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.


Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday, January 28, 2018


This Sunday’s Reading


First Reading
Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Moses tells the people that God will raise up for them a new prophet.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,7-9
A song of praise to the Lord.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Paul expresses his concern that those who are married are more likely to face the distractions of earthly life than those who are celibate.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.

Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s Gospel continues our reading from Mark and describes what some believe was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus and the disciples that chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark reports that the people respond to Jesus’ teaching with astonishment, noting Jesus’ authority and contrasting it with the scribes’. Early in Mark’s Gospel we already find evidence of the tension that will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem.

After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happens. A man possessed with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. As we see in this example and throughout Mark’s Gospel, the spirits and demons seem to know Jesus and are often fearful of him. In fact, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples. As we will read again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and drives the unclean spirit out of the man. Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is an indication of his power over evil.

In the prescientific age of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness. Our modern understanding of illness is very different. Possession by unclean spirits may have been a way to describe what we might call mental illness today. It may have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions. There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine. Jesus appears to be like these healers, but he heals with unique authority and connects his healing activities with the words of his preaching.

We are missing the point that Mark is trying to make in this Gospel, however, if we try to explain away the healing work of Jesus. The crowds see in Jesus’ cure of the possessed man further affirmation of his authority. Jesus’ power to heal gives greater credence to his teaching. Jesus impresses the crowds through his words, which are manifested with power in his deeds. Mark’s Gospel tells us that because of the authority with which he healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.


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

Most young children are active learners, needing to be engaged in their subject. Like the crowds in today’s Gospel, they may be impressed by words, but they can be astonished by actions.

Materials Needed

  • Pencils and pencil-top erasers for each person in the group

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Distribute pencils to the group and challenge them to balance the pencils on their index fingers. While they are trying to do this, explain that gravity is the force that makes objects fall to the ground. Then demonstrate that one can easily balance a pencil on one’s finger by positioning it so that the weight is evenly distributed. Add a slip-on eraser to a pencil and show the children how to rebalance the pencil by moving the eraser end closer to their finger, thereby equalizing the weight on both sides.

  2. Say: Which would your friends find more amazing—if you told them about gravity or if you showed them how gravity works by balancing a pencil on your finger? Why? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: In the Gospel this week, we hear that people were surprised at how much Jesus could tell them about God. But when Jesus demonstrated the power of God to control even the unclean spirits, the people were truly amazed.

  4. Read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21-28.

  5. Say: In the Gospel today we learn how Jesus’ actions demonstrated the power and authority behind his words. There is a saying that actions speak louder than words. Our actions also demonstrate our faith in God.

  6. Conclude in prayer together that the power of God will show through in our actions. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.


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

Older children look for role models who show consistency in their words and deeds. In Jesus, we see that God's power and authority was made visible in both words and actions.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

  1. Tell the group that you would like to learn a new skill—you want to learn to play the piano. Ask: What are some requirements that I should include on my list of qualifications for a piano instructor? (a degree in music, experience with the instrument, experience with teaching, and so on) Would it be enough for me to find a person who could read music? Is it enough to look for someone who has a college degree in music? No, when looking for the best piano teacher, we usually look for someone who has both a music degree and experience in playing the piano and teaching students.

  2. Ask the group: What do we mean when someone is said to “walk the walk and talk the talk”? (It means that there is consistency between the person’s words and actions.) Why is this important? (People are credible if their actions and words are consistent.)

  3. Say: In today's Gospel we see one of the ways in which Jesus’ actions demonstrated the power and authority behind his words. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21-28.

  5. Ask: How did the people respond to Jesus’ teachings and healings? (They were amazed and astonished; they recognized that he spoke and acted with authority.)

  6. Say: As people of faith, we want others to observe consistency between our words and actions. In what ways does the Church demonstrate the power of the words we teach about Jesus? (through outreach to the poor and the sick, in our work for justice, and so on) In particular, when we act with justice toward others, we demonstrate the authority and power of what we believe about God.

  7. Conclude in prayer together that people will observe in our actions for justice the authority and power of our faith in God. Pray together the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are interested in knowing about famous people and celebrities. We can help them to identify people who show their faith in words and deeds as positive role models to emulate.

Materials Needed

  • Pictures of famous people from newspapers or magazines

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings (Grades 7 and 8)

  1. Collect pictures showing famous people from newspapers or magazines. Show these, one at a time, asking the young people to identify the people in the pictures. As each person is identified, ask: What makes this person famous?

  2. Say: People become famous for many different reasons. Some are famous because they have power and influence and others because they do something that is unique or newsworthy.

  3. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel to see what made Jesus famous.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Mark 1:21–28.

  5. Ask: Why were the people astonished by what Jesus said? (He didn’t teach like the scribes; he taught with authority.) What amazing thing did Jesus do? (He healed a man with an unclean spirit.) Why did Jesus’ fame spread? (He showed authority over unclean spirits.)

  6. Say: Jesus’ actions demonstrated the power and authority of his words. This is what impressed the people who saw Jesus heal the man with the unclean spirit. In his words and in his deeds, Jesus showed the power and authority of God.

  7. Say: Those who follow Jesus are also called to demonstrate God’s power and authority by their words and actions. Whom can you name as examples of people who demonstrate their faith in God by their words and deeds? (Accept all reasonable answers.) These are people we want to know more about so that we can follow their example. We also want to be people who demonstrate our faith in God by what we say and do.

  8. Conclude by praying together the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 95, asking God to help us to be consistent in our words and our actions so that we may demonstrate the power of our faith in God.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.


Family Connection

The people who heard Jesus teach and saw him heal in today’s Gospel were said to have been astonished and amazed by the authority of his teaching. So compelling were Jesus’ words and actions that the news about him could not be contained; it spread quickly throughout all of Galilee. Two thousand years later, the news about Jesus continues to spread. We are called to participate in sharing the Good News of Jesus with others in our words and in our deeds.

Gather as a family and try to name some amazing things, events, or people. In today’s Gospel we hear that the people were astonished and amazed by their experience of Jesus. Read today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21–28. What did the people who saw and heard Jesus find so amazing? (In Jesus, the people heard and saw the power and authority of God at work.) People should see in our lives the power and authority of God at work. Can you name any modern examples of people in whom you have seen the power and authority of God at work? Conclude in prayer together that we will experience wonder at the work of God in our world today. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.