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Reflection Questions

Palm Sunday:

  1. The Procession into Church with Palms and singing ‘Hosanna’ marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palms were symbolic of victory. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew word ‘Save us now’. Riding on a donkey was the animal of choice in ancient times for Kings-to-be, portraying peace (rather than a horse used for battle). Placing cloaks on the road in front of the donkey was the ancient equivalent of the modern ‘red carpet’ treatment for special dignitaries. The scene is set. We are welcoming the Messiah – the ‘Christ’. Take time to imagine the scene, experience the hope, the joy. Can you identify with the symbols of today: the Palms, the Hosanna Cry, the throwing of your cloak?
  2. The Passion Reading from Mark has many details. There is betrayal by close friends, the violence of crowds, political and religious leaders protecting their self interests, rulers symbolically trying to ‘wash themselves of blood’. What detail of the Passion attracts your attention this year, in the circumstances of our world? Your life?
  3. Raymond Brown a Catholic Scripture scholar warns against a self-righteous reading and celebration of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. This week the curtain is about to come up on the drama that will ultimately change the world. We are there and it is now. The Gospel is convicting. Today. Can you see how the same issues are present today. Where do you ‘fit’ in this Gospel?
  • Judas – selling out on God for money?
  • Fleeing disciples – worrying so much about one’s own safety?
  • Peter – professing and denying Jesus within the hour?
  • Soldiers – carrying out unjust instructions from above, persecuting the innocent without thought?
  • Pilate – pretending to be powerless, washing hands of justice and choosing to ignore evil?
  • Religious Leaders – condemning Jesus and preferring the rules are kept and people are ‘safe’?
  1. Barabbas can be literally translated as Bar – Son. Abbas – Father. Who is the true Son of the Father? Jesus or Barabbas? Will it be a revolution of the heart and a message of peace, or a violent revolt against military powers using military means that will bring ʻsalvationʼ? Why does the crowd choose ʻBarabbasʼ?
  2. The veil of the sanctuary separated into a special area of the Temple the Holy of Holies. In this place only the High Priest could enter to meet ‘face to face’ with God. The Gospel of Mark writes interpretively that this ‘private and exclusive’ meeting place with God has now been revealed as ‘on the cross’ for everyone. Here is the Son of God crucified out of passionate love and the desire to create a new covenant of forgiveness. The cross becomes the ‘new mercy seat’ (hidden behind the veil in the Holy of Holies) for all to see, believe in, and receive. Spend some time in prayer and looking upon Jesus on the cross. What do you ‘see’? What does this teach you?
  3. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download Reflection Document 5th Sunday Lent

Download Reflection Document 5th Sunday Lent (RCIA Readings)

