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-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, October 8, 2023

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 5:1-7
The Lord compares the house of Israel to a vineyard.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20
The Lord protects his vineyard, the house of Israel.

Second Reading
Philippians 4:6-9
Paul encourages the Philippians to stay faithful to the teaching they received from him.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 21:33-43
Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today's Gospel follows directly after last Sunday's Gospel in which Jesus was questioned by Jewish religious leaders about the source of his teaching authority. After refusing to answer their questions, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons and then criticizes the priests and elders for their lack of belief in John the Baptist.

In today's Gospel, Jesus once again speaks to the priests and elders with a parable. In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to tenants and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest that the tenants owe to him. Several times the servants are sent to collect payment, and each time they are beaten and killed by the tenants. Finally, the landowner sends his son to collect his rent. The tenants, believing that they will inherit the vineyard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner's son.

After telling the parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants. They all agree that the landowner will kill the wicked tenants and give the land to new tenants who will pay the rent.

In telling the parable, Jesus is clearly drawing upon Isaiah 5:1-7, which is today's first reading and one that the priests and elders would have known well. Jesus doesn't, therefore, have to explain the symbolism of the parable; the Pharisees would have understood that the vineyard represented Israel, the landowner represented God, the servants represented the prophets, and the bad tenants represented the religious leaders. Yet Jesus nonetheless explains the meaning of the parable for his audience: the Kingdom of God will be taken from the unbelieving and given to the faithful. The chief priests and elders have condemned themselves with their answer to Jesus' question.

Today's Gospel has a parallel in Mark 12:1-12. There are some notable differences, however. In Matthew's version, the religious leaders condemn themselves; in Mark's Gospel, Jesus answers his own question. Matthew names the religious leaders as Pharisees and chief priests. Clearly this Gospel shows the tension that was mounting between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders who thought that his message was dangerous. Matthew's Gospel was written about 70 years after Jesus' death and reflects the conflicts and tensions found in the Christian community for whom Matthew was writing. Many biblical scholars believe that the tension between Matthew's community and their Jewish neighbors can also be heard in today's reading.

This Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God's word. God speaks to us in many ways—through Scripture, through our Church tradition, in our Church's teaching, and through modern-day prophets. Are we attentive and receptive to God's word to us through these messengers?

Gospel Reading
Matthew 21:33-43
Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

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

Younger children are learning how to follow the rules of those in legitimate authority. Understanding that rules are not arbitrary and unfair but rather teach us how to live good lives can be helpful to younger children. Jesus teaches us that when we follow God’s Word, we help build up his kingdom.

Materials Needed

  • large sheet of construction paper, tape, marker

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Tape the construction paper to a board or to the wall. (Make sure the marker doesn’t bleed through the paper.) Then say: Let’s think of some rules we follow at home or at school. Invite children to name the rules and write each one on the paper. Then discuss why each rule might be in place (for example, to be safe, to maintain good relationships, to ensure all the chores are done).
  2. When you are finished, say: We are asked to follow a lot of rules, aren’t we? All of them exist for good reasons. We follow the rules and instructions that others have put in place to stay safe; to be a good friend, family member, student; and to be helpful. Rules teach us how to live good, healthy lives.
  3. Say: God also has rules that he wants us to follow so that we can live good lives. In the Gospel this week, Jesus tells a parable, or story. The parable teaches us that God sent prophets, or messengers, to teach us how live as God calls us to live. But some people did not listen to and obey the prophets. Whom did God send to teach us about listening to and obeying him? (Jesus) That’s right. God sent us his Son, Jesus. Let’s listen to Jesus’ parable.
  4. Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 21:33–43.
  5. Say: Jesus said that everyone who follows him and lives as he teaches us to live will be part of the Kingdom of God. When we follow Jesus’ teachings and live as his disciples, our lives bear fruit. We help build up God’s kingdom.
  6. End by thanking Jesus for teaching us how to live as his disciples and asking him for help to follow him always. Pray the Sign of the Cross.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 21:33-43
Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

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

Few of us take correction well. Children, in particular, can be less than gracious when corrected by others. Today's Gospel presents us with an opportunity to consider how we respond to God's word as it is sent through his messengers.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group: How do we respond to those who correct us? For example, how do we respond to a friend who tells us that it is time to do homework? What is our response if a classmate reminds us to be quiet while the teacher is talking? What do we say to a sibling who tells us that it's our turn to do the dishes? Discuss these and other scenarios and consider various responses to such reminders about rules.

  2. Say: In today's Gospel we hear a parable about how some people responded to God's messengers. Jesus is talking to some of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. The point that Jesus is making to them through the parable is direct and critical.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, Matthew 21:33-43.

  4. Ask: What does Jesus ask the religious leaders, and what is their answer? (What will the owner do to the wicked tenants? The landowner will kill them and give the land to different tenants). Do you think that the landowner would be justified if that was his response? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  5. Say: Jesus then speaks directly to the religious leaders. What does Jesus say will be taken away from them and given to others? (the Kingdom of God)

  6. Say: The message for us in today's Gospel is also pretty clear. God sends people to help us love and obey him. How do we respond to them? If we are like the wicked tenants in the parable, then we need to change our ways if we want to be part of the Kingdom of God.

  7. Conclude in prayer together. Encourage the group to recall a time when they did not respond kindly to someone who was trying to help them love and obey God. Pray with them for the wisdom to be more open to God's messengers. Pray together the Act of Contrition.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 21:33-43
Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are sensitive about acceptance and rejection. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus tells a parable that illustrates how we often reject God's giving himself to us.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pens

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Distribute paper and pens to the young people and direct them to think of a time when they were rejected. Tell them to write about it briefly, describing the experience and how they felt about it. Assure them that their papers will be confidential.

  2. When they are finished, have them fold their papers in half. Collect them.

  3. Say: Rejection is a very difficult experience that can take time to overcome. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus tells the chief priests and elders a story about a man who experiences very harsh rejection.

  4. Have someone read aloud the Gospel, Matthew 21:33-43.

  5. Invite volunteers to summarize the story.

  6. Ask: To whom can we compare the landowner, the messengers, the son, and the tenants? (God, the prophets, Jesus, ourselves)

  7. Say: Jesus' story reminds the chief priests and elders that God's own people have repeatedly rejected God's love, yet God continues to reach out to them. He even sent his own Son, Jesus. Remember how you felt when you were rejected? What does it say about God that, even though his love has been rejected so many times, he continues to reach out to us? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  8. Say: Now that you have reflected on what it felt like to experience rejection, think what it means to know that God loves you no matter how many times you reject him.

  9. Suggest that the young people ask God for help when they experience disappointment or rejection.

  10. End by praying this Sunday's psalm, Psalm 80.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 21:33-43
Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

Family Connection

In an ideal household, family members know the rules and follow them consistently. Even the most conscientious among us, however, sometimes needs to be reminded of the rules and their importance. How we respond to such correction reveals our true character. In today's Gospel Jesus exposes the religious leaders for their failure to heed God's messengers. It is an opportunity for us to consider how we respond to those who are God's messengers today, calling us to correct our ways and return to the way of the Lord.

As you gather as a family, talk about some of the most important rules of your household. Consider how consistently family members follow these rules. How are family members reminded when rules are not being followed? How do they respond? In today's Gospel Jesus corrects the religious leaders through a parable telling them that they have not heeded God's messengers. Read Matthew 21:33-43. What are some of God's rules that we must follow? How do we respond to God's messengers today? Pray together as a family that you will heed God's messengers and follow God's ways. Pray together the Act of Contrition for the times when your family has not heeded God's word.