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Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

 

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 Winning the World, Heart by Heart.

Dn 12:1-3, Heb. 10:11-14, 18, Gospel Mk 13:24-32

Image result for Salvador Dali Christ in Perspective

Reflection Questions

  • In the context of the Church’s liturgy, the 33rd Sunday is only one week away from the end of the year. Next week is Christ The King. Liturgically we enter an atmosphere of reaching the ‘end of time’. Because of this pattern todays readings have an apocalyptic atmosphere of end time struggle and judgement.
  • Daniel means ‘My judge is God’. The Book of Daniel is written during a time of great persecution when Antiochus Epiphanes is forcing Jews to convert to
    pagan gods. Here is the first time in Hebrew scriptures that a resurrection of the faithful is mentioned. God is the master of history. All those ‘in the book’
    who ‘shine brightly’ and lead people on the way to ‘justice’ will be like stars living forever. Examine your own life. How would the statement ‘my judge is God’ shape your life? Antiochus may not be forcing you to eat pigs flesh (abhorent and unclean to Jews) but what idols or practices are you subtly invited to ‘eat’?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews concludes. We are taught about the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilling and finishing the Old Testament sacrifices. Notice the image of the Old Testament Priest ‘standing’ and working each day. Jesus, after the sacrifice of the cross, now being ‘seated’ and waiting for the time of gathering. Consider the victory and offer of forgiveness that has taken place on the cross. Imagine a winning sports team lifting the captain high onto their shoulders with winning trophy held high! This sacrifice of the cross – like a trophy – is held by the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine into the sacrifice and body and blood of Jesus. We stand together rejoicing. And we receive this sacrifice as a sacred forgiveness and communion meal
    bringing us into a total physical and spiritual union with God and each other. Do you see the depth and great celebration taking place at Mass? What
    would you like to learn more about? Who could you ask?
  • The Book of Daniel and The Book of Revelation are apocalyptic writings ʻunveilingʼ a vision of what will take place at the end of time. Each Gospel inserts
    some apocalyptic passages pointing toward that final day. The images of the sun darkened, stars falling, heavenly struggle, share a cosmic event affecting
    all of creation. Have you noticed that at the crucifixion of Jesus these images appear. Could this mean that the final ʻeventʼ and ʻstruggleʼ and ʻvictoryʼ has taken place on the cross? Could this be why the early disciples were so expectant of Jesusʼ return before ʻthis generation passed awayʼ?
  • Why the delay in the second coming is a question asked by Christians. Why is Jesus sitting ʻwaitingʼ in heaven as portrayed in Hebrews? The Gospel points to a ʻgathering of the elect from the four corners of the earthʼ. Will this require all the earth to ʻhear the message of Jesusʼ? Is Jesus lazy on a heavenly chair or waiting urgently to work in the Church, in the sacraments, in each disciple, winning the world ʻheart by heartʼ? How do you understand christian ʻwaitingʼ for the second coming?
  • ʻThat day or hourʼ is unknown. That it will happen is certain, when it will happen is uncertain. Consider a spiritual practice of imagination prayer. Present yourself to Jesus at the end of time. What does he say? What do you say?
  • 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 31st Sunday Year B: Hear-Listen-Love! Live the Word

