FROM OUR EDITORS — Sunday, December 17 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Author: Joan McKamey ~ December 4, 2017

156

Pointing the way to Jesus. That was John the Baptist’s role. He answered clearly and humbly that he was not the Christ and that he was not even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal strap. John’s clarity about his role can help us reflect on our own.

How do we point the way to Jesus? Is the larger part of our motivation for doing good works the positive attention it brings us? Are our lives truly pointing the way to Jesus? Do others recognize us as Christians by our words and actions? Will they “know we are Christians by our love”?

In these Advent days of preparing for Christmas, we must also consider how we are preparing to greet Jesus at his Second Coming. How well are you doing at following John’s lead and pointing the way to Christ?

Image credit: Mathias Grünewald [Public domain in USA], via Wikimedia Commons

FROM OUR EDITORS — Sunday, December 10 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Author: Joan McKamey ~ November 27, 2017

150

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” This line from the prophet Isaiah is echoed by John the Baptist in Sunday’s Gospel. It also sums up our task for Advent and gives us pause to consider: How do we prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming? What paths do we need to straighten for him?

We encourage you to use these weeks of Advent to help the children in your classroom and home to prepare their hearts through prayer and their actions through loving service. Lead them in preparing their thoughts by encouraging care and compassion. Lead them in straightening Christ’s path through an examination of conscience and celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation or a forgiveness prayer service. Help them channel their excited energy into activities that reflect our Advent task of preparing our hearts for Jesus’ coming—as a babe at Christmas and again at the end of time.

 

Image credit: CIRIC International

FROM OUR EDITORS — Sunday, December 3 – 1st Sunday of Advent

Author: Joan McKamey ~ November 21, 2017

145

There are many times in our lives as Christians that we’re called to be countercultural. One of those times occurs as the season of Advent begins. Our countercultural challenge is to keep Advent as a season of preparation for Christmas. Advent is a time of joyful anticipation of the celebration of our Savior’s birth. It is also a time to consider how prepared we are for Christ’s Second Coming. Yes, we make Christmas preparations during this season, but we can benefit from holding off on celebrating Christmas until Christmas!

We encourage you to incorporate some traditions of Advent—Jesse Tree, Advent calendars, Advent chains, Advent wreaths, adding straw to the Baby Jesus’ manger for good deeds performed—in your classroom and home. If you’re looking to try something new, check out The Manger on the Mantel, a book and activity offered by our sister company, Creative Communications for the Parish. We wish you all a very blessed Advent season!

 

Image credit: Creative Communications for the Parish, Bayard, Inc.

FROM OUR EDITORS — Sunday, November 26 – Feast of Christ the King

Author: Joan McKamey ~ November 14, 2017

141

Are you a sheep or a goat? Let me rephrase that: Is Christ really your King? That’s a question we should ask ourselves with regularity. The Church honors Christ as King this Sunday on what’s officially called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This Sunday’s Gospel has Jesus separating the sheep—his true followers—from the goats—those that fail to follow him—at the Final Judgment. While we acknowledge Christ as King of the Universe, we each must make sure that Christ is King of our universe—that we put him and his will for us high on our list of priorities.

As we are deluged with Christmas ads and our calendars fill with Christmas preparations, it’s an appropriate time to pause in our busyness and consider how much we allow the pull of our world to shift our focus from God’s kingdom and what is valued there. We don’t want to be goats in sheep’s clothing. Learn more about this feast here.

 

Image credit: aaltair/Shutterstock.com

FROM OUR EDITORS—Sunday, November 19 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Author: Joan McKamey ~ November 7, 2017

137

I have just returned from a wonderful pilgrimage in Ireland. While traveling, our group visited Northern Ireland as well as sites in the Republic of Ireland. We learned a lot about the “The Troubles” of 1968–1998 and the history of tensions between Catholics and Protestants from our tour guide, a Catholic historian from the Republic, and our coach driver, a Belfast-born Protestant.

We quickly learned, however, that “The Troubles” and ongoing tensions aren’t really about religion. It happens that the unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, are overwhelmingly Protestant and the republican or nationalist minority, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the Republic of Ireland, are almost exclusively Catholic. Discrimination, tension, and violence between the two groups became headline news for three decades. Extremists from both sides continue attacks of various kinds still today.

I’ve simplified a complex political situation in order to borrow The Troubles as a way we may be thinking of recent months in North America. Wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, a terrorist attack, and two mass shootings—one in a church—have devastated many lives and much property. The effects on our psyches are less tangible but no less real.

How do we make sense of so much tragedy? What answers can we give a child—or even ourselves—about how our all-loving and all-powerful God can allow such terrible things to happen? Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister and beloved creator of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” said his mother always told him to “look for the helpers” in times of tragedy. He summarizes, “If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”

As Christians, we are people of hope. We know that Easter Sunday follows Good Friday. We know that Jesus’ Death led to the promise of eternal life for all who follow him. In times of trouble, we’re inspired by the heroic acts of those who step in to help. We find comfort in knowing that even though God allows bad things to happen, he is our constant hope and help in times of trouble. And we can be confident that the good we do each day as servants of God’s kingdom has a ripple effect in our world. God is calling each of us to be a helper and a sign of hope in our troubled world.

