Sunday, December 2, 2018

Third Sunday in Advent

LSW
children

Year C

Third Sunday in Advent



Images

Cleaning our hearts


Points to note

This story follows on from last week’s reading. We take the theme of waiting just that one step further.

The concept of repentance that forms the basis of this reading is not easy to explain.  As adults, we too may end up grappling with the idea and it really is part of a very personalised life-long journey.  Mine started as a child and I believe if done right, the children is then started off on their own life long journey starting with the first steps that we help them along today.

Again, we focus on drawing parallels with the aspects of life for the children.  From ideas that they are familiar with, we move to concepts that they would understand but may not appreciate the depth of meaning.  In years to come, we hope they will return in their mind to what we discuss today and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the treasures of Jesus’ teachings to be opened to them.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.
Alleluia!

Gospel

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke
All:  Glory to you O Lord
(Lk 3:10-18)
When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Discussion

Have you ever have someone from far away coming over to your house to stay?  What preparation did you do?Discuss the coming of a favourite aunt or grandparents.  Focus the discussion on the preparation of the guest bedroom and the cleaning of the house.  I am sure Mom and Dad wouldn’t want grandpa and grandma to see how messy the house is.
 
Discuss the anticipation the children feel when preparing the house.  Isn’t it fun to do all that cleaning when someone is going to be coming?  Somehow, cleaning the house without anyone coming doesn’t seem to be so fun, does it?
 
Explain someone is coming soon and we in the Church are preparing for that someone to come.  Discuss the preparation we do for Christmas but do not spend too much time on it. You can discuss instead what the children will do if Jesus would be coming to stay in their house – what preparation would they make to clean out the house.
 
Explain that when we invite Jesus to come on Christmas Day, we are really inviting Jesus to come into our hearts.  Discuss how we make our hearts ready to meet Jesus. Discuss how we clean out our hearts if we were to invite Jesus in there just as we clean the house if we were to invite Jesus into our house.  
 
If Jesus were to come into our hearts, our hearts must be made pure.  Discuss how to purify our hearts.  Be sorry for the wrongs we have done and for those old enough they can go for confessions. More importantly, we do not repeat our wrongdoings if we were to keep our hearts clean.
 
If you have time, discuss how we prepare for Jesus coming in light of John the Baptist’s answer to the first question in the reading.  What is the children’s equivalent of giving up one of two tunics?  Discuss how they can welcome the Jesus who is in those who are less fortunate than we are?



Second Sunday in Advent

Year C

Second Sunday in Advent



Images

Emerging from the dessert with a message of hope


Points to note

This is the season of Advent, which is technically a penitential season.  In times past, as it still is among Eastern Christians (including Eastern Catholics), Advent is treated as a 40-day long Nativity Fast.  In the Western Catholic church, this penitential nature present in the other preparatory season in the liturgical calendar, Lent, but is now replaced for Advent, by the crass commercialisation of shopping for Christmas revelry and binge of gift-anticipation.

While it is likely asking too much for this session to expect the children to associate Advent with penitence as readily as they would for Lent, perhaps we can make a start for them (and for us) to start to think about it.  What does it mean to say we are preparing for the coming of Jesus and who is this Jesus we are inviting to our homes and into our hearts?


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.
Alleluia!

Gospel

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke
All:  Glory to you O Lord
 (Lk 3:1-6)
In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Discussion

Who is this person in this reading?  John the Baptist.  Where did he lived?  In the desert.  Discuss what the desert is and whether it is a place anyone would like to live.  Discuss how John the Baptist lived in the desert – he was dressed in clothes made from camel hair and ate locusts & raw honey (Mt 3:4).

