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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Discussion Guide: Maranatha; Come Lord Jesus.

Mi 5:1-4A, Heb 10:5-10, Gospel Lk 1:39-45

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Reflection Questions

• As Christmas arrives, special passages of scripture are used to guide our understanding of Christmas. This Sunday is the only time that the Prophet Micah is
used for our Sunday Readings. A prophecy 700 years before Jesus points to the little town of Bethlehem, famous as it was the home of Jesse, King David’s
Father. It was from this royal line the Messiah would arrive. Ephrathah was a little and insignificant ‘clan / tribe’. Consider for a moment just how extraordinary is God’s power to guide history and prophecy to fulfillment. How might this help you ‘trust’ in God?
• The Letter to the Hebrews teaches about the significance of Jesus. Holocausts, sin offerings and sacrifices were experiences of Jewish worship in the Temple that were to bring people into union with God ‘according to the law’. Jesus is shown as following the will of God and bringing forgiveness and union with God ‘through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ on the cross. Why Jesus has come among us is pointed out. Do you keep Christmas separated from Easter? Have you noticed cards and decorations easily identify with the joy of a new-born child and the hope of ‘peace’ but prefer to leave out the next step of the sacrifices involved in ‘I come to do your will, O God?’ What is the will of God inviting you to do?’

•This gospel scene of Mary ʻvisitingʼ Elizabeth aims to show us more than the greeting of two expectant mothers or that Mary is a caring young woman to her
older cousin. Behind this scene are layers of stories. Mary, a ʻnew motherʼ (New testament) stands before Elizabeth an ʻold motherʼ (Old Testament). Behind
Elizabeth is her husband, Zechariah the High Priest of the (old) Temple. Within the Temple rests the ʻArk of the Covenantʼ where the 10 commandments were kept in a special box (Ark) called the ʻMercy Seatʼ. Mary bears within her the Saviour child ʻGod-is-with-usʼ and is now the New Ark of the New Covenant. The
little boy John the Baptist leaps for joy within the womb of Elizabeth like King David leapt for joy and danced before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6,14). The
deepest and true response to God being ʻenfleshedʼ among us is to ʻleap for joyʼ. When was the last time you ʻleapt for joyʼ? Why is little baby John ʻleaping for joyʼ? How could you show the experience of joy more this Christmas?
• The gospel of Luke focusses upon Mary who always acts on what she hears. Her ʻvisitʼ to Elizabeth is a ʻresponseʼ to hearing Godʼs voice (through the angel).
Mary is ʻblessedʼ but firstly it is because she ʻbelieved what was spoken to herʼ. Christmas becomes no longer simply an historical story for us when we recognise we too are called to allow the ʻWordʼ to become ʻFleshʼ. Today. Now. In the world. What words have you heard from God, in prayer, through others. How could you act on them so that they become ʻfleshʼ? Real? Acted out? Bring Godʼs presence? What words or promises have you made that have not been fulfilled?
• Advent is a time of joyful preparation. In the final days before Christmas how could you achieve a balance: writing Christmas Cards and the Call to Conversion. Christmas Parties and Prayerful Preparation. Christmas Presents and Christmas Presence?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Livingtheword weekly 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 for Advent week 3: Joy Overflows to Others

Zeph.3:14-18, Phil.4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18

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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.
• Today is the only time every 3 years we hear this beautiful passage from the Prophet Zephaniah. Zion is the name for Jerusalem, and Christians understand
Jerusalem signifies God’s people. Replace ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ prayerfully with your own name. How does this prophecy make you feel? What line strikes you the most? Why?
• St Paul is writing to the Philippians trying to resolve an argument between two women which is destroying the unity of the Christian community. He puts their argument into the ‘big picture’. Rejoicing, kindness and no anxiety are trademarks of a christian. Paul reminds the community that each member is to reflect Christ. In the hostile town of Philippi, they are to be attractive and lead people to Christ – not turn them off. Is ʻyour kindness known to allʼ? Do you have anxieties that you refuse to make ʻknown’ and truly hand over to him?
• A practice of Advent preparation is celebrating forgiveness. Crowds gathered to be with John the Baptist, not in the Temple, but by the Jordan River. Hungry
for God and for the world to experience ʻchangeʼ they claimed their own need for conversion: ʻwhat should we do?ʼ John directs their attention toward care of the poor – sharing clothing and food. What do you have plenty of? Who has none? Have you ever desired to simplify your life and be more generous? What happened?
• Tax collectors were present, along with soldiers who protected them. John does not deny their ʻjobʼ but reminds them all jobs are to serve the unity of the
community. Look deeply into your ordinary tasks of life. Are you doing them well? Enter the gospel scene in prayer and ask John the question: What should I
do? What happened?
• John baptises and cleanses with water. Jesus baptises and cleanses with the Holy Spirit and fire. Water and Fire. What would you choose? Fire purifies through hot temperatures. What have been ʻhotʼ ʻpurifyingʼ moments for you this year? What wisdom have you been led into? What parts of your life would you like to bring to God for reconciliation at the end of the year?
• A ʻwinnowing fanʼ was used in the barn to throw the grain up into the air, the dust and ʻchaffʼ – seed casings and bits of stalk – drifted away. This stage separated the wheat. How do you relate to the image of judgement and ʻfireʼ at the end of time?
• A common practice in the time of Jesus was for disciples to carry the sandals of their teacher. John shares he is not even worthy to undo the straps of Jesusʼ sandals let alone carry them! Whose sandals do you carry? Who do you listen to as your ʻteacherʼ? What life lessons or teaching would you like to ask about at this point in your life journey?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

