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Archive for the ‘evangelisation’ Category

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: Put Out Into the Deep

See the source image

Reflection Questions

Is 6:1-2a, 3-8, 1 Cor 15:1-11 or 15:3-8, 11. Gospel Lk 5:1-11

• Isaiah shares his vocation call from God. His response of feeling unworthy ‘I have unclean lips’, God’s healing response ‘your sin is purged’ and his response ‘Here I am, send me!’. Call, resistance, healing, acceptance, is the common pattern of vocation. What is your personal vocation story and what ‘stage’ are you at? What fear would have to be dissolved before you could genuinely say to God; Here I am…. Send me!?

• St Paul is writing to the Corinthian community which was beginning to practice a ‘selective Christianity’. They discarded teaching which they did not like. Some could not accept the teaching of the resurrection because they thought matter was evil and spirit was good. They are reminded that Christian teaching can be traced back to Jesus, from the scriptures, from the Apostles – and Paul himself is faithful to their teaching. Are there elements of the Church’s teaching you want to be ‘selective’ about? Who could you talk with to find out more about the ‘why’ of the Church’s teaching?

• Paul says of himself that he was ‘abnormally born’. It took a while for Paul to be able to meet and share faith with the apostles. They were possibly afraid of  him (he did persecute Christians!) and he was a little uneasy if he and his teachings would be accepted. Have you wanted to share your faith journey with a friend or spiritual director? Studies have shown people who share their faith grow more deeply in their discipleship journey. Who would you be willing to share with?

• Simon was using ‘reasonable thinking’ suggesting to Jesus that it was not a good idea to go fishing. He had plenty of evidence that it wasn’t going to work. But
he moved beyond ‘reason’ to ‘risk’. ‘At your command I will lower the nets’. Is there a word, experience, invitation from God recently which you need to be obedient to? What is the fear that stops you from taking a ‘risk’?

• Isaiah, St Paul and Peter all share their human experience of frailty, guilt, unworthiness. Paul even refers to his feeling ‘abnormally born’! God uses this
painful self-awareness positively and it is important to notice that God is not afraid of our human weakness. In God’s eyes, only those who have tasted personal
frailty are ready for pastoral leadership. “Do not be afraid.” Consider what it would be like to live and make decisions not based in fear. What would you do, how would you live?

• In the Greek, the text hints at ‘catching people alive’. The special use of words points to catching people to lead them into the fullest life. Do you consider leading people to Jesus as joyful and life-giving? Do you presume people will come to you rather than having to go to them in the ‘deep water’? Where is the ‘deep water’ for you at the moment?

• Luke inserts a particular word more than the other gospel writers. ‘Everything’. He will repeat this phrase 8 times. What would it mean for you to let go of
‘everything’ so that you are free to ‘follow him’?

• 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 4th Sunday Year C: Delivered From Rejection for Mission

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19, 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13, Gospel Luke 4:21-30

See the source imageReflection Questions

• Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet’ because people did not listen to his message (King Jehoiakim even burned one of Jeremiah’s manuscripts).
He experienced God’s word deeply and in the midst of false ‘prosperity prophets’ who declared God was looking favorably on his people and good times were
coming, Jeremiah shares his personal call and his preparedness for rejection. What is the challenge of being a ‘prophet to the nations’ like Jeremiah today? Do you feel formed and called by God to stand up for (or against) something in society? What has been your response so far? What happened?

• St Paul continues discussing the ‘elitist’ problem in the Corinthian community. Some people were setting themselves apart as a ‘spiritual elite’ with boastful talk of their charisms and gifts. Gifts and charisms mean nothing if love is absent. Evaluate your life by the qualities of love in the second reading: Are you patient? Kind. Jealous? Proud? Resentful? Do you take offence easily? Gossip? Delight in truth? Forgiving, trusting, and hopeful? What aspect of your character could you invite the holy spirit to help you with?

• St Paul uses a special word (agape) for love. It is not a sexual love (eros) or a family love (philia). Agape is a quality of love that is given regardless of a
response. Agape love is loving like God loves. In what ways and in what relationships do you show ‘agape’ love? Do you recognise people in need constitute God’s agape call to us?

• Jesus continues to speak to his home-town. In an ‘honour and shame’ culture of the ancient Middle East, an expectation is placed over Jesus to bring honor, glory, acclaim to Nazareth. Be our ‘local’ prophet, set up a healing station here in Nazareth like you have been doing at Capernaum. Bring in the tourists! Their
attitude and concern is reputation rather than conversion. Jesus confronts them. In what ways does ‘reputation’ take priority over ‘conversion’ in your life? When was the last time you experienced the ‘cost’ of discipleship like Jeremiah and Jesus?