Reflection Questions

  1. Rising from the dead is an image in the First and Gospel readings. Ezekiel was not referring to the resurrection of individuals but returning from exile in ‘slavery’ as God’s people were trapped in a ‘foreign land’. As the journey of Lent nears completion we are encouraged to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. We invite the spirit to ‘open our graves’ and ‘rise from them’. Where do you experience ‘lifelessness’? Sadness? Dryness? Death?
  2. Suffering is well known to the prophet Ezekiel. He writes of suffering as tough meat being boiled to tenderness in a pot and the heat of fire burning off the rust on the pot (Ez 24). In the midst of suffering Ezekiel writes 86 times ‘I am the LORD’ reminding us that God is guiding our personal lives and history. Can you trust God can work through your suffering? What is your suffering / salvation story?
  3. While we all live as ‘flesh and blood’ St Paul recognises it is possible for our ‘body / flesh’ to steer our life seeking only to satisfy itself with food and pleasure. Selfish and sensual living (flesh living) alone does not ‘please God’. Our baptism welcomed into our lives the Spirit of Christ which inspires and nudges us to become more like Christ. Consider the great power of the spirit to raise Christ from the dead. What would you like to pray for?
  4. Chapter 11 of John is very special. Raising Lazarus from the dead is the seventh ‘sign’ of Jesus. It is important to recognise a sign points to a reality. Jesus, on hearing of his friends death strangely talks immediately of ‘glory’. He even waits for four days as the Jewish belief was that the spirit of the body hovered over the body for 3 days. It is clear Lazarus is truly dead. Only God can bring someone back from the dead. This will be Jesus’ greatest sign to prove his identity as God. If you were present to this scene what would your questions be?
  5. Martha and Mary ask questions and respond to Jesus like true Jewish disciples and faith seekers. Jesus is considered an intermediary – someone ‘close to God’ ‘whatever you ask of God God will give you’. Jesus is unhappy with this response. Martha responds with a Jewish belief in the final resurrection from the dead and a hope in the Messiah. Jesus boldly proclaims ‘Martha, I AM the resurrection and the life’. In effect Jesus is teaching Martha (and us) I am God and I am in charge of and responsible for the resurrection and all life! Let me prove this to you ‘where have you laid him’? Can you trace your faith journey about Jesus’ identity in the questions of Martha? What does this 7th sign now teach you about Jesus? Do you believe?
  6. The Gospel of John was written in Greek. Greek thinking did not allow God to ‘change’ as this would suggest God was weak and not all-powerful. In the midst of his loved friends we have the profound short sentence. ‘And Jesus wept.’ God weeps and is deeply moved by our pain and sadness. Jesus is also perturbed and troubled. John stirs questions up for us about God. If God weeps what does that mean? Is Jesus upset and angry that people do not recognise who he is? What is your response personally to Jesus in this Gospel story?
  7. Jesus strangely says a prayer of thanksgiving before the tomb. Can you allow yourself to hear this prayer to you in the tomb of your wounds and bandages from your life journey. What do you request this Easter to be untied from?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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quotescover-JPG-78Download 4th Sunday Reflection Document Year B

Download 4th Sunday Reflection Year B (RCIA READINGS)

Reflection Questions

  1. Godʼs people suffered the destruction of their Temple in Jerusalem and were exiled into another country for 70 years. Something had gone horribly wrong. Wasnʼt God supposed to provide them with unconditional protection? Have you had an experience of feeling abandoned or being forgotten by God? What caused that experience? The first reading shares the idea of false worship. What do you think ʻretrieved its lost sabbathsʼ could mean? For you?
  2. Godʼs guidance of history stirs a secular leader, Cyrus King of Persia, to release Godʼs chosen people and also to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It is beyond anyones imagination that such an event could happen. What does this show about God? History? Your life?
  3. The Ephesians reading is a beautiful text for the Lenten journey. The generosity of Gods love to die while we were still sinful. We glimpse ʻhow infinitely rich he is in graceʼ towards us. Do you consider yourself forgiven, cleansed, called to be ʻGodʼs work of artʼ and live the ʻgood lifeʼ? What steps toward greater holiness of life could you take into Week 4 of Lent?
  4. The discussion with Nicodemus in the darkness of night is symbolic. Nicodemus wants to protect his reputation and not be exposed. Found out. He is scared of making his belief ʻpublicʼ. It could involve him losing friends. Is there something I feel called to bring to the light of reconciliation during this time of Lent?
  5. John 3:16 is a popular line in the scriptures to summarise Godʼs love for us “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It is linked with the Gospel image of Jesus being ʻlifted up”. Locate a crucifix to pray with or go into a church and ponder Jesus on the Cross. Consider the depth of what the cross teaches us personally: I am forgiven. I am so loved – and therefore loveable! How does that make you feel? What is your response?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Please Note. During the Season of Lent special readings are chosen for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent to teach important aspects of the Christian life to help those preparing for Baptism at Easter. livingtheword will share and reflect on those readings to help parishes with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