Discussion Guide: Clearing the Path for Christ

Baruch 5:1-9, Phil. 1:4-11, Luke 3:1-6

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Reflection Questions

The Prophet Baruch shares a beautiful image for Advent. Have you noticed when you take off ʻold clothesʼ and put on ʻnew clothesʼ there is a sense of joy and a new ʻattitudeʼ. In ancient times, when a significant transformation happened a ʻnew nameʼ was also given. Like last week, Jerusalem – which is us in the
Church today – is invited to prepare by  off the old and putting on ʻthe cloak of justiceʼ. And, our new name is to be ʻPeace of Justiceʼ. What old ways of
mourning and misery would you like to leave behind this advent season? How your life reflect Gods hope for you  of ʻpeaceʼ and ʻjusticeʼ, ʻgloryʼ and
ʻworshipʼ?

• The city of Jerusalem is on a hill. The view from the top of the Temple could see all peopleʼs coming from every direction. Can you glimpse Godʼs hope wanting us to stand up and invite everyone ʻhomeʼ to Church this Christmas? Through us, mountains and gorges – difficult pathways – will be made ʻlevel ground so people can return easily. Mercy and justice will be our story and song. Do you know anyone who is experiencing an obstacle to returning to God? The Church? What earthmoving help could you offer personally to them?

• Paul had a special place in his heart for the Community at Philippi. Paul wrote this letter to them while in prison, facing a death sentence. They had provided
financial assistance for his missionary journeys and now supported him in prison. He invites them to discern what is of value in their lives. At the end of the
year consider evaluating your life positively: what has helped you in purity? What areas of your life are blameless? How have you shown righteousness?
How could you develop these experiences and practices more?

• Righteousness is an interesting word. In the Old Testament it was a title that was given by the poor to those who ʻlifted up the poorʼ. A rich person could not give this title to themselves. Reflecting upon the year, would the ʻpoorʼ give you the title ʻrighteousʼ? In what ways have you lifted them up? Was it charity or justice?

• Luke, like St Paul, is aware of a claim by courts and rulers that these Christian disciples are ʻmadʼ. Making up strange stories! Luke insists the evidence and life of Jesus is historical. Christianity started in a particular place and time in history. In the 15th year… etc. With a great twist Luke lines up the different rulers of the time. Traditionally when rulers returned victorious from battle, people would line the streets and shout triumphantly: ʻLord, Saviour!ʼ Luke is turning attention to the true Saviour – Jesus – whose preparation victory voice is John the Baptist. How would you personally describe Jesus as ʻSaviourʼ?

• Celebrating the advent practice of reconciliation (confession) encourages us to ʻprepare our heartsʼ. When a great King visited a city, workers were sent to
straighten pathways, cut into mountains, level valleys. Consider the effort involved to welcome the King! Reflect on this image and the famous words of John.
What needs to be straightened out and filled in? How much effort will you put into Advent?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Livingtheword weekly 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 for First Sunday of Advent Year C. 

