Hard Tasks and Bragging
1. What is the hardest test you have ever taken? How did you feel after you finished the test? Were you proud of your test grade? Why?
2. Has anyone ever bragged about something you did that was hard? What was it?
First Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
Christ Jesus lived as God. He did not have to try to be God. Instead, Jesus emptied himself like a servant when he was born. When he grew up, he humbled himself and obeyed God, even as he died on the cross. So, God raised Jesus up and gave him a name that was more glorious than any other name. In heaven, on the earth, and even in the grave, everyone must worship Jesus whenever his name is mentioned. And every language must declare "Jesus Christ is Lord" as a way to glorify God the Father.
St. Paul traveled to many different cities, so he could tell people about Jesus. After he visited a Christian community in certain city, he would write them a letter. This reading is part of a letter St. Paul wrote to the Christians in a city called Philippa.
St. Paul is telling us something we already know: the hardest things we do are the things people brag about. (Don't our parents and teachers brag about us when we do good things?) But, Jesus did some very hard things. He made himself something less than he was; he was God and he became a human being. Then Jesus died a hard and humiliating death for us. Because of these two things, God raised Jesus to new life and made him Lord, ruler over all things. God the Father is proud of Jesus and wants everyone to know what Jesus did!
Let us read about the hard things Jesus did; let us read about his death.
Gospel: Luke 23:1-49
Being Judged Unfairly
Jesus was on trial before the religious leaders. Then, the leaders got up and took Jesus to Pilate, the governor. There, they began to accuse Jesus. "We charge this with crimes against Rome," they said to Pilate. "He stirs up the people. He tells them not to pay taxes to Rome. And, he claims to be the Messiah, the Jewish King!"
"Are you the 'King of the Jews?'" Pilate asked Jesus.
"That's what you say," Jesus responded.
"I don't find any case against this man," Pilate told the leaders and the crowd.
But, they kept on complaining. "This man stirs up people. He's taught everywhere, starting in Galilee, then all over Judea." they said.
The last comment caught Pilate's ear. "So, he's from Galilee?" Pilate replied. "That's ruled by Herod Antipas."
So, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover. When he saw Jesus, Herod was very happy because he wanted to meet Jesus for a long time. And he hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle. Herod asked Jesus over and over, but Jesus didn't say a word. The leaders stood there, shouting their charges about Jesus to Herod. In the end, Herod and his guard showed hatred toward Jesus. They insulted him and threw bright clothes on him. Then, they sent him back to Pilate. Before this, Herod and Pilate hated each other. But, that day, they became good friends.
Pilate called the religious leaders and the people together. "You brought me this man," Pilate said. "And you say he turns the people against Rome. I questioned him in front of you all. I don't find any charge against this man. Neither did Herod, because he sent the prisoner back here. Look! He hasn't done anything that deserves death. So, I'll have him beaten. Then I'll free him."
"Take him away!" they shouted. "Free Barabbas!" Barabbas was thrown into prison for rioting in Jerusalem and for murder.
"I want to free Jesus," Pilate called out to the crowd.
"Crucify him! Crucify him!" they shouted back.
"What crime did he commit?" Pilate called out for the third time. "I don't find any charge against this man. So, I'll have him beaten. Then I'll free him."
"Crucify him!" they pressured Pilate even more with their loud voices. In the end, their shouting won the argument. So, Pilate ruled in their favor. He freed the man charged with rioting and murder, just like they asked.
How many of you have been treated unfairly? What happened?
Tommie was the smallest member of the roller hockey team, but he had the biggest heart. Tommie would skate his hardest and would never complain when he was hurt. The coaches and the parents liked him, but his team mates were embarrassed by him when they played tournaments.
At during a tied game of the league finals, Tommie was skating hard in the last seconds. The team captain made a shot in the opponent's goal, but the puck ricocheted off the glove of the goalie. Tommie caught the rebound with his stick and moved to make the goal. Tommie's shot flew by the goalie into the net, but too late. The buzzer sounded, and the referee signaled "no goal."
After a few words with the ref, the team skated off the floor dejected. "If Tommie had only made the shot quicker," one team mate complained. "He's too small to play, anyway," another team mate said frowning. "The only reason Tommie is on the team is because his mother is good friends with the coach," mumbled another. The complaining went on and on. And everyone blamed Tommie.
