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.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Sunday, February 13, 2022

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
Jeremiah 17:5-8
Put trust and hope in the Lord, not in human beings.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 1:1-4,6
Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20
Our hope for resurrection is sure because Christ has been raised from the dead.

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:17,20-26
Jesus teaches the crowd the way to happiness.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Last Sunday we heard Jesus call Peter to be his disciple. Jesus then travels with Peter and the other disciples. Luke reports acts of healing (a person with leprosy and a paralytic man) and the call of Levi, the tax collector. Jesus also replies to questions from the Pharisees regarding fasting and the observance of the Sabbath. In the verses immediately before today's gospel reading, Jesus is reported to have chosen 12 men from among his disciples to be apostles. Apostle is a Greek word that means “one who is sent.”

Today's gospel reading is the beginning of what is often called the Sermon on the Plain. We find a parallel to this passage in Matthew 5:1-7,11 that is often called the Sermon on the Mount. As these titles suggest, there are differences and similarities between these gospel readings.

When spoken from the mountaintop in Matthew's Gospel, we can't miss the impression that Jesus is speaking with the authority and voice of God. The mountaintop is a symbol of closeness to God. Those who ascend the mountain see God and speak for God; recall the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. As Luke introduces the location of Jesus' teaching, Jesus teaches on level ground, alongside the disciples and the crowd. Luke presents Jesus' authority in a different light. He is God among us.

Another distinction found in Luke's version is the audience. Luke's Sermon on the Plain is addressed to Jesus' disciples, although in the presence of the crowd; Matthew's Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the crowd. In keeping with this style, the Beatitudes in Luke's Gospel sound more personal than those in Matthew's Gospel—Luke uses the article “you” whereas Matthew uses “they” or “those.” There is also a difference in number: Matthew describes eight beatitudes; Luke presents just four, each of which has a parallel warning.

The form of the Beatitudes found in Luke's and Matthew's Gospel is not unique to Jesus. Beatitudes are found in the Old Testament, such as in the Psalms and in Wisdom literature. They are a way to teach about who will find favor with God. The word blessed in this context might be translated as “happy,” “fortunate,” or “favored.”

As we listen to this Gospel, the Beatitudes jar our sensibilities. Those who are poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted are called blessed. This is, indeed, a Gospel of reversals. Those often thought to have been forgotten by God are called blessed. In the list of “woes,” those whom we might ordinarily describe as blessed by God are warned about their peril. Riches, possessions, laughter, reputation . . . these are not things that we can depend upon as sources of eternal happiness. They not only fail to deliver on their promise; our misplaced trust in them will lead to our demise. The ultimate peril is in misidentifying the source of our eternal happiness.

The Beatitudes are often described as a framework for Christian living. Our vocation as Christians is not to be first in this world, but rather to be first in the eyes of God. We are challenged to examine our present situation in the context of our ultimate horizon, the Kingdom of God.

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:17,20-26
Jesus teaches the crowd the way to happiness.

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

Even very young children may be exposed to commercials and other messages suggesting that happiness can be found in acquiring material goods and focusing on oneself at the expense of others. Help children learn that our faith in God and the actions we take to help build up his kingdom are the sources of true, lasting happiness.

Materials Needed

  • toy for an infant or toddler that wouldn’t be interesting to children at this age
Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings
  1. Ask: Did anyone have a toy like this when you were little? Did you like playing with it then? Invite children to name other toys they have outgrown or no longer play with. Say: When we were little, we had fun playing with the toy. But it wouldn’t be fun to play with now. Things might make us happy for a while, but they don’t bring lasting happiness. Jesus teaches us how to be truly happy. Listen to what Jesus taught about being blessed, or happy.
  2. Read today's Gospel, Luke 6:17,20–26.
  3. Say: The people in the crowd were probably surprised when they heard Jesus’ teaching. He said that thinking only about ourselves and having lots of things wouldn’t make us truly happy. We are blessed and happy when we rely on God, who always loves us and never changes. We are blessed and happy when we make good choices and think of others, living as Jesus teaches us to live.
  4. Say: Jesus teaches us to share, to be patient, and to show concern for others. These actions bring us true happiness and help us share Jesus’ peace. How might you share Jesus’ peace when you’re playing with other children? (Accept all reasonable responses, including sharing toys, taking turns, being patient, helping others do well, being happy for other children when they win a game.)
  5. Pray together: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Amen”

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:17,20-26
Jesus teaches the crowd the way to happiness.

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

Older children are heavily influenced by our culture's vision of success. In the Beatitudes, we are asked to look critically at our culture's definition of success based on an alternative vision, the values of the Kingdom of God.

