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Archive for the ‘Feast’ Category

Discussion Guide Midnight Mass

Readings: Is 9:1-6,  Ti 2:11-14, Gospel Lk 2:1-14

No automatic alt text available.The artist is Gari Melchers. It’s titled The Nativity and was painted in 1891.

Reflection Questions

• Watch ‘The Christmas Story’ http://youtu.be/JSGNJnAGCOc and notice how seeing the birth of Jesus throughthe eyes of children helps you seesome things in a new way. What part of the Christmas story strikes you the most?

• The first reading is a prophecy of Isaiah of war ended, a great leader arising from the family line of King David to bring judgment and justice. Reflect on the images. Walking in darkness then seeing a great light. Going out to pick fruits and produce of the earth and to know your family will be fed with plenty of food. Relief that war has ended and your community and family can now live in safety. Slave tasks of carrying heavy loads has ended. All the evidence and bloodshed of war being removed and burned. How has Jesus’ birth done this? What is the link between Jesus’ birth and death? Instead of military might to change the world, what does Jesus offer?

•Paul’s letter to Titus reminds us that while we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are still consciously living in preparation for his second coming. Christians are called not to retreat from the world but be a ‘sign’ in the world. Would someone watching your life notice that you are being ‘trained’, rejecting godless ways and worldly desires? Living modestly? Courageous in seeking justice? Devout and prayer-full? Eager and ready to do good?

• Caesar Augustus was the most powerful person in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the leader of the Roman Empire. The only superpower of the day. He was given the public title ‘Saviour of the World’ as he had managed to bring peace after 100 years of unrest. Enrolling people involved taking a census. This often meant knowing how many people and how much tax could be charged – to pay for armies and military power! Consequently a census sometimes caused a revolt by citizens. In contrast Luke shares: today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ the Lord, lying in a manger. What do you think Luke is trying to suggest about salvation?

• God’s explosion into human history in the birth of Jesus is not in royal and beautiful surroundings. Christians have romanticised his birth considering it a beautiful event. But the reality was uncomfortable straw. In the midst of animals. Not accepted by his own people in the town of Bethlehem. On the outside of town. On the margins among people on the margins (Shepherds were considered dirty and dishonest!). How does this stretch your attitudes and perceptions
of Christmas. Who does God ‘favour’?

• 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

Reflection Guide: The Birth of John the Baptist

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Discussion Questions

1] Our first reading speaks of the Servant of God ‘formed from the womb’ and called to be a ‘light to the nations’ that ‘salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. The context is that God’s people were defeated,
their temple destroyed, and they are Babylonian slaves, alienated from their land and their God. They suffer a crisis of both identity and faith. Are they still God’s people? How can they worship in this foreign land? Have you or a group you know experienced a crisis of identity or faith? What helped or hindered?

2] Exile is to be replaced by something radically wonderful and new and Isaiah shouts this from the rooftops. The message is for the whole world. This hidden and unknown servant of God, a nobody, is made the instrument of God’s glory. We are called as disciples to be instruments of justice, mercy and hope yet may feel as if nothing we do matters much. (I toiled in vain…). When I focus on me, I easily feel
irrelevant. Isaiah invites us to see ourselves as part of Gods plan, the ‘we’ of salvation and respond simply with practical faith in hope and trust. How might this passage speak to the refugee crisis today and our response? What connections can you also make in your local setting?

3] The second reading from Acts presents us with the mission of Jesus, born to be the Saviour Servant King and John, with his mission to herald Christ and be the link between the First and New Testaments.
Like Isaiah, they are both servants ‘formed from the womb’. John is the sign that points to Christ and salvation? He longs to ‘prepare the way’. Who prepared the way for you to have a relationship with Jesus? Thank God for that person now.

4]What is it about John that stands out for you and what attributes of his,  might help you reach out to others who know nothing about Gods mercy and salvation?

