Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Year A

Twenty-eighth Ordinary Sunday



Images

Preparing for a celebration


Points to note

There are actually two parables in this Sunday’s reading, although treated as one in the reading.  You may wish to concentrate on one or the other.  Both parables are in the nature of allegories. 

The first parable is akin to that of last Sunday and it may be an idea to revisit the leaflet (cf. Sunday 27).  Many of the points raised there apply again this week.  Role-playing would also be useful here.  In introducing the first parable, it is advisable to refer to what was done last Sunday to refresh the memory.  This would reinforce the idea in the children’s minds that the readings for the Sundays are part of an integral plan.

The second parable introduces a new concept of being ready, which has not been touched on in the last few Sundays.  Please refer to the adult’s leaflet for the details of this reading.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel

Alleluia!  Alleluia!
The Word was made flesh and lived among us;
to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.
Alleluia!


Gospel
Go through with them again the nature of a parable and what allegories are.  Ask them to watch out for the persons the characters in the parable represent.  Remind the children of the reading last week.

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All:   Glory to you O Lord

 (Mt 22:1-14)
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding.  He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come.  Next he sent some more servants.  ‘Tell those who have been invited’, he said, ‘that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready.  Come to the wedding.’  But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants and killed them.  The king was furious.  He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready; but those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the cross-roads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.’  So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing wedding clothes, and said to him, ‘How did you get in here, my friend, without wedding clothes?’  And the man was silent.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


Discussion

Has anybody helped prepare for a wedding?  Was there a lot of preparation to do?  Get the children to discuss whose wedding they helped prepare and what they personally did in the wedding preparations.  Discuss what else others did to prepare.  If no one in the group has helped in a wedding, replace with another celebration:  birthday party, etc.

How many of us have attended a wedding feast?  Do we dress up well for the wedding?  Discuss how the host would feel if we turn up for the feast in shabby clothes or clothes that we wear at home.  And this is after all the hard work that they have put into preparing the wedding feast.

The mass we have at Church every Sunday is also a feast and there is much preparation to do.  Has anyone helped in preparing for a mass?  Discuss the preparations needed for a mass: the priest has to pray, and prepare his homily and the prayers; the lectors have to rehearse their readings and pray over them; the choir will practise the hymns; the other ministers need to know what is expected of them and pray; the sacristan gets the church and the altar ready; the altar has to be decorated with flowers, etc..

Jesus invites us to be with him in Paradise.  Paradise is usually described as a big banquet.  Have you made any preparation for this feast?  Going by the same thread as the earlier discussions, the children will be looking at how the host prepares for this banquet.  Eventually, bring the discussion round to our preparation to attend the banquet.  Ask how upset they would be if guests turn up at the wedding or birthday party dressed as they would at home.  Similarly with God if we do not prepare ourselves to attend the banquet in Paradise.  How do we prepare ourselves for the banquet in Paradise?  By loving, praying, caring, etc.  Spend some time to discuss this.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Year A

Twenty-seventh Ordinary Sunday



Image

God love us


Points to note

This is very vivid parable and is very much an allegory.  In fact, Matthew has amended Mark’s version to fit it more into the history of Israel.  Details can be found in the adults leaflet.  Role-playing should work very well with this reading and it would be quite fun, too. 


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel

Alleluia!  Alleluia!
I call you my friend, says the Lord,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
Alleluia!

Gospel
(optional) Have a missal at hand and read the first reading informally as an introduction (Is 5:1-7).  Explain that this is a love ballad about God’s love for us.  Read it slowly as a piece of poetry and paint a picture of God’s love lavished on his vineyard.  This imagery is very important to depict God’s sadness at the actions of the tenants in the Gospel reading.

Before the Gospel reading, explain to the children what is an allegory: it is a story where each character and action represent something or someone.  Tell the children that this parable is an allegory very much like the one we had last week and you would like them to identify whom the characters in the parable represent.

