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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Discussion Guide: 18th Sunday Yr. A – Jesus Abundantly Blesses Our Small Offerings

 

 

 

Loaves and Fishes 2 Painting by Graham Braddock

Reflection Questions:

• Isaiah 40-55 is known as ‘The Book of Comfort’. God will comfort and look after his people. In ancient cultures a relationship and bond of commitment was sealed by a meal together. They also acknowledged with a prayer of thanksgiving that something was sacrificed (an animal, a grain of wheat..) in order that human beings were fed. A ‘sacrifice’ enabled a ‘meal’ which established a ‘bond between the participants of a meal’. This is the basis of a ‘covenant’ meal in the Old Testament, the Last Supper and indeed the Eucharist Christians celebrate. God promises to feed us without money being paid. And to nourish us both physically and spiritually. Consider the gifts God gives you each day. How has God been ‘feeding’ you?

• St Paul himself endured being beaten, stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, imprisoned. Yet he boldly declares nothing can separate us from God’s love revealed in Christ. What current experience causes you to think and feel ‘separated’ from Christ? Does Christ on the Cross ‘bridge this gap’?

• Matthew 13 was filled with Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 14 is now concerned with the Kingdom of the Church and the mission of the Disciples. We are taught how we are to be and live.

• John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, has been killed. This sadness causes Jesus to retreat to a deserted and lonely place. Consider all the feelings of Jesus in losing a very close companion. Wanting silence and rest. Having a crowd chase after him. Tired and yet moved with pity and willing to give of himself. What do you learn about Jesus? About God? About yourself?

• John the Baptist spoke courageously reminding Herod he cannot marry his brothers wife. Why does the world seek to remove the ‘voice’ of a prophet? Have you experienced the tension and risk in being a ‘prophet’ today? What happened?

• Matthew is seeking to show Jesus as the fulfilment of Moses and all the prophets. Parallel to the feeding in the desert (Moses / Exodus) Jesus now feeds a large crowd in a ‘deserted place’ with bread. There is an abundance of food (a symbol of the great messianic age). Each Apostle is left holding one of 12 baskets of bread symbolic of the new Tribe of Israel (Church). The Disciples now have the job of feeding the hungry. Imaginatively enter the scene and pretend to be a disciple. What did you learn?

• The Disciples had a ‘poverty mentality’. Jesus had an ‘abundance mentality’ when even a small amount of resources were offered to God. Consider your response to the ‘poor and hungry’ this week. What could you do with the little you have?

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

Discussion Guide: 15th Sunday Yr A:   Listen – hear the Word – and act on it!

 

epexegesis: Sowing the Word of the Kingdom (Matt 13:1-23)

Reflection Questions:

• The final chapters of Isaiah are called the ‘Book of Consolations’, written to comfort and encourage the Israelites in exile. God’s people are invited to trust deeply in the power and promises of God. They will return home. The power of God’s word to do and bring about what is spoken points also to the Gospel reading and the power of the ‘seed’ that is sown to be extremely fruitful. The Hebrew ‘dabar’ is translated as both ‘word’ and ‘deed’. Consider your own word. Do you ‘do’ as you ‘say’? Is your word powerful? Effective? Can people rely on your ‘word’ and ‘what you say you will do’?

• St Paul uses striking imagery to describe our spiritual journey. We groan within ourselves as we ‘wait for adoption’ and the ultimate redemption of our bodies. What life experience at present is causing you to ‘groan inwardly’? Do you accept or resent your human frailty and weakness? St Paul’s words suggest he talked with God about this. What is the experience of ‘waiting for adoption’? Can you link this with your discipleship and suffering?

• Matthew chapter 13 has a series of parables. Today we listen to the first about the ‘Sower and the Seed’. The seed is the focus of the parable. It is symbolic of Jesus’ ‘word’ being sown by his preaching. A concern of Jesus’ disciples and the early Christian community was why Jesus was apparently so ‘unsuccessful’. Many people listened, were healed, but did not believe and ‘follow’. This parable may be an attempt by the community of Matthew to explain why this happened.

• Two points would have astounded the listeners of this parable. The generosity – or foolishness of the sower – putting seed in places where it will not grow. And the extreme fruitfulness of the seed planted in rich soil. A good crop would have been a yield of 30% of the seed, but this seed brings also 60% and 100% fruitfulness! What does this show about God and the power of His Word? Consider the fruitfulness of the scriptures in your life. Can you identify a time when you responded to the Word asking you to do something incredibly challenging? Life-changing? What passage did this for you?

