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Discussion Guide: Ascension of the Lord Yr. B – Our mission: to be the ‘Body of Christ’

 

Mark 16:15 - Bible verse of the day - DailyVerses.net

Reflection Questions:      • The writer of the Gospel of Luke is also understood to have written the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn of the unfolding events after Easter. The Feast of the Ascension is not trying to claim historically after 40 days Jesus ‘ascended’ but simply reflect on his ‘Ascension’ and new presence now in Heaven. Jesus states a promise has been made by the ‘Father’ to send the Holy Spirit. Have you ever asked someone to make a ‘promise’? Why? What does this reveal about Jesus and ‘us’?

• The disciples are almost ‘told off’ by the Angels. ‘Why are you looking up at the sky?’ Instead of looking up, look around and get to work. The text also encourages a waiting for the spirit and its power so that each disciple can ‘witness’. Have you ‘waited in prayer’ calling for the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit? Consider how you could enter deeply into this prayer request leading to the celebration of Pentecost next week? Consider a place and time. The Spirit is often given through other people’s prayer. Who could you ask?

• Paul teaches beautifully about the deeper reality of ‘Church’. Rather than a mere ‘building’ Paul reminds us our identity and mission is to be the ‘body of Christ’. It will take plenty of work to present to the world a community ‘fully mature’ and with the ‘full stature’ of Christ. What virtue do you think you could live more intentionally at home / work / Church? Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Bearing with one another. Preserving unity?

• The Gospel of Mark is the earliest gospel and was written in a time when the early disciples still thought the return of Christ would be soon. The urgency to share the gospel with every creature before the return of Jesus can almost be felt in the text. This mission is still an active job description to us by Jesus. Imagine having such a wonderful message that you know will bring people joy and life. As you prepare to share it, would you consider just how the message would be received, what obstacles may be in the way, so that they truly ‘get it’ when you speak. St Francis of Assisi told his followers ‘Preach the gospel to the whole world, and use words when necessary’. Do you witness more by words or example? How could you try the other option?

• Mark uses dramatic language to highlight the truth that the power of the Holy Spirit is truly at work in the lives of disciples and in ‘signs’ that accompany the ‘words’. The image is of an intimate connection between Jesus in heaven and his disciples preaching. What signs would you like to pray for on your journey at the moment.

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

 

Discussion Guide:    6th Sunday Easter Yr. B – Love one another as Jesus loves you!

 

Love One Another as I Have Loved You | Revlisad.com

Reflection Questions:    • Peter entering the home of Cornelius(A Roman Centurion / Soldier) is an incredibly important moment in the early Church. It sets in motion the whole christian  mission to non-jews – to the untouchables, the pagans, the ‘greeks’. God wants to include everyone. Who do I consider an ‘outsider’ to the Church? Why? How could I be more inclusive? In my family? My church?

• Acts 10 reveals the early struggle to be open and welcoming. The Holy Spirit spoke in dreams and visions to inspire and move the Church and disciples. Consider the words of St Peter: ‘Get up, I myself am a human being’ and ‘God shows no partiality’. What has happened within Peter? What invitation and challenge do you notice for your own journey?

• Both Peter and Cornelius are spoken to in prayer. Thankfully they responded obediently. What have you heard in prayer and life lately? Have you been obedient in livingtheword? What are some obstacles you have encountered?

•John repeats the word love 9 times in his letter and 9 times in the Gospel. In John’s community they were fighting with gnostics who didn’t think christian behaviour was important. John reinforces the idea that love actually ‘looks like something’. Christian love is to love all others as God has loved us in Christ. Consider how God has initiated the relationship of love with us. Dying as an expiation (offering) to show us the forgiveness of our sins and the extent of God’s love. Do you initiate love or merely respond to love? Does your love change depending on a response? How does your love-style witness to christian love?

