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 B

Sunday, December 31, 2018

Today’s Readings

First Reading
Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3
(or the first reading from Cycle A: Sirach 3:2-7,12-14)
God fulfills his promise to Abraham, and Sarah gives birth to a son.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 105:1-6,8-9 (or the psalm from Cycle A: Psalm 128:1-5)
A prayer of thanksgiving to God for his faithfulness to his covenant.

Second Reading
Hebrews 11:8,11-12,17-19 (or the second reading from Cycle A: Colossians 3:12-21)
Paul examines Abraham’s example of faith.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:22-40 (or shorter form: Luke 2:22,39-40)
Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. This celebration is assigned to the Sunday within the octave of Christmas. The Gospel for today is taken from the Gospel according to Luke and is part of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

Today’s Gospel describes the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple and shows Joseph and Mary as devout Jews, following the prescriptions of the Law of Moses. The Gospel alludes to several aspects of the Law of Moses: circumcision, the dedication of the firstborn son to the Lord, and the purification of a woman after childbirth.

According to the Law of Moses as presented in the Book of Leviticus, a woman was considered ritually unclean during her menstrual period and for a prescribed period of time following the birth of a child. After the birth of a son, a woman was considered ritually unclean for 40 days. After the birth of a daughter, a woman was considered unclean for 80 days. In order to be restored to ritual purity, a Jewish woman performed the appropriate rites of purification and made the prescribed ritual offering.

Today’s Gospel notes that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, in accordance with the Mosaic Law. At that time, he was called Jesus, the name he was given by the angel Gabriel. On the 40th day after Jesus’ birth, Mary performed the appropriate purification rites and made her offering at the Temple. Although the Law of Moses required an offering of a lamb, those who could not afford a lamb could substitute two turtledoves or two pigeons. In this scene, Luke identifies Joseph and Mary as being poor, and indeed throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will show special concern for the poor.

Another Jewish rite referenced in this Gospel is the dedication of the firstborn son to the Lord. In remembrance of the feast of Passover, when the firstborn children of the Israelites in Egypt were saved from death, the Law of Moses prescribed that all firstborn males of Israel should be consecrated to the Lord. In this tradition, Mary and Joseph present the infant Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, Luke reports that Mary and Joseph encounter two devout Jews, Simeon and Anna, who recognize the infant Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s hope for redemption. In Simeon’s words we find a prediction of Mary’s witnessing of Jesus’ death on the cross. The Canticle of Simeon, also called by its Latin name, Nunc Dimitis, is prayed at night prayer, or compline, during the Liturgy of the Hours.


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:22-40 (or shorter form: Luke 2:22,39-40)
Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses.


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

Families are most important in the general development of young children, and this is no less true for their growth in faith. In the family of Jesus we find a model of what it means to be a family of faith.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: We learn many important things from our families. What are some things that your families have taught you? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  2. Say: We know that Jesus learned many important things from his family. Joseph was a carpenter, and Jesus probably learned from Joseph how to make things out of wood. What other things do you think that Jesus might have learned from Joseph? (Accept all reasonable answers.)What might Jesus have learned from his mother, Mary? (Accept all reasonable answers.) Today’s Gospel tells us about another important thing that Jesus learned from his parents.

  3. Read today’s Gospel in its shorter form, Luke 2:22,39-40.

  4. Say: Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord. By doing this, they honored an important Jewish tradition. What do you think Jesus later learned from this? (That faith in God was important to his family.) What does our Gospel say happened next? (Mary and Joseph took Jesus home to Nazareth; Jesus grew up.)

  5. Say: Our Gospel doesn’t tell us everything about Jesus’ childhood, but it does tell us something very important: Jesus, like us, learned many important things from his family. The most important thing that he learned was how to love God.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, thanking God for our families and asking God to bless our family. Invite each child to ask God to bless his or her family by saying, “God bless [the name of the family].” When everyone has finished their prayers of blessing, pray together the Glory Be to the Father.


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:22-40 (or shorter form: Luke 2:22,39-40)
Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses.


