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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.


Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, February 19, 2017


This Sunday's Readings


First Reading
Leviticus 19:1–2, 17–18
Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 103: 1–4,8,10, 12–13
Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 3:16–23
Are you not aware that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Gospel Reading
Matthew 5:38–48
My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.

Background on the Gospel

The last two antitheses offered in the Sermon on the Mount deal with love of enemies. We should not look at “an eye for an eye” as an inordinately strict punishment. It is actually meant to limit acts of revenge by making sure the punishment is not excessive but fits the crime. However, Jesus asks his followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether. The response to a stronger person who slaps us on the cheek, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not to resist. Similarly, for a weaker person, such as a beggar or borrower, we are to give him or her what he or she asks for. Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way the world usually works and serve God’s kingdom here on earth.

The other difficult demand of those who are called to the kingdom is to embrace the enemy. There is no command in the Old Testament to hate individuals in a personal or vindictive way. But there is a religious stance that calls one to hate evil and to distance oneself from those who participate in evil. In contrast, Matthew emphasizes that love of God and love of neighbor are the fundamental commands on which all else depend. Because God’s love is unconditional, we are to strive to love as God does, though, of course, it is challenging. Is it even possible?

The key is in the final verse. We are to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. Matthew uses the Greek word telos, which is probably better translated here as “complete.” We are not to be perfect as in doing everything correctly, that is, as in being absolutely morally correct. We are to be perfect as in striving to reach the completeness we are called to in the Kingdom of Heaven. Attempting to love our enemies is part of striving for that completeness.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 5:38–48
My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.


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

Children at this age often struggle with sharing. They understand the difference between being stingy and generous, and at times are tempted to get even with someone for being stingy or greedy.

Materials Needed

  • 1 small bag of small fish-shaped crackers or other snack, plus 30 additional crackers. (Keep the bag of crackers out of sight.)
  • 3 bowls

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange children in three groups of fewer than 10 children each, and give each group a bowl.

  2. Explain that you will give each group a snack to share while they work.

  3. Pour 15 crackers in the first bowl, 12 crackers in the next bowl, and 3 crackers in the last bowl.

  4. When the children ask why they all didn’t get the same amount, ask: What can you do so that each group has the same amount of crackers? (The groups with more crackers can share with the group that has less.)

  5. Explain that if the group with 15 crackers gives 5 to the group that only has 3, and the group with 12 crackers gives them 2 crackers, then each group will have enough for everyone.

  6. After the crackers are shared evenly, give each group more crackers. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us to share generously with others, giving even more than what is asked instead of trying to get even with those who have wronged us.

  7. Read aloud Matthew 5:38–48.

  8. Say: What Jesus asks his disciples to do may sound hard. However, he wants them to know that to be his followers, they must not try to get even or take revenge. Instead, they are to give more than what is asked for.

  9. Invite the children to pray silently, asking the Holy Spirit to help them recognize the times they have tried to get even with someone and for the grace to be generous with them in the future.

 


Gospel Reading
Matthew 5:38–48
My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.


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

At this age, children like to make and follow rules and take pride in doing things perfectly. Explain to them what Jesus meant by “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” Help them understand that Jesus calls us not to do everything correctly, but to do our best to help serve God’s kingdom on earth.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Invite the children to name times when it is important to be correct or exact (for example, taking a test, arriving on time for an appointment, or following directions). List their answers on the board.

  2. Go through the list and ask: What are the consequences to others and to myself when I am not careful about each of these things? (I get a lower grade; someone has to wait for me; the teacher has to take time from the class to repeat the directions for me.)

  3. Say: Jesus knows that we are human and cannot always be perfect. He does not expect us to know how to do everything correctly all the time. But Jesus does expect us to serve the Kingdom of God by following his example of loving others, including our enemies, and being generous to those who need help.

  4. Invite volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 5:38–48.

  5. Share a personal story with the children about a time when you saw a need and tried to help, even though it didn’t work out perfectly. Explain the difference your actions made to the person(s) you helped as well as to yourself. Highlight any possible consequences to others or yourself had you not done your best to reach out in a loving way.

  6. Invite volunteers to share their own stories.

  7. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners that he wants us to show by our loving actions that the Kingdom of God is already here. We don’t have to be perfect in everything, but we have to love others the way Jesus did.

  8. Invite the children to pray silently, in their own words, asking the Holy Spirit to help them be generous and love others as Jesus did.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 5:38–48
My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age often exercise their freedom of expression by saying or doing things in opposition to their parents’, teachers’, or other elders’ wishes. Use this experience to highlight how Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” was in opposition to what was socially acceptable in Jesus’ time and in our own time as well

Materials Needed

  • Index cards
  • Markers

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in two teams. Invite each team to think of 10 pairs of opposites (for example, all/none, quiet/noisy).

  2. Give each team 10 index cards and instruct them to write one word of each pair on each card.

  3. Invite one team to hold up an index card and call out the word on it while the other team tries to name its opposite. Continue playing until both teams have completed their lists.

  4. When the game is over, say: Jesus’ teaching about loving our enemies is often the opposite of what society teaches us.

  5. Invite a volunteer to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 5:38–48.

  6. Ask: Why do you think Jesus’ command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you was hard for his listeners to accept? (Answers will vary.)

  7. Invite the young people to name examples of how our society would have us think and act in opposition to Jesus’ teachings. In each case, have them discuss what Jesus would have us do instead.

  8. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his listeners and us to evaluate constantly the messages we receive from our society and culture. He tells us that being his disciple requires us not to settle for what everyone else does, but to go beyond what society expects of us and do what God expects of us.

  9. Invite the young people to pray silently in their own words, asking the Holy Spirit to help them discern God’s voice amid all the messages they receive from society and culture.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 5:38–48
My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.


Family Connection

Family life teaches us many things. It is often at home that we learn practical skills such as cooking, riding a bike, and making repairs. Talk about some of the things that the members of your family have learned to do at home. We also learn about caring at home. Talk about times when you have learned a lesson about sharing, forgiving, or loving through an experience that happened at home.

Talk about how love is the most important thing a family can share with one another. Explain that it is the same in God’s family. Read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 5:38–48. Talk about how Jesus tried to teach his disciples how to love others beyond those who are closest to them. Jesus tells them to love even their enemies. As members of God’s family, we are called to do the same thing. Talk about some concrete ways you can “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

Remind your children that Jesus does not expect us to be perfect. Jesus knows that we are human and will not always do everything correctly. Explain that what Jesus wants us to do is to love others as if they were Jesus himself. If we reach out in love to others, we are doing exactly what Jesus did. That is what perfection looks like. End this time together by praying the Act of Love.