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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.

 

 

Reflection Guide Holy Thursday

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Discussion Questions

• Holy Thursday is a celebration of the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and a reminder of the last command of Jesus for disciples to love and serve each other. There are some dramatic images of blood being painted on doorways and a humble servant washing dirty feet. Both are heavy with meaning as we enter the celebration of the sacred 3 days of Easter.
• A lamb being sacrificed and the blood placed on the doorways of the house caused the angel of death to ʻpass-overʼ the house. All the houses not marked with blood were affected by death (see Ex 12,23). Symbolically blood represented life. It also had the power to overcome sin and death. It cleansed. It forgave sin. Can you make the link between the passover lamb and Jesus being the ʻlamb of God that takes away the sins of the worldʼ? What is the significance of Christʼs blood?
• In a typical Jewish celebration of the Passover meal the Father would take some unleavened bread and remind the family of having to leave Egypt in great haste. Imagine the surprise of the disciples when Jesus speaks not of the Exodus or unleavened bread but states his own body will bring about a
new Exodus / Passover. Jesus is replacing the Jewish Passover with new sacramental words and signs. Can you see the link between unleavened bread and the gift of Jesusʼ body?
• To understand the Eucharist we need first to understand the Passover (which the Eucharist fulfills and replaces). In the Jewish Passover there were four cups of wine. The second cup was the most important. It remembered the blood of the lambs sprinkled on the doorposts. Jesus in the words of institution at the last supper did not make reference to the blood of the lamb, but instead states he is beginning a new and everlasting covenant with his own blood. Can you see how Jesus is fulfilling and replacing the Jewish Passover?
• St Paulʼs letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest passages of scripture in the New Testament. Paul states very clearly that what was handed on to him about the celebration of the Eucharist was connected with Jesusʼ own words and command at the last supper. If the Eucharist is ʻproclaimingʼ the death of the Lord what does this mean for you? For the world?
• St John does not have the last supper scene like the other gospels. Instead John teaches christian disciples that to celebrate the Eucharist is by implication to participate in the life of Jesus who emptied himself, washed, served. Foot washing was considered such a lowly task that even Jewish slaves were not expected or asked to perform it! John teaches us not to disconnect the Eucharist with service to repair and heal the world. How does Jesusʼ last example and the ʻtools of the tradeʼ of a basin and
towel challenge you today? What is self emptying work washing the dirty parts of humanity look like in our society today?
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this Easter?

Discussion Guide for Palm Sunday is here.   Is 50:4-7. Phil 2:6-11,  Mk 14:1-15:47 or Mk 15:1-39

Reflection Questions Palm Sunday

• The Procession into Church with Palms and singing ‘Hosanna’ marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palms were symbolic of victory. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew word ‘Save us now’. Riding on a donkey was the animal of choice in ancient times for Kings-to-be, portraying peace (rather than a horse used for battle). Placing cloaks on the road in front of the donkey was the ancient equivalent of the modern ‘red carpet’ treatment for special dignitaries. The scene is set. We are welcoming the Messiah – the ‘Christ’. Take time to imagine the scene, experience the hope, the joy. Can you identify with the symbols of today: the Palms, the Hosanna Cry, the throwing of your cloak?

• The Passion Reading from Mark has many details. There is betrayal by close friends, the violence of crowds, politicalnand religious leaders protecting their self interests, rulers symbolically trying to ‘wash themselves of blood’. What detail of the Passion attracts your attention this year, in the circumstances of our world? your life?

•Raymond Brown a Catholic Scripture scholar warns against a self-righteous reading and celebration of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. This week the curtain is about to come up on the drama that will ultimately change the world. We are there and it is now. The Gospel is convicting. Today. Can you see how the same issues are present today. Where do you ‘fit’ in this Gospel?
• Judas – selling out on God for money?
• Fleeing disciples – worrying so much about one’s own safety?
• Peter – professing and denying Jesus within the hour?
• Soldiers – carrying out unjust instructions from above, persecuting the innocent without thought?
• Pilate – pretending to be powerless, washing hands of justice and choosing to ignore evil?
• Religious Leaders – condemning Jesus and prefering the rules are kept and people are ‘safe’?
• Barabbas can be literally translated as Bar – Son. Abbas – Father. Who is the true Son of the Father? Jesus or Barabbas? Will it be a revolution of the heart and a message of peace, or a violent revolt
against military powers using military means that will bring ʻsalvationʼ? Why does the crowd choose ʻBarabbasʼ?

• The veil of the sanctuary separated into a special area of the Temple the Holy of Holies. In this place only the High Priest could enter to meet ‘face to face’ with God. The Gospel of Mark writes interpretively that this ‘private and exclusive’ meeting place with God has now been revealed as ‘on the cross’ for everyone. Here is the Son of God crucified out of passionate love and the desire to create a new covenant of forgiveness. The cross becomes the ‘new mercy seat’ (hidden behind the veil in the
Holy of Holies) for all to see, believe in, and receive. Spend some time in prayer and looking upon Jesus on the cross. What do you ‘see’? What does this teachyou?

• 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     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