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Archive for the ‘Humble servanthood’ Category

Discussion Guide:(10th March 2019) 1st Sunday of Lent-Listen: How is the Spirit calling you?

DT 26:4-10, Rms 10:8-13, Gospel LK 4:1-13

Reflection Questions 

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• The book of Deuteronomy shares one of the most important statements of faith in the Old Testament. It was spoken every time a person gave their offering to the priest in the Temple. It reminded them of their identity and how God ‘saved’ them. Bringing the tithe (tenth) of the harvest to the temple acknowledged God’s care and provision. How could you express this religious practice of thankfulness – ‘tithing’ (giving a 10th)? Dt 26: 12-15 invites giving to the levite (priest), the foreigner (refugee), the orphan and the widow (those without family and financial support). This is at the heart of the Lenten practice of ‘almsgiving’. How generous will you be in giving of your time, talent, money, compassion… this Lent as a way of ‘thanksgiving’ for what God has given you?
• Paul’s letter to the Romans is a careful explanation of how we are made right with God. Justification by keeping the ‘law’ was deeply ingrained in Jewish consciousness and history. Paul reminds us that it is faith in God’s covenantal relationship with us in Jesus that saves us. In a relationship, what is the difference between ‘law’ and ‘love’? Do you ‘enjoy-love’ your relationship with God? Does a ‘love’ relationship need to respect any ‘law’? What word or image would describe your relationship with God ‘now’ as the journey of Lent begins?
• Jesus in the desert provides us with the starting point of Lent. Consider how you can create some ‘desert’ space in your life, away from distractions and noise, to be with God and discover your ‘true’ self? What is 1 decision you can make to enter the Lenten ‘desert’?
• Careful reflection on Jesus’ temptations leads us to see a mirror conflict within ourselves between good and evil. Get bread for ‘self’. Seek power and reputation. Demand support from others. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are practices during Lent to deconstruct our false self and reconstruct our true self. Almsgiving enables the hungry at our door and beyond to be fed and healed. Fasting turns us from worldly consumerism to clarity of purpose and compassion for others. Prayer tunes us into God’s vision and voice. From Jesus’ temptations, which core temptation do you notice strongly at work in your life? Which Lenten practice do you need?
• Repent literally means ‘change your mind’. It could be understood as ‘turn your value system around completely – 180 degrees’. As Lent begins, Jesus guides us: there is more to life than satisfying our ‘bread-belly’ and physical or material cravings. What creative fasting experience could you create to nourish your spirit and soul journey?
• Returning from the great baptism event in the Jordan, Jesus would have faced pressure to get active and do things. Interestingly his choice was to listen to
where the Holy Spirit deep inside was calling. Are you faced with a temptation to ‘perform’ and be a certain type of person in public? Whose voice is the Spirit and what is the Desert for you?
• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: 8th Sunday Year C – Walking the Talk

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 27:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58, Lk 6:39-45

Image result for pope francis with the sick

Reflection Questions

1] The Book of Sirach is also known as “Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach.” It teaches ethical and theological topics and ideas. It talks a lot about the tongue and speech and the author indicates here that a person’s thoughts and words are a mirror of what lies in the soul. People can be ‘smooth talkers’ until they are shaken or put through tribulation and the ‘husks’ they try to hide are revealed. How true do you think it is that a person’s talk reveals who they really are? How attentive are you to your own speech?

2]  The revolutionary hope of Christianity is in these words of Paul. Corinth was a major cosmopolitan sea-trading city. Idolatry and immorality were rife. Paul insists we can overcome sin through Christ. (15:57). What do you think Paul means when he says God gives us the ‘victory’ through Jesus? How have you experienced this ‘victory’ or a degree of mastery over sin? What area of your life do you most need ‘victory’?

3] Paul acknowledges our ‘corruptible’ bodies but states we will be clothed in Christ’s ‘incorruptibility’ and ‘immortality’. How does that make you feel?

4] Most of us know someone with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Many times, the vulnerable are gifted with a differently abled way of seeing, hearing or sensitivity which is both gift and challenge to us all. Pope Benedict stated; “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” … “Man is worth so much to God that he himself became human in order to suffer with us in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed in … Jesus’s Passion.” (Spe Salvi, 37, 39) How do you reconcile suffering with the promises of Christ? What encourages you most about Paul’s words?