What other stories in the Bible is there about a desert?  There are two stories: the people of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years and Jesus withdrawing into the desert after his baptism for 40 days to be tempted by the devil
 
Explain that the people of Israel wandered about the desert for 40 years because they were not faithful to God.  So, John the Baptist came out of the desert to offer the people God’s forgiveness for their sins.  Isn’t that great that John’s baptism can help people clear out the sins for which their ancestors wandered about in the desert for 40 years.   So, John the Baptist’s message was one of hope because people thirst for forgiveness
 
Explain also the Jesus went into the desert to pray, the same desert that John the Baptist emerged.  Jesus went in there to pray.  In very much the same way many people go into a kind of desert when they are troubled.  It is not a real desert but a kind of retreat where they withdraw from the world for a short time to think about what troubles them.  It could be just a simple locking themselves away for an hour in their room or some people may go away somewhere for a few days.
 
Link it up with what we discuss last week about Advent being a time of waiting and preparation.
 
Explain that Advent is a time for us for us to wait for Jesus.  Waiting for Jesus means to wait in hope – without hope why would you wait?  So, Advent is a time we repent and wait for our forgiveness, which Jesus will give us when he comes.  In the meantime, we may need to think a little bit about what troubles us so that we can lift up our being sorry to Jesus.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

First Sunday in Advent

Year C

First Sunday in Advent



Images

Jesus is coming


Points to note

For this reading, I have chosen the first reading of Jeremiah instead of the Gospel reading for two reasons.  First, the Gospel reading for the First Sunday in Advent last year in Year B is a parallel to this one and is therefore very similar. Secondly, the reading this year from Luke is more difficult than the reading from Mark last year.  As it is, this passage is considered rather difficult, but this year’s reading is even darker and even more troubling.

The reading from Jeremiah is simpler and return to a simpler theme that Jesus is from the house of King David, and how the children to prepare to greet the coming of the king.  Also, don’t forget that as you will be taking some time out before the reading to explain about Advent and the start of the liturgical calendar, there may be rather less time for the discussions itself after the reading.


Liturgy

As the Gospel is not read, the Acclamation is not sung.

Reading

Discuss with the children about the new season of the liturgical calendar that we are entering.  This is available in the end panel of this leaflet & for a more complete explanation, at http://childrenlivingthesundayword.blogspot.com/2013/09/soundbites-about-advent-christmas.html.

A Reading from the book of Jeremiah
(Jer 33:14-16)
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:
‘In those days and at that time,
I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Discussion

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

Have anyone ever met a king or a prince?  It is unlikely they have but get them to imagine it. If they were to be invited to the birthday party of a young prince of their age, what would they do.  Discuss the preparations.  How would they dress up and what gifts would they bring.  If they were to meet the parents of the birthday boy (the king and queen), what would they say – would they be practising what they say?  And their table manners – would they be going through all their lessons on table manners again? 

In the reading, it refers to someone from the family of King David whom God will send to save his people.  Who do you think that will be?  Explain that Jesus is a descendent of King David and is therefore a king himself.  God sent him to save us and his birthday will be soon.  Help the children to count the days.
 

How would you prepare for this birthday party?  Do not confuse this birthday party with Christmas itself.  We are not discussing about preparing for Christmas but preparing to greet Jesus. Focus on how they will put on their best for Jesus.  
 
When you go to a party you put on clothes and behaviour that your host would like.  For instance, a suit would be nice but not appropriate for a birthday party would it? So, what kind of clothes and behaviour that the children think Jesus would like to see the children put on? This would be clothes that are decent but not showy – Jesus doesn’t like people to show off their wealth. Behaviour should be polite but do not deferential – Jesus is a king who comes to serve but not to be served (see last week’s reading). 
 
Most of all, Jesus wants us to do good to everyone – he likes honest people and he doesn’t like us to be nice in front of us but be nasty to our friends & family when he is not around.
 
Discuss how the children could do all these things between now and Christmas and whether they can keep this up after Christmas? 

BEING IN ADVENT
This is the period of preparation for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas.  The word Advent comes from the Latin for coming.  It means a period of prayer and penitence before we are allowed to celebrate the birth of Christ.   Advent is also the new year for the church calendar and the First Sunday in Advent is our New Year's Day. 