• The reader is invited to reflect upon what type of ‘soil’ is present in their life and if there are any obstacles to the Word (seed)? Things closing my eyes, ears, heart? A question or topic of faith that I have not pursued enough and been satisfied with ‘not understanding’? Some trial or tribulation that I have let dominate my life, whose voice I have let be louder than God’s voice? Concern and ‘anxiety’ for money, job, clothing, possessions, relationships that have led me to choose the world over God?

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

Discussion Guide: 13th Sunday Yr. A: Choose Jesus – and receive your reward

 

Today I choose Jesus Christ. on We Heart It

Reflection Questions:

 The Shunemite woman is not identified but described as a woman of influence. Sheltering a prophet involved considerable risk in the political situation of her time. She chose to offer radical hospitality and make a difference. This story from Elisha’s miracles highlights the truth of the Gospel where Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward… ”. What are the parallels you see between the Gospel and the Shunemite woman’s story?

 Her risk ended up being life-giving and fruitful with the birth of child. Offering radical hospitality is a risky business. In parts of the world it can involve considerable risk to profess Christianity and in others it’s seen as irrelevant or held up for derision. What are the pressures around you? What help do you need from God?

 St Paul uses the analogy that choosing Jesus is to be ‘baptized’ not only into new life in and with Christ, but also into death with him. What are some of the things that you may need to let go of or in a sense die to, in order to truly live for Christ in our world today? Do you ever think about your Baptism in those terms? You could intentionally renew those promises as an adult choice next time you pray the Creed?

 There is a prevailing feeling that to choose something means to lose freedom. To choose does mean to let go of the many possibilities for the one and so much works against us making that choice so we can keep our options open. How do you respond to that idea?

 Do you know the saying that ‘to be a jack of all trades is to be master of none?’ What is Jesus asking us to master? How does making a choice for the one thing Jesus offers, involve a sense of dying to other possibilities?

 Love in the Bible differs radically from the notion of “love” today, which is used primarily to convey heartfelt emotion. The love Jesus refers to could be expressed as like the deep attachment family members have for one another. It conveys the meaning of being permanently attached, staying connected with one another no matter what. As disciples we are called into a profound attachment to Christ akin to a revolutionary realignment of every facet of our life. The choice is presented starkly here to help us appreciate the depth of the call and commitment Jesus asks us to choose, but also the depth of the reward that is faithfully assured.

 Think about people who support your faith journey. How do they offer you a ‘cup of water’? Water is essential and sustains life. How are you life-giving for others?

 Do you know someone who struggles to accept Christ or the Church? What is the promise for you and for them in this Gospel? What do Christians need to do for them to receive their reward?

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

Discussion Guide: 12th Sunday Yr A: Know Your True Worth

 

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Reflection Questions:

 Jeremiah expresses total confidence that the Lord will protect him even though he is in a volatile situation where even one-time friends are out to trip him up. Have you ever felt trapped and surrounded by difficulties out of your control? How did you relate with God through that time?

 How hard is it for you to ‘trust your cause’ to God like Jeremiah? What do you need to be able to move from knowledge about faith to faith in a warm, honest, deep relationship in which you experience of love, power, mercy and justice of God at ‘gut’ level in your life? Try praying the prayer of Jeremiah and keep a record of how God works in your situation.

 In Romans 5 Paul explains why the revelation of Jesus means God can be utterly trusted. Because he put his love on the line by sending Jesus to rescue us when we were trapped in sin and separated from God. Sin entered the world and because of sin we struggle with trials, difficulties, addictions and disordered desires and relationships with people and creation in a myriad of ways. But just as one person caused the problem, Jesus – true God and true Man – overcame sin not simply for himself but for many. That is the essence of the Good News. While we were trapped in sin, Jesus came to set us free. It is a gift to be accepted and opened. What aspect of your life do you struggle most with? Ask Jesus to give you the grace of what you need to be set free in that area today.

 Jesus tells us to “Fear no one”. That takes enormous freedom born out of trust in the absoluteness of God’s power and care for us. Jesus asks us to recognize our true worth – that we are so precious to God that every hair on our head has been counted and even a sparrow is known to God. What does the imagery tell you about how attentive God is to you? Did you know how much God values you? Pray for the gift of knowing the worth God sees in you.

 The Gospel tells us that anyone who acknowledges Jesus before others will be acknowledged by Jesus before the Father. What opportunities to share God’s love can you take this week? How do you feel knowing that Jesus speaks up for you and your needs?

 The word ‘fear’ appears, 92 times in the New Testament. God knows our human tendency to be afraid and wants to encourage us to trust God. Pope St John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” How does knowing your true worth help you do that?

