Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Readings & Background


This Sunday's Readings


Year A RCIA Scrutinies

First Reading
Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15
God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and sends him to the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 103:1-4,6-7,8,11
A prayer in praise of God's mercy

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
Paul teaches that the Scriptures were written to set an example for us.

Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Now into the third week of the Season of Lent, our Sunday Gospel prepares us to hear Lent's call to conversion and repentance. Today's reading is found in the chapters of Luke's Gospel that describe Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. During this journey, Jesus teaches and heals. He must also respond to those who question and challenge his authority and actions. There is no parallel in Mark's or Matthew's Gospels for today's reading from Luke. While Mark and Matthew describe an incident in which Jesus curses the fig tree, today's reading makes the barren fig tree the subject of a parable.

Luke tells us that some among the crowds report to Jesus a massacre of Galileans by Pilate. The intention of the crowd seems to be to ask Jesus to explain why these people suffered. It was commonplace to render people's suffering as evidence of their sinfulness. Jesus challenges this interpretation. Those who were massacred were no more or less sinful than the ones who report the situation to Jesus. Jesus replies that even a fatal accident, a natural disaster, ought not to be interpreted as punishment for sin.

Jesus' words at first appear to have a fire-and-brimstone quality. Jesus says in essence, “Repent or perish as these people did; all are sinful before God and deserving of God's punishment.” The tone changes, however, in the parable that follows. The parable of the barren fig tree contrasts the patience and hopefulness of the gardener with the practicality of the property owner. When told to cut down the fig tree because it is not producing fruit, the gardener counsels patience. If properly tended, the barren fig tree may yet bear fruit.

Throughout his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God. In this parable, we find an image of God's patience and hopefulness as he prepares his Kingdom. God calls us to repent, and it is within his power to punish us for our failure to turn from our sinfulness. And yet God is merciful. He delays punishment and tends to us so that we may yet bear the fruit he desires from us.

This, then, is our reason for hope: Not only does God refuse to abandon us, he chooses to attend to us even when we show no evidence of his efforts. Next week's Gospel will give an even clearer picture of the kind of mercy that God shows to us. 

Grades 1-3


Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.


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

Younger children often think of God as a provider and a protector. They will take comfort in knowing that God never gives up on us and never stops loving us.

Materials Needed

  • spring bulb in bloom, such as a tulip or daffodil; bulb or picture of a bulb

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

  1. Show children a bulb or a picture of a bulb. Say: Last fall, someone planted a bulb like this one in the ground. The person waited patiently all this time. He or she trusted that a flower would bloom. Show a spring flower in bloom, such as a tulip or daffodil. Say: This is the flower that bloomed from the bulb!  
  2. Introduce today’s Gospel. Say: In today’s Gospel, we hear a parable about God’s love and patience. God never gives up on us. Let’s listen carefully to this parable.
  3. Ask a volunteer to read aloud this Gospel, Luke 13:1–9.
  4. Say: The person planted a fig tree in his orchard. Ask: Did he find any fruit on the fig tree? (No.) Say: He wanted to pull up the fig tree and throw it away. But the gardener had hope. He wanted to leave the tree to see if it might bear fruit. He cared about the tree and was happy to wait patiently. 
  5. Say: In the same way, God cares about us and waits patiently for us, even when we make poor choices. God is always hopeful that we will ask for his forgiveness. He never stops loving us. 
  6. Conclude by praying: “Thank you, God, for loving us and never giving up on us. When we sin, we will ask for your forgiveness.” Pray together the Glory Be to the Father.

Grades 4-6


Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.


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

Older children can sometimes be perfectionists with themselves, showing impatience as they strive to incorporate all the skills and qualities that they are learning. We can encourage their spiritual progress by reminding them that God doesn't give up on us. He actively attends to us, bearing with us in patience and hope.

Materials Needed

  • A spring flower in bloom, such as a tulip or daffodil
  • A flower bulb if readily available

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

  1. Show a spring flower in bloom, such as a tulip or a daffodil. Ask what this flower looked like in the fall (if a flower bulb is readily available, show it). Ask if anyone planted flower bulbs in the fall. If someone has planted some, ask that person: What were you thinking about when you put the bulbs into the ground? Have you seen any blossoms from the bulbs that you planted?

