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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Discussion Guide: Casual or Committed?

Wisdom,7:7-11, Hebrews 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30
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Reflection Questions:

• The Book of Wisdom is thought to have been written by King Solomon. Today’s text links to the story of young King Solomon, newly married to a princess of
Egypt, heavily aware of leadership responsibilities and following the example of his Father, King David. In 1 Kings 3:6-9 Solomon prays for wisdom – a heart to
understand what is good and what is evil. Today is Solomon’s reflection on just what a precious gift wisdom is. Have you ever needed to search for and find a wise person to offer direction and guidance? How would you describe your need? What happened?

• ‘I chose to have her rather than the light’. Wisdom is not a ‘possession’ or equal to worldly wealth of Gold of Silver. It is the spiritual gift of knowing the truth and the very will of God. ‘Discernment’ of God’s will is a discipleship skill. It literally means ‘to cut away’. Consider a choice that you need to make. List the choices. Pray for wisdom. ‘Cut away’ options that are shallow, or not spiritually motivated. Pay attention to the desire beneath the choice. Ask a wise person for advice.

• Hebrews is written for Jewish Christians struggling with persecution and the difficulties and fragility of the early Christian church. They remembered with
joy the clear Jewish laws and customs and the sacrificial practices of the Temple. The author of Hebrews points them to the penetrating power of the Word.
Have you every experienced the powerful and personal way the scriptures can reach deeply inside you and speak to you deepest pain and questions? Reveal you to yourself? Challenge you? Inspire you? What scripture passage has done this for you? What happened?

• The theme of wisdom is contrasted with wealth in the Gospel. A rich young man faithful to the ʻlawsʼ still finds himself unsatisfied in life. His question: ʻWhat must I do?ʼ is still focussed on external actions of obedience. Jesus wishes to lead him from ʻobservance of lawsʼ to ʻliving in loveʼ. The invitation to change the base of his security from possessions to ʻtreasure in heavenʼ causes his face to fall. What possessions would you be terrified of letting go? Why? Do you trust that God will supply everything you need?

• The invitation to a deeper discipleship does not necessarily require letting go of ʻwealthʼ but letting go of its ʻattachmentʼ. Jesus uses an image. To get a camel loaded with items for trade through a ʻnarrow gateʼ in Jerusalem required unloading items, the camel sometimes having to kneel down and crawl through a small space (eye of a needle). Some scholars also suggest a misspelling of a word means it is a ʻcableʼ that is trying to be threaded through the eye of a needle. How would you describe your ʻuse of wealthʼ. Is it available for building the Kingdom of God? The needs of the poor? How much ʻsecurityʼ and ʻlifeʼ does your bank balance or possessions bring you? What does this story reveal to youpersonally?

• Peter implies a disciples question about reward and security. 100% is an incredibly fruitful return. Normally a return would be 10%. It will be mixed up ʻwith
persecutionsʼ however. Consider asking a Priest, Brother, Sister, Christian friend how they have experienced Godʼs faithfulness in relying on God for their security.

• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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

Discussion Guide: Marriage-Partnership with God 

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Reflection Questions

• Genesis describes a truth, in a story, about our human condition. Man and Woman are different from the rest of creation. God’s invitation and partnership
with creation invites Man to ‘name’ the animals and exercise authority over them. It seems God’s most beautiful act of creation is woman. In Genesis we learn,
‘male and female he created them’ … ‘in God’s image and likeness he created them.’ Have you considered that the intimacy of Man and Woman becoming ‘one flesh’ together points to the image and reality of what God is like? One Flesh is the Old Testament and Jewish phrase describing the deep and total union of mind, body, emotion, and spirit that is lived in the marriage covenant. The sacrament of marriage is therefore pointing toward and making God’s love present for the other. If you were to explain Christian marriage to someone what would you share?

• The Letter to the Hebrews seeks to show Jesus as the replacement of the Jewish Temple Priesthood and sacrifices. The Temple in Jerusalem was like an ‘earthly shadow’ of the reality of ‘Heaven’. God ‘came down’ in Jesus, and completed the task of salvation and continues to link Heaven and Earth. Do you see the link between Heaven and Earth in the Church, liturgy, priesthood, sacraments?

• Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem and is questioned by Pharisees. Frequently they seek to trap him with difficult questions and arguments. This would
embarrass him in front of the crowds and disciples. Jewish custom and practice had allowed a Husband to divorce his wife for anything ʻobjectionableʼ. A Jewish woman was not allowed to divorce. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Rather than talk about legal arguments of divorce, Jesus chose to talk about what marriage is: two becoming one flesh and joined together by God. Jesus states man and woman are equal. He reintroduces womanʼs equality and states this injustice of easy divorce is not Godʼs plan. Why do you think the scriptures continue to use the phrase ʻtwo become one fleshʼ? What does this mean for you? What would you like to ask Jesus if you were involved in this conversation?

• Leaving ʻfather and mother and be joined togetherʼ holds an incredible challenge. Family traditions, customs, expectations, money, support misunder-standing, frustration, resentment can easily creep in. Forgiveness will be required. Cracks and fractures left unacknowledged or repaired can become un-repairable. How good are you at ʻforgivingʼ? Talking and sharing in a way that ʻrepairsʼ hurt feelings and unmet needs? Have you shared your availability and willingness to help married couples in times of stress and need? Consider whose marriage you were at most recently. Were you there for the ʻcelebrationʼ AND to show your support for their life-long journey? Have you shown support? How could you support those whose marriage dream has been broken?

• Jesus sought to include and show the equality of women. He also insists that children be included and not prevented from the Kingdom of God (2nd week in a row!) The openness and receptivity of a child is emphasised. What does it mean to ʻacceptʼ the Kingdom of God? Like a child?

• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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

Discussion Guide for 26th Sunday is here.

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

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Reflection Questions

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

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

Discussion Guide for Discipleship=A Radical “No” to Power

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Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Wisdom continues the suffering servant theme of Isaiah last week and points to the suffering that Jesus will experience. Many Jewish
    people were searching for meaning and guidance outside Judaism while living in Alexandria (a large Greek city). Have you experienced a time when you went searching for other belief systems because the society you lived in made fun of your religious beliefs? Where did you turn? What happened?
  2. The Book of Wisdom reveals worldly people oppose Godly people. They pretend righteous motivations…. ‘let us see whether his words be true’…. ‘let him prove his gentleness and patience’. Has this experience of persecution and trial been part of your Christian witness? Have you been able to live in trust that ‘God will take care of you’? Can you see and believe evil actions ultimately get found out and goodness is vindicated?
  3. Living in peace with each other in Christian community is our calling. A desire for glory and power and possessions needs to be brought out into the open. What peace-full virtue from James could you practice more of: be pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant? What object or honour are you wanting to possess? Name a ‘selfish ambition’.
  4. Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark has 3 predictions of the passion. Each time Jesus talks about his suffering the disciples completely misunderstand what
    he is talking about. Today is the second prediction. Jesus talks about Death. Disciples talk about Glory. Jesus’ teaching about accepting suffering is contrasted with his disciples argument about seniority. 2 lifestyles are revealed. What style of living describes you: living upward (glory and honouSayingr and violence) or living downward (service and humility and nonviolence)?
  5. Jesus chooses to expose the disciples lust for power in a quieter moment inside the house. He challenges them. They were really just concerned about power and glory… who was the greatest? Jesus does a very revealing action. While they wanted to know who was at the top, Jesus takes a child representing someone at the bottom. He collapses the social and power structure. Receive and welcome and show hospitality and inclusion to the bottom in society. Can you see how living this invitation will inevitably enter a disciple into upsetting the status quo. Upsetting the power structure of society. Jesus calls this a disciple “picking up the cross”. In your world, community family, workplace, who is at the bottom (equivalent of a child in Jesus’ time). How could you receive them? Jesus identifies with them. Will you stand up for them?
  6. In Jesus’ time, a child was at the bottom of society because in a shame / honor culture, it would be highly unlikely that an act toward a child would be  rewarded by the child talking to the community about the hospitality received. As a result, a kind action does not get rewarded with honour in the eyes of the community. Therefore it is not worth doing. Can you recognise how subversive Jesus’ placing the child “in their midst” is to the culture of the disciples. Who is the equivalent of a “child” today?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity, Auckland, NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz   www.maristlaitynz.org

Relection Guide: Eucharist-Food for our Souls is here.

Discussion Questions

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• The Book of Proverbs shares many short wisdom sayings. Wisdom and Foolishness are two pathways we can walk. Two ‘women’, are presented as
preparing a home and a banquet. A prostitute (foolishness) chapters 5-7. A Lady (wisdom) chapters 8-9. Stolen bread and water are contrasted with fine food.
Which voice and house will you enter? Where do you go for ‘wisdom’ and ‘guidance’? What recent wisdom have you learnt from walking down wrong paths?

