Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Palm Sunday

Year B
Palm Sunday


Jesus’ story

Points to note

Our faith is a faith of stories.  Before books were written, the faith was handed down in the form of stories by word of mouth from one generation to the next.  This was what was known as the oral tradition.  Biblical archaeologists tell us that the stories of Moses were written some six centuries after his death.  This was the written tradition, from which our Bible today came to be.  But until the stories were written down, they told and retold from parent to child, from teacher to pupil.  Story telling is also very much a part of our Asian heritage.  This is one thing we have in common with the Jews.

The oral tradition continues on today despite the growing dominance of the written word.  It is alive at each Jewish Passover meal, where it is required tradition for the youngest child in the family to ask why the meal is celebrated, the cue for the story of the first Passover to be told, complete with the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. 

It also continues on today in the Easter Vigil, where the seven readings that encapsulate the salvation history of our people, are told over the Easter fire.  In many ways, it reminds me of the story telling that takes place over a camp-site fire.  The Liturgy of the Word at the Easter Vigil is therefore the story telling session of the liturgical year.

But mostly, it finds greatest expression when a parent tells a child the Gospel story.  The faith is handed down another generation, and the tradition that has been handed down like a chain for 150 generations before us, has then found another link in the chain.


Twice a year, at Palm Sunday and at Good Friday, the Passion story is told.  As it is a long account, this is one gospel reading where the option of sitting for the Gospel is available.

The children’s liturgy for this Sunday is rather bare, as bare as the altar would be after the Holy Thursday Eucharist.  It has been stripped of all liturgical ornaments to make room for the Passion story.  It is hoped that if the story stands alone and is told well, for one Sunday in the year, it will take centre stage in the liturgy.

Gospel Acclamation

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory:
Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross.
But God raised him high
And gave him the name which is above all names.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory:

I have not attempted to set the wording of the story to be told, but have left it up to you to tell it in your own way.  I have outlined the various aspects of the story and indicated the parts that must be told in regular print.  Optional parts are in italics.  You are encouraged to read the passion story yourself in Mk 14:1-15:47.

It can be a long story.  I have on occasions taken forty-five minutes to tell it.  To settle the children down, there may need to be some dialogue or interaction in the beginning.  Once they settle down, however, the drama of the story seems to propel itself forward.  There is something in the story that will keep children riveted.

As a story telling tool, the voice is crucial.  Try and use as wide a range as possible as you may need to play many characters.  Eye contact with the children at all times is also essential.  This means you must be able to tell the story from memory.  Perhaps a little rehearsal may be necessary.  For dramatic impact, use pauses at the dramatic points of the story.

Entry into Jerusalem
Jesus though King did not enter Jerusalem in glory but on a donkey.  Emphasise the difference in the concept of Christian leadership.  The people welcomed him with palms, which were normally used to welcome royalty in those days.

Last Supper
To keep the story moving, it is best not to touch on the doctrinal aspects of the Eucharist, which is best left to a session specifically devoted to it.  When Jesus predicted that one of them at the table would betray him, Peter declared he would stay with Jesus even if the others were to leave him.  Mention Judas leaving early to betray Jesus.

The Garden of Gethsemane and the Arrest
Emphasise the loneliness of Jesus when his disciples fell asleep praying.  Judas arrived and kissed Jesus on the cheek.  Contrast the arms of the soldiers with the non-violence of the disciples.  Jesus healed the ear of the servant that was cut off by one of the disciples.  Stress that the disciples including Peter ran away, leaving Jesus alone.

The Trial
Explain what a trial is and note that while most trials take place in the daytime, this one took place at night.  The Jews used lying witnesses to try and pass the death sentence on him but failed.  They finally convicted him on his claim to be God’s Son, which ironically was the truth.  Peter betrayed Jesus three times in the courtyard before the cock crowed.

Jesus before Pilate
The Jews do not have the authority to put anyone to death, so they sent Jesus to one who could:  the governor, Pontius Pilate.  Pilate questioned Jesus and found that he was not guilty.  He tried to release Jesus by offering to release a prisoner at the Passover.  The crowd chose Barabbas instead at the instigation of the priests and demanded that Jesus be crucified.  Note that this was the same crowd who welcomed Jesus with palms the week before.   Pilate’s wife had a bad dream all day about Jesus and urged him to have nothing to do
with Jesus.  Pilate sent Jesus to Herod (not the same Herod who was around at the time of Jesus’ birth), the king in Galilee because Jesus was a Galilean.  Herod had hoped to see a miracle of Jesus but Jesus kept silence.  So Herod sent Jesus back.  Pilate tried to get the crowd to agree to release Jesus but failed.  So he took some water and washed his hands of the affair.

The Way to the Cross
Pilate ordered Jesus to be whipped forty times.  The soldiers made fun of him.  Then they made him carry his cross.  This is actually the cross beam and not the whole cross.  When Jesus arrived at the place of crucifixion, which is the upright pole in the ground, they will hoist him up and the cross beam as well.  He fell three times and they made a man, Simon of Cyrene, help him carry the cross.

The Crucifixion
They arrived at the place of crucifixion called Golgotha that means the place of the skull.  When they finished crucifying him, they cast lots for his clothing.  Above him was a sign that said ‘This is the King of the Jews’. The people standing by jeered at Jesus and asked him to save himself.  They crucified him between two thieves.  When one of them made fun of him, the other rebuked the first and asked for Jesus’ pardon.