5]The first thing we notice about Elizabeth and Zechariah are that they are in a community of neighbours and relatives who rejoiced with them about their new baby. How important are family, hospitality, and community in the experience of faith?

6] Luke reveals strong parallels between the birth of John and Jesus. Read the two accounts side by side if you can. Both are announced in extraordinary ways. The presence of the Holy Spirit infuses both
stories. Mary is present at each birth. John’s birth sparks joy, surprise, and amazement as miracles unfold and people respond with both fear and awe. People spread the news far and wide and everyone
who hears is amazed. The same is true of Jesus’ birth but at a heightened level. Shepherds were terrified as angels proclaim Jesus’ birth and they go in awe to see him. Everyone wonders about each child “What
then will this child be?” This question is about identity and about mission. As you reflect on your own life, both individually and as a community, ask God to reveal both your identity and mission.

7] Both boys have a mission from God. Both remain hidden and unknown through their childhood years. Both go into the desert for a time. John becomes the servant preparing others to respond to Jesus as
Saviour and pays with his life. Jesus renews and fulfills God’s eternal covenant and draws us all into the heart of the Trinity. Imagine yourself in the story with Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, the crowds of relatives and neighbours as John is born. What is God saying to you today?

8] What will you do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is created by Mrs Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ.
Email: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide for the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus.

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Reflection Questions

  • The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) began as a response to increased devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the 12th Century. This led to a desire to ʻseeʼ, Jesus in the consecrated elements. In 1220 in Paris the practice of elevating the host began.
    • A Covenant was a binding agreement and promise between two parties. Moses conducts a ʻsacrificeʼ which seals the bond between God and Israel. Blood = life. Life = God. Everyone sprinkled now participates in a relationship and keeps the ʻagreementʼ: the 10 commandments. Being sprinkled with ʻbloodʼ was a very significant event. How would you make a life-long bond and commitment today? How well do you connect the sprinkling of blood, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the blood of the covenant with the Eucharist? What would help this connection for you?
    • The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews explores the Book of Numbers and Leviticus and helps us understand Jesus as fulfilling and replacing the role of the High Priest in the Temple. The Feast of the Atonement (at-one-ment described in Lev 16) involved God forgiving sins through the action of blood being rubbed on the Mercy Seat in the most holy of holies, the tabernacle. Life represented by Blood rubs out Death represented by Sin. As well as blood bringing forgiveness, the ashes of a sacrifice were sprinkled onto water and it became ʻwaters of purificationʼ for blessing and making people ʻcleanʼ. Can you see the links to Holy Water as we enter the Church? Our Bodies receiving the blood of Christ in the chalice? The Cross of Jesus is in the Cup? How could you prepare yourself to make this a deeply special experience?
    • The Jewish Passover involved a special meal with meat of a lamb (sacrifice), bread (remembering both unleavened bread and the quick escape from Egypt and the manna from heaven while in the desert) and cups of wine (the 3rd cup remembered passing through the red sea from Egypt into the desert). Jesus now changes the words and actions and institutes a new sacred meal. He speaks interpretative words upon the bread and wine to teach us his meaning. He longer looks backward in history, but forward to the next day of his death on the cross. The unrisen bread will now become his body broken on the cross. The 3rd cup of wine will become his blood poured out establishing a new covenant. Do you see the beauty and eternal significance of the celebration of Mass? Do you have any questions to ask that would help you growin faith and understanding? Who could you ask?
    • Receiving Jesus in Holy Communion can become ʻeasyʼ and ʻordinaryʼ. The Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus highlights the importance of the Mass in our lives. Do you accept the invitation to be in a ʻcovenantʼ and intimate relationship with God? Will you seek to maintain union in prayer and action during the week? Will you agree to ʻparticipateʼ in the building of the Kingdom of God of peace and justice? Are you willing to imitate Christ; to live for God and love all people to the extent that your body is broken and your blood poured out? Can you see a deeper invitation as you receive Jesus?
    • 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 resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ

