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Archive for the ‘Eucharist’ Category

Reflection Guide: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Reading 1 Gn 14:18-20, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Lk 9:11b-17

Image result for body and blood of christDiscussion Questions

• When the Church celebrates a special ʻFeastʼ or ʻSolemnityʼ it is frequently the result of controversy. The origin of this feast dates to the 12th Century responding to debate about the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. When was the first time you can remember debating and seeking to understand Jesus truly present with the gift of his body and blood in the Mass? How would you describe and share this eucharistic faith with a friend today?

• Melchizedek, King of Salem is a very mysterious figure without a genealogy. By his actions he is both King and Priest. And Salem is known as the future city of Jerusalem – the dwelling place of God the Most High for Israel. Abraham has just returned from overcoming 4 kings and rescuing Lot and all his possessions. A King was normally wary of such a visitor as Abraham. They would show welcome by tending to the wounded – hoping that their ʻkingdomʼ would not be pillaged by the visiting army. Strikingly Abraham who represents Godʼs people, offers this Priest / King a tenth of all his possessions! Many writers comment Melchizedek is a sign of an altogether new and divine priesthood able to confer a special blessing from God. How do you understand the Priesthood today?

• Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is the earliest writing we have of the celebration of the Eucharist (15-20 years before the first gospel). Paul
shares  his ‘tradition’ (which means ‘handing on’) comes from Jesus himself. We are told to ‘Do this’. For Jewish people, to do a ritual liturgical action in ʻremembranceʼ was to actually enter and receive the event celebrated. Paul shares the Eucharist proclaims and makes present the cross and victory of Jesus. We receive Godʼs forgiveness but also intimate communion. What does receiving ʻholy communionʼ mean for you?

• King Herod has just asked a question ʻwho is this man of whom I hear such wondersʼ? (Luke 9,9). The Gospel of Luke shares this miracle story of the loaves. Old Testament background stories add texture to this passage where Elisha showed himself working by Godʼs power to feed 100 people with a few loaves. God fed his hungry people in the journey in the desert through Moses. Jesus now feeds the hungry, sick,  and poor of Israel. Godʼs hospitality and Jesusʼ mission is shown. Jesus gets the 12 Apostles to serve the banquet. What might this teach us about the mission of the church in the world to the hungry? The Eucharist?

• The disciples attitude was one of inward focus and concern, ʻturn them awayʼ we donʼt have enough resources. As you receive Jesusʼ body
and blood will your attitude be one of simply ʻlookingʼ? selfishly ʻgettingʼ? generously self offering?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com 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: Pentecost – Lord Send Out Your Spirit

Readings: Acts 2:1-11;  1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Rom 8:8-17 1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
Jn 20:19-23

Pentecost Sequence Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home                                       Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store!                                      Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest;                        Sweet refreshment here below; In our labor, rest most sweet;                             Grateful coolness in the heat; Solace in the midst of woe.
 O most blessed Light divine, Shine within these hearts of yours,                          And our inmost being fill! Where you are not, we have naught,                       Nothing good in deed or thought, Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew;              Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will;                          Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.                                  On the faithful, who adore And confess you evermore, In your sevenfold gift descend; Give them virtue’s sure reward; Give them your salvation, Lord;          Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.

Reflection Questions

1] • Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast which also involved a liturgical celebration of bringing water into the temple and pouring water from the side of the altar. Life-giving water would symbolically flow from Jerusalem and give life to the whole world! Jesus fulfills and  replaces this Jewish feast saying that out of him will flow life-giving water (Jn 7:37-39). What does this image of Pentecost teach you?

2]• Pentecost is the reversal of the First Testament Tower of Babel story (see Genesis 11). Humankind’s sin and self importance building the tower to reach and equal God eventuated in the scattering of people and the confusion caused by different languages. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unites people and leads people to understand each other and the Christian message ‘in his native language’. What does this suggest is the true function of the Holy Spirit in the world? In the Church?

