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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Discussion Guide: 17th Sunday Yr. A: What Is Your Treasure?

 

Pearl of Great Price - Part 5 - Pocket Fuel Parable Series

Reflection Questions:   

• Solomon is not simply having a ‘dream’. The last person to possibly take his kingship (Shimei see 1Kings 2, 8) has now died so Solomon is now truly King. He has also just married the King of Egypt (Pharoah’s) daughter! Solomon’s power and political responsibilities are immense. He makes a special journey to Gibeon, a very special ‘high place’ and altar. With him he presents 1000 burnt offerings on the altar! (1Kings 3:4). The intensity of his prayer and yet his humility is striking. You have made me. I am your servant. I have the responsibilities of a King. Yet I am young. I don’t know what to do. Give me an ‘understanding heart’. What would your deepest and most heart-felt prayer be to God as God asks you: ‘Ask something of me’.

• The journey of life involves ‘ups and downs’. It takes great faith to trust that ‘all things work for good for those who love God’. Consider a difficult life experience. How has it ‘worked for your good’? Have you allowed it to mould you closer ‘to the image of his Son’?

• The phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ is the idea Jesus most talked about in the gospels. Having a heart for the poor. A desire and commitment to see that all are ‘included’. Fighting all systems that exclude and oppress. The compassion and forgiveness offered to us by God. These can be ‘ideas’ or ‘lived realities’. A treasure ‘thought about’ or a ‘treasure possessed’. Being possessed by ‘The Kingdom’ comes at a cost because it invites us into a complete transformation of our life. Compare your lifestyle with Jesus in the Gospels. What attracts you?What do you need to ‘let go’? What risk are you being invited to take?

• Filled with joy, the person in the parable sells all that he owns to buy it. The treasure (the kingdom) has now possessed him! Have you ever had an experience where something you valued is now considered ‘worthless’. How did your heart change ‘attachment’? What do you truly ‘love’ and would be willing to ‘sell all that you have’ for its possession? Are the top ‘values’ that steer your life Kingdom values or Worldly values?

• As in previous Ch 13 parables, Jesus includes a subversive challenge. There will be a judgment at the end of time based on how we have lived. Have we chosen and lived for the Kingdom and lived ‘rightly’ (righteously)? Or have we been ‘wicked’, consciously or unconsciously not contributing to justice and God’s plan for all? If the final judgement was to take place within a few months what would this cause you to do?

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

Reflection Guide: Good Friday Readings are HERE

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Ponder the Good Friday Scripture and Liturgy