Jer 33:14-16, Thes 3:12-4:2, Gospel Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Reflection Questions

  • Advent begins today. The colour purple has an interesting background for us to ponder. Purple dye historically originated from a tiny shell-fish. It took 12,000 shell fish to make 1.5 grams of pure dye. The expense meant it was used only by the wealthy and became a symbol of royalty. Advent purple indicates we are waiting for the coming of the King of Kings. We are ‘preparing’ for the birth of Jesus but also spiritually for the second ‘coming’. Ponder for a few minutes what you would do if in 4 weeks time you were truly going to stand before Jesus Christ the King.
    • Jeremiah was a prophet in a very difficult time. Jewish King after Jewish King had failed to bring peace. God’s people were now in exile in Babylon. In the midst of foreign people and their gods Jewish people began to lose hope. Jeremiah reminds them of a promise made by God to believe in: I will raise up a ‘just shoot’ from the line of David. So beautiful will this event be, the great city of Jerusalem will be renamed – Justice! In the midst of life’s difficulties what brings you hope? Frequently we think of God’s love, but do we recognise what God really wants is ‘justice’. Do you hope for this as a future event or do you give your life to its fulfillment ‘today’?
    • Thessalonica was one of the earliest Christian communities. A port city bringing trade and culture, hot springs bringing tourists. It was prime real estate in a Roman provincial town. With many cultures came many gods, Greek, Egyptian, Roman Emperor worship. Paul had been chased out of this town quickly but had established a small group of Christian followers. He writes to encourage them to be blameless in holiness, living lives pleasing to God. Ready ʻfor the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones’. Picture your own town instead of Thessalonica. What is the purpose of ʻconducting yourselves to please Godʼ? Is it only for heaven or a sign for people ʻtodayʼ of heaven?
    • Year C begins with our move from the Gospel of Mark to the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s community is tired of waiting on a promise of Christ’s return. Luke gives instruction on how Christians are to live while ʻwaitingʼ. What does the image: ʻstand erect and raise your headʼ mean to you. What would make you do this? What does living in readiness ʻnowʼ actually look like for you?
    • Luke contrasts people of the ʻworldʼ with hearts drowsy or hardened with excessive sensual pleasure, drunkenness, worries, with Christian disciples watchful and vigilant, praying and ready to stand before the Son of Man. Where are you in this picture? What advent practices could you begin to be ʻvigilantʼ ʻprayerfulʼ ʻreadyʼ? What would you like to bring to God in the Advent practice of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation?
    • We all know what December will involve: shopping, christmas cards, cooking, end of year celebrations. Will you be satisfied? How could you ʻslow downʼ and set aside time to soak up the christian focus of Christmas – is there a church near or on the journey from work you could visit for 5 minutes daily?
    • Christians view the end of the world differently: ʻWhat the caterpillar calls end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Livingtheword weekly 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: Sealed and Fed to Thrive

1 Kgs 19:4-8, Eph. 4:30-5:2, Gospel Jn 6:41-51

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Reflection Questions

• The continuing theme of being ‘fed by God’ is developed in the readings this week. Elijah sits exhausted under a tree in the desert. He is being hunted down by Princess Jezebel who was married to the King of Israel. She tried to replace all prophets and temples of Yahweh by importing 450 prophets and followers of
B’aal from her homeland in Sidon. Elijah has just killed them all and is now on the RUN! (see 1Kings 18, 19-46). Have you ever got into difficulty as a result of
obedience to God? Have you ever said to God: ‘this is enough’? Is there any painful purifying of the Church that you find particularly difficult to participate in and endure?

• God encourages Elijah not to focus upon his own pain and fear. God wants to offer food and strength for the “40 day” journey ahead. Do you tend to focus on your own pain and mumble and groan? How could you develop a habit of being open to help and ‘being fed’? God wishes us to move from simply ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’. If you were to ask God or someone for help, what would be your question in one sentence? How could you grow your hunger so you experience being ‘fed’ with scripture and the eucharist?

• St Paul teaches that we were ‘sealed’ at our Baptism. A ‘seal’ was a special jewel or stone or metal cylinder marked with a ʻsignʼ and pressed upon clay or wax or object. The ʻmark – sealʼ indicated the owners signature, ownership, authority on a legal document or object. The link between the person and / or object was now displayed to the world. As ʻsealedʼ people we are to witness to whom we belong. Paul inserts attributes displaying God; kindness, compassion, forgiveness. Are you conscious of being ʻsealedʼ? Is there any anger or bitterness the spirit would like you to let go of so as not to ʻgrieve the spiritʼ dwelling in you?

• Jewish people often referred to their ʻlawsʼ as ʻbread from heavenʼ. Their laws and teachings from Moses gave them life and revealed God to them. They grumble and ‘murmurʼ at Jesusʼ claim: I am the bread that comes down from Heaven. Hidden within this phrase Jesus is claiming the Divine Name ʻI AMʼ and to replace the ʻlawʼ. He teaches further that he is true life-giving ʻbreadʼ but that ʻbreadʼ will now be replaced with ʻfleshʼ. John presents clearly the levels of meaning: Bread. Jesus. Flesh. Can you see in this text of John 6 the threads of our belief that in the Eucharist / Mass it is truly the ʻfleshʼ of Jesus we receive? Do you recognise the invitation following reception of Jesus to now become ʻlife-for-the-worldʼ?