• God wants disciples to ‘bear fruit’. Yet fruitfulness requires attachment to the vine / trunk. The fruitfulness of joy and peace and love develops from ‘friendship with’ the Father. Friendships grow and develop in responding to needs and requests. Hence Jesus invites us to ask so the Father can give and be glorified. Would you describe your relationship with God as a ‘friend’? What is your attitude toward intercessory prayer? Ask or text your friends what they need and pray specifically for them. Don’t be afraid to ask God for signs so that God may receive ‘glory’. He gives plenty in the Acts of the Apostles!

• When asked to describe the love to which believers are called, St Augustine replied: “It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the signs and sorrow of others. That is what love looks like.”

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide:      5th Sunday Easter Yr. B – Bear much fruit with love in action!

 

Bear Much Fruit Scripture (Page 1) - Line.17QQ.com

Reflection Questions:    • God is a God of surprises but the disciples were afraid of Saul. They could not imagine the greatest source of persecution could ʻturn-aroundʼ. The situation required someone courageous like Barnabas. He had the nickname ʻson of encouragementʼ.  He had witnessed Saul in Damascus and stepped up to being a mentor. A link. Introduced Paul to the Apostles. Imagine the loss for the Church if Barnabas hadnʼt ʻtaken charge of himʼ? Who is on the ʻoutsideʼ of your group, community, workplace whom you could include?

• Barnabas and Paul show us the cost of the committed christian life. They are ʻradicalsʼ. They go a bit further. Without people like Barnabas and Paul the Church is stagnant. Paulʼs first preaching experiences to the Hellenists (Greeks) in Damascus and Jerusalem ended with attempts to ʻkill himʼ. And yet both Paul and Barnabas did not stop. Have you met resistance in preaching the message of life and peace of Jesus? Do you have a safe place like Paulʼs home in Tarsus to retreat to when necessary?

• LOVE is lived. It looks like something. Too easily love can stay in ʻword or speechʼ and not make it to ʻdeed and truthʼ. What love action could you commit to this week that you have struggled with for a while? What words or promises have you made but you have failed to back-up with action?

• The image of the Gospel this Sunday is of life flowing through the vine into the branches. ʻRemain in meʼ repeats itself 6 times! Remain in me is different from remain close to me or read my book. How could you go 1 step further in praying with scripture, celebrating the sacraments, living christian community?

• The intimacy of the ʻvineʼ image for Johnʼs gospel is a description of the church and the individual disciple. In baptism we were truly joined to Jesusʼ mystical body the Church. In the eucharistic union of our lives with the body and blood of Jesus in ʻholy communionʼ we are called to bear the ʻfruitʼ of replicating the life of Jesus in the world. Pray with the idea of being ʻfruitfulʼ and bringing ʻgloryʼ to the Father. What do you begin to think about?

• Jesus shares that the experience of praying with his Word is like being ʻprunedʼ. Have you experienced the scriptures ʻcuttingʼ and bringing you pain? Yet also directing you to what is life-giving?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:  4th Sunday Easter Yr. B – My sheep will hear my voice.

 

I have found my sheep that was lost- Christian Art

 

Reflection Questions:  • The Church celebrates ʻGood Shepherd Sundayʼ today. It is an opportunity to consider service of Christ in the Church for the World through a vocation in single life, married life, priesthood, religious life. Can you think of people who are good examples for you of each vocation?  Spend time in prayer praying for each one.

• Vocation means ʻcallʼ. St Ignatius teaches us that: “God writes his hopes into our deepest desires”. What does that mean God may be calling you to? Imagine the highs and lows of each vocation -what attracts you? What desire is strongest? Are you willing to follow it? • ʻLaying down oneʼs life for the sheepʼ is contrasted with being a ʻhired manʼ who works for pay and has no ʻconcernʼ for the sheep. What do you think is the difference between Vocation and Career? Does one lead down and the other attempt climbing up?

• St Peter shares a building image. Very large stones were measured and cut to ʻfitʼ and be suitable for building upon. Is your life truly ʻbuiltʼ upon Jesus or is it merely ʻlookingʼ at Jesus? Does your lifestyle ʻshowʼ you are ʻGodʼs child…ʼ?