  • Considering the times we are living through, ponder Gods mercy, plan and protection by reflecting on the Good Friday Opening Prayer:
    Remember your mercies, O Lord, and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants, for whom Christ your Son, by the shedding of his Blood, established the Paschal Mystery. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
  • Even if you cannot attend the Good Friday Liturgy, you can enter into it in silence at home. The Liturgy begins in SILENCE.  It needs no “gathering rite” – it is a continuation of the Eucharist from the night before. It is as though we were “gathered” at Holy Thursday and live the experiences of the apostles and disciples through the watches of the night, we come together for Good Friday at  the foot of the Cross with Mary and the others, then live the silence of Holy Saturday before the joy of the Easter Vigil.  These three Easter services actually form one great Liturgy: the Triduum, highlighting that Easter is to the year what Sunday is to the week. The first act of the liturgy is for the Presider and ministers to lay face down before the cross, in silence. How can you prepare for and live this total surrender of your life to God?
  • Perhaps begin the Good Friday celebration by reflecting upon ourselves laying there – with all the feelings we want to identify and pay attention to. Our feelings may not be consistent or even inspiring. I might feel awe, gratitude, guilt, powerlessness, vulnerability all at once. In my silent moment at the beginning of the service, when the Presider lays face down, perhaps I will want to simply open my hands and say “I know this is for me; thank you.”
  • Intercessions for the world take on a powerful poignancy this year as we gather the needs of all before God’s mercy. Prepare for these ancient intercessions by reflection on each of the groups and the great needs of the world. We respond to the invitation with our silent prayer. Then, the Presider prays out loud in our name, first praising God and naming how God has been loving and caring for the person or need we present, then asking for a particular grace. We affirm that prayer with our “Amen.”
  • We adore the cross upon which our Saviour gained salvation of the world. We do that concretely by venerating a representation of the cross, Christs instrument of divine love. When we love someone deeply we treasure the items that meant the most to them and which they shared with us and in like manner we venerate the cross Jesus shared with us. Visiting the place where I grew up, holding a newborn baby, treasuring a gift from a loved one, seeing a photograph or piece of art that stirs my spirit, and a thousand other places and things, all can become “religious” and objects of veneration. We revere and venerate the wood of the cross, because our Savior was nailed there, and gave his life for us there. Preparing for this special veneration on Good Friday is important. We could pray by making the Stations of the Cross, an Online version is at: http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/stations.html We want our gesture to ritualize our acceptance of the love, forgiveness and everlasting life that flows from that cross. Perfect love produces a response of love. We want to feel Jesus’ death on the cross as being “for me,” and then express our gratitude as reverence.
  • Many of us are unable to receive Communion during the Covid19 pandemic. We are experiencing an extended Fast which has the potential to increase our longing for Christ in the Eucharist and lead us to deeper communion and acceptance of our mission as disciples. We are fasting from receiving the Eucharist but we are gathered by the Spirit to re-connect with our celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday even if we could only partake of it through spiritual communion. We do not want to forget what Eucharist means for us. This is the bread of life. This is his self-giving love for us. This is our nourishment for mission.
  • Prayer After Communion.
    Almighty ever-living God, who have restored us to life by the blessed Death, Resurrection of your Christ, preserve in us the work of your mercy, that, by partaking of this mystery, we may have a life unceasingly devoted to you. Through Christ our Lord.
  •  Silence, Again.
    With closing prayer and a blessing, we depart in silence. We are people of faith, who continue to wait for the fullness of salvation. Our conclusion in silence links this celebration to the Easter Vigil, just as our beginning in silence connected us with Holy Thursday. Much of the world is currently experiencing an unusual silence due to the pandemic. In the silence of human activity, the natural world seems to be reawakening. How can silence bring a reawakening in you to the mercy and intimacy God longs to have with you.  How can my silence support the world around me?
  • Good Friday Closing Prayer:
    May abundant blessings, O Lord, we pray, descend upon your people, who have honoured the Death of your Son in the hope of their resurrection: may pardon come, comfort be given, holy Faith increase, and everlasting redemption be made secure.
  • After the celebration, the altar is stripped but the cross remains with two candles lit. Perhaps you may wish to have a special place for a cross and enter into the deepened silence within your home through Easter Saturday as a way of uniting in prayer with Christ in the silence of the tomb for those who are living with enforced silence, through illness, isolation, injustice, poverty or loneliness. 
  • How will you ‘livetheword’ today?

This is an edited version of the Good Friday reflection from Creighton University. It can be found in PDF here

 

Discussion Guide 3rd Sunday Year A Follow Me

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Reflection Questions

• The Prophet Isaiah remarks that the land called ‘District of the Gentiles’ (the area around the sea of Galilee) will see ‘a great light’. Imagine a small narrow road linking one part of the world with the other. This is the ‘Holy Land’ (Israel). It was a very busy trading route. Consequently there were many ‘foreigners’. For Jewish people it sometimes felt like a curse. However in God’s plan the light shines brighter in the darkness. Have you ever experienced being lost in darkness and then helped by a light? What happened. What is Isaiah trying to teach us about God?

• St Paul continues his writing to the people of Corinth. He is upset that their witness and service to Christ has turned towards arguments
rather than charity. Have you ever felt a group of people wanting you to ‘belong’ to ‘their idea’? Have you had an experience of ‘division’ in the community or workplace or parish, people claiming the same purpose but not united in ‘mind’? Did you seek to understand ‘both sides’ and seek unity, or, did you grow division?

• Today in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus leaves his home town of Nazareth and arrives in Galilee. Fulfilling the 1st Reading prophecy of Isaiah,
Jesus spends most of his 3 years of public ministry between 3 towns in Galilee. As the new year begins do you feel it is time to leave your
‘Nazareth’, your place of comfort, and enter ‘Galilee’ to undertake a new challenge? How could you be a light to ‘people who sit in darkness? Those overshadowed by death, sickness, sadnees?

• In the time of Jesus, the phrase Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God were special. Everyone was waiting for the time when God
would finally overcome the power of evil. Essentially Jesus begins preaching a ‘wake up’ call: ‘change your mind (repent), take notice, God is now showing victory over evil! This is the good news. Have you ever noticed Jesus both preaches and heals. Words and actions go together. How does your life bring the kingdom of heaven and contribute to the overcoming of evil? Is your faith words and actions?

