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.


Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Today’s Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11
Isaiah tells the people to prepare a way for the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 85:9-14
The Lord’s salvation is near.

Second Reading
2 Peter 3:8-14
Peter teaches that we must always be holy because the return of the Lord cannot be predicted.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized the people, in preparation for the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel is taken from the beginning of Mark. Unlike Luke and Matthew, Mark does not include any details of Jesus’ birth. Instead Mark begins with the appearance of John the Baptist in the desert. On this the Second Sunday of Advent, we are invited to reflect upon the role of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus and the salvation that he would bring to us.

Mark’s description of the appearance of John the Baptist highlights John’s continuity with the Jewish prophetic tradition. Mark combines quotations from the Old Testament books of Malachi, Isaiah, and Exodus. Mark’s description of John as an ascetic, living in the desert, clothed in camel hair, and eating locusts and wild honey, is reminiscent of the description of the prophet Elijah found in Second Kings. The people of Judea and Jerusalem flock to him, listening to his message of repentance and forgiveness; they also come to him to be baptized. Mark’s Gospel is clear, however, that John the Baptist’s role is only to prepare the way for another who will come, one who is greater than John.

Many scholars believe that the Gospels reflect the tension that likely existed between followers of John the Baptist and disciples of Jesus. Each of the four Evangelists report on John’s preaching and baptizing, and they each emphasize the importance of Jesus’ baptism by John. The four Gospels also explain that John was sent to preach in preparation for another. In the Gospel of Luke, the question is raised as to whether John the Baptist was himself the Messiah. Just as in today’s Gospel, however, John speaks quite explicitly that the Messiah was to come after him.

In today’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate. John says that he has baptized with water, but that the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was not yet a Christian baptism, but a preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

John the Baptist is presented to us as a model during Advent. We, too, are called upon to prepare a way for the Lord. Like John the Baptist, we are messengers in service to one who is greater than we are. Our Baptism commissions us to call others to life as disciples of Jesus.


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized the people, in preparation for the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.


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

Younger children are likely excited about the upcoming Christmas season and familiar with some traditions associated with getting ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth during Advent. Help them learn the many ways we prepare our hearts and homes for Jesus’ birth.

Materials Needed

  • Materials to make a collage: 2 sets of pictures (from magazines or printed from the internet) 1) an Advent wreath, an Advent calendar, a Christmas tree, Christmas presents; 2) people showing kindness to others, people saying sorry or the word Sorry, people singing in church, people praying, people donating or volunteering; poster board or a large sheet of construction paper with the words “We prepare the way for Christ during Advent”; glue stick for each child. Ask permission to hang the collage in the hallway or narthex of the church.

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Have children sit around you and give each child a glue stick. Say: Let’s make an Advent collage together. When we make a collage, we arrange lots of pictures and glue them onto a larger sheet of paper to make a new, big picture. During Advent, we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Show children the first set of pictures and say: Here are pictures of some things we do to get ready for Christmas. What do you see? (Accept reasonable responses.) Invite children to help you arrange the pictures around the edges of the poster board and then glue them. (Leave plenty of space in the middle for the second set of pictures.) Point at the appropriate picture as you say: We light candles on an Advent wreath. We might hang an Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. Later in the season, we might decorate a Christmas tree and get gifts for our loved ones. There are other things we do to prepare for Jesus during Advent. Let’s learn how John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.
  2. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 1:1–8.
  3. Say: John the Baptism told the people that Jesus was coming and helped them be ready for him. People came to John the Baptist to acknowledge that they had sinned and to be baptized. During Advent, we prepare to welcome Christ into our hearts. We love and forgive others. We ask for forgiveness. We are helpful and kind. We pray every day. Give children the second set of pictures and ask them to tell what each one shows. Say: Let’s add these to our Advent collage to show how we can prepare the way for Jesus.
  4. If appropriate and feasible, take the children with you to hang the collage in the pre-arranged place in the church.
  5. Close by praying for the Holy Spirit to help you prepare the way for Jesus this Advent season. Pray together the Sign of the Cross.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized the people, in preparation for the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.


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

During the season of Advent, older children observe many people making preparations for our celebration of Christmas. We can invite these children to reflect upon how these actions might help us to prepare the way for Jesus. We can also remind them that Advent calls us to prepare the way for Jesus by renewing our lives through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: During the season of Advent, many of us do many things to prepare for our celebration at Christmas. What are some things that people do to prepare for Christmas? Make a list of these things together as a group.

