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Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Deuteronomy is a book of long sermons and reflections. It is regarded as the second (deutero) law, an insightful reflection on the teachings of Moses. Although the great prophet, Moses did not lead God’s people into the promised land. Yet the community realised how necessary it was to have someone completely ‘in tune’ with God who could correct and guide them. Are you frightened to ‘hear the voice of God’? Do you resist being ‘still’? Listening to the deepest voice of God within your spirit? Is there a ‘prophet’ that God has placed in your life and you know it is important to ‘listen to the words of their mouth’?
  2. A true prophet speaks what God has spoken. It is not made up wisdom. Have you ‘presumed to speak in my name’? Consider praying to God for particular wisdom and insight for people whom you guide with your words and witness. Do any images or words or ideas come to mind? Write them down and continue to ask God for guidance.
  3. St Paul’s writings teach of equality of men and women in marriage. Putting the letter to the Corinthians in context, Paul’s early writings presume Jesus’ return is to happen so soon, it is best to let nothing distract us from being ready. What makes you anxious? Distracted from God?
  4. The Gospel of Mark immediately shows Jesus overcoming the forces of evil. Check out a typical day of Jesus in Mark chapters 1-3! The battle between Good and Evil is striking. Unclean spirits are taunted and afraid and surprisingly acknowledge the identity of Jesus before anyone else. Jesus is experienced differently from the scribes who taught legal rules. Jesus in his words and action brought healing and liberation. Are you a person of ‘word’ and ‘action’? Is your word filled with commitment to bring about what you have said?
  5. Exorcisms done by Jesus symbolise and reveal the ultimate struggle between good and evil that Jesus is involved with. To bring the ‘Kingdom of God’ into reality involves ‘fighting against evil’. Is there anything that you are doing in your life that Jesus would not do? If Jesus were to be in your home, flat, workplace, what would he resist? Fight? Seek to change?
  6. Jesus is shown to be the true prophet, fulfilling the prophecy of Moses (first reading) whose word is the Word of God. Yet be breaks the ‘sabbath’ law by ‘working a healing’. He does this in the synagogue, in front of scribes (Church leaders who teach the ‘law’). He creates a disturbance with the man convulsing and shaking in front of a crowd as he is released from domination by an evil spirit. Jesus as a prophet makes people uncomfortable. ‘Prophets make lovely additions to the Bible, but you certainly don’t want one in your neighborhood. No Sir! Prophets wreak havoc on the status quo…’ Can you identify anyone who is prophetic? Whose presence brings God and causes havoc in the re- establishment of God’s order? What prophetic word or act could you do this week?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of the Prophet Jonah is a book about his life. It is understood not to be an historical writing, but a reflection on the nationalism of the Hebrew people (represented by Jonah) who could not consider ‘Gentiles’ as worthy of recieving God’s Mercy and attention (represented by the Gentile city of Nineveh). Jonah was called by God to speak to the people of Nineveh but instead chose to run in the opposite direction. Only after trying to escape and spending 3 days in the belly of a whale did he show obedience to God’s call. Strikingly the people of Nineveh responded to God’s call to change and ‘turn from their evil way’. Have you heard a constant voice, noticed a constant desire, felt a passion stir within that does not go away? This is frequently the way people experience God’s ‘call’ upon their life. Are you ‘running in the opposite direction’? Arguing with God (like Jonah) with reasons ‘why you will not do it’. What is your best guess as God’s calling on your life today. What is your response?
  2. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is an early letter when Paul still thought Jesus would be returning ‘very soon’. While we are conscious of Jesus’ delayed return his message still holds: all the things of the world will pass away and nothing is to become an obstacle between ourselves and God. List the relationships and objects / possessions that are important to you. Is anyone / anything damaging the time and relationship and obedience that God is asking of you? What could you do to restore a balance? What could you ‘let go of’ to be more available to God?
