Opening Question: What does to mean to do your best? Who expects the best from you? Why?
First Reading: Deuteronomy 24:4-10
“Put away your books and papers,” Ms. Straus commanded her class. “Take out one pencil. I’ll pass out the test paper. When you get your paper you may begin. Remember, write in your best handwriting. Think you best. Do your best. I expect nothing less.”
“My best, my best,” Dennis thought. “She always wants my best. When will ‘good enough’ do?” Dennis was a hard working student. But he got tired of trying all the time. The pressure of the class was sometimes too much.
Dennis was one of the last students to turn in his test. “This is my very best,” Dennis sighed.
Ms. Strauss smiled. “I know you work hard,” she replied. “Keep it up. You’re doing well.”
Like Mrs. Strauss, God expects our best. Moses, the Law Giver, told the Israelites to offer God the first fruits and grains they harvested. This was best they could offer. Sometimes they were tempted to give God less. But he was to be first in their lives. He is first in our lives. And he expects nothing but the best from us.
Bridging Questions: What or who helps you make good choices? How do you know when you made the right choice?
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
Full of the God’s Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan river. Then, wherever the Spirit led him, Jesus walked throughout desert for forty days. There, he was tempted by the devil. Jesus didn’t eat anything during that time. And, at the end, he was hungry.
So, the devil said to him, “If you’re really God’s Son, tell this stone to turn into a piece of bread.”
“But the Bible says, ‘People need more than bread to live,’” Jesus responded.
Then, the devil took Jesus to a really high place and showed him every kingdom on the earth in the blink of an eye. “I will give you power over all these nations. And I will give you all their riches,” the devil told Jesus. “Everything you see has been given to me and anyone I want to give it to. All this will be yours, if you just worship me.”
“But the Bible says, “You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him,” Jesus answered.
The devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and stood him on the top of the Temple. “If you’re really God’s Son, throw yourself down from here.” the devil said. “After all, the Bible says, ‘God will command his angels to take care of you.’ It also says, ‘God’s angels will carry you with their hands so you won’t stub your foot on a stone.’”
"The Bible also says, “Don’t challenge the Lord your God!” Jesus shot back.
With that, the devil finished tempting Jesus and left him until the time was right to return.
Janie faced a hard choice. Her mother and father said she could only be involved in one sport this year. She loved horse back riding and soccer. But her parents said they couldn’t afford to do both. And they didn’t have enough time after school or on the weekend to do both. So she had to choose between two activities she really loved.
Sal also faced a hard choice. He was the new boy a school. And he really wanted to make new friends. The first person he talked to made him laugh. So he began to hang around the class clown. But Sal soon found out the class clown was not honest. He would lie to get people to like him. And he would brag about the way he fooled teachers and coaches. He even showed off an expensive watch he said he stole at the mall. Sal began to wonder if he chose the right friend. But he didn’t want to be alone at school.
Maria faced a hard choice, as well. Maria’s parents were divorced. So, she lived with her mother during the week and with her father on the weekends. She loved mother and father very much.
Maria hurt a lot when her parents broke up. Things were getting better for Maria. But, then, her mother announced she was offered a new job in a city far away. She needed to move. So, Maria needed to choose. She had to live with one parent or another. Which one?
In the desert, the devil tempted Jesus with three hard choices. “Turn stones into bread,” the devil said. He meant that Jesus could feed himself and all the hungry people in his country. People would love him. And make him king. But, if the people got bread from the king, they would want more, much more.
“I’ll give you power over every nation on earth,” the devil whispered. “All you have to do is worship me.” As leader of the entire world, Jesus could do good things for many people. After all, he would have the power of a great army. And he would be very rich. He could share that power and wealth with many people. All he had to do was to give up his relationship with his Father in heaven.
“Jump off from the top of the Temple,” the devil baited Jesus. “It will be alright.” Perform this miracle, and the people would see who Jesus really was, the Son of God. His popularity would fly high. And people, even the priest in the Temple and the leaders of Jerusalem, would really believe in him. No one would hate him.
Jesus was faced with three hard choices. He could turn stones into bread for the people. He could be king of the world if he worshiped the devil. Or, he could jump off the Temple and boost his ego. In other words, the devil wanted Jesus to do three things that would take Jesus away from his Father. To all three, Jesus said, “NO!” His love for God was more important.
Janie, Sal, and Maria eventually chose the same way Jesus did, for the love of others. Janie chose soccer because her parents loved to go to the games. Sal decided to wait for the right kind of friend, the kind of person that makes good friends. And, Maria decided to move with her mother so her mother wouldn’t be alone. In the end, all three felt they made the right choice.
When we say “NO!” to selfishness we make the right choice. It’s the right choice because we choose for others.
Closing Question: Have you ever chosen for others’ good? What happened?