God's Gift Vs. What We Deserve
Opening Question: Have you ever played a game or worked on a project where you got frustrated and wanted to quit? What happened?
First Reading: Exodus 16:12-15
On a hot summer day, a group of scouts helped at a service project. At the end of the day, the scouts got together and began to complain. "That was hard work," one person said. "Why did we have to do the work the way the scout master wanted it done?" another complained. "And, why did we have to do it today?" a third scout added. The grumbling just got worse and worse.
When the scout master overheard the conversation, he got angry. "Open your eyes," he said to the scouts, "Look at all the good things you did today! And all you can do is complain?"
Like the scouts, the Israelites followed Moses, their leader, into the hot desert. Hungry and tired, they complained to Moses. God answered their complaint with only enough food to feed them day to day. This way, the Israelites would have to trust God. But even when the food came, they still did not recognize God's gift until Moses told them what it was. "This is bread God sent you," Moses reminded the people.
Many times we are so involved in what we are doing, we do not see the bigger picture, the what things fit together. When we cannot see the bigger picture, we get frustrated, we complain, and we might even give up. That's the time we need to ask for help from God, our parents, our teachers, and our coaches to help us see the way things work together.
Bridging Question: Have you ever met someone who won a prize you thought they did not deserve? Explain.
Gospel: John 6:24-35
Jesus fed five thousand people with bread and fish. The next day, Jesus and his followers returned home. When the people realized that Jesus and his followers were not there, they got into small boats and sailed across the lake to Capernaum to see Jesus. When they found him, they asked, "Teacher, when did you get here?"
"Listen!" Jesus replied. "You didn't look for me because you just saw a sign from God. No, you came because you filled your bellies on the bread I served you. Don't work for bread that will spoil. Work for the Bread of Eternal Life that the Son of Man will give you. The Father has blessed him and how he serves people."
"What can we do to so we can obey God's will?" they asked.
"Trust the One God sent," Jesus answered. "This is what God really wants."
"What will you do?" they demanded. "Give us a sign from God that we can see. Then we will believe in you. After all, our ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert, just like the passage in the Bible that says, 'He will give you bread from heaven to eat.'"
"You really don't understand, do you?" Jesus replied. "It wasn't Moses who gave you bread from heaven. It is the Father who gives you the only Bread that really matters. The Bread God gives is the One that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world!"
"Give us this bread forever," they said to Jesus.
"I Am the Bread of Life!" Jesus stated. "Whoever comes to me will never ever get hungry again. Whoever trusts me will never, never ever get thirsty again."
Joey had a great idea. Instead of earning the money for an electric scooter all summer long, he would work part of the time and use that money to buy tickets for the school raffle. First prize was the same scooter he wanted. "Fifty tickets should win it," he figured.
From late June through early July, Joey worked at odd jobs around the neighborhood. He mowed grass, cleaned drive ways, and hauled trash from backyards. Every time he extra money, he brought raffle tickets. Toward the end of July, he counted his tickets. "Fifty!" he said with glee. "Now I'm ready to win my prize." He convinced himself that all his hard work would pay off.
On the last Sunday in July, the school had its annual festival. Joey couldn't attend the drawing because it was too late at night. But his heart was racing so fast, he couldn't sleep that night. The next morning would bring the news he wanted to hear.
"Prove it!" Joey yelled at his sister, Sally. Joey just couldn't believe his sister won the school raffle.. When she showed him the scooter, he just didn't understand. Joey figured he deserved the prize because he worked so hard to earn it. He stomped back to his room and slammed the door.
"What happened to him, Mom?" Sally asked.
"Joey thought he had figured out a way to win the scooter for himself," her mother explained. "He thought he figured out a way to earn something what was a gift."
In today's gospel, the people who followed Jesus really didn't understand the difference between a gift and a goal. Like Joey, the people saw God's life as a goal, something they earned. When Jesus told them to work for bread that brought eternal life, they asked: "What can we do?" Jesus answered: "Just believe."
That just seemed too easy. So, like Joey, the people challenged Jesus. "Prove it!" they demanded, "Give us this bread from God!" So Jesus told them straight out: "I am the bread of life. Come to me and you live forever."
Jesus is God's gift to us. Jesus is God's live for us. As a gift, we cannot earn God's life, no matter how hard we try. Like any gift, all we can do is say "yes" and "thank you" to God for Jesus. Our prayers, our good behavior, and our love for God and others are ways to say "thank you" to God.
(Ask how many students have received First Eucharist. Ask how many are preparing to receive the sacrament. Then say:) Did you know that the word Eucharist means "Thanksgiving?" Receiving Jesus in Eucharist is more than a way to say "yes" to God. It is a way to say "Thank you" to God for Jesus.
Closing Reflection: List the things you can thank God for in you mind. Spend some in prayer and take your list to God.