3]• Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didn’t have the gift of tongues were considered inferior. It was causing division in the community. One gift was not to be stressed over another. Everyone is gifted! What gift do you find easy to share and benefit others with? What gift do you feel you would like to develop more and use for God and the community?

4] • The Spirit and ʻgiftsʼ are connected to the body. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ do you identify with your gifts – eyes, head, heart, hands, mouth, ears. How do you show this in your daily life?

5]• Jesus is able to pass through locked doors to offer peace and forgiveness. What ʻlocked doorsʼ are present in your life? Use your imagination in a time of prayer and allow Jesus to meet you on the other side of these locked doors … what happened?

6]• The Spirit sends the Disciples / the Church ʻon missionʼ. The Church is as it were ʻplugged inʼ to a living power moulding all into the image and consciousness of Christ. Pentecost fills the Church and allows the Church to be the extension of Jesus’ ministry in the world. What feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ? Are you conscious of being  sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the worldʼ?

7]• In the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit had a difficult time in getting the disciples out from hiding behind locked doors and praying in the temple and in peopleʼs homes. It was only persecution in Jerusalem that eventually caused the light of the good news of Jesus to be given ʻto all the nationsʼ. Welcoming Gentiles into the Christian community was a huge obstacle and struggle for Jews who were the first Christians. What are the big obstacles to unity and inclusion in the Church today? How could the Church be more reconciling in the marketplace and with those the world excludes?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com 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 Divine Mercy for All here

Readings: Acts 5:12-16, Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19, Gospel Jn 20:19-31

Image result for doubting thomas scripture

Reflection Questions

• Early followers of Jesus were fearful that authorities would persecute them and their families. Consequently many dared not join the Apostles in the Temple porch. Is there something you would like to join in your Church family but are scared for some reason? What would help you get over your fear? Do you fear your Priest? Public leadership in the Church?

• Easter changed the disciples. A presence and power of Christ comes out of Peter that heals the sick and disturbed. It is primarily actions and signs that helped people believe. What signs and wonders could be done by your hands to bring Christ to the sick and disturbed?

• John, the Beloved Disciple, the writer of the Book of Revelation, was exiled on the island of Patmos because he gave testimony to Jesus. Yet in the midst of imprisonment he has deep and enlightening revelations from Christ – dressed in white walking among the lampstands (symbols of Christian communities). John shares he experiences the distress of trials, a kingdom vision which sustains him, the endurance and comforting presence of being in Jesus. Imagine Jesus walking amongst the lampstands of Christian communities. Is your community ‘shining’? Is there any experience of the disciple John that you can identify with in your life at present?

• Fear was very real for the disciples of Jesus. If Jesus had been hunted and killed the same could be done with his followers. Violent persecution eventually changed toward another type of persecution. Converts from Judaism to Christianity would be disowned by family.
A ‘funeral service’ would even be held to cut a convert off from their family and community. These kinds of oppressive and violent discrimination experiences are still all too real in our world today. Do you recognize as a Christian the calling to be living an ‘alternative society’ to witness to God’s ways whatever the challenges? How does your life-style ‘challenge the world’? We also recall St Peter Chanel
today who experienced a violent death for being Christian. In what ways do you or your community stand in solidarity with victims of violence and oppression?

• While other disciples had believed in Peter and John and Mary, Thomas refused and placed certain conditions on his belief. He needed Jesus to be very real for him. Jesus responded to Thomas’ probing and questioning. Do you identify with Thomas or know someone who is like Thomas? What is their/your question or source of ʻunbeliefʼ? Ask Jesus like Thomas for what you need. How could you be like Jesus for unbelievers and make faith ‘real’?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com. Livingtheword weekly download and resources this week by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary, and Bev McDonald ACSD and distributed by Marist Laity NZ www.maristlaitynz.org.

 

 

Reflection Guide Easter Vigil Year C

Reading 1-  Gn 1:1—2:2 or 1:1, 26-31a, Epistle Rom 6:3-11  Gospel: Lk 24:1-12

(The Discussion Guide for Easter Sunday Year C is available here )

See the source imageEaster Vigil Discussion Questions

• St Augustine has famously called the Easter Vigil ‘The Mother of All Feasts’. This special night gives us signs, symbols, words, gestures which are at the heart of our Catholic Christian faith and identity. Every Sunday celebration flows from this Easter Celebration.