• Jesus identifies himself with the mission of the great prophets of Elijah and Elisha who were sent out to nearby gentile lands (Sidon) and people (Naaman the Syrian) which infuriates them. They react violently to the idea that God’s favor is also for the gentiles and not exclusively to Israel. Why do you think removing barriers and cultural walls meets resistance? What is beneath the categories of right / wrong, clean / unclean?

• The ‘community’ at Nazareth limit Jesus by confining him to be ‘Joseph’s son’. Have you experienced the support of family, friends and community and then as time goes on, recognise the limitations people’s perception puts on you? Do you feel called to ‘break out’ of ‘reputation’ and move toward ‘doing the will of God’? What obstacles do you face? How will you respond to people ‘springing to their feet and trying to throw you off the cliff’?

• 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 Marist Fr Frank Bird sm,  and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, 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: 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

Discussion Guide for First Sunday of Advent Year C. 

Jer 33:14-16, Thes 3:12-4:2, Gospel Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Reflection Questions

  • Advent begins today. The colour purple has an interesting background for us to ponder. Purple dye historically originated from a tiny shell-fish. It took 12,000 shell fish to make 1.5 grams of pure dye. The expense meant it was used only by the wealthy and became a symbol of royalty. Advent purple indicates we are waiting for the coming of the King of Kings. We are ‘preparing’ for the birth of Jesus but also spiritually for the second ‘coming’. Ponder for a few minutes what you would do if in 4 weeks time you were truly going to stand before Jesus Christ the King.
    • Jeremiah was a prophet in a very difficult time. Jewish King after Jewish King had failed to bring peace. God’s people were now in exile in Babylon. In the midst of foreign people and their gods Jewish people began to lose hope. Jeremiah reminds them of a promise made by God to believe in: I will raise up a ‘just shoot’ from the line of David. So beautiful will this event be, the great city of Jerusalem will be renamed – Justice! In the midst of life’s difficulties what brings you hope? Frequently we think of God’s love, but do we recognise what God really wants is ‘justice’. Do you hope for this as a future event or do you give your life to its fulfillment ‘today’?
    • Thessalonica was one of the earliest Christian communities. A port city bringing trade and culture, hot springs bringing tourists. It was prime real estate in a Roman provincial town. With many cultures came many gods, Greek, Egyptian, Roman Emperor worship. Paul had been chased out of this town quickly but had established a small group of Christian followers. He writes to encourage them to be blameless in holiness, living lives pleasing to God. Ready ʻfor the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones’. Picture your own town instead of Thessalonica. What is the purpose of ʻconducting yourselves to please Godʼ? Is it only for heaven or a sign for people ʻtodayʼ of heaven?
    • Year C begins with our move from the Gospel of Mark to the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s community is tired of waiting on a promise of Christ’s return. Luke gives instruction on how Christians are to live while ʻwaitingʼ. What does the image: ʻstand erect and raise your headʼ mean to you. What would make you do this? What does living in readiness ʻnowʼ actually look like for you?
    • Luke contrasts people of the ʻworldʼ with hearts drowsy or hardened with excessive sensual pleasure, drunkenness, worries, with Christian disciples watchful and vigilant, praying and ready to stand before the Son of Man. Where are you in this picture? What advent practices could you begin to be ʻvigilantʼ ʻprayerfulʼ ʻreadyʼ? What would you like to bring to God in the Advent practice of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation?
    • We all know what December will involve: shopping, christmas cards, cooking, end of year celebrations. Will you be satisfied? How could you ʻslow downʼ and set aside time to soak up the christian focus of Christmas – is there a church near or on the journey from work you could visit for 5 minutes daily?
    • Christians view the end of the world differently: ʻWhat the caterpillar calls end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.
  • 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 26th Sunday is here.

Nm 11:25-29, Jas 5:1-6Gospel Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Image result for St Mark