• Paul continues to explain the life-style of a baptised person in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘watch carefully how you live’. When was the last opportunity you took to have some time of reflection and review of your life….. asking for a clear vision and trying to understand ‘what is the will of the Lord’. Consider planning a few hours in the week to reflect on how you could live the life-style of Christ more deeply.

• We are at week 4 of 5 weeks sitting with the Gospel of John chapter 6. Jesus has challenged the Jewish understanding of Passover ‘bread from Heaven’ and insists he is the one sent from Heaven. He is ‘living bread’ and he goes even further to claim he will give his ‘flesh’ for the life of the world. Ponder what the symbol and experience of ‘bread’ means for you. How is Jesus’ life like ‘bread’ for you?

•The gospel of John invites us to make a significant transition from ʻbreadʼ [the Jewish Passover meal] to ʻflesh-and- bloodʼ – the whole person [Jesusʼ replacement of the passover with the offering of his life on the cross]. The special Jewish celebration of Godʼs love and forgiveness is now replaced with the
Cross – the sign of Godʼs love and forgiveness for the whole world. Unleavened Bread and Passover Lamb has now become a sacrificial meal transformed. Wine and Bread is now transformed to Blood and Flesh because Jesus has said it, promised it, given it. Enlightened or confused?

• The deep language and expression of love helps our heart seeking understanding. Love desires to ʻgiveʼ and gift oneʼs ʻpresenceʼ to the beloved. To
resolve the human difficulty of not knowing how to come to God, we find God comes to us through the gift of the true presence of Jesus in the body and blood at Mass. We are seated at a God- given (wisdom) banquet. For John, it is not enough to ʻbelieveʼ in Jesus, we are also called to ʻreceiveʼ the physical gift
and life-presence of Jesus into our physical bodies. Do you receive in ʻignoranceʼ or with ʻknowledgeʼ?

• True life, ʻeternal lifeʼ is given and received. The life and spirit of Jesus is now present within the receiver of the Eucharist (good -gift). It is because of this
truth we call the experience ʻHoly – Communion (many becoming one with the one who is Holy – God). After receiving communion how could you develop a greater appreciation of this physical intimacy with Jesus? Consider making up a personal prayer to pray at this time of silence after communion.

• St Thomas Aquinas offers two simple sentences for reflection. Where do these sentences lead you in reflection…..
“What food is for our bodies, the Eucharist is for our souls”.
          • “The proper effect of the Eucharist is to transform us into God”

• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

 

Discussion Guide,: Time For a Christ Makeover?

Readings:  Ex 16:2-4, 12-15, Eph. 4:17, 20-24, Jn. 6:24-35

 

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Reflection Questions

• The Exodus story teaches us of our covenant relationship with God. Each time the people grumbled, Moses prayed to God, and God responded faithfully to his covenant love commitment. Remembering the first reading is chosen to highlight the Gospel reading, John 6 and Exodus are both reflecting on the
meaning of the Jewish ‘Passover’. The treasured memory of God feeding his people with ‘manna’ (literally from the word ‘man hu’ meaning ‘what is this?’)
was an essential part of the Passover celebration. Rather ungratefully, God’s people continually grumbled. Do I grumble frequently against ‘Moses and
Aaron…..’ How could I speak words of ‘affirmation’? How could I practice gratefulness for the ‘daily feeding’ by God of every gift and blessing?

• Parts of the Letter to the Ephesians are prayers used at Baptism in the early  community. A colorful image is pointed to in the Baptism ceremony. In
ancient times one’s clothing was considered part of oneself. In the ceremony you took off your old clothes and put on a new white garment. Your old self was put aside. Your new self is the life of Christ. Your new life-style is as a citizen of Heaven not a citizen of Rome. How could you show Righteousness, Holiness
and Truth more in your life? Amongst your family? At work?

• Last week we began 5 weeks of hearing the Gospel of John chapter 6. It is important to notice the context of John 6. The famous ʻbread of lifeʼ passage is the
second of three passover celebrations in the Gospel of John. At each passover, Jesus replaces the passover with his own ʻbodyʼ (see John 2, 6, 19). Last week the crowd tried to take Jesus away to make him ʻKingʼ because there was a Jewish expectation (2 Baruch 29:3,18) that there would be a miraculous feeding of bread from heaven which would reveal the promised Messiah. Jesus comments to the crowd, they are only looking and working for ʻfoodʼ to fill their bellies. He promises something greater. Can you understand what Jesus is doing when he claims he is the ʻSon of Manʼ, the one on whom the Father, God, has ʻset his sealʼ? What does it mean if you ʻset your sealʼ upon your letter, object…?

