24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C 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.


Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Sunday, September 11, 2016


 This Sunday's Readings


First Reading
Exodus 32:7-11,13-14
Moses stands up to God, recalling all of God's great promises.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 51:3-4,12-13,17,19
Once we are forgiven, we can hope for a new heart and a fresh start.

Second Reading
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Paul proves it's never too late to repent and serve God.

Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-32
Jesus responds to those who criticize him for keeping company with the unworthy.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel, Jesus tells three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing. The outcasts of society, the taxpayers, and the sinners approach Jesus eager to hear what he has to say. In Luke's Gospel, hearing is a sign of conversion. The Pharisees and scribes, still suspicious of Jesus, complain about him associating with sinners. So he tells them these three parables.

In the first story, the parable of The Lost Sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the 99 sheep to search for the 1 lost sheep. When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices not alone as in Matthew's version, but with friends and neighbors. In the same way, God rejoices more over 1 sinner who repents—like the outcasts who have come to hear Jesus—than over the 99 righteous like the Pharisees and scribes.

The second story, about a poor woman who will not stop searching until she finds her lost coin, makes the same point. Why are the Pharisees complaining? They should rejoice when the lost are found.

Finally we come to what is probably the most memorable parable in the Gospels, the story we know as The Prodigal Son. Just as in The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin, this story (found only in Luke) is really about the seeker. The loving father is at the center of this parable. Even though his son runs off with his father's inheritance and squanders the money, the father waits for him, hoping for his return. Upon his son's return, the father, “full of compassion,” runs out to embrace and forgive him before the son can utter one word of repentance. At this point the rejoicing begins.

The parable does not end there. Rather, it makes one more point about the older son's reaction. This son who never left, just like the Pharisees and scribes who feel they are righteous, refuses to enter his father's house to join in the rejoicing. He has served his father. He has obeyed him. Perhaps it was not out of love. The father's response teaches us that God's care and compassion extend to the righteous and sinner alike. When we are lost, God doesn't wait for our return. He actively seeks us out. And when the lost are found, how could we not celebrate and rejoice?


Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-32
Jesus responds to those who criticize him for keeping company with the unworthy.


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

Children at this age are afraid of getting lost. They like to stay close to their parents. They are also afraid that their parents or other important figures in their lives will stop loving them if they do something wrong. In the parable of The Prodigal Son, Jesus assures us that God our Father will always love and forgive us.

Materials Needed

  • Plastic sandwich bag
  • A glass
  • A rubber band
  • Pretzels

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Before class put a plastic sandwich bag into a clear glass. Smooth it out along the sides pressing out air between the glass and the bag, thus creating a vacuum.

  2. Put the edge of the bag over the top of the glass and place a rubber band tightly around the top of the glass to hold it in place and to keep the vacuum intact.

  3. Next, put some pretzels in the glass and keep some aside for later.

  4. Start the Gospel presentation by telling the beginning of the story of The Prodigal Son in your own words. As you elaborate on how the son squandered all his inheritance, give the children pretzels from the glass until the glass is empty. Then say: When the son had nothing left, he realized what a mistake he had made and he wished he could go back home. He was embarrassed. He thought his father would not forgive him. But, there was something he hadn't used up—something he couldn't see—something that still held him close to his father.

  5. Reach into the glass and attempt to pull the bottom of the bag out. Show the children how, because of the vacuum, the plastic is stuck to the glass. Say: Even though this bag is empty, something is holding it close to the glass so that I can't remove it. In the same way, even when we sin and think that we have lost God's love by wandering far away from him, God's love will always hold us close. God will always love and forgive us, if we are sorry.

  6. Read the story of The Prodigal Son out loud (Luke 15:11-24).

  7. Ask: What did the younger son do that was hurtful to his father? (He asked for his share of the father's money and then wasted it.) What did the son decide to do? (return to his father, say he is sorry, and ask to be treated as a servant) What was the father doing while the son was away? (looking for him) What did the father do when the son returned?(ran to greet him, hugged him, put a robe, ring, and sandals on him, threw a party)

  8. Ask: Are you surprised by the reaction of the father in the story? (Accept all reasonable answers.) Say: Most of us would expect to be punished upon returning. But Jesus is telling us that God is not waiting to punish us when we do wrong; he is waiting to forgive us if we are truly sorry. His love always holds us close.

