A New Start
Opening Question: What is the worst thing you have ever seen? Why was it the worst?
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Jeremiah looked out at pile of rubble that was once Jerusalem. Fires rose from the ruins. And nothing could be heard from the city. No person lived there. No animal would enter there.
As he stood overlooking the city, Jeremiah cried. He warned the people what would happen if they continued to sin. He clearly stated what God would do if the people continued to play games with him. But they hated Jeremiah, the prophet. And they wouldn't listen to him. So, the enemies came, destroyed the city, and took the people far away to serve their new masters. Nothing was left. No city, no people, no hope.
Only if the people had listened to God's word, they would have a city, and they would have hope. Then, God spoke to Jeremiah:
The Lord said: Israel, I promise that someday all your tribes will again be my people, and I will be your God. In the desert I was kind to those who escaped death. I gave them peace, and when the time is right, I'll do the same for you. I, the Lord, have spoken.
Some time ago, the Lord appeared to me and told me to say: Israel, I will always love you; that's why I've been so patient and kind. You are precious to me, and so I will rebuild your nation.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 CEV
The people did return to the city and, full of hope, they rebuilt the Temple and the city walls. They also remembered God's words through Jeremiah the prophet. They waited for God's new relationship, his new covenant. They hoped for a time God would forgive their sins and return to them. In Jesus, God did return. In Jesus, he did make a new covenant.
Bridging Question: What's the hardest thing you've ever done for someone else? What did you learn from the experience?
Gospel: John 12:24-25, 32-33
People from other countries who were not Jewish traveled to Jerusalem so they could celebrate the Passover festival. These people approached Philip with a request. "Sir," they asked Philip, " we would like to see Jesus." Philip went to Andrew and told him what these people wanted to do. Then both Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus about it.
"The time has come!" Jesus said.
"The Son of Man will be given glory!
If a grain of wheat stays on the stock,
it's just there by itself.
But if it dies and falls to the ground,
it will produce a lot more grain.
The selfish person dies lonely.
But the person who rejects selfishness will live forever."
"If someone wants to serve me,
he should follow me where I am going.
Wherever I am, my servant will be there, too.
If someone wants to serve me,
my Father will honor him."
"Now, I have doubts, but what should I say:
'Father, save me from this time of suffering'?
But I came to suffer for others.
Father! Show yourself to everyone!"
Then a voice came from heaven. "I will show myself. And will do it again!"
Some who were standing there heard the voice. "It's thunder." Others said, "An angel spoke to him."
"The voice was not for my sake,"Jesus
said,"but for yours.
God is judging the world right now,
and he will throw the ruler of this world out.
When I am lifted up,
I will gather everyone to myself!"
(Jesus said this to show how he would die.)
"Look, Dad!" Jackie exclaimed as he pointed to the computer screen. "This is the motorized mini-bike I want for my birthday. It's only 400 dollars!"
Jackie's dad just cringed. "That's a lot of money, Jackie. You're going to have to show you're responsible before you get something like that."
"Sure, Dad," Jackie responded. "I'll earn the money for it!" Saturdays of chores ran through Jackie's head. What he didn't earn, he would use the money his grandparents would send for his birthday. "Let's see," Jackie thought, "Grandma sent me fifty dollars and grandpa..."
"No, Jackie," his father said interpreting his day dream. "You're going to have to do more than give up your Saturdays to earn the money. You're going to show everyone you're responsible."
"How do I do that?" Jackie asked.
"This Saturday, your mother and I are going to serve breakfast at the homeless shelter. You can start by helping us," his father answered.
"My parents leave at six o'clock in the morning to serve that breakfast. That means I have to get up early, too. That means I can't sleep in and watch my Saturday cartoons," Jackie thought.
"What's your answer?" his father said.
"Alright," Jackie sighed.
Saturday morning came. Jackie got up at 5:30, got dressed, and got into the car. He ate his breakfast on the way to shelter. All along the way, he thought, "Is that bike worth giving up my Saturday?"
That Saturday morning at the homeless shelter was just the start. There were other times Jackie had to give up things to help others. At first, Jackie resisted, then he began to enjoy serving others. But he did not see what others saw in him. When he gave of himself to serve others, he grew up. He began to treat others with more respect. He began to act more responsibly.
On his birthday, Jackie's father brought out the mini-bike. He started the bike and told Jackie to get on to ride. Jackie did take the first ride, but allowed others to ride the bike the rest of the day. Jackie had as much fun watching others enjoy themselves riding the bike as he did riding the bike himself.
It's hard to give up time and activities for others. But, like Jackie, giving up for others helps you grow as a person.
Sometimes to get something you have to give up something else. Sometimes to help others you have to give a part of yourself. Jesus told his followers he would teach them this lesson by example. He would give up everything, even his life, for his followers. Those who followed him would have to do the same. Like Jesus, those who give up everything will enjoy eternal life, just like Jesus.
Closing Question: What can you do for others this Lent? How will they help you grow?