  3. The beginning of Mark’s Gospel quickly teaches about being a disciple of Jesus. In a dark way the cost of being a true disciple is suggested with John the Baptist being ‘handed over’. Jesus too will be handed over. Disciples too will be handed over. A battle scene is subtly painted with words. Satan’s rule is now going to be replaced by that of God: The Kingdom of God is at hand! While sometimes slower at revealing itself, God’s ways to bring justice and overcome evil will triumph. Are you with God? Are you engaged in overcoming ‘evil’ or are you passively watching? What does ‘Repent’ (change) mean for you?
  4. Simon and Andrew, with their Father and hired men are considered to be at least ‘middle class’. Part of a family business, boats, employees. In following Jesus they are letting go of family expectations and financial security. They must be attracted to an even greater concern. What is it? Re- image the scene using your own ‘family’ and ‘work’. What is your response to Jesus?
  5. In the Gospel of Mark, immediately Jesus chooses disciples. Immediately he places himself with others in a community. He will teach but also receive companionship. Who are like- minded people who you need to support your discipleship? How could you ‘build community’ together to encourage faithfulness and obedience to Jesus?
  6. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. Samuel is a young boy who eventually becomes one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. It is possible he was given the job of ensuring the ‘sacred flame’ in the Temple did not burn out and for that reason is ‘sleeping in the temple’. Today God calls him. He is confused, and even his mentor ‘Eli’ takes a while to recognise it is God speaking in prayer to Samuel. Is your lifestyle allowing for time in prayer and silence? Have you ever sincerely presented yourself before God and stated ‘Here I am…. Speak…. I am listening’?
  2. Samuel needed Eli to mentor him in the ways of listening to God and prayerful obedience. Who has been an ‘Eli’ figure for you in your journey with God? Has there been any word or inspiration from God or an Eli-Mentor that you have heard but not been obedient to? What happened?
  3. Samuel was blessed. The Lord helped him to not let any word spoken ‘fall to the ground’. He both caught the Lord’s word and Spoke the Lord’s word. How could you be more effective in ‘catching’ every word of the Lord spoken to you? Consider starting a spiritual journal of your prayer time and finding a spiritual director (Eli). Check out www.livingtheword.org.nz/ resources and click on spiritual director and keeping a journal.
  4. There was a problem among some of the community at Corinth. Some separated the body and the spirit believing that it did not matter what one did with their ‘bodies’. Paul teaches them about the dignity of their bodies. Joined with Christ, filled with the Spirit, our bodies are true ‘Temples’ of God. What we do in and with the dwelling place of God should bring God Glory. Do you respect and protect the dignity of your body? How could you give God greater glory? Whose ‘bodies’ are being broken or abused today in society. Do you care?
  5. John the Baptist points his disciples toward Jesus and they begin the journey of discipleship. The first question Jesus asks of a disciple points deeply to their heart: What are you looking for? Imaginatively enter the scene. What is your response to this very first question of Jesus?
  6.  ‘Come and see’ is an invitation by Jesus to ‘abide’ and ‘stay’ with him. Like Samuel, could you find a frequent way of drawing close to Jesus, spending time beside the tabernacle in Church? It means leaving friends, normal routine, unknown conversation. Where does the adventure of ‘come and see’ ask of you?
  7. While Peter is well known, it was his brother Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus. The time spent with Jesus impacted Andrew so much he had to find someone to share this good news with. Have you experienced the joy of Jesus and the desire to lead others to share this faith experience? Is your lack of courage stopping a future Church leader? Saint?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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 Reflection Questions

  1. The prophet Isaiah speaks often of the promise that God will send a Messiah. Todayʼs prophecy foretells Jesusʼ coming. Celebrating Jesusʼ Baptism we learn also of our own ʻjob descriptionʼ to live following Jesusʼ lifestyle and example in the world. What does it mean for you to be: ʻchosenʼ, ʻupon whom I have put my spiritʼ, ʻbring forth justiceʼ. Called personally for the ʻvictory of justiceʼ. Have you recognised God trying to take you by the hand and form you, ask you to be an example and light for others? Transform peoples lives who are blind and suffering in darkness?
