Fourth Sunday of Lent
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
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.