Sunday Connection | Loyola Press (2023)

This Sunday's Reading

First Reading
Isaiah 2:1-5
Isaiah describes his vision in which all nations are gathered together by God in peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5,6-7,8-9
Rejoicing, let us enter the house of the Lord.

Second Reading
Romans 13:11-14
Be prepared, salvation is near.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. In this season, we recall two central elements of our faith: the final coming of the Lord in glory and the incarnation of the Lord in the birth of Jesus. Key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, preparation, and justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Matthew will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (Lectionary Cycle A). In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for wakefulness, for watchful waiting, for the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew's Gospel is dated by most scholars after 70 A.D. Most believe that Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish community, but one that was no longer centered on the Temple in Jerusalem. These were Jewish Christians trying to come to terms with their relationship to Judaism in a new situation: Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. There may have been Christians who believed that the events of the world around them gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord in glory.

The passage from Matthew we read today is rather straightforward. No one knows the precise time of the coming of the Lord in glory, so watchful waiting and vigilance are required. The passage speaks to the uselessness of looking for signs; there will be none. As a thief sneaks in during the night, so will the Lord's coming in glory be.

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The question for us as members of the Christian community, then, is how do we prepare for this? Today's passage speaks more about the manner of waiting, rather than the details of the preparation. Jesus compares the vigilance required of Christians to the vigilance of a homeowner who knows the plans of the thief. If one knows that the thief's action is imminent, one remains watchful. As Christians, we know that our Lord is coming even if we cannot know the precise timing. Jesus calls us to be watchful and vigilant, like the homeowner. If we become lax in our Christian living, we may be caught unprepared.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Younger children understand that some events require preparation. Discussing situations that we might have to prepare for can help children understand Jesus’ command that we prepare for the day of his return.

Materials Needed

  • none

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: Let’s talk about different ways we might prepare, or get ready, for something. Ask children: How would you prepare if you knew if was going to rain later in the day? (Bring a raincoat and umbrella, wear waterproof shoes, plan indoor activities) How would you prepare if you were going to a sleepover? (Pack pajamas and a toothbrush and clothes for the next day) How would you prepare if you were going to the [beach or park]? (Accept responsible responses.)

  2. Say: When we know something important is going to happen, we prepare for it. Today is the first day of Advent, the season in which we prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas. We also prepare for something else—the day of the Lord, when Jesus will return in glory.

  3. Read aloud today’s Gospel Matthew 24:37–44.

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  4. Ask: Does Jesus say we will know when he will come again? (No.) Say: Even though we do not know when Jesus will return, he tells us that we are to be prepared. We prepare for the day of the Lord by being good Christians everyday. We pray. We follow the Ten Commandment,s and we live as Jesus has taught us to live. Ask: What is something you do each day to be prepared for the day of the Lord? (Accept reasonable responses.)

  5. Close by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

There are things that we prepare for because they might happen. We install a smoke detector, for example, to warn us about a possible fire. There are other things we prepare for because we know that they will happen, such as studying for a test. Jesus says that our waiting and preparation for the Lord's coming is more like the latter: we know that the Lord will come, even if we cannot know the precise time.

Materials Needed

  • Copies of a small pop quiz as suggested below

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Greet the group by telling them that there will be a pop quiz today. Distribute five questions, such as the following, which the group might have been able to answer if they had known to prepare ahead of time: What is the name of the last book in our Bible? (Book of Revelation); What is the name that is sometimes given to the Third Sunday of Advent? (Gaudete Sunday) Which pope convened the Second Vatican Council? (Pope John XXIII) Who received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai? (Moses) What Holy Day of Obligation is celebrated on August 15? (The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

  2. Reflect together on this experience. Ask the group: What would you have done differently if you had known ahead of time that we would have a quiz today and that these questions were to be asked? (Perhaps they would have researched and studied the answers; accept all reasonable answers.) What might you have done if you knew that one day we would have this quiz, but did not know when it would be? (Perhaps they would have reviewed the information regularly; accept all reasonable answers.)

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  3. Ask a volunteer to read today's Gospel.

  4. Ask the group: Does Jesus tell us when the day of the Lord will be? (No) Can we know when this will be? (No) What does Jesus say we should do? (Be prepared, like the homeowner who knows the thief's plans.) Say: We prepare ourselves for the day of the Lord by our prayer and our faithfulness to the commandments and Jesus' teaching.

  5. Pray together that we will stay vigilant and prepared for the day of the Lord. Pray today's Psalm or pray the Lord's Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age can be easily distracted. It is a challenge for them to pay attention for extended periods of time. In this Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus challenges us to remain vigilant—to pay close attention—so that we recognize his coming.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask if anyone knows what Morse code is. (a system of dots and dashes, represented by sounds called dahs and dits, used instead of ordinary letters and words to send messages)

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  2. Write the following code on the board . . . - - - . . . and ask if anyone knows what it means. (SOS; a distress signal used by people lost at sea)

  3. Point out that the three dots (dits) represent an S and the three dashes (dahs) represent an O.

  4. Tell the young people that the key to understanding a coded message is to pay attention and to know how to decipher it.

  5. Explain that in this Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that we need to pay close attention to something.

  6. Invite volunteers to read aloud Matthew 24:37-44

  7. Ask: Does Jesus tell us when the day of the Lord will be? (No.) Can we know when it will be? (No.) What does Jesus say we should do? (Be prepared, like the homeowner who knows the thief's plans.) Say: We need to pay attention and prepare ourselves for the day of the Lord. We do this through our prayer and our faithfulness to the commandments and to Jesus' teaching. God requires us to pay close attention in order to hear the ways he is calling us. Although we don't have to decipher God's call, we do need to learn to recognize and understand it.

  8. Pray together that we will pay attention, stay vigilant, and be prepared for the day of the Lord. Pray today's psalm or pray the Lord's Prayer.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Family Connection

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Many of us feel the pressure early in the holiday season to be ready for Christmas. But today's Gospel challenges us to be ready for something other than the gift-giving of Christmas.

Read together today's Gospel reading. As a family, talk about what it means to be ready for the day of the Lord. One of the roles of the family, the domestic church, is to be a school of faith leading one another to salvation. Reflect together as a family on how your family helps one another to be better Christians. Commit to one thing that your family will do this Advent season to help one another be better Christians. You might choose to write this commitment down and post it in a prominent place in your home, perhaps near your family's Advent wreath.

Pray together that God will help you in this Advent commitment. Pray together the Lord's Prayer or today's Psalm.

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