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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Discussion Guide:    Solemnity of All Saints – Our saintly identity calls us to holiness.

 

Living the Beatitudes — Fr. Bill's Personal Pages

Reflection Questions:    1. The book of Revelation uses symbolic imagery to paint the Apostle John’s vision of heaven. The symbolic imagery can sound confusing, it portrays deep meaning about salvation and eternal life. Today we celebrate All Saints Day. This great solemnity calls us to look toward heaven and remember that we are all called to be saints.

2. In John’s vision of heaven, the saints (servants of God) are “marked with the seal.” This language invokes the Old Testament Ezekiel where the holy ones were marked on their foreheads with the Hebrew letter Tao. It is shaped like a cross so the saints are the ones marked with the sign of the cross. Ponder your own baptism (where you are signed with the cross), confirmation (where you are sealed with the Holy Spirit through the cross traced in oil on your forehead), and the sign of the cross itself (that we make in prayer and worship).

3. John saw, “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Heaven is not exclusive to one group. There will be people there “from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” All Saints day remembers all the servants of God, not just those who are canonized.

4. The saints endured “great distress” and have been “washed…in the Blood of the Lamb.” Becoming a saint is a journey It involves sacrifice and purification; a going against the grain of the world -Sanctity comes with a price. Ultimately, the price was Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. The price of sanctity involves us joining ourselves to Jesus’ sacrifice through self-giving love.

5. The Apostle John reminds us that baptized Christians are saints in the making, belonging to God and called to live accordingly. The whole Christian life is about turning from sin and giving ourselves completely to God. What is it like for you to recognize that your true identity is a saint and your primary call is to holiness?

6. Holiness is about living in a way that allows God to permeate every aspect of life. It is challenging, but God gives us everything we need to succeed. The reward is worth the effort, for “we shall see [God] as he is.” The reward is eternal life . Today we celebrate all the saints who have gone before us and are reminded that they are in communion with us and are also keen to help us in our Christian life. Name your favourite saints. How do these readings give you hope?

7. Jesus’ Beatitudes offer a blueprint for holy living. The world says success is about wealth, but Jesus says we are to be “poor in spirit.” Jesus calls us to be detached from wealth. The world says seek pleasure. Think of the popular phrase, “If it feels right, do it.” Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.”

8. The world tells us to seek power, but Jesus says be “meek.” The world applauds approval of others while Jesus says, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” Simply put, the beatitudes are the “how to” of sainthood. Saints are “meek;” “pure of heart;” “merciful” and “peacemakers;” they “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Go through each Beatitude and its impact in your life. What is the area you struggle with most?

9. Aligning our lives with the beatitudes is challenging but we remember, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” In other words, it’s all worth it in the end.

10. What is one action you will do to be livingtheword this week?

Discussion Guide: 27th Sunday Yr. A: Who is your boss?

 

Gospel Trivia: Matthew 21:33-43 The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (27th  Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 5, 2014).

Reflection Questions:     • The prophet Isaiah becomes increasingly upset that King Ahaz (King of Judah – southern part of Holy Land including Jerusalem) is willing to enter a partnership with a foreign Kingdom (Assyria) to fight Israel – northern part of Holy Land). Isaiah shares God’s anguish in the form of a ‘love story’: what more could I have done for my vineyard? Instead of the fruit of peace and justice there is bloodshed and war! Imagine a relationship where you have done everything you could to show your love. Yet the only fruit of the relationship is pain. What would you do? Is ‘taking away its hedge, giving it to grazing’ abandonment or ‘starting all over again’?

• Paul is writing from prison to his much loved community in the town of Philippi. It is a Roman town occupied by many ex roman soldiers. There is a Jewish community that is uneasy with the Christian community. There is the ‘Roman – Gentile’ community cautious of christians who are perceived as ‘against Rome’ and setting up another ‘kingdom’. Into this mix are ultra conservative Jewish Christians (Judaizers) who seek to influence Gentile converts to Christianity that they must first become initiated into Judaism with circumcision and food purity laws before converting to Christianity. Added to this two prominent women in the christian community are in dispute taking each to court! What would you write in a letter to help this community? Do you think Paul’s words would help? Paul humbly holds himself up as an example of unity and reconciliation to follow. What do you think people ‘learn, receive, hear and see in you’?

• The Gospel of Matthew is leading closer to the end of the year with ‘judgement parables’. The Parable of the Vineyard spoke to the present but pointed to the future. Those entrusted with care (Chief Priests and Elders) of God’s people (vineyard) have been found resistant to the prophets and even ‘throwing the son out of the vineyard and killing him’ reference to Jesus being killed  outside the city of Jerusalem. The Parable however is chaotic and does not reach a real conclusion. What will happen now? Who will control the vineyard? How would this be done? If the Christian Church becomes the New Israel (Vineyard) it is still required to produce the ‘appropriate fruit’. What do you think the appropriate fruit is of being a member of ‘God’s family’?