• The crowd asks for proof from Jesus that he is ʻbetterʼ than Moses who fed Israel with ʻmannaʼ in the desert. Jesus responds using a very important phrase: ʻI AM the bread of Lifeʼ. I AM is the divine name given by God to Moses in Ex 3,16. Jesus reminds the crowd that it was God not Moses who fed his people, and in fact, I AM is standing right in front of you.

• The Gospel of John often requires the reader to step down into deeper levels of meaning. Never hungry and never thirsty recognises a physical ʻhungerʼ and invites the reader to recognise a deeper spiritual hunger and thirst for life. Beyond feeding your body and satisfying your thirst, what do you really live for? What is ʻlifeʼ for?

• Many people came seeking Jesus but they did not want to follow him. Jesus will soon make the connection that He is and will become the ʻbread of Godʼ from Heaven which gives life. He will do this with the gift of his ʻBodyʼ and his ʻBloodʼ on the cross which will be received in the celebration of the Mass John 6, 55. Do you ʻseeʼ that you truly receive Jesus at Mass? Do you ʻseekʼ AND ʻfollowʼ Jesus?

• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide for 17th Sunday is here

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Reflection Questions

  • Over the next 5 weeks, our scripture readings focus upon the events of God feeding his people. We depart from the normal Gospel of Mark readings from
    Mark chapter 6 and are placed into the Gospel of John chapter 6. The next five weeks provide an opportunity for prayer and deeper reflection upon the Eucharist and its meaning for our lives.
  • Jewish people recognised miraculous events of Prophets feeding God’s people with bread symbolised God feeding his family and satisfying their hunger. It was normal to bring Barley – which was harvested around the time of the Jewish Passover – to the temple as an offering. Significantly, because the temple in the North (Gilgal) was following false Baal worship the bread / barley offering is presented to a holy man (Elisha) who distributed it to the poor. Do you experience the prophetic connection between worship and being fed and ‘morality’ – now feeding the poor of the world on behalf of God?
  • Last week we heard Jesus has united us all together – Jews and Gentiles. Paul encourages us ‘to live in a manner worthy….’ showing this unity. How do you experience disunity?
  • Imagine your life, relationships, work-place. How could you practice unity-creating virtues: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with, striving to preserve unity, maintaining  bonds of peace? What is your biggest challenge?
  • Because the Gospel of Mark (Yr B) has only 16 chapters, we jump into John chapter 6 for 5 weeks to explore Jesusʼ feeding the 5,000. The story of Jesus feeding with bread is told 6 times in the Gospels. John is the most theologically full with special words and meaning. It is around the Jewish Feast of the Passover. At Passover Jewish people remembered Moses the great prophet feeding them with ʻmanna in the desertʼ. The promised Messiah (King) would also do a miraculous feeding. We notice in each of the three Passovers of Jesusʼ public ministry (Jn 2, 6, 19) the passover is fulfilled and replaced ʻwith his bodyʼ. 5 loaves and 2 fish = 7 the perfect Jewish number indicating a perfect feeding. Taking the loaves, gave thanks, gave it to distribute, gather (synagein), fragment  (klasma) are all special words used by the early church for the celebration of  the Eucharist. Twelve indicates ʻall Jewish tribes / peopleʼ. What do you make of all these ʻcluesʼ in the reading today? What does this story now mean for you?
  •  In the midst of large crowds who are hungry, Philip offers no solution. Instead he remarks it will cost so much to fix this problem, 2/3rds of a years wage! What thought or feeling decides your  (in)actions: cost or compassion? Do you offer your small contribution of money or compassion, or give up in the sight of large injustice / poverty / hunger?
  •   The crowds ʻseeʼ the sign Jesus has worked, think of him as ʻtruly the prophet’Comapssion, UnityC they have been waiting for – the Messiah. The one promised. They wish to make him King. A Political Ruler. Why do you think Jesus ʻwithdrawsʼ? Why is the ʻlifting up of Jesusʼ on the cross the enthronement moment in the gospel of John?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide 16th Sunday: Mission and Resting with Jesus