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Reflection Questions

  1. The symbol of ‘water’ has different levels of meaning. It can represent life keeping us from death. Water can be symbolic of a life journey yearning for something more. In Exodus, Moses is in the midst of leading his people who feel like they are ‘dying of thirst’ and they blame him. God invites him to go away from all the moaning voices, taking only a few elders with him. Which part of the story does your life and lent journey identify with at the moment: Water. Thirst. Moaning. Crying. Going away from voices. Quarreling. Testing. Questioning?
  2. Paul continues the important teaching of being made ‘right’ with God. It is not our doing, but faith in the cross of Jesus. This brings peace in our heart and spirit. And we look forward in hope to heaven and the final victory. Have you ever given a gift to someone whose behaviour has not yet changed to show they are ‘worthy’ or ‘thankful’? Why do it? There is the hope that the person may ‘see’ the depth of your love. What does it mean that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners?
  3. Week 3, 4, 5 of Lent features Gospel of John readings. These are specially inserted for helping people preparing for Baptism at Easter. They contain powerful symbols of water (quenching our thirst), light (a blind man sees) and the gift of life (raising Lazarus from death). Reflect on the image of sitting in the heat of the midday sun beside a well. What would you feel? Think about? Do? What questions would you ask Jesus? Spend 5 minutes imaginatively praying into this scene. What happened?
  4. It was unusual for a woman to collect water in the heat of the day alone. The longer gospel text reveals she has had 5 ‘husbands’. It is possible she has been hurt by the gossip of other women. Her journey is our journey. Which part of the journey of the Samaritan woman can you identify with?
  5. Jesus breaks the social barriers of talking with a woman alone, and with a despised enemy (Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus sits with her, talks, asks for help, offers her life that will quench her ‘thirst’ forever. A ‘rejected outsider’ becomes a disciple and the only person to evangelise a whole community in the gospel of John! She now rushes to the market place full of men to tell them the good news of meeting Jesus. Deep hopes have been fulfilled. Does your relationship with Jesus show itself others?
  6. The woman at the well reveals a disciples learning. Jesus is first thought a ‘prophet’, then possibly the ‘Messiah’ and then indeed ‘truly the ‘Savior of the world’. Hidden in the text is Jesus saying ‘I AM..’ This is the Divine Name – the name Jews gave to God (Ex 3,14). What does this mean? What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?
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Download Discussion Document 2nd Sunday Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. At first glance, Abraham’s willingness to kill his son Isaac looks like murder. A deeper reflection leads us to recognise what is involved in offering a ‘sacrifice’. Abraham’s hope and future promise for many descendants is in Isaac. Abraham places his life and future in the hands of God. A ‘test’ for Abraham has found him ‘worthy’ and completely abandoned and obedient to whatever God will ask. Has God called you to do something? Have you delayed? Why does God invite followers to ‘give up’ things we hold so tightly?
  2. Some scholars suggest that this special ‘high place’ where Abraham was to offer Isaac was the actual site of the 1st Temple of Solomon. High places were often on ‘mountains’ and were ‘meeting places with God’. Where is your ‘high place’ and what ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ could you offer to God showing you yield to God’s will for your life in total trust?
  3. St Paul encourages us to enter our imagination to feel how great God’s love must be. Have you ever had a friend or family show great generosity in buying or doing something for you? That ‘proof’ of their love allows you to deeply know they are ‘for’ you. If God did not spare his own Son, there is nothing more he could give to show the depth of his love. Does this give you confidence? To ask? Love?
  4. The Transfiguration is in the middle of Markʼs gospel. It is time to go deeper. Jesus has just challenged disciples to be willing to ʻgive up your lifeʼ(8,34-35) for his cause. They probably want ʻproofʼ that it will be ʻworth itʼ. Jesus shows disciples his divinity (dazzling white as a sign of Godʼs presence) and authority (Moses and Elijah both spoke to God face to face on special mountains). He is truly the Son of God! Persecution and even death will be moments of persecutors merely bringing judgement upon themselves as against God, and will be a doorway for a disciple into heaven and victory. Do you overly spiritualize the phrase ʻdeny oneselfʼ? Is Lent about punishing the body or a transformed lifestyle and society confronting injustice? How much ʻcostʼ are you willing to endure? How could you ʻgive almsʼ to lift up those in need this Lent?
  5. The presence of God – like a cloud covering the Mountain to speak face to face with Moses – speaks. We are not simply to gaze or adore, but LISTEN TO HIM. How could you more faithfully ʻlistenʼ to Jesus in prayer this Lent? What has worked? What has not worked?
  6. Fasting has often been a spiritual practice that intensifies within our bodies a focus, a need, a prayer, a request, a cause. What or Who could you fast From or For?
  7. How will you be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