• Fishing was the main industry around the sea of Galilee. Peter, Andrew, James and John were probably not ‘poor’. Boats, nets,
family, work colleagues, commitments and bank accounts are significant for them (and us!). Yet they are placed second to Jesus’ invitation to follow. Is the presence of your life curing and comforting (disease and illness?) or comfortable and callous? If you had to write a sentence of what you thought God would personally like you to do / be, what would you write?

• What is one action that you will do to live the word this week?

Discussion Guide 4th Sunday of Advent Year A. Has Your ‘Yes’ to Jesus changed your Life?

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Reflection Questions

• The 4th Sunday of Advent points excitedly to the next few days – the birth of Jesus. In the final days before Christmas how could you achieve a balance: writing christmas cards and preparing heart and home for Christ. Attending christmas parties and choosing space and
silence for prayerful listening to God. Buying christmas presents and being a christmas presence? If you were asked to describe your joy at
Christmas what would you say?

• Ahaz was King of the southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah was trying to encourage him not to enter a military agreement with Assyria. Both God and Isaiah hold a conversation with Ahaz. Go on, ask for a sign from God! He declines, most probably because he does not want any sign to change his mind. Is there any decision you have made which you stubbornly refuse to change your mind about yet feel God wants a conversation about it? If you were to ask for a sign from God to guide your future, what would you ask for?

• The ‘sign’ of a young girl of marriageable age (maiden) conceiving and bearing a son ‘Emmanuel’ has been interpreted as a great fulfilment of Gods birth among us in Jesus through Mary. When a sign is given it requires both ‘seeing’ and ‘understanding’. Ponder a ‘sign’ that has changed your life. How has the ‘sign’ of Jesus changed your life?

• Paul frequently introduces himself as ‘a slave’ of Christ Jesus. Being a slave is actually freeing for Paul. The emperor, idols, money, possessions… nothing and nobody is his Master. Only Jesus. He lives in love and for love alone. Jesus, who is God ‘enfleshed’ has the first
call of obedience on his life. Can you glimpse Paul’s joy and freedom? What has God ‘sent’ (the meaning of the word ‘apostle’) you to ‘be’ and ‘do’? Are you free enough to say ‘Yes’?

• While we often remember Mary’s visit by the angel and her ‘Yes’ to God, we can easily miss Joseph also had a visit by an angel (message bearer) in a dream. Without Joseph saying ‘Yes’ Mary and Jesus could both have been killed! (public stoning was the penalty for pregnancy before marriage). Joseph ‘did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him’. Is your life open to being changed and disturbed by ‘an angel’? Have you ever pondered how vulnerable and uncertain is the experience that Mary and Joseph walk into with their combined ‘Yes’s’

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 3rd Sunday Advent: Sorrow and Mourning will Flee

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Reflection Questions

• The 3rd Sunday of Advent is known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’ because a joyful first reading always points to the joy of Christmas about to arrive. The Prophet Isaiah has images of people being returned ‘home’. Isaiah 35 paints a picture of exiles being returned back to Jerusalem. But they were a little scared of all the hard work ahead of rebuilding homes, growing crops. Do you look into the future feeling afraid? Have you been able to see ‘parched land’ this year change to ‘abundant flowers’?

• God ‘saving’ his people is prophesied to take place with wonderful ‘signs’. The blind see, deaf hear, lame leap, mutes sing. Can you imagine these are the most life changing events that could take place for someone. What would need to happen to cause you to ‘leap’ and ‘shout’ for joy? Does Jesus bring this experience into your life? How? Why not? Share this conversation with God for an advent prayer. There are many tragedies in our world today. How do you live in the hope and joy of Christs return in glory, while sharing care & solidarity for the suffering?

• Patience is needed when you wait for someone or something that does not come at the expected time. You quickly realise you need to hold on to a positive attitude or frustration even anger will creep in. Trusting in the faithfulness of a friend, or remembering their strong relationship with you, allows you to endure the hardship and maintain hope that they will arrive. Can you remember an experience of waiting for a friend to arrive? What happened? In your life what gives you confidence and trust in God? What does God’s future coming
mean for you?

• John the Baptist has a special friendship with Jesus. Yet, John is confused. Jesus is not fighting the military powers of Rome. And certainly not breaking John out of his imprisonment. He asks painfully: “Are you really the one we are waiting for”? Jesus refers to the prophesy above of Isaiah. Special signs are being shown but they are different from what people wanted or expected. Do you sit back “waiting” for God or get involved in completing the work of God… helping people regain their life, sight, walk, cleanse peoples lives of a leprous state? Stand by or Stand in for God?

