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quotescover-PNG-93Download Reflection Document 27th Sunday Yr A

Reflection Questions.

  1. The prophet Isaiah becomes increasingly upset that King Ahaz (King of Judah – southern part of Holy Land including Jerusalem) is willing to enter a partnership with a foreign Kingdom (Assyria) to fight Israel – northern part of Holy Land). Isaiah shares God’s anguish in the form of a ‘love story’: what more could I have done for my vineyard? Instead of the fruit of peace and justice there is bloodshed and war! Imagine a relationship where you have done everything you could to show your love. Yet the only fruit of the relationship is pain. What would you do? Is ‘taking away its hedge, giving it to grazing’ abandonment or ‘starting all over again’?
  2. Paul is writing from prison to his much loved community in the town of Philippi. It is a Roman town occupied by many ex roman soldiers. There is a Jewish community that is uneasy with the Christian community. There is the ‘Roman – Gentile’ community cautious of christians who are perceived as ‘against Rome’ and setting up another ‘kingdom’. Into this mix are ultra conservative Jewish Christians (Judaizers) who seek to influence Gentile converts to Christianity that they must first become initiated into Judaism with circumcision and food purity laws before converting to Christianity. Added to this two prominent women in the christian community are in dispute taking each to court! What would you write in a letter to help this community? Do you think Paul’s words would help? Paul humbly holds himself up as an example of unity and reconciliation to follow. What do you think people ‘learn, receive, hear and see in you’?
  3. The Gospel of Matthew is leading closer to the end of the year with ‘judgement parables’. The Parable of the Vineyard spoke to the present but pointed to the future. Those entrusted with care (Chief Priests and Elders) of God’s people (vineyard) have been found resistant to the prophets and even ‘throwing the son out of the vineyard and killing him’ reference to Jesus being killed outside the city of Jerusalem. The Parable however is chaotic and does not reach a real conclusion. What will happen now? Who will control the vineyard? How would this be done? If the Christian Church becomes the New Israel (Vineyard) it is still required to produce the ‘appropriate fruit’. What do you think the appropriate fruit is of being a member of ‘God’s family’?
  4. The parable ends with a challenge: membership of the church does not guarantee membership of the Kingdom of God. Imagine joining a club by payment of a members fee. What else is required?
  5. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?
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Download Sunday 26th

Reflection Questions

  1. Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet with his people in exile in Babylon. Jewish people had a deep sense that sins of their ancestors had caused their current situation (in exile away from Home and their sacred Temple in Jerusalem). It was easy for them to ‘blame’ others for their current situation. They ‘blamed’ God that this exile was ‘unfair’. Ezekiel invites them to take personal responsibility for ‘sin’. Turn to virtue, do what is right and just. This is the way forward. God will teach us and lead us home. Is there an attitude in your life of ‘blame’ rather than taking ‘responsibility’? Blame leads to death. Responsibility leads to life. What change do you need to make?
  2. St Paul invites disciples to have the one essential attitude that will maintain unity: humility. Giving up an attitude of having special rights. Power. Influence. Can you think of a situation in which being ‘humble’ would have saved a meeting, argument, relationship. How could you become more ‘humble’?
  3. Jesus has now arrived in Jerusalem. Angry at his emptying of the Temple, the religious leaders challenge his actions and authority to teach. Jesus responds. Pious words and lip-service is easy. To be true children of God requires actions of doing the will of the Father. In your own self assessment, how large is the gap between your profession of faith and the practice of your faith? In what area of your life is more ‘action’ required? What would motivate you to action?
  4. Anyone can talk holiness, but it is quite another thing to live it. Consider someone in your life who ‘talks the talk and walks the walk’ of their christian belief. How do they inspire your journey? How could you follow their example?
  5. Both sons responses hurt the Father. No-one here is perfect. Jesus understands a priority for Jewish people is to show ‘honor’. The son who said ‘Yes, sir’ was honorable in front of the Father but it was soon revealed as empty and meaningless. Honor is shown ultimately in real obedience. What will it mean for you to ‘walk the talk’ in obedience this week? Consider writing it down.
  6. A requirement for ‘tax collectors’ to be truly repentant and ‘right with God’ was to repay money to those who had been ‘over-taxed’. However it was impossible for them to know and remember all the people they had wrongly taxed. Tax collectors felt helpless and stuck in a situation of never feeling they could be forgiven by God. Jesus reveals this is not the case. God welcomes those who turn to him. Do you know someone who needs help to hope and believe in God’s forgiveness? Consider praying a special prayer for them.
  7. What is one action that you will do to ‘livingtheword’ this week?

