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Discussion Guide: Generous Good Measure – God’s Way of Living and Giving

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49,  Gospel: Luke 6:27-38 

Reflection QSee the source imageuestions

1] David and around 600 men are living in caves in the desert of Ziph. King Saul brings 3,000 elite troops to hunt and kill him (Consider reading 1 Samuel as a short story.) After David killed Goliath, Saul kept David close, made him chief commander and his son-in-law. But soon, filled with fear and jealous insecurity he plots to kill David. In this episode, David and Abishai have the chance to kill Saul but David refuses; “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Contrast David’s wisdom, constraint and wit with Abishai, who though brave and faithful is quick to act rashly without thought. Have you ever felt condemned by someone you trusted? How does David deal with his desire for revenge? What qualities does David use that might help us in our relationships with people in authority?

2] Continuing his teaching on Resurrection St Paul says that when Jesus rose from the dead, he became ‘life-giving spirit’ releasing the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world. Our human body grows throughout life. While not describing our resurrected bodies, Paul makes it clear that real transformation takes place. Remember Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and was never the same again. When we enter relationship with God, a real encounter takes place and in some way the mystery of becoming part of the body of Christ transforms us, while also allowing for us to continue to grow more deeply into the perfect image of the ‘heavenly one’. As you reflect on that mystery what do you most want to ask God for? What area of your life needs transforming? How do you need to grow, in order to become more like Christ?
3] The sermon on the mount continues with very challenging teaching from Jesus. The Gospel is in some sense acted out in the story of David and Saul. What links do you see between the two readings?
4] When you reflect on the Gospel what teaching stands out most for you? Talk with God about why that strikes you and what area of your life, God is inviting you to open to His transforming life-giving Spirit?
5] The so called ‘golden rule’ says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Abuse in any form is an abomination. How can we adhere to these radical teachings of Christ and still stay safe, respecting our own bodies and needs in the face of violence or abuse? How can we be merciful to those enduring violence and ill treatment?
6] The Jews listening to Jesus despised the Romans because they were occupying their land and controlling their freedom. Soldiers routinely insulted Jews demanding they carry their loads, give up their cloaks and worse. So, the teaching to ‘love your enemies and do good to them’ was profoundly shocking. Jesus explains that our mercy needs to be abundant like Gods. A merchant who gives a ‘good measure’ pours grain into your container, presses it down, shakes it, presses, shakes and fills again. As a result, your contents are compressed. You continue receiving grain until your container is literally running over the sides ‘into your lap.’ You only pay for that one container but it gets filled with far more than seems possible. Use your imagination in prayer and see yourself receiving from God like that. How does it feel? Ask God for the grace to give and forgive like that?
7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ.
Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com     Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Trust in the Lord and Live the Beatitudes 6th Sunday Year C  

Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20, Gospel: Luke 6:17,20-26
See the source image

Reflection Questions

1] Jeremiah shares a blessing and curse prophecy which is frequent in the Old Testament. It is designed to wake us up and help us think. He warns against trusting in mere mortals. Even powerful personalities can lead us astray. Only the Lord is worthy of our trust and when we invite God to guide our lives, even disaster won’t destroy us. Allow your imagination to ponder the two images – a barren bush in the dry salty desert versus a tree always bearing fruit beside a stream. What strikes you as you see yourself in these images?

2] Trust and fear are often linked. What do you most fear losing in life? Talk to God about how that impacts your trust.

3] St Paul speaks to some in Corinth who do not believe in the Resurrection. They struggle to believe that our bodies could be glorified in heaven. St Paul makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection is central to our Faith which becomes ‘most pitiable’ unless we believe Jesus is Lord. His birth, life and teaching, death, resurrection and ascension are one continuous salvation event. God reveals his eternal love and desire that we be with Him forever and then provides the way where we become one with Christ through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. As you reflect on your Baptism provides the way through Baptism and the Holy Spirit; we die to our old self under the water and rise to new life, becoming one with Christ. Reflect on your Baptism. What links can you see between Baptism and Resurrection? N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’ Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” How do you react to that statement?