• When people were normally expected to go to the Temple, many walked in another direction out to the ‘desert’ to hear a different message. How could you prepare for Jesus at Christmas differently than you have ever done before? Reconciliation? Shopping? Fasting? Slowing down? Sharing with your children?…

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide and Scripture: How On Fire Are You For God?

Image result for Trinity Holy Spirit FireReflection Questions

The 2nd Sunday of Advent points to a promised leader (Christ) with the ‘spirit of the Lord’ resting on him. Again we are reminded of a difference between Advent and Christmas. Advent is preparing for a second coming ‘presence’, Christmas is celebrating the first coming with ‘presents’. As we seek to prepare our lives, what would it mean for you to ‘judge the poor with justice’? Do you recognise your brother / sister? Is there any charity or need you could donate to or get involved with this advent?

• A wolf living with a lamb, a panther and a goat lying down together, a calf and lion feeding together, a cow friends with a bear symbolise a reconciled and repaired world. This vision sees the country Israel full with the knowledge of God. It will be like a light for all nations. Replacing Israel with your local parish family, your own home, how can you seek healing of broken friendships? Reconciliation with an enemy? How could you make your home be a light this Christmas?

• As the end of the year approaches we are encouraged to give Glory to God by welcoming each other as Christ has embraced us. Consider someone who you ‘refuse to give up on’. What is an attitude and action you will continue to show them?

• To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to cry out and proclaim the arrival. This is the role of John the Baptist. Significantly, John does this at the Jordan river (at the same crossing point Israel left the desert and entered the Promised Land). The scriptures are trying to teach us ‘a new rescuing’ by God is taking place. A ‘washing’ and ‘confessing of sins’ began a process of returning to God. People left Jerusalem and walked over a days journey to meet and listen to John. What journey will you undertake to draw closer to God this advent? Would you like to celebrate the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How could you celebrate this personally and deeply?

• The preparation of a straight road or a royal highway was known to happen in ancient times when a very special person was to visit. Physically, valleys were filled and hills were lowered to make the way smooth and easy. And it was done at great expense! As Advent invites us to make a clear pathway for the Lord, what roadblocks, ditches, hills require the earthmoving equipment of prayer, spiritual direction, reconciliation?

• Have you ever thought in a relationship with a friend or family member that ‘actions speak louder than words’? The Gospel shares with us that we cannot presume to rely on Abraham / Baptism (words alone for salvation). If you fail to produce good fruit you will be cut down and thrown on the fire. How could your life show the good fruit of ‘justice’?

  •   List the attributes of fire? What does ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire’ mean? How on fire are you for God? Pray for God’s renewing fire this week.

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

livingtheword weekly resources by Fr Frank Bird, SM & Bev McDonald ACSD. Distributed by Marist Laity NZ. www.maristlaitynz.orgweb: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com

Discussion Guide with Scriptures for 1st Sunday of Advent Year A is HERE

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Reflection Questions

• The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and a new Year (the Gospel of Matthew). Advent prepares and challenges us to be ready to welcome the second coming of Jesus while also turning us to celebrate and remember with joy the first coming of Jesus. How will you celebrate both Advent and Christmas? What do you do to prepare to welcome someone special? How could you apply those ideas to the 4 Advent weeks of preparing & waiting?

• Isaiah was written during war and injustice. It reveals that the relationship with God impacts all humanity and the environment, not simply our hearts. Swords & spears becoming farming implements suggests the in-breaking of radical peace and love itself; our true hope of trans-formation. Isaiah reminds us that God makes the movement toward us as the Lords house is established and raised up for us. What connections can you see with the hope we have in Jesus’ birth? What does it mean to walk in the paths and the light of the Lord?