When Others Make You Suffer
The soldiers took Jesus away. Along the way, a person named Simon from the area of Cyrene had just arrived from the country. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross behind Jesus. A large number of other people followed Jesus, including women who cried out loud for him.
Jesus turned and said, "Women of Jerusalem! Don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and your children. For the time will come when people will say, 'Women who didn't have children are really happy!' They will also begin 'to say to the hills 'Fall on us like an avalanche' and to the mountains, 'Cover us with dirt.' If our enemies treat us like this when things are good, like the green branches of a tree in the spring, how will they treat us when things are bad, like the dried up branches of a tree in the heat of the summer?"
A scapegoat is someone others blame for their problems. Has anyone ever made you a scapegoat?
Tommie felt bad enough when he did not score the goal. When he overheard the rude remarks of his team mates, his heart sunk even lower. As the officials set up for the shoot out, the team mates drew numbers at random to see who would face the goalie. When Tommie chose the number to shoot last, his teammates gave him a cold stare. Their faces all said, "It your fault! It's your fault!" Tommie felt like quietly skating way.
The moments up to the shoot out were the longest in his life. The hard working, confident Tommie was now limp with self-doubt. The game might come down to him, and he wasn't up to the challenge. No one believed in him and he didn't believe in himself.
Being Made Fun Of
Along with Jesus, the soldiers led out two criminals to be executed. 33 When they got to the place called "the Skull," they crucified Jesus and the other two men, one to the right of Jesus, the other to the left.
Jesus said over and over, "Father! Forgive them! They don't realize what they're doing!"
In the mean time, the soldiers divided up what Jesus wore and gambled for pieces of his clothing. People stood there and watched what was happening. The leaders kept insulting Jesus. "He saved other people," the leaders sneered. "Let him save himself if he's really God's Messiah, the Chosen One!" The soldiers also made fun of Jesus when they came up to him and offered him a drink of bitter wine. "If you're the King of the Jews," the soldiers taunted Jesus, "save yourself!" There was a notice of the crime Jesus had been charged with. It read, "This man is the King of the Jews."
One of the men crucified with Jesus mocked him. "So, aren't you the Christ?" the man said in a sneer. "Save yourself and us!"
"Don't you have any respect for God?" the other man shot back. "We've all condemned to death. You and I got a just sentence. After all, we did so many bad things that we deserve to die. But this man didn't do anything wrong!" Then he turned to Jesus. "Jesus," the man continued, "remember me with kindness when your reign comes."
"Listen!" Jesus replied. "Today you will be with me and God."
How many people have been made fun of you? What happened?
Members of the opposing team overheard the complaining and saw the long look on Tommie's face. Soon, the opposing team was making jokes about the "midget" Tommie. Who would have such a loser on the team? Why is this shrimp playing? Why isn't Tommie playing in the junior league? The taunts continued and got louder.
The shootout got underway. Each team got five chances with five different shooters. First one team tried then the other. And Tommie was the last to shoot. Tommie's team grumbled while the other team laughed. But each team missed, one after another. With each shot, Tommie's team gained hope and the opposing team got quieter.
Finally, the league championship came down to a single shot that Tommie would shoot. The floor was so quiet, all you could hear was the air conditioning. Tommie took the puck and skated toward the opponent's goalie. Tommie set up as he skated, took his best shot, and immediately turned away. His shot was in God's hands.
Why did God make Jesus suffer people's comments and beatings? Why did God make Jesus die in this way? God the Father loves us and wants to give us an example. God the Father is telling us: "People will hurt you and make fun of you, but look at what happened to Jesus. The pain and hurt you are going through he went through. Pray to Jesus. He understands."
Jesus rules our hearts because he loves us and understands us. He was willing to suffer, so he could help us.
It was already noon. Until three o'clock that afternoon, everything became so dark, the sun didn't shine through. The curtain to the Temple tore right down the middle.
Then, Jesus cried out, "Father, I put my spirit into your hands!" After he said this, Jesus breathed out and died.
An officer in the Roman army saw what happened and glorified God. "This man was really innocent!" the soldier said.
Everyone who gathered to see what happened returned home very sad. Everyone there who knew Jesus and the women who followed him from Galilee stood at a distance.
The next morning's sports headline said it all: Little player scores big winning goal.