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:13-18, Mark 6:30-34

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Reflection Questions

  • Jeremiah had witnessed over 10 years Jerusalem being captured, the Holy Temple destroyed and God’s people walked out of their land into exile. Jeremiah’s early message and the warning to the King and people had been ignored. The King even burnt Jeremiah’s first manuscript of writings and warnings! Jeremiah spoke to the ‘Shepherds’ – Priests and Rulers of Israel and told them they were at fault for not helping people remain close to God. Their ‘lack of care’ caused people to be ‘scattered’. What qualities do you wish to see in your Leaders? ‘Priests’? How could you encourage them in their responsibility as shepherds? Does ‘leadership’ also require ‘followship’?
  • St Paul is the great teacher of how Jews and Gentiles – two peoples who were very ‘distant’ and ‘dis-liking’ of each other – have become one family through Jesus. How? The laws teaching Jews to be ‘separate’ from everyone else have now been completed and ‘abolished’. The purpose of the ‘laws’ was to be close to God. The ‘blood of Christ’ has now become the forgiving sacrifice given by God to show all sin and ‘distance’ has been removed. And this applies to everyone. Jews and Greeks (Gentiles). Have you had any experience that united you to many people? Do you recognise this takes place profoundly at Mass?
  • Can you identify any barriers of culture, language, fear, a perception that has stopped you feeling and living as a ʻbrother or sisterʼ with someone different from you? What would be required to ʻput that enmity (obstacle causing hostility) to death? Is there a ʻcleanʼ ʻuncleanʼ distinction at the root of the problem? What do you think St Paul would say?
  • Today is the only time in the Gospel of Mark the word ʻApostlesʼ is used. It means ʻones sentʼ. We come ʻfromʼ someone and ʻreportʼ back to someone.
    Disciples are missioned by Jesus and need to return to Jesus. Jesus ʻtakes them to a deserted placeʼ. So excited, so busy ʻthey had no opportunity even to
    eatʼ, Jesus guides his disciples toward rest. Do you consider you have a healthy balance of ʻwork and restʼ? Where is your ʻdeserted placeʼ? What is the most enjoyable way you find to ʻrestʼ? Jewish people connected ʻrestʼ with ʻsabbathʼ. Are you allowing Sunday to be an experience of real ʻrestʼ?
  • Imagine a close family and personal friend has died. A busy atmosphere at home or at work. People demanding many things. While wanting to rest, there is a vast crowd needing you. Jesus was ʻmoved with pityʼ. The word is translated also as compassion – mercy – which has its origin in the Jewish word for ʻwombʼ. What does this teach about Jesus? Can you relate to this experience? When have you ʻfedʼ people with your life, words, presence? What happened?
  • This passage of Jesus teaching a large crowd will lead to his feeding the Jewish crowds (Mark 6) and the Gentile crowds (Mark 8). To teach us more about this the next 5 Sundays will jump into the Gospel of John chapter 6. Jesus, the Righteous Shepherd and True King of Israel will feed all people with the Eucharist. The Bread from Heaven. Consider a personal decision how you could learn more about the Eucharist over the next 5 weeks. Prayerfully reflect on John 6.
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide for Missionary: Who Me? 