5] Paul says that the Resurrection means nothing we do is wasted. We often don’t see the results of our efforts but if we truly believe Christ has won the victory then as the saying goes; we may lose the battle but win the war. In God’s case the war is already won. Paul’s perspective calls us not to idly ‘hope’ for some future heaven, but to live right now in God’s Reign.  We are called to do all the good we can today, knowing everything we do matters to God. How can I allow that truth to more deeply impact my daily life?

6]  The Gospel links strongly with the first reading.  What are the main connections for you? Jesus challenges us to not just talk the talk but to walk the talk. St Augustine asked, “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” When did you last seriously review your own talk, habits & reactions for ‘vinegar’? How hard is it for you to trust others? How is testing others different from criticizing? What help do you need from God to fill your heart with honey and ‘a store of goodness’? “…Every tree is known by its own fruit’. God has equipped us to bear good fruit. How are you tending the fruit tree of your life? How do others experience you as a person and a Christian? Is there a difference?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com  Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

 

Discussion Guide: Generous Good Measure – God’s Way of Living and Giving

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49,  Gospel: Luke 6:27-38 

Reflection QSee the source imageuestions

1] David and around 600 men are living in caves in the desert of Ziph. King Saul brings 3,000 elite troops to hunt and kill him (Consider reading 1 Samuel as a short story.) After David killed Goliath, Saul kept David close, made him chief commander and his son-in-law. But soon, filled with fear and jealous insecurity he plots to kill David. In this episode, David and Abishai have the chance to kill Saul but David refuses; “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Contrast David’s wisdom, constraint and wit with Abishai, who though brave and faithful is quick to act rashly without thought. Have you ever felt condemned by someone you trusted? How does David deal with his desire for revenge? What qualities does David use that might help us in our relationships with people in authority?

2] Continuing his teaching on Resurrection St Paul says that when Jesus rose from the dead, he became ‘life-giving spirit’ releasing the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world. Our human body grows throughout life. While not describing our resurrected bodies, Paul makes it clear that real transformation takes place. Remember Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and was never the same again. When we enter relationship with God, a real encounter takes place and in some way the mystery of becoming part of the body of Christ transforms us, while also allowing for us to continue to grow more deeply into the perfect image of the ‘heavenly one’. As you reflect on that mystery what do you most want to ask God for? What area of your life needs transforming? How do you need to grow, in order to become more like Christ?
3] The sermon on the mount continues with very challenging teaching from Jesus. The Gospel is in some sense acted out in the story of David and Saul. What links do you see between the two readings?
4] When you reflect on the Gospel what teaching stands out most for you? Talk with God about why that strikes you and what area of your life, God is inviting you to open to His transforming life-giving Spirit?
5] The so called ‘golden rule’ says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Abuse in any form is an abomination. How can we adhere to these radical teachings of Christ and still stay safe, respecting our own bodies and needs in the face of violence or abuse? How can we be merciful to those enduring violence and ill treatment?
6] The Jews listening to Jesus despised the Romans because they were occupying their land and controlling their freedom. Soldiers routinely insulted Jews demanding they carry their loads, give up their cloaks and worse. So, the teaching to ‘love your enemies and do good to them’ was profoundly shocking. Jesus explains that our mercy needs to be abundant like Gods. A merchant who gives a ‘good measure’ pours grain into your container, presses it down, shakes it, presses, shakes and fills again. As a result, your contents are compressed. You continue receiving grain until your container is literally running over the sides ‘into your lap.’ You only pay for that one container but it gets filled with far more than seems possible. Use your imagination in prayer and see yourself receiving from God like that. How does it feel? Ask God for the grace to give and forgive like that?
7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ.
Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com     Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Trust in the Lord and Live the Beatitudes 6th Sunday Year C  

Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20, Gospel: Luke 6:17,20-26
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Reflection Questions

1] Jeremiah shares a blessing and curse prophecy which is frequent in the Old Testament. It is designed to wake us up and help us think. He warns against trusting in mere mortals. Even powerful personalities can lead us astray. Only the Lord is worthy of our trust and when we invite God to guide our lives, even disaster won’t destroy us. Allow your imagination to ponder the two images – a barren bush in the dry salty desert versus a tree always bearing fruit beside a stream. What strikes you as you see yourself in these images?

