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-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday, September 9, 2018

This Sunday’s Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 35:4-7a
Isaiah prophesies about God’s vindication.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 146:7,8-9,9-10
A song of praise to God

Second Reading
James 2:1-5
James teaches that there is to be no partiality within the Christian community.

Gospel Reading
Mark 7:31-37
Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we continue to hear the Gospel of Mark proclaimed. In today’s reading, Jesus heals a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. This is a story about Jesus’ healing power, and in it we find clues about our understanding of sacrament. We are struck by the physical means used to heal the man, the use of spittle and touch. The Church continues to celebrate the sacraments using physical means. In the Sacrament of Baptism, water and oil are used to show the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are anointed with holy oil on the forehead and the hands. In the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. We are a sacramental people who believe that God’s grace is given to us through these physical signs.

Some, however, see in this Gospel an image of the proclamation of the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. The geographic references tell us that Jesus is journeying through Gentile territory. Jesus had previously visited this region and healed a person possessed by a demon. Jesus was already famous there, which explains why people brought the deaf man to him.The story that precedes this reading in Mark’s Gospel sets the stage. Jesus encounters a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman who asks him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus engages her in a dialogue about not feeding to dogs the food intended for children. Jesus is struck by the woman’s great faith when she replies that even dogs eat the food that falls from the table, and he heals her daughter immediately. The faith of this Greek woman compels Jesus to respond to her plea.

Mark shows that Jesus’ own mission affirms the early Church’s mission to the Gentiles. This was a significant issue to the early Christian community, which found that the good news of Jesus took root and spread quickly among the Gentiles. Yet there is an irony in the story of healing that Mark tells. Jesus gives the man the gift of speech, but then tells him not to use it. Jesus asks that the news of his healing power, which is evidence of his identity as the Messiah, not be spread. This is a recurring motif in Mark’s Gospel and is sometimes called the “messianic secret.”


Gospel Reading
Mark 7:31-37
Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.


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

Young children are pleased to participate in sharing good news with other people. We can invite them to participate in the Church’s mission of sharing the good news of Jesus with others.

Materials Needed

  • A bag of candy

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask for a volunteer. Take the child aside and say: I have candy in a bag under the desk. Tell the volunteer to return to the group and to try to tell this secret to the other children by silently moving his or her lips. Tell the rest of the class that they will get a surprise when everyone has learned the secret. The children can help each other figure out the secret, but they have to do it without speaking. After sufficient time, ask the volunteer to say the secret and then distribute the candy.

  2. Ask: How did it feel to try to figure out the secret without being able to hear or speak? This week’s Gospel reading tells how Jesus healed a man who was not able to hear and could not speak well either.

  3. Read today’s Gospel, Mark 7:31-37.

  4. Ask: If you saw Jesus do something so wonderful, do you think you could keep it a secret? Let’s ask our volunteer whether not being able to use words was easy.

  5. Say: Christians are like the man and his friends in today’s Gospel. We have great news about Jesus that we can’t help but share with others so that they might also know Jesus’ love.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to help us share the good news of God’s love with others. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
Mark 7:31-37
Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.


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

Older children are taking on greater responsibilities in their lives. We can invite them to participate in the Church’s mission of sharing the good news of Jesus with others.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Invite children to talk about times when they were told good news or experienced something wonderful and yet were asked not to tell others about it. Ask: What are some reasons why people are asked to keep such news secret for awhile? (because they want to tell people themselves; because it is intended to be a surprise) Is it easy to keep such a secret or surprise? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  2. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks someone to keep secret the amazing thing that Jesus did for him. We’re not sure why Jesus asked for such a secret to be kept. But we learn in this Gospel that the secret was not kept. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 7:31-37.

  4. Ask: What did Jesus do for this man? (Jesus healed his deafness and removed his speech impediment.) Why might Jesus have asked that no one be told about this healing? (Accept all reasonable answers.) Who shares the news of the man’s healing? (the man and those who brought the man to Jesus) What did they announce? (that Jesus had done all things well and had made the deaf man hear and cured his speech impediment)

  5. Say: Christians are like the man and his friends in today’s Gospel. We have great news about Jesus that we can't help but share with others so that they might also know Jesus’ love.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to help us share the good news of God’s love with others. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
Mark 7:31-37
Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are growing in their understanding of the practices of our faith and, hopefully, beginning to accept these as their own. We can help them understand that the sacraments are gifts that strengthen us to share the good news of Jesus with others.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Before your session, write on the board the seven sacraments. Say: We might already know that this is a list of the seven sacraments. Let’s take a minute to talk about our experience of the sacraments.

  2. Ask: Which of these sacraments have you celebrated or shared in as part of the community of faith? Invite volunteers to share their experience of each of the sacraments, encouraging them to describe what they experienced or witnessed.

  3. Ask: What makes a sacrament different from other prayers and rituals we celebrate? (We believe that Jesus gave us these sacraments; the grace of God is given to us in a special way through the sacraments.) Say: In the sacraments, God uses physical signs and actions, such as water, oil, bread and wine, to share his grace with us.

  4. Say: In today’s Gospel, we find an example of how Jesus used physical signs to restore the hearing and speech of a deaf man. Let’s listen to this Gospel and see what this healing action of Jesus teaches us about the sacraments.

  5. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 7:31-37.

  6. Ask: What did Jesus do for this man? (Jesus healed his deafness and removed his speech impediment.) How did Jesus do this? (Jesus put his finger in the man’s ears, touched the man’s tongue with spittle, and prayed aloud) How is this like the sacraments? (Through the physical signs, Jesus’ healing power was experienced; both physical signs and words were used.) What did the man and his friends do after he was healed? (They announced that Jesus had done all things well, making the deaf man hear and curing his speech impediment.)

  7. Say: This alerts us to another important aspect of our celebration of the sacraments. The sacraments strengthen us to share the good news of Jesus with others, like the man and his friends in today’s Gospel. We have great news about Jesus that we can’t help but share with others so that they might also know Jesus’ love.

  8. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to help us to share the good news of God’s love with others. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
Mark 7:31-37
Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.


Family Connection

Today’s Gospel invites us to consider how we witness the healing presence of Christ in our care for and ministry to those who are sick. We notice that the deaf man is brought to Jesus for healing by his friends. These people beg Jesus to lay his hands on this deaf man so that he might be healed. Jesus’ healing power is shown in his opening of the man’s ears and the restoring of his speech. When family members care for one another when they are sick, they bring Christ’s healing presence. When we pray for those who are ill, we ask God to show his healing power. When health is restored, we share that good news with others.

As you gather as a family, recall a time when a family member was ill. What steps were taken to help restore this family member to health? Talk about what it feels like to care for a person who is ill, and about how it feels to be the sick person being cared for. In today’s Gospel, we hear about a time when Jesus healed a man who was deaf. Read today’s Gospel, Mark 7:31-37. Notice how the man who was cured and his friends could not honor Jesus’ request to keep quiet about Jesus’ power to heal. We continue to celebrate Jesus’ healing presence in our lives by giving thanks to God for the gift of healing and health. Conclude in prayer, thanking Jesus for the gifts of health and healing. Pray together for those who are sick. After each person is named, pray, “Jesus, heal us.”