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Weekly Resources, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts

March 29, 2020

Sunday of St. John Climacus  

 

NOTE: In this week’s set of resources, we will be focusing both on the “Ladder of Divine Ascent” as well as the Gospel reading. Below, you’ll find a variety of discussion questions, activities, lessons, and crafts arranged by age group.  

Start your study by reading the Gospel for Sunday’s Divine Liturgy:

At that time, a man came to Jesus kneeling and saying: "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting." They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."

Mark 9:17–31 

Discussion Questions, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts

Look at the icon of St. John of the Ladder: 

 Icon by the hand of Athanasios Clark

 

For the entire family

"St. John of the Ladder" activity for all ages (PDF)

For older children, teens, and beyond

Video: “Be the Bee” #32: Faith and Doubt

In this episode, Steve Christoforou discusses doubt, something all Christians experience, and the role it can play in our faith.

Video discussion questions:

  • Does having doubts mean you don’t have faith?
  • How can we rely on God and the Church during times of doubt, as the man in today’s Gospel asked Christ to help his unbelief?

Preschool

Make a ladder by gluing popsicle sticks or brown paper strips together, draw some angels throughout it and put a small icon of Christ on the top. Explain to the children that this ladder represents our path in life and how we want our path to lead to Christ, and that the angels can help guide us there.

Elementary school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • Jesus said: “All things are possible to him who believes.” What did he mean by this?
  • The Bible passage talks about prayer and fasting. Why is that still important for us today?

Craft:

Make a play set with a 30-step Lego ladder, Lego mini-figures for people, and some paper angels. You could also use Candyland game pieces and angel Christmas ornaments. Place a small icon of Christ on the top. The ladder will need to be propped on a board, tray, or large book. Explain to the children that this ladder represents our path in life. We want our path to lead to Christ, and angels can help guide us there.

Activity:

Everyone struggles on their path, and it’s important to support and encourage each other. Have each individual write a note of encouragement to another family member, using the paper angels from the craft (or a notecard or sticky note). Place your note in a prominent spot to bring you encouragement all week!

Middle school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples “faithless,” and later explains that the demon could only be driven out by prayer and fasting. Why is it important to participate in spiritual activities like prayer and fasting? Can we have faith without doing these things?

Action item for the week:

The Ladder of Divine Ascent represents our path toward Christ. Choose a way to put your faith into action this week to help you on your path. For example, pick a specific time each day to say your prayers, learn a new prayer by heart, or commit to helping with a chore you don’t usually like. To keep track of your progress on the “path,” put a checkmark on the calendar each day when you accomplish your goal!

High school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that the demon could only be driven out by prayer and fasting. How do you think this relates to why we pray and fast today? How do these things help us combat evil forces in our lives?

Journal topic:

The Ladder of Divine Ascent represents our path toward Christ as well as the temptations that threaten to pull us away from Him. Everyone struggles on their path. What are some ways you feel you struggle most often? What sorts of things can you do to strengthen and better “train” yourself to climb the ladder and stay on the right path?

Action item for the week:

On a sticky note, write down something you struggle with and one thing you want to try and do to combat it. (For instance, if you struggle to pray on a regular basis, try saying a short prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer, every time you look at your phone.) Place the sticky note somewhere you’ll see it on a daily basis, such as by your bed or on your mirror.

Adult

Readings:

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

This is, perhaps, one of the most poignant and profound statements in the Bible. A father sees his son in the throes of epilepsy. He, like anyone watching a loved one with an illness, seeks healing for his son. Jesus tests him. And the Father cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And Jesus, demonstrating his authority over all, heals the boy.

For your reflection and consideration this day: What is belief?

Consider the following: Do you equate belief with knowledge? Do you equate belief with experience? Do you believe in your favorite sports team? Do you believe in UFOs? Do you believe you love someone, like your spouse, your parents? When we say “I believe” in these circumstances, what are we saying?

Compare “belief” with “faith.” There are many dimensions to faith. Faith, pistis (πίστις) in Greek, fidere in Latin. It means to trust. A fiduciary (or trustee), for example, has been entrusted by another to care for someone or something. So, when we say we have faith in God, we are saying “we trust” in Him (In God we trust, as it says on US currency).

But some have said faith is more than even belief. Faith is a verb. It’s doing. In the Gospels, we often read, “What must I do to have eternal life?” (Mt 19:16-30). It’s not a question of what one needs to know. I think it is safe to assume that the young man asking the question was a believer in God. But notice Jesus’ answer. He first lists the commandments of what he should do. Then He goes on to tell him to sell all he has, give it, and follow Me.

So, this leads to more questions: How is “knowing the content of one’s faith” similar and different as “believing it”? How is having faith passive and active? If you know something but don’t live according to those ideas, did you really know it?

Action item for the week:

  • Look for signs of “belief” and “faith.” List them and collect them online. If you are a Facebook user, post them on your newsfeed. In a few lines, how do they signal belief and faith to you?

Meditation:

  • Our Lord spoke of that faith which is fully matured. The Church’s faith is full, for who would come here if there were no fullness of faith? And whose faith when fully matured would not move mountains? Look at the apostles themselves, who would not have left all they had, trodden under foot this world’s hope, and followed the Lord, if they had not proportionally great faith. And yet if they had already experienced a completely matured faith, they would not have said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5). Rather we find here an emerging faith, which is not yet full faith, in that father who when he had presented to the Lord his son to be cured of an evil spirit and was asked whether he believed. (Augustine of Hippo, Sermons on New Testament Lessons 65.)