Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Year B
Fifth Sunday of Easter


Bearing fruit
Attachment to God
Mystical Body of Christ

Points to note

As mentioned in the leaflet for Easter 3, this is part of a four-week journey that John is leading us.  You may wish to read that leaflet to set this Sunday in context.

This passage is largely based on images.  We will have to be careful of the image we wish to put across.  It contains a powerful image of a vine to be pruned and burnt in the fire.  An overemphasis on disposal of the discarded vine in the fire may convey too negative an image.

There is an image there of a vine bearing fruit.  I suggest that we begin with this image, which is both easily understood and is positive.  Each one of us produces fruits and we must remember that this is due to God.  If we are no longer attached to God, we lose our fruit-bearing abilities.


Explain about the vine.  Get the children to describe how a vine looks like.

The vine is a common crop in Palestine where it grows luxuriantly.  In the first three years, however, a young vine is not allowed to bear fruit as this is seen as sapping the vine of nutrients in order to bear immature grapes instead.  It is therefore very drastically pruned.  Even when the vine is matured, branches that do not bear fruit are pruned for very much the same reasons.  This is often done twice a year.  A good vine therefore does not produce good grapes without drastic pruning.

The wood of the vine is too soft to be any good and is often collected to be burned in a bonfire.  It does not even qualify under the Law to be brought to the Temple as wood offering to be burnt at the altar fires.  So, burning it is purely to get rid of it.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Make your home in me as I make mine in you.
Whoever remains in me bears fruit in plenty.


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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
All:   Glory to you O Lord
 (Jn 15: 1-8)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch that bears no fruit he cuts away,
And every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already, because of the word I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the true vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Do any of you have fruits?  Discuss the gifts that each child has.  It will be good to get them to share one.  We are not talking necessarily about talents here.  A loving disposition is also a gift.

Discuss how we each get these gifts.  Link them back to God as the source of gifts.

What do we do with the gifts that God gives us?  It is like the vine:  the fruit of the vine branch is put to good use.  Otherwise, the branch is taken away and burnt.

Notice that the branch will continue to bear fruit as long as it is attached to the vine.  Why?  What does the branch get from the vine to bear the fruit?  Nutrients such as water, minerals from the ground, fertiliser, etc.  Discuss what we need from God for our gifts to grow.  Emphasise the fact that the link with God is all-important.  Just as a hand cannot do the work of a hand if it is detached from the body, a vine cannot produce grapes if it is detached from the branches.

Draw the parallel between the vine and the body.  With Jesus as the vine and we as the branches, this is very similar to our concept of the Body of Christ, with each of us as the body and Jesus as the head.  If the body is not together, nothing can be done.  Lead eventually to the term the Mystical Body of Christ.  Draw the parallels. 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Year B
Fourth Sunday of Easter



Sheep following a shepherd

Shepherd risking his life

Points to note

As mentioned in the leaflet for Easter 3, this is part of a four-week journey that John is leading us.  You may wish to read that leaflet to set this Sunday in context.

This is one of the most endearing images of Christ: Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  In many ways, there are two images of the Good Shepherd.  First, as a leader after whom his disciples will follow.  And his disciples include us.  His disciples will follow him because we know him.

You may also want to reflect on the accessory of a bishop.  The staff that a bishop carries is called a crozier.  It represents the staff of a shepherd.  The crook at the end of the staff enables the shepherd to hook the necks of straying lambs.

The other image is that of a shepherd risking his life for his sheep, fighting off wolves and the like.  Jesus, however, not just risked his life for us, he laid down his life for us.  For younger children, you may not wish to emphasise this image.


Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia, alleluia!
I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my own sheep and my own know me.


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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
All:   Glory to you O Lord
(Jn 10:11-18)
Jesus said:
“I am the Good Shepherd:
the Good Shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and run away as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the Good Shepherd;
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep that I have that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock and one shepherd.
The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Anyone has a dog?  Does your dog come when you call?  Explain that sheep flocks in the Middle East tend to be small and the many flocks need to search for scarce grazing land.  Grazing grounds generally overlap and flocks tend to mix freely.  Interestingly, though, when the shepherds leave at dusk, each has no problem in identifying his sheep and leading them home.  The sheep all knew their master and each will respond only when its master calls and not another, very much like how dogs recognise their masters.

Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd and that his sheep, i.e., we, know him and will follow him when he calls.  How do you think he will call us?  By our names.  Discuss those who God called by their names:  Abraham, Samuel, etc.  Discuss how Mary Magdalene did not recognise Jesus at the tomb until he called her by her name.  A good example of the sheep who knew the shepherd.  How would Jesus call you? This is a good opportunity for everybody in the group to share his or her name.  Make sure that each gives his name out loud to the group and not just to the facilitator. 

Have you seen how cows are branded?  With a red hot metal rod, which then imprints the owner’s name or sign on the side of the cow.  Cows are branded so that everyone knows to whom those cows belong.

