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 Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Saturday, September 14, 2019

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
Numbers 21:4b–9

Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he or she was healed.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 78:1–2, 34–34, 36–37, 38
Do not forget the works of the Lord.

Second Reading
Philippians 2:6–11
Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped.

Gospel Reading
John 3:13–17
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Background on the Gospel

In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ death on the cross as well as his resurrection and return to the Father are one event. For him, the cross isa sign of exaltation. The serpent that Moses lifted up in the desert to offer healing to those injured by snake bites prefigures Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross, bringing salvation.

The eternal life God offers through Jesus is not life without end but life lived in the unending presence of God. That is why it can begin now in this life. The world to which God sends the Son is not a place but those people who are at odds with Jesus and God. Jesus is sent to this world as a gift. Only believers accept the gift.

Finally, God’s judgment on the world is not a future cosmic event but a present reality. God sent the Son out of love for the world. However, the world has to decide to accept him. Those who accept him have eternal life at the moment of the decision. Those who reject him don’t.


Gospel Reading
John 3:13–17
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.


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

Children at this age love to receive gifts because it makes them feel loved. Today’s Gospel tells us that God loves us so much, that he gives us his only Son, Jesus, as a gift.

Materials needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children to think of gifts they have received for Christmas or for their birthdays.
  2. Invite several volunteers to share with the group their favorite gift.
  3. Share examples of your favorite gifts received.
  4. Say: We are very excited when we receive a gift. It shows that somebody loves us. We are especially excited when the gift is something that we want and can use. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we’re going to hear about the greatest gift that anyone could ever imagine!
  5. Read aloud today’s Gospel, John 3:13–17.
  6. Ask: What gift did God give us? (his only Son, Jesus)
  7. Say: God gave us the greatest gift anyone could ever want—his own Son, Jesus—so that we can be closer to God. Because of Jesus, God’s love is always with us.
  8. Tell the children that we show our thanks to God for the gift of Jesus by loving him and by loving others.
  9. Conclude by praying together the Sign of the Cross, telling the children that this gesture is a reminder of the great gift we have received from God.

Gospel Reading
John 3:13–17
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.


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

Children at this age are very enthusiastic about cheering on their school’s teams at sporting events. This Sunday’s Gospel includes a passage—John 3:16—that ignites the enthusiasm of many Christians who seek to spread the Gospel.

Materials Needed

  • Poster board with John 3:16 printed on it
  • self-stick notes or index cards

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people what sport they most enjoy watching on TV. Invite volunteers to share their answers with the group.
  2. Point out that fans often bring signs to sporting events to show their excitement and support. For example, baseball fans may print a bull’s eye on a poster and hold it up as a target to hit toward for the batter.
  3. Hold up the poster board with John 3:16 printed on it. Ask if anyone has seen a fan holding this up at a sports event. Point out that this passage of the Gospel, John, chapter three, verse 16, is considered by many Christians to be the key to understanding Jesus. Say, Some Christians, in their enthusiasm to reach large numbers of people with the Gospel message, will print this passage on a sign and hold it up at sports events, hoping that millions of people will see it. This passage is part of today’s Gospel.
  4. Invite volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, John 3:13–17.
  5. Ask a volunteer to read aloud John 3:16.
  6. 6Have the young people write the words from John 3:16 on self-stick notes or index cards and place the verse somewhere they will see it every day, such as on the refrigerator, a mirror in their rooms, or in their lockers at school.
  7. Encourage the young people to take this passage to heart by memorizing it.
  8. Conclude by praying aloud the words of John 3:16.


Gospel Reading
John 3:13–17
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are very competitive and place high value on winning. This Sunday’s Gospel presents the cross as a symbol of victory.

Materials Needed

  • Text to the hymn Lift High the Cross (available in most church hymnals)
  • Optional: recorded version of the song, CD player

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in groups of three or four. Have each group brainstorm the names of the teams that are current champions in their respective sport: baseball, hockey, football, basketball, soccer, and so on.
  2. When the young people are finished, have volunteers read their lists.
  3. Ask: How many of you have watched a team win a championship game? What happens when a team wins a championship? (The players and fans celebrate, a trophy is presented, and the team hoists the trophy.)
  4. Say: A team that wins a championship is given a trophy, and the players lift up the trophy for all to see as a sign of victory. When we gather for Mass, the opening procession is led by an altar server lifting up a symbol of victory for all to see. What is that symbol? (the Cross of Jesus)
  5. Say: We can think of the cross of Jesus as a trophy; it is a symbol of his victory over death.
  6. Invite a volunteer to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 3:13–17.
  7. Ask: Who does Jesus say must be lifted up? (the Son of Man) What does it mean to say that Jesus was “lifted up?” (that he was lifted up on the cross) What event transformed the cross from a symbol of defeat into a symbol of victory? (the Resurrection)
  8. Say: One of the Church’s traditional hymns is titled Lift High the Cross. Let’s take a look at the words of this song.
  9. Distribute copies of the song Lift High the Cross. Invite volunteers to read aloud the words of the song.
  10. Conclude either by leading the group in singing the song or by playing a recorded version of it.

Gospel Reading
John 3:13–17
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.


Family Connection

As a family, sit down together and brainstorm a list of family highlights, moments in the lives of family members that are to be celebrated, such as achievements, accomplishments, and awards. Spend some time reminiscing about these various events or moments. Remind your children of how proud you are of them. Point out that often achievements and accomplishments are signified by the presentation of trophies, medals, ribbons, or certificates. Show some examples of such awards in your family’s possession. Say, We have one other symbol in our home that celebrates a victory that we all can share in. Show a cross or crucifix that you keep on display in your home. Say: This is a symbol of God’s victory over death. Jesus died on the cross, but because of his Resurrection, the cross has become for us, not a symbol of defeat, but a symbol of victory. Explain that the following Gospel is from the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Have a family member read aloud John 3:13–17. Talk about what the word exaltation means—to raise high, to lift up, to sing praise to. Remind your family that whenever they see the cross displayed in your home, it is a reminder to exalt, to praise, God for loving us so much that he gave us his only Son, Jesus. Conclude by praying together the Sign of the Cross, a prayer that exalts God’s love.