  2. Say: Many people are very busy during the season of Advent doing all these things. But let’s consider for a minute how these things prepare us to receive Jesus. Look over the list we have just made. How do these things prepare the way for Jesus? (Accept all reasonable answers; acknowledge that some of these things prepare the way for Jesus more than others.)

  3. Say: The Gospel for today tells us how John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read Mark 1:1-8.

  5. Ask: What did John the Baptist do to prepare the way for Jesus? (He preached repentance and baptized people as a sign of forgiveness of sins.) Having heard today’s Gospel, is there anything else that you think that we should be doing during Advent to prepare the way for Jesus? (Encourage answers that identify ways in which we might repent for our sins, seek forgiveness, and change our lives so that we might invite others to be followers of Jesus.)

  6. Say: One of the things that the Church invites us to do during the season of Advent is to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If there are special opportunities in your Church community to celebrate reconciliation during the season of Advent, mention them now. During Advent, we seek forgiveness for our sins and look for ways in which we can be better followers of Jesus.

  7. Conclude with a simple reconciliation service, such as the following: Read again from today’s Gospel, Mark 1:4-8. Invite the group to pray silently, asking God to forgive our sins and promising to do one thing this week to be a better follower of Jesus. Pray together an Act of Contrition and then celebrate God’s forgiveness by sharing a sign of peace.


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized the people, in preparation for the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Especially during this time of the year, young people are inundated with consumer messages from retail advertisers trying to influence shoppers who are buying gifts for the holidays. During Advent, we can help young people focus on a different message by reflecting on the example of John the Baptist when considering how to “prepare the way of the Lord” in our own lives.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: At this time of year, we see lots of advertising trying to get our attention and influence our shopping habits. Ask the group to name strategies that stores use to attract attention and influence people as they shop for the holidays (for example, colorful signs and decorations, attractive window displays, special sales). Ask: How have these strategies influenced your shopping? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  2. Say: These messages can have a powerful influence on us, especially as we get ready for Christmas. The Gospels we hear at Mass during Advent call us to pay attention to a different message as we prepare to welcome Christ into our hearts. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear about John the Baptist and his message to “prepare the way of the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3) Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read Mark 1:1-8.

  4. Ask: What about John the Baptist might have caught people’s attention? (He wore clothing made of camel’s hair; he ate locusts and wild honey.) What did John the Baptist want people to do? (repent from sin; be baptized as a sign of repentance)

  5. Say: John the Baptist’s appearance and his message of repentance caught people’s attention. Then he told them the most important thing. What did he say? (Another mightier than I will come after me; he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.) We know that he was talking about Jesus.

  6. Say: During Advent, we affirm John’s message by “prepare[ing] the way of the Lord” in our own lives. We seek forgiveness for our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and look for ways in which we can be better followers of Jesus. In our words and actions, we hope to be like John the Baptist in leading others to Jesus. In what ways can we “prepare the way of the Lord” in the world today? (Accept all reasonable answers, such as making good choices, working for peace and justice, and being prepared to talk about our faith.)

  7. Conclude by praying together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 85, praying with confidence that we will hear God’s message of salvation, justice, and peace and announce it to others.


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized the people, in preparation for the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.


Family Connection

The season of Advent invites us to renew our lives in preparation for the coming of Jesus. The people who heard the message of John the Baptist repented for their sins and were baptized as a sign of God’s forgiveness. In Baptism, our sins are forgiven, and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our life of discipleship. Led by the Holy Spirit, we use this Advent season to renew our lives so that we, like John the Baptist, might prepare the way for Jesus.

As you gather together as a family, talk about ways in which the example of others has called you to be a follower of Jesus. Name the people who have been examples to you of Christian discipleship and describe their characteristics that you have tried to emulate. Read together today’s Gospel, Mark 1:1-8.

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, Baptism commissions us to prepare the way of the Lord. The gift of the Holy Spirit leads us to continually renew our lives so that we might lead others to Jesus. As a family, identify at least one action that you will take this week to try to be more faithful followers of Jesus. Conclude in prayer together that God will receive this action and use it to lead others to Jesus. Pray the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.