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 Easter, Cycle B (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

This Sunday’s Reading

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35
The first Christian community shared their possessions, and no one was needy.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24
The Lord’s mercy endures forever.

Second Reading
1 John 5:1-6
Those who love God keep his commandments.

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles. This fact alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus that are described in this reading. This Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

Part of the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection is that he appeared to his disciples not as a spirit, but in bodily form. We do not know, however, exactly what this form looked like. Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Mary of Magdala first encountered the risen Jesus, she did not recognize him until he spoke to her. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until he broke bread with them. We know from readings such as today’s that in his resurrected form, Jesus was not bound by matter; he appeared to the disciples inside a home even though the door was locked. Yet the disciples could still touch the marks of his Crucifixion.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun; as Jesus was sent by God, so Jesus sends his disciples. He gives his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they will be able to accomplish this task. Jesus’ words to his disciples also highlight the integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can share forgiveness and reconciliation with others.

Thomas, the doubting disciple in today’s reading, represents the reality of the Church that comes after this first community of witnesses to Jesus. All but the first disciples of Jesus must believe without seeing. Like Thomas, we may doubt the news that Jesus, who was crucified and buried, appeared to his disciples. Our human nature seeks hard evidence that the Jesus who appeared to his disciples after his death is indeed the same Jesus who was crucified. Thomas is given the opportunity to be our representative in obtaining this evidence. He gives witness to us that the Jesus who was raised is the same Jesus who died. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are among those who are blessed, for we have not seen and yet believe.


The Second Sunday of Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.


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

For young children, seeing is believing. As they mature in their faith, they will learn to appreciate that there is more to life than what they can see with their eyes.

Materials Needed

  • An empty oatmeal container
  • Useless, oddly shaped items such as empty walnut shells, painted pasta shells, a dried-out marker, a broken rubber band
  • One tube sock

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Place several oddly shaped items inside an empty oatmeal container. Some of these items should be useless (e.g., an empty walnut, carefully cracked with the insides removed and then taped back together; a painted pasta shell; a dried-out marker; a broken rubber band). Put the container inside a tube sock. Pass the container around the group and allow each child to feel the items hidden in the sock to try to figure out what they are. Tell the children not to mention what he or she thinks each item is.

  2. Ask: Was it easy or difficult to identify the objects inside the sock? Why do you think this was so? (Allow all reasonable responses.)

  3. Say: Without being able to see them, it is difficult to recognize the items in the container. Even if you can guess what the items are, it is almost impossible to know if they are broken or pretty or safe or useful. The Gospel this week tells how difficult it was for Jesus’ followers to believe in him once he had died and left their sight. So Jesus appeared to them. Let’s listen carefully to today’s Gospel.

  4. Read aloud John 20:19-31.

  5. Say: This Gospel tells us that when the disciples saw Jesus, they believed. Remove the items so the children can examine them. Now that we see these objects, we know what they are.

  6. Say: When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he gave them a special job. He asked them to help others to know Jesus by demonstrating Jesus’ greatest trait—his loving forgiveness. You see, some of the items in this container are useless. (Point them out.) When people saw that Jesus’ enemies had killed him, they might have thought Jesus was useless. That is why Jesus left behind part of himself to his disciples. He left the Holy Spirit so that they could forgive sins as he did. That way, people would know that Jesus’ love is still alive and working.

  7. Conclude by praying together that we will allow the Holy Spirit to make us people who forgive others. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.


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

Older children can be argumentative. Take advantage of opportunities to teach them that Jesus shares with us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which can help us resolve conflicts peacefully.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group to identify five things that people their age might argue about. As these things are named, ask a volunteer to write them on the board.

  2. Divide the children into groups of two or three. Instruct each group to choose one of the scenarios written on the board and to prepare a skit that shows the argument and how the situation might be resolved. Allow each group the opportunity to present the skit.

  3. Say: Jesus knew human beings well. He knew that we would have arguments. But he gave us the remedy for hurt feelings in the gift of reconciliation.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, John 20:19-31.

  5. Ask: What disagreement among the disciples is heard in this Gospel? (Thomas didn’t believe that the other disciples had seen Jesus.) How did Jesus begin the process of reconciliation for the disciples? (He appeared again when Thomas was present; he shared with his disciples the power to forgive sins.) What gift did Jesus give to his disciples to help them forgive sins? (the Holy Spirit)

  6. Say: Jesus has also given us the power to be people who forgive and reconcile with one another. Whenever we act to bring peace and resolution, we are acting in the spirit of Jesus.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that we will share the gifts of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation with the people in our lives. Pray together the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Learning to resolve conflicts is an important skill for getting along with others. The Holy Spirit helps us to seek ways to bring peaceful resolution to conflicts.

Materials Needed

  • Paper
  • Pens

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people to think about a recent disagreement with another person. (Give assurances that during this activity no one will be asked to give specific details about the disagreement.) Ask them to consider how the conflict was resolved. Distribute paper to each person and give instructions to write down the actions that led to a resolution of the disagreement.

  2. Invite volunteers to share specific actions that helped to resolve the conflict. Work together to identify elements of good conflict resolution and write these on the board (for example, honest discussion, a desire to resolve the conflict, willingness to ask forgiveness). Encourage the young people to develop and use these skills in their relationships.

  3. Say: Jesus knew human beings well. He knew that we would have arguments, disagreements, even fights with one another. He gave us help in order to become people who seek peace and reconciliation with others. Let’s listen carefully to this Sunday’s Gospel to learn about the help Jesus gives us.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 20:19–31.

  5. Ask: What are Jesus’ words of greeting to the disciples? (“Peace be with you.”) What gift does Jesus give to his disciples? (the Holy Spirit) What does Jesus tell his disciples to do? (forgive sins)

  6. Say: We celebrate the gifts of forgiveness and peace in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The Holy Spirit helps us to be people who forgive and reconcile with one another. We can call upon the Holy Spirit to help us to seek ways to bring peaceful resolution to disagreements.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that we will share the gifts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace with the people in our lives. Pray together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 118.


Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.


Family Connection

Within normal family life, there are many opportunities for conflict. Jesus did not promise us the absence of conflict in our lives. Instead, he gave us the gifts of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation so that we could reduce conflict. The measure of Christian family life is not the absence of conflict, but the manner in which conflict is resolved. Filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we ask Jesus to help us to bring peace and forgiveness to situations of conflict in our families.

As your family gathers, take this opportunity to examine how your family resolves conflict. Recall a recent argument or disagreement and discuss how the conflict was resolved. Consider whether the conflict was resolved peacefully, in the spirit of Jesus. If not, discuss alternatives that might be tried in the future. Read together today’s Gospel, John 20:19-31. Recall that we have each received Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit helps us to be people who forgive others and seek peace. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit or the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.