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

Our families have the primary role in teaching us about the traditions of our faith and how we express our faith. The family of Jesus is a model for Christian families in this important task.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group: What are some ways in which we express our faith in God? What do we do to show that we are Catholic? (daily prayer, reading Scripture, gathering for Mass, praying the Rosary) Ask: From whom did you learn the importance of these expressions of our faith? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  2. Say: Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. For many of us, our families have played an important role in teaching us about our Catholic faith. Jesus also learned about his faith from his parents. Today’s Gospel presents Jesus’ family as a model for family life. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel to see what we might learn to imitate in our own lives.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, Luke 2:22-40.

  4. Ask: What are Mary and Joseph doing in this reading? (They are honoring the traditions of their Jewish faith by bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple.) Why do you think it is important that we know this about Jesus’ family? (It shows Jesus’ family’s faithfulness to their religious tradition; it shows that Jesus learned his faith from his family.) Are there ways that Catholic families express their faith that are similar to the way that Jesus’ family expressed their faith? (bringing a child to church for Baptism, bringing children to weekly Mass, and so on)

  5. Say: We learn from many people how to express our faith in God, but our families have a special role in teaching us about God and our Catholic faith. Let’s take some time to write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for our family and for all that we have learned from them about God and our faith. Distribute paper and pencils and allow time for the group to write their prayers. Tell them that they will be invited to share these prayers as part of the closing prayer.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to bless and strengthen our families. Invite members of the group to offer their prayers for their families. Pray together today’s psalm, Psalm 105, or pray the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:22-40 (or shorter form: Luke 2:22,39-40)
Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people continue to be profoundly influenced by their family, even though at this age they often resist and deny this influence. We can invite young people to consider the importance of family and help them grow in appreciation for their family’s influence.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Observe that neighbors, teachers, or acquaintances often know our family connections before we tell them any information about our brothers or sisters or parents. Ask the young people to think of a time when someone identified them based on family relationship, perhaps by asking something like the following: “Aren’t you Jack’s brother/sister?” “You are one of the Johnson children, right?” Ask: On what basis are people able to make these family connections? (family resemblances; similar mannerisms; shared family interests)

  2. Say: These similarities among family members indicate some of the ways we are influenced by our family. What are some other ways that you experience your family’s influence in your life? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The Gospel invites us to reflect on the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and, thereby, consider the importance of our family’s influence on us. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud Luke 2:22–40.

  5. Ask: What are Mary and Joseph doing in this reading? (They are honoring the traditions of their Jewish faith by bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple.) What does this tell us about Mary and Joseph’s influence on Jesus? (They raised Jesus to be faithful to their Jewish tradition; Jesus learned his faith from his family; their practice of the Jewish faith connected them with other people in their faith community.)

  6. Say: Many people influence us, but we are especially influenced by our families. What are some ways that your family influences your understanding of God and the practice of the faith? What can you learn about the importance of family from the example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  7. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to bless and strengthen our families. Pray together today’s psalm, Psalm 105, or pray the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:22-40 (or shorter form: Luke 2:22,39-40)
Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses.


Family Connection

Today’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family highlights the importance of family in our religious life. We know that Mary and Joseph’s faithfulness to God enabled them to cooperate in God’s plan for our salvation by accepting the responsibility to raise God’s Son, Jesus. From his parents, Jesus learned how to be a faithful believer in his Jewish tradition. Simeon’s prophecy about Mary’s sorrow alerts us to the importance of a family’s commitment to one another, a commitment that is expressed in both good times and bad.

Gather as a family and recall times when your family showed its commitment to one another in good times and in bad. Recall times when your immediate family was supported by members of your extended family. Note that today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and we see in the family of Jesus an example for our own family life. Read together today’s Gospel, Luke 2:22-40. Joseph and Mary expressed their faithfulness to God through their observance of the Law of Moses. Simeon prophesied the grief that Mary would experience at the foot of Jesus’ cross. One of the blessings of family life is our commitment to one another, sharing good times and supporting one another through difficult times. Conclude in prayer together thanking God for the grace expressed in your family’s commitment to another. Write a prayer together, thanking God for your family life and asking God to strengthen your family’s commitment to one another. Pray this prayer together.