This week’s Sunday Scriptures feature two mountaintop experiences, inspiring us to share our own encounters with God with our kids; plus, a simple Bible study with your older kids, the story of the homeless man of the Vatican, and ideas for fish sticks Fridays.
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COMING UP THIS WEEK
Sunday, March 1
St.Katharine Drexel (November 26, 1858 – March 3, 1955) was an American heiress who gave up her wealth in order to serve the Native Americans and black people, whose plight appalled her. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and founded a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 50 missions for Native Americans. She also founded Xavier University in New Orleans. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania.
Friday, March 7
Saints Perpetua and Felicity (d. 203) were a 22-year-old noblewoman and a slave woman who were put to death by the Romans. Their martyrdom was recounted in detail in The Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions, one of the oldest and most notable early Christian texts. The first part of the narrative was written by Perpetua herself, and tells how she refused her father’s pleas to renounce her Christianity; the text was finished by an eyewitness to the martyrs’ execution.
Here are seven ways to welcome Christ into your family life this week.
1. Read and reflect on Sunday’s reading [ages 3+]
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore. . . .”
Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them. . . .
This Sunday’s Scriptures describe two “mountaintop” experiences. In the first, Abraham demonstrates his trust in God through his willingness to give God his only son, Isaac—and with Isaac, all his hopes for descendants. God responds to this act of faith—which Christians see as prefiguring the Father’s sacrifice of his son, Jesus—by reaffirming his covenant with Abraham. In the second mountaintop experience, Jesus takes three of his closest friends to the top of a mountain, where Jesus’ divine Sonship is revealed in glory.
Paraphrase the story of the Transfiguration for younger kids, or better yet, read the story from a children’s picture Bible. The takeaway for younger children: On the mountaintop, Jesus’ friends learned that he was more than just another man, and more than an important prophet. He was God’s own Son.
Older Kids & Teens
Older children and teens ought to have lots of questions about these readings. You might prepare for these questions by looking at the commentary on the passages in the New American Bible Revised Edition, available online. Better yet, explore the commentary notes with your kids, so they learn how to look up these helpful explanations on their own.
An important point to emphasize: Child sacrifice was common practice in the ancient Near East at the time of Abraham. In his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Abraham demonstrates that he is willing to give God everything. However, in stopping Abraham’s sacrifice, God rejects the practice of child sacrifice. Christians see this text as anticipating God’s sacrifice of himself for all of humanity in Jesus’ death on the cross.
Questions to consider
Use some of these questions to spark a discussion about this Sunday’s readings:
- In the first reading, God says he will bless Abraham “abundantly.” Why? (“Because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved Son.”)
- What does Paul say in the letter to the Romans that echoes Abraham’s action in the first reading? (“He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”) How does this open up or help us understand the first reading?
- Why do you think Peter suggested building tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah? (Perhaps because he wanted to “stay” in this wonderful moment indefinitely? Also, when Israel wandered in the desert, the presence of God was housed in a tent.)
- What did God say about Jesus during the transfiguration? (““This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”)
- Imagine you were with Jesus on the mountaintop during this incident. How do you think you would have reacted? What would you feel? What would you say or do?
God’s Word for the Week
- Post this line from the second reading somewhere prominent in your home this week (e.g., on a dry erase board, in your home oratory, or on the refrigerator): “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
2. Learn to read the Bible [ages 8+]
Everyone should know how to read the Bible, and this Sunday’s Old Testament reading offers a great opportunity to start. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar–in fact, part of the point of this exercise is to teach your kids how to access tools for understanding Biblical texts on their own. Here’s what to do:
- Find the complete text of the first reading in the New American Bible Revised Edition. You can find it online at the USCCB website, if you don’t own a copy. You’re using the NABRE translation for two reasons. First, it is the translation that is used during Mass, and second, it contains extensive footnotes that are helpful to understanding the text.
- Read the text of Sunday’s reading, then compare it to the full biblical text. Note what was omitted from the Sunday reading at Mass. Point out that sometimes the text is abbreviated for Mass.
- How does the omitted material help you understand the reading better? For example, when Isaac asks his father that oh-so-awkward question, “Where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”, what does Abraham say in response? (“God will provide…”) How does that color your understanding of the text?
