23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, A Sunday Connection

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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.


Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, September 10, 2017


This Sunday’s Readings


First Reading
Ezekiel 33:7-9
The Son of Man is appointed as guardian of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 95:1-2,6-9
Song of praise to God, our salvation.

Second Reading
Romans 13:8-10
The Law is summarized in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from a chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order” discourse. In this part of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly about matters of Church discipline and order. In today’s reading we find one of only three instances in which Jesus uses the word church in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching, we can hear echoes of the kinds of issues faced by the early Christian community.

In the first part of the “discourse on the Church” (Matthew 18:1-14), Matthew addresses the Christian community’s concerns about rank. Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus indicates that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children, and he cautions those leaders who might lead these “little ones” astray. He also responds with the parable of the lost sheep, indicating how God will seek out and bring back those “little ones” who have strayed.

In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus addresses a common occurrence in the Christian community: a dispute between two members of the Church. Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters fairly. The victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement. If that fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront the offender again. If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire community. If the offender refuses to adhere to the reparations prescribed by the community, then Jesus suggests that the offender may be expelled from the Church.

Jesus does not discourage disagreement within the community of the Church; he acknowledges the reality of conflict and error and offers his disciples a means for addressing such matters. It is in the conclusion to this teaching that the message of hope is found: Jesus is present with the community and will guide the community in its relations. If decisions are taken in prayer, then the community can be assured of God’s assistance.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.


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

Conflict is a fact of life. Young children are still learning how to manage conflict in a peaceful manner and how to judge when the assistance of others is needed to settle a dispute.

Materials Needed

  • Bell or whistle

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Get the group’s attention by ringing a bell or blowing a whistle. When everyone has quieted, say in a whisper: Jesus loves you and wants you to love each other. When the children admit to difficulty hearing you, enlist the help of one, then two, then three children to whisper the same sentence with you.

  2. When everyone has heard the message or is participating in sharing the message, say: Sometimes it takes the help of others to get a message across. You all helped me to share an important message today. In today's Gospel, Jesus talks about how we might need the help of others when a disagreement arises. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  3. Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 18:15-20.

  4. Ask: If you have a disagreement with someone, who does Jesus say is the first person you should talk with? (the person with whom you have a disagreement) Should you talk to this person loudly and in front of a lot of other people? (No, you should talk to them privately.) But, if this doesn’t work, what does Jesus say for us to do? (We should get the help of others and try to handle the disagreement fairly.)

  5. Say: This is a good lesson for us when we have disagreements with others. We should always try to resolve the matter first with the other person involved, by talking with them gently. If that doesn’t work, then we may need to get the help of others. Jesus wants us to lovingly try to help each other obey God.

  6. Say: Jesus also teaches us in today’s reading that he will be with us when we pray to him about the conflicts in our lives. Prayer is also an important part of handling conflict. Let’s conclude in prayer together that we will follow Jesus’ way when we have disagreements with others. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer or the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.


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

Conflict is a fact of life. We strive to deal fairly and compassionately when disputes and disagreements emerge.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pencil/pen

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Distribute the paper and writing utensils. Ask the group to recall a recent dispute or disagreement and to write a brief summary of it. Suggest that the following questions be considered: How did you handle the problem? Whom did you talk with about the problem? Were you able to resolve the matter with the person or persons directly involved, or did you bring others into the conversation? What was the resolution?

  2. Say: Jesus doesn’t say that we won’t have disagreements; in fact he acknowledges them. In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus’ plan for how disputes are to be settled within the Christian community. Let’s compare our handling of conflict with Jesus’ instructions.

  3. Invite a volunteer to read aloud today’s Gospel, Matthew 18:15-20.

  4. Ask the group to summarize the steps that Jesus outlines for handling conflict within the Christian community. (Step 1: Talk directly with the person who has offended you. Step 2: If that fails, invite one or two witnesses to join you as you talk with the person who has offended you. Step 3: If the problem is still not resolved, bring the problem to the attention of the church community, which will determine how to resolve the matter.)

  5. Ask the group to compare these steps with the measures that each person took in the conflicts that they wrote about before reading the Gospel. Ask: How does your handling of conflict compare to the steps that Jesus proposes? What can we learn about the Christian way to handle conflict from Jesus’ teaching? How can you apply this in your family? with your friends? in your school? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  6. Say: Prayer is also an important part of handling conflict. Jesus promises that he will guide the decisions of those who pray to him. When we have a problem with another person, we pray that God will help to bring peace to the situation and that God will be with us as we work toward this peace.

  7. Conclude in prayer together for the support to handle the conflicts we face in a Christian manner. Pray together the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are learning how to resolve conflict. Some may even be involved in their school’s peer mediation programs where students are trained as conflict managers. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus offers the Church a strategy for resolving conflict.

Materials Needed

  • Index cards
  • Scissors
  • Pencil/pen

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Remind the young people that we often look to other people to provide repairs when something breaks down.

  2. Ask them to name examples of repairs that they have seen take place in their own home. (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Tell the young people that we ask certain people to do repairs for us because they are good at it.

  4. Ask the young people to think about what they are good at repairing for which other people might ask them for help.

  5. Encourage the young people to think not only of repairing objects but also of repairing things such as feelings, confidence, and friendships.

  6. Provide index cards to the young people. Instruct them to cut the card to the size and shape of a business card and write their name on the card along with the description of the type of repairs that they can provide for others.

  7. After allowing sufficient time for the young people to complete their work, invite volunteers to share their business cards with the group. If possible, display the cards.

  8. Tell the young people that in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus offers advice on how to repair relationships when there is conflict.

  9. Invite a volunteer to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 18:15-20.

  10. Say: Jesus doesn’t say that we won’t have disagreements; in fact, he acknowledges them. What can we learn about the Christian way to handle conflict from Jesus’ teaching? How can you apply this in your family, with your friends, and in your school? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  11. Say: Prayer is also an important part of handling conflict. Jesus promises that he will guide the decisions of those who pray to him. When we have a problem with another person, we pray that God will help bring peace to the situation and that God will be with us as we work toward this peace.

  12. Conclude by praying for the support needed to handle conflicts in a Christian manner. Pray together the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.


Family Connection

Conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family life. Yet, within our family, we have an important opportunity to learn how to resolve disagreements fairly by treating people with love and respect.

As you gather as a family this week, discuss the procedures for resolving disputes in your family. What kinds of things produce disagreements in your family? Do children frequently request the assistance of the adults when a disagreement arises? How do the adults respond? In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples the way in which they are to handle conflict within the Christian community of the Church. Read together this Gospel, Matthew 18:15-20. Invite family members to summarize the steps that Jesus proposes for resolving conflict. How might today’s Gospel inform your family’s handling of disagreements? If you have time, your family might choose to role play how Jesus’ teaching about conflict resolution might be applied to a disagreement that sometimes occurs in your household.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promises that he will help those who pray to him with their needs. Pray together that each member of your family will learn to handle conflict in a Christian manner. Pray together the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.