Third 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.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday, January 26, 2020

This Sunday’s Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 8:23-9:3
The people in darkness have seen a great light.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
The Lord is our refuge, our light, our salvation.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
Paul urges the community at Corinth to be united as people baptized in Christ’s name.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (called the Synoptic Gospels), Jesus’ public ministry begins after his baptism by John the Baptist and after his retreat to the desert where he was tempted by the devil. When Jesus returns from the desert, he hears that John has been arrested. 

The first part of today’s Gospel places Jesus’ ministry in the context of the writings of the prophet, Isaiah. Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies given to the people of Israel, and he refers to Isaiah to do so. Isaiah says that the Messiah will begin his ministry in Galilee, the land of the Gentiles. When Jesus begins to preach in Galilee, Matthew points to his ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, proof that Jesus is the Messiah.

When Jesus called his first disciples, the Gospel tells us that the fishermen (Peter and Andrew, James and John) dropped everything to follow Jesus immediately. Yet this Gospel tells us little about the prior experience that the fishermen had of Jesus. Did they know him? Had they heard him preach? What kind of person must Jesus have been to invoke such a response? We can imagine that Jesus was a powerful presence to elicit a response as immediate and complete as these first disciples gave.

The Gospel concludes with a description of the ministry that Jesus begins in Galilee. Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his work. He teaches in the synagogue and preaches the kingdom. His ability to cure people’s diseases and illness is a sign of the kingdom. In Jesus’ ministry, we already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)

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

Younger children have probably experienced being called to do something more important or pressing while they’ve been in the middle of an activity. Teach them that Jesus’ first disciples knew that following him was the most important thing in their lives and immediately they left their work as fisherman to follow him.

Materials Needed

  • fish shapes cut out of paper; crayons or pencils

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Distribute the fish shapes and give children a few minutes to color them. Before children finish, say: Everyone, please stop what you’re doing and come sit with me. Today we’ll hear about the time when Jesus called the first disciples. Just like you were coloring when I called you, Jesus’ disciples were busy when he called them.
  2. Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 4:12–23.
  3. Ask: What were the disciples doing when Jesus called them? (They were working as fishermen.) Did the disciples stop what they were doing and follow him immediately or did they wait? (They stopped what they were doing immediately and followed him.) Say: When we know that something is very important, we set aside everything else to do it. The disciples knew that following Jesus was the most important thing they could do. Jesus told them they would be fishers of men, which means they would bring people to God. The disciples made Jesus their first priority. 
  4. Say: Jesus asks us to make him our first priority too. Ask: What are some ways we can make being disciples of Jesus the most important? (Accept all reasonable responses, including attending Mass instead of sleeping in and being kind to others, even those we don’t like.
  5. Give children time to finish coloring their fish. Say: Take your fish home to help you remember the story of Jesus’ first disciples, who came immediately when Jesus called them. You might share this Gospel story with your family and talk about what you do as a family to make Jesus your first priority.
  6. Close by praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)

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

We all experience interruptions in our daily lives. Today’s Gospel tells us about how Jesus’ first disciples responded when Jesus interrupted their daily routine and called them to a new life. We are invited to consider how we might respond to God’s call in our life.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Present your group with several scenarios such as the following. Ask the group how they are likely to respond in each situation.

    • Scenario 1: You are doing your homework, and the phone rings. You answer the phone, and it’s your best friend calling.
    • Scenario 2: You are watching your favorite television show, and you are called to dinner.
    • Scenario 3: You are playing outside with your friend, and you are told it’s time to clean your room.
  2. Ask: What is something that is common to each scenario? (There’s an interruption.) Say: Today’s Gospel tells the story of how Jesus’ first disciples responded when Jesus “interrupted” their daily routine. Let’s listen carefully to the Gospel.

  3. Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 4:12-23.

  4. Ask: How did Peter and Andrew and James and John respond when Jesus called them? (They left their work and followed him “at once” and “immediately.”) How do you think you’d react if someone you didn’t know very well asked you to stop doing something important? (Accept all reasonable answers.) What kind of person must Jesus have been to bring forth such a response from the fishermen? (Accept all reasonable answers.) What does the Gospel tell us that Jesus did after he called his first disciples? (He traveled in Galilee, teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the kingdom, and curing people of their diseases.)

  5. Ask: How does God call us today? What work does Jesus ask us to do? How do we respond? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  6. Say: It is not always easy to walk away from the things we want to do in order to do what Jesus wants us to do. In order to be able to respond generously to Jesus’ invitation to follow him, we must attend to our relationship with him through prayer, both private prayer and prayer with the community. Today let’s pray together that we will respond as quickly as the first disciples when Jesus calls us to follow him.

  7. Conclude by praying together today’s Psalm and/or the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

At this age, young people are being pulled in many different directions. They sometimes find it hard to prioritize. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus calls us all to repent and follow him, making him our life’s priority.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in pairs. Tell them to imagine that they are working on a stop-smoking campaign. Have the pairs work together to brainstorm arguments that can be used to persuade people to stop smoking.

  2. When the young people have finished, invite each pair to share one or two of their arguments that might be used in a persuasive speech. Point out that persuasive speeches are designed to change the beliefs or actions of the audience.

  3. Explain that in this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear about how Jesus began his ministry, calling people to repent, which means “to turn around” or “to change one’s mind.”

  4. Have volunteers read aloud Matthew 4:12-23.

  5. Say: Jesus was able to persuade Peter, James, and John to turn their lives around and follow him. What did they turn away from? (a life of fishing) Jesus calls each and every one of us to turn around our lives and make following him our most important priority. We experience the Kingdom or the Reign of God whenever we allow Jesus to reign as the most important thing in our lives.

  6. Say: When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say the words “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” With these words, we ask Jesus to help us repent and to turn away from what we want and to embrace what he wants for us.

  7. Conclude by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)

Family Connection

Today’s Gospel tells us little about the background of these fishermen, their work, and their families. In today’s Gospel, we are simply told that James and John left their father, Zebedee, in the boat and followed Jesus.

Some details about the families of these first followers of Jesus are found later in Matthew’s Gospel, however. In Matthew 8:14-15 for example, Jesus goes to the home of Peter and heals his mother-in-law of a fever. Matthew 20:20-28 relates how the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) approaches Jesus with the request that her sons be given places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. These brief references suggest that the first disciples’ separation from their families may not have been as complete as the verses in today’s Gospel might lead us to believe. Matthew points out the separation because he wants to show that Christian discipleship can require a change in our lives and even our family relationships.

Perhaps the message for us today is to balance the radical call to be a follower of Jesus with the challenge to be “fishers of men” even within our own families. Creating this balance may require that we change some of the priorities of our own family life.

As a family, detail the activities of a typical day. Discuss together what priorities are reflected in this daily schedule. How does your family respond when your daily plans are interrupted or must be changed? Together read today’s Gospel, Matthew 4:12-23. Reflect together on the example of the first disciples who dropped everything to follow Jesus. Ask: Does our family schedule give evidence that we put God first in our family life? What might we do to better reflect that God is our priority?

Pray together that your family will always give evidence that God comes first in your family life. Pray today’s Psalm or the Lord’s Prayer.