4] We never say Jesus ‘has’ risen. We proclaim, ‘Jesus IS Risen’. “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Our belief in the resurrection of our bodies (Creed) is established through the Resurrection of Christ. How deep is your conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and how does that impact your daily choices and decisions? Who do you really put your trust in? Talk with God about your belief or struggles. Try praying, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

5] Jesus has just spent the night in prayer, chosen the twelve (his team!) and he sits them down. The stage is set for his most important teaching: the Beatitudes. Nowhere in Luke does the Gospel challenge us so severely. What are my ultimate pursuits? What world order am I living for? What measurement system of success am I committed to? Am I on the side of the poor and hungry or the rich and the full? What does your lifestyle and actions show? Are you good news to the poor? (note Luke means primarily economically poor not the tamer ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew). We sometimes speak of these teachings as “BE-Attitudes”. It seems that the choices we make ‘now’ will impact us for eternity. What do you think Jesus means?

6] The Beatitudes bring together a clashing of two ideas and worldviews. It causes a conflict within us. All things being equal, to have riches and to be full is a good. But the reality of our world is inequality. The status quo is unacceptable for God and Jesus’ disciples. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes does not let Christians off the hook. There will be a radical reversal of fortune in God’s judgement. Woe to you who are rich, filled, who can laugh now. How can I proclaim,
‘Jesus is Lord’ with integrity and not take this teaching seriously?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ. Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com       Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Put Out Into the Deep

See the source image

Reflection Questions

Is 6:1-2a, 3-8, 1 Cor 15:1-11 or 15:3-8, 11. Gospel Lk 5:1-11

• Isaiah shares his vocation call from God. His response of feeling unworthy ‘I have unclean lips’, God’s healing response ‘your sin is purged’ and his response ‘Here I am, send me!’. Call, resistance, healing, acceptance, is the common pattern of vocation. What is your personal vocation story and what ‘stage’ are you at? What fear would have to be dissolved before you could genuinely say to God; Here I am…. Send me!?

• St Paul is writing to the Corinthian community which was beginning to practice a ‘selective Christianity’. They discarded teaching which they did not like. Some could not accept the teaching of the resurrection because they thought matter was evil and spirit was good. They are reminded that Christian teaching can be traced back to Jesus, from the scriptures, from the Apostles – and Paul himself is faithful to their teaching. Are there elements of the Church’s teaching you want to be ‘selective’ about? Who could you talk with to find out more about the ‘why’ of the Church’s teaching?

• Paul says of himself that he was ‘abnormally born’. It took a while for Paul to be able to meet and share faith with the apostles. They were possibly afraid of  him (he did persecute Christians!) and he was a little uneasy if he and his teachings would be accepted. Have you wanted to share your faith journey with a friend or spiritual director? Studies have shown people who share their faith grow more deeply in their discipleship journey. Who would you be willing to share with?

• Simon was using ‘reasonable thinking’ suggesting to Jesus that it was not a good idea to go fishing. He had plenty of evidence that it wasn’t going to work. But
he moved beyond ‘reason’ to ‘risk’. ‘At your command I will lower the nets’. Is there a word, experience, invitation from God recently which you need to be obedient to? What is the fear that stops you from taking a ‘risk’?

• Isaiah, St Paul and Peter all share their human experience of frailty, guilt, unworthiness. Paul even refers to his feeling ‘abnormally born’! God uses this
painful self-awareness positively and it is important to notice that God is not afraid of our human weakness. In God’s eyes, only those who have tasted personal
frailty are ready for pastoral leadership. “Do not be afraid.” Consider what it would be like to live and make decisions not based in fear. What would you do, how would you live?

• In the Greek, the text hints at ‘catching people alive’. The special use of words points to catching people to lead them into the fullest life. Do you consider leading people to Jesus as joyful and life-giving? Do you presume people will come to you rather than having to go to them in the ‘deep water’? Where is the ‘deep water’ for you at the moment?

• Luke inserts a particular word more than the other gospel writers. ‘Everything’. He will repeat this phrase 8 times. What would it mean for you to let go of
‘everything’ so that you are free to ‘follow him’?

• 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 download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide 4th Sunday Year C: Delivered From Rejection for Mission

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19, 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13, Gospel Luke 4:21-30

See the source imageReflection Questions

• Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet’ because people did not listen to his message (King Jehoiakim even burned one of Jeremiah’s manuscripts).
He experienced God’s word deeply and in the midst of false ‘prosperity prophets’ who declared God was looking favorably on his people and good times were
coming, Jeremiah shares his personal call and his preparedness for rejection. What is the challenge of being a ‘prophet to the nations’ like Jeremiah today? Do you feel formed and called by God to stand up for (or against) something in society? What has been your response so far? What happened?

