The Best Decisions
Opening Question: How do you feel special? Who helps you to feel special?
First Reading: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
When Robert was born, his older sister, Judy, felt alone. All the attention went to Robert. "Isn't he cute?" Grandma said. "Handsome boy, there," his uncle proclaimed. "Come here, Robert," everyone seemed to say. Judy just sat in the corner. No one paid attention to her.
Judy got so mad, she began to act out. She didn't care if she got in trouble or not! At least someone noticed her.
At first, she did get in trouble. But after a few days, her dad realized the way Judy felt. That night, her father brought home a little stuffed bear. "This is Special Bear," Judy's dad said when he gave her the teddy bear. "Why is it called Special Bear? Because you're special, unique, one of a kind." Special. Unique. One of a kind. From that point on, Judy hugged that bear. She no longer felt alone. Special Bear represented all the love and attention her parents could give her.
Every night before she went to bed, she asked her dad, "Give me Special Bear." Her dad would bring the stuffed bear over to her, but, before he handed her the bear, he would always ask, "Why is he called Special Bear?"
"Because I'm special, unique, one of a kind!" Judy had those words memorized. And she believed in them.
You know how is special, unique, one of a kind. God. There is no one or no thing like God. He is the only God. And he made us special, unique, one of a kind. Because we are his children. And he loves each and every one of us!
Bridging Question: Have you ever had to do two things at the same time? Has your teacher or coach ever told you to do something that was different from your parents? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21
After Jesus scolded the Jewish leaders in the Temple, the Pharisees left. They had a secret meeting where they discussed how to trick Jesus into saying something wrong. Then, they sent some of their followers along with supporters of Herod the ruler to Jesus. "Teacher," they said, "we know you're honest. You teach the truth about God's ways no matter what others think, because you treat everyone the same. So, tell us what you think. Does our Law let us pay taxes to the Romans or not?"
But Jesus knew they were up to no good. "Why are you liars trying to trick me?" Jesus exclaimed. "Show me the coin people use to pay the tax." They gave Jesus a Roman coin. Holding up the coin, Jesus asked them, "Whose face and name are on the coin?"
"The leader of the Romans," they answered.
"Then you should give to the Roman leader what belongs to him. But you should give God everything that belongs to him!" Jesus proclaimed.
Tommy loved to play baseball. He had a natural talent for the game and an enthusiasm that fired up his family, friends, and coaches. He dreamed about college ball and playing in the major leagues. Everyone had their eye on Tommy's future.
Tommy was also a top student in school. He worked hard to keep his grades up. He loved to read and write. He played math games on his computer and crossword puzzles. Tommy loved anything that challenged his mind.
In time, his love for baseball and his ambitions in school were in conflict. His mother wanted Tommy to study. His dad wanted him to practice baseball. Tommy was stuck in the middle. He tried to do both, but he realized he could not dedicate himself to both all the time.
"Tommy needs to study," his mom insisted.
"The boy needs to play," his dad shot back.
"You call that play?" his mother exclaimed. "He gets worked harder on the field than in school!"
The debate became a fight. Then, Tommy's parents did something parents should never do. "Let's ask Tommy what he wants to do," his father suggested. His mother agreed.
When Tommy entered the room, he knew something was wrong. But, he never thought they would ask him to choose between the two activities he loved. "What's more important, Tommy?" his parents asked. No matter which way he answered, he knew that he would be in trouble. If baseball was more important, then his mother would yell at him for giving up on school. If school was more important, then his father would talk to him about the importance of sportsmanship. "Sports helps you grow up," his father always reminded him. Tommy felt stuck between his parents.
Suddenly, Tommy saw the picture of his Kindergarten promotion on the shelf. "Mom, Dad, do you see that picture?" Tommy asked. "You always said you were proud of me in that picture. Doesn't that picture answer your question?"
In the picture, his mother and father saw Tommy in a small, little graduation gown, holding a baseball ball. He had the biggest grim on his face. Proud to go into the first grade. Proud to play a game he loved. For a moment, both parents stood there silently gazing at the picture. Then, they looked at each other. Their angry fight faces relaxed. And they both shook their heads in shame. They both wanted the best for Tommy. Why couldn't they work together to make it happen? At once, both said "I'm sorry Tommy."
Tommy felt he had to please both parents. But in the end, his parents had to compromise to do the best for Tommy. Like Tommy's parents, the Pharisees and followers of Herod the ruler gave Jesus a choice. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to say "No" to the Roman tax. But, the followers of Herod wanted Jesus to say "Yes" to the tax. They wanted him to do want they did, so he could please them. But, like Tommy, Jesus showed them something that shamed both groups. He told them to make the decision for the good of the people, not what they wanted. He told them to make the best choice, not the selfish choice.
Closing Reflection: Pray to make the best choice. Ask God to show you the way. And remind others to do the same.