Holy Family of Jesus Mary & Joseph A Sunday Connect

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 Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Cycle A

Sunday, December 29, 2019


This Sunday's Readings


First Reading
Sirach 3:2-7,12-14
Honor to one's parents will be rewarded.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5
Happy are those who follow the Lord's ways.

Second Reading
Colossians 3:12-21 (or shorter form, Colossians 3:12-17)
Do all things in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As we do so, our Gospel invites us to consider Joseph's protection of Jesus in the face of danger. Just as in the announcement of Jesus' birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel warns him of Herod's plans to harm Jesus. Joseph follows the command of the angel and takes Joseph and Mary to Egypt, returning only after receiving word in another dream that it was safe to do so.

This feast is part of the Christmas season, so we should look at today's Gospel in the context of what Scripture tells us about Jesus' birth. Today's reading is found in the Gospel of Matthew, following the story of the visit of the Magi. Recall that Matthew's story about the birth of Jesus makes Joseph the primary character. Among Matthew's themes in this infancy narrative is Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the messiah. Indeed, the story of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt recalls the story of Moses in the Book of Exodus.

It should also be noted that today's reading omits the verses that recount Herod's order of the massacre of the infant boys in and around Bethlehem. We mark this event on the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28.

These events remind us of the difficult reality of Jesus' birth. While the story of the Magi's visit will be recalled in our liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany, our Christmas celebration is made more sober by the recollection that not everyone received Christ's birth with joy or obedience. Herod's jealousy and malice contrast with Joseph's obedience to the words of the angel. The Holy Family's escape to Egypt and the massacre that Jesus is saved from remind us of the struggles and sacrifices that are required as preparation for God's salvation.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


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

Young children are starting to appreciate that to care for another living being and to care for another person are great responsibilities. Families share the responsibility of caring for one another. Our families can follow the example of the Holy Family by protecting and caring for one another in good times and bad times.

Materials Needed

  • Stuffed cat and dog or a picture of a dog and a cat

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring either a stuffed cat and a stuffed dog or a picture of a dog and a picture of a cat to class. Prop up the pictures or stuffed animals so that the children can see them.

  2. Ask all who have a dog (but no cat) at home to stand by the dog and all who have only a cat to stand by the cat. Tell all who have both or neither to sit in the middle. Ask the children to discuss in their groups the things they must do to take care of their pets. Those who have both a cat and a dog can tell those who have neither what the differences are in caring for these animals.

  3. After a few minutes of discussion, say: When you accept the responsibility of caring for a pet, sometimes you must put its needs first. This means that you might have to change your plans if your pet needs you. This is true of care for animals. It is also true when caring for a human person.

  4. Say: The Gospel this week tells about the man who agreed to take care of the most important living creature ever born, Jesus. That man was Saint Joseph. When he agreed to care for Jesus, Joseph was willing to do whatever God asked of him. Listen as I read the Gospel. Count how many times Joseph changed his plans to keep Jesus safe.

  5. Read the Gospel. Ask the children: What did Joseph do to keep Jesus safe? How did his plans have to change?

  6. Then say: Like you, Jesus was raised in a family. Mary and Joseph did whatever was necessary to protect and care for Jesus. Today we celebrate the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. We remember that their care for one another is a model for all families, including our own.

  7. Pray together for families, that they may care for and protect one another, or pray together today's psalm.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


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

Children are dependent upon their family's care and protection, and yet they may take this for granted. Today's feast is an opportunity to invite young people to reflect upon the importance of their families and their own responsibilities for their families.

Materials Needed

  • The figures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus from a nativity set or a picture of the Holy Family
  • Paper and pencil

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Place before the group the figures of the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus from a nativity set or display a picture of the Holy Family. Explain that Jesus' family was made up of father, mother, and child. Reinforce that every family is unique, some are large and some small. Encourage children to think of their own families.

  2. Ask the group to consider the question: What makes a family different from other groups of people? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: There are many ways in which a family is different from other groups of people. One of the main qualities of a family is a commitment to caring for one another and protecting one another from harm. This Sunday we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Let's listen together to the Gospel that we hear on this special day. Invite one or more volunteers to read Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.

  4. Say: Today's Gospel reminds us that Jesus was part of a family and that great pains were taken by this family to protect Jesus from danger. Why was Jesus in danger? (Herod was looking to kill him.) Who protected Jesus from this danger? (Joseph and God) How did Joseph protect Jesus from harm? (He took the family to Egypt.)

  5. Ask: How do families protect each other from harm or danger? Think about a time when your family has protected you from harm. How did it feel?

  6. Say: All family members share the responsibility of protecting one another and contributing to the good of the family. What are some things you can do that contribute to the good of your family? Make a list of these things on the board.

  7. Invite each child to select one thing that he or she will do this week to contribute to the good of his or her family and to write that on a piece of paper.

  8. Conclude in prayer by gathering the group around the image of the Holy Family. Pray together that family members will live up to their responsibilities for one another. Invite each child to place his or her piece of paper from #7 on the prayer table, as a sign of commitment to family. Sing together a Christmas hymn, such as "Once in Royal David's City."


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are beginning to pull away from their parents. They are beginning to recognize that their families are not perfect. The feast of the Holy Family helps us realize that although Jesus, Mary, and Joseph faced great difficulties, they got through them by being obedient to God.

Materials Needed

  • An image of the Holy Family

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in small groups and have them brainstorm names of TV families.

  2. When they have finished, invite each group to report its list.

  3. Ask the young people to identify which families were/are portrayed as being seemingly perfect and which were/are portrayed as having many problems. (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  4. Say: As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, it's important to know that the word holy does not mean “perfect.” Let's listen to the Gospel for the feast of the Holy Family and see what it is that makes this family holy.

  5. Invite volunteers to read aloud Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.

  6. Say: This Gospel reminds us that Jesus was part of a family and that this family faced some extraordinary difficulties. What difficulty did they face? (Herod was looking to kill Jesus. They had to travel far from home. Jesus was born in a stable.) Who protected Jesus from these dangers? (Joseph and God) How did Joseph protect Jesus from harm? (He took the family to Egypt.)

  7. Ask: What made this family holy? (obedience to God) To be holy does not mean that you have no problems or that you are perfect. It means that you turn to God for help in getting through your problems.

  8. Conclude in prayer by gathering the group around the image of the Holy Family. Pray together that family members will be obedient to God, listening to him and allowing him to guide them.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.


Family Connection

In the midst of the Christmas season, it is quite appropriate that our liturgy asks us to pause to consider the Holy Family. In today's Gospel, we hear about how Joseph protected Jesus from danger by relocating the family to Egypt in obedience to God. Following the model of the Holy Family, we might use this feast to recall the responsibility that each family member has to contribute to the good of the family and recommit ourselves to one another.

Gather together as a family to work on a common project. You might prepare a meal together, prepare a special dessert, or perhaps do a craft together. When you finish, talk about how each family member contributed to the common project. Remind one another that each member of the family contributes to the good of the whole family. Recall that Jesus was also part of a family and that this Sunday we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Read together today's Gospel, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23. Pray together that your family will continue to protect and care for one another as Mary and Joseph protected and cared for Jesus.