 

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Reflection Questions

  1. The season of Lent begins with the receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you were not able to attend Ash Wednesday ask your priest if he could mark the ashes on your forehead with a prayer on Sunday. Or you may consider placing your thumb in soil and marking yourself with the sign of the cross. It takes a physical experience to remind us of something beginning. Consider Ash Wednesday like arriving at the starting line of a race. We need to be present and committed – when the starting gun goes off we need ‘begin’ the journey to the finish line of Easter. Are you psychologically ‘ready’? What will the spiritual practices of ‘Prayer’ ‘Fasting’ and ‘Alms-Giving’ involve for your daily / weekly routine?
  2. In the season of Lent, the First and Gospel readings are not specifically linked, but independently teach us a truth about God and ourselves. The word describing the ‘Ark’ built by Noah, is also used for the ark carrying baby moses to safety, the ark holding the special tablets of the commandments and symbolic of the Ark of the Church. God has made a covenant / promise to protect and be with those who belong to him. Have you ever had an experience or sign showing God’s protection for you? Can you see the Church as an ‘Ark’ today? How?
  3. The Second readings of Lent teach us the meaning of Baptism. The cleansing of Baptism waters is not washing away physical dirt, but literally a ‘putting away of filth’ as one now living in Christ. Lent becomes a time of renewed effort in living our christian identity. What do you recognise needs to be ‘put away’ from your life? What is the first step on this journey?
  4. Jesus responded to the Spirits inspiration into the Desert. To help create a prayer-full lent, what place and time each day can you identify that will work for you? How could you symbolise beginning this journey?
  5. Being in the desert for 40 days links to Israel being in the desert for 40 years. A time of testing, proving loyalty, closer union with God. As Adults, Lent is not a season for child-like practices of giving up lollies. It is a journey facing struggle and sin, being ʻtestedʼ, proving my loyalty to God. Is my Lenten commitment serious enough? Do I consider it will bring me closer to God?
  6. “The angels ministered to him.” God does not leave us alone. Angels are provided. Literally, Angels mean ʻgood message bearersʼ. In my Lenten journey and wilderness experience who are some ʻangelsʼ that God may have already placed in my life to support me but I have not responded to. Is there someone you could ask to accompany you on your journey of Lent? It could be just the help you need!
  7. Repent and believe the gospel. This is Jesusʼ first public words ever spoken. The greek word is metanoia – change, physically turn your life around. What do I know needs to change to find wholeness in my life?
  8. How will you be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. “thoroughly wash me from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps 50) God does not want us to stay in sadness and guilt but to grow from our experiences in wisdom, in compassion…. what wisdom might my ʻsinʼ be teaching me? What do I need to do to move on?
  2. Now is a very acceptable time – Lent is a special time, but only works if we make it important. Is there any decision I have been putting off? Having I been waiting for the right ʻtimeʼ? What decisions could I make for Lent to grow in freedom, in forgiveness, in holiness…..?

