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Discussion Guide for Trinity Sunday

Reflection Questions

  • Easter concludes with 50 days and the celebration of Pentecost. The Feast of the Trinity and the Feast of Corpus Christi are the Sunday experiences before us. Yet what we celebrate and believe is far from ʻordinaryʼ. Moses speaks to the people and us: can your imagination comprehend how great it is that God has personally ʻspokenʼ to us in the fire on the mountain of Sinai. God personally fought for us and rescued us out of Egypt where we were mistreated. Can you recognize and see with ʻyour very eyesʼ things God has done for you? What experience do you need to treasure more deeply?
    • This Trinity was first of all an experience of disciples before it became a theological teaching. ʻGod does not prove himself, he shows himselfʼ. Jesus is the Messiah sent by the Father. His life and words reveals the Fathers love and Mercy. The Spirit is the first gift into our hearts. Imagine the whole experience of being ʻadoptedʼ. The parents doing it and the child receiving it. The child will need help to cry out ʻAbbaʼ – Daddy. Do you experience this relationship? ʻYou did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fearʼ. What do these words mean for you?
  • The most significant events in the Gospel of Matthew happen on Mountains. It symbolises being very close to God and consequently the events taking place have the full authority and power of God. It is almost humourous that the disciples bow down in worship but are also doubting. Some texts have ʻbut some doubtedʼ. Jesusʼ response is to approach them! And even in the midst of doubt he sends them into the world with a job / mission. Imagine yourself in this scene. Do you bow, kneel, stand, doubt, hunger, question, fear, run, watch….? What do you wish to say to Jesus as he ʻsends you outʼ?
    • Knowing and using a personʼs name symbolises a relationship and knowledge of the person. Using a persons name attracts and turns the persons attention toward you. Reflect on using the name of someone who loves you. What is the experience of calling their ʻnameʼ? Imaginatively enter this experience speaking to each person of the Trinity. Abba – Father. Jesus – Son. Holy Spirit. Can you glimpse a personal relationship and knowledge of each?
    • Within the mystery of Godʼs nature we enter a mystery that love is not alone – but a relationship of 3. Consider the ancient icon of the Trinity above. There is an empty space at the table for you to ʻpull up your chairʼ at prayer and at the Eucharistic table. What do you notice as you spend time in prayer with this icon?
    • Jesus gives clear – and challenging – instructions. There is no privileged people, his message is for ʻall nationsʼ. A new rite of Baptism in the name of Father Son and Holy Spirit will mark an acceptance and adoption into the family of God. People need to be taught how to ʻobserveʼ and live Jesusʼ teachings. ʻGoʼ! Do you have a consciousness of being involved in this ʻgreat commissionʼ? If people were to be with you, would they glimpse a love-relationship alive and nurtured by a church community? If anyone asked you about your relationship with God what would you share?
    • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail:contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ

Discussion Guide: Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit

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Reflection Questions

  1. Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast 50 days after Easter when fruit had ripened and wheat was harvested. Along with bringing produce to the temple, it was also an anniversary of the giving of the law (Torah)- 10 commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai. There are fulfillment and replacement hints in the text following the interpretive principle that the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament.
    * Israel together at Mt Sinai – Disciples gathered together in upper-room.
    * The earthquake and storm and eruption – driving wind & fire.
    * Moses speaking personally to God and being gifted with ʻlawsʼ to teach and guide. – Tongues of fire communicating Godʼs spirit and power to teach and guide and unify all people.
    How would you write what Pentecost ʻmeansʼ?
  2. Pentecost is also understood as the reversal of the OT Tower of Babel story (cf.Gen 11). Humankindʼs sin and self-importance building the tower to reach, and equal God, eventuated in the scattering of people and the confusion caused by different languages. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unites people to understand each other and the Christian message. Does the world today need to hear about Jesus in a fresh and creative way? Where would you start? Be inspired!
  3. Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didnʼt have the gift of tongues were considered inferior. It was causing division in the community. One gift was not to be stressed over another. Everyone is gifted. Name and claim at least 3 gifts you have. What gift do you feel you would like to develop more and use for God and the community?
  4. The Spirit and ʻgiftsʼ are connected to and give life to the ʻbodyʼ. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ do you identify more with: eyes – seeing, head – thinking, heart – feeling, hands – serving, mouth – speaking, ears – praying. How do you show this in your daily life? How could you be more
    involved in serving God with this?
  5. Jesus passes through ʻfear -locked doorsʼ to bring peace and forgiveness. What ʻlocked doorsʼ are present in your life? Use your imagination in a time of prayer and allow Jesus to meet you on the other side of these locked doors….. what happened?
  6. The Spirit sends the Disciples / the Church ʻon missionʼ. The Church is ʻplugged inʼ to a living power-source moulding everyone into the image and consciousness of Christ. Because of the Spirit, the Church has the calling and capacity to be the extension of Jesusʼ ministry in the world. Forgiveness of sins and the healing of wounded hearts, families, communities is what each disciple is ʻsentʼ to do. Consider what feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ with authority to do something? Are you conscious of being sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the
    worldʼ?
  7. ‘Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour thy dew; Wash the stains of guilt
    away. Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray… (Sequence prayer of Pentecost ). Which prayer ‘image’ to the Spirit speaks personally to you? Why?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary & distributed by Marist Laity NZ, Diocese of Auckland, NZ.   www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Feast of the Ascension

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 waiting for the spirit and the Spirit’s 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 at 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 when necessary, use words’. 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?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary & distributed by Marist Laity NZ, Diocese of Auckland, NZ.   www.livingtheword.org.nz

 

Discussion Guide: What Does Love Look Like?

I talk a lot of love, this is what I'm talking about. Romance is a lovely thing, but just one very small way of loving:

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 living the word? 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?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ.

 

Discussion Guide,Bear Much Fruit, 5th Sunday Easter

Acts 9:26-31, 1John 3:18-24, Gospel John 15:1-8

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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? Talk to God about that.

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

Discussion Guide for 4th Sunday Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday – Acts 4:8-12, 1 Jn 3:1-2, John 10:11-18

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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 in terms of what 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 childʼ?

• 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 or lion 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. What similarities can you see 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 we
ʻtake 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. Click here or go to http://livingtheword.org.nz/resources/
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide, Repent and Turn to God

Acts 3:13-15,17-19, 1 John 2:1-5, Luke 24:35-48

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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 is connected with his ʻlivingʼ and the ʻsignsʼ 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. ʻRepent and be convertedʼ is an invitation to a complete change of oneʼs 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 those 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 were 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 our 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 ‘at 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?

 

 

Reflection Guide Divine Mercy Sunday

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Discussion Questions

• We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song. Easter lasts 7 weeks in the Catholic experience. It is called Eastertide and marks 50 days between Easter – Pentecost. What practice or ritual could you live for the next 50 days to truly celebrate the meaning of Easter and let its message get ‘under your skin’ and change you?

• The followers of Christ became a “community”. The love in their hearts was expressed in love to others – especially those ‘in need’. What transformation happened to the disciples to enable them to live so generously? When have you experienced God’s transforming mercy? Ask Jesus to reveal His mercy to you this week. What change am I invited to make in my life regarding possessions? How could I show deeper commitment in my parish community?

• Victory that conquers the world is ‘our faith’. Victory and conquer are ‘battleʼ words. Faith is to be victorious over the ‘world’– not by ‘water’ (baptism) alone but also by ‘blood’ (sacrifice) and the Spirit. Easter challenges us: am I willing to work with Christ to overcome injustice, discrimination and fear with mercy? Only then can Easter Sunday Victory swallow up the evil of Friday.

• It is significant that immediately after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples are afraid. Locked in a room. Scared. They are followers of a ‘rebel’ who has been crucified as a threat to the religious and political status- quo. Consider rebel fighters today as a possible contemporary image. Yet this rebellion is to bring mercy, peace and forgiveness. Can you imagine the scene; try to experience their fear and pray with it?

