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.

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Today’s Readings

First Reading
Numbers 6:22-27
God gives a blessing for the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 67:2-3,5,6,8
All the people sing praises to God.

Second Reading
Galatians 4:4-7
God sent his Son to make us children of God.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at the Christmas Mass at midnight. In it the shepherds act upon the message they receive from the angel and go to find Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. In their visit to the manger, the shepherds find things just as the angel had said. The shepherds’ visit, therefore, is a moment of fulfillment, manifestation, and the beginning of the salvation we receive through Christ.

In the context of today’s Solemnity, this reading also helps us focus on Mary as the Mother of God. The reading tells us at least three things about Mary as a mother. First, Mary is described as a reflective person, keeping the reports of the shepherds in her heart. Second, we are reminded of how obedient Mary was to God when she named the baby Jesus as the angel Gabriel had directed. Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing their Jewish tradition by having Jesus circumcised.

Mary’s faithfulness to God is evident in all three of these things. Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of prayer. This prayer made possible her obedience to God and God’s will, even if the outcome was not clear. Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God and enabled her to participate in God’s plan of salvation.

Because of Mary’s faithfulness to God, she was able to receive the gift of God’s Son and accept her role in God’s plan for salvation. By doing so, she models for us the path of discipleship and is also called Mother of the Church.

Our call to discipleship also includes these three aspects. First, discipleship means prayer and reflection on the events of our lives that we might see God’s presence and work in our lives. Second, discipleship means obedience to God and God's will. Third, discipleship includes fidelity to a community of faith.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

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

The shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the angel had said about Jesus. Mary didn’t understand it all, but she continued to obey God, naming the child Jesus as the angel had told her to do.

Materials Needed

  • A bowl of Jell-O gelatin
  • A large serving spoon
  • Enough small cups and spoons for the whole class
  • A tray
  • A box of baby wipes

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring to class a bowl of Jell-O gelatin, a large serving spoon, enough small cups and spoons for the whole class, a tray, and a box of baby wipes. Place the bowl of gelatin in a hidden spot (perhaps in a desk drawer or on an out-of-sight shelf). Place the tray, one of the small cups, one of the spoons, the large serving spoon, and the baby wipes in various places in the classroom. Be sensitive to any child who is diabetic and unable to eat the gelatin due to its sugar content.

  2. When the class arrives, ask for a volunteer who can “really follow directions.” Then give that child directions, such as: Take three steps, turn around twice, hop on one foot to the teacher’s desk, and wash your hands. (In this case, the baby wipes should be on the teacher’s desk.) Give a similar series of directions to bring the child to the tray, the cup, the small spoon, the large serving spoon (all of which the child should put on the tray), and lastly to the bowl of gelatin. The final direction should be to serve a cup of gelatin to himself or herself.

  3. Then say to the rest of the class: Now that you know what these directions lead to, each of you may wash your hands and serve yourself some gelatin. Have the children sit in a circle.

  4. Say: How easy it is to follow directions when we know the outcome. It’s much more difficult to follow directions when we’re not so sure of what’s going to happen. The Gospel reading this week is about Mary, the Mother of God. We honor Mary because she followed God’s directions even though she was not sure why she was being asked to do so or what was going to happen next. She simply obeyed.

  5. Read the Gospel passage, Luke 2:16-21. Say: Mary said yes to God and became the mother of Jesus. When she said yes, God told her to name her baby Jesus. In today’s Gospel, we hear that Mary followed these directions by God. When we obey God, as Mary did, we show ourselves to be good disciples of Jesus.

  6. Pray: We ask God to make us good disciples. We honor Mary by praying together the Hail Mary. Pray together the Hail Mary.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

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

Mary said yes to God and honored that commitment by becoming the mother of Jesus. Because she did so, she is a model of discipleship.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: What does it mean to make a commitment? (to decide to do something, to promise) What are some of the things we say when we are making a commitment? (Examples: I promise, on my honor, I will, I do) To what or to whom have you made a commitment? (Examples: a promise to clean your room, a commitment to a sports team)

  2. Ask: How important is it to keep a commitment? How do you feel when a commitment made to you is not honored? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: One of the reasons we honor Mary is because she kept her commitment to God in becoming the Mother of Jesus. Today we celebrate a feast in Mary’s honor called the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Let’s listen to the Gospel for this feast. When we are finished, I will ask you to name some of the ways Mary honored her promise to God.

  4. Ask one or more volunteers to read today’s Gospel, Luke 2:16-21. Ask: What commitment to God did Mary honor in this reading? (naming Jesus)

  5. Say: Because Mary honored her commitment to God, she is a model for us of how to be a disciple. A disciple is a follower. As Christians, when did we make our first commitment to be disciples of Jesus? (at Baptism) How do we show this commitment? (Accept all reasonable answers, such as prayer, Mass, religious education, and following the Commandments.)

  6. Pray together that we will continue to be good disciples in the model of Mary. Pray together the Hail Mary and/or sing together “Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly.”

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

For most young people at this age, their relationships with their mothers are in transition. As they assert their independence, they attempt to pull away from their mothers, but they still need them for help and guidance. On the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, we turn to Mary to help us grow closer to her son, Jesus.

Materials Needed

  • Index cards

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Tell the young people that some people benefit from having connections with people in high places.

  2. Invite them to imagine a person in a high place to whom they wish they had a connection.

  3. Distribute index cards to the young people and have them complete the following sentence: I wish I knew someone who… (For example: I wish I knew someone who could get me a backstage pass to my favorite band’s concert.)

  4. When they have finished, invite volunteers to share their sentences.

  5. Point out that the Gospel for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, reminds us that Mary’s faithfulness has earned her a special place in heaven.

  6. Invite volunteers to read aloud Luke 2:16-21.

  7. Say: Catholics think of Mary as someone who has a privileged connection to Jesus. In our prayers, we often ask Mary to help us grow closer to her son, Jesus.

  8. Invite the young people to keep in mind the special things that are happening in their lives, just as Mary pondered the events of Jesus’ birth.

  9. Conclude by praying together a Hail Mary.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

Family Connection

In today’s Gospel, we learn that Mary honored her commitment to God by naming her child Jesus, the name given to him by the angel Gabriel. In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is told to name the child Jesus because he will save the people. The name Jesus means "God saves." Even in his name, Jesus announces the mission he came to accomplish.

Your family might use today’s feast as an opportunity to talk about names. Reflect together on the name of each member of the family. What does each name mean? Why was each person so named?

Read together today’s Gospel, Luke 2:16-21. Recall that the name Jesus means "God saves." Think about how Jesus fulfilled the mission that his name suggests. Pray as a family that each family member will fulfill their mission to be faithful followers of Jesus, in whom we find our salvation. Pray for Mary’s help by praying together the Hail Mary or singing together, "Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly."