Sunday Connection

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.


Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday, January 21, 2018


This Sunday’s Readings


Activities in Preparation for This Week in the Liturgical Year

First Reading
Jonah 3:1-5,10
God spared the people of Nineveh because they heeded the message God sent through Jonah.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9
The Lord teaches us his ways.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Paul warns the Corinthians that they must act differently because the world in its present form is passing away.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we begin a continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel that will carry us through this segment of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Remember that in Cycle B of the Lectionary, most of the Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel according to Mark.

The Gospel of Mark does not begin with a narrative about Jesus’ birth. Instead Mark begins by reporting on the preaching of John the Baptist. John is described as the voice in the wilderness sent to prepare the way of the Lord. Immediately after describing the work of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the desert. Jesus’ public ministry begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. Mark wants his readers to understand the important connection between the end of the ministry of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry.

As we learn at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist. Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the kingdom is a call to repentance. Yet Jesus’ preaching is greater than John’s. Jesus begins the time of fulfillment; the Kingdom of God is already here. This will be demonstrated again and again, both in Jesus’ words and in the actions that follow. Jesus’ healings and forgiveness of sins are signs of the Kingdom of God that he announces in his teaching.

In contrast to last week’s Gospel, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus takes the initiative in calling his first disciples. As mentioned last week, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for students to seek out rabbis, asking to be their disciples. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus breaks with this tradition and invites his disciples to learn from him. Jesus is said to have first called four fishermen—Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Simon and Andrew are brothers. Jesus promises that he will make them “fishers of men.” James and John are also brothers. Mark does not report Jesus' words of invitation to them, but he does report that they left their fishing immediately; their father, Zebedee, was left behind in the boat.

Mark’s Gospel is told with a great sense of urgency and immediacy. Jesus is a person of action, and events occur in rapid succession. We see this in today’s Gospel. Time is of the essence; the fishermen immediately put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ disciples. The Kingdom of God is here and now. The time of fulfillment is at hand. How might our lives be different if we more fully shared this sense of the immediacy of God’s kingdom?


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.


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

Young children can attach great importance to any number of things. God asks us to be like the first disciples, making God and his kingdom the most important thing in our lives.

Materials Needed

  • 10 paper fish with paper clips attached to their tales
  • 2 stick-and-string “fishing poles” with magnets for hooks
  • 2 buckets
  • A box
  • Treats for each child

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Place five paper fish in each bucket. Divide the class into two teams. Give the first child on each team a fishing pole. Tell the children that they will try to catch fish by getting the magnet to attach to the paper clip. Have the teams relay to see which team will be the first to catch all the fish in its bucket.

  2. Say: The team that finishes first will get a treat for each fish caught. About halfway through the game, tell the children. Say: Never mind about the relay race; instead, come over to this box to get a treat. Inside the box, have a treat for each child.

  3. Say: Did you see how important fishing was to you until you heard that I had something better for you? The Gospel this week tells about people whose job it was to fish every day. This is what they did to earn their living, and their work was important to them. But when Jesus called them, they immediately stopped their work and followed him.

  4. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 1:14-20.

  5. Say: There must have been something very special about Jesus. James and John left their father sitting in the boat, that’s how quickly they left to follow Jesus. These first followers of Jesus made the invitation to be Jesus’ disciple the most important thing in their lives. Jesus also invites us to make becoming his disciple the most important thing in our lives.

  6. Conclude in prayer together that we will make Jesus’ invitation to be his disciple the most important thing in our lives. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.


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

One of the traits we wish to see in young people is a sense of responsibility. We nurture this trait when we personally invite people to help with a task. Jesus established his community of disciples through such personal invitations.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Present the following scenario to the group: Imagine that your school principal is looking for volunteers to help clean up the school grounds on an annual community service day. What recommendations might you make about how to recruit people to help with this project? (put up posters around the school building, send flyers home with students, make phone calls to parents, extend invitations to particular individuals) Do you think any of these methods would be more effective than the others? Which one, and why? Allow time to discuss the possibilities, concluding that personal invitations are usually the most effective recruiting method.

