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.


Easter Vigil, Cycle B

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Today’s Readings

First Reading
Genesis 1:1—2:2
God creates the heavens and the earth. (shorter form, Genesis 1:1,26-31a)

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,13-14,24,35 or Psalm 33:4-5,6-7,12-13,20-22
A song of praise to God, the Creator.

Second Reading
Genesis 22:1-18 (shorter form, Genesis 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18)
God puts Abraham to the test.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 16:5,8,9-10,11
The Lord shows us the path of life.

Third Reading
Exodus 14:15—15:1
The Israelites pass through the Red Sea.

Responsorial Psalm
Exodus 15:1-2,3-4,5-6,17-18
The song of praise that the Israelites sang after crossing the Red Sea

Fourth Reading
Isaiah 54:5-14
The Lord promises to redeem Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11-12,13
A prayer of thanksgiving for God’s redemption

Fifth Reading
Isaiah 55:1-11
A call to return to the Lord who is merciful

Responsorial Psalm
Isaiah 12:2-3,4,5-6
The Lord sends his salvation.

Sixth Reading
Baruch 3:9-15,32—4:4
Israel is told to follow the way of God’s commandments.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 19:8,9,10,11
A prayer of praise for God’s commandments

Seventh Reading
Ezekiel 36:16-17a,18-28
The Lord will cleanse Israel for the sake of his holy name.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 42:3,5; 53:3,4 or Isaiah 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6 or Psalm 51:12–13,14–15,18–19 A prayer of praise for God who saves us.

Epistle
Romans 6:3-11
Those who have been baptized have died with Christ.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23
God’s mercy endures forever.

Gospel Reading
Mark 16:1-7
The women find that the stone from Jesus’ tomb has been rolled back, and an angel reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Each of the four Gospels reports that the women who had been followers of Jesus discovered the empty tomb after his death. Today we read from the Gospel of Mark, which contains the most succinct of all the reports of Jesus’ Resurrection in the Gospels.

Scholars have long noted some irregularities about the ending of Mark’s Gospel. The report of the discovery of the empty tomb comes to an abrupt conclusion after verse 8. While some believe this is the original ending of Mark’s Gospel, others theorize that there was a longer ending that was lost.

Some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, written between the fourth and ninth centuries, include what scholars have termed the Shorter Ending, which is often printed in our Bibles for reference. This ending indicates that the women told their story to Peter’s companions. Scholars believe that this ending was not written by Mark, but was probably added by later copyists who sought to resolve the abrupt ending at verse 8.

Other early manuscripts include a Longer Ending, which scholars also believe was written by someone other than the evangelist Mark. Quotations from this Longer Ending are found in the writings of the early Church Fathers, however, indicating that this Longer Ending has been included as part of Mark’s Gospel for some time. This Longer Ending, Mark 16:9-20, was accepted at the Council of Trent as part of the canonical Gospel. Portions of this Longer Ending are read as part of our weekday lectionary cycle and on the Feast of the Ascension in Cycle B. Without this Longer Ending, the Gospel of Mark would report no post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Mark reports the names of three women who go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. They are Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James. According to Mark, these are the same women who were among those watching Jesus’ Crucifixion from a distance. Mark reports that these women were followers of Jesus in Galilee and that they ministered to him. Mark also reports that Mary Magdalene and Mary observed where Jesus’ body was laid. After his death, these women come again to minister to Jesus.

Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James, go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. It is clear from Mark’s report of their conversation that they had not worked out all the necessary details. They know that a very large stone was used to seal Jesus’ tomb, but they do not know how they are going to remove it. When they arrive at the tomb, they find that the stone has already been rolled back. Upon entering the tomb, they meet an angel who tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The angel then recalls Jesus’ promise to his disciples that he would go before them to Galilee.

Amazement would seem to be a natural reaction to the experience that the women had that morning. Yet the angel chides them for being amazed. Perhaps the reason is found in the words that follow, as the angel reminds them that Jesus himself had told his disciples that he would see them again in Galilee. If the women had listened and heeded Jesus’ words, they would not have been surprised to find the tomb empty. This highlights a theme of Mark’s Gospel: the disciples of Jesus are often clueless about the true identity of Jesus and confounded by his message to them.

Nonetheless, we can find some hope for the disciples, just as there is hope for us when we find ourselves unsure about Jesus. The disciples in today’s Gospel were faithful followers of Jesus and remained present through Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, they came to the tomb that morning expecting to minister to Jesus once again. Instead, they were sent to minister in a different way, as apostles to Peter and the other disciples. Because we hear this Gospel proclaimed today, we know that they honored Jesus by accepting this mission.


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:1-7
The women find that the stone from Jesus’ tomb has been rolled back, and an angel reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead.


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

Young children delight in surprises. In the Easter story, we discover one of God’s most wondrous and amazing surprises: God raised Jesus from the dead!

Materials Needed

  • An item to facilitate your session that can easily be hidden (e.g., your sheet of notes, a tablecloth for your prayer space, a book about Easter, or any object that your group would recognize as essential to your session)
  • Easter stickers

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Before your session, hide an item that you will need to facilitate this session. Hide Easter stickers with this item, one for each child in the group.

  2. As you begin, tell the group that you have been looking everywhere for the item. Ask the children in the group to help you look for your missing item. When the item is found, show the children the stickers that were also found with the item. Say: We were looking for my [name your hidden item], but we found something more. We also found these stickers. Give each child a sticker.