• We gather in the dark of night. Darkness symbolising an absence of light, an unclear path to walk. Gathering around the light of a fire. Like people of ancient times have gathered and talked. We remember the pillar of fire that led God’s family through the desert journey. From this fire we light the Easter Candle the symbol of Christ. Our true ‘light’. It is normal to turn a light-switch and ‘see’. Can you locate an experience of darkness, feeling lost, uncertain of where and how to walk? And the joy of a ‘light’ to guide you? This dark / light reality is important to let enter your religious imagination this night.

• The foundational story of our beginnings and the divine statement 6 times of creation being ‘very good’ is deeply important. Despite the chaos of history, pollution, violence, can you look deeply into life and see ‘goodness’ and the ‘beauty of men and women in the ‘image of God’? How might this foundational attitude of goodness and thank-full-ness toward life cause you to live?

•St Paul teaches us about baptism and the renewal of our baptismal promises made at the Easter Vigil. Our baptism actually entered us into Jesus’ death. We were in a spiritual sense ‘buried’. Our baptism calls us into ‘a death like his’. Our ‘old self’ of selfishness and sin has and is being crucified and ‘put to death’. Christ’s rising is also our future rising. Consider Paul’s words personally: ‘you must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ’. What do these words teach you about your baptism?

•The three women mentioned were disciples of Jesus since his ministry in the Galilee and went to the tomb to complete his burial rituals. They found the stone was already rolled away. When have you anticipated a major obstacle only to discover it has been ‘rolled away’? Were you able to recognize the hand of God in that?

•The Resurrection of Jesus was foretold to the disciples, but they had not understood. Now the full meaning of Christ’s words is unfolding. Women were not valued as witnesses and yet three women were given the first experience and news of the Resurrection. Notice that it was women; Mary and Elizabeth who were responded at the Annunciation, announced the Incarnation and Mary was instrumental at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry at Cana. Why do you think that detail about women is highlighted in the Gospel? If the story was made up it would be laughable to have women as key characters and witnesses. What does that say to you about the original equality of man and woman in Genesis and about the truth of the Gospel account?

• The apostles did not believe the women. Only Peter reacted and went to see what had happened. He sees only burial clothes and is
amazed at what had happened. At every Eucharist we are invited to ‘remember’ like the women and be ‘amazed’ like Peter. Ask God for what you need to experience the fullness of the Resurrection in your life today and go with courage to share the news?

• Lights turn on and bells ring at the reading of the Gospel in the Easter Vigil. Why? No matter how Lent went, ENJOY EASTER!

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz   Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and Mrs Bev McDonald, Lay Marist (ACSD), distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Holy Thursday Mass of the Lords Supper

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-181 Cor 11:23-26Jn 13:1-15

Reflection Questions

• Holy Thursday is a celebration of the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and a reminder of the last command of Jesus for disciples to love and serve each other. There are some dramatic images of blood being painted on doorways and a humble servant washing dirty feet. Both are heavy with meaning as we enter the celebration of the sacred 3 days of Easter.

• A lamb being sacrificed and the blood placed on the doorways of the house caused the angel of death to pass-over the house. All the houses not marked with blood were affected by death (see Ex 12,23). Symbolically blood represented life. It also had the power to overcome sin and death. It cleansed. It forgave sin. Can you make the link between the Passover lamb and Jesus being the “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“? What is the significance of Christ’s blood?

• In a typical Jewish celebration of the Passover meal the Father would take some unleavened bread and remind the family of having to leave Egypt in great haste. Imagine the surprise of the disciples when Jesus speaks not of the Exodus or unleavened bread but states his own body will bring about a new Exodus / Passover. Jesus is replacing the Jewish Passover with new sacramental words and signs. What links can you see between unleavened bread and the gift of Jesus’ body?