Readings: Dt 6:2-6, Heb. 7:23-28, Gospel Mk 12:28B-34

Image result for Greatest commandment

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Deuteronomy (second law) is a summary of God’s teachings to help guide God’s people as they leave the desert and enter their new and promised home-land Israel). Moses reminds them they have been looked after and loved so beautifully that the only proper response to God is to return love. ‘Love your God with all your heart’. Have you ‘taken into your heart’ God’s love and care for you?
• Jewish people still treasure this ‘command’ to hear and remember. Devout Jews wear this prayer in little prayer containers (phylacteries) on their wrist
and forehead, pray it morning and evening, and have a container at the doorway of their home which they touch to remind them to love God who loved
them. How could you be reminded of God’s love each day? Where could you put a crucifix so that it is a daily visible and touchable reminder as you ‘come and
go’ in and out of your home?
• The Letter to the Hebrews is written for Jewish christians who are struggling and tempted to return to the practices of the temple, the laws, the sacrifices. Jesus is shown to be the true and perfect high- priest who will never die and whose sacrifice on the cross forgives ‘once and for all’. Do you ever think something else needs to be done to forgive you? make you acceptable? Do you find yourself holding God’s love at arms length until you become perfect by your own actions? What practices or traditions do you long for that used to make you feel well?
• Jesus is now in Jerusalem. He has chased out money changers from the Temple, had arguments with Pharisees and Scribes. Today a frequent faith question is discussed. Jews believed that 613 laws were developed from the 10 commandments. Living all these laws put one in right relationship with God. Scribes
who were teachers of the laws especially to the younger generation were often asked: Make it simple? Which is the greatest? Jesus quotes from Dt 6, 4 (1st
Reading) but also adds Lev 19,18 – care of the poor (check out Lev 19.9-17). 613 becomes 2. How do you move from love of God on Sunday to love of God on
Monday? Do you find it easy to separate love of God from love of neighbour? How do you see this in your life? In the Church?
• The Prophets of the Old Testament constantly pointed out the ease at which people worshipped in the temple with ʻburnt offerings and sacrificesʼ but did not
love their ʻneighbourʼ shown by helping others in need. Love of God draws me into a relationship with all whom God loves. God painfully wishes our love to be
extended to lift up the lowest and forgotten in society. Imagine entering a home for dinner and saying nice words at the table. Upon leaving the house kicking
the children and scratching the hosts car. What is going on?
• The scribe agrees with Jesus. But Jesus says things are still incomplete: ʻyou are not far from the Kingdom of Godʼ. Close but not there yet! Your head is ʻon boardʼ but is your life going to truly show direct ʻactionʼ linking God AND Neighbour? The crowd stayed silent. Why? What would it involve to actually live and love neighbour as your own flesh and blood?
• 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 30th Sunday Year B: Jesus is Calling You.

Readings: Jer. 31:7-9, Heb. 5:1-6, Gospel Mk 10:46-52

Image result for Take Courage Jesus is calling you

Reflection Questions

• Jeremiah is a prophet during one of the most difficult times. Reluctantly, God allows his chosen people to be led off to exile as a consequence of their
unfaithfulness. Jeremiah makes a prophecy that God will always be truly a Father and will ensure a safe return for all – even the blind and lame. Have you ever
had to let someone ‘learn a lesson’ the hard way? Does pain and suffering mean that God does not care? As a parent, what is special about a ‘first-born’?
• Although Jesus did not wear the special vestments and serve in the Temple as a Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches that Jesus is qualified and actually fulfills the role of the High Priest in the Old Testament: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is understood as completing all sacrifices. How do you relate to your ‘priest’? Have you ever asked for help to draw closer to God? Has he been able to ‘deal patiently’ with his people? Has he been beset by weakness himself? Have you prayed for him lately?
• To teach Jewish people the identity of Jesus the text links Jesus to the mysterious figure of Melchizedek – King of Peace, of unknown origin, who served
Abraham as a Priest. Jewish scholars understood Melchizedek not to have died and to be eternally a priest of God – What would it mean that Jesus is eternally your personal priest standing in the presence of God the Father in Heaven for you?
• “Sight” is a special theme in todays readings. It was a prophecy that the Messiah would ʻrestore sight to the blindʼ. As Jesus began his journey to Jersualem
he gave sight to the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8,22) and now gives sight to Bartimaeus (Mark 10,46). Like two slices of bread between these two
episodes the disciples are told three times about the Messiah who will suffer and they do not ʻseeʼ and understand. How has your understanding of Jesus grown lately? Is the deep root of your prayer requests ʻto sit at your right handʼ(glory) or ʻhave pity on meʼ (mercy) or ʻmaster I want to seeʼ (discipleship)?
• The name Bartimaeus means ʻson of the uncleanʼ. Sitting at the gate of the great city of Jericho he is labelled as unclean, unworthy. In his loneliness and need he cries out to Jesus. He gets rebuked from the crowd and told to be silent. He cries even louder. When called he throws away his begging cloak, the only source of his warmth and money collection. ʻI want to seeʼ – I want to truly live and enter life fully. The experience of living in darkness and then seeing is the most transforming experience a human person can receive. It became a symbol of baptism. Can you identify with Bartimaeus? What label do you wear? What is the security cloak that you may need to ʻthrow asideʼ? What is your response deep down when Jesus asks ʻwhat do you want me to do for you?ʼ
• Unlike the rich young man recently who walked away sad (Mark 10,22), Bartimaeus is instructed ʻgo your wayʼ. He chooses to follow Jesus ʻon the wayʼ (to Jerusalem). In what ʻwayʼ am I walking the journey of my life. Going my own way? Walking with a sad heart unable to let go of experiences or false sources of
security? Am I searching and responsive to Godʼs will and following that even if it means a great sacrifice? Will I join Jesus ʻon the wayʼ to Jerusalem?
• 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 29th Sunday: NO to Greed, Pride and Power