  3. Say: This reminds me of today’s Gospel. Let’s listen carefully.

  4. Read aloud Mark 16:1-7.

  5. Ask: What were the women looking for when they went to Jesus’ tomb? (the body of Jesus) What did they find? (an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised and was going to meet them in Galilee) Say: The women found much more than what they were looking for. At Easter we celebrate this discovery by the women. God raised Jesus from the dead. With God, we often find so much more than what we are looking for, much more than we can ever imagine or hope for.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, praising God for the wonderful things that he does for us. Invite the children to name some of the wonderful things God has done in our world. After each is named, pray this response: Alleluia! Alleluia! God has done wondrous deeds!


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:1-7
The women find that the stone from Jesus’ tomb has been rolled back, and an angel reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead.


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

Older children show their increasing maturity by asking questions, including questions about their faith. We can promote their development by honoring their questions and by letting their natural curiosity guide them to the essentials of faith.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: Today’s Gospel tells the story of Easter as found in the Gospel of Mark. None of the Gospels answers all our questions about Jesus’ Resurrection, and the Gospel of Mark is particularly sparse in its detail about the discovery of the empty tomb. Let’s listen to this Gospel to discover what it does tell us about Easter.

  2. Invite a volunteer to read aloud Mark 16:1-7.

  3. Ask: What does this Gospel tell us happened on the first Easter morning? (Three women went to anoint Jesus’ body; they found that the stone had been rolled back; they saw an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead; the women were told that the disciples would see Jesus in Galilee.)

  4. Say: There is a curious thing about Mark’s Gospel. In the verse following the passage we hear today, Mark tells us that the women were so afraid that they ran away from the tomb and didn’t tell anyone what they had seen. They must have eventually told someone, because Mark, who was not at the tomb, heard the story and wrote about it. At some point, the women’s fear subsided, and they reported the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection. Imagine that you are one of the disciples who heard the report of these women. What questions would you have for them? (How did the stone get rolled back? Where was Jesus’ body? Who was the young man at the tomb?)

  5. After hearing the list of questions, say: These are all great questions, and knowing the answers would certainly satisfy our curiosity. But isn’t it interesting that even without knowing the answers to these questions, we know the most important thing: Jesus was crucified, but when his friends came to the tomb to anoint his body, they found the tomb empty. They were told that Jesus had been raised from the dead and that they would see him again in Galilee. The Gospel doesn’t tell us everything, but it tells us enough. It tells us that God did an amazing thing when he raised Jesus from the dead. Our faith tells us that God continues to do amazing things in our world.

  6. Conclude in prayer together that our faith in Jesus' Resurrection will grow strong and that we will recognize the amazing things that God does for us in our world. Pray together the Act of Faith.


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:1-7
The women find that the stone from Jesus’ tomb has been rolled back, and an angel reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Wonder and amazement are attitudes readily observed in young children but less often seen in adolescents and adults. The joy of Easter can help to rekindle within all of us a sense of wonder and amazement as we celebrate the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: Very young children readily show wonder and amazement as they make simple discoveries about the world around them. However, as we grow older, this sense of wonder and amazement is less often expressed and may even diminish. Nevertheless, amazing things are all around us. Naming them and sharing our experiences of them with others is one way to rekindle and nurture the gift of wonder.

  2. Offer your own example of a recent experience of wonder or amazement, perhaps at seeing something in nature or hearing surprising and happy news. Then ask the young people if there is something they have observed recently that caused them to experience wonder or amazement and encourage them to share these experiences.

  3. Say: Our celebration of Easter helps us to become more aware of the wondrous things God does in our lives. The Easter Vigil is the last of three nights of the Easter Triduum, the liturgical celebration in which we journey with Christ from the Last Supper through his Resurrection. On this final night, we gather in vigil, awaiting the proclamation of the Good News of Easter. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  4. Invite a volunteer to read aloud Mark 16:1–7.

  5. Ask: What were the women saying to one another as they approached the tomb? (“Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”) What is the women’s response when they see that the stone has already been rolled away? (They are “utterly amazed.”) How might you explain the angel’s first words to the women: “Do not be amazed!”? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  6. Say: Familiar as we are with the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection, we can still hope to be amazed when we reflect on this event and recall the wonderful things God is accomplishing for our salvation. God raised Jesus from the dead so that we might share eternal life with him. This is Good News indeed! With God, there is so much to be amazed about, things wonderful far beyond our greatest hopes and imagining.

  7. Conclude in prayer together, praising God for the wonderful things that he does for us. Invite the young people to name some of the wonderful things that they know God has done in our world. After each is named, pray this response: Alleluia! Alleluia! God has done wondrous deeds!


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:1-7
The women find that the stone from Jesus’ tomb has been rolled back, and an angel reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead.


Family Connection

In the Easter story, we learn that God responded to the Crucifixion of Jesus by raising him from the dead. This act of God was more than anyone could have imagined. Mark’s Gospel reports that the women who found Jesus’ tomb empty were utterly amazed. The angel chides them for being amazed and sends them to share his words with Peter and the other disciples. Amazement can lead to paralysis, or it can empower us to be witnesses to God’s action in our world. We pray that our praise of God leads us to share with others the good news of God’s power over death.

As you gather as a family, name some of the signs you have observed of God’s power in the world and in your lives. Talk about how you feel when you experience the awesome mystery of God. Remind yourselves that at Easter we celebrate God’s power over death as he raised Jesus from the dead. Read together today’s Gospel, Mark 16:1-7. Pray together praising God for his wondrous deeds. Invite each family member to name some of the wonderful things God has done for us. After each is named, pray this response: Alleluia! Alleluia! God has done wondrous deeds!