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

Reflection Guide for Trinity Sunday is here

Discussion Questions

• The Feast of the Holy Trinity was born out of the Arian controversy debating the divinity of Christ. This was resolved with the Nicene Creed and the Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381). By the early 400’s preaching and liturgical texts sought to strengthen the Church’s faith and teaching on the Trinity and the origin of this feast began.

• “God does not prove himself; he shows himself”. God’s self-revelation (unveiling) is necessary, because all human attempts to know the depths of God are inadequate. It is fitting then, that the first reading shares one of the great moments of God ‘revealing’ himself on Mount Sinai with Moses. Todays text is actually the fourth time Moses has gone up the mountain to speak with God. The title ‘LORD’ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew YAWHEH – I AM WHO I AM – the DIVINE NAME. But God wishes to go further. ‘I am merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity’. The Hebrew word used to describe this character of God is found in the word ‘Hesed’. It means that God has a covenantal-spousal love which is ever faithful; astonishingly in particular when the other covenant partner,(humanity) is unfaithful. How does this change your image of God? Heal an ‘old’ image of God? Comfort you?In what way?

• St Paul’s letter today shares an early liturgical greeting (still used today). A kiss of peace was to be offered to each other, not after the Our Father before communion, but as a greeting at the beginning of worship to show and sign the love we aim to live and celebrate. How do you greet others in your faith community? Covid 19 has made greetings like a kiss problematic. How can we continue to show love and connection within our community in a way which allows people experience the warmth and love of Christ made visible before their eyes? How could the sign of peace become more significant for you?

• The Gospel does not attempt to explain the Three Divine Persons in One God, but to provide us with a glimpse of the inner nature of God who IS LOVE. Sometimes God is portrayed as a surly master needing to be ‘pacified’ or ‘persuaded to forgive’ by Jesus. Todays text completely negates that idea. God sent his Son not to condemn the world but to save it. God’s only motive is; love, self-communication, forgiveness, mercy. How do we humans respond to God’s offer – will we receive it? We are totally free not to believe but that choice is a kind of ‘self-imposed judgment’. How could you witness more authentically to help others ‘receive’ Christ?

• Rublev’s famous Trinity Icon is shown here. It has inspired many to recognize and ponder the inner union and profound dynamic love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do you notice a gap at the table? The invitation is to pull up a chair and enter in? What does that mean for you?

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

Discussion Guide Ascension of the Lord – Jesus is present ‘until the end of the age

 

The ascension - Peter Rogers ). Oil 1963 Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, Ascension Day, Catholic Doctrine, Late Middle Ages, Blessed Mother, Christian Art, Religious Art, Mystic, Modern Art, Spirituality

Reflection Questions:

• The writer of the Gospel of Luke is also understood to have written the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn of the unfolding events after Easter. The Feast of the Ascension is not trying to claim historically after 40 days Jesus ‘ascended’ but simply reflect on his ‘Ascension’ and new presence now in Heaven. Jesus states a promise has been made by the ‘Father’ to send the Holy Spirit. Have you ever asked someone to make a ‘promise’? Why? What does this reveal about Jesus and ‘us’?

• The disciples are almost ‘told off’ by the Angels. ‘Why are you looking up at the sky?’ Instead of looking up, look around and get to work. The text also encourages a waiting for the spirit and its power so that each disciple can ‘witness’. Have you ‘waited in prayer’ calling for the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit? Consider how you could enter deeply into this prayer request leading to the celebration of Pentecost next week? Consider a place and time. The Spirit is often given through  other people’s prayer. Who could you ask?

• The letter to the Ephesians describes what the Spirit can bring about in us constantly in the life of the Church. What part of the prayer attracts your attention… wisdom, revelation, knowledge, enlighten, hope, call, glory, great might….? Why do you feel the attraction? What may this reveal about a possible prayer journey with the Holy Spirit leading to Pentecost?

• Putting things ‘beneath his feet’ is an ancient idea of authority and power. Kings and Queens were often raised to a height so that all who would come to visit would approach at the level of their feet. Consider Jesus having ‘all power and authority’. Nothing is beyond the possibility of his doing. What would you often pray for knowing you can call upon this ‘power’?

• Some disciples fell down and worshipped but others doubted. Matthew includes this acknowledgment of the persistent weakness and failure present always in the Church. Does this weakness of disciples give you comfort or cause you to complain? In your journey of worship and doubt what has helped you remain a disciple? How could you help a ‘doubter’?