- Read the notes on the text at the bottom of the page. Discuss how these help clarify what is going on in the text. What additional questions do these raise?
3. Share your “mountaintop moments” [ages 7+]
One of the most powerful things we can do as parents is share our personal stories of faith with our kids, a fact that I was reminded of last Sunday when my wife shared with our older kids, for the first time, the story of a miraculous healing she experienced. The kids sat rapt for half an hour; afterward, the twelve-year-old commented, “That was intense!”
I can’t compete with my wife’s story, but I’ll still share my own personal encounters with God with them someday. Your story doesn’t have to be amazing or perfectly “holy” to have a powerful impact on your kids’ faith lives. What is important is that by the very act of sharing your story, you are teaching your kids that 1) this stuff matters to you; 2) it’s okay and even right to share your faith with others (it’s what we’re called to do!); and 3) “faith stuff” isn’t just something that happens in church or during family prayer time–it is nitty gritty real life stuff.
Don’t wait for your kids to ask you–they won’t. Choose a time to sit them down and say, “I want to share this story with you, just because it is important to me, and I think you should know about it.” Try it and see what happens..
4. Prayer: Stations of the Cross [ages 4-10]
It’s not too soon to think about doing the Stations of the Cross with your kids; here are three great resources to check for ideas:
- Burning Hearts has a rundown of stations of the cross resources, both online and in book form.
- Training Happy Hearts has a round-up of stations of the cross resources especially for kids, including booklets and printables.
- Training Happy Hearts also has A Diary of Starting Stations of the Cross with Special Needs in Mind.
We’ll also be posting our own super-simple stations of the cross ideas later in Lent, so stay tuned.
5. Fast: Fish Stick Fridays, and other recipe ideas [ages 7+]
Looking for something quick and easy to make on Fridays?
- Head over to His Unending Love for Fish Stick Fridays!, a post that will not only supply you with creative ways to use fish sticks, but will also make you laugh (fun stories included).
- Cook and Count has an extensive collection of meatless Fridays recipes, plus a link to more at CatholicMom.com.
6. Give: Awesome Almsgiving [ages 5+]
What can you do to make your Lenten almsgiving about more than dropping a few coins into the CRS Rice Bowl now and then (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)? Remember that almsgiving is all about exercising a generous heart. We’re stretching that heart muscle to make ourselves more habitually generous people–and to make more room in our hearts to receive God’s love.
If you have some way of helping those in need in your community, by all means make that a priority. But if that’s not easy for you, sit down with your kids and brainstorm other ways you can be generous this Lent. Think of something big to do, something that will make someone’s day so awesome, the very act of giving will be fun in itself. (Remember that half the goal here is simply to prime the generosity pump with your kids.) Some starter ideas:
- Buy a bag of balloons, and blow them up together. Round them up and pass them out in a public place or drop all of them off at a child care center (get permission first).
- Plan a five-minute “living eulogy” for someone you know. Take fifteen minutes as a family to brainstorm everything that’s great and wonderful about the person, that maybe you don’t always think to say to them (but you’d probably mention at their funeral!). Write down your thoughts, then ambush the person (gently), taking turns toasting the person with your kind words about them.
- The next time you go shopping, bring along note cards and a pen. Keep an eye out for an employee who really goes out of her or his way to be kind and helpful. On the spot, write a note about your experience with the person, then give it to the store manager.
7. Read about the homeless “saint” of Vatican City [ages 5+]
Vatican Radio recently carried a moving story about Willy, a homeless man who was such a beloved presence around the Vatican that a nativity scene was dedicated to him, and when he died this past December, those who were used to seeing him at daily Mass or praying in the streets organized a funeral and burial for him inside the Vatican.
Read your kids the story here; then, say a short prayer for Willie, and all homeless people.
WHAT THE CHURCH IS SAYING…
Pope Francis has declared Armenian poet and monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church. St. Gregory’s masterpiece is considered to be his Book of Lamentations. Also known as Narek, it is comprised of 95 prayers, each of which is titled “Conversation with God from the depth of the heart.” A central theme is man’s separation from God, and his quest to reunite with Him. St. Gregory described the work this way: “Its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” He called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer for people all over the world. After the advent of movable type, the book was published in Marseille in 1673, and has been translated into at least 30 languages.