• One of the actions done by a good shepherd is to ʻlie downʼ in the ʻgatewayʼ of a small low fenced circle of stones to care for the sheep and protect them from harm. The good shepherd was willing to fight to the death any wolf seeking to harm the sheep. It was an expectation that a child who was looking after the sheep, if attacked, was to show evidence of scratches or wolf fur to the family. Are you willing to fight and protect Godʼs family? Seek out the lost who have strayed? Stand attentive to warn of dangerous influences?

• ʻLaying down ones lifeʼ is another scriptural picture of the way Jesus lay down his life on the cross – as the good shepherd. Laying down and enduring a sleep-shortened night is something parents do for love of their children. Knowing sheep by name, sharing each day and providing nourishment and shelter. Can you see similarities between parenthood and priesthood? Does ʻlaying
down your lifeʼ appeal to you or frighten you? Does love lead you – or does fear fill you?

• ʻNo-one takes it from me, I lay it down on my ownʼ. A vocation is something freely chosen. We ʻhearʼ the call of God through desire and attraction, we give ourselves to walk the journey of discovery and weʻtake upʼ what is involved in faithfulness to our personal calling. Fear. Iʼm not good enough. I feel stuck. I donʼt know are all human responses. Consider reflecting on the document ʻDiscerning your vocationʼ to show your willingness to take a further step into Godʼs call. Go to http://livingtheword.org.nz/resources/

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

 

Discussion Guide: 3rd Sunday Easter Yr. B – Live in and for Christ

 

To Live Is Christ, to Die Is Gain'? Meaning of Paul's Words Explained

Reflection Questions:  • Peter has gone through a remarkable experience of change since his denial of Christ and now has the confidence to preach the core Christian message to unbelievers. He now knows what it is to be forgiven and to turn back to relationship with Jesus. Notice then how his preaching flows from his living and the signs that he works (he just cured someone!). ʻPreachingʼ comes after ʻlivingʼ. What sign / action / witness can I ʻliveʼ this week to let people experience Jesus through me?

• Holiness is a universal call to everyone. “Repent and be converted  is an invitation to a complete change of one’s value system. The worldview of the early disciples had been tipped upside down with the Resurrection. Consider what change took place for the early disciples to sell land and give to those in need? Is your value system that of the ʻworldʼ or ʻChristʼ? Ask God what areas of your life need more of the Holy Spirit, so you can change and grow as a disciple. Then take the next most obvious steps to cooperate with God and bring that change about.

• Some people in the Johannine community believed that ‘knowledge’ of salvation was salvation. ‘Knowing’ Jesus and his forgiveness was all that was important. Moral behaviour and changing one’s lifestyle seemed irrelevant. Yet the Easter Acts of the Apostles and Gospel readings teach that the disciples of Jesus witnessed to the resurrection with power and signs and wonders. Their lives were transformed. The Easter Sunday Victory of the Resurrection is supposed to overturn the evil of good Friday. Christians are not just baptised and waiting for the idea of the resurrection to become true when they die and enter eternal life. We have a job to do. Holiness is for now. As disciples we are each called to live in and for Christ in everyday life whatever that entails for us. How could you ʻkeep the wordʼ more and let the ʻlove of God come to perfection within youʼ more?

• Jesus was ʻmade known to them in the breaking of breadʼ. This new action and new words with it, was so new at the last supper that it transformed the traditional Passover meal. Only the Son of God could do this. Yet the resurrected Jesus must have appeared different to the disciples as it was only ‘in the breaking of the bread’ that they recognised him. How do you understand what happens at the celebration of the Mass / Eucharist? How does it help you experience the ongoing presence of Jesus? Do you have questions of the Scriptures that require some help to understand them? What are they? Who could you ask for help?