Materials Needed

  • Chalkboard and chalk (or display board and markers)

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Draw on the board a stick figure. Draw a smile on the stick figure's face and tell the group that this is a successful person. Ask the group to suggest what defines a person as a success in our society. Write these suggestions around the stick figure. (You may want to suggest some examples that are consistent with Catholic values, such as showing concern for others, if the children do not do so. It is OK if some examples are not consistent with Catholic values.)

  2. Read together today's Gospel, Luke 6:17,20-26.

  3. Reflect on Jesus' description of blessedness in the Kingdom of God. Ask: Who are the people that Jesus describes as blessed and happy? (those who are poor, those who are hungry, those who are sad, and those who are hated by others) Who are the people to whom Jesus directs his warnings? (those who are rich, those who have plenty to eat, those who laugh, and those who are spoken well of.)

  4. Ask: Is this teaching of Jesus surprising to you? challenging? Why or why not? (Accept all reasonable answers.) What is the measure of success in the Kingdom of God? (dependence on God, rather than on material possessions; willingness to witness to God even when others ridicule or reject us)

  5. Have the children look again at the stick figure and the elements of success in our society that you identified together. Circle the elements of success that are consistent with Jesus' teaching in the Beatitudes. Cross out the elements of success that are not consistent with the Beatitudes.

  6. Invite the children to pray that we will learn to be people who define success by the values of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Pray together the Prayer of St. Francis.

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:17,20-26
Jesus teaches the crowd the way to happiness.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are often influenced by the many media messages they hear about what makes a person happy. In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes happiness in the Kingdom of God, teaching us that things are not always as they appear to be.

Materials Needed

  • Several advertisements that link the product advertised with happiness
  • Poster board
  • Markers

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Display several examples of advertisements that show people who have apparently been made happy by the product advertised. Ask the group: What does this advertisement want you to believe about this product? (that it will make you happy; that it will make you successful) Ask: Can this product actually do that? (It probably can not make you happy. It may bring short-term happiness, but not anything that lasts.) Is this product essential for happiness, that is, will not having this product cause you harm? (probably not)

  2. Observe that things are not always as they appear and often not as others would have us believe. Say: This is the reality that Jesus teaches in today's Gospel: things are not always as they appear.

  3. Invite several volunteers to read today's Gospel, Luke 6:17,20-26. Perhaps a different person can read each of the verses.

  4. Ask: Who are the people that Jesus describes as blessed, as happy? (those who are poor, those who are hungry, those who are sad, and those who are hated by others) Who are the people to whom Jesus directs his warnings? (those who are rich, those who have plenty to eat, those who laugh, and those who are spoken well of)

  5. Ask: How then are things not as they appear? (Those who we think are unfortunate by our society's standards are blessed in the Kingdom of God; those who we think are fortunate have not found lasting happiness.) What is Jesus warning us about? (He is warning us about looking for happiness in money, possessions, superficial pleasures, and our reputation.)

  6. Invite the young people to design posters showing one of the pairs of blessings and warnings that Jesus speaks about in the Beatitudes. Have them divide the poster board in half by drawing a line down the center. Have them write a blessing from the gospel reading on one half, then write the parallel warning on the other. Have them come up with titles for their posters in the form of prayers, such as “We pray that we will seek the happiness of the Kingdom of God and not be fooled into thinking that money will bring us lasting happiness.”

  7. To conclude, decorate your prayer space with the posters. Gather in the prayer space and pray together the prayers the young people have written as titles on their posters. Conclude each prayer as follows: “We pray to the Lord.” All respond: “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Family Connection

Today's Gospel offers a contrast to many of the messages we hear in our society today. If we were to accept uncritically the “get ahead” messages of our culture, we would think that happiness means having money, being successful, and having many possessions. In this way, we are not unlike the people who heard Jesus teach on the day that he taught the Beatitudes. They too associated happiness with possessions and success. The report of the Beatitudes in Luke's Gospel, however, takes things one step further. Not only will we not find happiness through the “get ahead” messages of the world, but relying upon these messages will cause us harm. The warnings spoken are particularly challenging because they suggest that our way of life must change if we are to gain the lasting happiness of eternal life.

Talk together as a family about what society tells us makes a person successful. Make a list of the traits that you associate with a successful person. Then read together today's Gospel, Luke 6:17,20-26. Reflect on Jesus' description of blessedness in the Kingdom of God. Then consider the warnings. Why are these surprising and challenging? What, then, is the measure of success in the Kingdom of God? Together write prayers of petition based on your discussion. Pray these prayers together, asking God to help your family seek the blessings of the Kingdom of God.