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.

Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday, February 26, 2006

First Reading
Hosea 2:16b,17b,21-22
The Lord espouses the people of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13
A prayer of praise for the Lord's mercy.

Second Reading
2 Corinthians 3:1b-6
Paul defends his ministry, saying that the Corinthians are living examples of the work of Christ being accomplished through Paul's ministry.

Gospel Reading
Mark 2:18-22
Jesus responds to the question about why his disciples do not fast.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we skip ahead a few verses in our reading of Mark's Gospel. In the intervening verses, Mark describes Jesus' call of Levi, a tax collector, and how the scribes and Pharisees questioned Jesus' actions, asking why Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners. Remember that in the Jewish Pharisaic interpretation of the Law of Moses, tax collectors and sinners were thought to be ritually unclean; observant Jews were not permitted to eat with them. Jesus replied that his mission was to help sinners, who are in need of healing.

In today's Gospel, people question Jesus, asking why his disciples did not fast like the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees. While the purpose behind previous questions was to challenge and accuse Jesus, this particular question may simply represent curiosity. A difference in practice has been observed, and some inquired into the reasons for this difference. In the passage that follows this in Mark's Gospel, however, the question posed by the Pharisees sounds more like a challenge, questioning the Sabbath observance of Jesus and his disciples.

Fasting is a religious practice in which a person abstains from food for a specified period of time. In the Hebrew Scriptures, individuals and communities fasted as a penitential practice, a sign of sorrow for sinfulness and as a sign of grief and mourning. It appears that this is also Jesus' understanding of the purpose of the fasting.

In his response to the question about fasting, Jesus uses the metaphor of a wedding feast to describe the community of disciples that he has gathered. He compares himself to the bridegroom and observes that it is inappropriate to fast during a wedding feast and then predicts the changes that will happen to this community after his departure.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus' presence is equated with the Kingdom of God, which is an occasion for rejoicing. Jesus also predicts a time when his followers will fast, however, out of sorrow at his death. Jesus then describes the newness of his teachings and actions, using the metaphor about old and new wineskins.

In this passage, Mark contrasts the way of Jesus with two other first-century communities of faith—the way of John the Baptist and the way of Pharisaic Judaism. These communities may have coexisted with the early Christian community for whom Mark was writing, and they may have competed for followers. Mark is attempting to show the distinctiveness of the teachings of Jesus and the practices of his disciples. In some ways, then, this passage shows us the working out of the early Christian community's self-definition.

Today is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time; Ordinary Time will resume after the Easter season. Next week we begin the season of Lent when we will fast as a sign of repentance for our sins and of our need for God's forgiveness.

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

Gospel Reading
Mark 2:18-22
Jesus responds to the question about why his disciples do not fast.

As children mature, they develop a greater awareness of their sinfulness and their need for God's forgiveness. We believe that our sins have been forgiven through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

Materials Needed

  • Milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar
  • A container of fresh milk
  • Two drinking glasses

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Pour a small amount of milk into a glass, add lemon juice or vinegar, and leave it sitting out until it curdles. Bring it to class along with another glass and a carton of fresh milk.

  2. Say: Sometimes people choose to eat less food as a sign of their sadness for their sins. When people do this, we say that they are fasting. Fasting is something people do to show their need for God and for his forgiveness.

  3. Say: You see, sometimes we are like this glass of milk. Show them the glass of spoiled milk. Have you ever forgotten to empty a glass of milk? When milk is not refrigerated, it gets sour and looks like this.

  4. Pour some fresh milk into the glass of spoiled milk. Say: Mixing fresh milk with sour milk doesn't make the milk good to drink because it does not take away the sour milk already in the glass. In fact, the sour milk spoils the good milk that we pour into the glass. Jesus' death on the cross cleans away our sins and makes us like clean glasses. Pour milk into the clean glass. This is something like what Jesus is trying to teach in today's Gospel when he talks about old and new wineskins.

  5. Read aloud today's Gospel, Mark 2:18-22.

  6. Say: In today's Gospel, Jesus teaches about the wonderful new things he was doing for our salvation. Because of Jesus, our good deeds—like fresh milk—will not be spoiled by sin.

  7. Conclude in prayer together thanking God for the forgiveness we have received through Jesus. Pray together today's psalm, Psalm 103, or pray the Act of Contrition.

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

Gospel Reading
Mark 2:18-22
Jesus responds to the question about why his disciples do not fast.

From the Church community, children learn many important religious practices. In order that these not become rote, we must also teach children the spirituality behind these practices.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: What are some religious practices that people of faith observe? Why do people do these things? As a group, make a list of familiar religious practices and talk about their importance and significance. For example, people of faith pray; through this practice we grow in our relationship with God and ask God to help us in our daily life.

  2. If the group hasn't already discussed it, ask them to talk about the religious practice of fasting. What does it mean to fast? When do we fast? Why do we fast?

  3. Say: When someone is fasting, he or she chooses to abstain from food for a specified period of time. Fasting is a sign of sorrow for sin, a sign of one's need for God, and a sign of grief and mourning. Jesus talks about this practice of fasting in today's Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today's Gospel, Mark 2:18-22.

  5. Ask: What did some people ask Jesus? (Why didn't Jesus' disciples fast like the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees?) What did Jesus answer? (Jesus said that his disciples didn't fast because he was with them; it would be inappropriate for them to fast during this happy time. Jesus also said that the time would come when his disciples would fast out of sadness because he would leave them.)

  6. Say: Through today's Gospel, we learn the importance of understanding the reasons behind our religious practices. All of our religious practices are important because they are expressions of our love for God.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that our religious practices will be meaningful expressions of our love for God. Pray together today's psalm, Psalm 103, or the Lord's Prayer.

Family Connection

In today's Gospel, Jesus talks about the joy that accompanies his presence and the Kingdom of God. He also talks about how his teaching transforms our understanding of God. Jesus was teaching something new when he announced the fulfillment of God's promises, when he taught that the Kingdom of God was at hand. This announcement called for a response. Jesus said that fasting was not the appropriate response for the time of his presence with his disciples. He said, however, that the day would later come when fasting would be appropriate.

As you gather as a family, recall a time when your family gathered to celebrate a wedding. If your children have not yet attended a wedding, then tell your children the story of a wedding that you attended. In today's Gospel, Jesus compares his presence with his disciples to a wedding feast and says that he is like the bridegroom. Read together today's Gospel, Mark 2:18-22. Just as it is difficult to imagine how a person can be sad at a wedding celebration, Jesus said that it would be inappropriate for his disciples to fast in sadness when he was with them. Jesus taught us about God's wonderful love for us and wants us to share in the joy of God's kingdom forever. Conclude in prayer together that our family life will be filled with joy because God is continuing to renew our world and our lives in Christ. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.