• “Why are you troubled and what are the questions rising in your heart” What are the things you need to look at, discuss with someone, write about, research, pray about, so you too can reach the peace and transformation Jesus offers today?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Divine Mercy Sunday: Jesus I Trust in You. The Reflection Guide is HERE

Discussion Questions:

See the source image

The Easter season known as Eastertide lasts 7 weeks marking the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost. How can you live the next 50 days intentionally aware of Easter and let its message get ʻunder your skinʼ and
change you?

• Since 2000, the 2nd Sunday of Easter became Divine Mercy Sunday after the witness of St Faustina Kowalska. The readings reveal a path of mercy. Christ taught that humanity not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called to practice mercy toward others. The message is about the value of every human being. Each person is precious: Christ gave his life for each one; to everyone the Father gives the Spirit and offers family intimacy and compassion. We are all beloved children of God given the grace and power to live in God’s love.

• The followers of Christ became a “community”. A love in their hearts was expressed in love to others – especially those ʻin needʼ. What change happened in the lives of the disciples to enable them to
share everything in common so that there was no-one in need? What change am I invited to make in my own life with regard to possessions? How could I show a deeper commitment to my parish community?

• The victory that conquers the world is our faith. Victory and conquer are ʻbattleʼ words. There is a ʻfightʼ to be victorious over the ʻworldʼ. It is not by ʻwaterʼ (baptism) alone but also by ʻbloodʼ(sacrifice – martyrdom, which means witness). How does true Easter faith challenge us? Will I walk the path Jesus
endured to overcome injustice, discrimination, hatred and fear? Only full commitment to Christ brings Resurrection victory and we need to receive the Holy Spirit to live the radical mercy of God. Ask Jesus to empower you with His Holy Spirit? How are you being invited to live God’s mercy?

• Significantly, after Jesusʼ resurrection the disciples are locked in a room – scared for their lives. They followed a convicted ʻrebelʼ crucified for seeking to overturn religious and political status quos. Consider ‘rebels’ in Myanmar as a possible contemporary image. Yet Christ’s ‘rebellion’ is to bring peace, freedom, and forgiveness. Can you connect with the fear. Imagine the scene and pray with it.

• The final gift of Jesus to his terrified disciples is peace and guaranteed forgiveness of their sins through the gift of the Holy Spirit. What causes your ʻun-peaceʼ and fear? This Eastertide try praying the Divine Mercy prayer daily; “Jesus I trust in You” & whenever you feel anxiety or fear.

• Thomas struggles to believe. He was not with the group who saw Jesus the first time. He wants to ʻsee with his own eyes and ʻtouchʼ Jesus. He asks for ʻsignsʼ to help him. What do you need to help you believe and grow stronger in your faith? Spend time asking Jesus to meet you at your point of need. Let Him love you there.

• The South African civil rights proponent Allan Boesak once stated that, at the pearly gates, Jesus wonʼt question us about how well we carried out our religious obligations. Heʼll only ask us to show our wounds, those outward signs that weʼve spent our lives imitating Him. Mercy and compassion costs us. Are you ready to hear Jesus ask ʻshow me your woundsʼ?

• How will you ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

These Resources by Living the Word, are prepared by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, ACSD, Marist Laity NZ. You may copy and share them for personal or group use but please ensure the website is credited. www.livingtheword.org.nz

The Easter Triduum:

Reflection Guides are available for

Holy Thursday HERE,

Good Friday Readings are HERE,

A Guide to help reflect on Good Friday from Creighton University is here

Easter Saturday VIGIL is HERE

 

Easter Blessings from the Team at Living the Word.

 

 

 

Preparing With All Your Heart: The Passion of Christ: Discussion Guide is HERE

Reflection Questions

Image result for palm sunday year b

Palm Sunday: The Passion of the Lord
• 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’ – The anointed One. 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? When have you been part of an ecstatic crowd of welcome and jubilation? How did you feel during, and after the event?

• The Passion Reading from Mark has many details.  There is betrayal by close friends, the mob violence, milling crowds, political and religious leaders protecting their self interests, rulers symbolically trying to ‘wash themselves of blood’. What detail of the Passion strikes you most this year, in the particular circumstances of our world today? Your life? Talk to God about that and share with others about it as you are comfortable.

