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.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, July 16, 2023

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 55:10-11
The Word of the Lord shall achieve its purpose.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 65:10-14
A prayer of praise to God for his abundance.

Second Reading
Romans 8:18-23
Together with all of creation, we await God’s redemption.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 13:1-23 (shorter form: Matthew 13:1-9)
Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is like seed that has been sown on good soil.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel marks the beginning of the third long discourse given by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Over the next few weeks, the Gospel readings will consist of the entire 13th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, a lengthy teaching discourse.

Throughout this discourse, Jesus will offer several parables to illustrate for his listeners what he means by the kingdom of heaven. He begins with the parable of the sower, which appears rather straightforward—of course seeds grow best in good soil. Seeds that miss the soil, are sown on rocky ground, or are sown among other plants will not grow. The surprise in the parable is the enormous yield of the seed that is sown on good soil.

Jesus then explains his use of parables. Jesus seems to suggest that he uses parables to teach because the meanings of parables are not self-evident. The hearer must engage in some degree of reflection in order to comprehend the message of a parable. In this way, the medium—the parable—models the point of the parable of the sower. Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand will be rewarded by the discovery of the message and will bear fruit.

To bring home the point, Jesus interprets the parable of the sower to his disciples. The different types of soil in which the seeds are sown are metaphors for the disposition with which each individual hears the teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Some will be easily swayed away from the kingdom of heaven. Some will receive it for a time but will lose it when faced with difficulties. Some will hear the word but will then permit other cares to choke it out. Yet some will receive it well, and the seed will produce abundant fruit.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 13:1-23 (shorter form: Matthew 13:1-9)
Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is like seed that has been sown on good soil.

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

Help younger children understand that when they hear God’s Word with a sincere and open heart, their faith will grow.

Materials Needed

  • a few seeds for each child

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Give each child a few seeds to hold. Ask: If you were going to plant these seeds, what would you need to make them grow? (good soil; water; sunlight)
  2. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable, or story. He talks about a farmer planting seeds to teach us a lesson about how we grow in faith.
  3. Read aloud the shorter form of today’s Gospel, Matthew 13:1–9.
  4. Ask: Who came and ate the seeds that fell on the path? (birds) Say: The seeds that fell on rocky ground grew a little, but then they withered in the sun. Thorns choked the seeds that grew in thorns. Ask: What happened to the seed that fell on rich soil? (It grew and produced a great amount of fruit.)
  5. Say: When we hear and accept the Word of God with a sincere and open heart, we are like the rich soil. Our faith grows, and our lives are happy and fruitful.
  6. Invite children to take home the seeds to remind them of Jesus’ parable.
  7. Pray together thanking Jesus for teaching you how to grow in faith. Close by praying the Sign of the Cross.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 13:1-23 (shorter form: Matthew 13:1-9)
Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is like seed that has been sown on good soil.

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

The parable of the sower encourages children to reflect on how they approach their faith. Older children can be invited to open their hearts so that the Word of God can take root in them and produce abundant fruit.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: Sometimes communication is difficult because we do not, or cannot, accept a message that was spoken to us. Let me give you some examples so that you know what I mean.

  2. Say: One message that may be spoken to you is “clean your room.” What are some of the ways in which you respond when this message is spoken to you? (Accept all reasonable answers, noting how the disposition of the hearer changes the response.)

  3. Say: Another message that we receive often is “don’t worry about it.” What are some ways in which you might respond to this message? (Accept all reasonable answers, noting again how the disposition of the hearer changes the way in which the message is received.)

  4. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a parable to show how different people hear the message about the Kingdom of God. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  5. Invite several volunteers to read today’s Gospel, Matthew 13:1-23

  6. Say: Note that in the parable, the message about the kingdom of heaven is the same; no differences among the seeds are noted. But the result in each case is very different, depending upon how the message is received. Jesus wants us to be like good soil in which the seed can bear abundant fruit.

  7. Ask: What are some things that we can do so that we are like the good soil, able to hear and accept God's Word about the kingdom of heaven? (prayer, reading the Bible, being attentive to religious instruction)

  8. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to help us to become good soil so that his Word can take root and produce abundant fruit. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer or today’s Psalm, Psalm 65.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 13:1-23 (shorter form: Matthew 13:1-9)
Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is like seed that has been sown on good soil.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age often express themselves in the creative ways they accessorize and decorate their jackets, backpacks, shoes, and so on. Encourage them to think about how they can use that same creativity to express their faith.

Materials Needed

  • Construction paper with a small dot made with a pencil point or marker in the center of each sheet
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: Today we are going to do an imaginative exercise. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Therefore, don’t think too much about it; just do it.

  2. Explain that in this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear one of Jesus’ most famous parables, the parable of the sower and the seed.

  3. Say: Imagine that the dot on your paper is a seed. Draw around the dot a representation of how your faith is growing. What colors will you choose? What shapes or images?

  4. After the drawings are complete, ask volunteers to show what they have drawn.

  5. Ask each volunteer why he or she chose the colors, shapes, or representations that he or she did. What did he or she want to say about his or her faith?

  6. Have a volunteer read aloud the Gospel Matthew 13:1-23.

  7. Ask: What type of soil do you think your faith is growing in? Do you need to change it? If so, how might you? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  8. Say: Let’s pray that in the days ahead our lives will become the good soil needed for God’s Word to take root.

  9. Conclude this time together by praying this Sunday’s Psalm, Psalm 65:10-14.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 13:1-23 (shorter form: Matthew 13:1-9)
Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is like seed that has been sown on good soil.

Family Connection

Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order for God’s Word to take root in us and produce abundant fruit, we must endeavor to be like good soil. Families, in particular, hold the responsibility for “preparing the soil” so that the seeds of God’s Word can grow strong. There are many ways in which families do this—family traditions in which faith is celebrated, prayer and reading of Scripture, and instruction on the faith. In these ways, parents fulfill the promises they made at their child’s Baptism.

Gather together as a family and reflect together on the Sacrament of Baptism. Tell the story of the Baptism of each child, showing any pictures that were taken. If you have your child’s Baptism candle or gown, share these as well. Recall together that one of the promises that parents make at their child’s Baptism is to bring them up in the practice of our faith. Talk together about the importance of this promise to your family. Then read together today’s Gospel, Matthew 13:1-23. Reflect together on the ways in which your family practices your faith (daily prayer, Mass attendance, religious instruction, etc.). Remind one another that we do these things as a family so that God’s Word can take root in our lives and produce abundant fruit. Conclude in prayer together by praying today’s Psalm, Psalm 65.