Opening Question: What kind of person do you want for a friend? What kind of person do you want to avoid as a friend? Why are they different?
First Reading: Sirach 27:5-6
"A good friend is like a...." Mr Taylor told is class. "It's your homework for tonight."
Sam thought a lot about that phrase. And not because it was her homework. Her best friend, Ruth, was in the class. Sam wanted Ruth to know how much her friendship meant to her.
The next day, the students in Mr. Taylor's gave their answers, one by one.
"A good friend is like a jewel. It's so hard that it will last a long time. And it shines in the light for everyone to see," one student said.
"A good friend is like a frog," said another. Everyone laughed at that response, including Mr. Taylor. "It rests when its satisfied, but will jump from place to place when it needs to."
"Does it croak, too?" another student said out of turn.
Mr. Taylor calmed the class down, but had to smile at that remark.
Finally, it was Sam's turn. "A good friend is like a fruit tree. It starts as a small seed, but, with care, grows into a large, strong plant. It can stand up to winds and rain and cold and snow. And in the right season, it bears sweet fruit. A lot of great fruit."
Everyone agreed that was the best answer, including Mr. Taylor.
In the Bible, Sirach gave two images for people: pottery and fruit trees. A good friend is like a pot that has been hardened in a fire. It wouldn't break easily. And a good friend is like a fruit tree that gives great fruit.
You can tell the kind of person that will make a great friend: watch what they say. There is a difference between a real jewel and a fake one. A good frog and a bad one. A good pot and a bad one. A good tree and a rotten tree. The difference comes from the inside. And you can tell what's inside a person by what they say.
Bridging Question: What is a good friend like?
Gospel: Luke 43-45
As he taught his followers, Jesus also told them some parables:
Can someone who's in the dark lead another person in the dark? Won't they both fall into a ditch?
No student is ever smarter than his teacher. Even when he graduates, he will only be his teacher's equal.
Why do you see the tiny speck of sawdust in your friend's eye, but you cannot see the large beam of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you don't see the beam in your own eye? Liar! First, kick out the beam from your own eye. Then, you will see the speck in your friend's eye clearly enough to wipe it way.
A good tree does not bear sour fruit. And a rotten tree does not bear sweet fruit. You can recognize a tree by the fruit it makes. People don't pick figs in the thorns. And they don't pick grapes in thorny bushes. A good person brings out goodness from the treasure of a loving heart. And, a bad person brings out evil from a heart full of hate. For, when a person speaks, they show what's in their heart.
Bernie was smart in school, but he wasn't very good at telling what was in another person's heart. He made friends with the wrong people. In school, he had friends with one person who would talk with long words and act as if he knew a lot. Later, Bernie would learn the person didn't study and got terrible grades. On the soccer field, he made friends with a team mate who would teach some of Bernie's teammates ways to cheat. That person made Bernie's coach mad. And the cheater was thrown off the team. Bernie even liked a very bright and talented classmate who had an opinion about everyone. Bernie laughed at the way this classmate put others down, until he heard the way the classmate put him down.
After Bernie heard the way his classmate put him down, he came home sad. As he entered the front door to his house, Bernie's older brother, Max, could see the hurt in his eyes. "What's wrong, Bernie?" Max asked.
"Nothin'," Bernie mumbled, as he turned to go to his room.
Max blocked Bernie's way and asked again, "What's wrong, little brother?"
"I don't get it," Bernie responded. "Everyone I want as a friend turns out to be a liar, a cheat, or just really mean. Why can't I pick friends who have good hearts?"
"Don't get down on yourself," Max said to comfort Bernie. "Everyone wants good friends. But, choosing good friends takes time. I hate to say it, little brother, but you have to test people to see what is in their hearts."
"Test people?" Bernie said. "You mean trick people. That's not fair!"
"No, Max replied. "You test people by listening to them. If they brag to impress you, watch out. If they want you to do something that's not right, watch out. If they put down others for fun, watch out."
"What should I listen for?" Bernie asked.
"Listen for words of caring," Max said. "And watch the person who says he cares. If that person's words and actions match, he'll make a good friend. If a person really cares about others, he'll probably care about you."
From that time on, Bernie looked for people who cared. Slowly, he found the good friends he always wanted. Those friends weren't the flashiest, the most popular, or the funniest. But they were the most caring. They were the best friends anyone could ever want.
Jesus warned us about braggers, cheats, and critics, people who put others down. Like Max, he tells us to listen in order to find out what's in their hearts. More important, he wants us to be the kind of person someone would want as a friend, one who doesn't brag, or cheat, or puts others down. Good people make good friends. Evil people don't.
Closing Question: How can you be a better friend for others? How does the advice of Jesus help you?