Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

Sunday, December 4, 2016


This Sunday's Readings


First Reading
Isaiah 11:1-10

A descendent of Jesse will usher in a time of peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17
The Messiah will bring justice and peace to the nations.

Second Reading
Romans 15:4-9
Both Jews and Gentiles glorify God for the salvation found in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In this week's Gospel Reading and next week's, our Advent preparation for Christmas invites us to consider John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus. In this week's Gospel, Matthew describes the work and preaching of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist appears in the tradition of the great prophets of Israel, preaching repentance and reform to the people of Israel. In fact, the description of John found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). In this reading, John directs a particularly pointed call to repentance to the Pharisees and Sadducees, parties within the Jewish community of the first century.

John marks the conversion of those who seek him out with a baptism of repentance. Other groups in this period are thought to have practiced ritual washings for similar purposes, and John's baptism may have been related to the practices of the Essenes, a Jewish sect of the first century. John's baptism can be understood as an anticipation of Christian baptism. In this passage, John himself alludes to the difference between his baptism and the one yet to come: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).

In this reading, John makes very clear that his relationship to the Messiah yet to come (Jesus) is one of service and subservience: “. . . the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Matthew 3:11). In the context of Matthew's Gospel, today's passage is followed by Jesus' baptism by John, an event that is attested to in all four of the Gospels and appears to have been the start of Jesus' public ministry.

John's preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of the Advent season. As John's message prepared the way for Jesus in the first century, we, too, are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus' coming. We respond to John's message by our repentance and reform of our lives. We are also called to be prophets of Christ, who announce by our lives, as John did, the coming of the Lord.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

John the Baptist warned the people to repent and to show that they have really given up their sins. He baptized them with water but predicted that Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.

Materials Needed

  • Diagram and directions for a model car or airplane and a sample of the item fully assembled

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Show a diagram and directions for putting together a model car or airplane. Then show the assembled item.

  2. Say to the children: From the diagram, can you tell what the item will be? Discuss the benefits of having the directions when trying to put the model together.

  3. Then ask: Since the diagram and directions are so helpful, would you rather just have them? Or would you prefer the finished model?

  4. Then tell the children that this is how it was when John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, came before Jesus. Say: John's job was to tell the people that Jesus was coming. He was like the diagram and directions. He was important because he instructed the people how to prepare for Jesus' coming. But he was not as important as Jesus was. Some people were thinking that John was so good that he was God's son. But listen to the Gospel to hear what John told these people. Read today's Gospel.

  5. After reading the Gospel, ask the children what they think it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then ask: Were you baptized with water or with the Holy Spirit? [Explain to them that though the priest uses water to baptize, we also receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism.] Say: The Holy Spirit helps us to live as Jesus did while he was on Earth.

  6. Pray together the Glory Be to the Father or sing an Advent song, such as “Prepare the Way of the Lord” by the Taizé Community.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

By the second week of Advent, many young people (and adults) have already jumped ahead to the celebration of Christmas. But, when we do this, we miss the important steps of preparation for the Lord's coming. The preaching of John found in today's Gospel Reading reminds us that one way in which we prepare for Jesus' coming is by our repentance from sin.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and writing materials for crafting Advent messages

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group: What are some of the messages we hear in our culture in the time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas? (The group will identify messages such as “Shop early,” “Save money,” and so on.)

  2. Say: In today's Gospel, we hear the message that John the Baptist proclaimed in preparation for Jesus' coming. Let's listen to that message.

  3. Invite volunteers to read today's Gospel as follows: the first volunteer, read Matthew 3:1-3; second volunteer, read Matthew 3:4-6; third volunteer, read Matthew 3:7-12.

  4. Ask the group: What is John the Baptist's message? (“Reform your lives!” “Prepare the way of the Lord.” “The reign of God is at hand.”) Is this a message we need to hear today? Why or why not? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  5. In small groups, construct some Advent messages for today that might be more aligned to John the Baptist's message. Share these with the whole group.

  6. Pray together that we will reform our lives and prepare the way of the Lord in our world by praying today's Psalm or the Lord's Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people in this age group are eager to explore and experiment as they search for their identity. In this Sunday's Gospel Reading, John the Baptist warns us that if we identify with anything sinful, we are in need of repentance.

Materials Needed

  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in pairs and have them work together on a stop-smoking campaign. Tell them to brainstorm a list of arguments that can be used to persuade people to stop smoking.

  2. When they have finished, have the pairs share their most persuasive arguments, with the idea that the arguments might be used in a persuasive speech.

  3. Point out to the young people that persuasive speech is designed to change the beliefs or actions of the audience.

  4. Explain that when John the Baptist began his ministry, he called people to repent, which literally means, “to turn around” or “to change one's mind.”

  5. Invite volunteers to read aloud Matthew 3:1-12.

  6. Point out that John the Baptist used persuasive speech to challenge people to change their minds about sin.

  7. Say: During this Advent season, we listen to the words of John the Baptist as a reminder that we are called to repentance as we prepare for Jesus' coming into our lives.

  8. Pray together that we will reform our lives and prepare the way of the Lord in our world by praying today's psalm or the Lord's Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.


Family Connection

We do many things to get ourselves ready for our celebration of Christmas: purchase gifts, prepare Christmas cards, decorate our homes. John's call of repentance in preparation for Jesus reminds us that our repentance is another way in which we can prepare for the Lord's coming and our celebration of Christmas. Parish communities often offer a communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Advent season. Your family might choose to participate in the communal celebration of the sacrament, or you might seek out the sacrament on an individual basis.

Read together today's Gospel. Talk about how John reminds the people that they prepare for the reign of God by reforming their lives. As a family, prepare a simple reconciliation service in preparation for Christmas such as the following: Gather in a prayerful space, perhaps around your family Advent wreath. Read again today's Gospel: Matthew 3:1-3. Invite each family member to pray silently, asking God to forgive their sins. Pray together an Act of Contrition. Then celebrate God's forgiveness by sharing a Sign of Peace with each other.