Being a preparation season, the liturgical colour is purple, meaning the priest wears purple vestments at mass - only the stole (piece of cloth around his neck and down his chest), chasuble (the robe on the outside) or any other decor; the basic vestments underneath remain white.  The church may also be decorated with purple flowers, purple buntings and the like.  Purple is deemed the colour of penitence (It is also the colour of mourning - which is why the priest wears purple at funerals). 

There is an exception, though: the colour for the third Sunday of Advent is pink (or rose).  That Sunday is called Gaudate Sunday (Latin for Rejoice): to give us a little break after we pass the mid-point of a penitential season.

It runs for the four Sundays before Christmas day and so the last day is always Christmas eve.  It can be as long as a full four weeks starting from Nov 27 (if Christmas Day is a Sunday) or as short as three weeks and one day starting from Dec 3 (if Christmas Day is a Monday).

The Advent Wreath, with its four candles fixed on a circle of evergreens, has its roots in pagan northern Europe, which the Lutherans first adopted as a Christian symbol.  The circle represents the never-ending cycle of seasons while the evergreens symbolise the persistence of life even during winter.  Christian symbolism differ slightly: the circle represents the the eternity of God while the evergreens tells of Jesus, who death could not conquer.  The four candles are lit one every Sunday, causing all candles to be of different heights by the end of the season.  There are three purple candles and a pink/rose one for the Third Sunday of Advent.  Sometimes, there is a fifth white candle in the middle to symbolise Christ, and is lit on Christmas Day or Christmas eve.

The Advent Calendar that we have today seems to be a combination of two separate customs.  The original advent calendar notes the goals for personal prayer and penitence for the different days in this period of penitence.  This calendar is now merged with the Jesse Tree, named after King David's father and unfortunately a dying custom.  Symbols of saints and Old Testament prophets & patriarchs are hung on the Jesse Tree, one on each day of Advent.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Solemnity of Christ the King

LSW


children


Year B
Solemnity of Christ the King


Images


A different type of king


Points to note


The Solemnity of Christ the King, which falls on the last Sunday of the liturgical year (the following Sunday starts off the season of Advent), is a rather recent feastday, having been instituted in 1925.  Pope Benedict XVI wanted to remind Italians that their allegiance was not to the dictator Benito Mussolini, who was in power at that time, but to Jesus.  He drew contrast between Mussolini and Jesus in the way they exercised their kingship: Mussolini by violence and Jesus by love.

Actually, kings are getting to be a rather rare breed. There are 42 reigning monarchs in the world today, of whom 8 are Christian kings (excluding the Pope), all in Europe.  There are two Queens, the Pope, two Africans, four Buddhists, and the rest Muslims.   So really, only eight men in the world today fit our conventional image of a king.  

Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David!
Alleluia!

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
(Jn18: 33-37)
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


Discussion


Have you ever met a king before? Very few of us have ever met kings.  So, you can always extend it to queens and presidents.  But, best to keep to kings and queens because children like the pomp and ceremony.

Discuss how the kings, queens and presidents are welcomed when we meet them.  They come in a big huge limousine.  There are lots of people around them, to serve them.  They don’t have to lift a finger to do anything and I bet they do not have a wallet.  The Queen of England may go around with a lovely handbag but it probably doesn’t have any money in it.

Discuss how you are supposed to behave when you meet kings, queens and presidents.  There are certain protocols when meeting royalty. You address them as Your Highness or Mr/Mrs President or Your Excellency.  You know, you are not supposed to touch the Queen: you bow (for boys) or curtsy (if girl) instead.  You speak politely and cannot munch your food loudly.  Later, someone will come and usher you away.

They also have security guards around them because of the danger that someone could shoot them. After all four American presidents have been shot and many kings of England murdered (ok, the last one was beheaded in 1649).

Contrast it with Jesus.  How did Jesus get around?  How did he enter Jerusalem?  Ask the children to imagine, their king, queen or president arriving to visit them on a donkey.

