Season of Sundays: March 5, 2017, First Sunday of Lent

Here are ideas for you to use in reflecting on the upcoming Sunday’s scriptures with your classes.

Readings for March 5, 2017, First Sunday of Lent:

  • Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
  • Romans 5:12-19
  • Matthew 4:1-11

“He fasted for forty days and forty nights.” (Matthew 4:2a)

Fasting is a discipline that strengthens the will.

Teaching for Primary Grades:

  • Explain the season of Lent and talk about the benefits of occasional self-denial.
    • Tell the story of Jesus fasting in the desert and preparing himself to be strong against temptations.
    • Ask the children if they have ever given up something that was hard to give up. Why did they do it and how did they feel? Let them tell their stories.
  • Suggest that the children choose something they want to “fast” from doing or using or eating during Lent.
    • Present a variety of examples that include behaviors to change as well as treats to give up. Instruct the children to write their fasting choices on a small piece of paper and fold it.
    • In a solemn ritual with prayer and song, the children may put their papers into a Lenten fasting box in the classroom prayer space.

Teaching for Intermediate Grades:

  • Read the Gospel story and ask the students why Jesus fasted while he was praying in the desert.
    • Point out how well he handled temptations while fasting, and suggest that his self-discipline seemed to make him strong.
    • Explain that fasting doesn’t always have to be about eating, although that is a very good form of self-discipline.
    • Lent invites us to make changes in ourselves in order to be better. We could refrain from eating certain treats, but we could also stop doing or saying hurtful things or stop using something that takes time away from being with or helping someone.
  • Put three column headings on the board: Doing, Using, Eating.
    • Invite each student to come to the board and write an example of “fasting” in one of the columns. When all have had a turn, let the class call out additional items if they want to add anything.
    • From the finished lists, tell each student to choose an item for this year’s Lenten fasting, write it down, and keep it in a place where they will be reminded of it.

Teaching for Secondary Grades:

  • Ask a student to read this Sunday’s Gospel, and explain that this story is the basis for our 40 days of Lent and the Church’s tradition of fasting. Find out what students know about that tradition, its history, today’s fasting and abstinence rules, and the Catholic practice of giving up something for Lent.
  • Give an assignment to students to learn whatever they can about the Muslim month of Ramadan: the fasting rules, their purpose, and the coming together in communities to break the fast each evening with shared meals.
    • Students may research Ramadan online or interview Muslims in the local community.
    • When students report on their assignments, discuss the parallels in Catholic and Muslim traditions and why fasting is seen as a value.
    • What type of fasting would students like to try, and how could this make them better people?