Love As A Gift
Opening Question: What kinds of things can you give as gifts? What kind of gift can't you return, no matter what?
First Reading: Acts 10:24, 34-35, 44-48
When Peter went out to preach the Good News, his people, the Jews, lived separate from other peoples. As a Jew, Peter could have friends who were not Jews. And he could do business with people who were not Jewish. But he could visit non-Jewish friends or business partners in their homes. The Jewish leaders did not want people like Peter to get strange ideas or strange practices. No, Jews lived and worshiped by themselves.
One day, Peter had a dream about eating special foods and keeping things separate. Suddenly, Peter realized God was telling him that everyone was special in his eyes. And it was alright to visit the house of someone who was not Jewish. Peter could live with anyone who believed in Jesus, no matter if they were Jewish or not.
The first person Peter visited was Cornelius, the Roman soldier. This is what happened.
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and bowed low. "Get up," Peter said. "I am only a man, just like you."
Then Peter said, "I truly believe God does not play favorites. No, God accepts anyone who deeply respects him and tries to do the right thing."
As Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit filled everyone that heard his preaching. The Jewish Christians who went with Peter were amazed that the Holy Spirit even filled people who were not Jewish. They heard these Cornelius' family speak in tongues and shouted in praise to God. Then Peter said, "Who can stop this man ans his family from being baptized? The Holy Spirit wants them, just like we do!" So, Peter had them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. After that, Cornelius and his family invited Peter to stay a few days with them.
So, Peter and Cornelius were now fellow Christians. They were like brothers because they both believed in Jesus. God had given both Peter and the soldier the gift of Jesus.
Like the two men, let us sing in joy to the Lord.
Bridging Question: Has a someone ever helped you get better at something? Sports or school work or a video game? What happened? Could you pay them back? Why or why not?
Gospel: John 15:9-14
Jesus said to his followers:
Stay close to me, as the Father loves me and I love you.
I have done what the Father told me to do
and I remain close to him.
So, if you do what I tell you to do,
you will stay close to me.
I told you all this
so the joy I feel might be yours
and you might be completely happy.
Do this, then:
love each other the same way I love you.
No one shows greater love
than to die for his friends.
If you do what I told you to do,
you are my friends.
I won't call you my servants,
because servants don't know what their Master is doing.
I call you my friends,
because I let you know everything
I heard from my Father.
You didn't choose me.
I chose you
to go out and do things that will last.
And my Father will give you,
whatever you ask him in my name.
So, love each other, just like I told you to do.
Bernie didn't like to borrow things. She felt she had to pay people back for their kindness. This was a hassle. No, Bernie liked to do things by herself. She felt she had control over the situation.
No one lives alone. Everyone needs someone else at one point or another. Bernie found that out soon enough. Whether she needed a pencil or lunch money at school, help with homework from her sister, or tips on her sport skills from a coach, Bernie realized she could not live life alone. She needed the help of others to grow as a student, an athlete, a person. She always tried to return the favor, to pay someone back.
One time, Bernie could not pay the favor back. On a dark night, Bernie and her mom were on their way home from a soccer tournament. Suddenly, their car motor began to sputter and died. Bernie's mom rolled the car to the side of the road, put on her flashing lights to warn the other drivers, locked all the doors, and pulled out her cell phone to call for help. Unfortunately, the battery in the cell phone was dead and they could not make a call. Both Bernie and her mom sat silently for a moment. Both were trying to figure out what to do. Both began to imagine about the worst that could happen to them.
Then, they saw a pair of light pull up behind them. They heard a truck door slam and the sound of heavy feet approach their car. Bernie feared her worst thoughts had come true. The stranger tapped on the window. Bernie's mom lowered her window a half inch. "What's the problem...say weren't you at the soccer tournament today?" Bernie looked up and recognized a coach from another team.
"Yeah," Bernie responded.
"You did a great job against my team. Your save was one of the best I've ever seen," the stranger said.
"Ah...thanks," was all Bernie could say.
"Pop the hood," the stranger said to Bernie's mom. After a few moments under the car's hood, the stranger cried out, "Try it now!" Bernie's mom turned the car key. The engine started right up. "You had a loose battery connection. You'll be find now."
The stranger lowered the hood and waved goodbye to Bernie and her mom. "How can we repay you?" Bernie's mom cried out. But it was too late. The stranger had gotten in the truck and started it up. Bernie's mom pulled out and drove away. The next time, Bernie's mom looked in her rear view mirror, the stranger's truck was gone.
That night made an impression on Bernie. She and her mom could not repay the stranger. But they could pass the gift of the stranger onto others. Bernie stopped worrying how she could pay others back. She began to concentrate on how she could give to others. Soon, she didn't feel as alone. She began to feel connected to others. She began to believe that behind the face of every stranger was a friend waiting to be made.
Jesus wants us to give to others, like the stranger. No pay backs. No bows to be taken. That's the way Jesus loved us. That's how Jesus wants us to love others. If we gave to others without expecting anything in return, how much better would the world be?
Reflection Question: How can you give to others in secret this week? Try it a few times.