 

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Download 25th Sunday Yr A 

Reflection Questions

  1. If you ever experience God being ‘distant’ the words of Prophet Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. Yet they cannot go back to Jerusalem and the Temple. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been demolished. Isaiah invites you to turn inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. Does your lifestyle allow for quiet time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God?
  2. Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle. He could be passive and let God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? An earthquake and conversion of the jailor provides the way forward. Could you trust God’s design of providence and guiding your life like Paul?
  3. Laborers would often stand in the middle of town waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, and not having been selected for a job, many would walk home downcast. What do the laborers feel? In desperation some continue to stay until 4pm! What is strange about the landowners (God) behaviour?
  4. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is also called the Parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Christian community was Jewish but gradually became filled with more Gentile converts. Jews who had served long and hard in faithful obedience to the Laws of God now witnessed Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God is unmasked in this parable as one who is generous. Were you upset or delighted in this parable? Why?
  5. The landowner’s (God’s) generosity in the parable creates a problem. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money earned. Few hours worked = little money earned. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’?
  6. The ways of God are different from worldly ways. As a member of the community building the ‘kingdom of God’, what would it look like to be generous with your money like the landowner? Does your giving establish true justice or maintain charity with unjust structures and policies? check out www.caritas.org.nz
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Reflection Questions.

  1. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross provides an opportunity to learn of the humility and saving love revealed on the Cross.
  2. In the Catholic readings each Sunday the first reading has a special relationship with the Gospel. The Old Testament Reading is fulfilled in the New Testament, and the New Testament is revealed in the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament we would not understand the meaning of the cross and sacrifice. Ponder the image from the Book of Numbers. What ‘bites’ you? Can you see what ‘bites’ you (sin) is now nailed to a pole (the cross of Jesus)? Do you have the courage to ‘look at the serpent’?
  3. Is your patience worn out by the journey of life, feeling like you are only being fed with ‘disgusting food’? Have you ever pondered the significance of the desert journey changing you from one phase of your life to another? What place have you left, what is your complaint, and can you trust God?
  4. C.S. Lewis a great Christian writer invites us to use our imagination. Imagine God becoming a puppy! What a humble thought, leaving behind glory and power and taking the position of a puppy with all its limitations. In fact, God becoming human has followed this same humble path. And gone even further, ‘to being nailed to a cross’. What does this image teach you about the true nature of God? What needs to change within you about your image of God?
  5. The character of Nicodemus is a man of great learning approaching Jesus under the cover of darkness (Jn 3:1). He was afraid of believing in Jesus as it would mean his whole life would change. He was a ‘leader of the Jews’ and when Jews became Christian they were publicly disowned and even their own family held a funeral for them. Jesus shares one of the most beautiful and often remembered sentences in the Gospels. How do you understand the cross: condemnation or salvation? Have you been helped to recognise God’s ‘judgement’ is ‘mercy’? What does this mean for you?
  6. In the Gospel of John, the phrase the Son of Man ‘lifted up’ is like a winning sports coach being ‘lifted up’ onto the shoulders of the team. A victory has occurred. What is the victory that has taken place historically on the cross?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download Sunday 23rd Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Ezekiel is regarded as one of the 3 great prophets (Behind Isaiah and Jeremiah). Ezekiel is both a priest and a prophet and is speaking during a time of Exile away from Home. Without temple practises, faithfulness to the laws of God kept Jewish identity and preserved unity. Ezekiel provides a powerful image of a ‘watchman’, standing, watching, ‘looking out’ for dangers that may be approaching your family. God’s family. Have you had the courage to ‘say anything and warn others’? What happens without ‘watchmen’? Are you challenged into action knowing that your salvation is at stake? What do you feel needs to be spoken of in your family? Community? Parish?
