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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Discussion Guide:  4th Sunday Advent Yr. B – Can you say ‘YES’ to God?

 

Luke 1:26-38 Birth of Jesus Foretold

Reflection Questions:Advent Story. A Kitten at Christmas. A Catholic couple were celebrating Christmas Eve. The wife invited her husband to Midnight mass, but he declined. He thought he would instead stay at home on this cold night, watch television, and they could have a christmas drink when she returned. His wife left early to attend christmas carols and shortly after he heard a noise at the front door. Opening the back door he noticed a cold and wet kitten. He reached toward it but it cried in fear and retreated further away. He pondered to himself how he could help comfort this poor kitten. He got some milk from the fridge, poured it into a plate, showed the kitten and placed it just inside the door. He hoped to welcome the kitten into the warm and dry room of his house. The kitten continued its crying. He tried again to reach out to it. But the kitten interpreted these actions fearfully and moved further away into the cold. As the man continued to ponder how he could truly communicate positively with this kitten it dawned on him that he would need to become like this kitten. Suddenly he realised what God had done. He jumped into his car to attend midnight mass and whispered to his wife: for the first time Iʼve realised Christmas is God born among us in Jesus to help us!

•King David had unified the tribes of Israel by bringing the ‘ark’ (the special wooden box containing the tablets of the 10 commandments) to Jerusalem. He now thought he would build a Temple to give a proper ‘home’ to God. Nathan went along with this plan but God had to intervene. God describes 11 times (I…) what he has done. God has intervened in history – not the other way around! As you approach the end of the year and consider what you would like to do next year have you consulted God in prayer? Is there someone like Nathan who could help you?

• Paul writes of a ‘mystery kept secret for long ages’ but now made public to all nations bringing about obedience of faith. Is your faith in Jesus ‘secret’ or ‘public’? At your own level of comfort, how could you witness to being a believer and follower of Jesus? Could you invite someone to Christmas carols? Midnight Mass? Mention Jesus at your family gathering?

• God zooms in from eternity to a historical place (Galilee), to a town (Nazareth), to a person (Mary), engaged to a descendant of the King of David (Joseph). Here is a scriptural window into the most significant historical event of eternity. God, through the angel, awaits Mary’s response. What part of Mary’s experience can you identify with the most?

• Mary saying Yes to God’s calling and birthing Jesus into the world at Christmas is also symbolic of every disciple. Have you ever had a ‘God’ moment, a sense of a significant job God has planned for you, and then ‘the angel departed’. It was over. Are you living in obedience? Forgetfulness? Laziness? Fear?

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

Discussion Guide:   3rd Sunday Advent Yr.B – Rejoice! Presence or presents?

 

3rd Sunday of Advent Year B: Rejoice! Presence or Presents? « livingtheword

Reflection Questions:  • Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday when the Pink candle of the Advent Wreath is lit. The third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the entrance antiphon – ‘Rejoice’. This theme is found in the first two readings. We are reminded that the joyful coming of Christ is drawing nearer. Christmas celebrates presence with presents.

• Isaiah gives us the prophetic text which Jesus himself uses as his mission and identity statement in Luke (4:16). It speaks of bringing people back home, releasing them from slavery and imprisonment in foreign lands. A ‘year of favour’ was the 50th ‘Jubilee Year’ practice of forgiving all debts and return of all land back to its original family. What a beautiful revolution! What aspect of Jesus’ mission could you practice this Christmas? With family?

• The marriage covenant image of God marrying his people is beautifully presented. In Christ – at Christmas -Heaven is now wedded to Earth. What does it mean? Do you truly rejoice?

•The call to holiness is repeated again as we journey toward the Second Coming (Advent continuously refuses to separate the first and second coming of Jesus). The Second Reading becomes like a spiritual ‘health – check’. Do you: Rejoice? Pray frequently? Give thanks in the ups and downs? Pursue the will of God? Stop the spirit? Avoid opportunities for God to speak? Filter good and evil influences upon your life? Hold fast to what is good? Turn from evil? Perhaps this ‘check list’ may help you in Advent preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation.

• Week 2 and 3 of Advent present the figure of John the Baptist. He is the one announcing the public arrival of the Messiah – Jesus. Like a Herald announcing a King, the intention is to ensure readiness and welcome. Jewish custom expected Elijah and a prophet like Moses to return to make this announcement. Religious leaders are confused. What do you make of this ‘debate’? The Gospel writer John neatly plays on words with John saying ‘I am not’ which will later contrast with Jesus’s repeated statements I AM (the divine name received by Moses on Mt Sinai). Does John the Baptist stir you to ‘get ready’. If not, what would it take? What are you waiting for?