• The parable ends with a challenge: membership of the church does not guarantee membership of the Kingdom of God. Imagine joining a club by payment of a members fee. What else is required?

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

Reflection for Sunday 24th is here – Extravagant, Dangerous Forgiveness.

Discussion Questions.

See the source image

The Book of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus was used to instruct new candidates for Baptism with all its wisdom lessons. Today, forgiveness is the theme. Are you ‘hugging tightly’ any anger or resentment? What behaviour is this causing? How does that behaviour help or hinder you in daily living?

• Breaking the habit of bitterness takes courage and humility. We are asked to humbly ‘remember the Most High’s covenant’ (the forgiveness of our sins on the cross). When we remember that we are loved and forgiven, we are called to respond by humbly sharing forgiveness  to others. Reflect on God’s love and mercy for you and pray for the grace to forgive when you find it hard.

• We hear St Paul’s letter to the Romans for the last time this Sunday. Tensions existed between Jews who kept ‘laws’ and customs faithfully, and Gentiles who felt no obligation of the Jews. Do you identify with a particular ‘group’ in the church? What barriers or ill feeling exists toward ‘others’ NOT in ‘your
group’? Paul reminds us we are one. How could you be an agent of ‘unity’?

• Encouraged from the previous Gospel episode of forgiveness, Peter asks Jesus precisely how generous does one have to be toward someone who has sinned. Rabbi’s taught three times. Peter suggests a large and generous amount using the perfect number 7. He thinks he must be right. Jesus pronounces an absurd preposterous amount: 77 (double perfection!). Justice gives strict legal prescriptions but gets overwhelmed by Mercy and God’s love. What is your struggle with forgiveness? Perhaps accepting it from others or forgiving yourself is a problem? See yourself as loved, cherished and forgiven by God – just as you are! You cannot earn forgiveness -it is pure gift. Is withholding forgiveness your issue?
What makes you worthy to judge another? How does God see it? Consider what you need to do.

• 10,000 talents is the largest number in Jewish Arithmetic. The word ‘talent’ is Greek for a weight of metal; the largest unit of measurement. 10,000 talents is equal to our phrase ‘billions of dollars’.
It is beyond repayable. Strikingly it is ‘forgiven’. This same servant then refuses to ‘forgive’ someone owing him $100. He is unmoved by the extraordinary forgiveness he received. Have you allowed God’s forgiveness on the cross to profoundly change you or is there some sense that you take it for granted? What would help you grow in appreciation of God’s inexhaustible forgiveness to you?

• A parable carries the seed of subversion of established patterns. The King in this parable, (God)offers
extravagant forgiveness, while the full meaning indicates that the receiver is expected to pay it forward and forgive in turn. This is dangerous and unexpected. We have a clear warning that our ongoing choices and actions in life matter? What does living forgiveness involve for me?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly  resources by Fr Frank Bird sm and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide22nd Sunday Yr. A – Do not conform – but be transformed!

ReflecSwimming Against the Tidetion Questions

• Jeremiah was a young prophet who spoke out against King Jehoiakim. The King was so upset with Jeremiah’s words pointing out injustice he burnt Jeremiah’s writings. Prophets were passionately aware of the call to love God and show this in true worship. To care for the poor and the stranger through hospitality and giving. Often this put them in conflict with the religious, political and social systems of their day. Do you see in the world a cause for ‘crying out’? Do you see and wish to share outrage at what is accepted by society? What would you feel is a desire ‘burning in your heart, imprisoned in your bones’?

• Both Roman citizens and Jews in Rome were familiar with offering sacrifices in a temple. St Paul leads them on. It is not an external sacrifice of food to God which is required, but your very bodies offered in loving service. Do you consider your daily faithful service as an ‘offering’ pleasing to God? How could you offer your body more to God? Are you conformed to this age or the will of God?

• Within minutes of Peter being made the ‘rock’ upon which the Church would be built, Jesus now calls him ‘Satan’. Although Peter recognised Jesus as the Christ and Son of God he was wrong in understanding what this actually meant. The Jewish hope was of a glorious ruler who would put to death all enemies of Israel. It was inconceivable that the ‘Christ’ the ‘anointed one’ should suffer. He was supposed to make others suffer. Can you glimpse how difficult it would have been for Peter and the disciples to have their understanding of the ‘Christ’ changed? Would you naturally presume glory rather than suffering is fitting for God?

• Satan is a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary’. One who puts another pathway against you which leads away from God. Peter is suggesting ‘another way’ from the path to suffering in Jerusalem. He is acting as Satan does. He is told to ‘get behind’ (the position of a disciple following his master). What are you arguing with God about in your life? Does it involve the pathway of comfort and glory, or suffering and self denial? Will you ‘get behind’ or stay arguing?

• Taking up the ‘cross’ is more than coping with burdens and failures. It is an act of revolutionary zeal to stand in opposition to structures of injustice which block the coming of the Kingdom of God. Only revolutionaries against the Roman authorities suffered crucifixion on the cross. Are you willing to lose your life in the cause of justice and true reconciliation? Can you imagine the joy when your conduct and life is repaid in Heaven?

