The Gifts God Gives
Opening Question: What things keep us from the people we love?
First Reading: Romans 8:31-34
Paul was a changed man. Once he hunted Christians down, arrested them, and threw them in jail. But, then, the risen Jesus appeared to him. And he was never the same. Now, he would do anything to spread the Good News Jesus rose from the dead. He would talk to anyone. And he would travel anywhere.
Along his journeys, Paul made many close friends and started many churches. When he would leave to go to another city, Paul found it hard to say "Good-bye." His friends and his churches felt so far away, but they were never far from God's love. After all, who could get in the way of God?
If God is on our side, who is our enemy? God didn't stop his own Son from being killed for us. So, how can he stop himself from giving us everything good, along with Jesus? Who will bring charges against God's favorite people? God is the One who freed us from any charge. Who will say we're guilty? Jesus Christ is our defender. He died and, more important, rose again. He is right at God's side. And he asks favors from his Father for us.
God loved Paul, his friends, and his churches very much. God's love helped Paul with his "good-byes," with the things that would hurt him, and with the people that would hate him. God's love helps all of us when we feel alone, or afraid, or unloved. God loved us so much, he gave us his Son as our friend, our brother, our Savior. God's love is greatest gift we can receive.
Bridging Question: What's the biggest surprise you're ever had? Why were you surprised?
Gospel: Mark 9:2-10
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John to the top of a high mountain, so they could spend some time alone. There, Jesus changed before their eyes. His clothes became so shiny white that nothing on earth could bleach his clothes that white. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and they talked to Jesus.
Peter spoke up, "Teacher! I'm glad we're here. Let's pitch three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But he didn't really know what he was talking about because they were so afraid.
A cloud appeared that cast a shadow over them. And there was a voice from heaven. "This is the Son I love," the voice said. "Listen to him!"
Suddenly, when they looked around, they saw only Jesus there with them. As they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one else what you just saw until the Son of Man rises from the dead." They obeyed, but whispered to each other "What does 'rise from the dead' mean?"
Peter loved to have a "wow" feeling, that experience one just can't believe. At the movies, he wanted to see great action scenes and great special effects. He couldn't wait for the next video game to come out. And he constantly surfed the Internet for amazing sites.
Peter felt "wow" from the images he saw and the stories he heard, but he never had that experience with others. He never turned to a friend and saw a look that told him: "Wow! You felt that, too?!"
One day, that all changed. Peter and two friends decided to walk to the top of a mountain. The path was difficult, but not impossible. As they walked, they took their time to watch the sunlight stream through the leaves, the changing plant life, and the animals that ran into the background as they approached. They joked and dashed around, played tag and hid from each other, as the path wove around the mountain. One hour passed by, then another. The boys got a little discouraged they had not reached the mountain top. Suddenly, the path cleared from the trees, and the peak was in sight.
Peter challenged his friends to run up to the top. "I'll beat you up there."
"No, you won't!" the others said. And the race was on.
Between the final steep ascent and the thin air, the boys were out of breath when the reached the top. But that could not stop their amazement at the visa they saw. For a moment, they froze as they saw the valleys and the roads and the houses all in miniature. Peter then looked at his friends. They, too, had their mouths open. The look said it all, "WOW!"
Then the boys looked up. The white fluffy clouds they saw at the bottom of the mountain had gathered together and turned gray to black. They could feel the wind shift and the temperature drop. The rain droplets sprinkled, here and there. Then they saw the flash and heard the crack. If they didn't move fast, they would be caught in the storm. They began to run, but each one stopped to take one last look. Lightening flashed over their heads and the thunder shook their bodies. Their exhilaration turned to fear. If they did not get off the mountain top, their lives could be danger! They didn't have to say anything. They ran!
After running for twenty minutes, the boys stopped to get their breath. Doubled over, they strained to catch some air. Their hearts pounded and their stomachs turned. But, the adrenalin rush was unmistakable. "WOW!" Peter exclaimed between gasps for air. The other boys didn't have to say anything. They just knew they would never forget the experience they just shared. They just knew.
Like Peter and his companions, three close friends of Jesus shared an experience on a mountain top. But it wasn't the view or the storm they would never forget. It was Jesus. The man they thought they knew changed before them. He spoke with two important men from heaven. And, from a voice that cracked like thunder, they were told to hear his words, even if they didn't understand them.
We have the advantage over Peter, James, and John. We know what the words "rise from the dead" mean. We know what we will soon celebrate: the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let's stick to our preparations this Lent. Let us pray we will say "WOW!" at Easter.
Imagine you were with Peter James and John at the top of the mountain. How could you have a "WOW!" experience, like the followers of Jesus? Could you be amazed and feel fear at the same time? Explain.