Saturday, December 9, 2017

Third Sunday in Advent


Year B
Third Sunday in Advent


Images

Spreading the joyful message


Points to note

This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, or Joyful Sunday. Instead of the purple that has been used in all the previous Sundays, this colour for this Sunday is pink.  This is thus scheduled by the Church as a respite from the more sombre penitence of the long season of reflection.

We move on from last week’s theme of our mission of having been anointed as a prophet to the message of joy that we are to bring to the world.  In this discussion, the joyous nature of the message is more important than the details of the message.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia, alleluia!
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor. Alleluia!

Gospel

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
(Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said,

‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:
a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

This is the Good News of the Lord


Dialogue

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?  Get the children to discuss the plans.  Lead the discussions to a sense of anticipation of the event.  Note that preparations, while tiring, can also be fun.  Some people say that the preparation is more fun than the event itself.  I think they could be right.

What is a message?  Discuss the nature of a message.  It
·       Given by a person
·       Comes from a person
·       About something that has happened or about to happen

Discuss who was the one bringing the message in today’s reading – John the Baptist.  Explain who was John the Baptist – a cousin of Jesus, older by just a few months.  He was sometimes called the last of the prophets.

Who did the message come from – from God. Messages carried by prophets all come from God.  That is their job, their role.

What was the message about – the coming of Jesus.  Explain that John the Baptist was sometimes called the forerunner of Jesus.  That he was the one who went ahead of Jesus to tell them of his coming.

Notice that the message of one of expectation.  In those days, the people were oppressed under the rule of the Romans and the cruel King Herod.  There were looking for someone to take away their problems.  Nobody knew who Jesus was but there was something there in what John said that made it worthwhile to look forward to it.  They knew something wonderful was about to happen.

Discuss when someone was going to have a surprise birthday, whether the birthday child was told about it or not.  Think of the anticipation and how much they were looking forward to it – wasn’t it fun to look forward to something wonderful.  Explain that for the people who heard John the Baptist, it must have been the same sense of expectation.

Discuss how we could bring the same sense of joyful message to people today.  Remember the message was for the people who were oppressed and needy.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

First Sunday in Advent


Year B
First Sunday in Advent


Images

Stay awake waiting


Points to note


This is the season of Advent, the season of waiting for the coming of Jesus.  All readings for this season would revolve around the same theme.

As the first Sunday of Advent, you would need to explain the significance of Advent before the reading and as such, the discussions will be a little shortened.

Today’s reading is easy for the children to follow – how many of us have seen children dozing off when trying to stay awake for an event they really wanted to be present for?  This is rich material for discussion but we will need to link it up with waiting for Jesus.

I once asked some children how long does Advent last and one little girl replied without any hesitation “Forever”.  There is a lesson there for all of us.  Whatever we learn and do in Advent is meant for all of us throughout out lives.





Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia, alleluia!
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and give us your saving help.
Alleluia!

Gospel
Discuss with the children about the new season of the Christian calendar that we are entering.  This is available in the end panel of this leaflet & for a more complete explanation, at http://childrenlivingthesundayword.blogspot.com/2013/09/soundbites-about-advent-christmas.html.

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
(Mk 13:33-37)
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’
This is the Good News of the Lord


Dialogue

Have you ever had to stay up for something?  Maybe, it was to greet someone “Happy Birthday” at the stroke of midnight.  Maybe, it was to watch the World Cup or Olympics in a different time zone in a faraway country.  What did you do to stay awake so that you will not be sleeping at that actual time?   Maybe they had hot chocolate to drink, games to play or things to do.  Maybe they had to sleep earlier in the day so that they will not be sleepy.

What would have happened if instead to staying awake, you were asleep at that actual time and missed the event? Talk about the disappointment that they feel, and also the disappointment that others will feel.  What about all the effort at staying awake – wouldn’t all that be wasted if we do not stay awake at all despite having tried our best to stay awake?  Discuss if any of the children tried to do anything to undo the fact that they failed to stay awake?  Did any of those efforts work?

