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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.


Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday, June 17, 2018


This Sunday’s Readings


First Reading
Ezekiel 17:22–24
I, the Lord, bring low the high tree and lift high the lowly tree.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 92:2–3,13–16
They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.

Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5:6–10
The lives of all are to be revealed before the tribunal of Christ.

Gospel Reading
Mark 4:26–34
The reign of God is like a mustard seed.

Background on the Gospel Reading

After Lent, the Easter season, and three Sundays of feast days—Pentecost, Most Holy Trinity, and Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ—the Church returns to Ordinary Time. This Sunday’s Gospel from Mark carries a significant message regarding faith and the Kingdom of God.
 

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus appears reluctant to reveal his identity as the Son of God. After performing miracles of healing, he warns those cured to tell no one (see Mark 1:44, 3:12, 5:43, 7:36, and 8:26). Also, when preaching, Jesus chooses to speak to the crowds in parables, leaving them to discern his message. Only to his disciples does he explain the parable’s meaning, and he does this in private at a later time.
 

Today’s Gospel Reading consists of two parables about seeds. In the first, Jesus tells those gathered that this is “how it is with the kingdom of God.” A man scatters seed which over time sprouts and develops. Then when the grain is ripe, the man harvests his crop. The emphasis in the parable is on the seed, which seemingly has the power to grow on its own. In this it is like the Kingdom of God. While on earth, Jesus planted the seeds of the kingdom by his life, miracles, teaching, and suffering. However, the kingdom is not yet fully established. Although already present in Jesus and his group of twelve, it has yet to come to fruition; just as the seed in the parable needs time to grow, so does God’s kingdom.
 

The second parable focuses on the tiny mustard seed. Though not the smallest of all seeds, it is most likely the smallest that a first-century farmer in Jesus’ part of the world would have sown. Small as the mustard seed is, it develops into a tree. Though the mustard tree generally averages only nine to twelve feet in height, it has a wide expanse and provides a nesting place for birds. Just as the tree welcomes the birds, so is God’s kingdom welcoming and open to many.
 

These parables help us discern something about the kingdom of God and our own faith. In God we live and move and have our being, but God is a mystery and his kingdom, though present, has not yet come into its fullness. Today, the Kingdom of God is present in the Church. The mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom given to the Apostles is now given to us. But just as seeds need time to come to fruition, so does the Kingdom of God. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “thy kingdom come.” We know that it will come in its fullness at the end of time. All we need is faith.


Gospel Reading
Mark 4:26–34
The reign of God is like a mustard seed.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)
Children in this age group are working to master new skills. Use their experience of learning to demonstrate the growth of the Kingdom of God.

Materials Needed
• Pictures of things that start out small but will grow (baby, puppy, seeds, etc.)

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings
 

  1. Ask the children to name some things they can do now that they couldn’t do a year ago. (For example, choose what to wear for the day, make their own lunch, ride a bike, or calculate addition and subtraction problems.)
  2. Show the pictures you brought and ask the children what they have in common.
  3. Explain that as we grow, we change. We grow taller. We are able to do more things on our own, and we learn more in school. But there still may be things that older friends or brothers and sisters can do that we can’t yet. We may have to wait until we are older or taller or stronger. Waiting is hard; it requires patience.
  4. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus uses parables when talking to the people. Parables are stories about things on earth that tell us something about the things of Heaven. Parables help us understand what Jesus wants us to know. The parables we will hear now are about something very tiny—seeds. 
  5. Read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel: Mark 4:26–34.
  6. Explain: Most seeds are small, but the mustard seed is super small; it’s about the size of a teeny dot on a sheet of paper. What Jesus is saying is that although seeds are small, they can grow into something big and important. In the first parable, the seeds planted grew into a healthy crop of grain, but it took many days and nights. In the second parable, the mustard seed grew into a tree. But this, too, took time. When things take a long time to happen, we have to be patient. We have to have faith. God wants us to know that if we live as Jesus asks us to, we can look forward to happiness with God in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  7. Conclude by praying the Lord’s Prayer with the children, paying special attention to the phrase “thy kingdom come.”


Gospel Reading
Mark 4:26–34
The reign of God is like a mustard seed.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)
Children of this age look to adults as role models. Encourage them to see Jesus as their role model so as they mature, they will accept the responsibility for the continued growth of the Kingdom of God.