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All:   Glory to you O Lord

 (Mt 21: 33-43)
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, “Listen to another parable.  There was a landowner, who planted a vineyard, fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.  When harvest time came, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his rent.  But the tenants seized the servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third.  Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number.  And they did the same thing to them in the same way.  Finally he sent his son to them.  ‘They will respect my son’ he said.  But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir.  Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.’  So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”  They answered, “He will bring those wicked people to a wicked end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the rent to him when the season arrives.”  Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

       It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone.
       This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see?

I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruits.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Discussion

So, who were the various people in the story?  The owner represents God; the tenants, the chief priests and the elders of the people; the servants, the prophets; and the son, Jesus who was killed outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Who is the vineyard?  Be prepared to explain why a thing here is used to represent people.  Go back to the first reading, if necessary.  The vineyard represents Israel, which God has entrusted to the priests to take care.  The grapes from the harvest represent the love and worship that the people were due to give to God.

Read the reading again and interpret it as you go along with the events of the history of Israel.  At the end of it all, the children should understand that we are the object of God’s love and God does get very sad and upset if those he has assigned to watch over us do not do their job properly.




Context from the first reading
This parable is more an allegory.  The first reading for this Sunday gives a description of the vineyard.  Here, it represents the Chosen people.  The owner represents God; the tenants, the chief priests and the elders of the people; the servants, the prophets; and the son, Jesus who was killed outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Mt expanded on Mk’s conclusion to emphasise the eschatological aspects of the parable.

An interesting feature of the parable is that under Jewish law, three successive failures by the owner to claim his share of the harvest gives the tenants a case for claiming the vineyard as their own.  The case would be strengthened in practice, but not in law, if there is no heir to the property.  Hence the three attempts at murder.


The song of the vineyard

Is 5:1-7    
Let me sing to my friend
the song of his love for his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug the soil, cleared it of stones,
and planted choice vines in it.
In the middle, he built a tower,
he dug a press there too.
He expected it to yield grapes,
but sour grapes were all that it gave.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
I ask you to judge between my vineyard and me.
What could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?
I expected it to yield grapes.
Why did it yield sour grapes instead?

Very well, I will tell you what I am going to do with my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge for it to be grazed on,
I will knock down its wall for it to be trampled on.
I will lay it waste, unpruned and undug;
overgrown by the briar and the thorn.
I will command the clouds to rain no rain on it.
Yes, the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the House of Israel,
and the men of Judah, that chosen plant.
He expected justice, but found bloodshed.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Year A

Twenty-sixth Ordinary Sunday





Image



Self-righteous people





Points to note



This is a short and simple parable, aimed very much at the Pharisee in us.  Pharisees are still with us today, in some ways.  When I was wondering around the London district of Stanford Hill one Saturday, where many orthodox Jews live, a little Jewish boy (complete with skullcap and braids) came up to me and asked me to ring the doorbell for him.  To orthodox Jews who are not allowed to work on Saturday, touching something electrical is work.



Not just the Pharisee in us, but the children too.  For some children, it may hit to close to home for comfort.  Protracted quiet during the session may mean a great deal.





Liturgy



Acclamation before the Gospel


Alleluia!  Alleluia!

If anyone loves me he will keep my word,

and my Father will love him and we shall come to him.

Alleluia!



Gospel

Explain to the children what a parable is.  Explain the situation in Israel at the time of Jesus.  There were Pharisees and priests who thought that because they knew God’s law and kept them, they were better than others who do not.  They also believed that as descendants of Abraham, they will automatically go to heaven whatever they do.



The Lord be with you.

All:   And also with your spirit.



A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew

All:   Glory to you O Lord



 (Mt 21: 28-32)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, “What do you think?  A man has two sons.  He went and said to the first, ‘My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.’  He answered, ‘I will not go’, but afterwards changed his mind and went.  The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, ‘Certainly, sir’ but did not go.  Which of the two did the father’s will?”  “The first,” they said.  Jesus said to them, “I tell you truly, tax collectors and Gentiles are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you as a model of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and the Gentiles did.  Even after seeing that, you refused to change your mind and believe him.”