2] Trust and fear are often linked. What do you most fear losing in life? Talk to God about how that impacts your trust.

3] St Paul speaks to some in Corinth who do not believe in the Resurrection. They struggle to believe that our bodies could be glorified in heaven. St Paul makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection is central to our Faith which becomes ‘most pitiable’ unless we believe Jesus is Lord. His birth, life and teaching, death, resurrection and ascension are one continuous salvation event. God reveals his eternal love and desire that we be with Him forever and then provides the way where we become one with Christ through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. As you reflect on your Baptism provides the way through Baptism and the Holy Spirit; we die to our old self under the water and rise to new life, becoming one with Christ. Reflect on your Baptism. What links can you see between Baptism and Resurrection? N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’ Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” How do you react to that statement?

4] We never say Jesus ‘has’ risen. We proclaim, ‘Jesus IS Risen’. “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Our belief in the resurrection of our bodies (Creed) is established through the Resurrection of Christ. How deep is your conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and how does that impact your daily choices and decisions? Who do you really put your trust in? Talk with God about your belief or struggles. Try praying, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

5] Jesus has just spent the night in prayer, chosen the twelve (his team!) and he sits them down. The stage is set for his most important teaching: the Beatitudes. Nowhere in Luke does the Gospel challenge us so severely. What are my ultimate pursuits? What world order am I living for? What measurement system of success am I committed to? Am I on the side of the poor and hungry or the rich and the full? What does your lifestyle and actions show? Are you good news to the poor? (note Luke means primarily economically poor not the tamer ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew). We sometimes speak of these teachings as “BE-Attitudes”. It seems that the choices we make ‘now’ will impact us for eternity. What do you think Jesus means?

6] The Beatitudes bring together a clashing of two ideas and worldviews. It causes a conflict within us. All things being equal, to have riches and to be full is a good. But the reality of our world is inequality. The status quo is unacceptable for God and Jesus’ disciples. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes does not let Christians off the hook. There will be a radical reversal of fortune in God’s judgement. Woe to you who are rich, filled, who can laugh now. How can I proclaim,
‘Jesus is Lord’ with integrity and not take this teaching seriously?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ. Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com       Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Year C, Sunday Week 3. Jesus’ Mission-Our Mission

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27,  Gospel Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Reflection Questions

• In the first reading the People of God were returning from exile in Babylon. They were a band of refugees returning to their ‘religious’ home. Nehemiah was their leader helping the community to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. Ezra was their priest leading the community in listening to the ‘laws’ of
God. Ezra is known for strict adherence to the laws of Moses and not allowing intermarriage. The people cry because they hear the law and have it interpreted
for them so that they understand. Is there an area of the Church’s teaching which you may need to hear and have interpreted for you? What is it? Who could
you ask for help? Why do you think Ezra tells them to eat and drink?

• St Paul continues teaching the community about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some of the community thought they were ‘better’ than others because they had the gift of tongues. St Paul teaches the gifts of the spirit serve the community and help it to truly be the ‘body’ of Christ in the world. Do you feel your gifting for serving the Church is in the head (teaching), heart (caring), hands (serving), feet (missionary) of the Church? Are you accepting and celebrate your gifts or are you ‘jealous’ of others? How could you share your gifting this week? This year? In your Parish?

• In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ‘public’ ministry to the most difficult group – his hometown! Jesus is clear and bold in his vision. Do you have a clear sense of mission and purpose in your life and service of God? Jesus uses 50 words, what would you write in 50 words for your personal mission statement as you begin the year?

• The ‘Lord’s year of favour’ is the 50th year (the Jubilee Year as established in Leviticus 25). Debts were cancelled, prisoners and slaves freed, land was
returned to its original family ownership. The whole financial, social and political structure was renewed. The Jewish people called this the ‘Tikkan Olam’ meaning ‘the repair of the world’. Repairing the world is an essential part of the work of the Church and every follower of Jesus. Allow this idea to enter your
imagination for a moment. Do you consider ‘healing the world’ as part of your consciousness and job description as a follower of Jesus? What area of need
in the world ‘attracts you’ -calls out to you? What has been your response so far?

