You Can't Fake It
Opening Question: Have you ever met someone who bragged about something they did that was wrong? Did they brag how they got away with it? Did they ever get caught? What happened?
First Reading: Malachi 3:19-20a
Jimmy was very smart, but lazy. He got D's in class when everyone knew he could get A's. He rather play computer games and hang with his skateboarding friends than help with family chores. When he wasn't with friends or on the computer, Jimmy dreamed about ways to get money, the fast, easy way. Or, so he thought.
Jimmy's school had their annual holiday drive for the poor in the community. They called it "A Dollar at a Time." Last year they raised $4000 in cash and they expected more this year. At one point all the money would be gathered and counted for the bank deposit. When Jimmy heard the school's plans, he tried to figure out how to steal the money.
On a cold November night just before Thanksgiving, Jimmy put his careful plan into action. Disconnecting the alarm, he entered the principal's office and made off with the cash. The next day, the entire school buzzed with the news of the theft.
At first, Jimmy was quiet and hid the money. But his desire to spend the money and his urge to brag to his friends got the best of him. Within a week, most of the school knew Jimmy took the money. He was finally arrested and most of the money was returned so it could be given to the poor.
Jimmy was smart in his head, but not in his heart. His head figured out a way to get the money, but his heart didn't see that it was better to give the money to the poor. In the end, all Jimmy wanted to do was brag and spend the money. So, he gave himself away. For all his brains, Jimmy was blinded by his selfishness. He could figure a way to get into trouble; he didn't see it was better not to get into trouble in the first place.
People like Jimmy think they are smarter than anyone else and they take the easy way to money, power, and making friends. But, in the end, their selfishness will make them spend all their money, abuse any power they have, and drive their friends away. They suffer for the bad they have done. But, the good will be blessed because they respect others and love God.
Bridging Question: How many of you get stressed? Over big games? Over tests?
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
In the Temple, some of Jesus' followers exclaimed, "Look how this building is decorated with beautiful stones and people's decorations!"
"Everything you see here will soon be gone!" Jesus replied. "A day will come when a stone won't set upon another stone in the Temple. Every stone will tumble down!"
"Teacher! When will this happen? And, how will we know it's about to happen?" they asked.
"Watch out so you're not fooled," Jesus told them. "Many will suddenly show up and exclaim 'I'm the one you're looking for!' and 'The time for God to come is near!' Don't follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, don't be afraid. These things need to come first, but the end will not happen right away."
"Nations will fight each other," Jesus continued. "There will be large earthquakes. People will be sick and starve in many places. There will be great and terrible things from heaven."
"But before all this happens, people will chase you, arrest you, put you in jail, and drag you before judges and kings, just because you follow me. This will be the time to tell everyone about me."
"Don't make up your minds now how you will defend yourselves. I will give you the words and the wisdom you will need. Your lying enemies will not be able to stand up and speak against you."
"Your parents, family, and friends will betray you. And some of you will be put to death. Everyone will seem to hate you because you follow me. But you will be safe with me. If you endure these times, you will gain eternal life."
Judy was a smart and Noelle was average. But both girls got straight A's. Judy didn't study, but Noelle studied a lot.
Before a big test, Judy would panic and cram at the last minute. Noelle, however had a system where she rewrote her notes after class and then made an outline. She memorized the outline, so she could remember the facts quickly.
One day, the girls teacher called classmates up to her desk one at a time. Soon the word got out; it was an oral test. The teacher asked different questions and the student had to answer. The stress in the classroom went right up. On the one hand, Judy began to gather notes together and cram, but it did no good. Nervous, she stumbled on several questions and got a "C."
Noelle, on the other hand, was calm. She didn't have to prepare because of her study habits. She felt confident she could answer the questions. She sat by the teacher, answered the best she could, and returned to her desk smiling. She knew she got an "A."
There are times we all get stressed out. We are put to the test, whether it is in school or at home or with our friends. The things we do prepare us for these tests. Do we, like Judy, try to relax and then cram to succeed (or worse lie and cheat our ways out of it)? Or, do we, like Noelle, develop good habits that we help us succeed when the going gets tough?
In today's gospel, Jesus tells his followers not to prepare for times when people hate them. A good relationship with Jesus will see them through. Jesus will give them the strength. And he will give us the help if we ask him, not just once or twice, but over and over. Ask him every day even when it is good. Then he will help you daily, even when the days are bad.
Closing Question: How do you work on your relationship with Jesus every day?