• To understand the Eucharist we need first to understand the Passover (which the Eucharist fulfills and replaces). In the Jewish Passover there were four cups of wine. The second cup was the most important. It remembered the blood of the lambs sprinkled on the doorposts. Jesus in the words of institution at the last supper did not make reference to the blood of the lamb, but instead states he is beginning a new and everlasting covenant with his own blood. How is Jesus fulfilling and replacing the Jewish Passover?

• St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest passages of scripture in the New Testament. Paul states very clearly that what was handed on to him about the celebration of the Eucharist was connected with Jesus’ own words and command at the last supper. If the Eucharist is proclaiming the death of the Lord what does this mean for you? For the world?

• St John does not have the last supper scene like the other gospels. Instead John teaches Christian disciples that to celebrate the Eucharist is by implication to participate in the life of Jesus who emptied himself, washed, served. Foot washing was considered such a lowly task that even Jewish slaves were not expected or asked to perform it! John teaches us NOT to disconnect the Eucharist from our service to repair and heal the world. How does Jesus’ last example and the tools of the trade of a basin and towel challenge you today?

What does self emptying work mean? How does loving service, without desire for return, still surprise today? Is it recognised as the ‘trademark’ of being a Catholic/ disciple? What does washing the dirty parts of humanity, look like in our society today?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz   Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and Mrs Bev McDonald, a Lay Marist,(ACSD), distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: God’s Astonishing Mercy

Readings: Is. 43:16-21, Phil. 3:8-14, Gospel Jn 8:1-11

Image result for Jesus "Go and sin no more"

Reflection Questions

• Chapters 40-55 are a special part of the Book of Isaiah. While still away from their homeland struggling with life in exile in Babylon, Isaiah invites people to understand God ‘is doing something new’. Have you ever wanted things to ‘return to the way they were’ when chariots and horseman of Egypt were beaten up by God? If you had to ‘see’ new ‘rivers’, current experiences that are forming you, what would you identify? Do you allow yourself to see difficult times as experiences that can grow you eventually into ‘praise’?

• In his previous life as a Pharisee, Paul would have treasured living all 613 Jewish laws taught by Moses. He would have had honor and status in the community. This is now colourfully referred to as ‘rubbish’. (Literally the word means scraps thrown to dogs). Paul’s life is now aimed toward ‘being taken possession of by Jesus’. Have you ever desired to be ‘fully taken over by God’? How could you pursue this as a ‘goal’? Paul reflects this reality of possession is not ‘taken’ but received as a gift. What part of your life would you like to ask the Spirit into this Lent?

• In the season of Lent special readings are chosen to hopefully puncture our lives so that we let in God’s mercy. The Prodigal Son is now followed this week
with the Woman caught in Adultery. Both readings reveal an unexpected forgiveness.

• Early in the morning people starting coming to Jesus in the temple area and listened to his teaching. In this last week of Lent how could you bring yourself into the presence of Jesus to ‘listen’ and ask for guidance. Is there a church in your neighbourhood, on your way to work which can help you achieve this?

• Scribes and Pharisees believed following Laws strictly would bring a person into ‘holiness’. They were upset Jesus spent time with those doing the opposite (sinners). They test him publicly if he keeps the Laws Moses commanded. They wish to maintain a way of relating to God that puts people into ‘holy’- right -and ‘sinners’ – wrong. Love and mercy is abandoned in favour of judgment and punishment. Jesus beautifully takes away all ‘holy’ pretending as he knows we all sin. Faced with this deep truth we meet God’s response. Consider praying vulnerably in the context of your own life: neither do I condemn you. What is your response to someone when you realise they do not judge you but love you?

• Can you remember a time when your relationship with God changed away from a focus on sin toward a deeper knowing of forgiveness? What has been the deepest experience you have had of the Mercy of God? Do you allow the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help you move beyond guilt into wisdom and forgiveness?

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

N.B.  in communities that are welcoming candidates for Baptism at Easter, different readings may be used for the ‘Rite of Scrutinies’ this Sunday.