• Jesus is not an absentee landlord. The Matthew text does not actually state Jesus has ‘left’. There is still the struggle displacing the grip of Satan and completing the ‘reign of God’. This is why he clothes his disciples with his power to continue in his work. How is Jesus present ‘until the end of the age’? How do you continue ‘his presence’?

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

Discussion Guide:   4th Sunday of Easter – Jesus, the Good Shepherd

 

THE FINAL CHAPTERS: FOLLOW THE LEADER

Reflection Questions:

• Today is Vocation Sunday. It is also called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ as the readings will often focus upon Jesus identifying with the role of being a ‘Shepherd’ for us, his sheep. Have you ever thought that Jesus does call some sheep to become ‘Shepherds’?

• In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ – the head and shepherd – authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation – particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no 15). What does this statement teach you about the role of the Priest? Have you ever been ‘thankful’ for the gift and ministry of a priest?

• Jesus identifies himself as a Shepherd but also a ‘gate’. In the middle east, shepherds would gather their sheep together at night sometimes creating a shelter or collection of wooden sticks to build a fence. Sometimes they may have built with blocks a square with a narrow gap for the sheep to enter in and out. One shepherd would take the role of ‘gate’, lying down in the ‘gap’ as an expression of caring for the sheep and not letting them out, and protecting the sheep from danger coming in. What does this image reveal to you about Jesus? Can you identify anyone’s vocation who follows this ‘laying down of their life’? Can you see the similarities between a Mum, Dad, Priest, Sister, Brother?

• God writes his hopes and plans for you into your desires” (says St Ignatius). Persistent thoughts, attractions, ideas that don’t go away are symbolic of the nudges of the Holy Spirit and God’s desire at work in us. In what ways or experiences have you noticed God’s call for your life? Do you get a sense of good pasture and ‘abundant life’ from following God or does fear dominate?

• A Christian disciple is drawn to look upon the love of Christ on the cross, and then, in co-operation with grace, is drawn to ‘be’ Christ on the cross with arms outstretched in love of the world. Those called to the ‘consecrated life’ seek to conform their whole existence to Christ (Vita Consecrata 16). Have you ever considered what it would be like to be a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to everyone?

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

Discussion Guide: 3rd Sunday of Easter – Their hearts burned within them!

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Reflection Questions:

• The church continues for 8 weeks soaking us with the message and stories of Easter. Consider the story of the newly married Catholic German couple. The wife welcomed fleeing Jews into their house for safety. The husband on returning challenges his wife on their own safety and possible death. She replies: but we believe in the resurrection. Is your heart glad?Tongue exulting? Flesh hopeful?death. She replies: but we believe in the resurrection. Is your heart glad?Tongue exulting? Flesh hopeful?

• Peter with the ‘Eleven’ standing in the midst of many ‘Jews’ is a picture of the early Church in Jerusalem. Considering the tone of their words and the audience, fear of persecution is heavily present behind the scenes. Picture yourself today, in the Church, one of the ‘eleven’. What are the challenges and obstacles of the christian community today? The Holy Spirit moved the disciples from fear behind closed doors to courage and preaching in public places. Do you sense the Holy Spirit moving and inspiring you toward a certain action, attitude, mission task?

• The word ‘ransom’ has a special history in the Old Testament. If a member of your family was sold as a slave, imprisoned, or family land was in-debt, the eldest member of the family had a special duty to ‘ransom’ (buy-back) the family member or land. This image is used by Peter. We have not been won back to God by gold but ‘with the precious blood of Christ’. Do you glimpse the cost of God wanting us to know we are ‘reconciled’ with him? Do you glimpse how loved and loveable you are? What is your life-style response?

• The Road to Emmaus features disciples so upset and downcast. They had such high hopes in Jesus. They now ‘walk away’ from Jerusalem. They could not understand why the death of Jesus was necessary. Their saviour had become a failure. To understand they need to be shocked and humbled at how God’s power is able to work through human weakness. Are you ‘walking away’ from Easter /Jerusalem disappointed? Do you ‘see’?

• In the Church’s liturgy what was present in Christ has now passed over into the mysteries / sacraments. Past events are truly made present now. The Emmaus story reflects this truth. Jesus is truly present when his words are shared and his actions at table are repeated. When he ‘blessed, broke, gave’ bread were very very important to the community. These particular actions and words were unique to him and were commanded to be repeated. How could your heart burn more with scripture? What do you need so that you may ‘recognise him’ in the celebration of the Eucharist?

