Growing Strong As Friends
Opening Question: Who helps you settle your fights or disagreements with others? How well do they help you?
First Reading: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Some people who had traveled from Judea to Antioch taught: “If you are not circumcised according to our religion, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas had a very fierce argument with them. So the church leaders in Antioch decided to send some people from their community along with Paul and Barnabas up to Jerusalem. There, they would see the Apostles and other church leaders about this question.
After a long discussion, the Apostles, other church leaders, and the entire church decided to send some men to Antioch with a reply. Along with Paul and Barnabas, they send two leaders from the community, Judas (also called “Barabbas”) and Silas. They carried the following letter from the leaders in Jerusalem:
From your brothers, the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem.
To our Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
We heard some believers from our area went down to Antioch. They taught you things that upset you. They did this without our permission. So, all of us decided to send you men we chose, along with our friends, Paul and Barnabas. These men have risked their lives because they love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent Judas and Silas to explain this letter to you in person. We and the Holy Spirit have decided not to place any more burdens on you than are absolutely necessary. Here are the rules: Do not eat meat that was offered to idols. Do not eat food with blood in it. Do not eat the meat of strangled animals. Be faithful in marriage. If you keep clear of these sins, you will succeed.
Joe and Andy were friends, but they were very competitive in sports. One day at recess, both boys became team captains. After they chose up their teams, they began to play softball. At first, the game was going well. Then there was a close call at first base. Joe said that he tagged Andy’s team mate out, but Andy disagreed. Soon, the disagreement turned to shouting; someone was worried that Andy and Joe would start fighting.
Andy’s and Joe’s teacher, Mrs. Jones, was an recess watch. One of the team mates ran up and told Mrs. Jones about the shouting. She went over and took the boys aside. “What’s going on?” she asked. Both boys passionately explained the call; both boys insisted they were right. “Were you getting ready to fight?” Mrs. Jones asked. Both boys fell silent; they both knew they had to find a way to play the game peacefully and not fight. “Play the pitch again,” Mrs. Jones told them. They gladly agreed.
In today’s reading, Paul insisted he was right; people did not have to become Jews before they could become Christians. But Jewish Christians in the church insisted they were right; anyone who wanted to be a Christians had to become a Jew, just like Jesus. Like Joe and Andy, Paul and the Jewish Christians were headed for a fight. So, Paul went to the church leaders in Jerusalem to settle the disagreement. The leaders agreed with Paul; people becoming Christians did not have to become Jews first. But, the new Christians had to act in a way that did not make the Jewish Christians mad. To keep the peace, the church leaders compromised, just like Mrs. Jones did with Andy and Joe.
It’s a good thing to stand up for what you know is right. But it is better to act for the good of everybody, just like Mrs. Jones and the church leaders. That leads to peace.
Bridging Question: Have you ever lost a good friend because you moved or they moved? Do you talk to them? Do you miss them?
Gospel: John 14:23-19
Jesus told his followers:
If someone really loves me,
he will hold onto what I taught.
My Father will love him for that.
The Father and I will come
and live with him.
The person who doesn’t love me
doesn’t hold onto what I taught.
What I taught is not mine alone.
It comes from the Father
who sent me.
I told you this when I was with you.
But God’s Guide, the Holy Spirit, will teach you
everything you need to know about me
and will remind you of everything I told you.
I leave you my peace. It’s my gift to you.
I don’t give you the kind of peace people give.
So, don’t get upset!
Don’t give up!
You already heard me tell you
‘I am leaving you, but I will come back to you.’
If you already loved me, you be really happy
because I’m going back to the Father,
and because the Father is greater than me.
I’ve told you this before it happens,
so when it does happen, you’ll have faith.
Joe and Andy were best friends. They played hard with each other and against each other. They hung out with each other in school and out of school. Not a night or weekend went by when Joe would call Andy or Andy would call Joe. They shared everything that was important: their dreams, their ambitions, their time, even their junk food!
At the end of the school year, however, Joe’s dad announced that the family was going to move. Joe was upset, but not as upset as Andy was when he heard the news. Andy would miss a good friend and a competitive teammate.
The days leading up to Joe’s move hurt. Joe and Andy sniped at each other with comments. There was even a day both boys were so mad at each other, they refused to talk. But their friendship overcame the hurt. And the boys worked to enjoy their last days together.
On the day of Joe’s move, Andy promised to stay in touch. Every day that summer, Joe and Andy e-mailed each other. They shared stories and games and jokes. Even though they were far away from each other, they became better friends by the end of the summer. Because they took the time to write each other, they grew closer, despite the distance that separated them. They looked forward to the day they were see each other again.
Jesus told his followers he was leaving, but he would still be close to them. All the followers had to do was to talk to Jesus in prayer, like Joe and Andy’s e-mail. Prayer is a way to share stories, and good times, and laughter with Jesus.
As Christians, we believe that God hears us because he is close to us in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the person of God that lives in us. He is like the modem connection in our hearts; he connects us directly to God. When we pray to God the Father or Jesus, the Holy Spirit delivers the prayer faster than any T-line can.
God answers prayers, especially those prayers that help us live in peace. Let us live in peace with others, our family and friends; let us live in peace with ourselves, in our hearts.
Closing Question: How can we become better friends with Jesus?