  9. Invite the children to draw a picture of the young son returning to his father's house, and the father running out to greet him.

  10. End by praying the Our Father or by praying the responsorial psalm for this Sunday.


Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-32
Jesus responds to those who criticize him for keeping company with the unworthy.


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

Children know that when they do something wrong, they face consequences. They are especially sensitive about letting down their parents or other authority figures whom they respect and love. When children do something wrong, they wonder if these people will still love them. In the same way, we wonder whether God will still love us when we do something wrong. In these parables, Jesus teaches us that God not only forgives us, but is actively seeking us out when we stray.

Materials Needed

  • A small object, such as a shell, a coin, or a small toy

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Play a simple game of Hide the Object. Select a small object and have the children close their eyes as you hide it somewhere in the room. Invite volunteers one at a time to try to find it, telling them if they are “hot” or “cold” depending on how close they are. Do this until someone finds the object or, if not found, after four or five minutes of seeking.

  2. Say: It's fun to look for something when it's a game, but when we lose something, it's not fun at all. When was a time that you lost something? (Invite a few volunteers to talk about an experience of looking for something that they had lost.) Say: In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus tells us three stories about something or someone being lost and then found.

  3. Invite one volunteer to read the story of The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7), another to read the story of The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10), and two volunteers to read the story of The Prodigal Son (one to read Luke 15:11-25 and the other to read verses 26-32).

  4. Invite volunteers to summarize the stories in their own words.

  5. Ask: Who are the three people who are seeking or searching in these stories? (a shepherd, a woman, and a father) What do these seekers teach us about God? (God is searching for us when we are lost.) What do these stories teach us about sin and forgiveness? (No matter what we do, God will take us back.)

  6. Say: Sometimes when people are lost, they are able to send up a flare—a bright flaming light—to signal for help. When we are lost because of sin, we can call out to God for help because he is always searching for us. Encourage the children to use their imaginations to draw a scene of someone rescuing a person who was lost (example: a helicopter rescuing a lost mountain climber).

  7. End by praying the Prayer to the Holy Spirit or by praying the responsorial psalm for this Sunday.


Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-32
Jesus responds to those who criticize him for keeping company with the unworthy.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are exploring many new experiences in life in search of finding their place. As a result, they can often end up feeling lost. Jesus' parables in this Sunday's Gospel speak to the experience of being lost and then found.

Materials Needed

  • Small index cards
  • Pens or pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Give each of the students a small index card and have them write a brief description of a time that they, either alone or with family or friends, got lost. Have them describe the situation, how they felt when they were lost, how they were found, and how they felt when they were found.

  2. Tell the students not to sign their names.

  3. When they are finished, collect the cards and randomly choose several cards to read aloud to the group. 
  4.  Say: Being lost can be a confusing experience. Sometimes it can even be frightening. On the other hand, being found or finding our way is a great relief. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus tells us three stories about something or someone being lost and then found.

  5. Invite one volunteer to read aloud the story of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7), another to read aloud the story of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10), and two volunteers to read aloud the story of the Prodigal Son (one to read Luke 15:11-25 and the other to read verses 26-32).

  6. Invite volunteers to summarize the stories.

  7. Ask: Who are the three people who are seeking or searching in these stories? (a shepherd, a woman, and a father) What do these seekers teach us about God? (They teach that God is searching for us when we are lost.) What do these stories teach us about sin and forgiveness? (No matter what we do, God will take us back.)

  8. Say: Sometimes when people are lost, they are able to send up a flare—a bright flaming light—to signal for help. When we are lost because of sin, we can call out to God in prayer for help because he is always searching for us.

  9. End by praying the responsorial psalm for this Sunday.


Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-32
Jesus responds to those who criticize him for keeping company with the unworthy.


Family Connection

Read or retell in your own words, the three stories from the Gospel. Ask your children to recall games they play that involve losing or hiding something and then finding it. (Hide and Go Seek, Ghost in the Graveyard, Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?) Talk about how exciting it is to find the person or thing being looked for.

Ask your children if they have any memories of losing something special or being lost themselves. Share the stories as well as the fears or feelings. Then tell them that just as you would go to any length to find and bring them home if they were lost, so too would God. That is what Jesus is telling us in the three stories. No matter what we do, no matter how wrong we are, God, our loving father, is always anxious to forgive us and welcome us back home.