Opening Question: When someone asks you for a favor, you like it if that person is nice or a bully? What makes a person “nice?”
First Reading: Sirach 35:12c-14,16-18b
When someone is wise, they know how to ask people to help them.
Jerry lived down the street from two brothers: Cory, the older, and Dean, the younger. Cory was mean. If he didn’t get his way, he would hit someone to bully them. Cory even got in a fight with his father and got taken away by the police. Cory could be nice, but you didn’t know when he would explode and hurt you.
Dean, on the other hand, was always nice and polite and helpful. He always treated people with respect. And Dean was fun! He took the time to show the other kids on the block new skateboarding tricks. Dean always wanted to play and anyone could play with Dean.
Jerry was the same age as Cory, but liked to play with Dean. When Dean asked a favor of Jerry, he always tried to help his younger neighbor. But when Cory came by to ask for help, Jerry tried to help in a way that Cory would stay calm.
God treats everyone fairly, but he hears the prayers of those who truly ask for help. People like Cory get too angry or proud to ask for help, while people like Dean get help when they are humble enough to ask. People like Cory demand; people like Dean seek help. Who do you think God will help?
Bridging Question: What is the difference between someone who is proud and someone who is nice?
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Jesus told a parable to those people who thought they were the only ones pleasing God and who hated everyone else.
Once, a Pharisee and a tax collector went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee stood out in front of everyone. “Thank you, God,” the Pharisee prayed silently. “I’m not like other people who are liars, sinners, cheaters, or even like this tax collector. I usually fast twice a week. And I usually give money to charities from everything I earn.”
But the tax collector stood alone and stared at the floor. He looked like he was very sorry for what he did. “God, have mercy on me. I’m a sinner,” he kept saying.
I tell you the tax collector went home at peace with God, not the Pharisee. For, the proud will be humbled. But the humble will receive great honor.
Gail was bright and talented and funny. People loved to be around Gail because she could make them laugh with her jokes or entertain them with her singing. Gail could see what people wanted and give it to them.
As Gail grew older, she realized that she was smart and talented. Soon, Gail began to look down on people who weren’t as intelligent or pretty or funny as she was. Gail wanted people to look at her, but she also only wanted to hang out with the good looking kids in her Gifted class. “Aren’t you glad we’re not in regular classes?” she asked her classmates.
Jean, on the other hand, was average with very few talents that made her stand out. Jean got B’s and C’s on her report card. Jean was always a defender when she played soccer. And, as much as she tried, Jean just could get the hang of playing piano. Jean was just another kid.
But Jean made good friends. She went out of her way to be kind and she truly liked people. She was loyal. People noticed Jean because she was so helpful. When Jean asked people for help, they always were willing to give her a hand.
Gail stood out, but Jean did not. But Jean asked for help when she needed it; she depended on people. Gail never asked; if she couldn’t do it, Gail figured it wasn’t important. Which would be a good friend? Which would Jesus want as a follower? Why?
Closing Question: What sort of a friend is Jesus looking for? How can you be that friend?