This is the Gospel of the Lord





Discussions



Run through the story again and list all the different characters.  Point out whom the different characters are supposed to represent:  the father, God; the first son, the Pharisees; and the second son, the sinners.  Discuss how the Pharisees see themselves as people destined for Paradise and how they see others who do not measure up to their standards of righteousness.



Discuss the meaning of the terms ‘the letter of the law’ and ‘the spirit of the law’.  Give examples:  when Mom says ‘No cookies before dinner’, eating sweets but not cookies would be obedience to the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.  Explain that God does not expect merely that we observe the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law as well.  What he wants is that we do the right things for the right reasons.  Link this up with the second son in the story of the Prodigal Son.



Explain that in the parable, Jesus does not condone the sins of the sinners.  Nevertheless, he loves them because they repented.  Link this up with the thief who repented while on the cross next to Jesus.



Who are the modern day Pharisees?  Restrict the discussion to the types of situations where the children have encountered people who are self-righteous, and not the individuals themselves.  We do not want a litany of other people’s sins.  Do they find these people irritating? 



Among the examples could be those who scrupulously do all their own chores in the house but refuses to help in other chores as they are other people’s work; those who observe all the school rules but tell on others who do not without discussing with the offending person first; those who attend mass every Sunday and do good deeds because they think that that is all they need to do to get into heaven. 



Do we do these things?  There would normally be silence in addition to a few shaking of heads.  Leave it to them to think about it and discuss how others feel if they see us doing the things we just mentioned – exactly the same thing that we mention about others.



Note that in all these, God is not looking at what is done but the intention.  For instance, he does not want us to attend mass to chalk up a score for our eligibility for Paradise, but because we love him and his Church.  In all things, love and only love should be the motivation.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Year A
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Images

God’s gifts are unlimited


Points to note

This is a long parable reading and deals with concepts of ‘unfairness’ with which adults often struggle.  Children encounter these similar concepts of ‘unfairness’ in what we see as their own little childish ways.  Or is it we, adults, who react to such ‘unfairness’ in childish ways.  In this sense, to discuss this with children could be difficult unless the facilitator has, at least to a certain extent, come to terms with this ‘unfairness’.  Care should also be taken that we do not project our prejudices on the children.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in the heaven and glory in the highest heavens!
Alleluia!

Gospel
Jesus has explained forgiveness to his disciples and he expects everybody to forgive everyone.

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All:   Glory to you O Lord

(Mt 20: 1-16)
Jesus said to his disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at sunrise to hire workers for his vineyard.  He made an agreement with his workers for RM30, and sent them to his vineyard.  Going out at about 9 o’clock he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.”  So they went.  At about noon and again at about 3 o’clock, he went out and did the same.  Then at about the 5 o’clock he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?”  “Because no one has hired us,” they answered.  He said to them, “You go off into my vineyard too”.  In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his accountant, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.”  So those who were hired at about the 5 o’clock came forward and received $30 each.  When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received $30 each.  They took it, but grumbled at the landowner.  “The men who came last,” they said, “have done only one hour’s work, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in al the heat.”  He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on $30?  Take your earnings and go.  I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you.  Have I no right to do what I like with my own?  Why be jealous because I am generous?”  Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.

This is the Word of the Lord


Dialogue

Describe the scenario: the child was caught fighting with the little brother or sister.  Mom comes along and had a severe punishment for the child, but little brother or sister got off without even a telling off.  Do they feel it is fair?  Get them to describe any other situations like this.  Be careful that the whole session does not get too vindictive!

Ever played a game, like football, with the rest of the team?  Or on sports day?  (You may use any other team activity such as putting together a collage with others, etc.)  Imagine that the child played very hard and ran a lot during the game or race.  Some others did not do so much work.  But because it is a team effort, everyone gets a prize irrespective of the effort put in.  How does the child feel about it?  Is it fair?  Encourage different points of view.

Ask the child to imagine him or herself as the one who was less skilled or talented and yet got the same prize as others.  How would this child feel?  Is it fair for such a child to feel like that?