  2. To love your neighbour as your own flesh is a striking challenge. Jewish interpretation wriggled around the challenge by regarding one’s ‘neighbour’ as their own Jewish citizens. This allowed Jews not to care for ‘outsiders’. Ponder the essential challenge of loving everyone as your own flesh. In what ways have you wriggled out of the challenge?
  3. Matthew 18 is dedicated to life inside the Christian community. How is the community of Jesus supposed to respond to hurts and arguments that come from living together? A pattern is developed to avoid hurting and shaming those involved. Private conversation, then semi-private conversation and only as a last resort a public church decision. Reconciliation is not ‘brooding’ in silence. Is there anyone you need to approach ‘face to face’?
  4. Have you experienced the importance of a wise person to help ensure ‘every fact is established on the testimony of two or three’. Anger and resentment cripple christian hearts and disciples. Who are your ‘two or three’ guides to help your reconciliation journey?
  5. Treating a person like a Gentile or tax collector can be interpreted two ways. If reconciliation does not result, do we exclude or offer continued hopeful patience? What did Jesus do?
  6. The goal of Christian community is to witness to the world the love of Christ with each other. The authority to bind and loose is given by Jesus to the community in the context of prayer and agreement together. Is there need for prayer and discernment with a group about decisions you (or your ministry group, parish…) are making?
  7. Jesus makes a promise where two or more are in agreement in prayer it shall be granted to them. What prayer request would you like to share with friends. Who could you invite into your prayer / voice to God?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download 22nd Sunday Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Jeremiah was a young prophet who spoke out against King Jehoiakim. The King was so upset with Jeremiah’s words pointing out injustice he burnt Jeremiah’s writings. Prophets were passionately aware of the call to love God and show this in true worship. To care for the poor and the stranger through hospitality and giving. Often this put them in conflict with the religious, political and social systems of their day. Do you see in the world a cause for ‘crying out’? Do you see and wish to share outrage at what is accepted by society? What would you feel is a desire ‘burning in your heart, imprisoned in your bones’?
  2. Both Roman citizens and Jews in Rome were familiar with offering sacrifices in a temple. St Paul leads them on. It is not an external sacrifice of food to God which is required, but your very bodies offered in loving service. Do you consider your daily faithful service as an ‘offering’ pleasing to God? How could you offer your body more to God? Are you conformed to this age or the will of God?
  3. Within minutes of Peter being made the ‘rock’ upon which the Church would be built, Jesus now calls him ‘Satan’. Although Peter recognised Jesus as the Christ and Son of God he was wrong in understanding what this actually meant. The Jewish hope was of a glorious ruler who would put to death all enemies of Israel. It was inconceivable that the ‘Christ’ the ‘anointed one’ should suffer. He was supposed to make others suffer. Can you glimpse how difficult it would have been for Peter and the disciples to have their understanding of the ‘Christ’ changed? Would you naturally presume glory rather than suffering is fitting for God?
  4. Satan is a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary’. One who puts another pathway against you which leads away from God. Peter is suggesting ‘another way’ from the path to suffering in Jerusalem. He is acting as Satan does. He is told to ‘get
  5. behind’ (the position of a disciple following his master). What are you arguing with God about in your life? Does it involve the pathway of comfort and glory, or suffering and self denial? Will you ‘get behind’ or stay arguing?
  6. Taking up the ‘cross’ is more than coping with burdens and failures. It is an act of revolutionary zeal to stand in opposition to structures of injustice which block the coming of the Kingdom of God. Only revolutionaries against the Roman authorities suffered crucifixion on the cross. Are you willing to lose your life in the cause of justice and true reconciliation? Can you imagine the joy when your conduct and life is repaid in Heaven?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download Reflection Document 21st Sunday

