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.


Pentecost Sunday, Cycle A

Sunday, May 31, 2020

This Sunday’s Readings

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles gathered in Jerusalem.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34
God’s Spirit renews the earth.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13
We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The Season of Easter concludes with today’s celebration, the Feast of Pentecost. On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church. The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading. The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Yet the event in John’s Gospel takes place on Easter Sunday. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is enough that we know that after his death, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a helper, an advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world.

We already heard today’s Gospel proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter this year (Lectionary Cycle A). That Gospel passage, however, also included the description of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas. In that context, we were led reflect on belief and unbelief.

In the context of the Feast of Pentecost, John 20:19-23 reminds us about the integral connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness and the action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathes the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and sends them to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ act of breathing the Holy Spirit mirrors God’s act of breathing life into Adam at the time of Creation. In fact, both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”

This Gospel reminds us that the Church is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. The reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Church’s sacramental life. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin and become a new creation in Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Church celebrates the mercy of God through the forgiving of sins. This reconciling presence is also to be a way of life for Christians. In situations of conflict, we are to be agents of peace and harmony among people.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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

Younger children are learning how to be a good friend to others. As Christians, we are called to be agents of peace and forgiveness. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us.

Materials Needed

  • Hearts of different sizes, cut out of various colors of posterboard or paper; tape
  • On each heart, write an action we can take to be a peacemaker, such as forgive, say sorry, welcome, be kind, understand. Cut the hearts in half for children to match.

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Give half a heart to each child. Have children walk around to find the child who has the other half. Help children tape the halves together. Say: As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers. We can be peacemakers by taking care of relationships, just as we took care of the hearts by putting them back together.
  2. Say: On each heart is written a way we can be peacemakers with our friends and family. Take turns telling us what your heart says. (Help younger children as needed.) Discuss how each action helps make a relationship more peaceful.
  3. Say: The risen Jesus greeted his disciples with words of peace. Let’s listen.
  4. Read today’s Gospel, John 20:19–23.
  5. Ask: What words of peace did Jesus use to greet the disciples? (“Peace be with you.”) Say: Jesus gave the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them spread his message of peace and forgiveness. We can pray to the Holy Spirit to help and guide us. Let’s do that now.
  6. Pray to the Holy Spirit that we will be peacemakers in all our relationships.

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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

Young people are aware of, sensitive to, and sometimes even a part of situations of conflict. As we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, our Gospel reminds us that this same Holy Spirit helps us to be agents of God’s peace and forgiveness in the world.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group to name some situations in which greater peace is needed. These situations could be taken from current events, historical events, or contemporary school or family life situations.

  2. Invite the group to choose one of the situations named, and then help the group to identify some of the issues involved in this conflict. Ask questions such as these: Why is peace lacking in this situation? What are some of the issues being contested? What would it take to restore peace in this situation?

  3. Say: When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection, his first words to them were a greeting of peace. This was welcome news to the disciples. Let’s listen to today’s Gospel to find out why this was such welcome news.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23.

  5. Ask: Why might Jesus’ greeting of peace have been so welcome to his disciples? (They were gathered in the upper room in fear; they had witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross.) Say: As witnesses to Jesus’ death, the disciples had been very much a part of a situation of conflict. They gathered together in fear, perhaps because they thought that some people would seek their deaths as well. They very much needed to hear Jesus’ words of peace and reassurance.

  6. Say: The Feast of Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ first disciples. This same Holy Spirit is still with us. After breathing upon them and giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, what does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (to forgive sins)

  7. Say: Just as Jesus sent his disciples to forgive the sins of others, so too are we sent to bring peace to the world. And we also have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us with this task.

  8. Say: Looking back at the situation of conflict we talked about at the beginning, what might the Holy Spirit lead us to do to help bring peace to this situation of conflict? (Accept all reasonable answers; if appropriate, make a choice to do one of these actions as a group.)

  9. Conclude by praying together that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through us to bring peace to the world. Pray together today’s Psalm or the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are familiar with breaking things. They know that some broken things can be repaired or put back together. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we might be reconciled—put back together—through the forgiveness of sins.

Materials Needed

  • Craft sticks (one for every two young people)
  • Transparent tape

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring in craft sticks. Break the sticks in half, mix them up, and randomly distribute them to the young people.

  2. Then invite each person to find the person whose half matches his or her half. When everyone has found his or her half, instruct the pairs to put the two pieces back together using tape.

  3. Point out that the word reconcile means "to make compatible or to re-establish a close relationship." In other words, it means to put back together.

  4. Tell the young people that in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we might be reconciled.

  5. Invite one or more volunteers to read this Sunday’s Gospel, John 20:19-23.

  6. Say: The Feast of Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ first disciples. This same Holy Spirit is still with us. After giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, what does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (to forgive sins)

  7. Say: Just as Jesus sent his disciples to forgive the sins of others, so too we are sent to bring reconciliation to the world. We have also been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us with this task.

  8. Conclude by praying together that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through us to bring peace to the world. Pray together today’s psalm or the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Family Connection

Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church. The Gospel for Pentecost reminds us that the Church begins with the command to forgive. Within the family, the domestic Church, we learn how to forgive and how to accept forgiveness. The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to do both. Today is a fitting time to share a family celebration of reconciliation.

As you gather together as a family, sit quietly for a few minutes, inviting everyone to reflect upon their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness. If there is a situation or an issue within the family that needs attention, spend some time reflecting on how your family might address it. Read together today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23. Talk together about how Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us in the work of forgiveness and to bring us peace. Pray together today’s Psalm or the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking that the Holy Spirit help your family. Share with one another a Sign of Peace.