• St Paul continues discussing the ‘elitist’ problem in the Corinthian community. Some people were setting themselves apart as a ‘spiritual elite’ with boastful talk of their charisms and gifts. Gifts and charisms mean nothing if love is absent. Evaluate your life by the qualities of love in the second reading: Are you patient? Kind. Jealous? Proud? Resentful? Do you take offence easily? Gossip? Delight in truth? Forgiving, trusting, and hopeful? What aspect of your character could you invite the holy spirit to help you with?

• St Paul uses a special word (agape) for love. It is not a sexual love (eros) or a family love (philia). Agape is a quality of love that is given regardless of a
response. Agape love is loving like God loves. In what ways and in what relationships do you show ‘agape’ love? Do you recognise people in need constitute God’s agape call to us?

• Jesus continues to speak to his home-town. In an ‘honour and shame’ culture of the ancient Middle East, an expectation is placed over Jesus to bring honor, glory, acclaim to Nazareth. Be our ‘local’ prophet, set up a healing station here in Nazareth like you have been doing at Capernaum. Bring in the tourists! Their
attitude and concern is reputation rather than conversion. Jesus confronts them. In what ways does ‘reputation’ take priority over ‘conversion’ in your life? When was the last time you experienced the ‘cost’ of discipleship like Jeremiah and Jesus?

• Jesus identifies himself with the mission of the great prophets of Elijah and Elisha who were sent out to nearby gentile lands (Sidon) and people (Naaman the Syrian) which infuriates them. They react violently to the idea that God’s favor is also for the gentiles and not exclusively to Israel. Why do you think removing barriers and cultural walls meets resistance? What is beneath the categories of right / wrong, clean / unclean?

• The ‘community’ at Nazareth limit Jesus by confining him to be ‘Joseph’s son’. Have you experienced the support of family, friends and community and then as time goes on, recognise the limitations people’s perception puts on you? Do you feel called to ‘break out’ of ‘reputation’ and move toward ‘doing the will of God’? What obstacles do you face? How will you respond to people ‘springing to their feet and trying to throw you off the cliff’?

• 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 download and resources are created by Marist Fr Frank Bird sm,  and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.  www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Year C, Sunday Week 3. Jesus’ Mission-Our Mission

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27,  Gospel Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Reflection Questions

• In the first reading the People of God were returning from exile in Babylon. They were a band of refugees returning to their ‘religious’ home. Nehemiah was their leader helping the community to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. Ezra was their priest leading the community in listening to the ‘laws’ of
God. Ezra is known for strict adherence to the laws of Moses and not allowing intermarriage. The people cry because they hear the law and have it interpreted
for them so that they understand. Is there an area of the Church’s teaching which you may need to hear and have interpreted for you? What is it? Who could
you ask for help? Why do you think Ezra tells them to eat and drink?

• St Paul continues teaching the community about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some of the community thought they were ‘better’ than others because they had the gift of tongues. St Paul teaches the gifts of the spirit serve the community and help it to truly be the ‘body’ of Christ in the world. Do you feel your gifting for serving the Church is in the head (teaching), heart (caring), hands (serving), feet (missionary) of the Church? Are you accepting and celebrate your gifts or are you ‘jealous’ of others? How could you share your gifting this week? This year? In your Parish?

• In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ‘public’ ministry to the most difficult group – his hometown! Jesus is clear and bold in his vision. Do you have a clear sense of mission and purpose in your life and service of God? Jesus uses 50 words, what would you write in 50 words for your personal mission statement as you begin the year?

• The ‘Lord’s year of favour’ is the 50th year (the Jubilee Year as established in Leviticus 25). Debts were cancelled, prisoners and slaves freed, land was
returned to its original family ownership. The whole financial, social and political structure was renewed. The Jewish people called this the ‘Tikkan Olam’ meaning ‘the repair of the world’. Repairing the world is an essential part of the work of the Church and every follower of Jesus. Allow this idea to enter your
imagination for a moment. Do you consider ‘healing the world’ as part of your consciousness and job description as a follower of Jesus? What area of need
in the world ‘attracts you’ -calls out to you? What has been your response so far?

• This year we will journey with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. A focus for Luke is Jesus’ care and attention to those who are hurting, excluded, ‘downtrodden’. If
you were to look about in your family, community, wider society, who do you notice has been knocked over and hurt by life… and is now ‘trampled on’ by the
invisible hidden foot of societies structures? The Gospel of Luke is also known as the ‘Gospel of Mercy’. Mercy comes from the Hebrew word for ‘womb’. Will you be moved to compassion for those in need? Information without application is fascination. Information with application is transformation. Will the Gospel of Luke transform you this year?