• The image of sandals actually teach us about Jesus. It was a custom for disciples to carry the sandals of their teacher. But only a slave would untie the sandals and wash feet. John proclaims that Jesus is so holy that he is not ‘fit’ to be even considered a slave in the presence of Jesus. It is a reference to the holiness of God. We touch the awesome reality of Christmas: God is birthed – enfleshed – among us in Jesus. Do you get it?

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

 

Discussion Guide: 2nd Sunday Advent Yr. B: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’

 

 

La Salle Academy–All About Community | La Salle Academy Ruminations

Reflection Questions: • Isaiah chapters 40-55 are known as the ‘Book of Comfort’. The prophet is speaking encouraging words to the exiles as they return home and seek to rebuild their lives and the Temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah is also known as the ‘carrier of the hope of the Messiah’. Foretelling a time when God will come among his people. Can you see the prediction of John the Baptist and Jesus in the reading from Isaiah? What image speaks personally to you on your advent journey?

• 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. 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?

• The 2nd Letter of Peter is regarded as possibly the latest of the New Testament Letters. Obviously they are concerned with the delay of Jesus. Peter teaches God’s final judgement is not based upon human calendars. While Peter uses the popular belief of the time of a final ‘fire’ at the end of time, he also emphasises the need for good behaviour and ‘righteousness’ (whereas gnostics did
not consider there would be a future judgment and therefore immorality was irrelevant). Would Christ’s coming find you ‘eager to be found without spot’? At peace? What is the source of your ‘dis-ease’?

• Today we hear the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel we will listen to for the rest of the Year. Mark immediately shares the ‘secret’ in the first line. We are about to hear ‘gospel’ (good news about a victory battle over evil) done by Jesus Christ. He is the one who reveals by words, actions of power, that he has all the attributes of God = Son of God. Is your interest raised? Consider spending a few hours to read Mark (the shortest gospel) for Advent.

• To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to ‘proclaim’ the imminent 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). A new rescuing by God is taking place. John is painted to be like the great prophet Elijah who was to return to prepare for the ‘great day of the Lord’. Who has been a holy witness and ‘prophet’ like John the Baptist for your journey? Who could you be a holy witness for this advent calling them back to God?

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

 

Discussion Guide:   1st Sunday Advent Yr. B – Be Alert!

 

How Soon Will Jesus Return? Living in the Last Days | Desiring God

Reflection Questions:  • The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and a new Year (the Gospel of Mark). The readings turn us to the theme of ‘waiting’ and being ‘ready’. As the Christmas season and advertising moves us toward end of year celebrations and shopping for gifts be encouraged to intentionally plan time for waiting daily in prayer, and becoming spiritually awake’ through receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.

• The Isaiah passage today is a prayer of Lament. The purpose of this type of prayer was to remember how things ‘were’ and then contrast them with things ‘now’ – with the large ‘gap’ causing a psychological crisis. It aimed at giving both sides (God and People) a ‘kick start’ into action. The large ‘job’ God’s people needed to do was to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. What do you need to do to get ‘started’ on your journey closer to God this Advent? What image speaks to you: come down from the heavens, polluted rags, withered leaves, the potter and the clay? Share with God…

• Paul’s letters always start with a warm greeting. Later in his letter to the Corinthians he will warn them that although they are ‘not lacking in any spiritual gift’ (many were celebrating and boasting of gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy etc) it had turned into a competition. Pride had turned them away from Purpose. ‘You were  called to fellowship with Jesus’. What change do you desire this Advent?

• Instead of starting at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we begin at the end: The Parable of the Doorkeeper. It is Jesus’ final words to the disciples. He is the ‘man travelling abroad’ and his disciples are ‘servants in charge’, gatekeepers told to be ‘on watch’. The Master expects to return and find his ‘house’ in proper order. What would Jesus find if he returned now to the home of your ‘heart’? Your family / home? Your Parish Community? Do you feel a ‘servant responsibility’ to make the Master’s home ‘ready’?

• The Advent challenge of being watchful and alert in ‘waiting’ is problematic. Watching and waiting can be boring. The command to ‘watch!’ could also be understood to watch out for opportunities to live as Jesus commanded us (remember last week: feeding the hungry, hospitality to the stranger….) so as to be found ‘ready’. Examine the past week and explore what you have ‘seen’. How could you be more watchful and alert to seeing Jesus hidden in daily events of your life this week?

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

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

See the source image

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

Image result for Fisher of Men Scripture

 

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?

Image result for Joseph and the Angel

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

Image result for 3rd sunday advent year a

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