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz   Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: The Fathers Outrageous Love

Readings:  JOS 5:9A, 10-12, 2 COR 5:17-21, Gospel LK 15:1-3, 11-32

Image result for prodigal sonReflection Questions

• While Moses was a great leader and teacher, the courage of Joshua was needed to face the challenge of entering the ʻpromised landʼ. The manna ceased. They were now to work for their food. What change has God been trying to work in you and teach you this Lent?

• St Paul wanted to teach the Corinthian community that faith in Jesus was more than believing oneʼs sins forgiven. God has also given us the ministry of reconciliation in the world. Reconciliation between peoples and with God is a christians top priority. What relationships need ʻreconcilingʼ in your life? Who could you start with?

• In the middle of Lent the Church encourages us to look at our understanding of God with the parable of the prodigal son. It is Jesus teaching us what the Fathers love is really like. The Pharisees were complaining that Jesus did not obey the laws of keeping separate from sinners. Surely God does not want to get ʻcontaminatedʼ with sinners? What do you honestly think is Godʼs response to your sinfulness? What ʻimageʼ do you have of God?

• The young son commits the biggest sin possible for a young Jewish person. Asking for the inheritance was like wishing Dad was ‘dead’! Yet the father’s love does not change. Do you feel distant from God because of something you have done? Can you accept the love that the Father showed to his child is the same love that is shown to you? Will you accept this love in the sacrament of reconciliation this Lent? What might hold you back?

• The Father does a number of humiliating actions which show the depth of his love. The Father runs in public. It was unbecoming for a Jewish elder to show
one’s ankles in public. It is the equivalent of ‘baring one’s bottom’. The crowds attention is now drawn away from the son and the possibility of hurting him. The father accepts the humiliation, in front of the whole community, of the older son angry and argumentative. Does the older son wish the father was dead too? Does anyone appreciate the Fathers love? If this is what God is like toward you what is your response?

• The Son reaches a very low point in his life. Literally, the phrase ‘coming to his senses’ can be translated ‘he entered into himself’. He makes the most profound decision of his life to ‘return’. What places, practices and people could help you journey ‘into yourself’ this Lent? What decisions have you resisted in the past that would most transform your life?

• The parable of the Prodigal (Reckless) Son is also called the Parable of the Prodigal Father. So unconditional is the Father’s love that neither the youngest
son or eldest son fully accept it. The parable ends without a resolution. Will God’s children accept his unconditional love and enjoy the ‘fattened calf’ and
banquet? Can you glimpse this invitation in the celebration of the Eucharist?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz E-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   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: Repent and Bear Fruit

Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15, 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12, Gospel Lk 13:1-9