Jesus died
Before he died, Jesus prayed to the Father that he forgive those who crucified him.  Finally Jesus dies and when he did, there was darkness in the sky and the earth quaked.  A friend of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea took the body down and placed it in the tomb.  They did not bury him yet because everyone wanted to hurry home for the Passover.  The tomb was a cave with a boulder rolled over its front as a door.  They set soldiers to guard it.

Closing prayer

During Holy Week, the last week of Lent, there is no closing prayer as all masses during the week are considered part of one mass.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fifth Sunday in Lent


Year B
Fifth Sunday of Lent


New life
No wheat unless the grain dies

Points to note

We have returned to using the Gospel reading.  This reading though does not contain the full reading in the Missal (vs 20-30) as I have left out those verses that have nothing to do with this week’s theme.  The imagery this Sunday is that of a grain of wheat that ‘dies’ but re-emerges as wheat.  You may wish to refer to the leaflet for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A for further reference.

Much of the symbolism of Lent is lost on those who live in the tropics.  Spring, the meaning of the word ‘Lent’, is the season when seemingly dead trees that have shed its leaves in winter come back to life and flowers blossom.  Spring is also the time when many animals like sheep and rabbits have their young (it gives them a longer time to grow strong before the onset of a cold winter), which is the idea behind Easter Bunnies.  If this is explained to the children, care must be taken to ensure that the children do not get confused or lose their orientation.


Gospel Acclamation

The Alleluia is not sung during the season of Lent. 

Glory to you O Christ, you are the Word of God!
If a man serves me, says the Lord, he must follow me;
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
Glory to you O Christ, you are the Word of God!

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
All:   Glory to you O Lord
 (Jn 12: 20-30)
Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some pilgrims.  They approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.  Jesus replied to them:

“Now the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord


When you look at an egg, does it look alive?  Helps if you have an egg handy.  What happens if the mother hen sits on it for three weeks?  Discuss how things that look dead can come to life.  Any other examples?

In this reading, Jesus talked about a grain of wheat.  What do farmers do with a wheat grain?  Plant it.  What do we get out of it?  Wheat to make flour for bread.  If the farmer never planted it though, what would it be?  It would remain a grain of wheat.  Explain that is how Jesus tried to explain why he had to die on the cross.  Unless he dies, like the grain of wheat, nothing good will ever come out of it.

Jesus once called himself the resurrection and the life.  What did he mean by that?  Discuss how Jesus said that those who believe in him will never die but will live forever.  Explain that Jesus has promised us eternal life in Paradise.  For children less easily satisfied, you may need to use images of misery for death and images of happiness for life.

Discuss the significance of new life in baptism.  During baptism by immersion, the person to be baptised is immersed under water and re-emerges as a new person with a new life, a Christian.  After being baptised at the Easter midnight mass, the newly baptised neophyte lights his candle from the Paschal candle. 

For symbolism of new life, you may wish to refer to previous weeks’ leaflets, especially those of the Lenten readings in year A.  Also we all get Easter eggs, eggs to symbolise new life; and Easter bunnies, rabbits having their young in spring.

You may wish to link this up with real life.  Like Jesus having to go through death on the cross to give us new life, we often have to go through something difficult or even nasty, in order to achieve something we want.   For instance: exams; working hard to prepare a party; any other ideas?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Year B
Fourth Sunday of Lent



God’s love
God’s gifts

Points to note

Both the first reading and the Gospel reading are rather heavy going for the children.  For that reason, I have opted for the unusual choice of the reading from the letters of St Paul.

It is important to emphasise after last week’s Ten Commandments that God does not leave it up to us to find our way to be true to the commandments that he gave.  He also gave us gifts that will help us to be faithful to them.  As such, we should concentrate on those gifts with the charisma of love and faith.


The Alleluia is not sung during the season of Lent.  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.

Explain that this reading is part of a letter from St Paul to his friends in the Church in Ephesus, a town in Turkey.

A Reading from the letter of St Paul to the church in Ephesus
(Ep 2:4-10)
God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ  -- it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to cone, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace.  Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to love the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

This is the Word of the Lord


Does anybody have a friend’s or a family birthday coming up soon?  Have you planned what gifts do you wish to give?  Drag out this part of the discussion, as children tend to like talking about presents.  Compliment any child who comes up with an innovative or thoughtful idea for a present.

Why do we give presents?  Do we give presents to people we like or to people we don’t like?  Although we should steer the discussion towards the idea that we give presents because we think it would be a good idea for the recipient to get such a gift, we may need to grasp the nettle if a child were to suggest giving presents so as to receive some in return.   You may wish to put it aside and return to it after discussing that God’s expectations when he gives us gifts but get your answer ready.  At one point, introduce the idea that people sometimes give presents that are educational.

Does God love us?  Does he therefore give us gifts?  What gifts?   Expand the list to include the tangible and intangible.

Why does God give us gifts?  Emphasise that God does not get anything out of giving us gifts.  Just as parents give educational toys to children to make them smarter, likewise God gives us gifts to make us better people.  End the discussion with the point that as God gave us gifts for a purpose, we should use it for that purpose.

Also, God isn't stupid. He couldn't have given us the Ten Commandments (which were in last week's reading) without the abilities to follow them. So, he must have given us some gifts to follow them. Discuss what gifts they were.

Does God want anything in return when he gives us the gifts?  Explain that God has want of nothing from us but he does have expectations – that we use his gifts wisely so that we can join him in heaven.  In a way, gifts are like passports; they do not get us there but they help us get in.