  2. Say: People are more likely to contribute to a project if they receive personal invitations. This kind of invitation shows that our particular talents are needed. And we all like to feel needed.

  3. Say: Jesus seemed to know this about human nature, as we see in today's Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, Mark 1:14-20.

  5. Ask: Whom did Jesus call in today's Gospel? (four fishermen: Simon, Andrew, James, and John) What did you notice about the way in which these four people responded to Jesus' call? (They immediately put aside their work to follow Jesus.) Jesus called these four fishermen to be his disciples, and he promised them important work, to be “fishers of men.”

  6. Say: Jesus also invites us personally to be his followers. He has important work for us. Our hope and prayer is that we will respond to Jesus as quickly and enthusiastically as these first disciples did.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that we will be like the first disciples and answer Jesus' invitation. Pray together the Prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester.


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

As young people choose more of their own activities, we can help them to understand that their choices reflect their priorities. We can encourage them to make living as Jesus’ disciple the top priority of their lives.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people the meaning of the phrase “drop everything.” (to stop abruptly a current activity in order to do something else; to have a sudden change of plans)

  2. Offer examples of situations that might lead someone to “drop everything” and change his or her plans, such as an instant message from a best friend or an impromptu invitation to go to the movies. Ask the young people to name other examples of situations in which they might suddenly change plans.

  3. Say: Each of us is involved in many important activities every day. Yet, there are times when we are willing to drop everything and change our plans. Why? (Accept all reasonable answers, such as an opportunity is presented to do something that is more fun or more important.) Our change of plans shows that our priorities have changed as well.

  4. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus’ first disciples suddenly changed their plans when Jesus called them to follow him. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  5. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Mark 1:14–20.

  6. Ask: What did Jesus say to the fishermen? (“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”) What actions show that Simon, Andrew, James, and John changed their plans to follow Jesus? (They immediately abandoned their fishing nets; James and John left their father sitting in the boat.) What was the top priority in their lives? (following Jesus, being Jesus’ disciple, the Kingdom of God)

  7. Say: There must have been something very special about Jesus to make the fishermen change their priorities so quickly. Jesus called to them, and they immediately made the invitation to be his disciple the most important thing in their lives.

  8. Say: Jesus also invites us to make living as his disciple the most important thing in our lives. What actions would show that following Jesus is the top priority in our lives? (Accept all reasonable answers, such as going to Mass, praying daily, reading the Bible, working for justice, or being a peacemaker.)

  9. Conclude in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit’s help to make living as Jesus’ disciples the first priority of our lives. Pray together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 25.


Gospel Reading
Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.


Family Connection

Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus called his first disciples and the immediacy with which these men dropped everything to follow him. We can only begin to imagine what Jesus’ presence must have been like to invoke such a response in these first disciples. While a few of us might relate to such a radical conversion, many of us would find such a sudden change in ourselves or in another person unsettling. There are few things for which we would willingly drop everything. And yet this is the immediacy with which these first disciples responded to Jesus. These first disciples were willing to drop everything in order to make Jesus and the Kingdom of God the most important things in their lives.

Gather as a family and talk about circumstances in which you have had to “drop everything.” (the call to pick up a sick child from school, the cry of a hurt or angry child) How did you feel about having to change your plans in each of these situations? How do we feel when someone asks us to drop everything to help him or her? For many of us, it is not easy to drop everything to respond to the needs of another.

Read today’s Gospel, Mark 1:14–20. Invite your family to imagine what Jesus’ presence and invitation to these first followers must have been like that they responded by leaving their livelihood to become his disciples. How might our life change if we understood the Kingdom of God to be as important and immediate in our lives? Ask God to help you experience the Kingdom of God with such immediacy. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.