Reflection Questions

  1. Like the Book of Exodus, the Book of Numbers is filled with God’s people complaining of life in the desert. Moses finds the experience of leadership so
    heavy he wishes God would allow him to die rather than carry such a heavy burden. In prayer Moses is invited to share leadership with 70 others. Have you had an experience of feeling ‘heavy’ and ‘tired’ with responsibilities and complaints? What happened? Do you have the freedom to ‘let go’, ‘share responsibilities’? Admit you are in need of help?
  2. Joshua, the ‘leader in training’ was jealous and protective of power and authority. Moses shares a new vision with him – wouldn’t it be great if everyone was attentive to God and spoke of God’s will and lived out their responsibilities and leadership gifts. Do you see people as problems needing correction, or, people gifted needing motivation?
  3. James warns of the storing up of wealth. St Basil gives a colorful reflection: If everyone kept only what is necessary for ordinary needs and left the surplus to the poor, wealth and poverty would be abolished…. Are you not a thief? The bread you store belongs to the hungry. The cloak kept in your closet belongs to those who lack clothing. The money you keep hidden away belongs to the needy. Thus you oppress as many people as you are in a position to help. Have you ever reflected upon what your ordinary needs are, and how much “surplus” you have? Do you give to the needs of the poor?
  4. John is jealous that an outsider of the disciples group is obviously sharing in the power and authority of Jesus. “He does not follow us”. He is not in our group. John’s comments reveal their misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. They still think of it as a power structure of a political kingdom with favours granted to a small group. Have you prevented or excluded someone from service, ministry, a job, because they did not follow you?
  5. Jesus uses striking imagery to warn about being a scandal – obstacle to someone believing in Jesus. Cut off or out anything that could stop people following Jesus. What do you consider are obstacles for people coming to faith in Jesus and participating in the life of the Church? Does your life display a desire for wealth or the poor? Comfort or compassion? Arrogance or understanding? What do you need to cut off from your life?
  6. Gehenna is a place just outside of Jerusalem. Historically it was where shameful sacrifices of children were offered to the Canaanite god ʻMolechʼ. It was then regarded as an unclean and sinful place. It became a rubbish tip with constantly burning fires. Jesus uses it as a symbol of “Hell”. Uncomfortably, the issue of a final judgment and consequences of our life-style and actions is raised. Do I give a good or bad example of Christian living? Have I caused anyone to “stumble” in their relationship with God? How do I understand God as merciful yet also having a day of judgement?
  7. 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 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 is here

See the source image

Reflection Questions

Isaiah 35:4-7, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37

  1. The Prophet Isaiah is with the community of Israel as it endures exile in the foreign land of Babylon. No temple. No liturgy. God is experienced as ‘silent’. In their difficulty Isaiah reveals the hope of God rescuing his people through a promised ‘Messiah’ – anointed one – who will ‘come to save you.’ Have you experienced the ‘silence’ of God? Isaiah teaches God seeks complete restoration and wholeness: imagine blind people now seeing. Deaf hearing. Crippled leaping. Silent singing. Desert now flowing. Do you consider yourself as an agent of God’s hope for a broken world?
  2. James demands concrete behaviour and action. It is not enough to know and say we care for the poor. We must show it. James highlights the Christian Assembly. As we gather for worship we reveal our truth to the world: equality as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Gold rings or shabby clothing is irrelevant. Have you ‘made distinctions’ amongst friends, extended family? Do you ‘change’ when you are in the company of different people? Are you in relationship and friendship with the ‘poor’? Would they experience you as kind but still instructing them to ‘stand there’ or ‘sit at your feet’?
  3. An early document called ‘Statutes of the Apostles’ charged the priests with making a seat available for a poor person arriving at Church but he did not have to go out of his way for a rich person. Why? How are our liturgical gatherings meant to mirror the world disciples of Christ seek to create?
  4. Mark uses the same Greek word from Isaiah to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah who helps the mute speak – healing his speech impediment. Today Theology and Geography connect. Jesus intentionally travels back to Galilee but by a very long and unusual route stepping into ʻGentile – uncleanʼ territory. Not only would the Pharisees and those spying on him now not follow him, but like a bull- dozer, he shows by his actions he will not live by the ʻcleanʼ ʻuncleanʼ categories that label people as distant from God. Have your words of concern for the poor been transformed into practical action? What boundaries could you ʻstep overʼ to welcome in those who feel distant from God ?
  5. Healing passages are powerful opportunities for healing in our own lives. Consider the ʻdeaf man’. He was lucky to have some friends. Normally illness or disease was considered the result of sin, the presence of an evil spirit. The person was shunned, isolated from family, considered ʻuncleanʼ. In addition this man could not hear or speak. A picture of the most painful experience of human life and our broken humanity. As you reflect on this passage do you identify with the deaf and mute man or the carers who ʻbrought him to Jesusʼ? Why?
  6. Jesus took the man ʻoff by himself, away from the crowdʼ. Saving him from embarrassment, and tenderly healing the parts of his wounded body. What parts of your life need to ʻbe openedʼ so that you may be whole, reunited and accepted with the community. What would it mean for you to be led ʻaway from the crowds for healing’. How could you take up this offer this week? What would it take for you to hear God. Sing God’s praises. Dance for joy
  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 NZ

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