Saturday, January 30, 2016

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year C

Fifth Ordinary Sunday



Points to note

Although a seemingly simple narrative, this reading is deep in significance and meaning.  I would like to focus on the aspect of the commissioning of Peter and how it relates to an ordination of a priest.  There have been various recent ordinations in our parish in recent years and it will be good to get the children’s eyewitness accounts of the celebrations.

The way the readings followed on from Second Sunday of the year could cause confusion with some of the children.  In that reading, the wedding at Cana, Jesus had just picked up his apostles before the first miracle whereas here is what seems to be a different account of how he picked up his apostles. Well, it is different viewpoint of the same story by a different author.  That is why we say ‘Gospel according to St Matthew/Mark/Luke/John’.  Each author gives a refreshingly different perspective.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Follow me, says the Lord,
and I will make you fishers of men.

Jesus was travelling outside is home region because he was not wanted there:  a prophet is not welcomed in his hometown.

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke
(Lk 5:1-11)
Jesus was standing one day by the lake of Galilee, with the crowd pressing around him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank.  The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats - it was Simon’s - and asked him to put out a little from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and put out your nets for a catch.”  “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will put out the nets.”  And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boats to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”  For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners.  But Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on, it is men you will catch.”  Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


Go through the story again, highlighting the aspects that relates to the commissioning of Peter.  Refer to the companion adult’s leaflet for guidance on this.

Has anyone been for an ordination mass?  There has been one ordination in each of the last few years.  Get those who have attended these masses to recount what happened at an ordination mass.

Draw parallels with the reading: 
·     the candidate for ordination lies prostrate before the bishop just as Peter clutches the knees of Jesus (one is not symbolic of the other:  I just put that in because I think it is interesting);
·     it is the bishop who ordains a priest just as Jesus commissioned Peter (due to the apostolic succession, bishops’ validity are transmitted by an unbroken line that traces back to the apostles who were ordained by Jesus himself: this means that every bishop we have today has been ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by a bishop …… who was ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by one of the Apostles, who was ordained by Jesus);
·     at one point in the mass the candidate has to respond to questions about his calling just as Peter had to respond to Jesus’ call;
·     the newly ordained priest has to leave everything just as Peter did:  Jesuit and other religious priests (ie., those who are not diocesan priests who takes care of a parish for a bishop) takes three vows at their ordination
1.          vow of poverty: they may not own or possess any property; all properties are held by the Jesuit Order
2.          vow of chastity: they may not get married
3.          vow of obedience: they must obey their superior

Discuss the implications of these three vows and what the priests are committed to do.


If you have time, discuss the significance of the fish symbol.  It symbolises both the miracle of the catch we heard today and the miracle of the loaves and two fishes.  Later, it became a secret sign among persecuted Christians.  It was painted on the walls of catacombs to remind Christians of Jesus’ call for them to be fishers of men.  The initials of the phrase Jesus Christ, Victor in Greek also spelt out the Greek word fish.  Often in the catacombs, a drawing of a fish was accompanied by the Greek word below it.  When a Christian sees a symbol of a fish in an unfamiliar catacomb, he is assured that he is in a holy place where other Christians also worship.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year C

Third Ordinary Sunday


Listening enthusiastically at mass

Points to note

This reading is the first of a two-part reading.  Again as in last Sunday, it is an apt commencement to a year (the ordinary Sunday series, not the liturgical year itself).  A little like a movie within a movie, ala French Lieutenant Woman style: there is a reading within a reading.  Jesus reads about proclaiming a new beginning: the beginning of his ministry.

While we can discuss about the content of Jesus’ reading, I have chosen to discuss the way that Jesus did the reading and the way that the people responded to him.  This can be further discussed in reading of Mary and Martha in Sunday 16.  In today’s session, I am focussing a bit more on the Liturgy of the Word itself.

With older children, you may want to take a bit more time explaining the Liturgy of the Word, which may be a little too technical for younger children.  If so, you may spend a bit more time on discussing listening at mass, using parts of the Sunday 16 reading if necessary.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
The Lord has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives.

Explain that Jesus has just emerged from the temptation in the desert.  Strengthened, he is about to launch his public ministry. (Note: I have omitted the first part of the reading (Lk1:1-4) for the children as they are the introduction to Luke needed to kick off the Luke series of Gospel readings but may confuse the children)

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
(Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21)
Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.
to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind,
to set the downtrodden free
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him, then he began to speak to them, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Discuss the reading and draw parallels with our mass:  where was Jesus?  In a synagogue.  Explain that a synagogue is like a church for Jewish people.  Jews only worship in two places:  the Temple and in synagogues.  There is only one Temple, though, where Jewish priests may make sacrifices but there are many synagogues where people listen to readings, sermons and prayers led by rabbis.  There is no longer a Temple, and so, Jews today worship only in synagogues all over the world.  The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 ad, leaving only a wall behind.  To this day, we see Jews on TV praying along a wall in Jerusalem.  It is called the Wailing Wall because Jews lament the destruction of the Temple.

What was Jesus doing?  Reading a reading in the synagogue and then giving the sermon.  Isn’t that what happens at mass?  Who does it at mass?  The lectors read the first two readings while priest reads the Gospel reading and gives the sermon.

What are the two parts of mass?  The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist?  Which is the one that happens first and is the one with the reading?  The Liturgy of the Word.

Explain about the Liturgy of the Word.  The next page is an extract from the leaflet on the Mass. You may want to refer to the full leaflet for the context.

If there is time after explaining, discuss the importance of listening at mass, referring to the leaflet of Sunday 16 if necessary.