Discuss how people treated him when he visited.  They were respectful but not overly deferential – nobody bowed or curtsied to him. In fact they expected him to do work: heal them, feed them, teach them. At times, he had to show people where to fish, he washed their feet.  Also, he had no bodyguards because he ruled by love and not in fear.  If anyone wanted to kill him, he would have let them do it willingly.  Which he did.

Explain that nobody was deferential to him and he didn’t expect anyone to be.  This is because he was a king who came to serve.  A Christian king is not supposed to be lording over everyone else. Christian kings and Christian leaders are expected to be humble and help anyone who need help in any way.

Explain that when we were baptised, we were anointed priest, prophet and king.  The role of the king that we take on is the kingship of Jesus, the kingship of service.  

Today is the feast of Christ the King.  It is the feast day of all of us as kings together with Jesus.  But it is not a day when we show our power to everyone.  It is a day to remember to serve in humility everyone who needs help.

If you have time, link it up last year’s reading of the Last Judgement and who Jesus is whom we see around us.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B
Thirty-third Ordinary Sunday


Images


We do not know the hour


Points to note


This reading is rather topical, coming just two weeks before the start of Advent.  However, in order not to anticipate the theme waiting of Advent too much, we focus on what it is that we are not aware of  - the time of Jesus’ coming.  In a way, this runs well into the theme of Advent.

There are many sects around who claim they know when is Jesus’ second coming.  They get their adherents to sell all they have and wait – typically at hill where Jesus will appear, conveniently nearby.  They are called millenarianists, meaning those who focuses on the thousand years that they will reign with Christ.  Not all millenarianists claim they know the timing though and many are rather moderates in their views even as they wait for Jesus.  Some are considered mainstream Christians (Seventh Day Adventists) while others are not accepted by mainstream Christians as Christians (Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons).  The rest are sects, Christian & otherwise.

Catholic teaching is that while we wait for the second coming of Jesus but we do not know the hour nor do we attempt to find out. The hour is not important in our faith – we just prepare ourselves whatever the hour.  I once asked a group of children how long the season of Advent last. One seven-year old child enthusiastically and definitively said “Forever!”  You know, she is right – it lasts forever because we do not know the hour and so, we wait forever.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Stay awake and stand ready,
because you do not know the hour
when the Son of Man is coming.
Alleluia!

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
(Mk13: 24-32)
Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.

‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


Discussion

Have you ever waited for anyone or anything?  Discuss about waiting for Christmas to come, or a birthday or a visit of a favourite relative from overseas.  Take the example of Christmas and what they do to prepare.  Do not dwell on it as you will be discussing it in greater detail next month.  You can even talk about children being good waiting for Santa Claus to come.  Ignore those older killjoys among the children trying to tell the younger ones there is no Santa Claus.

What if you were asked to prepare for Christmas but nobody knows the date?  I love the pause as the concept sink into the children.  Some may even question the point of waiting if that something may not even happen.  Keep it warm as it is a good question.

What if you had a favourite relative who says that he/she will be coming for a visit but will not tell you the date?  He/she tells you to get everything ready because he/she will be taking you on a journey.  Discuss what the children will do.  Some will be sceptical and I think it is healthy to be sceptical like this in today’s world. Ask how do they feel if days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years as they wait?

Explain the church teaching on the Second Coming.  That Jesus will come again.  It will be preceded by great suffering and persecution of the Church but we do not know the details.  Jesus will come in triumph to defeat evil and usher in a period of paradise on earth where we will reign with him in glory.  He will also raise up all who are dead (suggest you pass this part quickly if you are not prepared for awkward questions – like what age will they be, etc – for which the Church do not have definitive answers).  That Jesus will judge all the living and the dead.

