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.

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First Reading
Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32
I set before you today a blessing and a curse.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 31:2-4, 17, 25
In you, O Lord, I take refuge.

Second Reading
Romans 3:21-25, 28
We are justified by faith apart from the observance of the law.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 7:21-27
Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.

Background on the Gospel Reading

All along the Sermon on the Mount has been about how to be a true follower of Jesus. It now comes to an end with a reflection on what our words and deeds really mean. Just because we say we are followers of Jesus and cry out “Lord, Lord” does not mean we are true followers. We may even be able to do powerful deeds in Jesus' name. But in the end Jesus will be the real judge of who is a true follower.

It will not just be a question of hearing Jesus' words but of acting on them as well. Both people building a house in the final parable have heard Jesus' words in the Sermon just completed. But only the one who acts on them builds on rock. The situation is typical of Palestine where during the dry season not a drop of rain falls and the ground is dry and hard everywhere. But when the rains come rivers appear. Floods gush down the dry wadis and houses built on the sandy soil are washed away. Only those built on solid rock remain.

For centuries Christians have been debating just how we are to understand the Sermon on the Mount. Is it really meant to be taken seriously? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Are we really supposed to turn the other cheek? give our coat to someone who asks for our shirt? Yes. But in the end each of us needs to work out the details. It is more than saying “Lord, Lord.” It is more than performing great deeds in Jesus' name. It is building our life on the rock that is Jesus himself. In him the Law and the prophets are fulfilled, and the will of God is fully revealed.

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

Gospel Reading
Matthew 7:21-27
Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.

Children at this age love stories that engage their imaginations. Use this love of stories to invite the children to see how Jesus told a story to help us follow him more closely.

Materials Needed

  • Copy of the fable, “The Three Little Pigs”
  • Drawing paper
  • Crayons

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring in a copy of the fable, “The Three Little Pigs” and read it aloud to the children.

  2. Ask: What were the three houses made of? (straw, sticks, and bricks) What was the wolf able to do to the houses made of straw and sticks? (he huffed, and puffed, and blew the houses down) What happened when the wolf tried to blow down the house made of brick? (he was unable to blow it down because it was too strong)

  3. Say: In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus tells a story that sounds a little bit like the story we just read.

  4. Read aloud Matthew 7:21-27.

  5. Ask: What did the foolish man build his house on? (sand) What did the wise man build his house on? (rock) Which house did not fall apart in the storm? (the house built on rock)

  6. Say: When we follow Jesus and listen to him very closely, we are like the wise man who built his house on rock. Even when things get very hard in life, we will remain strong because our lives are built on Jesus.

  7. Invite the children to draw pictures of the houses built on rock and on sand, showing the one on sand being washed away.

  8. Conclude by inviting the children to pray the Guardian Angel Prayer, asking their guardian angels to help them remain strong.

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

Gospel Reading
Matthew 7:21-27
Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.

Children at this age love stories and can easily recall stories read to them by their parents when they were even younger. Use this love of stories to invite the children to see how Jesus told stories to engage others with the Gospel message.

Materials Needed

  • Familiarize yourself with the fable “The Three Little Pigs”

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children to recall the fable “The Three Little Pigs.”

  2. Invite a volunteer to retell the story from memory.

  3. Say: This story uses simple imagery to teach an important lesson about life. Jesus also used simple imagery to teach people. In this Sunday's Gospel, we will hear a passage that sounds a little like the fable we just talked about.

  4. Invite volunteers to read aloud Matthew 7:21-27.

  5. Ask the children to share what they think Jesus is teaching us in this passage. Ask: What does it mean when we say that sometimes we encounter storms in our lives? (we face difficult times).

  6. Help the children to understand that we need a firm foundation to guide us and to keep us strong during difficult times in our lives: sickness, death, divorce, sadness, and so on.

  7. Conclude by inviting the children to share any difficult situations that they or family or friends may be facing for which prayers are in order.

  8. Gather all of these intentions and invite the children to pray an Act of Faith, expressing confidence in God as the foundation of our lives.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Gospel Reading
Matthew 7:21-27
Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.

By seventh and eighth grade young people will have learned about God's Old Testament teachings and the new law proclaimed by Jesus. Since the Easter season has just ended, they should remember how some Jewish leaders questioned Jesus' teaching regarding God's Word and how Jesus talked of his being the fulfillment of God's Word.

Materials Needed

  • Strips of cloth or wide ribbon for each young person in the group
  • Markers or paint pens

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: From earliest times, God has asked us to follow his commands. In Jewish tradition, “keeping the Word of God always before one” takes a literal form. Some Jews wear small boxes on their foreheads that contain words of sacred Scripture.

  2. Ask the young people to think about the different commands of God and the teachings of Jesus. Discuss some of these with the young people. If they can't think of any on their own, remind them about the parable of the Good Samaritan or the parable of the prodigal son. Review the Gospel stories proclaimed from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

  3. Give the young people a few minutes of quiet time to think about which of God's words speak most directly to their heart.

  4. Hand out the fabric strips and writing materials. Instruct the young people to write their words or phrases on them.

  5. Ask a volunteer to read the first reading, Deuterononmy 11:18, 26-28, 32. Then ask another volunteer to read the Gospel, Matthew 7:21-27.

  6. Ask: What is God telling us about keeping the Word in both of this Sunday's readings?

  7. Ask: How can you build your life on solid ground? (Allow time for discussion.)

  8. Invite the young people to carry the Scripture they have written with them throughout the week. They can tie the cloths around their wrists, or use them as bookmarks.

  9. Tell the young people to report back next week on how it felt to be surrounded by God's Word.

Family Connection

All families go through difficult times. Tell your children about some of the difficult times that you have gone through in your life. Tell stories about difficult times that other relatives, especially your parents, have gone through in their lives. As a family, think of the most difficult situations that you faced together: a sickness, the loss of a loved one, difficulties in school, loss of employment, and so on. Explain that we sometimes refer to these difficult moments in life as “storms.” Point out that in this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus talks about rain, floods, and wind—all characteristics of storms—and how we can stand firm in the face of them. Read aloud Matthew 7:21-27. Talk about what it means for you to build your house on solid rock. Share some examples of how your faith helped you to get through difficult situations. Help your children to see how their faith has already helped them to get through some difficult situations. Conclude this time together by praying aloud an Act of Faith, asking that you remain strong in your relationship with Jesus.