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 of Easter, Cycle B

Sunday, May 6, 2018

This Sunday’s Readings

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26,34-35,44-48
The gift of the Holy Spirit comes to Cornelius and his household, and they are baptized.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4
A song of praise for God’s salvation

Second Reading
1 John 4:7-10
God is love.

Gospel Reading
John 15:9-17
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel follows immediately after the Gospel proclaimed last week, in which Jesus taught that he was the vine and that his disciples were the branches. In the example of the vine and the branches, we learned that our union with Jesus will lead to fruitful service. Today’s reading extends this teaching to describe the kind of service that Christians are called upon to offer to others.

When John wrote this Gospel, his community was influenced by a set of religious beliefs called Gnosticism. It appears that one of John’s intentions was to distinguish Christian belief from the beliefs held by the Gnostics. Evidence of this can be found in today’s Gospel.

One of the tenets of Gnostic teaching was the importance of knowledge, or gnosis, as the determining aspect of faith. We read today’s Gospel as a response to this teaching. In John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm that he is known by the Father and that his disciples will know the Father by knowing Jesus. In this passage, however, Jesus reminds his disciples that this knowledge is to be expressed in love. Those who know Jesus well—and Jesus says that his disciples do know him—will love one another. Knowledge leads to love, which leads to action. John reminds his community that Jesus taught that love is the sign of a true disciple and, thus, a true Christian. Even more, a true disciple shows a particular kind of love, sacrificial love.

In the Greek, there are two words for love that are used in this passage. The first is agape. The second is philia. The first word is most often used to describe love for other persons and for God. It is understood as the highest and most perfect kind of love. The second word is used to describe the affection of friendship. In this context, John appears to use these words as synonyms. The root of the Greek word for friend comes from this second term for love, philia. By using this word, Jesus transforms the terms of his relationship with his disciples and redefines for them their relationship with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, faith in God made one a servant of God.

Here Jesus teaches that his relationship to his disciples is based on friendship, not servitude.

Another aspect of Gnostic belief taught that a believer was an elect person, chosen and set apart from the world. John reminds his community that Jesus also taught that a disciple is one who had been chosen—one who had been chosen by Jesus. To be chosen by Jesus, however, is not to be set apart from the world. Instead, to be chosen by Jesus is to be sent to serve the world as he did. The disciples of Jesus were chosen and were sent into the world to bear fruit by serving others, by sacrificing for others, in love.

This reading, like last week’s, is part of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse. In the context of John’s Gospel, these words are spoken before Jesus’ Crucifixion. We read his instruction to the disciples in light of his death and Resurrection. We know that Jesus himself gives us the greatest example of the kind of love and service that he teaches to his disciples. He has, in fact, laid down his life for his friends, for his disciples, and for us. Through his death and Resurrection, we have received the grace to love others as Jesus has commanded.


Gospel Reading
John 15:9-17
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.


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

Young children are often naturally generous in showing their love and care for others. We can teach them that we follow the example of Jesus when we overcome obstacles and show our love for others.

Materials Needed

  • A partially completed 12-to-18-inch felt doll (see instructions below)
  • Enough polyfiber to stuff the doll
  • A simple obstacle course arranged in your gathering space

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Before class, cut out from a piece of felt two identical 12-to-18-inch doll shapes. Put the pieces together and stitch around the outside edge, leaving the outer edge of one leg open. Bring to class enough filling to stuff the toy.

  2. Explain to the group that you are making this toy to give to a needy child, but that you need their help to finish it. If they are willing to help, you will make a game out of it.

  3. Position the bag of stuffing and the doll at one end of the room and have the children line up several feet away. Arrange several obstacles for the children to climb over, under, or around in order to get to the toy. Then play this relay game: Have the first child go through the obstacle course, pull a bit of stuffing from the bag, and stuff it into the toy. Have that child bring another bit of stuffing to the next child in line, who then continues in like manner. Have each child go to the end of the line after his or her turn and continue the game until the doll is adequately stuffed.

  4. Show the toy to the children. Say: I started the toy by cutting it out and stitching it together. Each of you contributed to making it. Then each of you helped the next person in line by bringing some stuffing to him or her. The obstacle course was the game part of the activity, but sometimes in our daily lives, in order to do a good thing for someone else, we have to endure some obstacles. Discuss some obstacles that they might encounter, such as giving up something they might like for themselves or enduring the criticism of others.

  5. Say: In the Gospel this week, Jesus told his disciples that he began the process of loving, and now it would be their turn to follow his example. Since we are also followers of Jesus, we must follow his example too.

  6. Read aloud today’s Gospel, John 15:9-17.

  7. Say: When we overcome obstacles to love other people, we are following Jesus' great example of love. To further enforce the message, sew up the doll’s leg and give the toy to a parish organization that distributes such donations. Perhaps involve the children by inviting them to make a card to accompany the doll.

