A Friend in Need
Opening Question: Have your ever had a friend who suddenly ignored you? How did you feel?
First Reading: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
When leaders declared someone "unclean", it meant they were kicked out of the community. No one, neither family or friend, could have anything to do with them. It meant they lived and acted alone. In fact, it meant they were to encourage others to ignore them. If you were declared unclean, you were truly alone.
Imagine if you were "unclean." What would you be called? A lot of bad words. No one would be your friend, because they, too, would be afraid to be ignored. You would have to dress in strange clothes, wear your hair in a strange way, and talk to others in a strange way. You would have to get used to the idea everyone hated you.
Jeremy was a little different. He came from another part of the country. He dressed and talked differently. He was shy and didn't make friends very easily. He wanted to go back where he lived before. He missed old his friends and wasn't excited about making new ones.
No one knows if Jeremy's actions turned people away or if people didn't want to get to know a stranger. But Jeremy went to school alone, ate lunch alone, and went home alone. Jeremy kept his thoughts to himself. Inside he felt so disliked, he didn't even like himself. That's as alone as anyone can feel.
Bridging Question: The best kind of friend helps others in need. When was the last time you needed help? When was the last time you helped someone? Did it help your friendship? How?
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45
A leper approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and pleaded, "Jesus, if you want to, you can make me whole again."
Jesus had such deep feelings for the leper, he reached out and touched the man. "I want you to get better. Be whole again." At that moment, the disease left the him. Then, Jesus clearly warned the man. "Don't tell anyone about your cure! Go! Show your skin to the priest. Then give to the Temple, just as Moses commanded. That should show them!" After that, Jesus kicked the man out.
But, after the man left, he talked about Jesus all the time. Because of his comments, Jesus could not enter any town in the open. Instead, he stayed in places where he could be alone. But people from everywhere kept coming to see him.
Brandy was a brave soul. She needed help and she asked for it. She sought out others to be their friend. She approached others, because her father was in the military. Her family moved from place to place. So, Brandy learned very early that, to be a friend, she needed to be a friend.
There was a time when Brandy needed help from an expert for a science project. The expert was a grumpy old man who lived alone down th street. Everyone feared the old man who left junk out in his yard, who hadn't painted his house in years, who had the meanest, nastiest dog on the block. The old man never seemed to go to work. He just messed around in his garage.
Brandy found out the old man was an inventor with several patents. He was an old college professor who made it rich with new ideas. He could help her with her project. All she needed to do was ask her neighbor. And that was the problem. No one had talked to the man in years. Even the adults avoided the old man.
After several days of worry, Brandy got up enough courage to walk into the yard, past the barking dog, and weave her way through the junk to the front door. The closer she got to the door, the more afraid she became. When she rang the door bell, she knew it was too late to back out.
The old man slowly opened the door. "What do you want?" he sneered at Brandy.
"I have this science project and I need your help on a special problem," Brandy said as she shook inside. Brandy explained the problem in detail. The more she talked the less she shook inside. And the softer the expression on the man's face became.
"I think I can help you," the old man said with a half smile. "Come in."
Brandy entered the house, sat down in the living room, and took out a notebook. With a pen, she began to write as the old scientist explained her problem and gave her ways to test a solution. She sat immersed in the old man's words. Suddenly, her neighbor looked at the clock. Brandy had been there for almost two hours. "It's getting late," the old man said, "You'd better get going or your parents will worry." Then, at the door, the old man became stern. "Don't tell anyone about our conversation. I don't like visitors."
Over the next several days, Brandy took everyone about her visit to the old man. "Actually, he's really nice!" Brandy exclaimed to her family and friends. People began to stop and talk to the old man. He looked really uncomfortable, but he did respond. Still the old man did not say "hello" to anyone except a little girl, the daughter of a military man. He wanted to know how the science project was coming along. For Brandy, the old man had a wink, a wave, and a loud "Hello!"
Like Brandy, the leper approached Jesus as a friend in need. Jesus cured the leper and sent him on his way. But, like Brandy, the leper didn't obey Jesus. No, he went out and told everyone about his new friend, the one who healed him. Jesus tried to get away from all the people. But, because of the leper's words, they just kept coming.
Let us visit those who need our help and help those who ask. Above all, let's tell everyone about our friend, Jesus.
Closing Question: How can you help a friend in need? Or visit the lonely person? How have you made a difference to those who in need?