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.


Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Sunday, March 14, 2021

This Sunday’s Readings

Year A RCIA Scrutinies

First Reading
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
The causes for the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon are described.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 137:1-2,3,4-5,6
A lament from exile for the loss of Jerusalem

Second Reading
Ephesians 2:4-10
In grace we have been saved, so that we may do the work of the Lord.

Gospel Reading
John 3:14-21
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The fourth Sunday of Lent is sometimes called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” Traditionally, Sundays are named after the first word of the liturgy’s opening antiphon. On this Sunday, the antiphon is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:10-11). Even as we observe our Lenten sacrifices, we rejoice in anticipation of the joy that will be ours at Easter.

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John’s Gospel. It consists of two parts. The first part is the final sentence of Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus, the Pharisee who approached Jesus at night. Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus as someone who had come from God and seemed to want to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus greeted Nicodemus with the observation that one must be born from above to see the Kingdom of God. The dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus that followed was about the meaning of this phrase. Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus at every point, but there was no animosity in the questions he posed to Jesus.

In the part of the conversation with Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, Jesus referred to an incident reported in the Old Testament. When the Israelites grumbled against the Lord during their sojourn in the desert, God sent venomous serpents to punish them for their complaints. The Israelites repented and asked Moses to pray for them. The Lord heard Moses’ prayer and instructed him to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. All who had been bitten by a serpent and then looked upon the bronze serpent were cured. By recalling this story, Jesus alludes to the salvation that would be accomplished through his death and Resurrection.

The second part of today’s Gospel is a theological reflection on Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. The Gospel of John is known for this kind of reflection offered within the narrative. The words of the Evangelist are in continuity with the words of the prologue to John’s Gospel. In these reflections, John elaborates on a number of themes that are found in his Gospel: light and darkness, belief and unbelief, good and evil, salvation and condemnation.

In John’s reflection, we find an observation about human sinfulness. Jesus is the light that has come into the world, but people preferred the darkness. We wish to keep our sins hidden, even from God. Jesus has come into the world to reveal our sins so that they may be forgiven. This is the Good News; it is the reason for our rejoicing in this season of Lent and throughout our lives.


Gospel Reading
John 3:14-21
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.


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

Teach younger children that Jesus is the Light of the World. When we believe in and follow him, we live in the light and we have life forever with him in heaven.

Materials Needed

  • battery-powered candles; the outline of a candle with a flame drawn on a sheet of paper; write the words Jesus is the Light of the World on the candle and make copies so each child has a candle to color; markers or colored pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Hand out the battery-powered candles to volunteers and show children how to use them. Then tell children you will be dimming or turning off the light in the room for a short while and for them to take note of how they feel. After a moment in the dark, ask the children to turn on the candles. Let children’s eyes adjust to the light and invite them to share what they can see now that they couldn’t see in the dark. Ask them how it feels different to be in the light as opposed to in the dark. (If any children have a fear of the dark, you might adjust this activity by dimming the light in the room slightly and then having children go outside, whether permitting.)
  2. Say: We often associate light or sunshine with good and truth. Ask: Do you know who is called the Light of the World? (Jesus) Say: That’s right. Jesus, the Son of God, is called the Light of the World. He came to shine the light of God’s love on us and to save us from darkness and sin. As I read today’s Gospel, listen for the words light and dark.
  3. Read aloud today’s Gospel, John 3:14–21.
  4. Say: Jesus is the light. He shows us the way to live forever with God in heaven.
  5. Distribute the candle drawings and markers or colored pencils. Have children color the candle and take it home to remind them that Jesus is the Light of the World. (Alternatively, you could distribute the drawings for children to color at home.)
  6. Close by thanking Jesus for showing us how to live in the light. Then pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
John 3:14-21
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.


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

Our guilt for sin often causes us to hide our sinfulness from others, perhaps even thinking that we are hiding our sins from God. However, because we are confident in Jesus’ promise of salvation, we can confess our sins to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group to think about a time when they did something that they knew to be wrong. Ask: What did you do afterward? Did you tell someone else about what you did, or did you try to hide what you had done? How did you feel afterward?

  2. Say: When we have done something wrong, we are often tempted to hide what we have done from others. Sometimes we even think that we can hide our sins from God. Our Gospel reading today talks about this. Let’s listen carefully.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, John 3:14-21.

  4. Ask: According to what we just heard, why did Jesus come into the world? (to save the world) How does he do this? (through his death and Resurrection, by exposing and then forgiving our sins)

  5. Say: Because Jesus died for our salvation, we do not hide our sins from God. Instead we confess our sins to God, confident that God forgives us. In what sacrament do we experience God’s forgiveness? (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) During Lent, many people take the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that they can experience the joy of God'’s forgiveness.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, thanking God for his mercy and forgiveness available to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Allow some time for quiet reflection, and then pray together the Act of Contrition.


Gospel Reading
John 3:14-21
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Images of light illuminating darkness can help us to reflect on God’s mercy and forgiveness. Confident in Jesus’ promise of salvation, we confess our sins to God in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and experience the joy of God’s forgiveness.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people to identify a number of ways that the darkness of night might be illuminated so that we can see our way, for example, porch lights, street lights, lighted signs, headlights on cars, flashlights when camping, a bright moon.

  2. Observe that very young children are sometimes afraid of the dark and ask the young people to suggest why this might be. (Accept all reasonable answers. If necessary, propose the explanation that things look differently in the dark; even familiar objects can appear frightening.) Ask the young people to describe experiences that illustrate how we perceive things differently in the dark.

  3. Say: Images of darkness and light are used in this Sunday’s Gospel to help us reflect on the forgiveness of sins we receive through Christ Jesus. Let’s listen carefully as this Gospel is read.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 3:14–21.

  5. Ask: What does this Gospel reading tell us about why Jesus came into the world? (to save the world) How does Jesus do this? (through his death and Resurrection, by exposing and then forgiving our sins)

  6. Say: Because Jesus died for our salvation, we do not hide our sins from God. Instead, in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, we confess our sins to God, confident that God forgives us.

  7. Say: During Lent, many people take the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation so that they can experience the joy of God’s forgiveness. Let the young people know what opportunities are available for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation during Lent.

  8. Conclude in prayer together, thanking God for his mercy and forgiveness. Allow some time for quiet reflection. Then pray together the Act of Contrition.


Gospel Reading
John 3:14-21
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.


Family Connection

Parents whose children are afraid of the dark are struck by John’s observation that darkness is preferred to light. Perhaps this is as it should be. God made us to live in the light of his love. But this original friendship with God was corrupted by sin. Our sin causes us to shy away from Christ, the light that has come into the world. During the season of Lent, we try to fight this tendency by remembering God’s great mercy and the salvation that we have received through Jesus. We do not fear confessing our sins, knowing that God forgives us, and so, during Lent, we seek out opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

After your family gathers, sit for a time in darkness, then light a candle. Invite people to talk about what it felt like to be in the darkness and to compare that to their feelings when the candle was lit. What are we able to see by the limited glow of the candlelight that we couldn’t see when we were sitting in darkness? Read today’s Gospel, John 3:14-21. John’s Gospel teaches us that Jesus was the light that came into the world. In this light we know ourselves to be sinners, but we are not condemned. Instead we have been saved because we have been forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Conclude in prayer together, thanking God for the great gift of forgiveness we have received through Jesus. Pray together the Act of Contrition.