Here are ideas for you to use in reflecting on the upcoming Sunday’s scriptures with your classes.
- Jonah 3:1-5, 10
- 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
- Mark 1:14-20
“The people of Nineveh believed God.”
Those we consider enemies are capable of being touched by God too.
Teaching for Primary Grades:
1. Tell the children the story of Jonah, who was sent by God to another country to tell people that God wanted them to change the evil way they were living. He was scared because these people were his country’s enemies, but they listened to him. Explain that this story was told long before Jesus was born, but his followers would eventually feel called by God to do the same thing: traveling to other countries to share what Jesus had taught them about loving God and each other.
2. Show the film The Messengers, an animated story about early Christians sharing their faith, even with enemies, and experiencing how many of those people converted to a belief in Jesus. (This DVD is available for $14.99 from
Teaching for Intermediate Grades:
1. Read Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and tell the children that when Jonah went to Nineveh, he was taking a very big risk because the people of Nineveh were enemies of his people. He preached to them a message about repenting of their sins so God would not destroy them. They believed him, much to his surprise, and changed their lives. This Bible story was written to teach an important lesson to the Jewish people. They learned that God cares about saving all people, even the enemies of the Jews.
2. Show the film Stephen’s Test of Faith. (This DVD is available for $7.99 from CatholicVideo.com.) After being mocked for his faith, 12-year-old Stephen dreams he is on a journey of faith, traveling through history and meeting biblical characters who took risks and dared to share with others what they believed. Afterward, discuss Stephen’s dreams and speculate about how he might share his faith in the future.
Teaching for Secondary Grades:
1. Review the theme of the Epiphany lesson from two weeks ago — “All people are God’s people” — and point out that
theme again this week in the story of Jonah from Sunday’s first reading. Let students use their Bibles to get acquainted with the whole story of Jonah. Like every story in the Bible, it was told for a purpose. Allow a few minutes for students in groups of three to discuss what that purpose was, and to examine the significance of the humor in the tale and the unlikely conversion of the Ninevites.
2. Just like people long ago, we have difficulty believing that God loves our enemies, especially when they are brutally
terrorizing others. The people of Nineveh were Assyrians, the most cruel and feared conquerors in the Old Testament world. Jonah was called to offer them God’s salvation, and initially he didn’t want to do it. Consider the risks today of going to North Korea or the Sudan or the strongholds of Isis and Al Qaeda. Imagine God loving these people and wanting their conversion from violence and oppression. Pray for them.
Sr. Karen Berry is a Joliet Franciscan, a former teacher of high school religion and director of family programs of Religious Education, and currently a teacher of adult religion classes in several parishes in Tucson, Arizona.