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.


The Ascension of the Lord, Cycle A

Thursday, May 21, 2020

This Sunday's Readings

(In those dioceses where the Ascension is celebrated on Sunday, May 24, use the following readings. If your diocese celebrates the Ascension on Thursday, May 21, use the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Check with your local parish.)


First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Jesus is taken up to heaven in the presence of the apostles.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 47:2-3,6-9
Sing praise to God as he mounts his throne.

Second Reading
Ephesians 1:17-23
God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus charges his disciples to make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them forever.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel is taken from the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel quickly moves from the disciples’ discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb, to Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to the commission that Jesus gives his disciples in today’s Gospel.

The Final Commission, as this Gospel is sometimes called, is given on the mountaintop. Throughout Scripture, the most important events happen on the mountaintop, and Matthew has used this motif throughout his Gospel. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop (Matthew 17:1-8). Also in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught the crowds from the mountaintop in what we now call the Sermon on the Mount.

Here we are told that the eleven disciples go the mountaintop in Galilee, as Jesus had instructed through Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (cf. Matthew 28:9-10). They see Jesus, and both worship and doubt at the same time. Jesus approaches them and commissions them to baptize and teach, "to make disciples of all nations." It is a task which Jesus had previously prepared his disciples for; recall that Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal (cf. Matthew 10:1-15). However, earlier the Twelve were sent only to the House of Israel; in this Final Commission, the eleven are told to go to "all nations." The mission of Jesus is now to be taken to all people; the task now is to baptize and to teach.

Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize in the name of the Trinity, one of the clearest attestations found in Scripture for baptism in the name of the Trinity. In the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters of Paul, baptism is more frequently offered "in the name of Jesus."

The ending of Matthew’s Gospel can be understood as the beginning of the Church. Jesus commissions his disciples to continue to teach in his name and to bring others into the community of disciples through baptism. The Gospel ends, as it had begun, with the promise that Jesus will continue to be Emmanuel, "God with us" (cf. Matthew 1:23), for all eternity.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus charges his disciples to make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them forever.


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

Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples of all people and to baptize them. At our own Baptisms, we become members of Jesus’ Church and are called to continue his mission. Younger children can learn simple, appropriate ways to witness to the life of discipleship.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask children if they have been to a Baptism or seen pictures or video of their own Baptisms. Invite them to share what they know about this sacrament. Ask: What do we become members of at our Baptism? (the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the family of God)

  2. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about Baptism when he gives the disciples final instructions. Let’s listen to what he tells them. Listen for three things that Jesus tells the disciples to do.

  3. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 28:16–20.

  4. Ask: What three things did Jesus ask the disciples to do? (Make disciples of all nations, baptize them, teach them.) Say: Jesus calls on us to welcome people into his Church and to teach people about Jesus.

  5. Ask: If someone were to ask you about Jesus, what would you say about him? (Accept all reasonable answers.) What is a way that we can show people we are Jesus’ disciples? (Accept all reasonable answers, including sharing God’s love; being friendly and welcoming to everyone, not just our friends; not gossiping about others; being helpful and doing good deeds; apologizing if we make a poor choice; forgiving others.)

  6. Say: Jesus tells us something else—that he will always be with us. Jesus is with us now. Let’s all take a deep breath and, in our hearts, tell Jesus one thing we will do to show others that we are his disciples. You can close your eyes if you want. (Give children a few moments to pray.) Close by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus charges his disciples to make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them forever.


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

Young people, received into the Church at Baptism, grow and mature in their understanding of the responsibilities of Baptism. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he commissioned them to make disciples of all people and baptize them. That task is one in which all members of the Church are called to participate. We continue to be reassured by Jesus’ promise to be with us, the Church, until the end of the world.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: How do people become members of the Church? (through Baptism) What do you think makes people want to become members of their Church? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  2. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. The words in this reading are the last words that Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  3. Invite a volunteer to read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20.

  4. Ask: What does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (to make disciples, to teach, to baptize) What do you think made people want to be baptized? (the disciples’ teaching, the witness of the disciples’ lives, the power of the disciples’ actions)

  5. Say: Today we are not that different from those who heard the teachings of the first disciples. We too become members of the Church through Baptism. The teachings of others and the example of their lives and their actions make us want to be members of the Church. Of course the saints and other holy people are witnesses to Christian discipleship but so are members of our family and our local Church. Everyone who helps us to understand what it means to be a Christian is doing what Jesus told his first disciples to do: go forth and make disciples.

  6. Say: All of us who are baptized are sent by Jesus to make disciples of all nations. What did Jesus promise at the end of today’s Gospel? (that Jesus would be with us always, until the end of the age) Say: Jesus is still with the Church.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that we will always be faithful to the commission that Jesus gave us to go and make disciples. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus charges his disciples to make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them forever.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people need clear directions for any assignment they are given. In the Gospel for the Ascension of our Lord, Jesus gives very clear directions—a mission statement of sorts—to his disciples and to us.

Materials Needed

  • An example of a mission statement (from your parish, the company you work for, or an organization you belong to)

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring in an example of a mission statement and explain to the young people that the purpose of a mission statement is to sum up the reason an organization exists.

  2. Tell them that a mission statement includes three things:

  3. A purpose statement that clearly states what the organization seeks to accomplish (for example, to eliminate homelessness)

  4. A business statement that outlines the business (i.e., activities or programs) the organization chooses in order to pursue its purpose (for example, providing job training to homeless individuals)

  5. A values statement that identifies the beliefs that guide the work of the organization (for example, a commitment to provide the tools for those in need to help themselves)

  6. Explain that in the Gospel for the Ascension of our Lord, Jesus states what our mission is to be. Tell the young people to listen closely to see if they can identify it.

  7. Invite a volunteer to read today’s Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20.

  8. Ask: What does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (to make disciples, to teach, to baptize)

  9. Explain that the mission statement Jesus gave fits the three criteria mentioned above:

  10. The purpose statement is to make disciples of all nations.

  11. The business statement is teaching and baptizing.

  12. The values statement is in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

  13. Conclude by praying together that we will always be faithful to our mission to go forth and make disciples. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus charges his disciples to make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them forever.


Family Connection

Just as Jesus sent his disciples to make disciples, our family, the domestic Church, is called to bear witness to the life of discipleship. That act of witnessing can take many forms. First and foremost our family should call people to discipleship by the example of our love for one another. That example is only the beginning; our love must extend beyond the family, reaching out to others and to the world.

Together with your family, identify one or more ways in which your family lives the life of Christian discipleship. Thank God for the blessing of the opportunity to be able to show God’s love. Then read together today’s Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20. Discuss what Jesus sends his disciples to do. Work together to identify one or more ways in which your family would like to do a better job bearing witness to the life of discipleship. Choose one of those ways and work together to make it happen. Pray as a family for the grace to be witnesses to the world of the life of discipleship. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.