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.


Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Saturday, June 24, 2017


This Day's Readings


First Reading
Isaiah 49:1-6
You are my servant, through whom I show my glory.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 139:1-3,13-15
I praise you for I am wonderfully made.

Second Reading
Acts of the Apostles 13:22-26
John announced the coming of Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Luke 1:57-66,80
John the Baptist is born and all wonder what the child will be.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The first two chapters of Luke's Gospel alternate between stories of two births. One is the annunciation and birth of John the Baptist, who was, for Luke, the last great prophet of the Old Testament and who prepared the way for someone greater than any prophet—Jesus the Messiah. The annunciation and birth of Jesus is the other story. The story of John sets the very Jewish environment into which Jesus and John were born. Jesus' annunciation and birth begins to move the Gospel into the environment of the Roman empire.

In the verses before those read today, the birth of John the Baptist has been announced by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, who was performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple. Gabriel then announced the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, are an old couple who have never had children. Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together.

We read today that Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God has shown her mercy in the birth of a son. But they are confused when she tells them that his name is to be John, which means “God has been gracious.” Zechariah has been unable to speak since Gabriel appeared, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel's word. But when he writes on a tablet “John is his name” all are amazed, and a great fear comes upon everyone. Fear, along with joy and praise, is for Luke the appropriate response to God's mercy. People ask, “What, then, will this child be?” But this question has already been answered by the angel. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous canticle, the Benedictus. But that is not read today. Instead we jump to the last verses of the chapter, which explain that John will become strong in spirit living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel. When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:57-66,80
John the Baptist is born and all wonder what the child will be.


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

Children at this age, still becoming comfortable with the written word, are very much into signs and symbols. Comparing John the Baptist to a sign pointing to Jesus is a concrete metaphor that they can understand.

Materials Needed

  • Pictures of road signs

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the children into two teams and play a road-sign-identification game.

  2. Bring in pictures of road signs and take turns showing them to the teams, asking them to identify what each sign means.

  3. When finished, explain that signs do many things, but one of their most important functions is to point us in the right direction.

  4. Tell the children that John the Baptist was like a road sign, pointing to Jesus.

  5. Say: In this Sunday's Gospel, we learn about the birth of John the Baptist, a man who will go on to point people in the right direction: the way to Jesus.

  6. Read aloud Luke 1:57-66, 80.

  7. Say: John the Baptist points us in the right direction - toward Jesus. What do you think is the wrong direction that we sometimes take? (sin) How can we be like John the Baptist in our own lives? (by pointing people toward Jesus and away from sin)

  8. Conclude this time together by praying the Lord's Prayer, emphasizing that the words “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” help us point our lives away from sin and toward Jesus.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:57-66,80
John the Baptist is born and all wonder what the child will be.


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

Children at this age like to learn factual information and appreciate rules and logic. By using a simple (logical) metaphor such as how a painter must prepare a wall before painting, you can help the children better understand the role of John the Baptist.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children if they can name things that a painter must do before applying paint to a wall. (Prepare it by scraping, sanding, washing, and applying a primer.)

  2. Ask: What would happen if these preparations were not made? (The wall would be in poor condition, the paint would not look good, the paint would not go on smoothly, and so on.)

  3. Invite the children to name other projects that require preparation.

  4. Ask: Who helped prepare the way for the coming of Jesus? (John the Baptist)

  5. Say: John the Baptist helped prepare people for the coming of Jesus. His message continues to prepare us to receive Jesus into our lives. Without the help of John the Baptist, we might not be prepared to recognize Jesus coming into our lives.

  6. Say: In this Sunday's Gospel, we learn about the birth of John the Baptist, a man who will go on to prepare people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

  7. Invite volunteers to read aloud Luke 1:57-66, 80.

  8. Ask: According to this reading, where did John the Baptist spend most of his life? (in the desert) Explain: The desert was considered a spiritual place where God could be encountered and where evil spirits dwelled. John the Baptist lived his life in the desert, learning that the way to God was by turning away from sin.

  9. Conclude this time together by praying the Lord's Prayer, emphasizing that the words “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” help us prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:57-66,80
John the Baptist is born and all wonder what the child will be.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are developing a social conscience and a set of values, often making them idealistic. Help them to see that John the Baptist was idealistic in his calling people to reform their lives in preparation for the messiah.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in pairs and have them work together on stop-smoking campaigns in which they brainstorm arguments that can be used to persuade people to stop smoking.

  2. Allow the pairs enough time to complete their work and then have them share one or two of their main points that might be used in persuasive speeches.

  3. Point out that persuasive speech is designed to change the beliefs or actions of an audience. Explain that when John the Baptist began his ministry, he called people to repent, which means “to turn around” or “to change one's mind.”

  4. Point out that John the Baptist used persuasive speech to challenge people to change their minds about sin and to prepare for the coming of the messiah.

  5. Say: In this Sunday's Gospel, we learn about the birth of John the Baptist, a man who will go on to prepare people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

  6. Invite volunteers to read aloud Luke 1:57-66, 80.

  7. Ask: What had Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives heard about Elizabeth? (that God had shown his great mercy toward her) Explain: Elizabeth was beyond childbearing age when God granted her a son. God, in his mercy, gave her new life. In the same way, through God's mercy, we receive new life. It is this new life, which comes to us through repentance, that John the Baptist was sent to prepare us for.

  8. Conclude this time together by praying a Hail Mary, pointing out that the first part of this prayer is composed of the words spoken by Elizabeth to Mary when Mary came to visit during Elizabeth's pregnancy with John.


Gospel Reading
Luke 1:57-66,80
John the Baptist is born and all wonder what the child will be.


Family Connection

Names have special meanings. In our families, some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors. Sometimes peoples' names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person's birth.

In this Sunday's Gospel, we learn that Elizabeth gives her son the name John, which means “God has been gracious.” This name sets John apart in a special way: it was normally the father's responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name. The unusual nature of John's naming suggests to everyone that this is a special child.

Spend some time as a family focusing on one another's names as well as on the names of other relatives. Point out the significance of each name and how the naming took place.

Read aloud Luke 1:57-66,80. Review the parts of the story that describe how John received his name. Talk about how important names are and how we are all called to honor the name of God. Pray together the Sign of the Cross, emphasizing how we honor God's name and promise to live our lives in God's name.