Isaiah 53:10-11, Hebrews 4:14-16, Mark 10:35-45

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Reflection Questions

• The Prophet Isaiah is with God’s people in Exile in Babylon. He makes a prophecy of a great leader who will not be like any leader ever known: God will allow his life to be crushed which will ‘ransom’ and ‘justify’ (make right) all people. Verses like this in Isaiah form the ‘4 songs of the suffering servant’. Christians understand these texts as teaching us about Jesus’ suffering. Have you experienced anyone willing to ‘suffer’ for you? Can you think of any story where someone restored friendship with another at great ‘cost’? What happened? How does this help you make sense of Jesus’ suffering for you?

• The Letter to the Hebrews continues to explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection has replaced the Jewish High Priest in the Temple. Instead of ‘walking through the curtain’ which separated people in the Temple from the sacred place of the ‘Holy of Holies’ – God’s presence – Jesus’ death allows him to ‘pass into heaven’. Instead of the High Priest sprinkling blood on the ‘Mercy Seat’ inside the Holy of Holies to bring forgiveness, Jesus on the cross has become the ‘throne of grace’ – the new revelation of God’s Mercy. Where do you go to, look at, feel, the mercy and forgiveness of God? Consider praying this week with a crucifix or at church in front of the tabernacle – to ‘find grace’.

•Jesus has just finished his third prediction of his suffering and death (Mk 10,32). The immediate request of James and John for ʻpositions of powerʼ reveal
they do not understand what Jesus’ death means. The ʻindignationʼ of the others reveals they were all secretly seeking power and glory. The Kingdom of God
and the Messiah to make it happen is still thought of as a strong political and military figure, and a triumphant banquet and honors given when the victory is won. And like other ʻrulersʼ, power will then be exercised as ʻauthority overʼ them. Such a mindset will breed continual violence. How do you view violence and war. Do you secretly wish leaders would use ʻpower overʼ others? Do you think the way of ʻnon-violenceʼ works?

• ʻDrink the cupʼ and ʻbaptismʼ are phrases full of meaning. The Father of the house would fill the cup of each member of the home. It was descriptive of God the Father giving out the plan / lot which was assigned for each person. It symbolised ʻGodʼs willʼ. Baptism was not so much a water baptism as an immersion into the will of God – often involving some struggle and pain. Jesus is sharing with disciples the cup (job) is to set people free from the grip of sin and bondage and satan. This is a task which will involve hardship and suffering. What does ʻdrink the cupʼ and ʻbaptismʼ mean for your life? Now? Does it ʻcostʼ you anything?

• Jesus teaches about leadership. He uses some colorful images. Servant / Slave – humble service at a meal rather than a position of glory and being ʻwaited on
hand and footʼ. Ransom – in Jewish culture a person in debt or enslaved could be ʻransomedʼ back. Like a special family object in a pawn shop that is to be
recovered and returned to the family. In religious worship it was also understood as an ʻatonementʼ (at-one-ment) offering to bring forgiveness and a re-union with God. How do you understand and exercise leadership? Have you ever actively said NO to Power. Pride. Greed?

• 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: Casual or Committed?

Wisdom,7:7-11, Hebrews 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30
Image result for Sold Out for Christ Sermons

Reflection Questions:

• The Book of Wisdom is thought to have been written by King Solomon. Today’s text links to the story of young King Solomon, newly married to a princess of
Egypt, heavily aware of leadership responsibilities and following the example of his Father, King David. In 1 Kings 3:6-9 Solomon prays for wisdom – a heart to
understand what is good and what is evil. Today is Solomon’s reflection on just what a precious gift wisdom is. Have you ever needed to search for and find a wise person to offer direction and guidance? How would you describe your need? What happened?

• ‘I chose to have her rather than the light’. Wisdom is not a ‘possession’ or equal to worldly wealth of Gold of Silver. It is the spiritual gift of knowing the truth and the very will of God. ‘Discernment’ of God’s will is a discipleship skill. It literally means ‘to cut away’. Consider a choice that you need to make. List the choices. Pray for wisdom. ‘Cut away’ options that are shallow, or not spiritually motivated. Pay attention to the desire beneath the choice. Ask a wise person for advice.