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

Discussion Guide: Do Whatever He Tells You

See the source image

Is 62:1-5, 1 Cor 12:4-11, Gospel, Jn 2:1-11

Reflection Questions

• This Sunday marks the beginning of ‘Ordinary’ Time. The season of Christmas has ended. Isaiah is among the group of Jewish exiles who return to Jerusalem
(Zion). They see a city in ruins. Some wish to return to Babylon. Isaiah sees in hope and envisions a city shining beautifully ‘like a burning torch’. When some think ‘Forsaken’ Isaiah thinks ‘My delight’. When some see ‘desolate’ Isaiah sees ‘Married’. As you look at Yourself, the Church and the World, what do you ‘see’? How do you think God ‘sees’ You, the Church, the World? Do you need to move from self condemning thoughts to rejoicing thoughts? Imagine God wanting to dance and rejoice with you as if in a marriage dance. What are your feelings…..

• St Paul is concerned about people in the Corinthian community who consider only Christians who have the gift of tongues have great spiritual powers. Self righteous people have hurt others in the community. St Paul wants to heal the community and remind people there are many gifts – (and he places tongues last!). What gifts have you noticed within you? In others? What area of need in the Church matches your passion, energy and ‘gifts’?

• Mary was attentive to the ordinary needs of people around her. She noticed ‘They have no wine’ and had compassion for them. She knew it would bring shame on the family. How attentive are you to the everyday needs of people around you? Mary invited Jesus to help. Have you ever invited someone to do something and their response was ‘I’m not quite ready’. Its not the right time. Mary encourages Jesus into public ministry – and doesn’t get put off with his response! Jesus reminds her his ‘hour’ is something deeply personal between him and the Father. Have you reached a point in life when your ‘hour’ is near? Is it time to commit to a public witness of your faith? To ministry. Single life. Marriage. Religious life. Priesthood? Will you listen to the Father? Have you had a ‘Mary’ person ask and invite you into service? What was your response?

• Huge water jars were used for purification and ritual cleansing. The servants were told by Mary to ‘do whatever he tells you.’ They were not asked to perform the miracle. They were simply asked to do what they knew how to do; but to do it when they did not understand why. They ‘filled the jars to the brim’. Their obedience and commitment to service allowed the miracle of super-abundant wine to be revealed. When we serve God with what we know how to do even when it seems insignificant, Gods abundant grace fills not only us with wonder but provides amazing grace for others. Name a time you were asked to go the extra mile and do something apparently simple, then saw God work in a special way for others? What was that like for you? For them?

• The Jewish people had a prophecy that the Messiah would bring an abundance of great wine. Jesus’ first public ‘sign’ in the Gospel of John is to enter a marriage ceremony and replace water with at least$15,000 of the best wine ever tasted. What do you think this reveals for the Church? For you? For John, a ‘sign’ points to a deeper reality. What is the difference between ‘water’ and ‘wine’? Water is life-giving and cleansing. Wine is fermented for celebration and joy. Is your spiritual journey more like water or wine? Do you ‘believe’?

• 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 download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and Bev McDonald, Facilitator of Marist Laity NZ
www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide Baptism of the Lord: You are Chosen and Called

Is 42:1-4, 6-7, Acts 10:35-38, Gospel LK 3:15-16, 21-22

See the source image

Reflection Questions

• The prophet Isaiah speaks often of the promise that God will send a Messiah. Today’s prophecy foretells Jesus’ coming. Celebrating Jesus’ Baptism we learn also of our own ‘job description’ to live following Jesus’ lifestyle and example in the world. Have you made your baptism personal and meaningful? What does it mean for you to be: ‘chosen’, ‘upon whom I have put my spirit’, ‘bring forth justice’. Called personally for the ‘victory of justice’. Have you recognised God trying to take you by the hand and form you, ask you to be an example and light for others? Transform peoples lives who are blind and suffering in darkness?

• Acts 10 is a very important chapter and experience in the life of St Peter. Peter was Jewish and was brought up in strict observance knowing what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. Non Jews (Gentiles / Greeks) were considered ‘unclean’. If you entered their home or ate with them you became ‘unclean’. Peter is told by God to go into Cornelius’ home (He was a Gentile and a despised Roman soldier!). Peter has a significant conversion of the mind… ‘people of every nation are acceptable to God’. Who do you consider to be ‘clean’ ‘unclean’? What obstacles did Peter have to overcome to go into Cornelius’ house? What obstacles do you have to overcome?