• This year we will journey with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. A focus for Luke is Jesus’ care and attention to those who are hurting, excluded, ‘downtrodden’. If
you were to look about in your family, community, wider society, who do you notice has been knocked over and hurt by life… and is now ‘trampled on’ by the
invisible hidden foot of societies structures? The Gospel of Luke is also known as the ‘Gospel of Mercy’. Mercy comes from the Hebrew word for ‘womb’. Will you be moved to compassion for those in need? Information without application is fascination. Information with application is transformation. Will the Gospel of Luke transform you this year?

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

Discussion Guide: Do Whatever He Tells You

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Is 62:1-5, 1 Cor 12:4-11, Gospel, Jn 2:1-11

Reflection Questions

• This Sunday marks the beginning of ‘Ordinary’ Time. The season of Christmas has ended. Isaiah is among the group of Jewish exiles who return to Jerusalem
(Zion). They see a city in ruins. Some wish to return to Babylon. Isaiah sees in hope and envisions a city shining beautifully ‘like a burning torch’. When some think ‘Forsaken’ Isaiah thinks ‘My delight’. When some see ‘desolate’ Isaiah sees ‘Married’. As you look at Yourself, the Church and the World, what do you ‘see’? How do you think God ‘sees’ You, the Church, the World? Do you need to move from self condemning thoughts to rejoicing thoughts? Imagine God wanting to dance and rejoice with you as if in a marriage dance. What are your feelings…..

• St Paul is concerned about people in the Corinthian community who consider only Christians who have the gift of tongues have great spiritual powers. Self righteous people have hurt others in the community. St Paul wants to heal the community and remind people there are many gifts – (and he places tongues last!). What gifts have you noticed within you? In others? What area of need in the Church matches your passion, energy and ‘gifts’?

• Mary was attentive to the ordinary needs of people around her. She noticed ‘They have no wine’ and had compassion for them. She knew it would bring shame on the family. How attentive are you to the everyday needs of people around you? Mary invited Jesus to help. Have you ever invited someone to do something and their response was ‘I’m not quite ready’. Its not the right time. Mary encourages Jesus into public ministry – and doesn’t get put off with his response! Jesus reminds her his ‘hour’ is something deeply personal between him and the Father. Have you reached a point in life when your ‘hour’ is near? Is it time to commit to a public witness of your faith? To ministry. Single life. Marriage. Religious life. Priesthood? Will you listen to the Father? Have you had a ‘Mary’ person ask and invite you into service? What was your response?

• Huge water jars were used for purification and ritual cleansing. The servants were told by Mary to ‘do whatever he tells you.’ They were not asked to perform the miracle. They were simply asked to do what they knew how to do; but to do it when they did not understand why. They ‘filled the jars to the brim’. Their obedience and commitment to service allowed the miracle of super-abundant wine to be revealed. When we serve God with what we know how to do even when it seems insignificant, Gods abundant grace fills not only us with wonder but provides amazing grace for others. Name a time you were asked to go the extra mile and do something apparently simple, then saw God work in a special way for others? What was that like for you? For them?

• The Jewish people had a prophecy that the Messiah would bring an abundance of great wine. Jesus’ first public ‘sign’ in the Gospel of John is to enter a marriage ceremony and replace water with at least$15,000 of the best wine ever tasted. What do you think this reveals for the Church? For you? For John, a ‘sign’ points to a deeper reality. What is the difference between ‘water’ and ‘wine’? Water is life-giving and cleansing. Wine is fermented for celebration and joy. Is your spiritual journey more like water or wine? Do you ‘believe’?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ 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 Bev McDonald, Facilitator of Marist Laity NZ
www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide Baptism of the Lord: You are Chosen and Called

Is 42:1-4, 6-7, Acts 10:35-38, Gospel LK 3:15-16, 21-22

See the source image

Reflection Questions

• The prophet Isaiah speaks often of the promise that God will send a Messiah. Today’s prophecy foretells Jesus’ coming. Celebrating Jesus’ Baptism we learn also of our own ‘job description’ to live following Jesus’ lifestyle and example in the world. Have you made your baptism personal and meaningful? What does it mean for you to be: ‘chosen’, ‘upon whom I have put my spirit’, ‘bring forth justice’. Called personally for the ‘victory of justice’. Have you recognised God trying to take you by the hand and form you, ask you to be an example and light for others? Transform peoples lives who are blind and suffering in darkness?