• Hebrews is written for Jewish Christians struggling with persecution and the difficulties and fragility of the early Christian church. They remembered with
joy the clear Jewish laws and customs and the sacrificial practices of the Temple. The author of Hebrews points them to the penetrating power of the Word.
Have you every experienced the powerful and personal way the scriptures can reach deeply inside you and speak to you deepest pain and questions? Reveal you to yourself? Challenge you? Inspire you? What scripture passage has done this for you? What happened?

• The theme of wisdom is contrasted with wealth in the Gospel. A rich young man faithful to the ʻlawsʼ still finds himself unsatisfied in life. His question: ʻWhat must I do?ʼ is still focussed on external actions of obedience. Jesus wishes to lead him from ʻobservance of lawsʼ to ʻliving in loveʼ. The invitation to change the base of his security from possessions to ʻtreasure in heavenʼ causes his face to fall. What possessions would you be terrified of letting go? Why? Do you trust that God will supply everything you need?

• The invitation to a deeper discipleship does not necessarily require letting go of ʻwealthʼ but letting go of its ʻattachmentʼ. Jesus uses an image. To get a camel loaded with items for trade through a ʻnarrow gateʼ in Jerusalem required unloading items, the camel sometimes having to kneel down and crawl through a small space (eye of a needle). Some scholars also suggest a misspelling of a word means it is a ʻcableʼ that is trying to be threaded through the eye of a needle. How would you describe your ʻuse of wealthʼ. Is it available for building the Kingdom of God? The needs of the poor? How much ʻsecurityʼ and ʻlifeʼ does your bank balance or possessions bring you? What does this story reveal to youpersonally?

• Peter implies a disciples question about reward and security. 100% is an incredibly fruitful return. Normally a return would be 10%. It will be mixed up ʻwith
persecutionsʼ however. Consider asking a Priest, Brother, Sister, Christian friend how they have experienced Godʼs faithfulness in relying on God for their security.

• 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: Marriage-Partnership with God 

Image result for Jesus blesses marriage and children

Reflection Questions

• Genesis describes a truth, in a story, about our human condition. Man and Woman are different from the rest of creation. God’s invitation and partnership
with creation invites Man to ‘name’ the animals and exercise authority over them. It seems God’s most beautiful act of creation is woman. In Genesis we learn,
‘male and female he created them’ … ‘in God’s image and likeness he created them.’ Have you considered that the intimacy of Man and Woman becoming ‘one flesh’ together points to the image and reality of what God is like? One Flesh is the Old Testament and Jewish phrase describing the deep and total union of mind, body, emotion, and spirit that is lived in the marriage covenant. The sacrament of marriage is therefore pointing toward and making God’s love present for the other. If you were to explain Christian marriage to someone what would you share?

• The Letter to the Hebrews seeks to show Jesus as the replacement of the Jewish Temple Priesthood and sacrifices. The Temple in Jerusalem was like an ‘earthly shadow’ of the reality of ‘Heaven’. God ‘came down’ in Jesus, and completed the task of salvation and continues to link Heaven and Earth. Do you see the link between Heaven and Earth in the Church, liturgy, priesthood, sacraments?

• Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem and is questioned by Pharisees. Frequently they seek to trap him with difficult questions and arguments. This would
embarrass him in front of the crowds and disciples. Jewish custom and practice had allowed a Husband to divorce his wife for anything ʻobjectionableʼ. A Jewish woman was not allowed to divorce. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Rather than talk about legal arguments of divorce, Jesus chose to talk about what marriage is: two becoming one flesh and joined together by God. Jesus states man and woman are equal. He reintroduces womanʼs equality and states this injustice of easy divorce is not Godʼs plan. Why do you think the scriptures continue to use the phrase ʻtwo become one fleshʼ? What does this mean for you? What would you like to ask Jesus if you were involved in this conversation?

• Leaving ʻfather and mother and be joined togetherʼ holds an incredible challenge. Family traditions, customs, expectations, money, support misunder-standing, frustration, resentment can easily creep in. Forgiveness will be required. Cracks and fractures left unacknowledged or repaired can become un-repairable. How good are you at ʻforgivingʼ? Talking and sharing in a way that ʻrepairsʼ hurt feelings and unmet needs? Have you shared your availability and willingness to help married couples in times of stress and need? Consider whose marriage you were at most recently. Were you there for the ʻcelebrationʼ AND to show your support for their life-long journey? Have you shown support? How could you support those whose marriage dream has been broken?