  2. Acts 10 is a very important chapter and experience in the life of St Peter. Peter was Jewish and was brought up in strict observance knowing what was ʻcleanʼ and ʻuncleanʼ. Non Jews (Gentiles / Greeks) were considered ʻuncleanʼ. If you entered their home or ate with them you became ʻuncleanʼ. Peter is told by God to go into Corneliusʼ home (He was a gentile!). Peter has a significant conversion of the mind…. ʻpeople of every nation are acceptable to Godʼ. Who do you consider to be ʻcleanʼ ʻuncleanʼ? What obstacles did Peter have to overcome? What obstacles do you have to overcome?
  3. The Psalm for each Sunday expresses the cry of the human heart. Joyfulness in drawing water which brings life. What does the symbol of water mean for you? Being in touch with the central idea, now pray intently each word of the psalm. Do not go on from each sentence until each word is prayed and experienced fully.
  4. What is one line that speaks deeply to your life today? Write it on your hand and take it with you today. Repeat it often so that it is prayed in your heart.
  5. It was a custom for disciples to carry the masters sandals. Only a servant / slave would be asked to wash someone’s feet. The image John shares is he is not even worthy to bow and undo the sandals of Jesus. The holiness and distinctiveness between John and Jesus is emphasised. Why?
  6. Historical and theological writing is present in this Baptism scene of Jesus. Isaiah had cried out to God in the Old Testament – open the heavens and come down! Now the clouds are pushed apart, the spirit of God descends and God’s voice is heard. Here he is! The Messiah. The promised one. My Son. Imagine being at this scene. Imagine this is your baptism scene. What do you feel? Think? Fulfilling the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah, do you accept your baptismal ‘job description’?
  7. You may have been too young to remember your own baptism. It does not mean that you cannot now become conscious of what happened and what it means ‘today’. Repeat again and again in your heart ‘You are my beloved Son / Daughter; with you I am well pleased’. Allow this to heal, encourage and strengthen you. What response do you make to God after hearing this?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. Epiphany is the Greek word meaning to ‘show’ or ‘make manifest’. The Magi from the East (coming from the Greek word for people of special knowledge) pay homage to Jesus. This symbolises all nations recognising Jesus as King and Lord. If you had to write a story to teach the truth about Jesus what truths would you seek to include? How could the Church make Christ known more creatively today? What is the most creative christian evangelisation message you have seen lately?
  2. Isaiah makes a beautiful prophecy which is fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew story and the Magi today. God’s chosen people have just returned from exile and their country and beautiful city of Jerusalem and its Temple are in ruins. Isaiah begins with the image of Jerusalem as a woman lying down in defeat. ‘Rise up Jerusalem! Your light has come.’ As we enter the beginning of the New Year how could you experience ‘rising up’ to your most beautiful self? How could you help the Church ‘rise up’ and make Christ known? What would it take for you to be radiant and your heart throb with joy and pride in the Church community? What will you do?
  3. Paul states very clearly a mind- shattering truth: ‘the gentiles are coheirs’. Jewish people thought of and treated ‘gentiles’ as ‘unclean’. Paul says they are ‘clean’ and ‘co- partners’ in the inheritance of God’s promises and family. What adjustments in mind, heart, and action, would take place if God revealed to you that everyone was clean and equal and a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ to you and you were all part of the same family? Imagine what life- style change this would involve. Are you willing to try? Can you glimpse this is the central gospel message of Jesus?
  4. In ancient times a new star was thought to indicate a new leader being born. The Magi are on a journey of seeking God. They have knowledge. Resources. Time. All that the world declares is necessary for fulfilment. Yet they are hungry for something more. What is currently guiding your life? Would you say you are thirsty, hungry, searching? How and where do you find Jesus today?