• The only way God can be truly revealed is someone must come from God and live among us. This is indeed the great religious hope of the Jewish people.
However they become satisfied with the laws of God and were not ready to accept the ʻpersonʼ of God. Jesus claims he is this person truly ʻfromʼ God, has ʻseenʼ God. This is the claim of Christianity that sets us apart from other world religions. Because Jesus is divine – God – among – us what he promises to give us – his flesh and blood – he can and will do. As we approach the end of 5 weeks of teaching on the Eucharist consider prayerfully reading John 6. How would you explain the Eucharist now in your own words?

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

Reflection Guide: The Birth of John the Baptist

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Discussion Questions

1] Our first reading speaks of the Servant of God ‘formed from the womb’ and called to be a ‘light to the nations’ that ‘salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. The context is that God’s people were defeated,
their temple destroyed, and they are Babylonian slaves, alienated from their land and their God. They suffer a crisis of both identity and faith. Are they still God’s people? How can they worship in this foreign land? Have you or a group you know experienced a crisis of identity or faith? What helped or hindered?

2] Exile is to be replaced by something radically wonderful and new and Isaiah shouts this from the rooftops. The message is for the whole world. This hidden and unknown servant of God, a nobody, is made the instrument of God’s glory. We are called as disciples to be instruments of justice, mercy and hope yet may feel as if nothing we do matters much. (I toiled in vain…). When I focus on me, I easily feel
irrelevant. Isaiah invites us to see ourselves as part of Gods plan, the ‘we’ of salvation and respond simply with practical faith in hope and trust. How might this passage speak to the refugee crisis today and our response? What connections can you also make in your local setting?

3] The second reading from Acts presents us with the mission of Jesus, born to be the Saviour Servant King and John, with his mission to herald Christ and be the link between the First and New Testaments.
Like Isaiah, they are both servants ‘formed from the womb’. John is the sign that points to Christ and salvation? He longs to ‘prepare the way’. Who prepared the way for you to have a relationship with Jesus? Thank God for that person now.

4]What is it about John that stands out for you and what attributes of his,  might help you reach out to others who know nothing about Gods mercy and salvation?

5]The first thing we notice about Elizabeth and Zechariah are that they are in a community of neighbours and relatives who rejoiced with them about their new baby. How important are family, hospitality, and community in the experience of faith?

6] Luke reveals strong parallels between the birth of John and Jesus. Read the two accounts side by side if you can. Both are announced in extraordinary ways. The presence of the Holy Spirit infuses both
stories. Mary is present at each birth. John’s birth sparks joy, surprise, and amazement as miracles unfold and people respond with both fear and awe. People spread the news far and wide and everyone
who hears is amazed. The same is true of Jesus’ birth but at a heightened level. Shepherds were terrified as angels proclaim Jesus’ birth and they go in awe to see him. Everyone wonders about each child “What
then will this child be?” This question is about identity and about mission. As you reflect on your own life, both individually and as a community, ask God to reveal both your identity and mission.

7] Both boys have a mission from God. Both remain hidden and unknown through their childhood years. Both go into the desert for a time. John becomes the servant preparing others to respond to Jesus as
Saviour and pays with his life. Jesus renews and fulfills God’s eternal covenant and draws us all into the heart of the Trinity. Imagine yourself in the story with Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, the crowds of relatives and neighbours as John is born. What is God saying to you today?

8] What will you do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is created by Mrs Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ.
Email: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide for 4th Sunday Easter

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

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Reflection Questions

• The Church celebrates ʻGood Shepherd Sundayʼ today. It is an opportunity to consider service of Christ in the Church for the World through a vocation in single life, married life, priesthood, religious life. Can you think of people who are good examples for you of each vocation? Spend time in prayer praying for each one.
• Vocation means ʻcallʼ. St Ignatius teaches us that: “God writes his hopes into our deepest desires”. What does that mean in terms of what God may be calling you to? Imagine the highs and lows of each vocation – what attracts you? What desire is strongest? Are you willing to follow it?

• ʻLaying down oneʼs life for the sheepʼ is contrasted with being a ʻhired manʼ who works for pay and has no ʻconcernʼ for the sheep. What do you think is the difference between Vocation and Career? Does one
lead down and the other attempt climbing up?