Reflection Questions

  1. The special office of ‘Master of the Palace’ also had another well known title ‘Keeper of the Keys’. This involved wearing the key to the palace door. It hung from just below the shoulder and was obvious to all who saw it. Symbolically and physically, this person had access to the King and had authority to act in the name of the King. Unfortunately Shebna in the first reading had a liking for the King’s chariots (Is 22, 16-18) and was building himself a special tomb – both expressions of status and power. He was removed from his office by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah makes a prophecy that such a person given this role will be a ‘peg in a sure spot’. What do you think this means?
  2. St Paul comes to the end of his painful sharing and confusion as to why his own people (Israel) could not accept Jesus. After all his wrestling and argument with God he finishes in prayer. He hands over this struggle to the mystery of how God works. What do you feel you need to hand over to God?
  3. The Gospel of Matthew from Chapter 14 has Jesus giving special instruction to his 12 disciples. Dramatically he leaves Galilee and walks them into a place filled with Temples to Roman Emperors and Baal worship. There is even a temple dedicated to the fertility cult of the ‘dancing goat’! Against the background of this pagan worship he confronts his disciples, and us: Who do YOU say I am? What do YOU think of me? Imagine being in this scene. Jesus asks this question of you.
  4. Simon’s response brings together two ‘titles’. The Christ (in greek or Messiah in Hebrew) is the long awaited one promised by God to save his people. But added to this Simon recognises the unique filial relationship Jesus has with God. Jesus is not simply a prophet (John Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah…) but uniquely one with God. Would you say you ‘know about’ Jesus or that you ‘know Jesus’? Is your christian faith ‘second hand’ or grounded on a ‘personal encounter’ with Jesus?
  5. Peter – Cephas (meaning Rock) was not a known Jewish name. It is a striking image. Rock was immediately associated with God. And combined with the role of ‘keeper of the keys’ Peter’s leadership and authority within the group of 12 is made clear. The Church is being provided with a teaching authority for the time when Jesus will not be physically present to interpret the Laws of Moses and Gospel of Jesus. Do you view this gift of authority by Jesus positively or negatively?
  6. Binding and loosing and powers of the netherworld present a Jewish view of the rule of God. Jesus is understood as wrestling the human world from the grip of satan and reclaiming it for God. How do you relate to power, order, authority. Is it needed in the Church?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download 20th Sunday Reflection Document 

Reflection Questions

  1. God’s chosen people, who were marched away from home into exile in Babylon, are now given permission to return home and rebuild their temple. King Cyrus even gives them back their sacred vessels stolen from the Temple 60 years earlier. The Hebrew people could hardly believe what was happening. God could even work through a Gentile King to rescue and restore his people. Isaiah shares a vision of all peoples being able to worship together in the Temple. This vision was never truly fulfilled. Non Jews were only allowed into an ‘outer courtyard’ of the Temple. What vision of welcome do you have for your Church? What limits your vision from becoming a reality?
  2. Paul continues to grieve over his own Jewish people. He hopes that disobedience will eventually meet mercy! People labelled and feeling distant from God (Gentiles) will experience union with God. Paul reminds the Church of God’s passionate desire for all the ‘unclean’ / gentiles to be made welcome in the Church. Who do you judge unclean?
  3. Some geography helps to understand the context of the Gospel reading today. Jesus has just finished arguing with the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-20) about what is ‘clean and unclean’. He now travels into unclean ‘gentile’ territory. He moves out of the ‘Holy Land’ and into Canaanite territory. Is he trying to get rid of the Pharisees who keep following and arguing with him? Or is he trying to teach his disciples a lesson going beyond mere words of teaching? The disciples would have been hesitant to go themselves into ‘unclean’ territory. What do you think Jesus could be teaching the disciples? The Church?
  4. Without napkins at the dinner table, it was a practice that bread was broken and ones hands were cleaned with bread. Bread and food was left after dinner on the floor. House dogs were frequently able to mop up the crumbs and foodscraps after the guests had finished. This is an image used in the reading today. Is Jesus derogatory toward the woman or just revealing his first concern was ‘lost sheep of Israel’?
  5. The disciples wanted the canaanite woman sent away. She was unsettling. Was Jesus waiting for the disciples reaction to her as a way of teaching them about clean / unclean?
  6. The Gentile woman kneels before Jesus and prays ‘Lord help me’. Jesus praises and rewards her persistence and faith. To the Jewish community of the Gospel of Matthew this event would have come as a shock. Jesus entered into and found faith among the unclean gentiles. Imagine feeling or being labelled as ‘unclean’ by ‘the church’. What obstacles need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus? Are you helping or hindering?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingheword’ this week?
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Download 19th Sunday Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. The mountain of Horeb was another term for the famous Mt Sinai where Moses met face to face with God. Unlike Moses, Elijah is being chased. He challenged the Queen for putting statues of Baal in the temple, killed 400 Baal prophets and is running frightened in the desert. He seeks God. He experiences God in the ‘tiny whispering sound’ of God’s voice in prayer. Have you had an experience of doing something for God and it meets resistance? Where do you go to seek God? What would you say you have heard recently from God?
  2. In St Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 9-11 reflect a great sadness that the Jewish people – Paul’s own people – have not recognised and believed in Jesus. Have you experienced sorrow and anguish for someone who has not believed in Jesus or has left their christian faith? Consider placing them before God in prayer. Paul used this anguish to become an incredible missionary and very talented in preaching in a relevant way. How could you be more missionary?
  3. After feeding the 5000 people start to suggest that Jesus is the long awaited messiah. This has dangerous consequences. Herod, who has just killed John, could be identifying Jesus as the next target and threat to his power. He ‘compels’ (in the greek) the disciples to leave. Dissolves the crowd and goes up the mountain to pray. Not only does he wish to mourn the loss of John his close friend and cousin. He is also teaching the disciples about mission (Mt 14) and seeks to be grounded in prayer with God.
  4. A boat tossed about in the sea has always been an early symbol of the Church. In the middle east the rough sea was considered a symbol of darkness and chaos. Throughout history many storms have caused the Church to cry out to Jesus for help. Walking on water is a display of Jesus’ power over all chaos and darkness along with his use of the Divine Name ‘It is I’. A simplification of the divine name given to Moses on Mt Sinai. While the english uses ‘tossed about’ the greek word is literally ‘tortured’. What forces torture you and the church today? Imaginatively enter the boat scene and hear Jesus personally say the words ‘ Take courage, do not be afraid’ to you. What would this mean for you?
  5. Peter represents church leadership but also the individual disciple. Urged to take the risk of obedience to Jesus’ word the ‘walk on the water to Jesus’ can be sunk by dwelling on the experience of strong winds and big waves. Problems. Fear. Sinking. What could you pray for God to ‘save’ the Church from today? Save you from today?
  6. Jesus is invited into the boat. The storm calms. Their crisis and Jesus’ help leads them to bow down humbly. Have you had an experience like this?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?
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Download Reflection Document 18th Sunday Yr A