  2. Say: Planting bulbs in the ground in the fall so that flowers will bloom in the spring shows a number of character traits or qualities. What might some of these qualities be? (hope, patience, trust, and so on)

  3. Introduce today's Gospel. Say: In today's Gospel, we hear a parable that also calls us to think about these qualities. Let's listen carefully to this parable so that we can consider these qualities that God shows towards us.

  4. Ask a volunteer to read aloud this Gospel, Luke 13:1-9.

  5. Ask: What did the orchard owner propose to do with the fig tree? (to uproot it and throw it away) Why? (it was not bearing fruit) What did the gardener propose? (that it be left to see if it may yet bear fruit) What qualities does the gardener exhibit? (patience, hopefulness care, and attention) What does this parable teach us about how God acts towards us? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  6. Say: God is patient with us, even when we turn away from him and sin. God is always hopeful that we will ask for his forgiveness. God doesn't give up on us. Instead, God continually reaches out to us, helping us to become the people that he intends for us to be. During Lent, we remember that God helps us—reaching out to us with love, patience, and hopefulness that we will return to him in love.

  7. Conclude by praying together the Act of Hope.

Grades 7-8


Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people often show impatience with themselves, and so they need to be reminded about the virtues of patience and hope. We can encourage their spiritual progress by reminding them that God doesn't give up on us; he actively reaches out to us, bearing with us in patience and hope.

Materials Needed

  • Items that are collected for recycling—for example, a pie plate, a piece of aluminum foil, an empty plastic jug, a newspaper

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Show items that are collected for recycling, e.g., a pie plate, a piece of aluminum foil, an empty plastic jug, newspaper. Say: People used to throw these items into the trash because, after they had served their purpose, they were considered garbage. What are we more likely to do with these things now? (recycle them) What might these things be made into after being recycled? (recycled paper, aluminum products, plastic containers, and so on) What must we do to these items to make them into products that can be used again? (They are processed so that they can be manufactured into other products.)

  2. Say: In order to create new products from these old ones, we must do something to create the change. We look beyond the appearance of the object to be recycled to see what it might yet become.

  3. Introduce today's Gospel. Say: In today's Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a barren fig tree. After listening to this Gospel, we'll consider what it tells us about how God works with us.

  4. Ask a volunteer to read aloud this Gospel, Luke 13:1-9.

  5. Ask: What did the orchard owner propose to do with the fig tree? (to uproot it and throw it away) Why? (It was not bearing fruit.) What did the gardener propose? (that it be left to see if it might yet bear fruit) What qualities does the gardener exhibit? (patience, hopefulness, care, and attention) What does this parable teach us about how God acts towards us? (Accept all reasonable answers.) Do you think recycling is an analogy that makes a similar point? Why or why not? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  6. Say: God is patient with us, even when we turn away from him and sin. God is always hopeful that we will ask his forgiveness. God doesn't give up on us. Instead, God continually attends to us, helping us to become the people that he intends for us to be. During Lent, we remember that God helps us, reaching out to us with love, patience, and hopefulness that we will return to him in love.

  7. Conclude by praying together the Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester.

Family


Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.


Family Connection

We may be unfamiliar with fig trees, but we might know about the growth of spring flowers. Perhaps we have looked at a dry, brown flower bulb and wondered how this produces the colorful tulip or daffodil blossom that we expect to bloom in the spring. Perhaps we've even thought about the patience and hope that are required to plant flower bulbs in October. We don't have to be gardeners, however, to know about patience and hopefulness. As parents, we practice these virtues each day with our children. We may become frustrated and even angered by their willfulness and lack of cooperation. Yet we continue to offer our attention and guidance in hope that one day our efforts will bear fruit. Today's parable suggests that God is like that with us, working with us in patience and in hope that one day we will show evidence that such work is not in vain. As parents, we know God's kindness when we find evidence for our hope for our children. Does God find such glimmers of hope as he works with us?

Gather your family and show a spring flower in bloom. Recall that in the fall this flower was a dry bulb (if a flower bulb is available, show this as well). Talk about the hopefulness and patience shown by those who plant flower bulbs in the fall in the hope that they will bloom in the spring. Read aloud today's Gospel, Luke 13:1-9. Compare the parable of the barren fig tree to your discussion about spring flowers. Consider the patience and hopefulness that God has with us as he works with us, calling us to return to him when we sin. Offer prayers of thanks and praise to God for his patience and hopefulness towards us. Conclude by praying together today's Psalm, Psalm 103.