Discuss that the season of Advent teaches us about waiting for Jesus.  Discuss how in the same way we stay awake for an event, we also have to be awake spiritually (not necessarily physically) for when Jesus will come.  Discuss what we do to be ready – pray, doing all the good things that Jesus wants us to do.

Discuss also how we would feel if we missed Jesus’ coming.  Would we be able to turn back the clock if we missed it?  No, if we missed it, it is gone and all our efforts will be wasted.  So, we have to stay awake until the very end and let’s not end up with a disappointment.

Do we stop waiting after Advent?  No, we continue to make sure that we are prepared if Jesus ever turned up because we can be sure that he will come at a time we do not expect.

 
BEING IN ADVENT
This is the period of preparation for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas.  The word Advent comes from the Latin for coming.  It means a period of prayer and penitence before we are allowed to celebrate the birth of Christ.   Advent is also the new year for the church calendar and the First Sunday in Advent is our New Year's Day. 

Being a preparation season, the liturgical colour is purple, meaning the priest wears purple vestments at mass - only the stole (piece of cloth around his neck and down his chest), chasuble (the robe on the outside) or any other decor; the basic vestments underneath remain white.  The church may also be decorated with purple flowers, purple buntings and the like.  Purple is deemed the colour of penitence (It is also the colour of mourning - which is why the priest wears purple at funerals). 

Description: https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQZ4kfMR6HI1jK3ez0H19jgNz71jYvmAYOc_yykw8Dx8E8ZtLmlEgThere is an exception, though: the colour for the third Sunday of Advent is pink (or rose).  That Sunday is called Gaudate Sunday (Latin for Rejoice): to give us a little break after we pass the mid-point of a penitential season.

It runs for the four Sundays before Christmas day and so the last day is always Christmas eve.  It can be as long as a full four weeks starting from Nov 27 (if Christmas Day is a Sunday) or as short as three weeks and one day starting from Dec 3 (if Christmas Day is a Monday).

The Advent Wreath, with its four candles fixed on a circle of evergreens, has its roots in pagan northern Europe, which the Lutherans first adopted as a Christian symbol.  The circle represents the never-ending cycle of seasons while the evergreens symbolise the persistence of life even during winter.  Christian symbolism differ slightly: the circle represents the the eternity of God while the evergreens tells of Jesus, who death could not conquer.  The four candles are lit one every Sunday, causing all candles to be of different heights by the end of the season.  There are three purple candles and a pink/rose one for the Third Sunday of Advent.  Sometimes, there is a fifth white candle in the middle to symbolise Christ, and is lit on Christmas Day or Christmas eve.

The Advent Calendar that we have today seems to be a combination of two separate customs.  The original advent calendar notes the goals for personal prayer and penitence for the different days in this period of penitence.  This calendar is now merged with the Jesse Tree, named after King David's father and unfortunately a dying custom.  Symbols of saints and Old Testament prophets & patriarchs are hung on the Jesse Tree, one on each day of Advent.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Second Sunday in Advent


Year B
Second Sunday in Advent


Images

The Mission of John the Baptist is my mission


Points to note

When we were baptised, we were baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.  The name ‘Christ’ means ‘the anointed one’ in the original Greek.  Jesus was anointed as prophet, priest and king.  We too were anointed as prophet, priest and king at our baptism, as our namesake, Christ, was. 

This Sunday, we look into our role as prophet to proclaim the coming of Jesus, as did the last named prophet in the Bible did, John the Baptist.  His role was to proclaim the coming of Christ to the nations, and that too is what we are called to do.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia, alleluia!
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and all mankind shall see the salvation of God. Alleluia!

Gospel
Explain that this reading is about a prophecy (you may need to explain what a prophecy is) from the Old Testament. 