• Jesus sought to include and show the equality of women. He also insists that children be included and not prevented from the Kingdom of God (2nd week in a row!) The openness and receptivity of a child is emphasised. What does it mean to ʻacceptʼ the Kingdom of God? Like a child?

• 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 Discipleship=A Radical “No” to Power

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Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Wisdom continues the suffering servant theme of Isaiah last week and points to the suffering that Jesus will experience. Many Jewish
    people were searching for meaning and guidance outside Judaism while living in Alexandria (a large Greek city). Have you experienced a time when you went searching for other belief systems because the society you lived in made fun of your religious beliefs? Where did you turn? What happened?
  2. The Book of Wisdom reveals worldly people oppose Godly people. They pretend righteous motivations…. ‘let us see whether his words be true’…. ‘let him prove his gentleness and patience’. Has this experience of persecution and trial been part of your Christian witness? Have you been able to live in trust that ‘God will take care of you’? Can you see and believe evil actions ultimately get found out and goodness is vindicated?
  3. Living in peace with each other in Christian community is our calling. A desire for glory and power and possessions needs to be brought out into the open. What peace-full virtue from James could you practice more of: be pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant? What object or honour are you wanting to possess? Name a ‘selfish ambition’.
  4. Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark has 3 predictions of the passion. Each time Jesus talks about his suffering the disciples completely misunderstand what
    he is talking about. Today is the second prediction. Jesus talks about Death. Disciples talk about Glory. Jesus’ teaching about accepting suffering is contrasted with his disciples argument about seniority. 2 lifestyles are revealed. What style of living describes you: living upward (glory and honouSayingr and violence) or living downward (service and humility and nonviolence)?
  5. Jesus chooses to expose the disciples lust for power in a quieter moment inside the house. He challenges them. They were really just concerned about power and glory… who was the greatest? Jesus does a very revealing action. While they wanted to know who was at the top, Jesus takes a child representing someone at the bottom. He collapses the social and power structure. Receive and welcome and show hospitality and inclusion to the bottom in society. Can you see how living this invitation will inevitably enter a disciple into upsetting the status quo. Upsetting the power structure of society. Jesus calls this a disciple “picking up the cross”. In your world, community family, workplace, who is at the bottom (equivalent of a child in Jesus’ time). How could you receive them? Jesus identifies with them. Will you stand up for them?
  6. In Jesus’ time, a child was at the bottom of society because in a shame / honor culture, it would be highly unlikely that an act toward a child would be  rewarded by the child talking to the community about the hospitality received. As a result, a kind action does not get rewarded with honour in the eyes of the community. Therefore it is not worth doing. Can you recognise how subversive Jesus’ placing the child “in their midst” is to the culture of the disciples. Who is the equivalent of a “child” today?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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.livingtheword.org.nz   www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 24th Sunday is here

Isaiah 50:5-9, Ps.114, James 2:14-18, Mark 8:27-35See the source image

Reflection Questions

  • The 3rd Song of the Suffering Servant reading from Isaiah has been chosen today to ‘match’ with the Gospel reading and Jesus’ predication of suffering in Jerusalem. Isaiah gets battered and bruised as he shares a message of hope amongst his people in Exile in Babylon. So disheartened are God’s people they feel their ‘God’ has been over-powered by Babylon’s God by allowing them to be exiled. Each day Isaiah listens to God and seeks to comfort his people. Have you‘heard’ anything from God recently…. and ‘not turned your back’ on it?
  • Isaiah chooses above all to trust in God and ultimately he believes he will not be disgraced. Even though the experience of rejection is hard. Have you ever realised deeply your purpose and passion and calling. What would it involve to ‘set your face like flint’ in living and achieving this call from God? Do you know someone who is an example to you? Have you ever asked their advice?
  • A beautiful part of Jewish tradition and piety was an emphasis on helping the poor. It was more than an obligation. In fact, lifting up the poor (through almsgiving) earned one the title ‘righteous’ before God. If faith is words only, it is ‘dead’. Can your faith be seen in any ‘works’ for lifting up the poor
  • Today we arrive half-way in the Gospel of Mark. It is a turning point. Jesus’ secret identity only known and shouted by evil spirits is now public and spoken by Peter. The healing ministry of Galilee turns toward the suffering and saving mystery of Jerusalem – the Cross. Peter correctly states Jesus’ identity but misunderstands what this really means. Do you secretly wish God will ride triumphantly into the world and with power and might (violence!) ʻsave the worldʼ?
  • Peterʼs – and Jewish- expectation was for a Messiah / Saviour to be a Royal leader, political figure, show military might and ʻboot outʼ the occupation Army of Rome. Bring a military victory. Restore Israelʼs national honor. Jesus gets ʻtold offʼ by Peter when he suggests there is another way God will ʻsaveʼ. Jesus ʻrebukesʼ Peter and told him to get behind him (the rightful place for a disciple to walk is behind the master). A major argument reveals a major disagreement. What do you think is going on here? Satan is the Hebrew word for ʻobstacleʼ. What is the obstacle that needs to be removed?
  • As Jesus turns the disciples toward Jerusalem he gathered them together to teach them. To ʻtake up your crossʼ was a shocking idea for disciples of the time. We have sanitized it with the thought of privately enduring little hardships and spiritual difficulties. Essentially, the cross was the most shameful object to die upon. It was the means by which Rome torturedand crucified anyone who resisted them
    and the power ʻstatus quoʼ. It symbolised the powerful, crushing the poor. The fear of death (violence used by the powerful elite) reduced the poor to inaction and non revolution. Jesus points the pathway to over-turning this violence with nonviolent resistance and the willingness to even take up your cross, deny yourself, be willing to die. You will ransom (lead someone from slavery to freedom) societies structures and interrupt the cycleof violence in the world. The disciples didn’t get it. Do you?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?
livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ www.livingtheword.org.nz email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Holiness Comes from the Inside Out. 

