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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Printable Reflection Guide is HERE.

 


• God’s chosen people, who were marched away from home into exile in Babylon, are now given permission to return home and rebuild their temple. King Cyrus even gives them back their sacred vessels stolen from the Temple 60 years earlier. The Hebrew people could hardly believe what was happening. God could even work through a Gentile King to rescue and restore his people. Isaiah shares a vision of all peoples being able to worship together in the Temple. This vision was never truly fulfilled. Non Jews were only allowed into an ‘outer courtyard’ of the Temple. What vision of welcome do you have for your Church? What limits your vision from becoming a reality?

• Paul continues to grieve over his own Jewish people. He hopes that disobedience will eventually meet mercy! People labelled and feeling distant from God (Gentiles) will experience union with God. Paul reminds the Church of God’s passionate desire for all the ‘unclean’ / gentiles to be made welcome in the Church. Who do you judge unclean?

•Some geography helps to understand the context of the Gospel reading today. Jesus has just finished arguing with the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-20) about what is ‘clean and unclean’. He now travels into unclean ‘gentile’ territory. He moves out of the ‘Holy Land’ and into Canaanite territory. Is he trying to get rid of the Pharisees who keep following and arguing with him? Or is he trying to teach his disciples a lesson going beyond mere words of teaching? The disciples would have been hesitant to go themselves into ‘unclean’ territory. What do you think Jesus could be teaching the disciples? The Church?

• Without napkins at the dinner table, it was a practice that bread was broken and ones hands were cleaned with bread. Bread and food was left after dinner on the floor. House dogs were frequently able to mop up the crumbs and foodscraps after the guests had finished. This is an image used in the reading today. Is Jesus derogatory toward the woman or just revealing his first concern was ‘lost sheep of Israel’?

• The disciples wanted the Canaanite woman sent away. She was unsettling. Was Jesus waiting for the disciples reaction to her as a way of teaching them about clean / unclean?

• The Gentile woman kneels before Jesus and prays ‘Lord help me’. Jesus praises and rewards her persistence and faith. To the Jewish community of the Gospel of Matthew this event would have come as a shock. Jesus entered into and found faith among the unclean gentiles. Imagine feeling or being labelled as ‘unclean’ by ‘the church’. What obstacles need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus? Are you helping or hindering?

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

 

Printable Discussion Guide HERE

Reflection and Questions:

Image result for bullock yoke• Zechariah makes a prophesy that the Saviour will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Horse and Chariot were symbols of power and war. A donkey was a symbol of humble work and peace. Horse and Donkey. Power and Humility. Violence and Service. Why does the world favour a horse, God a donkey?

• “Meek” is a word mentioned twice in todays readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. It can also be translated as ‘teachable’. Think of a person feeling anger yet staying in control, open to listen and learn and respond with justice not violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. They are open to learn rather than being locked into a closed thinking pattern. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek (teachable) character?

• ‘Flesh’ is Paul’s expression for a life lived without God, like an animal just following its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is open to God and turned outward in love. How do you experience the disciple’s tension of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? Which life do you feed and nourish?

• In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God; greater than the Torah (Law given by Moses) and all the Prophets. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ is a knowledge claim by Jesus. He challenges the idea of Jesus as a comfortable teacher or earthly King. What is Jesus claiming? How does his claim challenge me today?

• Jesus says learned religious figures struggle to accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, unlearned, simple folk, manual workers) accept him. Jesus was shaking up all the accepted patterns of religion and society. Why do you think learned people found his claims so difficult? How does pride and position impact our ability to be meek (teachable) and humble? When we are heavily invested in our understanding of life we can become ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’. How does that block our ability to be ‘open’? Are you satisfied with the answers about your life? How have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus is
hardest to be ‘open’ to?

• The Torah (OT Law) handed down by Moses required knowing and being obedient to 613 laws. This was a ‘heavy burden’. People felt oppressed by the rules and those enforcing them (Sadducees, Scribes, Pharisees). Jewish people referred to this as the ‘yoke of the law’. Jesus invites a radical change. ‘Come to me’ all who are feeling heavily burdened. I will give you rest. Put on my yoke. Learn from me’. The Torah is being replaced by relationship with the person of Jesus who is choosing to be yoked with us. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made, avoiding painful imbalance or abrasions and it
evenly distributed the load. An experienced bullock was paired with a young one to teach it how to work in tandem to bear far more than it could do on its own. What does this image convey to you? How are you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to go it alone or are you working with Jesus?

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

 

Discussion Guide:        4th Sunday Advent Yr. A : Has your Yes to Jesus Changed your Life?

 

 

 

Series - God With Us — Christian Life Church

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 God’s 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?

Discussion Guide:        3rd Sunday Advent Yr. A : Sorrow and Mourning Will Flee

 

 

You are greater than John” Mt 11:2-11 | The Kingdom @ Glandore-UnderdaleReflection 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. How do you live in the hope and joy of Christ’s 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?

Discussion Guide:      1st Advent Yr. A – Advent Witness

 

A New Year: The First Sunday in Advent | St. Michael Catholic Church

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 transformation. Isaiah reminds us that God makes the movement toward us as the Lord’s 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 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, to help you 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?