Discussion Guide: Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit

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Reflection Questions

  1. Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast 50 days after Easter when fruit had ripened and wheat was harvested. Along with bringing produce to the temple, it was also an anniversary of the giving of the law (Torah)- 10 commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai. There are fulfillment and replacement hints in the text following the interpretive principle that the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament.
    * Israel together at Mt Sinai – Disciples gathered together in upper-room.
    * The earthquake and storm and eruption – driving wind & fire.
    * Moses speaking personally to God and being gifted with ʻlawsʼ to teach and guide. – Tongues of fire communicating Godʼs spirit and power to teach and guide and unify all people.
    How would you write what Pentecost ʻmeansʼ?
  2. Pentecost is also understood as the reversal of the OT Tower of Babel story (cf.Gen 11). Humankindʼs 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 to understand each other and the Christian message. Does the world today need to hear about Jesus in a fresh and creative way? Where would you start? Be inspired!
  3. Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didnʼt 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. Name and claim at least 3 gifts you have. 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 and give life to the ʻbodyʼ. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ do you identify more with: eyes – seeing, head – thinking, heart – feeling, hands – serving, mouth – speaking, ears – praying. How do you show this in your daily life? How could you be more
    involved in serving God with this?
  5. Jesus passes through ʻfear -locked doorsʼ to bring 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 ʻplugged inʼ to a living power-source moulding everyone into the image and consciousness of Christ. Because of the Spirit, the Church has the calling and capacity to be the extension of Jesusʼ ministry in the world. Forgiveness of sins and the healing of wounded hearts, families, communities is what each disciple is ʻsentʼ to do. Consider what feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ with authority to do something? Are you conscious of being sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the
    worldʼ?
  7. ‘Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour thy 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… (Sequence prayer of Pentecost ). Which prayer ‘image’ to the Spirit speaks personally to you? Why?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ 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 NZ, Diocese of Auckland, NZ.   www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Feast of the Ascension

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 waiting for the spirit and the Spirit’s 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?

• Paul teaches beautifully about the deeper reality of ‘Church’. Rather than a mere ‘building’ Paul reminds us our identity and mission is to be the ‘body of Christ’. It will take plenty of work to present to the world a community ‘fully mature’ and with the ‘full stature’ of Christ. What virtue do you think you could live more intentionally at home/work/Church? Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Bearing with one another. Preserving unity?

• The Gospel of Mark is the earliest Gospel and was written at a time when the early disciples still thought the return of Christ would be soon. The urgency to share the gospel with every creature before the return of Jesus can almost be felt in the text. This mission is still an active job description to us by Jesus. Imagine having such a wonderful message that you know will bring people joy and life. As you
prepare to share it, would you consider just how the message would be received, what obstacles may be in the way, so that they truly ‘get it’ when you speak. St Francis of Assisi told his followers ‘Preach the Gospel to the whole world, and when necessary, use words’. Do you witness more by words or example? How could you try the other option?

• Mark uses dramatic language to highlight the truth that the power of the Holy Spirit is truly at work in the lives of disciples and in ‘signs’ that accompany the ‘words’. The image is of an intimate connection between Jesus in heaven and his disciples preaching. What signs would you like to pray for on your journey at the moment?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ 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 NZ, Diocese of Auckland, NZ.   www.livingtheword.org.nz

 

Discussion Guide for “Is He Your King?” Feast of Christ the King 2017, 

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Reflection Questions

.The Feast of Christ the King was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 responding to the ills of the time: The
Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, spread of facism, Church’s loss of political power, decadence of 1920’s. Instead of simply writing a Church document which are read by only a few, Pius XIrecognised a ‘Feast’ of  the Church would be celebrated by the whole Church every year and speak not only to the mind but also to the heart. At first it was celebrated at the end of October but it now rests at the very end of the Liturgical year to enhance the experience of meeting Christ at the ‘end of time’.