• It was a custom for disciples to carry the masters sandals. It was a sign of discipleship. The image John shares is he is not even worthy to bow down and undo the sandals of Jesus. The holiness and distinctiveness between John and Jesus is emphasised. Why?

• Historical and theological writing is present in this Baptism scene of Jesus. Isaiah had cried out to God in the Old Testament – open the heavens and come down! Now the clouds are pushed apart, the spirit of God descends and God’s voice is heard. Here he is! The Messiah. The promised one. My Son. Imagine being  at this scene. Imagine this is your baptism scene. What do you feel? Think? Fulfilling the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah, do you accept your baptismal ‘job description’?

• You may have been too young to remember your own baptism. It does not mean that you cannot now become conscious of what happened and what it means ‘today’. A special prayer was prayed over you as part of your anointing, you were ‘Christed’ to be a Priest, Prophet and King. Your call as a Lay Disciple is to be

  1. • Priest – bring the world to God and God to the world
  2. • Prophet – listen to the scriptures and speak God’s word of comfort and challenge to the world
  3. • King – to lead the world not follow the world.

• How could you grow in awareness and expression of your God-given calling?

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

Discussion Guide: Rise Up-Make Christ Known.

Reflection Questions

• Epiphany is the Greek word meaning to ‘show’ or ‘make manifest’. The Magi from the East (coming from the Greek word for people of special knowledge) pay homage to Jesus. This symbolises all nations recognising Jesus as King and Lord. If you had to write a story to teach the truth about Jesus what truths would you seek to include? How could the Church make Christ known more creatively today? What is the most creative Christian evangelisation message you have seen lately?

• Isaiah makes a beautiful prophecy which is fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew story and the Magi today. God’s chosen people have just returned from exile and their country and beautiful city of Jerusalem and its Temple are in ruins. Isaiah begins with the image of Jerusalem as a woman lying down in defeat. ‘Rise up Jerusalem! Your light has come.’ As we enter the beginning of the New Year how could you experience ‘rising up’ to your most beautiful self? How could you help the Church ‘rise up’ and make Christ known? What would it take for you to be radiant and your heart throb with joy and pride in the Church
community? What will you do?• Epiphany is the Greek word meaning to ‘show’ or ‘make manifest’. The Magi from the East (coming from the Greek word for people of special knowledge) pay homage to Jesus. This symbolises all nations recognising Jesus as King and Lord. If you had to write a story to teach the truth about Jesus, what truths would you seek to include? How could the Church make Christ known more creatively today? What is the most creative Christian evangelisation message you have seen lately?

• Isaiah makes a beautiful prophecy which is fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew story and the Magi today. God’s chosen people have just returned from exile and their country and beautiful city of Jerusalem and its Temple are in ruins. Isaiah begins with the image of Jerusalem as a woman lying down in defeat. ‘Rise up Jerusalem! Your light has come.’ As we enter the beginning of the New Year how could you experience ‘rising up’ to your most beautiful self? How could
you help the Church ‘rise up’ and make Christ known? What would it take for you to be radiant and your heart throb with joy and pride in the Church community? What will you do?

• Paul states very clearly a mind-shattering truth: ‘the gentiles are coheirs’. Jewish people thought of and treated ‘gentiles’ as ‘unclean’. Paul says they are ‘clean’ and ‘co-partners’ in the inheritance of God’s promises and family. What adjustments in mind, heart, and action, would take place if God revealed to you that everyone was clean and equal and a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ to you and you were all part of the same family? Imagine what life- style change this would
involve. Are you willing to try? Can you glimpse this is the central gospel message of Jesus?

• In ancient times a new star was thought to indicate a new leader being born. The Magi are on a journey of seeking God. They have knowledge. Resources. Time. All that the world declares is necessary for fulfilment. Yet they are hungry for something more. What is currently guiding your life? Would you say you are thirsty, hungry, searching? How and where do you find Jesus today?

• The three gifts presented reveal the identity of Jesus. Gold for a king. Frankincense for a priest whose role is to pray and send prayers to God in heaven. Myrrh pointing toward Jesus’ sacrifice and death and future burial. As the new year begins what personal ‘gifts’, ‘talents’, are you willing to ‘give’ in service to God? Consider the deeper meaning of homage and surrender. How could you express a deeper commitment to following Jesus? What change of direction would you like to make to imitate the Magi?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Livingtheword weekly download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Feast of the Holy Family