 

Find a Blessing in Times of Trouble here.

Be sure to check Lesson Updates regularly.

 

Image credit: Jon McKamey

FROM OUR EDITORS—Sunday, November 12 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Author: Joan McKamey ~ November 1, 2017

136

National Bible Week in the United States is November 12–18. For those using the Gospel Weeklies, every week is Bible week!

On Friday, November 17, we mark the 52nd anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), which addresses how God reveals himself through Scripture and Tradition.

Find resources from the USCCB here. See how many of these Frequently Asked Questions about the Bible and the Lectionary you can answer. You may wish to share some of the answers with the children in your classroom or home. Learn about the history of National Bible Week and plans for this year’s International Day of the Bible (November 12).

As the children in our classrooms and homes are learning, the Bible is to be treasured, but not by locking it away and never using it. The best way to treasure the Bible is to read it and pray with it as we seek to know and love our God more and more.

Be sure to check Lesson Updates regularly.

 

Image credit: Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com

FROM OUR EDITORS—Sunday, November 5 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Author: Joan McKamey ~ October 24, 2017

119

National Vocation Awareness Week in the United States begins on Sunday, November 5. The first vocation of all Christians is to love. We are each also called to a specific vocation of service and commitment. Promote vocation awareness using resources provided by the USCCB for Educators and Youth Leaders and by the Serra Club.

November is also Black Catholic History Month. View a powerful video of Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, speaking to the Bishops of the United States in 1989 about what it means to be black and Catholic here. At that time, she was battling breast cancer and would die the next year at age 52.

Share the following prayer with your class and family:

Prayer to Know One’s Vocation*

Lord, my God and my loving Father,
you have made me to know you,
to love you, to serve you,
and thereby to find and to fulfill
my deepest longings.
I know that you are in all things,
and that every path can lead me to you.
But of them all, there is one especially
by which you want me to come to you.
Since I will do what you want of me,
I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me:
into my mind, to show me
what you want of me;
into my heart, to give me the
determination to do it,
and to do it with all my love,
with all my mind,
and with all of my strength
right to the end.
Jesus, I trust in you.

Amen

 

* Prayer provided by USCCB.org.

Be sure to check Lesson Updates regularly.

 

Image credit: Renata Sedmakova/Shutterstock.com

FROM OUR EDITORS—Sunday, October 29 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Author: Joan McKamey ~ October 17, 2017

114

As we come to the end of October, many of our students may be getting excited about Halloween. More than costumes and candy happens this year on October 31. This date is also the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (see separate post). As we move into November, we find it full of important observances: Black Catholic History Month, Native American Heritage Month, All Saints’ Day (11/1), All Souls’ Day (11/2), and National Vocation Awareness Week (11/5–11/11). In the U.S., Thanksgiving is celebrated on 11/23. While this isn’t a religious holiday, it can serve as a reminder to all of us—wherever we live—to offer God our thanks every day. After all, our celebration of the Eucharist (Greek for “thanksgiving”) is a celebration of gratitude all through the year.

Be sure to check Lesson Updates regularly.

 

Image credit: Corinne SIMON/CIRIC

FROM OUR EDITORS—Sunday, October 22 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Author: Joan McKamey ~ October 11, 2017

103

Sunday’s Gospel is a great one for World Mission Sunday. As we consider “what belongs to Caesar” and “what belongs to God,” we might take it a step further and consider our personal and communal responsibility for those in need around the world. Many of us can get so caught up in being one of the fortunate “haves” that we may forgot the less fortunate “have nots.”

Now is a good time to express thanks to God for our many blessings. This may apply to material wealth and possessions as well as to less tangible, but no less valuable, blessings such as opportunities, faith, and civil liberties. We also need to discern how God may be calling us to greater sacrifice in order to support the Church’s missionary efforts in the world. It’s never too early to start helping the children in our lives to develop missionary hearts and mindsets. Connect to last week’s blog posting about World Mission Sunday here.

 

Image credit: missio.org

FROM OUR EDITORS—Sunday, October 15 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Author: Joan McKamey ~ October 2, 2017

101

Busy! That’s often my response when asked how I’m doing. I know I’m not alone in the rush to get it all done. And the coming of autumn (my favorite season!) can feel like the top of a slippery slope that leads right into the end-of-year holiday rush.

People make time for the things that matter most to them. We applaud you for making the commitment to share your faith with the young people in your care. Some of you are parish catechists, making time each week to prepare and share lessons with children in your parish. Some are teaching daily religion classes as part of your profession as Catholic school teachers. Some are parents who homeschool your children. Thank you for taking on this very important work and prioritizing it in your busy lives! We keep you and your efforts in our prayers.

Be sure to check Lesson Updates regularly.

 

Image credit: LilKar/Shutterstock.com

VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

RECENT POSTS

Christmas Quiz

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

SUNDAY’S GOSPEL — Sunday, December 24

Longing for Jesus: The O Antiphons