Go thorough the story again and see what workmen felt, those who worked all day and those who worked only one hour.  
·       What do you think those who worked one hour thought they will get when time came for them to be paid?  Do you think they expected a full day’s pay?  How do you think they felt when they got a full day’s pay?
·       What do you think those who worked all day thought when they saw those who worked one hour get a full day’s pay?  Do you think they thought they will get more than those who worked one hour?  Why?  How do you think they felt when they got exactly the same?
·       How do you think those who worked one hour and got a full day’s pay felt when they saw those who worked all day getting the same as them?

Relate it to the message of Jesus.  All people who are saved belong to the one big happy family of God.  And all members of the same family will enjoy the same rewards from the same father, just as all members of the same team get the same prize.  There is only one reward: going to heaven.  There is no such thing as a lower grade of heaven.  Either we make it to heaven or we don’t.  And everyone who does, gets to the same heaven.

There are people who committed their lives to living in a community, like nuns and some priests.  Those who are able work more.  Those who can’t work as much as they can.  Those who are able draw little from the common funds.  Those who are sick draw as much as they need.  Maybe, the kingdom of God is a little like that.  People contribute as much as they can and takes as much as they need: everyone gets the same chance of life.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year A
Twenty-fourth Ordinary Sunday


Images

Forgiving others


Points to note

Every child loves a story.  So, tell this story well.  If necessary, embellish it with details.  To do this, though, you will have to prepare well for it.  Take your time with the story.  It is dramatic.  Tell it with drama. 

You may want to dramatise the actions, perhaps, even get the children to act out the roles.  Be careful with the choice for the roles.  A sensitive child should not play the role of the first servant. 

The reading should be able to lead the children on to something very close to them, the Our Father.  The parable isn’t just a fun story or even a moralising one.  It deals very much with the Christian love triangle between God, our neighbour and ourselves.  It is important to emphasise the words of the prayer that we pray every day; and the concept that we should not expect forgiveness from God if we do not forgive in our turn.

Introduce the concept of justice to the children.  This concept however may be a little too abstract for some but you can tackle it through the concept of fairness.  Children normally have a keen sense of fairness and it would be expected for them to react as the other servants had in the story.




Liturgy


Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Speak, Lord, your servant is listening:
you have the message of eternal life.
Alleluia!

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All:   Glory to you O Lord

 (Mt 18: 21-35)
Peter went up to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brothers if he does something wrong to me?  As often as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

“And so the kingdom of heaven is like a king who decided to his servants to settle what they owed him.  When the counting began, they brought him a man who owed him $10 million; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all that he owned, to meet the debt.

At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet.  “Give me time,” he said, “and I will pay you the whole sum.”  And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt.

Now, as the servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him $10; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him.  “Pay what you owe me,” he said.  His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.”  But the other would not agree; instead, he had him thrown into prison until he paid the debt.

His fellow servants were upset when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported it to him.  Then the master sent for him.  “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me.  Should you not, then, have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?”  And in his anger, the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt.  And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


Discussion

Go through the story with the children again.  Discuss how the various persons in the story would have felt:  the king on seeing the first servant pleading at his feet; the servant on being told of his debts and then, that his debts are cancelled;  the second servant of being told of his debt and then, being thrown into prison;  the other servants and the king on hearing that the second servant has been thrown into prison.  In the discussion, the fairness and justice of the affair should be questioned.

Draw the analogy of the story with ourselves, that God is the king and we are the servants.  God watches over us in our actions to forgive us our wrongs.  But he also watches over us to ensure that we forgive our neighbours.

Discuss also the role of the other servants.  They didn't stand aside when they saw the injustice.  Instead, they reported to their employer.  So, do we stand aside or do we do something when we see something wrong.



Finish off by bringing up the Our Father.  Discuss the significance of the line Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Note that we are effectively asking God not to forgive us if we do not forgive others. 

Do not recite the Our Father during the LSW.  Liturgically, the place for the Our Father is during the communion rite - you are still in the Liturgy of the Word.  But explain to the children that you expect them to reflect carefully.  Ask the children to remember that line in the Our Father the next time they pray the prayer, which is soon at the mass.