Reflection Questions

• Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. Each of the readings provides a reflection on how family life is lived so as to lead us into ‘holiness’.
• The Book of Wisdom – or Sirach – arrives at a reflection on the commandment to Honor one’s Parents. Implied is a respectful relationship between Parents
and children. The covenant relationship with God is mirrored in relationship to Parents. This relationship is indicated by prayer and obedience, forgiveness and justice. Consider the ups and downs Mum and Dad have been through in raising your family. How do you currently show and practice ‘thankfulness’? As Parents grow old, ‘the mind fails’ what do you do that may ‘grieve them’? How do you show ‘kindness’?
• Family life has struggles and difficulties. The Community of Colossae that Paul is writing to is struggling greatly with Jewish Christians being open to welcoming ‘Gentiles – Greeks’ into the community ‘family’. ‘Put on’ is referring to the white garment of baptism and the new life of Jesus that we live. Who is included or excluded in your family? Which attitude do you recognise could be practiced more by you in your ‘family’. How could you allow ‘peace’ to control your heart?

• Subordinate – “under” – reflects the customs of the early Roman times. Christians were keen to live by the ‘family code’ to show Roman authorities that they were not dangerous to government. What ‘order’ do you have in the family? Home? How is ‘bitterness’ resolved? What arguments arise over children’s
behaviour and obedience? What attitudes or behaviours ‘provoke’ and ‘discourage’ your children? Does the Word of God dwell richly in your home? Is there any singing and praying and showing gratitude to God?
• Around the age of 12 a young boy would leave the company of Mum and the woman and mix and be led by the Men. Perhaps this transition is reflected in the scene of Jesus getting ‘lost’. Joseph may have thought the boy had gone back to Mum. Mum had pondered the boy was now more the responsibility of Joseph  and he had things under control! Strikingly Jesus is shown as obedient to the will of the Father and sits in the midst of teachers of the law in the Temple to
discover what this ‘will’ involves. Holiness is marked by doing the will of God. What desire or call of love, justice, truth, integrity, self gift is in your heart? What commitment are you called to be faithful to as an expression of the will of God?
• Consider how challenging it was for Mary to say Yes. What challenges did Joseph face in saying Yes? How do Mary and Joseph (Parents) cope with
Jesus identifying his own individual call in choosing ‘the Father’s house’? Do you see the ‘Holy Family’ as exceptional and perfect or can you glimpse the normal family struggles of your own family life in them?
• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide Midnight Mass

Readings: Is 9:1-6,  Ti 2:11-14, Gospel Lk 2:1-14

No automatic alt text available.The artist is Gari Melchers. It’s titled The Nativity and was painted in 1891.

Reflection Questions

• Watch ‘The Christmas Story’ http://youtu.be/JSGNJnAGCOc and notice how seeing the birth of Jesus throughthe eyes of children helps you seesome things in a new way. What part of the Christmas story strikes you the most?

• The first reading is a prophecy of Isaiah of war ended, a great leader arising from the family line of King David to bring judgment and justice. Reflect on the images. Walking in darkness then seeing a great light. Going out to pick fruits and produce of the earth and to know your family will be fed with plenty of food. Relief that war has ended and your community and family can now live in safety. Slave tasks of carrying heavy loads has ended. All the evidence and bloodshed of war being removed and burned. How has Jesus’ birth done this? What is the link between Jesus’ birth and death? Instead of military might to change the world, what does Jesus offer?

•Paul’s letter to Titus reminds us that while we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are still consciously living in preparation for his second coming. Christians are called not to retreat from the world but be a ‘sign’ in the world. Would someone watching your life notice that you are being ‘trained’, rejecting godless ways and worldly desires? Living modestly? Courageous in seeking justice? Devout and prayer-full? Eager and ready to do good?

• Caesar Augustus was the most powerful person in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the leader of the Roman Empire. The only superpower of the day. He was given the public title ‘Saviour of the World’ as he had managed to bring peace after 100 years of unrest. Enrolling people involved taking a census. This often meant knowing how many people and how much tax could be charged – to pay for armies and military power! Consequently a census sometimes caused a revolt by citizens. In contrast Luke shares: today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ the Lord, lying in a manger. What do you think Luke is trying to suggest about salvation?

• God’s explosion into human history in the birth of Jesus is not in royal and beautiful surroundings. Christians have romanticised his birth considering it a beautiful event. But the reality was uncomfortable straw. In the midst of animals. Not accepted by his own people in the town of Bethlehem. On the outside of town. On the margins among people on the margins (Shepherds were considered dirty and dishonest!). How does this stretch your attitudes and perceptions
of Christmas. Who does God ‘favour’?

• 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 download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org