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.


Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, November 5, 2017

This Sunday’s Readings

First Reading
Malachi 1:14b—2:2b,8-10
Through the prophet Malachi, God judges the priests of Israel and calls them to be more faithful to the Covenant.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 131:1-3
We find peace in the Lord.

Second Reading
1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9,13
Paul gives thanks to God for the way in which the Thessalonians received the word of God.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus warns against following the example of the scribes and the Pharisees and teaches that those who would be great must be servants.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel continues to elaborate on the tension between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. Our Lectionary sequence at this point, however, is not quite a continuous reading of Matthew. In between last week’s reading from Matthew and this week’s, we find Jesus’ question to the Pharisees about the Messiah being “David’s son.” Having concluded a series of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus now directs his words to the crowds, warning them not to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees.

The scribes and Pharisees were teachers of the Mosaic Law. They were entrusted with its interpretation and, thus, were influential in determining Jewish practice. In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing his teachings on the same laws and traditions available to the Pharisees. Both were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to better adapt it to contemporary Jewish life. The differences between their teachings, therefore, are often highlighted and amplified by Matthew.

This part of Matthew’s Gospel reflects aspects of the conflict between his Christian community and Pharisaic Judaism. Matthew’s Church is thought to have included many Jewish Christians who may not have believed that a break with the synagogue was necessary to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus tells the crowd that it is correct to do and observe what the scribes and Pharisees teach; it is their example that is to be avoided, namely, their love of being honored and exalted. Hence, the Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate within the early Church.

Jesus references two aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses. Phylacteries are small boxes which contain Scripture verses that are placed on the left forearm and forehead. Tassels refer to the fringes worn on the corners of a person’s garments; the tassels help to remind those who wear them to keep the commandments.

The warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the Christian community as the named Jewish leaders. Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us today. Christian leadership is a call to service for the glory of God; those who would be leaders among us must, like Jesus, be servants of all.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus warns against following the example of the scribes and the Pharisees and teaches that those who would be great must be servants.


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

Our prayers and spiritual lives should transform us, making us servants of others in the model of Jesus. It is our hope and prayer that this is the kind of faith our children will observe in us.

Materials Needed

  • A dishpan filled with water
  • A balloon
  • A small paper cup
  • Several paper clips

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Fill the dishpan with water and inflate the balloon. Allow volunteers to take turns trying to sink the balloon. Ask: Why is it impossible to get the balloon to stay under water without holding it down? (Allow the children to speculate about this.) Let the air out of the balloon and show the children how easily the deflated balloon sinks.

  2. Try floating the paper cup, first with nothing in it. Then put paper clips in the cup, one at a time, until the weight forces the cup to sink. Explain that air is lighter than water. Say: When things are filled with air, they float; when heavier things are added—or the air is removed as in the case of the balloon—they sink.

  3. Say: Knowing this information, if you were swimming and felt tired, would you be happier to find a stick in the water or an inner tube? (The inner tube would be better because it is filled with air and can help you float.) The knowledge of things that float is useful only if we apply it to our lives.

  4. Say: In the Gospel this week, Jesus talks about what actions should follow from our knowledge of God. Let’s listen carefully to what Jesus teaches.

  5. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12.

  6. Say: In this Gospel, we hear Jesus describe a problem he had observed in some religious teachers. What was the problem? (He said that they didn’t do what they taught others to do. He said that they prayed, but their actions didn’t reflect their prayers. They didn’t practice what they preached.) Jesus says that our beliefs about God and our prayers should lead us to be more loving toward other people.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that our love for God will be seen in our actions. Pray together the Morning Prayer or the Morning Offering.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus warns against following the example of the scribes and the Pharisees and teaches that those who would be great must be servants.


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

Older children are beginning to be able to take on positions of responsibility and leadership. As they accept these new roles, we can help them to recognize that Christian leadership is a call to service for the glory of God.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group to name people they think of as leaders. For each person they name, ask: What are some key characteristics of this leader? What are some of this leader’s responsibilities? (Accept all reasonable responses.)

  2. Ask: Do any of these leaders inspire you to want to be a leader? Why or why not? (Accept all reasonable responses.) Are there any other characteristics you would hope for in a leader? (Accept all reasonable responses.)

  3. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks to the crowd about some of their religious leaders. In fact, he is rather critical of these religious leaders. Let’s listen to what Jesus says.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12.

  5. Ask: What does Jesus tell the crowd about some of their religious leaders? Why? (He tells them to follow what they teach, but not to follow their example; Jesus says that they do not practice what they preach.) Jesus then tells the crowd what characteristic he looks for in a good leader. What does he say? (Jesus says that leaders should be humble; a good leader serves others.)

  6. Ask: In what ways are the leaders we named earlier like the kind of leader that Jesus described? (Accept all reasonable responses.) Are there others we might list as leaders in the model of Jesus? Who? Prepare such a list discussing what makes each a leader in the model that Jesus teaches.
  7. Conclude in prayer together, petitioning God for the wisdom to grow to be people who humbly serve others as Jesus taught. Pray together a Prayer for Vocations or the Act of Love.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus warns against following the example of the scribes and the Pharisees and teaches that those who would be great must be servants.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are beginning to assume roles of leadership at home, in the classroom, and in extracurricular activities. We can encourage them to exercise leadership fairly and humbly in service to God.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: You’ve probably heard the words “You know better than that.” The older you get, the more people will look to you to be a good example for others. In other words, people will look to you for leadership. Ask the group to name areas in which they are called to exercise more leadership. (Possible answers: in school, in extracurricular activities, in sports, at home)
  2. Ask: What would you say are the qualities of a good leader? (Accept all reasonable answers.)
  3. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus talks about leadership. Let’s hear what he has to say.
  4. Invite a volunteer to read aloud Matthew 23:1–12.
  5. Say: Jesus tells the crowd to listen to what the scribes and Pharisees say because they are the teachers of the Mosaic Law. But then Jesus offers a warning about their leadership. Ask a volunteer to read aloud the last sentence of verse 3: “For they preach but they do not practice.” Say: We are familiar with this saying, but we may not have known that it originated in the Bible. How do we phrase Jesus’ teaching today? (Practice what you preach.)
  6. Say: Jesus explains to the crowds that the Jewish leaders are so wrapped up in the privilege and honor that come with their position that they neglect to exercise true leadership. Ask: What does Jesus say are the traits of a good leader? (good example, service, humility) Continue: And to whom does Jesus say that honor and glory belong? (to God alone)
  7. Say: Let us conclude by praying silently for Church, political, business, educational, family, and youth leaders so that they may see their leadership as a responsibility to serve. Allow a few moments for silent prayer. Then pray aloud together the Glory Be to the Father.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus warns against following the example of the scribes and the Pharisees and teaches that those who would be great must be servants.


Family Connection

“Do as I say, not as I do.” How many of us have been tempted to say this to our children? In today’s Gospel we hear a resounding reply from Jesus, “Practice what you preach.” Those who know us best, our family and especially our children, can identify the inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we give. The challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency the faith and the Christian way of life we wish to teach our children.

As you gather as a family, talk about what it means to practice what you preach. Identify some examples of people you know who practice what they preach. What do you observe about these people? What do you admire about them?

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith. Read together today’s Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12. Talk together about ways in which your family might better practice the faith that you profess. Choose one action to take that will show your faith in action. Pray together that your family’s faith will be shown consistently in your actions. Pray the Prayer for Vocations.

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are this week.