  8. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to help us to overcome all obstacles so that we will love others as Jesus did. Pray together the Act of Love.


Gospel Reading
John 15:9-17
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.


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

Older children are often naturally generous in showing their love and care for others, but they are also discovering that it can be difficult to follow Jesus’ example to love others. We can teach them that Jesus helps us overcome the obstacles we might face when we try to show our love for others.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children if they have ever participated in an obstacle course. If anyone has, invite him or her to talk about the experience. If no one has, describe a hypothetical obstacle course. Ask: What kinds of obstacles did you face in your race? How did you overcome them? Were some obstacles more difficult than others? Why? What makes an obstacle course challenging? Why do we choose to run obstacle course?

  2. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus commands his disciples to love one another as he has loved them. I really believe that all of us want to love others as Jesus showed us to love. But sometimes we face obstacles in showing our love for others. What do you think? What obstacles do we sometimes face when we try to show our love for another person? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: Let’s listen carefully to what Jesus taught his disciples about following his example of love. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud John 15:9-17.

  4. Say: John’s Gospel ells us that Jesus spoke these words to his disciples during the Last Supper. Do you remember what Jesus did during the Last Supper to show his disciples how he wanted them to love one another? (He washed his disciples’ feet.) What do we know that Jesus will do soon after the Last Supper to show his love for his disciples? (He will die on the cross.) For Jesus, even death was not an obstacle in showing his love for his disciples, who were his friends.

  5. Say: Jesus also calls us his friends, and he showed his great love for us in his sacrifice on the cross. God raised Jesus from the dead, and Jesus continues to help us show love to others. One way that he helps us is through the promise he made in today’s Gospel. Jesus said that God will give us whatever we ask for. One of the things we ask for from God is help overcoming the obstacles to loving other people.

  6. Conclude in prayer by inviting the young people to think again about one of the obstacles they face when they try to love others. Invite them to ask God to help them overcome this obstacle so that they can love others as Jesus taught. Pray together the Act of Love.


Gospel Reading
John 15:9-17
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Jesus’ command to “love one another as I love you” uses familiar language to describe a profound and challenging way of life. Jesus demonstrates love in action by his sacrifice on the cross. He calls us to follow his example.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Tell the young people to form small groups of two or three. Distribute paper and a pencil to each group. Observe that there are words in the English language that can function as either a noun or a verb. Offer an example, such as the word talk. (“I can give a talk.” or “I talk to my friend every day.”) Then challenge the young people in each group to work together to list as many additional examples as they can in one minute. When time is up, ask the groups to read their lists aloud. Congratulate everyone for their work. If it was not included on a group list, observe that the word love is another example of an English word that can be used as either a noun or a verb.

  2. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus has much to tell his disciples about his love for them. Let’s listen carefully.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 15:9–17.

  4. Ask: What commandment does Jesus give to his disciples? (“Love one another as I love you.”) How is the word love used in this sentence—as a noun or a verb? (a verb)

  5. Say: John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus spoke these words to his disciples during his Last Supper with them. Then he demonstrated the depth of his love by his sacrifice on the cross for their sake and for ours. Jesus gives us the same commandment he gave to his disciples: “Love one another as I love you.” Jesus wants us to follow his example of love in action.

  6. Ask the young people to identify examples of how Christians follow Jesus by acting on their love for others.

  7. Conclude by inviting the young people to choose something to do this week that will demonstrate love for others in action. Pray together that Jesus will strengthen our resolve to love others even when this is difficult. Pray together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 98.


Gospel Reading
John 15:9-17
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.


Family Connection

In family life, we have many opportunities to show love in action. Each time we postpone a task to tend to the needs of another, we show ourselves to be on the path to following the example of love shown to us by Jesus. Sometimes the sacrifices we are called upon to make for others are small. But these small choices to love and to serve others prepare us for the larger choices and sacrifices that we may be called upon to make. If we are people who have practiced showing our love for others with generosity, we will also be people who are willing to lay down our lives for those we love.

As you gather as a family, talk about the meaning of the word generosity. Ask each family member to describe an action that shows generosity. To be generous is to give freely to others without counting the cost. Recall that generosity is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Introduce today’s Gospel reading by saying that Jesus taught us to be generous in showing our love for one another. Read together today’s Gospel, John 15:9-17. What examples did Jesus give to us that show this kind of love? (washing his disciples’ feet; accepting death on the cross) Jesus helps us to show this kind of love to others. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promised that God will give us whatever we ask for. One of the things we can ask for from God is a generous spirit so that we can love others as Jesus did. Conclude in prayer together by praying Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer for Generosity.