Courage and Keeping Promises
Opening Question: What makes a person courageous? Do you know anyone with courage? Who are they? Why do you believe they have courage?
First Reading: Acts 5:27-32,40-41
The guards led the apostles into the hall and made them stand before the council of religious leaders. The high priest began the questioning, “We gave you very strict orders not to teach in the name of Jesus. But, no! You have filled Jerusalem with your teachings about him. And, you insist on blaming us for his death!”
“It’s more important to obey God than men,” Peter and the apostles answered. “You abused Jesus and even hanged him on a tree to die. But, the God of our ancestors raised him from the dead. God brought Jesus up to sit right next to him. And he made Jesus our Leader and Savior. That way, Jesus could turn Israel back to God and forgive their sins. We are eye witnesses to our own words. The Holy Spirit is also our witness. He is the one God gave to everyone who obeys him!”
Later, the apostles were brought back into the hall. The leaders had them beaten and ordered the apostles never to speak about Jesus ever again. Then, they released them. But, the apostles left the leaders happy that they were worthy to be mistreated because of the name of Jesus.
On the school ground at recess, Sally was strong and competitive. She played to win. But Sally was nice, too; she liked her teammates to win with her. Team work was important to Sally.
During a fierce game of kick ball, and older kid pushed Sally’s team mate to the ground. “Hey, you cheated!” yelled Sally to the older and taller kid. When the older kid laughed, Sally ran right up and got in her face. “You cheated,” Sally repeated. The older kid shoved Sally and back the fight began. Unfortunately, the older kid was a better fighter and hurt Sally before the play ground monitors could break it up.
Sally stood up for what she believed was right. So did the apostles. They were arrested for telling others about Jesus. And they stood up to the court when they were ordered not to. They were even beat up for doing what they thought was right.
Fighting isn’t good. But standing up for what you believe is a good thing, even if it means you’ll get hurt. That’s what courage is all about. To be a believer in Jesus sometimes requires courage.
Bridging Question: How much courage does it take to keep a promise?
Gospel: John 21:3-19
Many times, Jesus proved that he had truly risen from the dead. After this, he showed himself again to his followers on Lake Tiberius in the following way. Simon Peter, Thomas the Twin, Nathaniel who was from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other followers were together one evening. “I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter told them.
“We’re going fishing with you,” they replied.
They went out in the boat. But they didn’t catch anything all night. A little after sunrise, Jesus stood along the shore. His followers, however, did not recognize him. “Lads!” Jesus called out, “Did you catch anything to eat?”
“No!” they answered back.
“Throw your net to your right!” Jesus shouted again. “That’s where you’ll find fish!”
They threw the net into the lake. But, because of the large catch, they weren’t strong enough the haul the net in. Then, the follower who loved Jesus said to Peter, “Look! It’s the Lord!” When Peter heard this, he tucked in his jacket and jumped in the water. The others in the boat rowed toward the shore, dragging in the net filled with fish. They weren’t far from land, only about a hundred yards.
When they reached the shore, they saw a charcoal fire cooking fish and some bread next to the fire. “Bring me some of the small fish you just caught.” Jesus told his followers. Peter went and dragged the net onto the land. There were one hundred and fifty-three large fish in the catch! Then, Jesus said, “Join me for breakfast.” None of his followers was bold enough to ask “Who are you?” They already knew it was the Lord.
Then, Jesus took the bread and shared it with his followers. He did the same with the small fish. This was the third time the risen Jesus showed himself to his followers.
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me?”
“Lord, you know I love you,” Simon replied.
“Feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. “Simon, do you love me?” Jesus asked a second time.
“Lord, you know I do,” Simon replied.
“Take care of my sheep,” Jesus told him. “Simon, do you love me?” Jesus asked a third time.
Now, Peter’s feelings were really hurt because Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?”
“Lord, you know everything,” Peter replied. “You know I love you!”
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told him. “Listen! When you were young, you got ready by yourself and went where you pleased. But, when you get old, someone else will get you ready and take you where you really don’t want to go.” Jesus told Simon Peter this, signifying the way Peter would die and give God glory. Then, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Follow me.”
Judy didn’t think of herself as a strong person. Sometimes she talked too much. Sometimes she promised too much. Many times, she disappointed people because her talk and promises didn’t work out. Others didn’t think much of Judy either. So, she had few friends. She was kind of a loner.
One day, Judy made a promise that would change her. It was a small promise, really. “I’ll come and see you, Grandma,” Judy said over the phone. She meant it. But when it came time to see her grandmother, she found that other things more important. She couldn’t go to see her grandmother that day.
The phone rang and Judy picked up the receiver. “Judy, this is your Grandma,” Judy heard on the phone. Her heart sunk because she remembered her promise and the way other things got in the way. “What happened?” her Grandmother asked. “You were going to visit me.”
“I know, Grandma!” Judy pleaded. Then she began to tell her grandmother what happened.
But her grandmother interrupted her in the middle of her explanation. “Don’t you love me?” her grandmother asked. “Don’t you love me enough to come and see me?”
There was silence on the phone. Then, Judy said in a voice so low she almost whispered, “Yes, Grandma, I love you. Can I come over right now?”
“I would like that, Judy,” her Grandma replied.
From that point on, Judy only made promises she could keep. And promises to the ones she loved. Sometimes just keeping your promises makes you stronger. That’s courage.
Peter shouldn’t have been the leader of Jesus’ followers. Peter liked to brag, but he never followed through. On the night before Jesus died, Peter swore he would stay with Jesus even if it meant he would have to die with Jesus. But, when the soldiers came, Peter ran away. Even when someone challenged him, told him that they saw him with Jesus, looked at him and declared he was a follower of Jesus, Peter denied it, not once, but three times! Peter was too much of a coward to claim Jesus as a friend. When Peter realized what he did, he hid and cried out for forgiveness.
But Peter continued to lead Jesus’ followers. Through the dark night that Jesus was in the tomb. Into the glorious morning when Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus appeared to his followers, and Peter knew he was forgiven. But there was one more test; Peter had to tell Jesus he would be faithful.
Like the three times Peter denied Jesus, Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” When Peter said “Yes,” Jesus told him to “Feed my sheep.”
Sometimes courage means strength, standing up for what you believe. But sometimes courage means taking care of your responsibilities, even when you and your friends want to be free and have a good time. Courage means doing the right thing at any cost.
Peter would take care of Jesus’ friends. He became a good leader because he took responsibility and did the right thing. Eventually, Peter had courage, courage enough to die as Jesus did, nailed to a cross.
We may not have the courage of a Judy or a Peter, but we do have the Holy Spirit who lives in us to give us inner strength, to do the right thing, and to help others.
Closing Question: How have your promises helped you grow strong?