Traditional Lenten Practices

  1. Prayer – seeking to listen to God: try finding a time and place each day to be with God?
  2. Fasting – seeking to be free of what is unnecessary: try giving up music in the car, internet, video games, some television, and fill it with a practice that helps you reflect on life?
  3. Almsgiving – seeking to care for those in need: try focusing on a particular need you know about and giving either your time or money to a person or cause. Check with God how much!
  4. We only need to imagine the renewed and healed world if all were to make a commitment to these spiritual practices. What decision will you make to enter and live Lent deeply?
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Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Leviticus is a set of legal instructions (code) for Priests to ensure proper worship. Priests had the job of judging if someone was suffering, among many other things, from a skin condition ‘blotch’ – leprosy – which would make them ‘contagious’ and therefore ‘unclean’. In close living conditions this would have ensured disease did not spread. Unfortunately, when labelled ‘unclean’ a person had to leave family, friends, was excluded from society and worship in the Temple. It was psychologically and physically ‘death by exclusion’. Imagine having to shout to everyone that you were ‘unclean’! Who do you label as ‘unclean’? Who is ‘living outside the Church camp’ feeling unable to be with the community as they feel and perceive to be judged ‘unclean’? What could you do?
  2. Paul seeks to address another problem in the town of Corinth. Some christians were upset that fellow christians were buying food from the local butcher that had been sacrificed in pagan temples. Some were firm in their belief that there was no other gods so it was irrelevant. Others were afraid. Paul encourages an approach of ‘avoid giving offence’ and ‘try to please everyone’. Is there anything in your life which is offending another? How could you more closely imitate Christ?
  3. Healing is costly for the Leper and the Healer (Jesus). The Leper has put himself in danger being in the crowd. They could have been violent, outraged that his closeness to them made them ‘ritually unclean’ and possibly contaminating them with his skin disease. Is there something in your life causing you great sadness. Can you find the willingness to suffer the cost of seeking healing? What obstacles do you need to break through?
  4. Jesus is full of emotion toward the Leper. ‘Moved with pity’ does not accurately translate the original Greek. It is literally ‘having ones intestines in an uproar!’ Some translations write ‘moved with anger’. Jesus is angry at the sad state of the Leper, the exclusion, the pain. God’s heart is wrenched with compassion and pain. If Jesus heals he knows this will further increase his popularity and possibly misinterpret him as only a ‘wonder worker’. He heals him but commands him to be quiet. He insists he go to get a certificate of cleanliness from the Temple. He wants him to be included back into society and made ‘whole’ again. Are your intestines in an uproar about injustice, people caught in the bondage of sin, unjust exclusion? If not, why not.
  5. Jesus’ popularity increases to such an extent that he is now forced into ‘deserted places’, unable to enter a town openly. His life has now taken on the lived experience of those who were labelled ‘unclean’. Have you experienced the ‘cost’ of helping someone and living with the consequences of upsetting community and religious boundaries? Has it made you more or less willing to ‘heal’ again? What happened…
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Job is very rarely seen in the Sunday Lectionary. Job is ‘successful’ with a large family, significant wealth, health, a good name and reputation. Then suffering strikes. Significantly, in the midst of his suffering Job refuses to believe that suffering is God’s punishment for sin. He is innocent. Today’s passage is Job’s cry from the depths of his personal suffering. Only courage, perseverance and openness to God does Job recognise God is always looking after him. God is not manipulated by good or evil. Suffering is a profound mystery of being human. What sentence of Job can you identify with personally? What experience of ‘suffering’ has taught you most?
  2. Paul had decided not to accept money from people in the town of Corinth for his preaching. Some later preachers came after Paul and claimed this showed Paul did not believe in his own authority as a messenger of God. Paul responds that he wished to highlight the difference between the message of Jesus and other ‘wandering preachers and healers’ (who demanded money for their services). It is not ‘Paul’s message’ but ‘Christ’s message’ and he is under obligation to do this for free! Paul was careful how the message of Jesus would be received. Are you able to ‘adapt’ your witness and example to ensure Jesus is ‘received’? Can you think of an example today?
  3. Mark continues to show the Kingdom (Reign) of God is truly coming into the world through Jesus’ words and actions overcoming evil. This is symbolised through healing those who were sick and casting out evil spirits. People who were sick or tormented were regarded as ‘unclean’ and ‘sinful’. They were not permitted into the Temple to worship. Jesus ‘touches’ them and cures them. Now they are free to be with family and in the Temple. They can now participate fully in the life of the community. Does your life heal or harm? Include or exclude? What happens when someone in need is brought to you?
  4. Jesus’ disciples find Jesus in prayer. They seek to make him return home to carry on the healing. His reputation (and their own reputation) is growing because of his success. Many people and their needs cause Jesus to find silence and pray to God for direction. From prayer Jesus clarifies his ‘purpose’. Consider how busy Jesus became. How busy are you? What burdens and expectations do people pressure you to meet? Have you lost your ‘purpose’? Spend time in prayer in a deserted place and ask direction from God.
  5. Disciples of Jesus continue the ministry of Jesus. Jesus heals many lives. Healing is making ‘whole’, comforting, welcoming back into community, lifting burdens. Does your life, words and actions ‘drive out demons’? Establish peace, forgiveness, hospitality, justice? Do you see and fight evil?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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