Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Easter

Year A
Fourth Sunday of Easter


Sheep following a shepherd

Shepherd risking his life

Points to note

This Sunday is known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

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.  One, as a leader after whom his disciples will follow.  And his disciples include us.  His disciples will follow him because we know him.

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.


Acclamation before the Gospel

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 also with you.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
All:   Glory to you O Lord
 (Jn 10:1-10)
Jesus said: “I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand.  The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hears his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out.  When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice.  They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.”

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.  So Jesus spoke to them again:

     “I tell you most solemnly,
     I am the gate of the sheepfold.
     All others who have come are thieves and brigands;
     but the sheep took no notice of them.
     I am the gate.
     Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
     he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.
     The thief comes only to steal and destroy.
     I have come so that they may have life
     and have it to the full.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord


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. 

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.

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 (not with a branding iron of course).  We are all called Christians.

Text Box: Have you noticed the bishop’s staff?  It is called a crozier and has a crook at the end of it.  This is to symbolise a shepherd’s staff.  The crook is there to hook any straying lambs by their necks.  In giving him the crozier, we are acknowledging the bishop as the shepherd that Jesus asked to take care of us.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.

Have you ever been tempted before?  What is being tempted?  Have you ever seen in cartoons, etc that when a person is tempted, there are two little persons, one on each shoulder telling the tempted person what to do?  Discuss what the little angel and the little devil are trying to do.

As a Christian, do you know which one is carrying a message from Jesus?  Would you know what Jesus would like you to do?  Explain that if we are the sheep of Jesus, we would know which one of these promptings is the voice of Jesus and we should know what to do.  Do we?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Third Sunday in Easter

Year A
Third Sunday of Easter


Remembering Jesus

Points to note

The reading requires a little explaining in order to highlight certain interesting features that the author has included into the passage.  Following that, the idea of the disciples not recognising Jesus until he broke the bread is an interesting one to explore.  This links with the idea of the Eucharist as the commemoration of Jesus.

The idea in this reading is also that of Jesus eating together with his apostles Basically, we say that a family that eats together stays together: the idea being that eating somehow has a bonding effect on people.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Lord Jesus, explain the Bible to us.
Make our hearts burn within us as you talk to us.

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

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke
All:   Glory to you O Lord
(Lk 24:13-35)
Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened.  Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him.  He said to them, “What matters are you discussing as you walk along?”  They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas answered him, “You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.”  “What things?” he asked, “All about Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered, “who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and or leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified.  Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.  And this was not all; two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us:  they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seem a vision of angels who declared he was alive.  Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.”

Then he said to them, “You foolish men!  So slow to believe the full message of the prophets!  Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?  Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them.  “It is nearly evening,” they said, “and the day is almost over.”  So he went in to stay with them.  Now while he was with them at the table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.  And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he vanished from their sight.  Then they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem.  There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, “Yes, it is true.  The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him in the breaking of bread.

     This is the Gospel of the Lord


Do we have any close friend or relative who have left us?  Discuss how we remember them.  Through photos, videos or gifts.  How many of your daddies and mommies have your photograph in their phones?

Go through the reading again to identify some interesting features of the reading:
  • How many times did Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection: to Mary Magdalene; on the road to Emmaus; in the locked room; to Thomas, at the lakeside.
  • The disciples did not first recognise Jesus.  This is the same as in some of the other resurrection stories: who else?  Mary Magdalene, the disciples when they met Jesus by the lakeside. When did they properly recognise Jesus?  When he started eating with them, just like at the lakeside.
In this reading, when did the disciples recognised Jesus?  Emphasise that it was during the breaking of bread.  Why did they remember Jesus at the breaking of bread?  Explore the earlier occasion when Jesus broke bread with his disciples – at the Last Supper.

Explain that in those days, there were no photographs, videos and the like.  So, to remember him, Jesus asked them to re-perform the Last Supper.  Do this in memory of me, he said.

For the younger children
Discuss how they would want to remember Jesus.  Emphasise that Jesus want us to remember him by being obedient to him.  How would we do that?

For older children, especially those preparing First Communion
Discuss what took place at the last supper.  Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to his disciples.  These four actions are repeated from other occasions: the feeding of the five thousand, for example.  So, Jesus repeated them often enough for them to be imprinted in the minds of the apostles so that they will remember his actions.

Then he took the cup of wine, which he said was his blood of the everlasting covenant.  Explain what a covenant is.  In ancient days, people seal a contract by sacrificing animals like pigeons, etc.  Jesus sealed his contract with us with his blood instead of blood of animals.  Discuss what was the agreement between Jesus and us.

Go through the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper carefully.  Discuss where the children would have heard it before.  Emphasise that re-enacting the Lord’s Supper is our way of remembering Jesus and what he commanded us to do, in the absence of photos, videos and tapes.

Friday, April 14, 2017

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 at the bus stop in front of the supermarket, 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