• In a farming culture, the image of a Shepherd and Sheep was extremely special. Israel saw it as an image of God looking after them. Ezekiel uses this image and creates a picture of what God ‘will’ do (11 times!). Tend. Rescue. Pasture. Rest. Seek out. Bring back. Bind up. Heal. Destroy. Judge. What word  speaks more to your life at the moment? Have you experienced a call to shepherd others?

•St Paul provides an image of the vital role the Church plays in history today. The ‘absence’ of Christ after his resurrection and our waiting for his final ‘return’ actually involves Christ working through the witness and works of the Church. Through our following ‘the way of Christ’ various powers and authorities are
‘overcome’ so that everything will eventually fall ‘under his feet’. What powers and sovereignties do you see at work in the world today which require christians to do ‘battle’?

• The Gospel of Matthew this year finishes with the scene of the Final Judgement. Interestingly, the final
scene refers to something going on ‘now’. It is a judgement according to ‘works’ and ‘care of the poor’ (not faith and attendance at Mass). If you knew life’s final exam question for entry to heaven and it required showing ‘practical experience of care of the poor’ what would you do? Are you doing it ‘now’? Does the final question of life shock or surprise you? Matthew is pointing, finally, to Jesus’ command
to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Is your love truly extending to your neighbour in need?

• Separating sheep (honorable) from goats (shameful) was a daily ‘end of the day’ task for shepherds. Goats were not as strong and did not manage the cold. Goats allowed male goats to access other female goats which was also considered a shameful behaviour. An honorable life is a ‘righteous’ life – where we show by our actions a care for those in need.  Interestingly, the title ‘righteous’ was a title given by the poor to those who helped them. At the end of time wouldany of the ‘poor’ stand in your defence and give you the title ‘righteous’?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week and serve your servant King?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz

 

Reflection Guide for The Transfiguration is here.

Daniel 7:9-10,13-14, 2 Peter 1:16-19, Matthew 17:1-9

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The Discussion questions

  1. Fr Anthony De Mello, a famous preacher and teacher once began a retreat by asking, “Hands up if you want to go to heaven.” All eagerly put their hands up. He responded, “Hands up if you want to go to heaven now.”
    No hands went up. He suggested they think about why they were ‘not ready’ and he walked out of the room! What would be your answer and why?
  2.  The Book of Daniel is written to encourage Jewish people during a time of great persecution. Mighty armies,
    Kings, powerful empires would cease and be silenced by the ‘Son of Man’. This is an enthronement vision of Jesus before God the Father. In the midst of super-powers and battles for resources and status do you view the world and history with ‘hope’ that the way of Jesus will be victorious? Ask God for what you need to help you grow in this mindset.
  3. The second reading is a testimony of what Peter, James and John experience when they are given the revelation of who Jesus truly is as the glorified beloved son of the Father. The three apostles did not share the experience at the request of Jesus, but they also did not fully comprehend its meaning until after the Resurrection. Describe a time you experienced something significant which took a long time to fully understand. What personal experience of God has helped you grow deeper in your faith or knowledge of God in your life over time? How much weight do we place on eyewitness testimony today? How does Peter’s eyewitness testimony impact your faith?
  4. A ‘mountain’ or ‘high place’ was symbolic of a place where one can ‘be in touch with God’. Where is a ‘place’
    where you feel close to God and which helps you ‘listen’ to yourself and God?
  5.  Jewish people remembered living in tents in the 40 years of wandering in the desert. They believed God would come among them and look after them again with the coming of the Messiah. They thought Moses or Elijah would come again. Peter acknowledges Jesus’ true identity. White symbolizes divinity and Jesus being truly God among us. What are you waiting for God to ‘do’ for you? Can you identify ways God is showing himself present and active now in your life?
  6. The disciples were ‘afraid’. Have you ever been ‘afraid’ of damaging a love relationship with someone close to you? This is called ‘holy fear’. How could you live a ‘holy fear’ this week?
  7. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?