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
(Mk 1:1-8)
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.
and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

This is the Good News of the Lord


Dialogue

How many of us have been baptised?  Explain that all baptised people are anointed, meaning that the priest put oil on our head to bless us.  Anointing is more than a blessing.  It is also a commissioning (you may need to explain this word as well).  People who were anointed in the Bible were also given a mission: the prophets in the Old Testament, King David, Jesus.  Discuss their missions.

For those of us who were baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, we were also anointed as Jesus was: as prophet, priest and king.  So, we were all given the same missions that Jesus was given: as prophet, as priest and as king.  Don’t we all want to be on the same mission as Jesus?

What is the mission as a prophet that Jesus had?  Explain what the prophets of olden days did: they reminded the people of Israel about God especially when the people of Israel were unfaithful to God and turned away from God’s laws. 

The last of the prophets was John the Baptist.  He too reminded people to return to God but there was a slight difference to his message.  Explain that John was the cousin of Jesus, elder by a few months.  The additional message that he had that the prophets of the Old Testament did not was about Jesus’ coming.  Like the heralds in the olden days, blowing their trumpets to announce the coming of the king, John also heralded the coming of Jesus.

So, the mission that we are given together with Jesus as a prophet is going to like that of John the Baptist.  We too are cousins and brothers of Jesus because we all have the same father in heaven, like John the Baptist.  And like John the Baptist, we too are expected to proclaim Jesus to the world and as everyone to return to God.

Discuss how we are to do that.  We can proclaim Jesus through words and through actions.  There are people who go around and preach to people about Jesus.  As children, they will not be ready for that yet as that required a lot of studying about God & the Bible as well as training to be a preacher. 

But, we can also proclaim Jesus in what we do.  By doing everything that God wanted us to do and by showing to people that we do it because of Jesus.  Get the children to give examples of how they were to show Jesus to people by what they do.

It will be good to get the children to be able to commit to doing something to herald Jesus’ coming in this season of Advent. It will be best to be something that they can continue on after Advent as well, and maybe become a life habit.

Solemnity of Christ the King


Year A
Solemnity of Christ the King


Images

Following Jesus as King


Points to note

There are many aspects to the concept of Christ as King.  We will explore the various aspects in the three times that this feast is celebrated over the cycle.

This year, we deal with the king as a judge in two ways.  The common view is held of judges as those who passes judgements and sentences on the guilty.  Initially, kings would pass judgements personally.  Then gradually as kingdoms get bigger, other able persons were co-opted to assist the king in this role until today, kings no longer personally pass judgements but have professional judges to do so in their name.

But there is another facet to judging. In monarchies until this day, kings (and queens) judges persons who are worthy (normally, they have a panel to assist them in making the selection) and these worthy people get an award or a title (in republics, presidents only hand out awards but not titles).

Today, we explore Jesus’ role as king in both facets of a judge.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia, alleluia!
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David!
Alleluia!

Gospel
Explain that today is the last Sunday of the Church year and next week we start the season of Advent.

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 25:31-46)
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
  
‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
  
‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’
This is the Good News of the Lord


Dialogue

Today, we celebrate Jesus as King.  What do kings in olden days do?  (Let’s not look towards the kings of today – most of their work has now been outsourced to others!!).  They may need to refer to the role of lords and kings that they see in movies and TV programmes of olden days.

Of the long lists that emerge, select the role of the judge.  What would you like to do if you were a king judging for one day?  Let the children talk about what they would do to those they don’t like – but spare the gory details.

Would what you do be different if Jesus was doing the judging and you were helping him?  A judge like Jesus has to be fair and a judge only decides based on evidence and not on personal feelings.

Who does Jesus judge?  Lead the children to understand that judging is not only for the guilty but also to reward those who are worthy.

Jesus was judging as a king would.  A judge calls for witnesses to find out what happens because a judge must make a judgement based on evidence.  Would Jesus need witnesses?  No, because Jesus was there when good and bad happened.  All good and bad done to anyone was done to him.  So, he knows what happened without any need for witnesses.