Image result for Mark 7 :1-23

Reflection Questions:

• Deuteronomy literally means ‘second book of law’. The 10 commandments given to Moses when applied to daily life became a large set of 613 guidelines to
live a holy life. These are explored in the Book of Deuteronomy and added to by the ‘teaching of the elders’. Jewish people treasured their ‘laws’ as a national
treasure. Truth. Wisdom. Justice. Is a relationship helped or hindered by ‘laws’? What religious guidelines do you ‘observe carefully’? What practices have you found help you feel ‘close’ to God?

• The Letter of James is regarded as a ‘Catholic’ or ‘general’ letter as it was not written for a particular community. James insists liturgy and life-style are linked
together. He paints a beautiful picture: a disciple is like a new birth, a new creation of ‘truth’ made from the WORD. Like the first-fruit of a plant, the seed of the word is planted in us and should show itself outwardly. Eventually the aim of the plant is to ‘look like something’ – actions of caring for orphans and widows (the lowest in society) and an ‘unworldly’ character. Planting takes some preparation and nurturing. How could you allow the word to be more fully ‘planted in you’? It is easy for religion to be ‘skin deep’. Who are ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’ in your life? What would it look like for you to be ‘unstained by the world’ – less worldly?

• Returning back to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is in Galilee but ʻspiesʼ from Jerusalem come to watch him. Pharisees and scribes seek to shame him in public
telling Jesus and his disciples they are not keeping the ʻtraditions of the eldersʼ (613 laws) and obeying the ʻpurity codesʼ. Eating food is an intimate practice as it involves what goes into our bodies. Washing and cleansing rules were to apply. These rules gradually developed into such a complex list that poor and
working people of the land could not satisfy all the conditions. This experience turned religion into oppression and made people feel distant from God. Jesus
challenged this dynamic of oppression and exclusion under the guise of holiness. How might Jesus challenge us today?

• Pharisees saw themselves as lay people stirring up the faithful toward a ʻsuper- pietyʼ. Israel was called to Holiness – Lets be holy! Two characteristics mark the pharisee spirituality. (1) religion becomes a set of rules to be lived rather than a relationship of love to be lived. (2) Judgement is made of others who do not follow ʻrulesʼ consequently separating those who are ʻin – cleanʼ and ʻout – uncleanʼ. How can you see this dynamic within yourself? In others? What does
authentic holiness look like for you?

• Jesus over-turns the entire Jewish system of ritual purity which focussed on set external actions making one acceptable God. It is revolutionary as these
purity laws were proud identity markers for Jews of their ʻholinessʼ. He points deeply into the heart adding three ideas not normally listed

• blasphemy – literally ʻsaying what is wrong is actually rightʼ
• arrogance – literally ʻtrying to make a thing shinyʼ
• folly – foolish – literally ʻwithout a deeper perspectiveʼ

Do you consider these inner characteristics harmful? What virtues could you practice as their ʻantidoteʼ?
• What is one action that you will do to be
this week?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