•   What does it mean for you to ‘awake from sleep’, ‘put on the armour of light’ and ‘put on the  Lord Jesus Christ’?
•   Jesus uses 3 short parables to wake his hearers. To survive a sudden flood needs preparation. Society encourages overeating, drinking,
and spending on ‘stuff’ at Christmas. What impact does this have on families, communities and the environment? How  does it feel to be a Noah when the world doesn’t appreciate your faith perspective?
•   Imagine discovering that someone you see everyday is different than you believed. Parables  shock to provoke change. Do you want to deepen your relationship with God or go with the crowd and be left alone. God sees us differently.  What deep longings and hopes would divine perception see in you?
•    To stop a thief entering your house you have put in place certain practices or habits (locking doors and windows, turning lights on, having mail collected by a friend…) so that you are ‘always ready’ ‘awake’. What spiritual practices could you commit to help you to constantly keep
‘spiritually awake’? Have you ever been ‘broken into’? What did you change after the theft? What is the wisdom Jesus wants us to apply to daily Christian life?
•    A famous retreat leader had hundreds of excited people waiting for very wise words and deep insights into their problems. He arrived at the microphone and asked: ‘Hands up who wants to go to Heaven?’ Everyone put their hand up. ‘Hands up those who are ready to go now’? No-one put their hand up. He said: you may consider asking yourself why you are not ready… Are you ready?
•    What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: What Does the Kingship of Christ Mean For Me?

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Reflection Questions

• The Feast of Christ the King was initially assigned to the last Sunday in October. In 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the Year to highlight the eschatological (end times) importance of Christʼs ʻKingshipʼ. Would you consider yourself ʻreadyʼ today to meet Christ the King?

• David was anointed and made ʻKingʼ of Israel. But many people in Israel did not want to be like other nations and have a ʻKingʼ. They wanted to have only ʻGodʼ as their ʻrulerʼ. They were cautious of taxes, abuse of power, wealth and excess that often went with earthly ʻkingdomsʼ. David is invited by God to be first a ʻshepherdʼ of people before being a ʻcommander of Israelʼ. What does this show us about God and leadership?

• Paulʼs letter to the Colossians today is an ancient baptismal prayer. Imagine the baptismal scene. Thankful. Being given an inheritance. Transferred from living in darkness to light. Redeemed (returning back to your true family, purchased back from slavery). Forgiven. All of this has happened through Jesus – who makes the ʻinvisible Godʼ visible – the ʻikonʼ / image of God. What word in this baptismal prayer teaches you about your baptism?

• The mystery of Christianity is revealed as it worships itʼs Lord and King today. Instead of a scene of a throne indicating power and authority and judgment, we have Jesus crucified on a cross giving forgiveness. The way Jesus reveals Godʼs ʻkingshipʼ is radically different from the worldʼs power, wealth and honor. Imagine being in the crowd contemplating Jesus (or pray in front of a crucifix!). What questions are stirred up within you? What answers does God reveal to you about leadership. Salvation. Sin. Your life?

• Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! The promised ʻChristʼ (Messiah /Saviour) was supposed to be a strong military leader. Instead Jesus is tortured and dies at the hands of Roman soldiers. Yet mysteriously the soldiers refer to him as ʻthe chosen oneʼ, the ʻChrist of Godʼ, the ʻKing of the Jewsʼ. The scene is gruesome, but with the eyes of faith the reality taking place is ʻgloriousʼ. How would you explain Christʼs death as ʻgloriousʼ?

• Our human nature demands visible signs. We want to know with our own eyes that God has ʻsavedʼ us, forgives us, loves us. How does this crucifixion scene reveal the powerfully hidden way that God is able to work out (y)our redemption? Is God afraid of the mess of our ʻhumanityʼ? Are you?

• The Church places before us the paradox of Christ the KING. Instead of a royal procession, Jesus rode a donkey. Instead of a sceptre of power, Jesus held a towel. Instead of a throne, Jesus was lifted up on a cross. Disciples replaced an army. Thorns replaced a golden crown. Mercy was his judgment. Humble homes his palace. Meals with sinners his preference. Humble sacrifice of life instead of the military sword. We, the Church, are called to exercise this style of ʻleadershipʼ and reflect his ʻimageʼ in the world today? How does this challenge you in your lifestyle? Leadership?

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

Discussion Guide and Scriptures for 32nd Sunday Year C is HERE.

