Pentecost Sunday, Cycle 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.


Pentecost Sunday, Cycle C

Sunday, May 15, 2016


This Sunday's Readings


First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
The Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34
God's Spirit renews the earth.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13 or Romans 8:8-17
We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The season of Easter concludes with today's celebration, the feast of Pentecost. On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church. The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today's first reading. The account in today's Gospel, taken from the Gospel of John, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts to each other. It is enough to know that, after his death, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a helper, an advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world.

We previously heard today's Gospel on the second Sunday of Easter. At that time, we also heard the passage that follows, which describes Jesus' appearance to Thomas. In that context, we were led to reflect on belief and unbelief.

In the context of the feast of Pentecost, this reading reminds us about the integral connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness and the action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus sends his disciples to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.

This Gospel reminds us that the Church is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. This reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Church's sacramental life. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are washed clean from sin and become a new creation in Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Church celebrates the mercy of God in forgiving sins. This reconciling presence is also to be a way of life for Christians. In situations of conflict, we are to be agents of peace and harmony among people.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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

Young children are beginning to be aware that there are times when they do not do the things that they should. They can be very sensitive to the frustration and anger of those around them when they have done wrong. Today's Gospel offers them, and us, the reassurance that Jesus taught us that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God has sent his forgiving mercy to us.

Materials Needed

  • Ping-Pong ball
  • Styrofoam cup

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring a Ping-Pong ball and a Styrofoam cup to class. Say: After Jesus was killed, his friends were afraid they would be punished like Jesus was. They hid in a room and hoped they would not be discovered. Drop the Ping-Pong ball into the cup and cover the cup with your hand.

  2. Say: Jesus did not want his friends to hide in fear. He wanted them to be brave and show all people the love and forgiveness of God. He could see that his friends needed help to do this. Today's Gospel tells us about what Jesus did to help his disciples. Let's listen carefully as we read today's Gospel. Read John 20:19-23.

  3. Say: Jesus knew that his disciples would need the courage of the Holy Spirit—the same courage that Jesus had when he bravely died so that our sins would be forgiven. Jesus released the disciples from fear by breathing the Holy Spirit on them. Blow into the Styrofoam cup, and the ball will come flying out.

  4. Say: But Jesus did even more. The Gospel this week tells us that not only did Jesus give his friends courage, but he also gave them the power to release others from fear by forgiving their sins. Place the Ping-Pong ball in the cup again. When we do something we know God would not like, we fear God's punishment. We forget how much God loves us, and we become trapped by sin. Place your hand over the top of the cup. Jesus gave his Apostles—and all the priests of his Church—the power to forgive in God's name when we are truly sorry for our sins. Then we are free to start over and to live as God wants us to live. Blow into the cup again to propel the ping-pong ball.

  5. Conclude in prayer together that the Holy Spirit will help us be confident that God will always forgive our sins. Pray together today's psalm, or the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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

Young people are aware of, sensitive to, and sometimes even a part of situations of conflict. As we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, our Gospel reminds us that this same Holy Spirit helps us to be agents of God's peace and forgiveness in the world.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group to name some situations in which greater peace is needed. These situations could be world or national current events, historical events, or things from school or family life.

  2. Invite the group to choose one of the situations named. For this situation, help the group to identify some of the issues involved in this conflict. Ask questions such as, Why is peace lacking in this situation? What are some of the issues being contested? What would it take to restore peace in this situation?

  3. Say: When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection from the dead, his first words to them were a greeting of peace. This was welcome news to the disciples. Let's listen to today's Gospel to find out why this was such welcome news to the disciples.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, John 20:19-23.

  5. Ask: Why might Jesus' greeting of peace have been so welcome to his disciples? (They were gathered in the upper room in fear; they had witnessed Jesus' death on the Cross). Say: As witnesses to Jesus' death, Jesus' disciples had been very much a part of a situation of conflict. They gathered together in fear, perhaps because they thought that some people would seek their deaths as well. They very much needed to hear Jesus' words of peace and reassurance.

  6. Say: The feast of Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' first disciples. This same Holy Spirit is still with us. After breathing upon them and giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, what does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (to forgive sins)

  7. Say: Just as Jesus sent his disciples to forgive the sins of others, so too we are sent to bring peace to the world. We also have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us with this task.

  8. Say: Looking back at the situation of conflict we talked about at the beginning, what might the Holy Spirit lead us to do to help bring peace to this situation of conflict? (Accept all reasonable answers. If appropriate, make a choice to do one of these actions as a group.)

  9. Conclude by praying together that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through us to bring peace to the world. Pray together today's psalm, or The Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people experience a certain amount of brokenness in their lives. By the same token, they have also had experiences of reconciliation when conflicts were resolved and relationships restored. As we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, our Gospel reminds us that this same Holy Spirit helps us to be agents of God's reconciliation in the world.

Materials Needed

  • Popsicle sticks (one for every 2 young people) and break them in half.

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Mix up the broken Popsicle sticks and randomly distribute one half to each young person.

  2. Invite them to move about the room, attempting to find the half that matches their half and then to use transparent tape to put the 2 pieces back together again.

  3. Point out that the word reconcile means “to make compatible” or “to re-establish a close relationship between.” In other words, it means to put something back together again.

  4. Tell the young people that when Jesus sent his Holy Spirit he sent us the gifts of peace and forgiveness.

  5. Say: When Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, he sent his disciples to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.

  6. Invite volunteers to read aloud John 20:19-23.

  7. Say: The feast of Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' first disciples. This same Holy Spirit is still with us. After breathing upon them and giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, what does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (to forgive sins)

  8. Say: Just as Jesus sent his disciples to forgive the sins of others, so too we are sent to bring peace to the world. We also have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us with this task.

  9. Say: How might the Holy Spirit lead us to help bring peace to situations of conflict? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  10. Conclude by praying together that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through us to bring peace to the world. Pray together today's psalm, or The Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Family Connection

Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church. The Gospel for Pentecost reminds us that the Church begins with the command to forgive. Within the family, the domestic Church, we learn how to forgive and we learn to accept forgiveness. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to do both. Today is a fitting time to share a family celebration of reconciliation.

As you gather together as a family, sit quietly for a few minutes, inviting all to reflect upon their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness. If there is a situation or issue within the family that needs attention, spend some time reflecting upon the concern and how your family might address it. Read together today's Gospel, John 20:19-23. Talk together about how Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us in the work of forgiveness and to bring us peace. Pray together today's psalm, or the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking that the Holy Spirit help your family. Share with one another the sign of peace.