I love this story.  The priest went up to the mike for the Gospel reading and said, “The Lord be with you.”  But, nothing came out because the mike wasn’t working.  So, he said in a louder voice, “There is something wrong with the mike!”  The people heard him say something but wasn’t sure what, so they responded ............... The importance of listening at mass!!

A little elaboration on the following Liturgy of the Word notes:  Children like to hear this explanation about the sign of the cross before the Gospel.  It is a prayer made with our hands: Glory (we touch our foreheads = When we hear your word, God help we think good thoughts) to you (we touch our lips = God, help us proclaim good news) O Lord (we touch our hearts = God, help us love)

The form of this liturgy follows very much that of the Jewish synagogue service, from which it descends.  The readings are read by one or more readers, or lectors, from the reading desk, or ambo.  The response to the first two readings should be a period of silence to reflect on the readings, but is rarely achieved.

First reading and the Responsorial psalm
This is normally from the Old Testament, or from the Acts of the Apostles during the season of Easter.  The readings are chosen to relate to the Gospel reading.

The psalms, as a response to the reading, follow a verse-and-response format and are chosen to fit the readings.

Second reading
The epistles have a sequence independent of the Gospel reading and therefore do not relate to the other readings, except during the great feasts and the seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas.

The Gospel is greeted by an acclamation. Alleluias are sung except during Lent, when the Glory and Praise is sung instead.

As a mark of respect for the Gospel, which represents Christ, we receive the Gospel standing up.  In the Greek Church, they even have a little procession to emphasise that.

The introductory dialogue between the priest and the community has much significance.  To the priest’s greeting, the community responds: “And also with you”.  Then, the priest introduces the Gospel and the community responds: “Glory to you Lord Jesus Christ”.  Note that the ‘you’ in the two responses are directed at different persons.  In the first, it refers to the priest, while in the second, it refers to Jesus.  This underlines the presence of Jesus when the Gospel is read.  It is no longer the priest we hear, but Jesus.

The sign of the cross we make during the second response is the older form of the more conventional sign normally used.  Being less overt, it was a more discreet way of identifying oneself during times of persecution as a Christian to others who know what the sign means.

The sermon that follows will explain the readings.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year C

Second Ordinary Sunday


Celebrating as Christians

Points to note

The wedding feast at Cana is often noted to be the account of an eyewitness.  As a result, the story is rather vivid and engaging.  There are many aspects of the story that we could focus on.  Jesus gave his blessings at someone’s celebration.  In this session, we aim to focus on celebrations and the use of wine in celebrations.

One problem with the two central symbols of the Eucharist is that they are a little alien to our culture.  We may be able to relate to bread even though our staple is rice, but wine??  Wine carries greater significance for Europeans than for us.  We must understand that wine is probably one of the few beverages that medieval Europeans may drink hygienically and safely during a time when water was usually contaminated.

There is, of course, the significance of wine as a symbol of fellowship, as explained below.  Do not shy away from discussing light drinking that is socially acceptable and in good spirit, but use it as a starting point for discussing.  Be alert, however, for experiences of extreme drunkenness, which leads to violence and anti-social behaviour.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life:
you have the message of eternal life.

Explain that this event happened during the first week of Jesus’ public ministry, after he had just picked up his apostles.  This, therefore, is Jesus’ first miracle.

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
(Jn 2:1-11)
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.  The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.  When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him,  “They had no wine.”  Jesus said, “Woman, why turn to me?  My hour has not come yet.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  There were six stone water jars standing there meant for the ablutions that were customary among the Jews; each could hold twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim.  “Draw some out now,” he told them, “and take it to the steward.”  They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine.  Having no idea where it came from - only the servants who had drawn the water knew - the steward called the bridegroom and said, “People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.”

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus; it was given in Cana in Galilee.  He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Have any of you ever been to a wedding?  What happened there?   Two persons get married.  Extend the discussion to the big dinner or party that takes place after the wedding.  Is it a joyous occasion?  Let the children talk about their memories and experiences.

There is one point in a wedding dinner, especially at a Chinese dinner, where people make a lot of noise to wish the newly wedded couple a good married life together:  when is it?  The big yam seng toast.  Again, let the children talk about what they remember. 

Draw the children’s attention to what is used for the toast: something alcoholic.  Discuss what happens if there is no wine, brandy or beer for the toast.  Do you think the toast would be as noisy and as successful?  Be prepared for a few poor souls who resent not getting a sip of the ‘proper’ toast.

Explain that this is how the guests at the wedding at Cana found themselves.  There was no wine and so there was a danger of the party grinding to a halt.  Discuss what Jesus did.  Was he a party-pooper or did he help the people continue their celebrations?  If the group is sufficiently matured, you may be able to guide the discussions to whether God is such a killjoy?

What is the big celebration in church?  The mass.  What is the two important items at the centre of attention for the mass?  The bread and wine.  Why do we use the bread and wine? 

Concentrate the discussion on the wine:  wine is a symbol of fellowship.  People are happy when they had a drink, especially when you have been drinking with other people.  And you normally prefer to have a drink with people you like.  We do not celebrate with people we do not like.  Remember how the drinks at the wedding party help make it a joyous occasion?  Well, this is very much the same thing.  

So, wine at mass means that the people of God get together, with people we like, to share our happiness.  So, at the end of mass, after having shared the symbol of fellowship, should we leave mass with a mournful face of with a happy face?  Discuss how we can express our happiness and our happy faces after mass.  Perhaps we can try these ideas out after this mass?