Discuss that we wait for the coming of Jesus by doing good and being prepared for that judgement.  And as we do not know when that judgement will be, it means we will continue to do good until the end of our lives.  Whether the Second Coming happens in our lifetimes or not, it is not important. What is important that we are always prepared for it.  That on the day we die, we can say we have done all that we can do in our lives to get a good judgement on the day of the Second Coming – by being true to Jesus and his teachings.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B
Thirty-second Ordinary Sunday


Images


Giving everything


Points to note


This Sunday’s reading actually comprise two sections, but I have taken up the option in the Missal to drop the first section.  This will enable us to concentrate this Sunday’s message on something that is closer to the children.  You may, however, wish to include the first section.

The story of the widow’s mite, though short, is a very powerful one.  Very much like the two coins which contained everything the widow had, the whole of the attitude of a Christian can be conveyed in this story: whatever we do or give to God, give our all.  The point is not just to give our excess, but to give our all.  The widow could have held back one coin, and still could be praised for giving half of all she owned, but she did not.

The story examines our own attitudes.  Jesus was not just contrasting the two coins of the widow with the many gifts of the rich, but also with us.  The holding back of one coin is something we have always had to face from childhood.  It is very much a story of each of our faith journey: from sharing of toys to sharing our life with God.  There is much, therefore, we can discuss on this.

I have started the discussion for today with a joke.  It is important that if we were to start any discussion with a story, we should try to return to it at the end of the discussion.  I have provided an idea for doing just that.

Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Alleluia!

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
(Mk12: 41-44)
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting in money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal.  A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they had put in all the money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


Discussion

Three men won money at the races.  They all agreed that they should give some of the money to God but could not decide how much.  The first said, “I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air. Whatever money that fall outside the circle belong to God and whatever that fall inside the circle belong to me.” He did, collected his money and gave the rest to the poor.  The second man said, I would do the same. I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air.  Whatever money that fall outside the circle belong to me and whatever that fall inside the circle belong to God.”  He did, collected his money and gave the rest to the poor. The third man said, I would do the same. I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air. Whatever money that go up to heaven belong to God and whatever that fall on the earth belong to me.”

Which of these three persons are you like?  This isn’t meant to be a serious question but to lead the children to talk about how much they would give to God if they have enough money.  Begin by discussing amounts: one million?  two?  You can then lead on to discuss fractions: half? quarter?

For younger children who may not yet fully appreciate the idea of money, we could discuss the idea of possessions:  toys, cookies, favourite books.  Young children are by nature sharers.  But we are talking about more than sharing here; we are talking about giving, and never seeing what they gave away again. So, will they give a cookie, or a toy no longer needed or some outgrown clothes?  But what if it is their last cookie, the teddy they had from baby, or their favourite dress?

Explain that in the story (the Gospel story, not the joke), the widow gave everything she had.  And Jesus said that she has given more than anyone else because she gave everything.  Explain that it is not the amount she gave that is important, it is that she gave everything.

When Jesus said that, did he only meant only money gifts? Explain that we can also give everything when we do things as well.  Discuss examples:  when Mom ask us to help, we do it wholeheartedly; when someone wants to talk to us when he or she is sad, we listen intently and not let our eyes wander everywhere; when a teacher teaches, we pay full attention; when we pray or say thank you, we really mean what we say.  Anyone else have any other examples?

Sometimes, we fall short.  We may be selfish and perhaps, refused to share what we have.  We may not pay attention when listening to a teacher or to someone we don’t like.  Sometimes, we bargain or we make compromises.  We tell Mom that we will help her for half an hour, which we say is better than nothing.  They are not alone: all of us are guilty of it.  But the widow gave two coins.  She did not give one and say that was good enough.  She gave two coins; she gave everything she had.

Ultimately, some people give their all: they give their lives.  There are, of course, people like Jesus and St Maximilian Kolbe.  There are also more ordinary people like the priests and sisters, who gave up their lives to serve God.  Explain that the priests took a vow of poverty and they do not own anything of themselves.  The Church owns everything.

Return to the joke at the beginning of this discussion.  Perhaps, there should be a fourth way:  I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air.  Whatever money that goes up to heaven belong to me and whatever that fall on the earth belong to God