  5. The three gifts presented reveal the identity of Jesus. Gold for a king. Frankincense for a priest whose role is to pray and send prayers to God in heaven. Myrrh pointing toward Jesus’ sacrifice and death and future burial. As the new year begins what personal ‘gifts’, ‘talents’, are you willing to ‘give’ in service to God? Consider the deeper meaning of homage and surrender. How could you express a deeper commitment to following Jesus? What change of direction would you like to make to imitate the Magi?
  6. What action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. Each of the readings provides a reflection on how family life is lived so as to lead us into ‘holiness’.
  2. The Book of Wisdom – or Sirach – arrives at a reflection on the commandment to Honor one’s Parents. Implied is a respectful relationship between Parents and children. The covenant relationship with God is mirrored in relationship to Parents. This relationship is lived through prayer and obedience, forgiveness and justice. Consider the ups and downs Mum and Dad have been through in raising your family. How do you currently show and practice ‘thankfulness’? As Parents grow old, ‘the mind fails’ what do you do that may ‘grieve them’? How do you show ‘kindness’?
  3. Family life has struggles and difficulties. The Community of Colossae that Paul is writing to is struggling greatly with Jewish christians welcoming ‘Gentiles’ – (Greeks) into the Christian community ‘family’. St Paul writes about the ‘Family Code’ also called the ‘Holiness Code’. We are all called to ‘put on’ the white garment of baptism and the new life of Jesus that we live. In the Church (or your Family), who is included or excluded? Which attitude do you recognise could be practiced more by you in your ‘family’. How could you allow ‘peace’ to control your hearts?
  4. Subordinate (“under”) reflects the customs of the early Roman times. Christians were keen to live by the ‘family code’ to show Roman authorities that they were not dangerous to government. Is order in family life healthy? What ‘order’ do you have in the family? Home? How is ‘bitterness’ resolved? What arguments arise over children’s behaviour and obedience? What attitudes or behaviours ‘provoke’ and ‘discourage’ your children? Does the Word of God dwell richly in your home? Is there any singing and praying and showing gratitude to God?
  5. Joseph is revealed as a man who faithfully responds four times to a message from an angel. 1st to take Mary – pregnant – home to be his wife. 2nd to become a refugee and take his wife and newborn baby into a foreign land (Egypt). 3rd to return to Israel with an uncertain political leader and future. 4th responding to a warning about where to live. Imagine yourself in each of these 4 examples. What do you learn about Joseph? What would Mary’s experience have been at each of these moments? What does this teach you about the ‘Holy Family’? How obedient are you in prayer when you notice an inspiration and desire from God?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Christmas Night

December 23, 2014
Reflection Questions
  1. Watch a different version of ‘The Christmas Story’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB aTUwhq0- 4&feature=share&list=PLC9CBA7E9 85567228 What part of the Christmas story strikes you the most?
  2. The first reading is a prophecy of Isaiah of war ended, a great leader arising from the family line of King David to bring judgment and justice. Reflect on the images. Walking in darkness then seeing a great light. Going out to pick fruits and produce of the earth and to know your family will be fed with plenty of food. Relief that war has ended and your community and family can now live in safety. Slave tasks of carrying heavy loads has ended. All the evidence and bloodshed of war being removed and burned. How has Jesus’ birth done this? What is the link between Jesus’ birth and death? Instead of military might to change the world, what does Jesus offer?
  3. Paul’s letter to Titus reminds us that while we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are still consciously living in preparation for his second coming. Christians are called not to retreat from the world but be a ‘sign’ in the world. Would someone watching your life notice that you are being ‘trained’, rejecting godless ways and worldly desires? Living modestly? Courageous in seeking justice? Devout and prayer-full? Eager and ready to do good?
