Keeping Promises and Getting Second Chances
Opening Question: Everyone should get a second chance. What second chances have you received?
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5,10
Dana knew she was in trouble. Cheating on a test. Caught in the act. Dana obviously felt bad she got caught. Maybe it she looked at the wrong time. Maybe she should watch the teacher more. But the more she thought this way, the worse she felt.
She got yelled at that day. From her teachers, her parents, even some of her friends. And she thought about what they said. She began to reject, "You were sloppy enough to get caught." She began to accept, "It's just wrong to cheat."
It was a long, silent evening. Finally, Dana went to bed early, but couldn't go to sleep. The yelling and the guilt pressed upon her heart. But, as bad as she felt, she knew one person would listen to her. "God," Dana prayed," I wish today never happened. I wish I could get a second chance." With that prayer, Dana slipped to sleep.
The next day, Dana got up fearing the worst. But something strange happened. Her parents acted as if yesterday never happened, as if it had been wiped out. Dana felt weird. "Mom," Dana said, "I'm sorry about what I did yesterday."
"I love you and I forgive you," her mother replied. "It's getting late. You'd better get to school. Have a good day, Dana."
Dana walked to school still feeling low. When she got to school, class began as if nothing ever happened. The teacher smiled at her. "Dana," the teacher whispered to her, "see me at recess." Dana feared the worst.
When all the other kids ran out for recess, Dana stood alone with her teacher. The teacher turned to Dana, smiled, and said, "I called your parents last night. I wanted to talk to you, but you had already gone to bed. What you did was wrong, but you're a good student and a good person. I would like to give you another chance. Stay during lunch tomorrow. I'll give you another test to take."
"Thanks!" Dana blurted out. She got another chance. God answered her prayer. Everyone forgave her. It was like yesterday never happened!
Like Dana, the people of Nivevah got another chance. God wiped out all the evil they had done because they turned back to him. It was like their yesterdays of sin never happened.
Bridging Question: What was the hardest promise you ever kept? Why was it so hard to keep?
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus returned to Galilee and proclaimed the Good News of God. "The time is right for God's Kingdom to appear," Jesus announced. "Turn you life around and believe in God's message to you."
As he traveled along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, at work fishing. "Follow me," Jesus called out to them, "and I will teach you to catch people." They set their work aside at that moment and followed Jesus.
Jesus walked a little farther when he saw James and John, his brother, working on some fishing nets in a boat. Both were the sons of a man named "Zebedee." Jesus called them at that moment. They left their father in the boat with his other workers and followed Jesus.
"But, you promised!" Jay rolled his eyes. How many times had he heard that said. Jay was a nice person. He tried to please people. He liked people to like him. But, too many times he promised to help others and other things got in the way. He didn't keep a lot of his promises.
One promise changed Jay. "If you practice hard and help us on Saturdays," his coach said, "you can go to the tournament."
"Wow!" Jay thought. The tournament was out-of-town, away from his family, with his friends. What a great idea! "I promise!" Jay blurted out.
At first, Jay did practice hard. And that first Saturday, he worked cleaning the play field. But, after a week or so, Jay began to slack off. His practice was so-so. And he called the coach with a poor excuse why he couldn't help on the second Saturday. By the third week, Jay showed up to only two practices, and didn't even bother to call the coach about Saturday clean-up.
Despite the coach's reminders and warnings, Jay didn't put out more energy than normal. When he heard the coach's decision, Jay's heart broke. "Sorry, Jay," the coach said. "I can only take my hardest working players."
The weekend of the tournament was a lonely one for Jay. He sat and watched TV. He shot some basketball hoops. But the entire weekend, Jay thought about his team that played far away. At times, he thought it wasn't fair. At other times, he remembered his broken promise.
By Sunday night, he made himself a promise. It was more important to make only promises he could keep than to please people. So, Jay decided to watch what he said, and mean what he said. This would change Jay. He became a little more serious. But he did become a better friend, a better student, and a better athlete.
Like Jay, Andrew and Simon, James and John made a serious promise. They promised to follow Jesus, and they would keep that promise. Sometimes it would be hard because they changed as people. They had to become better people: give up old habits and start new ones. But, it was worth it, because they had Jesus as a friend. Jesus always, always helps his friends.
Jesus tells us that same thing he told his first followers. Change, believe in me, follow me. This requires the biggest promise we could ever make. But don't worry. Remember, Jesus is your friend.
Closing Question: How can you keep your promise to follow Jesus? How can others help you? How can you help others to keep their promises?