March 17th, 2013 (see other dates)
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Discussion Questions for Reading 1The prophet's strong hope comforts those who listen to him. How might you use the word of God to comfort someone who feels hopeless?
Sometimes we feel that there is never anything new in our lives, that we live in the same old rut, day after day. Yet the prophet says that God is always doing something new if we can truly SEE. Try this: Live today, or each day this week, in greater awareness. Make a list of every "new" gift of God you see, both small and great. Watch for things like: a child's smile, a sunset, the call of a bird, a conversation with a friend. Take turns sharing your lists next week. Read one gift aloud, taking turns, until all gifts have been named. Then say a prayer of thanks for the newness of everyday life.
What can you do in your own life or attitude to help make "something new" in your own family or school?
Reading 1 Isaiah 43:16-21
Reading 1 ReflectionTo stir up their hope about what God would do for them in the future, the Israelites often looked back to see what God had done for them in the past. The prophet helps them to do just that in today's reading. He recalls their exodus from Egypt and how God provided for them in the desert. Then he says, "Look ahead!" In other words, whatever great deeds God had done in the past, God can always do something new and greater.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2Running was a popular sport in Saint Paul's time, just as it is in ours. What does an athlete today have to give up in order to be good in a sport? Give some examples.
Saint Paul is saying that we are willing to give up many things just to win a prize. In his day, the prize was a "crown of victory" made of laurel leaves. Today, the prize is often a trophy or a medal. In professional sports, money is the prize.
Saint Paul's question is: What are you willing to give up in order to be a follower of Christ and to win the best prize of all--life with Christ Jesus, here and for always?
Reading 2 Philippians 3:8-14
Reading 2 ReflectionYou have probably noticed that Paul often talks about himself and his own faith experiences in order to convince others to follow Christ. Today he recalls that he has given up everything to make room for Christ in his life. He knows it isn't easy to do this. But in the end he will share in Christ's Resurrection. That is why Paul describes himself as a runner, pushing on toward the finish line.
Discussion Questions for GospelMatthew's gospel reflection does not say exactly what Jesus was writing in the sand. One tradition has it that he was writing down the sins of the people who were so willing to condemn the woman. Could Jesus have been writing something from Scripture? Could he have been writing a message to the crowd? What do you think he could have said?
Once there was a young teenager who was going through a very hard time. Let us call her Julie, even though it is not her real name. Julie was arrested for stealing from a local department store. Her parents realized that she needed help. The whole family began to work together with a counselor, and things began to get better. Julie's grades began to improve, and she made the honor roll at school. But someone who knew her began spreading the news, "Did you know that Julie was once arrested for shoplifting? What do you think Jesus would say to this person? If you were Julie's friend, what would you say to this person? What would you say to Julie?
When we say something about someone that puts them in the wrong and is untrue, we call it bearing false witness about someone. This is forbidden by the eighth commandment. When we spread the "bad news" about something wrong someone else has done, even though it is true, we commit the sin of scandal. (Sometimes newspapers and magazines that specialize in repeating gossip about the lives of celebrities are called scandal sheets.)
Sometimes people defend their spreading of scandal by saying, "Well, it's true, isn't it?" Yet scandal is also against the eighth commandment. No one has the right to take away another's good name. Even if we make a mistake, God gives us the forgiveness and the freedom to start over. We are given another chance. Who are we to take that chance away from someone else? Why do you think someone would want to?
Write down the words of Jesus on an index card: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." Put it in a place where it can be easily seen. Then pay attention to the radio, the television, the newspaper, and your own conversations. Try to remember these words of Jesus whenever someone's mistakes, sins, or crimes are broadcast, or whenever you are tempted to "throw a stone" of malicious gossip or scandal about someone!
Gospel John 8:1-11
Gospel ReflectionOnce again the scribes and Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus. They bring him a woman caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses requires that the adulteress should die. If Jesus does not agree, he will look like someone who does not respect the Law of Moses.
To the Pharisees' amazement, Jesus at first ignores them. Then he stops them in their tracks with an unexpected challenge: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." One by one the judges and critics drop their stones and drift away. Now that they recognize their own need for forgiveness, they are not ready to condemn someone else. Neither does Jesus condemn the woman. He simply requires her to turn away from sin. Now she has a chance for a new beginning.
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
Divine DoodlingIn the gospel, Jesus wrote on the ground with his finger. Provide trays of sand. Have children draw or write in the sand with their fingers as Jesus did.
Judgment RocksHave each child make a stone out of air-dry clay. Let the children paint their stones gray or brown. Place these stones on the prayer space. Explain to the children that these stones are a reminder that we should not judge others.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
Writing on the GroundAs you listened to the gospel reflection, did you wonder what Jesus might have been writing on the ground? No one knows the answer. But we do know that, during those few moments of silence, the accusers were getting ready to throw stones and Jesus was getting ready to disarm them. Imagine that you are in each of the situations described here. What might you write on the ground about each scene?
A teenager angrily accuses his brother or sister of stealing his favorite CD: "You're always taking my stuff! I?m going to see to it that you get grounded."
What would you write on the ground?
Suggestion: Forgiveness is better than judgment.
After Mass on Sunday, you overhear a family talking about their new neighbors. The neighbors are of another racial group and do not seem to have much money. Your fellow parishioner says, "Why couldn't we get some decent neighbors? Who knows what those people are like?"
What would you write on the ground?
Eyes on the PrizeLook back at the way Paul describes himself in today's second reading. Imagine yourself running toward a finish line in a race. The race is a footrace with hurdles. You must jump over each hurdle and keep running!
On this or a separate piece of paper, draw a track with four hurdles. Above each hurdle, write one obstacle (for example, being judgmental of others) you will have to overcome in order to finish the race and receive the prize.
How will you prepare to run this race?
For Bibles and other scripture resources, please see the Sadlier Religion Catalog.
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