Helping Others to Look Ahead, Not Behind
Opening Question: Who has encouraged you or your friends to be better students or better athletes? What have they said to encourage you or your friends?
First Reading: Isaiah 42:18-19, 21, 24-25
After her race, Mary looked down. She had run poorly and she was angry at herself. "I just can't get any better," she whispered to herself. "I'm running slower than I did last year."
Coach Hughes saw Mary and immediately knew what was on her mind. This was the third year he coached Mary, and he had seen her potential. And he knew that she wasn't meeting that potential.
Walking up to her, Coach Hughes put his arm around Mary shoulder. She began to sob quietly. Then coach asked, "What's more important, the race you just ran or the race you'll run next week?" Mary stopped walking and had the strangest look on her face. "What?" she said. The coach repeated the question, "What's more important, the race you just ran or the race you'll run next week?"
"The race next week, Coach," Mary replied.
"What will it take to prepare for that race, Mary? What can you do make next week's race your best?" the coach asked.
Mary understood what the coach was asking. "The first thing I am going to do is forget about today's race. I'll get more sleep and try to relax more," Mary answered.
"Good," the coach said smiling.
The next race was better. Mary was more relaxed and clearly enjoyed running the race. It was true that her time wasn't her best, but she did have a much better time than the last race. Mary was improving.
Her coach walked over to her and smiled. "Good race, Mary" the coach said. Mary smiled back. At that moment, she had forgotten about the last race, just the way the coach wanted her to.
Like the coach, God wants us to forget about those things that drag us down. He wants us to remember him and to trust him. When we do that, he will forget about faults and he will show his love to us.
Bridging Question: Have you ever seen someone deliberately embarrassed by someone else? What happened?
Gospel: John 8:1-12
After Jesus taught the crowd, everyone went home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early the next morning, Jesus arrived at the Temple. The people crowded around him. So he sat down and began to teach them. Suddenly, the religious leaders brought a woman who they found breaking God's Law. They stood her before everyone. Then they said to Jesus, "Teacher, we caught this woman doing something that broke God's Law! Moses told us to stone such women to death. What do you say we should do?" They said this to pressure Jesus so he might say something they could use against him. But, Jesus bent over and wrote in the sand with his finger. They kept asking him over and over.
So, Jesus straightened up and said, "Let the person who has never broken God's Law throw the first stone at her." Again, Jesus bent over and wrote in the sand. One by one, starting with the leaders, everyone who heard Jesus answer walked away, Soon, only Jesus and the woman were left. So Jesus straightened up. and said, "Madame, isn't there anyone here who says you're guilty?"
"No one," the woman responded.
"Well, I don't say your guilty either," Jesus told her. "Go your way. But don't break the Law again."
Bob was shy and sensitive; he was not very good at sports. He did not like some of the comments his classmates made about him. Bob got defensive, so he didn't have many friends.
Chuck decided to make fun of Bob in front of the entire class. During recess, Chuck and his friends put the word out to meet by the basketball court. Then Chuck called out to Bob so he would join them. When Bob came over, Chuck said, "Bob, we all know that you aren't that good at sports, so we want to help you. Come and stand over here so I can show you how to shoot a basketball." Bob took the basketball and waited for instructions. As he took the ball, one of Chuck's friends stuck his foot out behind Bob. Chuck then said, "Bob, when someone gets in front of you, never let them push you like this." With that, Chuck pushed Bob, Bob stepped backwards and tripped. Chuck and his friends began to laugh, while Bob felt embarrassed and angry. Bob got up and walked away quietly. Then the bell rang and everyone went back to class.
That night, Bob went into room and cried. He hurt too much to let anyone know his feelings. Then, Bob's older brother, Jack, knocked on the door and asked Bob to come out and shoot some hoops. Jack knew what had happened to Bob, and he wanted to help. At first, Bob said "No," but then he went out and joined Jack in the driveway.
Jack threw the ball to Bob. And Bob threw it toward the basket. The ball swished right into the basket. Bob stood there dumbfounded. He could do it! "You want to do it again?" Jack asked. "Yeah," Bob answered. Jack helped Bob and soon Bob became pretty good at basketball. Even Chuck had to admit that.
Like Bob, Jesus' enemies tried to trap him. But he was too smart for them. Like Jack, Jesus helped someone. He didn't judge her, like Chuck judged Bob. He just told her that no one would punish her.
Like the woman we need someone to help us, someone to encourage us and not put us down. Jesus did that for the woman. He asks us to do it for others.
Closing Question: How can you help someone who is shy? Not good at school? Or sports? How can they help you?