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.

First Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Sunday, February 21, 2021

This Sunday’s Readings

Activities in Preparation for This Week in the Liturgical Year

First Reading
Genesis 9:8-15
God establishes a covenant with Noah, giving a rainbow as its sign.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9
A prayer praising God for his covenant

Second Reading
1 Peter 3:18-22
In our baptism, we are saved through Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan.

Background on the Gospel Reading

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading in each Lectionary cycle is about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This event in the life of Jesus is reported in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—but it is not found in John’s Gospel. This year we read Mark’s account of this event.

Compared to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the details throughout Mark’s narrative are sparse. This is evident in Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Mark tells us only that Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit and that for 40 days he was tempted by Satan. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke explain that Jesus fasted while in the desert, that Satan presented him with three temptations, and that Jesus refused each one, quoting Scripture. Only the Gospels of Matthew and Mark report that angels ministered to Jesus at the end of his time in the desert.

In each of the Synoptic Gospels, the temptation of Jesus follows his baptism by John the Baptist. In Mark’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus went into the desert immediately after his baptism, led by the Spirit. Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee begins after his temptation in the desert. Mark’s Gospel makes a connection between the arrest of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ preaching about the Kingdom of God is in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist, but it is also something new. As Jesus announces it, the Kingdom of God is beginning; the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises is here.

The fact that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert is significant. This recalls the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led from slavery in Egypt. The prophet Elijah also journeyed in the desert for 40days and nights, making his way to Horeb, the mountain of God, where he was also attended to by an angel of the Lord. Remembering the significance of these events, we also set aside 40 days for the season of Lent.

In Mark’s Gospel, the desert marks beginning of Jesus’ battle with Satan; the ultimate test will be in Jesus’ final hours on the cross. In a similar way, our Lenten observances are only a beginning, a preparation for and a reinforcement of our ongoing struggle to resist the temptations we face in our lives. During Lent, we are led by the Holy Spirit to remember the vows of Baptism in which we promised to reject sin and to follow Jesus. Just as Jesus was ministered to by the angels, God also supports us in our struggle against sin and temptation. We succeed because Jesus conquered sin once and for all in his saving death on the cross.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan.

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

Young children experience many temptations in their daily life. Through the grace of Baptism, Jesus helps us to resist temptation in our lives.

Materials Needed

  • Two small cups
  • Several items small enough to fit in the cups

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Divide the group into two teams. Have the teams race relay-style, hopping to a designated area carrying a small cup. Have several small items set up at the designated area. Instruct each team member to take one item, put it in the cup, and to hop back to his or her team carrying the cup. Tell the children that when you say stop, the team that has collected the most objects wins. Inevitably, someone will run instead of hop or take more than one object in one turn.

  2. After you have said stop, say: We all want to win, don'’t we? Sometimes Satan tempts us to break the rules in order to win. When Jesus was on the earth, Satan tempted him too.

  3. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 1:12-15.

  4. Say: Jesus said to believe in the Gospel. The word gospel means “good news.” Do you believe the good news that Jesus will help you to do what’s right when you are tempted— just like the angels helped Jesus?

  5. Say: At our Baptism we received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which strengthens us and helps us to resist temptations. During Lent, we remember our Baptism and ask God to help us because without his help, we are not strong enough to resist temptation.

  6. Conclude in prayer asking God to strengthen our resolve to resist temptations. Pray together the Act of Contrition.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan.

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

Older children are developing the capacity to reflect upon temptation and sin. We can encourage this positive development in their lives by assuring them that God helps us. The season of Lent provides us with an opportunity to recommit ourselves to this lifelong challenge.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pencils
  • A basket

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: What are some temptations that young people face? Together make a list of some of these temptations.

  2. Distribute paper and pencils to the group. Invite them to pray about this question: What is one thing that regularly tempts you? Then ask them to write their temptation on the paper and to fold the paper in half.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 1:12-15.

  4. Say: In Mark’s Gospel, we don't hear details about how Satan tempted Jesus, nor do we hear how Jesus succeeded in resisting temptation. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ battle with Satan continues throughout his life, to be concluded only at his death on the cross.

  5. Say: During Lent, we focus on resisting temptation in our lives. We renew our commitment to resist certain temptations, but our efforts during Lent are only the beginning. We pray that what we begin during each Lent will continue long after.

  6. Allow some time for prayer and reflection. Ask children to think about the following questions: How will you try to resist the temptation you wrote down? What help will you need to do this? Say: Remember, no one succeeds in resisting temptation alone. God helps us!

  7. Lead the children in a prayer for God’s help to resist temptation. When you have finished, invite the children to tear up the paper on which they wrote their temptation and to place the pieces in the basket. Pray the Act of Contrition.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people will continue to depend on others in important ways throughout their lives. Even as we assist their increasing independence, we can encourage them to remember that depending on God is a source of strength in their lives.

Materials Needed

  • Packaging from various items indicating where the item was made
  • cell phone

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Prepare in advance by collecting packaging for several items that indicates where the item was made. Distribute this packaging to several young people and begin by asking them to find the detail that tells where the item was made. Observe that sometimes this information is written in fine print and is difficult to find. Allow others in the group to help as needed until this information is found.

  2. Next, display a cell phone. Ask how a cell phone can increase a young person’s independence. Observe that even as we use items that expand our independence, we depend on many other people to produce these items, deliver them to us, and keep them operating properly. Help the group identify jobs people have that contribute to the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of a cell phone.

  3. Introduce this Sunday’s Gospel: On this first Sunday of Lent, we hear a short reading from the Gospel of Saint Mark, which gives a brief account of Jesus’ forty days in the desert. Within this account is an important reminder for us as we begin this Lenten season. Let’s pay close attention as this Gospel is read.

  4. Invite a volunteer to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Mark 1:12–15.

  5. Ask: What details about Jesus’ temptation in the desert are described in this Gospel? (The Spirit led Jesus to the desert; Jesus stayed there for forty days; Jesus was tempted by Satan.) Who is with Jesus in the desert? (wild beasts, angels) What does this Gospel tell us about the angels? (The angels ministered to Jesus during his forty days in the desert.)

  6. Say: During Lent, we seek to strengthen our resolve to resist temptation. However, God does not expect us to do this on our own. God helps us, giving us the Holy Spirit in Baptism. God also gives us the community of the Church to help us. What can we do during Lent to accept the help God gives us to resist temptation? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  7. Conclude in prayer, asking God to strengthen our resolve to resist temptations. Pray together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 25.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan.

Family Connection

The announcement that Jesus makes as he begins his preaching in today’s Gospel is recalled on Ash Wednesday at the signing with ashes: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” This is our challenge for Lent; indeed, it is the challenge of our entire life. During Lent, we are invited to strengthen and to renew the promises that we made at our Baptism, to reject Satan and sin so as to live as children of God. Through the grace of God that we received at Baptism, we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and know that with Jesus’ help, we will be victorious over sin.

As you gather as a family, talk about the importance of Baptism. At our Baptism, our sins were forgiven, and we promised to live as children of God. As part of the Rite of Baptism, we rejected sin and Satan. Read today’s Gospel, Mark 1:12-15. During Lent, we renew the promises of our Baptism, turning again from sin and promising to follow God. Light a candle, perhaps a candle used at one of your family member’s Baptisms, and pray together the Act of Contrition.