Materials Needed
• None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children to raise their hand if they have ever played “Follow the Leader.” Have a volunteer explain how the game is played. Explain that there are different ways to follow someone—go where they lead, mimic their actions, or repeat their words. Tell the children to think about the places they go and the things they do throughout the day. Then ask whom they follow in their daily lives (parents, teachers, coaches, and so on).
  2. Ask: Who is our leader in faith? Help them arrive at the answer: Jesus. Say: Jesus was sent by God the Father to establish God’s kingdom here on earth. Jesus began by teaching and preaching and preparing a small group of twelve disciples to help spread the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
  3. Ask for a volunteer to read aloud Mark 6:24–29, the first part of this Sunday’s Gospel reading.
  4. Say: In the parable we just heard, Jesus begins by telling the people, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God.” In the last part of this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus asks to what we can compare the Kingdom of God.
  5. Ask for a volunteer to read Mark 6:30–34.
  6. Say: Both of these parables focus on seeds. Seeds are small; the mustard seed is especially tiny. Yet from these seeds a great crop of grain and a tree large enough to house birds in its branches can grow. Think about how long it takes for a crop to be ready for harvesting or for a tree to mature.
  7. Ask: What do these two parables tell us about the Kingdom of God? (Someone needs to sow the seeds; it has small beginnings; it takes time to come to fruition; it welcomes all people just as the birds found a home in the tree.) Say: As members of the Church, Jesus counts on us to continue his work. We must sow the seeds by spreading his word and making him known. The Kingdom of God welcomes all people and will come to fruition at the end of time. That is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, . . . on earth as it is in heaven.”
  8. Conclude by praying the Lord’s Prayer aloud together.


Gospel Reading
Mark 4:26–34
The reign of God is like a mustard seed.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)
Children of this age, living in a time of immediacy and instant gratification, use all the technology available to them. Use contrast to explain that the Kingdom of God, like a seed, takes root and matures slowly over time.

Materials Needed
• None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings
 

  1. Say: We live in an age of immediacy. We are used to having at our fingertips contact with our friends, entertainment, and information. How many of you text your friends as soon as you leave a movie theater to tell them whether or not you liked the movie? We aren’t used to waiting. We think of waiting as wasting time and look for ways to save time. What is one time-saving device you would absolutely not want to give up, something that you couldn’t live without? Why? (Answers will vary.)
  2. Say: This Sunday’s Gospel Reading also deals with time, specifically in Jesus’ description of the growth of the Kingdom of God.
  3. Have a volunteer read aloud Mark 4:26–29 and another read aloud Mark 4:30–32.
  4. Ask: Why does Jesus use the seed in these parables to explain the Kingdom of God? (Seeds must be sown. It takes time for the seed to germinate and grow to fruition. Growth occurs bit by bit. ) What do we learn about the kingdom from the mustard-seed parable? (The smallest of seeds can grow into the largest plants. It takes time to mature and “put forth branches.”)
  5. Explain: Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. He chose and taught twelve of his disciples to help him. This kingdom is present in the Church today, but it is still in process. Because we are the Church, we bear the responsibility of continuing the work of Jesus and his disciples. We do this by living Christlike lives, by reaching out to others, by inviting others into the kingdom. Just as small seeds grow over time, so our small acts of kindness today have the possibility of making a big difference in the future. God’s kingdom is not yet fully established. It is growing and will come to fullness at the end of time. How rewarding to know that we are helping make it happen.
  6. End the session by praying together the Lord’s Prayer, emphasizing the phrase  “thy kingdom come.”


Gospel Reading
Mark 4:26–34
The reign of God is like a mustard seed.


Family Connection

Church documents call the Christian family the “domestic church.” This is both a compliment and a call to commitment. Because the family is a community formed in love and dedicated to the physical and spiritual growth of its members, it is a miniature version of the Kingdom of God on earth. This Sunday’s Gospel Reading, Mark 4:26–34, consists of two parables that Jesus used to help us discern the mystery of the Kingdom of God. The beginning of the kingdom is compared to a tiny seed that over time matures and ripens. Many of the things we do within the family seem insignificant. They are part of our daily activity and attract little attention. Yet they show our love and concern for one another. According to the Gospel, it’s these small things that yield big results, acting as significant contributions to the growth of God’s kingdom on earth. The growth of the seed illustrates the nature and the results of a strong faith.

Read aloud together the Gospel of Mark 4:26–34. Consider how your family’s concerns reflect the Church’s concerns for those members who are poor, forgotten, hungry, ill, shunned, or lonely. Together think of a specific action that you can do to assist a person in your extended family, neighborhood, or parish. Now pray together the Lord’s Prayer, pausing briefly to consider the import of the words “thy kingdom come.” Each evening this week as you gather for supper, share with one another the simple acts of love you witnessed within the family that day.