesus? Pray for the strength to trust him.