  4. Caesar Augustus was the most powerful person in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the leader of the Roman Empire. The only superpower of the day. He was given the public title ‘Saviour of the World’ as he had managed to bring peace after 100 years of unrest. Enrolling people involved taking a census. This often meant knowing how many people and how much tax could be charged – to pay for armies and military power! Consequently a census sometimes caused a revolt by citizens. In contrast Luke shares: today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ the Lord, lying in a manger. What do you think Luke is trying to suggest about salvation?
  5. God’s explosion into human history in the birth of Jesus is not in royal and beautiful surroundings. Christians have romanticised his birth considering it a beautiful event. But the reality was uncomfortable straw. In the midst of animals. Not accepted by his own people in the town of Bethlehem. On the outside of town. On the margins among people on the margins (Shepherds were considered dirty and dishonest!). How does this stretch your attitudes and perceptions of Christmas. Who does God ‘favour’?
  6. What will you do to be ‘livingtheword’?
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Reflection Questions

Advent Story. A Kitten at Christmas. A Catholic couple were celebrating Christmas Eve. The wife invited her husband to Midnight mass, but he declined. He thought he would instead stay at home on this cold night, watch television, and they could have a christmas drink when she returned. His wife left early to attend christmas carols and shortly after he heard a noise at the front door. Opening the back door he noticed a cold and wet kitten. He reached toward it but it cried in fear and retreated further away. He pondered to himself how he could help comfort this poor kitten. He got some milk from the fridge, poured it into a plate, showed the kitten and placed it just inside the door. He hoped to welcome the kitten into the warm and dry room of his house. The kitten continued its crying. He tried again to reach out to it. But the kitten interpreted these actions fearfully and moved further away into the cold. As the man continued to ponder how he could truly communicate positively with this kitten it dawned on him that he would need to become like this kitten. Suddenly he realised what God had done. He jumped into his car to attend midnight mass and whispered to his wife: for the first time Iʼve realised Christmas is God born among us in Jesus to help us!

  1. King David had unified the tribes of Israel by bringing the ‘ark’ (the special wooden box containing the tablets of the 10 commandments) to Jerusalem. He now thought he would build a Temple to give a proper ‘home’ to God. Nathan went along with this plan but God had to intervene. God describes 11 times (I…) what he has done. God has intervened in history – not the other way around! As you approach the end of the year and consider what you would like to do next year have you consulted God in prayer? Is there someone like Nathan who could help you?
  2. Paul writes of a ‘mystery kept secret for long ages’ but now made public to all nations bringing about obedience of faith. Is your faith in Jesus ‘secret’ or ‘public’? At your own level of comfort, how could you witness to being a believer and follower of Jesus? Could you invite someone to Christmas carols? Midnight Mass? Mention Jesus at your family gathering?
  3. God zooms in from eternity to a historical place (Galilee), to a town (Nazareth), to a person (Mary), engaged to a descendant of the King of David (Joseph). Here is a scriptural window into the most significant historical event of eternity. God, through the angel, awaits Mary’s response. What part of Mary’s experience can you identify with the most?
  4. Mary saying Yes to God’s calling and birthing Jesus into the world at Christmas is also symbolic of every disciple. Have you ever had a ‘God’ moment, a sense of a significant job God has planned for you, and then ‘the angel departed’. It was over. Are you living in obedience? Forgetfulness? Laziness? Fear?
  5. What is one action that you will do to ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday when the Pink candle of the Advent Wreath is lit. The third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the entrance antiphon – ‘Rejoice’. This theme is found in the first two readings. We are reminded that the joyful coming of Christ is drawing nearer. Christmas celebrates presence with presents.
  2. Isaiah gives us the prophetic text which Jesus himself uses as his mission and identity statement in Luke (4:16). It speaks of bringing people back home, releasing them from slavery and imprisonment in foreign lands. A ‘year of favour’ was the 50th ‘Jubilee Year’ practice of forgiving all debts and return of all land back to its original family. What a beautiful revolution! What aspect of Jesus’ mission could you practice this Christmas? With family?