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Reflection Questions

  • The stories of the Mother and 7 Brothers in the book of Maccabees aims to share Jewish Hero stories. While under persecution from Roman Emperors it was helpful to look to examples of great courage and faithfulness to Jewish teaching and tradition. It is best understood not primarily as exact history, but faith lessons taught via story. It was the Maccabean family that stirred up a revolt against Syrian authorities and drove them out of Israel. These young brothers along with their Mum defiantly proclaim their belief in the resurrection. If in the midst of a violent persecution, where would your heart and thoughts turn to?
  • St Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are not to sit idle, waiting for the end of time. They are to do all they can so that the Word of the Lord may speed forward… and keep on ʻdoingʼ what they have been instructed to do by Paul. This requires the endurance of Christʼ. How would you rate your discipleship journey at present. Idle? Speeding forward? What do you require endurance in?
  • Sadducees were the elite priestly class that served in the Temple. They only believed in the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and did not consider other writings or oral traditions as binding. Consequently they did not believe in the Resurrection. They sought to involve Jesus in a conversation that would cause others to ridicule him. Their view of marriage was a Levirate view. Marriage continued the
    family line and stopped a family dying out. Jesus challenges the Sadducees not to think so narrowly. In death we are changed, not ʻdeadʼ. And there is more to marriage than maintaining children. Have you ever considered that Marriage is to symbolise the union we will have with God in heaven? Marriage is a sign pointing to a heavenly reality. When you are in the ʻrealityʼ of the restaurant you no
    longer need the ʻsignʼ for the restaurant.What does this teach you about Christian Marriage?
    • Celibacy and Chastity are connected with Marriage as they seek to live the ʻrealityʼ of union with God in heaven instead of living the ʻsignʼ of God in marriage. Can you see how married people, priests, sisters, brothers, consecrated lay people, are all ʻpointingʼ to the same reality? Have you ever had difficulty understanding the vow of ʻchastityʼ that religious people make? Do you understand a little more now?
    • In celebrating the recent All Souls Day (November 2nd), did it stir up within you thoughts of resurrection and your belief in the after-life. How would you say the Resurrection affects your life ʻnowʼ?
    • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Reflection Guide for 30th Sunday Year C: Smug Self-Righteousness or Humble Authenticity is here

See the source imageDiscussion Questions

• The writer of Ecclesiasticus is Ben Sirach which is why this book sometimes has different names in the Bible.  He was the headmaster of an Academy in Jerusalem that mentored Jewish students in the art of living well. His writings are a collection of the best of Jewish thought and philosophy. It contrasts with Greek culture and thought which accepted a huge gap between the rich and poor, those who were ʻfreeʼ and those who were slaves. Why do you think ʻthe prayer of the lowly pierces the cloudsʼ?

• Paul is writing from Prison in Rome. In his pre-trial hearing Paul shares that there was no-one who came to support him in court. Imagine his loneliness and sense of betrayal! And yet he does not choose to blame or get angry. Scholars suggest Christians in Rome were afraid of persecution if they came to support Paul. Have you had an experience of hurt from those you thought would support and protect you? Can you say like Paul ʻmay it not be held against them!ʼ Paulʼs attention continued to focus on imitating the life of Jesus, being poured out like a libation (offering)ʼ. In your struggles, is your attention on your ʻenemyʼ or ʻJesusʼ? Do you think Paul is being self-righteous or humbly authentic with God and the reader?

• Jesus teaches about prayer and righteousness in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. What do the words of the Pharisee’s prayer reveal about his attitude toward God and sinners? What does it mean to be smugly self-righteous? Authentically humble?

• A Pharisee was a strict observer of the law. Going beyond what was required they fasted 2 days per week (Jews were only required to fast on 1 day a year) and tithed on everything they received (even the goods that had already been ‘tithed’). They were extremely observant. They enjoyed their ʻholyʼ and righteous reputation. Deuteronomy 26 taught Jews to bring a tenth of their produce to the temple, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing, and giving to the Levites,(priests) foreigners, orphans and widows. What has the Pharisee failed to understand about the Law and about God? Is the Pharisee ‘righteous’? Listen around you; who is talked about in disparaging ways, excluded, despised, looked down on? How do you react? Humility is recognizing the truth about yourself, God and others. What are some ways we are tempted to self-righteousness in our culture?

• Tax Collectors (often Jewish) worked with the Roman authorities to collect road charges, goods and sales tax. They made significant profits above their contracted price. They were despised by Jews for being in partnership with the occupying forces. For a tax collector to make amends, they had to pay-back overcharged taxes plus an additional 1/5th. They could never know everyone they’d cheated so could never repair their ‘wrong They often felt their religious situation was hopeless. They could never be forgiven! Name some of the feelings experienced by the tax collector. What is it about the tax collector that you can relate to? How would the Sacrament of Reconciliation help?

• The Pharisee only encountered himself in prayer. He was extremely self-satisfied. Is this prayer? The Tax collector humbly needs God’s  mercy. Why does God listens to the Tax Collector?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org