Saturday, February 17, 2018

Second Sunday in Lent

Year B
Second Sunday of Lent


A sacrifice

Points to note

The readings for Lent are structured as a journey, a journey of faith not just for the catechumens but also for all the faithful as we prepare to renew our baptismal cleansing at Easter.  The journey begins with the testing of Jesus in the desert on the first Sunday of Lent. 

This Sunday, we see the sacrifice made by our ancestor in faith.  To illustrate this, I have used the first reading.  The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is very central to our faith and forms one of the readings for the Easter Vigil.  I have actually included the full text of the story instead of the summarised one in the Missal.  It should be read as a story and do not hesitate to dramatise if you so wish.


If the concept of Lent has not yet been discussed with the children, use last week’s leaflet to do so.

The Alleluia is not sung during the season of Lent.  This week, there is no Praise and Glory to God, the Gospel Acclamation used during Lent, as the Gospel is not read.  For the same reason, there is no opening dialogue.

A Reading from the Book of Genesis
(Gn 22:1-13,15-18)
God put Abraham to the test, “Abraham, Abraham,” he called.  “Here I am,” he replied.  “Take your son,” God said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.”

Early the next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.  He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started his journey to the place God had pointed out to him.  On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.  Then Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey.  The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it in Isaac, and carried it in his own hands the fire and the knife.  Then the two of them set out together.  Isaac spoke to his father Abraham.  “Father,” he said.  “Yes, my son,” Abraham replied.  “Look.” He said here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Abraham answered, “My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”  Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood.  Then he stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven.  “Abraham, Abraham,” he said.  “Here I am,” he replied.  “Do not raise your hand against the boy,” the angel said,  “Do not harm him, for now I know you love God.  You have not refused me your son.”  Then looking around, Abraham saw a ram caught by his horns in a bush.  Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven.  “I swear by own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore.  Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies.  All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.”

This is the Word of the Lord


If you have to explain the concept of Lent to the children, this discussion should be kept short, as the bulk of the discussions would have taken place before the reading.

Discuss the reading and bring out again interesting parts of the story:

·       Abraham was so obedient to God that he did not question God when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac.  But discuss how he would have felt.  Also, discuss how the children would have felt if they found out that God had asked their Dads to do such a thing.  But be careful that you do not make this too traumatic a topic to some children.
·       Abraham trusted God that he went to the place God has shown him without knowing where it was.  Note that he has to carry his own wood even though the place he went to actually had wood there.  Note that we often go on a journey of faith without knowing where we will end up.
·       Abraham’s heavy heart was contrasted with that of the innocence of Isaac.  Discuss how Abraham must have felt when Isaac asked him about where the offering is to be.
·       God had mercy!  It was not a sacrifice of Isaac that he wanted but a sacrifice of obedience and love from Abraham.  Discuss that in this journey of Lent, we begin with a similar sacrifice.
You may wish to discuss what kind of sacrifices that we could make.  Emphasise that we do not make sacrifices and suffer for the sake of suffering but to be with Jesus and all his friends in the world today in their sufferings.

A few interesting discussion points for more matured groups
·       Where was the mom, Sara, in all these?  Can you imagine her asking her son where they went and he told her, “Dad tried to sacrifice me”.  Would she had trusted her husband much after that?  How would you as a mother felt?  Yet, Sara remained faithful raising Isaac as the son of Abraham after that.
·       What about the boy?

Friday, February 16, 2018

First Sunday in Lent

Year B

First Sunday in Lent



Points to note

As this is the first Sunday of Lent, we should discuss the significance of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  Facilitators may need to take note that this may have already been discussed with some children last Sunday but there really is no harm going through the same ground for the benefit of absent children.  Provided such practice is not done too often, children are usually happy to display what they have learnt the previous Sunday.

In line with the reading, children should walk away with the idea that they make at least one sacrifice during the season of Lent.  If possible, the children should make a public acknowledgement of the sacrifice they will make.  In discussions with the children, link up sacrifice of Jesus with the sacrifices that they will have to make.  Also, emphasise the fact that in undergoing sacrifices, there will be temptations to lure us away.  This will linkup with the reading.


Before the reading, explain that this is the season of Lent and the implications of it.  You may refer to the box at the end of this leaflet.

Acclamation before the Gospel

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!


Discuss with the children about the new season of the Christian calendar that we are entering.  This is available in the end panel of this leaflet & for a more complete explanation, at Soundbites about Lent and Easter

The Lord be with you.
All:   And also with your spirit.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke
All:   Glory to you O Lord
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness, and he remained there for forty days and was tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee.  There he proclaimed the Good News from God.  “The time has come,” he said, “and the kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe the Good News.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


This discussion should be kept short as the bulk of the discussions take place before the reading.

Discuss the reading and bring out again interesting parts of the story:
·            After his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness to pray.
·            In the wilderness, he fasted.  Discuss about people who fasted to help them in their prayer.  Fasting is a reminder of our sacrifice.

·            Jesus was tempted when he fasted.  We, too, will be tempted when we fast.  We, too, will be tempted when we try to keep to our sacrifices.