Reflection Questions

  • In our first reading God meets Moses at the mountain of God; while Moses was simply carrying out his duties tending the flock, something caught his attention and he investigated. How attentive are you to God communicating in your everyday life?
  • God explains to Moses that this revelation is not completely new but rather is in continuity with the history and experience of the Jewish people. (I AM the God of your fathers…). Moses ‘hid his face’ ‘afraid to look at God’. Reverence and awe before the sacred and acceptance of historical continuity in community are not easy concepts in today’s Western culture. Why is it so important that our spiritual experiences be tested within a historical community of continuity? How much do these concepts challenge you and why?
  • God chooses to reveal the Divine Name to Moses; “I AM WHO I AM.” It is so sacred to Judaism that they use initials ‘YHWH’. What does it mean when
    someone shares their name with you? How have you encountered God so far during Lent?
  • When we listen to God do we take on the role of passive spectator OR actively engage with God as a change agent. Moses shared with God that he felt too
    weak and unable to talk properly. God provides answers to all Moses’ issues. How has God asked something of you lately? Have you freely explained your concerns to God and who might you ask to help you be obedient to fulfilling God’s will?
  • The Corinthian community was becoming comfortable. They assumed that receiving Baptism and celebrating Eucharist was all one needed to be saved. St Paul reminds them of the dangers of presuming salvation. Our Hebrew ancestors did this and they “were struck down in the desert”. This is a warning, we need to continually try to cooperate with God. Are you feeling comfortable in your faith? What lifestyle choice or action could you make to express a more committed following of Jesus?
  • The theme of God’s judgment enters Lent in this passage of Luke. Pilate had killed religious revolutionaries from Galilee while they were offering
    sacrifices to God in the temple. That event was compared to a tower falling over near the Temple (pool of Siloam) killing 18 people. They asked Jesus if
    these people were sinners, and if God was punishing them. Jesus provides a shocking answer. We are all going to die and receive judgment before God. It
    is urgent and your first concern is to be found ‘ready’. Are you?  If not, why not?
  • The fig tree, the only tree mentioned in the the garden of Eden, is at the same time a symbol of the promised Land, God’s people, & the blessing of God. In the parable, can you see yourself as the fig tree? Who do you think the gardener is? It took about 3 years for a fig to fruit. By God’s mercy it is given more time – but it is still under judgment. Consider God’s call on each of us as disciples. What is it like to know God is merciful? How is God fertilizing and cultivating you? What fruit are we are asked to produce?
  • In ancient times people thought God was vengeful & punishing. Jesus says God is NOT this way. He shares the importance of people moving away from sin and destructive patterns of guilt and blame. Repent means literally ‘to turn your life around’. What would you like to turn ‘from’ and ‘toward’?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

www.livingtheword.org.nz    Livingtheword download and resources this week are by Fr Frank Bird sm, Marist Priest, and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD,

Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com They are distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.  www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: 2nd Sunday Lent – This Promise is For You

Readings: Gn 15:5-12, 17-18, Phil 3:17—4:1 or 3:20—4:1, Gospel Lk 9:28b-36

Related image

Reflection Questions

• Abram has 3 conversations with God about a promise made to him. This is the second and Abram is upset. He has left his home, is in a foreign land, and the promise to be the Father of a large nation is almost laughable as he and his wife are now so old. They do not have a child. Abram asks for a sign. God makes a covenant. In the Old Testament a covenant was a solemn promise between two parties. Both parties would walk through the middle of the split animals as a symbol of what would happen if either party broke the promise. God is the only one to walk through the animals (v17) symbolised by the fire. What do you think this means? Can you identify with Abram in your life? What does God’s covenant faithfulness mean for you today?

• St Paul loved the Philippian community. They were his first community. They were being pressured politically. To be acceptable they needed to partake in civic ceremonies and the worship of the Emperor cult. They were worried about their image of acceptability. St Paul reminds them their citizenship is in heaven. What pressures do you face to be acceptable in the eyes of the world? How can you live more fully for ‘heaven’ during this time of Lent?

• The transfiguration of Jesus appearing dazzlingly white symbolises a heavenly reality. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Fulfilling the law (Moses) and the
prophets (Elijah). Jesus’ divine nature shines through. While glorious, the ministry in Galilee is now over. Jesus will soon ‘set his face like flint’ (Lk 9,51) towards the ‘exodus’, his suffering, death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Peter wants to stay in glory on the mountain. Is there anything you have heard in prayer that requires costly obedience? Where would the ‘journey down the mountain’(from prayer) and confronting evil (to the cross) lead you?

• Making tents and sleeping in them was part of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It reminded Jewish people of the special time when God pitched his tent among them in the desert. It was a symbol of wanting God to be with them again. Jesus is revealed as the very presence of God among his people in the
transfigured bright whiteness like Moses had met on Mt Sinai. Peter doesn’t get it. He seeks to build tents hoping for a future coming of God. Peter does not
know what he is saying or doing. Are you mucking around with ‘tents’ or going down the mountain to work?

• The ‘Divine Voice’ of the Father from heaven speaks only a few times in the Gospels. 9 words are shared today: ‘This is my chosen Son, listen to him’. During the season of Lent how could you ‘listen’ more? What is the best way you have found in the past to ‘listen’ to God?

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

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 

See the source image

• 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?