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Discussion Guide is here     Jer 31:31-34, Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-33

During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and the meaning of their baptism. These readings and reflection are available for download here:Yr B RCIA

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Reflection Questions. 

• To enter into a covenant is like entering into a ‘marriage commitment and relationship’. A special bond is created. Have you ever had an experience of feeling God is ‘taking you by the hand and leading you’?   Break the relationship with God – Suffering. God seeking you out and speaking to your ‘heart’? Life does not necessarily become easier but perspectives are transformed and whatever happens there is a sense of God with us; nothing can separate us from Gods love. What has been your covenant journey with God?
• The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is like a personal inside view of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as he struggles to accept the consequence of obedience and
doing God’s will. What do you pray, cry, shout to God about? Have you tried it?
• Jesus’ journey involved obedience and suffering, but it also became a vehicle for him being ‘made perfect’. What suffering is hard for you at the moment? What is the wisdom you are learning from it? Because of your journey have you been able to be a source of comfort and hope for others?                        • In the Gospel of John, the ʻhourʼ that Jesus talks about is the moment where everything will be revealed on the cross. In all of history, it will be the ʻhourʼ when God is revealed as doing something to ʻforgiveʼ and ʻsaveʼ humanity. Love triumphs over violence. The drama of evil and goodness is played out. In the greek text, the phrase being ʻlifted upʼ is a word to describe a coach being ʻliftedʼ up onto peopleʼs shoulders to signify victory. Do you see the ʻhourʼ of Jesus on the cross as Ugly? Glorious?
Victorious? All three?
• Greeks (outsiders from Judaism) arrive wanting to ʻsee Jesusʼ. This causes Jesus to say the ʻhourʼ has
come for him to be revealed to the whole world. Would people who are not Christian see enough evidence in your life to know you are Christian? Would they experience you as friendly and welcoming enough to ask for help to ʻfind and see Jesusʼ?
• Three times in the Gospel of John the voice of God speaks clearly to Jesus and those near-by. It gives Jesus courage and confidence in his identity and purpose to walk a very difficult path. Have you asked for, received a clear sense of your calling and purpose from God? Will you enter the sacrificial and obedient lifestyle of ʻthe hourʼ? What ʻdeathʼ is God inviting you to live so as to bear fruit for the world?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz.  Livingtheword weekly download and resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are made available by Bev McDonald, Facilitator, Marist Laity NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide is here

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Exodus 20:1-3,7-8,12-17, 1 Cor. 1:22-25, Gospel Jn 2:13-25

Reflection Questions

• Jewish Rabbiʼs would dance with the books of the Law. The 10 commandments was like a treasure
and a link to the marriage covenant and relationship that God had promised with his chosen people.
What strikes you about this image of ʻdancingʼ with the law? Are these ʻlawsʼ a burden? Or are they guidance directly from God that will lead to a full and joyful life? What ʻlawʼ grabs your attention the most. Why? Talk with God about that.
• The word ʻcommandʼ literally means something ʻplaced in oneʼs handʼ. Like a letter from a close friend or special advice from a wise grandparent. Which bit of advice from the 10 commandments may I need to listen to and respect more in my life at the moment?
• St Paul invites christians to be clear, it is not wisdom, special knowledge or worldly power that saves – it is the saving event of Jesus on the cross. Jews considered this full of ʻshameʼ. Greeks couldnʼt believe that God who is so powerful could actually ʻdoʼ this. What is your response to Jesus on the cross?

• Jesusʼ first public action in the Gospel of John is to cleanse and purify the temple. It is a most dramatic action. Jesus replaces the temple and its sacrifices, its legalistic ritual, with his Body, his intimate presence. The Fathers house, a house of prayer, a place of communion and becoming one with God is now replaced by Jesus with his own body. Instead oflooking at a photo album of God, Jesus insists that God, He, is in front of their very eyes. Can you see what Jesus is doing in his first public act in the gospel of John?
• The Gospel of John always has many layers of meaning and interpretation. Many began to believe as they ʻsaw the signsʼ he was doing. The cleansing of the temple takes place at the Feast of Passover. The next passover takes place in John 6 where Jesus replaces Mosesʼ bread (Manna) with his own body (Jn 6,35). The last passover takes places in John 19,31 where Jesus replaces the passover lamb with his body on the cross. Can you see the ʻsigns he was doingʼ and believe?
• Has my image and experience of the Church changed over time? A Marketplace with all of its conflict?
Legalistic ritual and laws? Intimate presence and communion with God in the celebration of the Eucharist?
• Lent is an opportunity to practice three deep transforming experiences: Praying, Fasting, Giving. They can be re-framed as Listening (to God), Stopping (negative habits), Seeing (those in need and responding). Which Lenten practice could you intensely focus upon this week?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?


Reflection Guide is here.

N.B.During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and meaning of their baptism. Those alternative Scripture reflections are here. 

Discussion Questions:2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23, Eph 2:4-10, Gospel Jn 3:14-21.

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz




Discussion Guide: Going Deeper

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Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18/Rom 8:31b-34/Mk 9:2-10

Reflection Questions

• 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?

• 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?

•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?  To Love?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?


Discussion Guide: Turning Toward God

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Gn 9:8-15/1 Pt 3:18-22/Mk 1:12-15 

Reflection Questions

• 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?
• 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 tosafety, 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?

•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?
• 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?
• 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?
• “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!
• 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?
• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: Enter and Live Lent Deeply

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Jl 2:12-18/2 Cor 5:20—6:2/Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Reflection Questions
• What word, sentence or idea struck you from the readings?
• What do you think God may be personally trying to say to you?
• “thoroughly wash me from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps50) 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?
• 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

Traditional Lenten Practices
• Prayer – seeking to listen to God: try finding a time and place each day to be with God?
• 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?
• 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! 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?

Discussion Guide: Healing and Restoration

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Lv 13:1-2, 44-46/1 Cor 10:31—11:1/Mk 1:40-45

Reflection Questions

• 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?
• 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?

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

Discussion Guide: Freedom for Purpose

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Jb 7:1-4, 6-7/1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23/Mk 1:29-39

Reflection Questions

• 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 through 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?
• Paul had decided not to accept money from people in the town of Corinth for hispreaching. 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?

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

Discussion Guide, The Authority of Jesus

"Faith Has Saved You" Giclee print by Randy Friemel Giclee Print ~ 14 x 11

Dt 18:15-20/1 Cor 7:32-35/Mk 1:21-28

Reflection Questions

• 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’?
• 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.
• 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 soon, so it is best to let nothing distract us from being ready. What makes you anxious? Distracted from God?                        •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?
• 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 any-thing 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?
• 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?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Reflection Guide for Jesus’ Invitation

Discussion Questions

Jon 3:1-5, 10/1 Cor 7:29-31/Mk 1:14-20

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