You may wish to discuss what kind of sacrifices that we could make.  Emphasise that we do not make sacrifices and suffer for the sake of suffering but to be with Jesus and all his friends in the world today in their sufferings
I confess

I confess to almighty God,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God


For many of us, Lent goes hand-in-hand with sacrifice.  Today, what we sacrifice is pretty much a private matter and even Church laws are now comparatively relaxed. In the olden days, people were required to have only one meal a day, without meat, eggs, dairy or oil, during the whole of the season.  Imagine going for forty days without MacDonald's!!  In fact, until the twentieth century, this rule was applied to all Fridays of the year and in many countries, Wednesdays or Saturdays as well.
Today, Church law in most countries only requires all adults (in US, defined as ages 14 to 60) to have only one full meal and two small snacks on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with no meat on both days.  Fish, amphibians and reptiles, which are not considered as meat, are allowed, as are meat in liquid form (eg., chicken broth).  There are no restrictions on drinks, and I was told, including alcohol!  We are also to abstain from meat on all Fridays in Lent.
n England, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is known as Pancake Tuesday, when pancakes are eaten all over the country.  In the olden days before fridges were available, people take down all the eggs they have in the kitchen cupboards and make pancakes with them.  This is because they can't have eggs during Lent and the eggs will not keep until Easter. 
One can imagine that the rules regarding what can and what cannot be eaten during Lent gave rise to numerous interesting practices and recipes for Lent, and also Fridays of the year. Pretzels, made of flour & water and none of the forbidden eggs & dairy, is a Lent food developed by German monks.  The shape is that of an angel/Christian at prayer - which is why the logo for Auntie Anne's Pretzels has an angel with a halo on top.
Falafels, vegetarian meatballs popular in Middle Eastern streets, were first made by Egyptian Copts for Lent.   The most interesting Lent food, is- Japanese tempura.  Apparently, tempura was introduced to the Japanese by 16th century Portuguese Jesuits.  The word comes from the Latin word for period (tempura therefore has the same root as temporal), referring to the period of forty days, a technical Church term for Lent.  I guess that is why there is no meat tempura.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Why follow Jesus

Points to note

This reading has variations among the other Synoptic Gospels.  We can highlight various lessons from this reading: Jesus wanting to heal; Jesus healing; giving thanks after the healing, etc.  I am choosing to focus on the part where Jesus asked the cured leper not to tell anyone about it.  Potentially, there could be questions arising from the children’s confusion over this instruction.

This has been an intriguing point for me since my youth: why would Jesus not want to tell anyone about himself?  Doesn’t his instruction not to tell anyone conflicts with his other instructions to spread the news?  In some way, I believe it could be a test of whether we are coming to Jesus for the right reasons or are we just attracted to the miracles he performed.

In this, care needs to be taken that the children do not understand their relationship with Jesus to be that of an examiner testing an examinee.  Sincerity is a prerequisite in any relationship.  Similarly with God: if we were to hide our motives and say or do the right things in order to impress God with the ‘right’ answers in the Great Examination of Life, we will surely fail.

There was a study performed by some scientist among students in a college.  They asked one group of students who were feeling a little depressed to do good deeds without stopping to think why they are doing it while the other group of similarly depressed students were to carry on their life as normal.  After the trial period, the first group was found to be significantly happier than the second.  There surely must be something in that for us to think about: does doing good deeds only work if there is no ‘why’ to our doing?




Acclamation before the Gospel

Alleluia!  Alleluia!
A great prophet has appeared among us;
God has visited his people.

Explain that Jesus was still preaching and curing people in the Galilee, his home region.  Last week, he cured Peter’s mother-in-law.

The Lord be with you.
All:   And also with you.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
All:   Glory to you O Lord
(Mk 1: 40-45)
A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees, “If you want to,” he said, “you can cure me.”  Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.  “Of course I want to!” he said, “Be cured!”  And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured.  Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, “Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.”  The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived.  Even so, people from all around would come to him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord


What miracle did Jesus do?  Discuss what leprosy is and how they were required to live outside the town in the olden days and had to ring a bell calling out ‘Leper! Leper!’ to warn people of their coming.  Go through the story about how Jesus cured the leper.

What did Jesus tell the leper to do after curing him?  Discuss each of the two instructions separately:
·            The cured man was to present himself to the priest and make an offering.  This was in accordance with the way that the Old Testament treat cured lepers.  The presentation to the priest allowed the priest to examine him and confirm that he is cured so that he could live in the community again.  The offering was a thanksgiving upon confirming that he is cured.
·            The cured man was to tell no one about his healing.  Discuss why Jesus would want the man to keep it secret.  In a way, Jesus wanted to know whether the people would follow him or do they only want to see the miracles.

Do you love Jesus?  Would you want to do all that is asked of us in the Bible?  Why?  This is a tricky and can be rather riotous part:  it is not easy for adults to come to a conclusion.  It is an answer that we would all come back to again and again in our lives.  The older children can start off their lifetime of questioning and can leave the session without a conclusion so that they can answer it at another time and place of God’s choosing.  Let’s not impose our conclusion on a very private matter like this.  There must, however, be a conclusion for the younger ones so that they do not leave confused.

Treatment for possible answers
·            Because Jesus can bring us to heaven – does that mean that if Jesus cannot bring us to heaven, we would not have loved him?  Doesn’t that mean that we only love being in heaven and not really love Jesus?
·            Because Jesus can help us and answer our prayer – are we trying to bargain with God:  that we do good deeds in exchange for him answering our prayers?  Does bargaining with God work?  Does God have need of anything that we may have to bargain with?  Also, does that mean that if Jesus cannot answer our prayers, we would not have loved him?  Doesn’t that mean that we only love having our prayers answered and not really love Jesus?
·            Because if we don’t, we will be punished and sent to hell – does that mean we would not do all the things Jesus asked us to if there is no punishment for failing?  Doesn’t that mean we are aiming to avoid hell and punishment and don’t really love Jesus.
·            Well, you get the gist!

Conclusion (compulsory for younger children)
We could just tell them that we should be doing all the things that Jesus asked of us because they are the right things to do.  That means that even if Jesus had not told us, we should still have done them.  This should suffice for some time and we hope they will think about it when they are older.  Do you have another answer?