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.

Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, June 8, 2008

First Reading
Hosea 6:3-6
God desires love, not holocausts and sacrifices.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 50:1,8,12-15
The upright will see the saving power of God.

Second Reading
Romans 4:18-25
Abraham showed his faith in God's promise and became “the father of many nations” and a model for Christians.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 9:9-13
Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In today's Gospel, Jesus calls a tax collector named Matthew to be his disciple. Jesus' invitation to Matthew, “Follow me,” is similar to Jesus' invitation to the first disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Like the first disciples, Matthew rises immediately and follows Jesus. In Matthew's Gospel, discipleship calls one to a new life, a new vocation. The fishermen leave their nets; the tax collector leaves his customs post.

After Matthew decides to follow Jesus as a disciple, he joins Jesus at a table with other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees observe this group of people and criticize Jesus for his choice of dinner companions. The Pharisees were known for their scrupulous observance of Jewish law, which stipulated that Jews who shared table fellowship with people who were ritually unclean would themselves be made unclean. Tax collectors were considered ritually unclean because their job required them to handle pagan coins. The Pharisees required that the unclean first become ritually pure before sharing table fellowship. Jesus, however, disobeys these strict purity rules by communing with tax collectors and sinners through the sharing of food.

The Pharisees question Jesus' followers, but it is Jesus who responds. In his response, Jesus first explains his actions by making an analogy—the healthy do not need a physician. Jesus' fellowship with the ritually unclean creates the messianic community and makes it present. Jesus then quotes the words of the Prophet Hosea by saying that he desires mercy rather than sacrifice.

This seemingly simple message that God loves us first, not because of what we do but simply because we are God's children, can be a difficult one for us to internalize. We seem to want to make things more difficult by trying to prove our worth to God. Yet Jesus calls us even while we are sinners and welcomes us into the community of disciples.

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

Gospel Reading
Matthew 9:9-13
Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector.

As young children learn about right and wrong, they may have strong opinions and may judge other children for not acting the way they think they should. Invite children to be forgiving and accepting of others. Teach them that Jesus welcomes everyone, and we do not have to prove ourselves worthy of Jesus’ love.

Materials Needed

  • Paper, crayons or colored pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Distribute the paper and crayons or colored pencils. Say: Imagine that we are going to have a meal together. Draw a picture of a favorite dish you would want to bring. Then write the name of one or two people you’d invite to our meal.

  2. Give children time to draw and write. Then invite volunteers to share their work. Ask: Why did you choose this person [these people] to come to our meal? (Accept reasonable responses.) Give children a few moments to consider if there is anyone they would not invite. Tell them they won’t share the names of those people. Say: In today’s Gospel, we’ll hear about a meal that Jesus shared with his disciples and some other people.

  3. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 9:9–13.

  4. Say: The Pharisees asked Jesus why he was eating with people who made bad choices. They thought that Jesus should eat only with people who followed their rules for making good choices. Jesus loves all people and doesn’t leave out anyone. Jesus does not wait for us to change in order to love us. He loves us just as we are. We might not like everyone in our class at school or on the playground, but we can be like Jesus by keeping our hearts open. We can look for the best in others, just as we’d want them to do for us.

  5. Close by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.

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

Gospel Reading
Matthew 9:9-13
Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector.

Children of this age do many things to try to prove themselves to others. Today's reading reminds us that we do not have to prove ourselves to God.

Materials Needed

  • Paper
  • Pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Invite each member of the group to prepare an invitation list for a picnic. Explain that the picnic will be for everyone in their neighborhood. There is no limit to the number of people they can include on their list. Give them a few minutes to write their lists.

  2. Then ask the group: Who were the first people you put on your invitation list? Who did you add later? Why did you include these people? How might your list have been different if you had a limit to the number of people you could invite? How would you make the decision about whom to include? Allow time for children to answer these questions.

  3. Say: In today's Gospel we hear about a meal that Jesus shared with his disciples and some other people. We also hear about how some people questioned Jesus' choice of companions. Let's listen carefully to this reading.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, Matthew 9:9-13.

  5. Ask: In today's Gospel, with whom was Jesus sharing a meal? (tax collectors and sinners) Who questioned Jesus' choice of companions? (some Pharisees) Why might this have bothered the Pharisees? (Accept all reasonable answers.) What did Jesus say in response to their question? (Jesus said that he came for sinners, not the righteous.)

  6. Say: Like Jesus, the Pharisees wanted people to change their lives and to return to God. When people changed their lives and followed Jewish law, the Pharisees welcomed them into their company. Jesus was different. Jesus welcomed people into his company, even while they were still sinners. That tells us something very important about God: God doesn't wait for us to change in order to love us. God loves us first. Who do you think is on God's invitation list? (everyone)

  7. Conclude in prayer together by praying the Lord's Prayer.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Gospel Reading
Matthew 9:9-13
Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector.

Young people should be familiar with the echoes of the Old Testament that appear throughout Jesus' teaching. As an observant Jew, Jesus knew the teachings of his faith.

Materials Needed

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: In ancient times, observant Jews—including Noah, Abraham, and the prophets—would offer the sacrifice of animals. These sacrifices were part of rituals that asked for forgiveness from God or purified something that had been made unclean. In other words, it was a way of making an injured relationship with God whole again. Remind the young people that the first Passover began with the ritual slaughter of lambs, the blood of which on doorways saved the Jews from God's wrath.

  2. Remind the young people that Jesus' death eliminated the need for animal sacrifice. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

  3. Ask: What do you think God really wants from us when we do something wrong or when someone wrongs us? How should we go about making things right with God in today's world?

  4. Hand out the newspaper sections or selected articles. Have each young person choose a story that describes how someone was the victim of injustice or committed an injustice. Have each young person share with the group his or her article. Ask each young person: How might the wrongdoer in this story attempt to make things right?

  5. Select two young people to read the first reading, Hosea 6:3-6, and the Gospel, Matthew 9:9-13.

  6. Ask: What Old Testament Scripture did Jesus quote? ("I desire mercy, not sacrifice.") What do you think these words mean? Ask: How would Jesus' disciples have heard them?

  7. Ask: How can you apply these words in your lives?

  8. Close the session with the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.

Family Connection

The love we experience within our family is a gift. It is, indeed, God's grace at work in our lives. And yet we can sometimes inadvertently send the message that there are conditions on that love. Certainly there are expectations made of all family members, but we don't earn our place in the family; it is given to us. Sometimes we need to stop as a family, think about the conditions that we place on one another, and remember that God loves us for who we are.

Ask one or two family members to prepare invitations for everyone in the family to gather for a special snack, dessert, or meal. When everyone has gathered, ask them why they think that they have been invited together to this special family time. Allow time for people to share their thoughts about this question.

Say: These would all be good reasons for us to gather as a family. But that is not why we have gathered today. Invite one person to read today's Gospel, Matthew 9:9-13. Say: In this Gospel some Pharisees ask a question about why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They thought that Jesus should wait until these people had done something to change their lives before they became his friends. Jesus, however, said that he would be friends with them, even while they were sinners. Sometimes in a family, we forget that we don't have to do anything to be part of this family. We love each other simply because we are a family. We gathered to share this time together as a family simply because we are family.

Conclude in prayer together by praying the Lord's Prayer.