Reflection Questions

  1. Isaiah 40-55 is known as ‘The Book of Comfort’. God will comfort and look after his people. In ancient cultures a relationship and bond of commitment was sealed by a meal together. They also acknowledged with a prayer of thanksgiving that something was sacrificed (an animal, a grain of wheat..) in order that human beings were fed. A ‘sacrifice’ enabled a ‘meal’ which established a ‘bond between the participants of a meal’. This is the basis of a ‘covenant’ meal in the Old Testament, the Last Supper and indeed the Eucharist Christians celebrate. God promises to feed us without money being paid. And to nourish us both physically and spiritually. Consider the gifts God gives you each day. How has God been ‘feeding’ you?
  2. St Paul himself endured being beaten, stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, imprisoned. Yet he boldly declares nothing can separate us from God’s love revealed in Christ. What current experience causes you to think and feel ‘separated’ from Christ? Does Christ on the Cross ‘bridge this gap’?
  3. Matthew 13 was filled with Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 14 is now concerned with the Kingdom of the Church and the mission of the Disciples. We are taught how we are to be and live.
  4. John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, has been killed. This sadness causes Jesus to retreat to a deserted and lonely place. Consider all the feelings of Jesus in loosing a very close companion. Wanting silence and rest. Having a crowd chase after him. Tired and yet moved with pity and willing to give of himself. What do you learn about Jesus? About God? About yourself?
  5. John the Baptist spoke courageously reminding Herod he cannot marry his brothers wife. Why does the world seek to remove the ‘voice’ of a prophet? Have you experienced the tension and risk in being a ‘prophet’ today? What happened?
  6. Matthew is seeking to show Jesus as the fulfilment of Moses and all the prophets. Parallel to the feeding in the desert (Moses / Exodus) Jesus now feeds a large crowd in a ‘deserted place’ with bread. There is an abundance of food (a symbol of the great messianic age). Each Apostle is left holding one of 12 baskets of bread symbolic of the new Tribe of Israel (Church). The Disciples now have the job of feeding the hungry. Imaginatively enter the scene and pretend to be a disciple. What did you learn?
  7. The Disciples had a ‘poverty mentality’. Jesus had an ‘abundance mentality’ when even a small amount of resources were offered to God. Consider your response to the ‘poor and hungry’ this week. What could you do with the little you have?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingheword’ this week?
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