Reflection Questions

  • Amos was a curious character. His ‘job’ had been to cut and prune trees. But he decided to go to the Bethel ‘Shrine’ (think National Cathedral) and declare that while the country was not at war – and wealth was increasing – the poor were being oppressed. Because God’s will was often spoken through ‘prophet’s’, a King would carefully silence this prophetic voice by putting priests and prophets working in the national shrine ‘on the pay-roll’. Amos declares enough is enough! The Priest of Bethel, Amaziah, wants Amos to ‘go away’. Amos declares ‘I am not corrupt and ‘paid off’ like you. In the wealthy-and- oppressed debate today, who is an ‘Amos’ you know? Who is an ‘Amaziah’ you know? What do you say about the issues affecting the poor when it is raised in conversation?
  •  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can be understood as a collection of hymns and prayers used in the early liturgy of the Church. Consider the beauty of this prayer. You are blessed with every spiritual blessing.You are chosen to be holy and pure. You have been adopted into God’s family. You have been forgiven and washed clean from all sin by the blood of Jesus. You exist for the praise of God. You have heard the word of truth. You have been sealed and marked and indwelt by the holy spirit. Which idea in this prayer speaks deeply to you?
  • At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark a very clear pattern of events takes place with Jesus. Everywhere. Everyday. Jesus casts out evil. The kingdom of God is more than an idea. It is to be an experience where good replaces evil. After his own townspeople of Nazareth refuse to believe in him, instead of sulking and being limited by their rejection, he calls ʻtwelveʼ to go out with power to cast out evil. Jesus empowers others to become ʻlikeʼ him. Have you experienced a moment of decision: Shall I react and let myself become ʻsmallʼ or be proactive and allow myself to become ʻbigʼ? How can you work toward becoming a kingdom person of ʻhealing and curingʼ?
  • The lifestyle of the disciple is significant. We are to live as Jesus lived. Only wandering missionary items were to be taken – sandals and walking stick. An extra tunic was frequently used as a tent to keep one warm for the night. No extra signs of wealth or comfort. No ʻhouse- hoppingʼ when the food or bedroom may not be great. Disciples were to witness to a life-style that revealed the concerns of the kingdom, not concerns of comfort. Are you concerned or comfortable? Is life becoming cluttered with Items at the expense of Interest at taking ʻauthority over unclean spiritsʼ?
  • A missionary disciple can become worried or saddened they are not welcomed or listened to. Jesus tells them they can adopt the Jewish practice of ʻdusting their shoesʼ. Jewish people on returning from a gentile land into the ʻholy landʼ dusted their feet at the border crossing. They symbolically ʻshook offʼ any rejection of God from unbelievers. Is there a rejection experience you are still trying to work through and ʻshake offʼ?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

Reflection Guide is here

Discussion Questions

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  • Ezekiel worked as a Priest in the Temple before being exiled with Israelites into Babylon. It was here, in a distant land, he experienced the spirit enter him and raise him to his feet to ‘speak’. It was not a popular message; the cause of their exile and punishment was due to their unfaithfulness to God. Have you experienced being moved from a
    ‘comfortable’ to an ‘uncomfortable’ place? Have you felt the spirit strengthen you for a new and difficult challenge? How do you think Ezekiel felt knowing the outcome of his words was uncertain… will they heed or resist?
    • Today we reflect on a deep and personal self-revelation of St Paul. It is uncertain if the ‘thorn’ (translated also as stake’) was a physical ailment, disease, depression. Was it constant persecution? Lust? Upset with being ‘short’? It is probably helpful we do not know as we can now all symbolically identify with Paul in our own personal experience of ‘pain’. What would you humbly own as your ‘thorn’? Some spiritual writers suggest the first deep question of spiritual direction is: where are you hurting? Boast comes from the word meaning ‘having your head held high’,
    from a position of understanding. Have you shared this with anyone? Would you like to receive encouragement to move from pain to boasting, and being accepting of your weakness?
  • Jesus returns home to Nazareth and experiences rejection. Mark, the earliest gospel writer clearly describes the lack of faith of Jewish people and the Synagogue toward Jesus. At home in Nazareth, they are attracted to his teaching but take offense (skandalizmai – scandalised) and even make a negative remark calling him ʻSon of Maryʼ. It was normal to refer to someone only using the title of ʻSon of Joseph- Fatherʼ. They are objecting to the uncertain origin of Jesus. Can you glimpse the pain and rejection of Jesus at home, with his own family members? Have you had a personal experience of rejection? Lack of belief in you; ʻCutting you downʼ, ʻPutting you into a boxʼ? How did you react? How does Jesus react? Are you curious as to what Jesus does next?
    • The three readings today highlight a theme of ʻif only …ʼ. If only people would listen (Ezekiel)… If only I didnʼt have this personal difficulty (St Paul)… If only my family and friends would believe in me (Jesus)… Difficult circumstances can shut us down, take away our energy. We need another source of energy and identity. The spirit sustained Ezekiel, Paul, Jesus to respond positively not negatively. Consider naming your challenges and decide on positive solutions. How do you overcome the ʻNazareth syndromeʼ?
    • It is mysterious how Jesus ʻwas not able to perform any mighty deed thereʼ. Have you ever decided about someone and your mind and heart become ʻclosedʼ and not ʻopenʼ to that person? The relationship now becomes ʻstuckʼ in
    possibility and expectation. We bring the closed door and negative view into each conversation and meeting. How open are you to Jesus? Pray for an open mind and heart to see signs and wonders and glimpses of the kingdom at work in daily events. How are you seeking to grow your faith and relationship with Jesus?
    • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?