• St Peter shares a building image. Very large stones were measured and cut to ʻfitʼ and be suitable for building upon. Is your life truly ʻbuiltʼ upon Jesus or is it merely ʻlookingʼ at Jesus? Does your lifestyle ʻshowʼ you are ʻGodʼs childʼ?

• One of the actions done by a good shepherd is to ʻlie downʼ in the ʻgatewayʼ of a small low fenced circle of stones to care for the sheep and protect them from harm. The good shepherd was willing to fight to the death any wolf or lion seeking to harm the sheep. It was an expectation that a child who was looking after the sheep, if attacked, was to show evidence of scratches or wolf fur to the family. Are you willing to fight and protect Godʼs family? Seek out the lost who have strayed? Stand attentive to warn of dangerous influences?

• ʻLaying down ones lifeʼ is another scriptural picture of the way Jesus lay down his life on the cross – as the good shepherd. Laying down and enduring a sleep-shortened night is something parents do for love of their children. Knowing sheep by name, sharing each day and providing nourishment and shelter. What similarities can you see between parenthood and priesthood? Does ʻlaying down your lifeʼ appeal to you or frighten you? Does love lead you – or does fear fill you?

• ʻNo-one takes it from me, I lay it down on my ownʼ. A vocation is something freely chosen. We ʻhearʼ the call of God through desire and attraction, we give ourselves to walk the journey of discovery and we
ʻtake upʼ what is involved in faithfulness to our personal calling. Fear. Iʼm not good enough. I feel stuck. I donʼt know – are all human responses. Consider reflecting on the document ʻDiscerning your vocationʼ
to show your willingness to take a further step into Godʼs call. Click here or go to http://livingtheword.org.nz/resources/
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide is here     Jer 31:31-34, Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-33

During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and the meaning of their baptism. These readings and reflection are available for download here:Yr B RCIA

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Reflection Questions. 

• To enter into a covenant is like entering into a ‘marriage commitment and relationship’. A special bond is created. Have you ever had an experience of feeling God is ‘taking you by the hand and leading you’?   Break the relationship with God – Suffering. God seeking you out and speaking to your ‘heart’? Life does not necessarily become easier but perspectives are transformed and whatever happens there is a sense of God with us; nothing can separate us from Gods love. What has been your covenant journey with God?
• The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is like a personal inside view of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as he struggles to accept the consequence of obedience and
doing God’s will. What do you pray, cry, shout to God about? Have you tried it?
• Jesus’ journey involved obedience and suffering, but it also became a vehicle for him being ‘made perfect’. What suffering is hard for you at the moment? What is the wisdom you are learning from it? Because of your journey have you been able to be a source of comfort and hope for others?                        • In the Gospel of John, the ʻhourʼ that Jesus talks about is the moment where everything will be revealed on the cross. In all of history, it will be the ʻhourʼ when God is revealed as doing something to ʻforgiveʼ and ʻsaveʼ humanity. Love triumphs over violence. The drama of evil and goodness is played out. In the greek text, the phrase being ʻlifted upʼ is a word to describe a coach being ʻliftedʼ up onto peopleʼs shoulders to signify victory. Do you see the ʻhourʼ of Jesus on the cross as Ugly? Glorious?
Victorious? All three?
• Greeks (outsiders from Judaism) arrive wanting to ʻsee Jesusʼ. This causes Jesus to say the ʻhourʼ has
come for him to be revealed to the whole world. Would people who are not Christian see enough evidence in your life to know you are Christian? Would they experience you as friendly and welcoming enough to ask for help to ʻfind and see Jesusʼ?
• Three times in the Gospel of John the voice of God speaks clearly to Jesus and those near-by. It gives Jesus courage and confidence in his identity and purpose to walk a very difficult path. Have you asked for, received a clear sense of your calling and purpose from God? Will you enter the sacrificial and obedient lifestyle of ʻthe hourʼ? What ʻdeathʼ is God inviting you to live so as to bear fruit for the world?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz.  Livingtheword weekly download and resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are made available by Bev McDonald, Facilitator, Marist Laity NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 24th December, 4th Sunday Advent, Year B

Image result for Yes to God Advent

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 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! (p.s. he gave the kitten a warm box to curl up in.)

•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 for 3rd Sunday of Advent 2017 is here:

Advent: Presence not Presents

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 forthe sacrament of reconciliation.

• Week 2 and 3 of Advent present the figure of John the Baptist. He is theone 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 leadersare 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 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?

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