Discuss what this means - that whatever good & bad that was done was done to Jesus.  Have we ever stopped to think about it whenever we do anything good or bad – or hesitated to do anything good or bad.  Maybe, it is something we should do.

There was once a village with three rich brothers.  The first had a huge house with many servants keeping it clean and comfortable.  The second had a huge kitchen with many chefs cooking delicious meals.  The third had a huge workshop with many tailors making beautiful clothes. 

One day, Jesus came to the three brothers in the dream to tell them that he was coming to their village the next day.   When they awoke, the three brothers jump out of bed and ordered their servants to get to work.  The first wanted Jesus to lay his head on the most comfortable bed in the whole country.  The second wanted Jesus to taste the most delicious roast lamb in the whole country. The third wanted Jesus to wear the most beautiful cloak in the whole country.

So, the whole village was hard at work – cleaning, cooking and sewing.  At noontime, an old man, poor, tired with only tied up cloth for shoes came into the village.  He knocked on the door of the first house to ask for some hay to lay his tired head but was turned away by the first brother because his servants were busy preparing the most comfortable bed in the whole country for Jesus.  He then knocked on the door of the second house to ask for some water to quench his thirst but was turned away by the second brother because his servants were busy cooking the most delicious meal in the whole country for Jesus.  He knocked on the door of the third house to ask for some leather to make some sandals for his bleeding feet but was turned away by the third brother because his servants were busy sewing the most beautiful cloak in the whole country for Jesus.

So, the poor old man left the village more tired, hungry and bleeding feet than when he first came.  The village continued to clean, cook and sew until finally the comfortable bed, delicious meal and beautiful cloak for Jesus were all ready but no one came.  That night, the three brothers met Jesus in a dream and they all asked why he didn’t turn up.  Jesus said, “I came and asked for some hay but you didn’t give it to me. I came and asked for some water but you didn’t give it to me. I came and asked for some leather but you didn’t give it to me.”

 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year A
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Images

Gifts and talents


Points to note

Today’s reading is a very simple story that children can relate to at their level.  I have not translated the value of talent in this reading to modern equivalents in order to preserve the word talent, which we will use in the discussions.  But, if you really want to know: a talent is worth about 20 years wages of a labourer, say about $200,000 or so.

The key is to encourage the children to share their talents and abilities.  If you know all the children to be confident, it is acceptable to take turns to share their talents but such a format tends to eb difficult for those who may be a little hesitant, as it put them under pressure.

Be sensitive to children who have never been encouraged to proclaim their talents or were suppressed in their expressions of self.  Sometimes, you do get a child who has not been conditioned to believe they have a talent or are talented.  Do not pry or insist that they have talents but encourage them with examples of simple gifts that children normally have or, suggest one if you know a talent they personally have.  Do not ask other children to point out talents of that hesitant child as it could back-fire if no one can come up with any.

In truth the money referred to in the reading is not the gifts and talents that God gives us, but I will leave you reflect on the reading – you will have to read the passage carefully.  That’s the beauty of scriptural readings – they yield water at whichever level you dig.


Liturgy

Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia, alleluia!
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
Whoever remains in me bears fruit in plenty. Alleluia!

Gospel
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 25:14-30)
Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.
  
‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
  
‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”
  
‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
  
‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
  
‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”
This is the Good News of the Lord


Dialogue

Get the children to share their talents.  You could also get them to point out talents of their friends they know in the group – it is good to get them to affirm each other.

Discuss how they can use their talents to help God and the Church.  There are always the ministries in the Church and at mass.  Discuss how they can contribute to each of these ministries.  If you are laden with ulterior motives, this would be a good time to get volunteer helpers for your church’s Christmas preparations.


Expand their talents to beyond the Church, to how they can bring Christ’s message to the rest of the world.