If we are Jesus’ sheep, do we also need to be branded like the cows?  Yes!! Like the cows, we are branded with Jesus’ name on us.  We are all called Christians.

Is there any way other people can know that we belong to Jesus?  Discuss that following is not just to physically to follow a person somewhere like the sheep following the shepherd.  A follower also follows what his or her master does.  When other people see that we are doing the same thing as our master, they know that we are followers of our master.  Discuss the things we should be doing so that people will know.

Link this up with last week’s reading:  Anyone who says ‘I know him (God)’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar.  (1 Jn 2:4).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Third Sunday of Easter

Year B
Third Sunday of Easter



Loving in obedience

Points to note

The second reading in all the Sundays of Easter in Year B is from the first letter of St John.  John is the only one of the Twelve who was not martyred and lived to a ripe old age of over ninety.  At the end of his life, John was exiled to an island where it was said he had all the time to reflect on and to understand the manifestation of God as love.  Little wonder that the tone of his letter is very much on the themes of love and God.

To John, Jesus left us with only one commandment, the commandment to love (Jn 15:12).  This is discussed much more in depth in Easter 6, where in both the second and the Gospel readings, St John culminates his teaching on these twin themes.  As such, the next few Sundays are part of a short journey to that understanding in Easter 6.

In each Sunday, John wants us to understand that we cannot love without God and, if we have God, we cannot do anything but love.  We start off with the idea, therefore, of obedience in this reading, followed by the ownership of God over us and God’s expectation from us of this ownership in the next few Sundays.

When discussing the concept of love, it is easy to lose focus and end up with very broad ideas instead.  It is critical to anchor the discussions on very concrete examples of action and the daily life events that children understand.  If possible, end up with commitments from the children on how they should make real in their lives what they have heard in the readings.



There is no the Gospel Acclamation as the Gospel is not read.  For the same reason, there is no opening dialogue.


Explain to the children that John was probably the youngest of the Twelve Apostles, the only one not to be martyred and that he lived to a ripe old age.  In the Gospel he wrote, he always referred to himself as the beloved disciple.  So, this must really very much be someone who have felt the loving power of Jesus and knows he is loved by God.  The story goes that when he was teaching his own disciples at the end of his life, he was asked by one of them why he always talked to them about love and nothing else.  John stared out into the distance for a while and replied, “Because there is nothing else … but love … love … and love.”

A Reading from the first letter of St John
(1Jn 2: 1-5)
I am writing this, my children, to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice who takes our sins away,
not only ours, but the whole world’s.
we can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments.
Anyone who says “I know him”, and does not keep his commandments,
Is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey what he has said,
God’s love comes in perfection in him.

This is the Word of the Lord


Is there anyone among us who is perfect?  Discuss the idea of perfection and only God is perfect.  Is there any among us who sometimes wished that we have done something that we omitted to do or wished that we did not do something that we did?  You may wish to allow to children to talk about mistakes they made.  Gently weed out those mistakes that are merely incorrect (eg., giving an incorrect answer in a test) from those that are wrong (wrong from a moral angle).  Such wrongs are sins.

Point out that often when we do a wrong, someone else has warned us against it.  When we end up fighting with our brother or sister, Mom would surely have warned us against it.  So, when we do a wrong, it is often an act of disobedience against someone.  That is why when we fight with our brother, it is not just our brother who is upset with us, but Mom too.  That is why when we fight with our brother, it is not just our brother who we have to make up with, but Mom too.

Expand it to the idea of sin.  God is very much a parent in our whole Christian family, very much like Mom in our little family at home.  When we sin, even if it is against someone else, it is a disobedience against God.  Both God and that someone else are upset with us and we have to apologise to both God and that someone else.  Therefore if we say we want to be obedient to God, we cannot sin against anyone else too, not just God. 

Illustrate these points using events from children daily lives.  I always find fighting with our brother a good example but there many countless more.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Second Sunday of Easter

Year A
Second Sunday of Easter


The Easter Story

Points to note

This Sunday’s story continues on from that of Palm Sunday.  As such, it is recommended that you refer to the leaflet for Palm Sunday.  Where the Passion story ends with Jesus being placed in the tomb, the Easter story picks up from early morning two days later.  What happens in the intervening period remains in the realms of the mysteries of faith.

The setting of the story changes.  The Passion story was one of a long continuous heavy drama.  The Easter story is one many short episodes pieced together.  The Passion story was threaded into one flowing narrative.  The Easter story seems more chaotic, with few connections between the episodes.  Perhaps, the Passion story is more reflective of God’s organised plan, while the Easter story is our story, of the disorganised mortals who were our ancestors in faith.

The mood of the story also changes.  The Passion story propels itself forward with by the force of its gripping drama.  If told well, the children should be tensed but riveted at the end of it.  The Easter story moves quicksilver-like from one episode to another.  On the one hand, the shortness of the episodes is more in line with the children’s attention span.  With one story after the other, the constant shifting in the story line may prove detrimental.  The storyteller must be prepared to lengthen the more exciting episodes or drop the less exciting ones.