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

Discussion Guide: 21st Sunday Yr. A – Who do YOU say I am?

and u say you are a christian | was condemned as a criminal and ...

Reflection Questions• The special office of ‘Master of the Palace’ also had another well known title ‘Keeper of the Keys’. This involved wearing the key to the palace door. It hung from just below the shoulder and was obvious to all who saw it. Symbolically and physically, this person had access to the King and had authority to act in the name of the King. Unfortunately Shebna in the first reading had a liking for the King’s chariots (Is 22, 16-18) and was building himself a special tomb – both expressions of status and power. He was removed from his office by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah makes a prophecy that such a person given this role will be a ‘peg in a sure spot’. What do you think this means?

• St Paul comes to the end of his painful sharing and confusion as to why his own people (Israel) could not accept Jesus. After all his wrestling and argument with God he finishes in prayer. He hands over this struggle to the mystery of how God works. What do you feel you need to hand over to God?

•The Gospel of Matthew from Chapter 14 has Jesus giving special instruction to his 12 disciples. Dramatically he leaves Galilee and walks them into a place filled with Temples to Roman Emperors and Baal worship. There is even a temple dedicated to the fertility cult of the ‘dancing goat’! Against the background of this pagan worship he confronts his disciples, and us: Who do YOU say I am? What do YOU think of me? Imagine being in this scene. Jesus asks this question of you.

• Simon’s response brings together two ‘titles’. The Christ (in greek or Messiah in Hebrew) is the long awaited one promised by God to save his people. But added to this Simon recognises the unique filial relationship Jesus has with God. Jesus is not simply a prophet (John Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah…) but uniquely one with God. Would you say you ‘know about’ Jesus or that you ‘know Jesus’? Is your christian faith ‘second hand’ or grounded on a ‘personal encounter’ with Jesus?

• Peter – Cephas (meaning Rock) was not a known Jewish name. It is a striking image. Rock was immediately associated with God. And combined with the role of ‘keeper of the keys’ Peter’s leadership and authority within the group of 12 is made clear. The Church is being provided with a teaching authority for the time when Jesus will not be physically present to interpret the Laws of Moses and Gospel of Jesus. Do you view this gift of authority by Jesus positively or negatively?

• Binding and loosing and powers of the netherworld present a Jewish view of the rule of God. Jesus is understood as wrestling the human world from the grip of satan and reclaiming it for God.
How do you relate to power, order, authority. Is it needed in the Church?

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

Discussion Guide20th Sunday Yr. A – God has Mercy Upon All

 

Great is Thy Faith, Matthew 15:21-28 - Syrophenician woman ...

Reflection Questions: • God’s chosen people, who were marched away from home into exile in Babylon, are now given permission to return home and rebuild their temple. King Cyrus even gives them back their sacred vessels stolen from the Temple 60 years earlier. The Hebrew people could hardly believe what was happening. God could even work through a Gentile King to rescue and restore his people. Isaiah shares a vision of all peoples being able to worship together in the Temple. This vision was never truly fulfilled. Non Jews were only allowed into an ‘outer courtyard’ of the Temple. What vision of welcome do you have for your Church? What limits your vision from becoming a reality?

• Paul continues to grieve over his own Jewish people. He hopes that disobedience will eventually meet mercy! People labelled and feeling distant from God (Gentiles) will experience union with God. Paul reminds the Church of God’s passionate desire for all the ‘unclean’ /gentiles to be made welcome in the Church. Who do you judge unclean?

• Some geography helps to understand the context of the Gospel reading today. Jesus has just finished arguing with the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-20) about what is ‘clean and unclean’. He now travels into unclean ‘gentile’ territory. He moves out of the ‘Holy Land’ and into Canaanite territory. Is he trying to get rid of the Pharisees who keep following and arguing with him? Or is he trying to teach his disciples a lesson going beyond mere words of teaching? The disciples would have been hesitant to go themselves into ‘unclean’ territory. What do you think Jesus could be teaching the disciples? The Church?

• Without napkins at the dinner table, it was a practice that bread was broken and ones hands were cleaned with bread. Bread and food was left after dinner on the floor. House dogs were frequently able to mop up the crumbs and foodscraps after the guests had finished. This is an image used in the reading today. Is Jesus derogatory toward the woman or just revealing his first concern was ‘lost sheep of Israel’?

• The disciples wanted the canaanite woman sent away. She was unsettling. Was Jesus waiting for the disciples reaction to her as a way of teaching them about clean / unclean?

• The Gentile woman kneels before Jesus and prays ‘Lord help me’. Jesus praises and rewards her persistence and faith. To the Jewish community of the Gospel of Matthew this event would have come as a shock. Jesus entered into and found faith among the unclean gentiles. Imagine feeling or being labelled as ‘unclean’ by ‘the church’. What obstacles need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus?Are you helping or hindering?

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

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

 

Pin on jw.org

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?