• The disciples are huddled in a locked room in fear and Jesus brings peace and the guaranteed forgiveness of their sins through the Holy Spirit in the Church. What is the source of your ‘un-peace’ and fear that Jesus wishes to heal? Share those fears with Jesus.

• Thomas likes to check the truth of things, he doesn’t believe simply because others do. Sound familiar? Thomas needs to see and touch Jesus. God honours that need in Thomas and promises that the transformative joy and happiness of Thomas and the other disciples can truly be ours today. We may not ‘see’ with our physical eyes but are promised that faith can allow us to experience the Risen Lord through His Spirit and to ‘touch’ His wounds and receive Him fully in Eucharist. We are invited today
to make the same full faith commitment of Thomas to Jesus – “My Lord and my God!” What do you need to help you believe, grow in faith and joy and put God in the centre of your life like Thomas? Spend time asking Jesus for that.

• The South African civil rights proponent Allan Boesak stated that Jesus, at the pearly gates, won’t question us about how well we carried out our religious obligations. He’ll only ask us to show our wounds, that are the outward sign we’ve spent our lives imitating him. God’s love ignites mercy
within us and through us for others. Mercy, forgiveness, faith, truth; theses take courage and form wounds of love within us. What if the only question Jesus asks on entry to heaven is: ‘show me your wounds’?

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

 

 

Discussion Guide, He Is Risen

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Reflection Questions

• Acts chapter 10 is an very significant part of the New Testament. It is hard for us to understand just how big were the divisions between Jews and Non Jews (Gentiles). Jews were not allowed to enter a Gentile house and were certainly not allowed to ‘eat a meal together’. Acts 10 reveals the story of Peter entering a Gentile home and having a meal with a Gentile (and Roman Soldier!) Cornelius. Peter had a vision from God that the ʻgentilesʼ were ʻcleanʼ and could sit at table together with Jews. This message
would upset many who had long held religious views of separation. What obstacle may God wish to remove within you so you can sit together with an ‘enemy’? Who do you consider ʻuncleanʼ?
• Before the Feast of the Passover Jewish women would spend hours sweeping and tidying their homes. They particularly got rid of any ʻleavenʼ (yeast to make the bread rise). It was a symbol of sin, capable of
affecting the whole ʻloafʼ. In response to the Resurrection we are called to be ʻnewʼ, people of the light, walking out of darkness. What particular action, habit, area of my life will I seek to tidy and sweep during the season of Easter as a response to living the new life of the Resurrection?

• Johnʼs gospel has Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John) – three foundational members of the early christian community – walking about confused. Belief in the Resurrection was
not something that happened instantly. Even the ʻother discipleʼ who saw burial cloths before Peter, had to look again before he believed. What has been your experience of Holy Thursday, Good Friday,
Easter Saturday Vigil. What have you seen? What do you remember? What was shown to you by God to help you ʻbelieveʼ?
• Imagine someone you have loved in a very intimate and special way. This person died and you were personally involved in seeing the death, the burial. In grief you go to the place of burial and see first-hand that your friend is not there. There is evidence of burial cloths and a messenger that ʻhe has been raisedʼ and that your friend so wants to meet with you and you will see each other soon. What would be your thoughts and feelings? If the resurrection is true, what change in thinking happens about death? About life? About God?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

Reflection Guide Good Friday

Readings – Is 52:13—53:12, Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9, Gospel – Jn 18:1—19:42

Good Friday is a day of fasting for those who are able and a day of reflection with Christ in His Passion. The Gospel is the only reflection Guide and we encourage you to take time today to be with the Lord praying with His Passion. Who stands out most for you as you read the Passion? How did that person respond to the events as they unfolded? How do you respond now?  What impact does Christ dying on the Cross have on your life? Pray honestly with God,  (in any personal, creative way that you feel led), about anything  His Passion and this Gospel reflection brings up for you.