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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

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

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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.

Discussion Guide is Here: Advent 2nd Sunday Year B

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?

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.

 

Discussion Guide Advent Year B, First Sunday: Advent is About Desire

Reflection Questions

.The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and anew 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 traveling 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 Masters 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 as part of your Advent journey?

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.org.nz.

Download 4th Sunday Advent Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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’?
  5. 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’
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 3rd Sunday Advent

Reflection Questions

  1. 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’?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?……
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 2nd Sunday Advent

Reflection Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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 beer 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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’?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 1st Sunday Advent Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. 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 and then turns us to celebrate and remember with joy the first coming of Jesus. Will you celebrate Advent AND Christmas? What do you do to celebrate and welcome a friend? How could these expressions be practiced toward Jesus this Advent / Christmas?
  2. As the Christmas season and advertising moves us toward end of year celebrations and ‘climbing up the mountain’ of the ‘shopping mall’ how could you also give time for your friendship with God. Consider an Advent commitment to an ‘hour to be awake from sleep’. Use your imagination to reflect what it would mean to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’. Is there anything you are doing in your life that Jesus wouldn’t do?
  3. Jesus uses three short parables to break into our Christmas comfort zone. A sudden flood is something tragic unless one is prepared ahead of time. What does ‘building and entering the ark’ mean today? What else is there to do beyond ‘eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’?
  4. Imagine your work colleague, friend, family member who you live ‘side-by-side’ with each day is suddenly revealed as different in Gods eyes. A parable shocks our imagination with a surprise to make us change our life. Do you wish to be taken into a deeper relationship with God or to be ‘left’ alone ‘in the field’ or ‘at the mill’. What would divine perception see in you which human perception cannot see?
  5. 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 so as to constantly keep ‘spiritually awake’? Have you been ‘broken into’? What wisdom for the journey was discovered to guide your future?
  6. 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?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?