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 Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Cycle A

Friday, December 30, 2016

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
Sirach 3:2-7,12-14
Honor to one's parents will be rewarded.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5
Happy are those who follow the Lord's ways.

Second Reading
Colossians 3:12-21 (or shorter form, Colossians 3:12-17)
Do all things in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As we do so, our Gospel invites us to consider Joseph's protection of Jesus in the face of danger. Just as in the announcement of Jesus' birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel warns him of Herod's plans to harm Jesus. Joseph follows the command of the angel and takes Joseph and Mary to Egypt, returning only after receiving word in another dream that it was safe to do so.

This feast is part of the Christmas season, so we should look at today's Gospel in the context of what Scripture tells us about Jesus' birth. Today's reading is found in the Gospel of Matthew, following the story of the visit of the Magi. Recall that Matthew's story about the birth of Jesus makes Joseph the primary character. Among Matthew's themes in this infancy narrative is Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the messiah. Indeed, the story of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt recalls the story of Moses in the Book of Exodus.

It should also be noted that today's reading omits the verses that recount Herod's order of the massacre of the infant boys in and around Bethlehem. We mark this event on the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28.

These events remind us of the difficult reality of Jesus' birth. While the story of the Magi's visit will be recalled in our liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany, our Christmas celebration is made more sober by the recollection that not everyone received Christ's birth with joy or obedience. Herod's jealousy and malice contrast with Joseph's obedience to the words of the angel. The Holy Family's escape to Egypt and the massacre that Jesus is saved from remind us of the struggles and sacrifices that are required as preparation for God's salvation.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


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

Teach younger children that children of any age can contribute to their family’s well being. Invite children to identify ways they help and care for their families.

Materials Needed

  • The figures of Mary, Joseph and Jesus from a nativity set or a picture of the Holy Family

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Show children the figures from the Nativity set or a picture of the Holy Family. Say: Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Ask: Who are the Holy Family? (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus)

  2. Say: In today’s Gospel, we’ll hear how Joseph obeyed God and protected the baby Jesus.

  3. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 2:13–15,19–23.

  4. Say: Jesus was in danger. King Herod wanted to kill him. Ask: What did the angel of the Lord tell Joseph to do? (Go to Egypt.) Say: Joseph obeyed God. He protected Jesus and kept him safe until they could return to Israel.

  5. Ask: What are some ways that our families protect and care for us? (Accept all reasonable responses.) Say: Every person in a family is important. We all help and care for one another. Ask: What are some things that you do together as a family? How do you help?

  6. Say: Let’s think of one thing we will do today to be a good and loving member of our family.

  7. Conclude by praying a prayer of thanks to God for the Holy Family and our own families.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


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

Children are dependent upon their family's care and protection, and yet they may take this for granted. Today's feast is an opportunity to invite young people to reflect upon the importance of their families and their own responsibilities for their families.

Materials Needed

  • The figures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus from a nativity set or a picture of the Holy Family
  • Paper and pencil

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Place before the group the figures of the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus from a nativity set or display a picture of the Holy Family. Explain that Jesus' family was made up of father, mother, and child. Reinforce that every family is unique, some are large and some small. Encourage children to think of their own families.

  2. Ask the group to consider the question: What makes a family different from other groups of people? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: There are many ways in which a family is different from other groups of people. One of the main qualities of a family is a commitment to caring for one another and protecting one another from harm. This Sunday we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Let's listen together to the Gospel that we hear on this special day. Invite one or more volunteers to read Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.

  4. Say: Today's Gospel reminds us that Jesus was part of a family and that great pains were taken by this family to protect Jesus from danger. Why was Jesus in danger? (Herod was looking to kill him.) Who protected Jesus from this danger? (Joseph and God) How did Joseph protect Jesus from harm? (He took the family to Egypt.)

  5. Ask: How do families protect each other from harm or danger? Think about a time when your family has protected you from harm. How did it feel?

  6. Say: All family members share the responsibility of protecting one another and contributing to the good of the family. What are some things you can do that contribute to the good of your family? Make a list of these things on the board.

  7. Invite each child to select one thing that he or she will do this week to contribute to the good of his or her family and to write that on a piece of paper.

  8. Conclude in prayer by gathering the group around the image of the Holy Family. Pray together that family members will live up to their responsibilities for one another. Invite each child to place his or her piece of paper from #7 on the prayer table, as a sign of commitment to family. Sing together a Christmas hymn, such as "Once in Royal David's City."


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are beginning to pull away from their parents. They are beginning to recognize that their families are not perfect. The feast of the Holy Family helps us realize that although Jesus, Mary, and Joseph faced great difficulties, they got through them by being obedient to God.

Materials Needed

  • An image of the Holy Family

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in small groups and have them brainstorm names of TV families.

  2. When they have finished, invite each group to report its list.

  3. Ask the young people to identify which families were/are portrayed as being seemingly perfect and which were/are portrayed as having many problems. (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  4. Say: As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, it's important to know that the word holy does not mean “perfect.” Let's listen to the Gospel for the feast of the Holy Family and see what it is that makes this family holy.

  5. Invite volunteers to read aloud Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.

  6. Say: This Gospel reminds us that Jesus was part of a family and that this family faced some extraordinary difficulties. What difficulty did they face? (Herod was looking to kill Jesus. They had to travel far from home. Jesus was born in a stable.) Who protected Jesus from these dangers? (Joseph and God) How did Joseph protect Jesus from harm? (He took the family to Egypt.)

  7. Ask: What made this family holy? (obedience to God) To be holy does not mean that you have no problems or that you are perfect. It means that you turn to God for help in getting through your problems.

  8. Conclude in prayer by gathering the group around the image of the Holy Family. Pray together that family members will be obedient to God, listening to him and allowing him to guide them.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


Family Connection

In the midst of the Christmas season, it is quite appropriate that our liturgy asks us to pause to consider the Holy Family. In today's Gospel, we hear about how Joseph protected Jesus from danger by relocating the family to Egypt in obedience to God. Following the model of the Holy Family, we might use this feast to recall the responsibility that each family member has to contribute to the good of the family and recommit ourselves to one another.

Gather together as a family to work on a common project. You might prepare a meal together, prepare a special dessert, or perhaps do a craft together. When you finish, talk about how each family member contributed to the common project. Remind one another that each member of the family contributes to the good of the whole family. Recall that Jesus was also part of a family and that this Sunday we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Read together today's Gospel, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23. Pray together that your family will continue to protect and care for one another as Mary and Joseph protected and cared for Jesus.