Don't Give Up
Opening Question: Have you or a friend ever been half way through a project and you or your friend wanted to give up? What happened?
First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2, 14-17, 18b
Joannie and her family were on vacation. They had traveled a long way and were now on their way home. Tired and hungry, they pulled off the freeway for lunch.
Suddenly, her father caught sight of a sign that read: "World's Biggest Dinosaur Fossil. Next Left." "Wow," her dad said, "that would be interesting to see."
But her mother objected, "No, dear, we must get home."
"But, it won't take very long to see," replied Joannie's father. That's how many of her parent's "discussions began. No, they weren't fighting or yelling. When they did have a discussion, everything came to a stop.
Frustrated, hot, and hungry, Joannie finally broken into the conversation. "Mom, Dad," Joannie pleaded, "I want lunch. Please make up your minds."
There was silence for a moment, as Joannie's parents realized they were wasting time. They needed to make a choice, so Joannie's father spoke up. "We've seen a lot of things on this trip," he said. "Now we need to go home."
With that said, the decision was made. They went into the restaurant for lunch.
Like Joannie, Joshua called the people together so they could make a choice. They had been on a long journey in the desert. Now, they were ready to enter the land God promised to them, and there was still a lot of work to do. Like Joannie, Joshua knew that the people needed to concentrate on their job ahead, so he said to the people: "Choose and be ready to act." The people chose God because he helped them.
When we are half way through a project, we might be frustrated and tired of the work. We might not see the finish in sight. That is the time to choose. When we get tired of prayers or Mass or religious education classes, remember Joannie and Joshua. Then make the decision for God. He won't let you down.
Bridge Question: Persistence. It's the opposite of giving up. Have you ever been persistent, even when you got frustrated and wanted to give up? What happened?
Gospel: John 6:60-69
Jesus told the crowd his flesh was the bread God sent from heaven. He also said that anyone who ate of his flesh and drank his blood would live forever. After they heard this, many of his followers complained, "The words of Jesus are hard to accept. Who can stand to listen to what he says?"
Jesus already knew they were grumbling. "So, what I said bothers you?" Jesus answered. "What would you say if you saw the Son of Man return to heaven where he came from? It is God's Spirit that can give you true life. You can't get that life by yourselves. My words bring you God's Spirit and his life. But, there are some of you that don't trust me. This is why I have told you no one can be my follower, unless he receives an invitation directly from my Father."
From then on, many of his followers left Jesus.
So, Jesus asked the Twelve, "Don't you want to leave me, too?"
"Lord, who else would we want to follow?" Simon Peter answered. "You speak the words that lead to eternal life. We have trusted you all this time. And we have come to know that you are God's Holy One."
Andrea was the kind of girl who never gave up. She persisted in her studies, at her baby-sitting, with her friends. Andrea was loyal and had a focus. She only gave up on school work when the year was over. She only gave up on baby-sitting children when they got old enough to take care of themselves. And, she would only give up on friends when they gave up on her.
Mary was Andrea's best friend. During the summer, they played together day after day. They swam together, they played dolls together, they even ran a lemonade stand together. As long as Mary was around, Andrea had fun.
Toward the end of the summer, Mary called up Andrea on the phone. Andrea could hear the hurt in Mary's voice as she spoke to her best friend through the tears. "We're moving out of town," Mary sobbed. "We're moving out of town." Andrea felt empty. Her best friend was leaving. Who could take her place?
Andrea remembered the day Mary left. "I'll write you every week," Andrea promised, as she saw Mary drive off. That was a promise she kept. During the fall, Andrea wrote and usually got a letter back from Mary every week. But, by Christmas, Andrea received fewer and fewer of Mary's letters. In February and March, Andrea did not receive a single letter from her friend.
Frustrated, Andrea wrote Mary she was hurt. "You're my best friend," Andrea said in her letter, "I've been writing you just like I promised. If I don't hear from you soon, what should I think? We're not friends anymore?"
April went by with no response from Mary. Andrea continued to write, But, then, in the first week of May, Andrea received an envelope with Mary's address on it. Andrea tore the envelope open to see what her friend had to say. In the envelope, Andrea found the letter she wrote to Mary complaining about the fact Mary didn't write anymore. On the top of the letter, Mary simply wrote, "We've not friends anymore. Stop bothering me." Andrea ran to her room and cried.
Jesus must have felt like Andrea. He wanted to share his life with his followers. But some of those followers did not want anything to do with his life. They were ashamed to the friends of Jesus. As Mary rejected Andrea, they rejected Jesus.
Fortunately, not everyone left Jesus. A few lived with Jesus and cared about him. They knew his life was eternal life. They trusted him because they loved him. They knew Jesus would never let them down. Jesus was the kind of friend Andrea would love to have.
In Eucharist, Jesus offers us his very life. Trust him. Stay loyal to him. Persist in a relationship with him. He will never let you down.
Closing Question: How can I make my friendship with Jesus stronger?