The end to the story is also crucial.  The Passion story ended on a sombre note, perhaps even a defeatist note.  Even for those of us who know of the resurrection round the corner, we can’t but help feel downcast when we hear of Jesus entombed.  The Easter story, however, must end very positively.  The first bishops of our Church stand poised on the tidal wave of evangelising fervour that will one day engulf much of the world.  The end of the Easter story must paint a picture of the apostles bravely facing the unknown future, a hostile world, but also a great adventure about to begin.


As with Palm Sunday, the liturgy should be kept simple.


As with Palm Sunday, I will not set the exact wording of the story but will outline the various episodes and indicate the parts that must be told in regular print.  Optional parts are in italics. 

The Easter story is basically contained in the last chapter in each Gospel (the last two in Jn).  You should read them for yourself if you are not too familiar.  Note however that the sequence of stories in each of the Gospels is a little different and you may have to work out the sequence into a unified story.  I have also included a few apocryphal stories about the apostles I have found interesting.  The only problem is when children ask where you got the apocryphal stories.  Well, you find your own answers to that one.

Easter morning: the empty tomb
Early Sunday morning when it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.  This is not Mary the mother of Jesus. She found the stone at the door to the tomb rolled away, and looking inside, she saw that it was empty.  She ran off to tell the apostles.

Peter and John went to the tomb.  John ran ahead of Peter and got there first but he let Peter enter before him.  They saw the tomb empty and remembered that Jesus had told them that he would rise again.

Mary Magdalene and Jesus
Mary stood outside, weeping.  When she looked in, she saw two angels who asked why she was crying.  She replied that someone had taken her Lord away and she doesn’t know where they have put him.

When she went outside, she met Jesus but did not recognise him.  Thinking that he was the gardener, she asked where he had put Jesus.  Jesus called her by her name and she recognised Jesus.  Quote Jesus:  My sheep know me.  Jesus will always call us by our name, as God did with Abraham, Samuel and the others.  But Jesus told her not to cling to him but to tell the others the good news.  Discuss that if anyone had good news, wouldn’t they want to tell the other people?

Mary ran off to tell the apostles the good news, but nobody believed her!!  Well, would you?  If someone were to tell you that the chap who died last week was seen around, would you believe him?

Easter afternoon: the road to Emmaus
Two disciples went off on a journey to a nearby town, Emmaus.  Jesus came up to them but they didn’t recognise him.  Link this with Mary in the earlier story.  Jesus asked what they were discussing and they told him about the crucifixion and the reports that he had been seen but they were unsure about the reports.  Jesus explained to them the passages in the Bible about himself.  When they arrived at Emmaus, the two disciples invited Jesus to stay with them for supper.  When he broke the bread, they recognised him.  Link this with the words during the institutional narrative at mass, “Do this in memory of me”.  But he disappeared from their sight.

Easter evening: Jesus and Thomas
That evening, the apostles were all gathered in a locked room because they were afraid. Jesus walked through the door and had supper with them.  His first words to them were “Peace be with you”, the same words we use at mass.

Thomas was not there that evening.  When they told him about
it, he refused to believe “Unless I put my finger into the holes in his hands and my hand into the hole in his side, I refuse to believe”.  The next Sunday, they were gathered likewise and Jesus walked through the door again.  Thomas fell at the feet of Jesus and proclaimed him “My Lord and my God”.  He was the first person to have called Jesus God.

Stories of the Apostles
Jesus stayed with the apostles for forty days before ascending to heaven.  Ten days later, he sent the Holy Spirit on them on Pentecost day.  Greatly strengthened, the apostles went out to the world and told them about Jesus. 

The following stories are not biblical:
The apostles drew lots to see where they would go.  Peter went to Rome and became the first bishop of Rome.  Once, when he was running away to escape from soldiers, he saw Jesus walking the other direction.  When he asked Jesus where he was going, Jesus replied that he was going to Rome to be crucified again.  Peter was so ashamed of himself that he ran ahead of Jesus and was arrested.  He told the soldiers that he should be crucified upside-down as he was not worthy to be crucified like Jesus.

Thomas was chosen to go to India.  He didn’t want to because it was so far away.  Jesus visited him in a dream, but still he told Jesus, “Anywhere Lord but India”.  The next morning, Jesus was at the harbour and asked the captain of a ship if he needed a slave, pointing out to him Thomas.  The captain called Thomas over and asked him if Jesus was his master.  When Thomas said yes, the captain said he had bought him and Thomas was going to India.  Thomas went and made many Christians there.

Of all the apostles, only John lived to an old age but in exile in the island of Patmos.  Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece. James was martyred in Spain and Matthew in Ethiopia.  Philip was crucified in Turkey.  Bartholomew was whipped to death in Armenia.  Simon and Jude were killed for the faith in Persia.