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

Discussion GuideDivine Mercy Sunday – The Love and Mercy of God

 

Truly, today we celebrate Divine Mercy" - Mission San Luis Rey Parish

Reflection Questions:

• Over the next 8 weeks the Readings reflect on the mystery of Easter. Take a moment to reflect on your experience of Easter. What do you remember? What did you hear? See? Feel? What personal message do you think God wishes you to store and treasure in your spirit? On this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, can you see God’s love and forgiveness at Easter?

• Luke, in writing the Acts of the Apostles is trying to teach the early Christian community how to live and grow. It is the ideal the Christian Community strives to live and witness to. It is the lived expression of conversion. Consider personally (and for your community) what lifestyle change is invited for you to

• pray daily at home and in the temple

• share property, possessions, food and resources with those in need

• celebrate the liturgy (breaking of bread) and learn the teachings of the apostles

• For Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity the break with family and social bonds caused them to be rejected and persecuted. Jewish converts to Christianity saw their own family conduct a funeral for them considering them lost and dead! Gentiles faced suspicion of subverting the social order. Peter encourages them not to be surprised. Your inheritance is waiting in heaven. Be certain that the genuineness of your faith will eventually prove to give praise to God. Do you experience being ‘tested’ by friends, family, society for your faith? Do you need to let go of some relationships and influences to remain ‘faith-full’? Does your faith ‘cost’ you anything?

• The resurrection greeting Jesus gives his disciples is important. The Jewish belief was the reign of the Messiah would bring a time of peace and people living in reciprocal covenant relationship with God and one another. Peace is given by the forgiveness of sins, won on the cross, given to the Church through the activity of the Holy Spirit. While this text points to the sacrament of reconciliation, it also has within it a charge for all disciples to actively live the forgiveness they have received from Christ. Do you recognise your call to be a living witness to the peace and forgiveness -covenant – of God?

 

• Thomas is present within each of us and in our communities. Sometimes with disciples. Sometimes not. Struggling with questions and doubts. Do you know a ‘Thomas’? How could you support them?

• The Roman Emperor of the time, ‘Domitian’ demanded people address him with the title ‘Our Lord and God’.What might John be trying to teach us in Thomas’ profession of faith?

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

Discussion Guide: Easter Sunday – “He has been Raised!”

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Reflection Questions:

• Easter (and the next 7 weeks) is filled with the belief in the Resurrection, the appearances of Jesus, and readings from the Acts of Apostles. Acts 10 (first reading) is very significant as it involves Peter addressing a gentile (Cornelius) and his family in their home. Jews could not be in a gentile house or eat with them because of the clean / unclean restrictions of the Jewish Laws. This ‘uncleanʼ ʻsinnerʼ ʻimpureʼ label is the biggest obstacle between Jews and gentiles not only in the Old and New Testament but even today. God was demanding the unthinkable from good and law abiding Jews. Peter was being taught by God to ʻlift the status of ʻuncleanʼ off the backs of the gentiles.ʼ What cultural, religious, family boundaries have you been brought up with which lead you to separate yourself from others? Who does the world label ʻuncleanʼ?

• The Resurrection is a belief in Jesus rising from death. It is also deeply a life-style victory over powerful rulers who crush the poor and powerless. Does your belief in the Resurrection show itself in a Resurrection lifestyle?

• The image of Easter Sunday is the empty tomb. If thieves had stolen Jesus they would not have unwrapped him. The burial cloths are ʻaloneʼ. The story and evidence is shared. People consider it ʻnonsenseʼ. Peter walks home ʻamazedʼ. If you were present in the Resurrection scene, having witnessed his suffering, death and burial. And now the empty tomb with burial cloths on the ground… what would you think? A stolen body or risen Lord? What thoughts and emotions would be present? Spend some time at the ʻtombʼ and see what it teaches you. Can you ʻseeʼ and ʻbelieveʼ?

• Jesus is risen as he said! Jesusʼ resurrection shows a victory over death. Death has lost its ʻstingʼ. Identify 3 things that you would now allow to enter your consciousness as a consequence of believing in the Resurrection? What are ʻResurrectionʼ behaviours? What does it mean to be ʻEaster peopleʼ and ʻChristianʼ?

• Imagine someone you have loved in a very intimate and special way. This person died and you were personally involved in seeing the death, the burial. In grief you go to the place of burial and see first-hand that your friend is not there. There is evidence of burial cloths and a messenger that ʻhe has been raisedʼ and that your friend so wants to meet with you and you will see each other soon. What would be your thoughts and feelings? If the resurrection is true, what change in thinking happens about death? About life? About God?

• As you have participated in the Holy Week ceremonies over the past few days what do you remember most, what struck you personally from the words, symbols, liturgies? What do you think God was trying to show you for your life journey?

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