Saturday, March 26, 2016

Second Sunday in 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.  One the other, the constant shifting in the story line may prove detrimental.  The story-teller 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, I will not set the exact wording of the story but will outline the various episodes and indicated 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 from.  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 it 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 he 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”, 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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Palm Sunday

Year C
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 a 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.



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

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 Lk 22:14-23:56.

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 the 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 will betray him, Peter declared he will 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 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 whole 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 may 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.

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

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Year C

Fifth Sunday in Lent


Forgiving others

Points to note

This reading will need to be treated carefully to avoid any misinterpretation as is often alleged.  For starters, some facilitators may not be comfortable mentioning an adulterous woman to children: substitute with a sinner instead.  Some early Church authorities actually deleted this passage from the scriptures, partly on the grounds that it may be misinterpreted that Jesus condones sinning.  It is appropriate, therefore, to emphasise the fact that in the end, Jesus asked the woman not to sin anymore.

The reading this Sunday rounds off the thread of reconciliation running through this Lent.  It basically notes that those who condemn should be without sin.  Consequently, on a more positive note, we cannot ask to be forgiven if we do not ourselves forgive.  As in previous Sundays, you may wish to re-emphasise the lessons of Sundays past at the beginning of the discussion.  Also, use examples in children everyday lives.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Praise and honour to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and that the Lord God of hosts may really  be with you.
Praise and honour to you, O Christ!



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 8:1-11)
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, “Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning.  What have you to say?” They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him.  But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger.  As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, “If there is one of you who have not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again.  When they heard this they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there.  He looked up and said, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus, “go away and don’t sin any more.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord
All:    Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ


Begin by running through the lessons of past Sundays.

Discuss what happened and what they do when people get upset with one another -- parents with children, etc.  They don’t speak to each other, they refuse to share, etc.  Discuss whether Mom will remain upset with them forever.  Discuss how the children could help Mom get over her anger.  Discuss ways of making up – a hug, a kiss, saying sorry, be a good child.  Basically, we have to prove to Mom that we really mean it when we say we are sorry.  Explain the meaning of reconciliation - it means bringing together two persons who are away from each other.

Discuss how and why we make up with God.  The rite of reconciliation and saying sorry prayers.  Explain briefly the rite of reconciliation.  Explain that we have to be sincere when we go for our confession or when we say our sorry prayers.  What are the examples of sorry prayers?

We also should be willing to forgive others.  Sometimes, we do not make up with others after we fight with them.  Instead, we accuse them of starting the fight or other things.  As they always say, when you point your finger at someone else, three fingers point back at you.  Perhaps, instead of pointing at them, we could open our hands to shake hands with them.  That way, five fingers point at them but none back at us.

Remember the Our Father.  Run through the prayer and identify where the sorry bits of the prayer are.  Note that we ask God to forgive us as much as we forgive others.  This basically means that if we do not forgive others, then we are asking God not to forgive us.

You may wish to run through the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:23-35).