•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 changed the world. We are there and it is now. Every Mass makes it present today. The Gospel is the living word-
convicting us, converting us -Today! Can you see ways that the same issues are still present today?

Where do you ‘fit’ in this Gospel?
Judas – Putting money and his own ideas ahead of his commitment to Jesus.
Fleeing disciples – putting all the focus on personal safety?
Peter – professing and then denying Jesus within the hour?
Soldiers – carrying out unjust orders from above, persecuting the innocent without thought?
Pilate – pretending he has no power, washing his hands of justice and ignoring evil?
Religious Leaders – condemning Jesus and preferring that rules be kept and ‘safety’  maintained?
Narrator – dispassionately observing and unmoved. Share your responses in prayer over this week.

Barabbas literally translated is Bar = Son, Abbas = (of the) Father. Who is the true ‘Son of the Father‘ – Jesus or Barabbas? What will bring ‘salvation’ : Will it be a revolution of the heart and a message of peace, or a violent revolt against military powers using military means? Why does the crowd choose ʻBarabbasʼ?

• The veil of the Temple sanctuary separated off the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter to meet ‘face to face’ with God. 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 with Jesus on the cross. What do you ‘see’? What does this teach you?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

These Resources by Living the Word, are prepared by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, ACSD, Marist Laity NZ. You are welcome to copy and share them for personal or group use but please ensure the website is credited. www.livingtheword.org.nz, Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide  5th Sunday Lent (RCIA) – Come out

 

Radical Faith – Daily Dose With Dr.Shermaine

Reflection Questions:  • 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide:   4th Sunday Lent (RCIA readings) – Now I can see

 

4th Sunday in Lent (A) - The Catholic News

Reflection Questions:  • Remember Samuel as a young boy, woken in the middle of the night by the voice of God (1Sam 3:4). Now trained in the discipline of listening and doing what God asks Samuel now faces an incredible challenge: God is asking  him to find and anoint a new King (while King Saul is currently still alive!) This would be treason. Consider the emotions and struggles of Samuel? What struggle can you identify with? How is God inviting you to ‘fill your horn with oil, and be on your way’?

• Some translations emphasize that David was a young boy, with a fresh and clear appearance. He is not big, has no military training or obvious talent for battle. To the human ‘eye’ and ‘outward appearance’ this is not a wise choice for a King and future military leader. But this public calling and anointing, this ‘baptism’ of David changes everything. No longer did David suffer psychologically from his fathers view of being the ‘smallest’ or ‘weakest’. When the Lord looks into your heart what desire, passion, gifts does he ‘see’? What do you see?

• This text from St Paul to the Ephesians is thought to be part of an ancient baptismal liturgy: baptism calls us to bring our lives into the ‘light’. As Easter approaches, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one practice that leads us to bring our struggles into the light of Jesus for help and guidance. Awake from sleep and death! Ponder for a few minutes what you would like to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent?

• Gospel stories from John are used to encourage baptism candidates on the final journey to Easter. Today’s story is a man born blind receiving his sight. The full story immediately has him involved in an argument with the Pharisees, and then with his parents. The story ends with him being rejected – to believe in Jesus meant being thrown out of the synagogue (and community)! Do you experience some people in conflict with you because you hold on to the values of Jesus? Do you walk away from Jesus or ‘worship him’ by faithfulness? What do you think happened to the ‘blind’ man?

• The early Christian Church used this story and reality of being ‘blind’ and receiving ‘sight’ as an image of the journey to Baptism. Baptism was even called a ceremony of ‘enlightenment’. Consider how blind ‘darkness’ to seeing ‘light’ is possibly the greatest transformation that can take place for a person. Seeing is symbolic of knowing ‘truth’. Truth is gradually clearer for the blind man (baptismal candidate) regarding Jesus’ identity. His daily life is now completely changed. How would you say your knowledge and life in Jesus affects your daily life?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?