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Archive for the ‘evangelisation’ Category

Discussion Guide for 23rd Sunday: What Does it Mean to Count the Cost?

Link to the Readings for Sunday 23rd here

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Wisdom was a Jewish response to the wisdom writers and Greek Philosophers seeking to understand the meaning of life. Written for Jews in Alexandria, the international and
cultural centre of the time, many Jews were giving up their faith and adopting a Greek philosophy. Greek Philosophy taught that human nature was ʻagainst Godʼ and we could not ʻknow Godʼ. The Wisdom writer teaches we can be in tune with the Holy Spirit of God so our paths can become ʻstraightʼ. What do you think? Have you experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit at any point in your life?

• Philemon was a convert of Paul and he was obviously wealthy enough to have slaves. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon who had escaped, found Paul in Rome, and had become very helpful to
him. But Paul found out Onesimus was a ʻslaveʼ. He sent him back – with this letter – to his master Philemon. He does not try to change the slavery system, but seeks to change the heart of Philemon to treat Onesimus as a ʻbrotherʼ and to give him the status of being ʻfreeʼ. It was a dangerous move. Onesimus could have been killed, or at least be branded with ʻfʼ (fugitiveʼ) on his forehead. Why would Paul take such a risk for freedom?

• Today Luke shares the most radical challenge of following Jesus. Great crowds are following Jesus and he turns to them because they may not truly understand what following him will involve. The disturbing ʻcostʼ of discipleship is that they must ʻhateʼ their family! This is a Jewish teaching method to prove a point. Jesus challenges every disciple he must come first. Above all family relationships. For Jewish people this is upsetting. Jesus is to be preferred before Mum and Dad… Jesus is to be the top social priority of their lives. What does this discipleship challenge mean for you personally?

• Jesus often provides instruction, then offers an image into what living his teaching will look like. Building a house or marching into battle are two of the biggest challenges one might undertake in life. Instead of finances and military supplies, discipleship preparation is the task of being free of attachments to family and possessions. What would this large discipleship preparation task look like for you? Do you want to ʻfollow? What are your biggest obstacles?

• Freedom in relationships and possessions is a sign of a closer journey with Jesus. Imagine taking a modern person away from family and friends, cell phone and internet. Why is it difficult and why might it be ʻnecessaryʼ? Is there a relationship you are in which requires more freedom, possessions you may need to give away or your lifestyle simplified so that you may not be so ʻentangledʼ in following Christ?

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

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

 

Reflection Guide: Freed and Called to Serve

1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21, Gal 5:1, 13-18, Gospel Lk 9:51-62

Image result for galatians 5:1, 13-18

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. Elijah is one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. But even he gets tired. God tells him to find his successor to continue the prophetʼs work. In your ministry and service of God are you ʻfinding a successorʼ to share the load and replace you? Have a conversation with God about this.
  2. 2. Elijah is very wealthy. Most families would own only 1 Oxen. He kills 12 Oxen and uses the farming tools to create a fire. He destroys everything so as to not be attracted back to his old life. He makes a decision that Godʼs work has primacy of place and is the first calling upon his life. Imagine living these actions within your own life and circumstances. What attracts you? In what areas of your life are you not ʻfreeʼ?
  3. St Paul continues to teach the Galatian community about the true nature of freedom. Freedom is really being ʻfree for othersʼ. To not be
    attached or enslaved to material possessions and self indulging desires (flesh) requires discipline and effort. In what area of your life could you make a daily prayer this week for God to help you? Is there an action you could do, to enter this particular journey of ʻfreedomʼ this week?
  4. From Luke 9,51 we meet a tougher Jesus. Some texts have Jesus ʻset his face like flintʼ toward Jerusalem. He is determined and makes large demands of his disciples. Going to Jerusalem represents Jesusʼ obedience to Gods willʼ. Is there anything you ‘have heard God ask you to do? What will it involve for you to ʻset your faceʼ resolutely toward doing it?
  5. Three unknown people have questions about discipleship in the Gospel. We are invited to hear their questions echo in our own hearts,
    enter the conversation, respond to Jesusʼ challenge. Jesus has nowhere to lay his head. Are you free enough to leave home, security, comfort?
  6. Care for and burial of oneʼs parents was a top social and cultural priority for Jewish people. Allegiance to parents and duties as a child is replaced by Jesus with ʻproclaiming the kingdom of Godʼ. What pressures or expectations does society or your family place upon you? Do these ʻlimitʼ your freedom to respond to God by living the values and lifestyle of Jesus? How? What will you now do?
  7. Jesus takes disciples on a special journey toward Jerusalem from this point in the Gospel. There is no turning back. The joy and success of ministry in Galilee changes to resistance by religious people and civil authorities. Jesus urgently teaches his disciples about mission and the Kingdom of God. Imagine a fire is burning and many peopleʼs lives are in danger. Would you let go of your ʻworkʼ to ʻsaveʼ these people? Such is the call of the Kingdom of God. How will you respond?
  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: 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.

 

 

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: 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