  3. The marriage covenant image of God marrying his people is beautifully presented. In Christ – at Christmas – Heaven is now wedded to Earth. What does it mean? Do you truly rejoice?
  4. The call to holiness is repeated again as we journey toward the Second Coming (Advent continuously refuses to separate the first and second coming of Jesus). The Second Reading becomes like a spiritual ‘health – check’. Do you: Rejoice? Pray frequently? Give thanks in the ups and downs? Pursue the will of God? Stop the spirit? Avoid opportunities for God to speak? Filter good and evil influences upon your life? Hold fast to what is good? Turn from evil? Perhaps this ‘check list’ may help you in Advent preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation.
  5. Week 2 and 3 of Advent present the figure of John the Baptist. He is the one announcing the public arrival of the Messiah – Jesus. Like a Herald announcing a King, the intention is to ensure readiness and welcome. Jewish custom expected Elijah and a prophet like Moses to return to make this announcement. Religious leaders are confused. What do you make of this ‘debate’? The Gospel writer John neatly plays on words with John saying ‘I am not’ which will later contrast with Jesus repeated statements I AM (the divine name received by Moses on Mt Sinai). Does John the Baptist stir you to ‘get ready’. If not, what would it take? What are you waiting for?
  6. The image of sandals actually teach us about Jesus. It was a custom for disciples to carry the sandals of their teacher. But only a slave would untie the sandals and wash feet. John proclaims that Jesus is so holy that he is not ‘fit’ to be even considered a slave in the presence of Jesus. It is a reference to the holiness of God. We touch the awesome reality of Christmas: God is birthed – enfleshed – among us in Jesus. Do you get it?
  7. What is one action that you will do be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. Isaiah chapters 40-55 are known as the ‘Book of Comfort’. The prophet is speaking encouraging words to the exiles as they return home and seek to rebuild their lives and the Temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah is also known as the ‘carrier of the hope of the Messiah’. Foretelling a time when God will come among his people. Can you see the prediction of John the Baptist and Jesus in the reading from Isaiah? What image speaks personally to you on your advent journey?
  2. The preparation of a straight road or a royal highway was known to happen in ancient times when a very special person was to visit. Physically, valleys were filled and hills were lowered to make the way smooth and easy. At great expense! As Advent invites us to make a clear pathway for the Lord, what roadblocks, ditches, hills require the earthmoving equipment of prayer, spiritual direction, reconciliation?
  3. The 2nd Letter of Peter is regarded as possibly the latest of the New Testament Letters. Obviously they are concerned with the delay of Jesus. Peter teaches God’s final judgement is not based upon human calendars. While Peter uses the popular belief of the time of a final ‘fire’ at the end of time, he also emphasises the need for good behaviour and ‘righteousness’ (whereas gnostics did not consider there would be a future judgment and therefore immorality was irrelevant). Would Christ’s coming find you ‘eager to be found without spot’? At peace? What is the source of your ‘dis-ease’?
  4. Today we hear the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel we will listen to for the rest of the Year. Mark immediately shares the ‘secret’ in the first line. We are about to hear ‘gospel’ (good news about a victory battle over evil) done by Jesus Christ. He is the one who reveals by words, actions of power, that he has all the attributes of God = Son of God. Is your interest raised? Consider spending a few hours to read Mark (the shortest gospel) for Advent.
  5. To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to ‘proclaim’ the immanent arrival. This is the role of John the Baptist. Significantly John does this at the Jordan river (at the same crossing point Israel left the desert and entered the Promised Land). A new rescuing by God is taking place. John is painted to be like the great prophet Elijah who was to return to prepare for the ‘great day of the Lord’. Who has been a holy witness and ‘prophet’ like John the Baptist for your journey? Who could you be a holy witness for this advent calling them back to God?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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