Opening Question: Have you ever played "telephone," the old game where you're lined up and one person whispers a message into another's ear? What happened?
First Reading: James 2:14-17
(Play the telephone game with 20 kids in the room.. The message is "Love your neighbor as yourself." After the game ask what happened.)
People don't understand. Sometimes what one person says and another hears is two different things. Take the word "love." Some recoil at the word. They don't it ever used about them. Others gush at the word. They love everyone and everything. Both groups don't understand what love really.
When you say you love your parents, how do you show them what you feel? What would happen if your parents got sick? How would you show your love then? What would you do if your parents lost their jobs? How would you show your love to them then?
St. James give us a good idea in his letter:
Brothers and sisters, if someone claims to believe in God and does not clearly show it, what have they gained? Can the person depend upon their faith alone to bring them closer to God? Imagine if another Christian lived in shabby clothes and did not have enough food for the day. What would happen if one of you told them, "God be with you" or "Stay warm and get some food" without lifting a finger to help them? What would that person really gain? So, faith is dead if it is not backed up with actions. Someone might claim, "You're full of faith but I am busy acting on my faith." Can anyone show me real faith without actions? I can show my faith to you by what I do.
How do we show God we love him? That's what St. James was telling us. It's clear, but sometimes we misunderstand. Let's listen with an open ears and an open heart.
Bridging Question: Have you ever been misunderstood? How did it feel? What happened?
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
Jesus and his followers traveled to the villages around the big city of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way, Jesus asked his followers, "What sorts of claims do people make about me?"
"Some say you're like John the Baptist," his followers answered. "Others say you're Elijah who has come down from heaven. A third group says your one of God's prophets."
"But, you," Jesus asked, "what sort of claim do you make about me?"
"You are the Christ!" Peter answered.
"Don't tell anyone what you told me," Jesus warned them. Then he said, "To serve God's will, the Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be judged by the leadership in Jerusalem and will be killed there. Then, he rise again from the dead." Jesus spoke very plainly about his teaching.
Peter took Jesus aside and argued with him about it.
When Jesus turned and saw his other followers, he yelled back at Peter, "Get out of here, Satan! You only want to do what other people want, not what God wants!"
"Hey, everyone!" Jesus called out to the crowd, along with his followers. "If you want to be my follower, stop being selfish, be ready to die, and follow me. If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But, if you lose you life for me and the Good News, you will have God's life!"
Tessa tried really hard to be friendly. Since her dad was in the military, she moved from state to state. She never stayed in the same town more than three years in a row. Since pre-school, she had attended three different schools. Now, she attended a new school in a new town. And she wanted to make new friends.
Three weeks into the new school year, Tessa discovered that her classmate, Adam, lived half a block away. During the week, they would occasionally talk about school work or the neighbors. On the weekends, Tessa and Adam would wave at each other as they passed on the street.
One fall Sunday, they played "Hide n' Go Seek," with all the other kids on the block. At the end of the game, Tessa exclaimed to Adam, "That was fun!"
"What did that new girl say?" one of the kids in the game said to another.
"She said she had fun with Adam," the other whispered.
That started the rumors. Soon, everyone at school talked about Tessa and Adam. "Tessa has a crush on Adam," stated one rumor. "Adam and Tessa have a 'thing' for each other," another rumor claimed. "Tessa really acts friendly around Adam," a third rumor passed on. The buzz about the two was almost thick as a pack of bees. The only two who did not hear the rumors were Tessa and Adam. They were just occasional friends.
Finally, one of the girls just had to know the newest about the "couple." So, she came up to Tessa and asked, "What's the newest about you and Adam?'
"What?" Tessa replied.
"You know..." the girl said as she winked to Tessa.
"What are you talking about?" Tessa said in a tense way.
The girl backed off but Tessa pressed her to explain herself. The girl told Tessa what she heard. The more she said, the madder Tessa got.
During lunch, Tessa walked up to Adam and got in his face. "What do you know about the rumor about us being a couple? Have you been passing rumors?"
"Calm down, Tessa!" Adam replied. "I just heard about the rumors myself this morning. I'm just as mad as you are about them."
After a few moments of discussion, Tessa cooled down. She and Adam understood that they were the victims of rumors. Both felt helpless about it. But, both knew they were neighborhood friends who had their own group of friends to spend time with.
Say one thing. People expect something else. Tessa said she had fun to Adam. People thought she had fun with Adam. Only with Adam. Not true. Not true.
Jesus had the same experience as Tessa. When Peter said Jesus was the Christ, Peter assumed Jesus would become a king who would conquer other people. Peter and his friends would rule with Jesus. And they would be rich and have others serve them. When Peter followed Jesus, he had selfish dreams of glory.
But Jesus meant something different by the title "Christ." As the Christ, Jesus was to serve people even to his death. God would raise him up. To follow Jesus, a person must be willing to do the same: serve others and put their lives in God's hands.
To know what people mean, we must listen carefully. We must not assume we know what they mean. And we must not assume what other people say is necessarily true.
To know what Jesus means, we must carefully listen to his Word, the Bible. More important we must follow his path. Serve others even if others talk about us, spread rumors, or criticize us.
Is it worth it? Yes!
Have people criticized you about being too friendly, helping others, or being a Christian? What happened? How did God help you deal with those people?