• Acts 10 is a very important chapter and experience in the life of St Peter. Peter was Jewish and was brought up in strict observance knowing what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. Non Jews (Gentiles / Greeks) were considered ‘unclean’. If you entered their home or ate with them you became ‘unclean’. Peter is told by God to go into Cornelius’ home (He was a Gentile and a despised Roman soldier!). Peter has a significant conversion of the mind… ‘people of every nation are acceptable to God’. Who do you consider to be ‘clean’ ‘unclean’? What obstacles did Peter have to overcome to go into Cornelius’ house? What obstacles do you have to overcome?

• It was a custom for disciples to carry the masters sandals. It was a sign of discipleship. The image John shares is he is not even worthy to bow down and undo the sandals of Jesus. The holiness and distinctiveness between John and Jesus is emphasised. Why?

• Historical and theological writing is present in this Baptism scene of Jesus. Isaiah had cried out to God in the Old Testament – open the heavens and come down! Now the clouds are pushed apart, the spirit of God descends and God’s voice is heard. Here he is! The Messiah. The promised one. My Son. Imagine being  at this scene. Imagine this is your baptism scene. What do you feel? Think? Fulfilling the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah, do you accept your baptismal ‘job description’?

• You may have been too young to remember your own baptism. It does not mean that you cannot now become conscious of what happened and what it means ‘today’. A special prayer was prayed over you as part of your anointing, you were ‘Christed’ to be a Priest, Prophet and King. Your call as a Lay Disciple is to be

  1. • Priest – bring the world to God and God to the world
  2. • Prophet – listen to the scriptures and speak God’s word of comfort and challenge to the world
  3. • King – to lead the world not follow the world.

• How could you grow in awareness and expression of your God-given calling?

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

Discussion Guide Midnight Mass

Readings: Is 9:1-6,  Ti 2:11-14, Gospel Lk 2:1-14

No automatic alt text available.The artist is Gari Melchers. It’s titled The Nativity and was painted in 1891.

Reflection Questions

• Watch ‘The Christmas Story’ http://youtu.be/JSGNJnAGCOc and notice how seeing the birth of Jesus throughthe eyes of children helps you seesome things in a new way. What part of the Christmas story strikes you the most?

• The first reading is a prophecy of Isaiah of war ended, a great leader arising from the family line of King David to bring judgment and justice. Reflect on the images. Walking in darkness then seeing a great light. Going out to pick fruits and produce of the earth and to know your family will be fed with plenty of food. Relief that war has ended and your community and family can now live in safety. Slave tasks of carrying heavy loads has ended. All the evidence and bloodshed of war being removed and burned. How has Jesus’ birth done this? What is the link between Jesus’ birth and death? Instead of military might to change the world, what does Jesus offer?

•Paul’s letter to Titus reminds us that while we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are still consciously living in preparation for his second coming. Christians are called not to retreat from the world but be a ‘sign’ in the world. Would someone watching your life notice that you are being ‘trained’, rejecting godless ways and worldly desires? Living modestly? Courageous in seeking justice? Devout and prayer-full? Eager and ready to do good?

• Caesar Augustus was the most powerful person in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the leader of the Roman Empire. The only superpower of the day. He was given the public title ‘Saviour of the World’ as he had managed to bring peace after 100 years of unrest. Enrolling people involved taking a census. This often meant knowing how many people and how much tax could be charged – to pay for armies and military power! Consequently a census sometimes caused a revolt by citizens. In contrast Luke shares: today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ the Lord, lying in a manger. What do you think Luke is trying to suggest about salvation?

• God’s explosion into human history in the birth of Jesus is not in royal and beautiful surroundings. Christians have romanticised his birth considering it a beautiful event. But the reality was uncomfortable straw. In the midst of animals. Not accepted by his own people in the town of Bethlehem. On the outside of town. On the margins among people on the margins (Shepherds were considered dirty and dishonest!). How does this stretch your attitudes and perceptions
of Christmas. Who does God ‘favour’?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ 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: Maranatha; Come Lord Jesus.

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

Image result for Advent Journey to Jerusalem

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: Clearing the Path for Christ

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

See the source image

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