God has actually spoken

The scripture readings for Sunday are a great starting point to start listening

more

It's more enjoyable with others

There are some simple and effective ways to share scripture in homes, cafes, parishes

more

Let's walk the talk

Prayer becomes lived out when we make decisions and lifestyle commitments

more

Sign up for email notifications

Or follow us via Twitter, facebook, RSS and more

more

Archive for the ‘General’ 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: 30th Sunday Yr. A – Love God AND Neighbour

 

30th Sunday Year A: Love God, Love others. « livingtheword

Reflection Questions:

• A special relationship between God and his people was created with Abraham and Moses. This relationship was two-way. God would look after and guide his people. God’s people would listen to and obey certain ‘laws’. The first 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) express what is required by both parties to live this ‘Covenant’. Today’s reading explores the ‘covenant code’ and what social behaviours are required by God. Aliens (foreigners), widows and orphans have no protection of family or friends. But
God loves them. We are to love, include and provide for them. Who are the equivalent of aliens, widows and orphans today? Are you living in ‘covenant-love’ with them?

• Jewish people were not to demand interest. They developed the practice of a ‘pledge’ to ensure repayment. As a safe-guard God stated a poor person was not to go cold at night without his ‘cloak’. Certain measures were in place to protect the dignity of the poor. How could you relate this to today?

• Paul continues his praise of the community of Thessalonika. Despite Paul and the other teachers being forced to leave them because of persecution, their ‘imitation of them’ and ‘the word of the Lord sounding forth’ from them to other communities showed such courage and faith. Have you ever had someone inspirational leave you and yet you decided to ‘continue their example’? Who has done this for your faith journey? What happened?

• Jesus is again forced into an argument with religious leaders. Pharisees decide to attack Jesus’ knowledge of the ‘Laws’. Jewish people had summarised all the laws of the first 5 books of the Old Testament into 613 laws. All were to be observed. Some were interpreted as ‘heavy – very important’ and some were thought of as ‘light – not as important’. Surprisingly, Jesus took a heavy law and a light law and said they were intimately linked. Love God AND Neighbour. Jewish people interpreted ‘neighbour’ as fellow Israelites. Jesus’ teaching pushed ‘neighbour’ to include everyone. Everyone is to be treated as belonging to ‘yourself’ – as family! How does your love get ‘limited’? Why? Who gets excluded? Can you glimpse the heart of the gospel in this brief statement?

• A common criticism of the prophets in the Old Testament was that love of God was celebrated in the temple with sacrifices and gifts – Sunday worship. But it stopped there! They cried: what God wants is ‘mercy, not sacrifices’. Christianity is not lived on Sunday alone. How could you show more clearly a Sunday AND Monday discipleship?

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

 

 

Discussion Guide:   29th Sunday Yr. A – Belonging Completely to God

Reflection Questions: 

• Cyrus was the King of Persia. He conquered Babylon and decreed that all exiles could return home and practice their religion. God’s people saw God’s power at work in this amazing event. God can use even a powerful Pagan King to deliver his chosen people. Is there some area of your life, a difficulty at work, an obstacle in your family which you think of as ‘impossible’ to change. Be invited to pray for a ‘Cyrus’ event!

• In ancient times a belief existed of different countries having different gods and the power of these ‘gods’ was territorial. Hence, the gods of Babylon would operate in Babylon. The God of Israel would operate in Israel? This event of liberation from Babylon marked a turning point in understanding. God is all powerful. Over all countries. Over all Kings. ‘There is no other’! Does your life reveal a trust and relationship with God who can make all Kings ‘run in his service… opening doors before him?

• When Paul began his preaching in Thessalonica he met resistance from the Jews. He turned to the Greeks in this important Roman City. Upset, the Jewish leaders chased him and others out of town. He sent Timothy back to learn how the church of God was coping with the persecution. He congratulates them on their endurance. Is there a particular persecution you face in following Christ? Are you working on your faith, laboring in love, enduring in hope? If Timothy was to arrive at your door what would you share with him?

• A surprising partnership of Pharisees (who resist Roman authority) and Herodians (who partner with ‘Herod’ and the Roman authorities) attack Jesus. It is a carefully staged question about paying the poll or census tax. Everyone aged between 12-65 was required to pay 1 days wages to Rome. If Jesus said Yes to tax he would be disloyal to the Jews and lose favour with the people. If he said No he would be seen as opposing Rome and be arrested as a revolutionary. Many Jews even refused to carry Roman coins as a sign of resistance. In a dramatic twist Jesus invites them to show the coin – which reveals they do carry it – and ‘accept the system’. What is your view on paying tax? Civil obedience? Making a personal contribution to the ‘common good’ and public services? What is your reaction to Jesus’ strikingly fresh detachment from money?

• Bearing the imprint of Caesar on the coin meant ‘it’ belonged to Caesar. Jesus invites a more profound reflection. We bear the imprint of our creator in our very being. We belong completely to God. Consider the depths of this truth. Do you repay and give your whole being to God grudgingly or gratefully?

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

Discussion Guide:  28th Sunday Yr. A – Are you ‘in’ or ‘out’?

Matthew 22:1-14

Reflection Questions• Isaiah has a special section in chapters 24-27 known as the ‘Isaiah Apocalypse’. A vision is shared of how God will eventually save us. For the many who are poor, rich food and fine wine at a banquet became a symbol of ‘heaven’. This will take place through a mountain ‘Jerusalem’ where a message of victory over death and tears and shame will be proclaimed. Can you see this message being fulfilled in the Cross On a Jerusalem Hill? In the Eucharistic Banquet? In the Church – the ‘New Jerusalem’?

• Listen deeply to the feelings in the Isaiah text. It is painting a picture of hope for God’s people. What image and feeling speaks more deeply to you? Why?

• While still in prison St Paul receives a gift of money from the christian community at Philippi. He normally discourages gifts to be given to him. But he is thankful of this expression of love and support. Paul shares he has ‘learnt a secret’. He lives attached only to Christ. He is free. Have you experienced living ‘humbly’ and also ‘in abundance’? What did the experience teach you?

• The Gospel of Matthew continues with ‘judgement parables’ (the two sons, the vineyard, and now the ‘wedding banquet’). Even today it is a great honor to receive a wedding invitation. What thoughts and feelings are present when you open a wedding invitation? Why would you ‘refuse to come’? Why have the chief priests and elders ‘refused’?

• In a shame / honor culture, the King has been highly insulted when those invited refuse to attend. ‘Burned their city’ could be Matthew’s attempt at explaining the fire destroying Jerusalem in 70CE. God’s invitation into relationship with Him is thrown open to all (gentiles, sinners, the poor, those living on the streets…) bad and good alike. Consider the honor of God. Do you painstakingly search and urgently invite people to Mass so the ‘hall can be filled with guests’?

• The invited guest being thrown out challenges our expectations for a ‘nice ending’ to the story. In the Book of Revelation the ‘white wedding garment’ is a symbol of the good deeds of the saints who persevered in faith and works of love and service. It seems that all are invited to the eternal wedding, but it is not sufficient to just ‘turn up’. To be ‘chosen to enter’ requires a life turned around to ‘good deeds’. Can I see the distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘works’?

• A judgement parable forces a crisis. Am I ‘in’ or ‘out’? It shakes the comfortable and those ‘presuming’ eternal life is theirs by ‘right’. How does this parable challenge / judge you?

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

Discussion & Scriptures for 25th Sun. Year A:The Parable of the Generosity of God-HERE

See the source image

Reflection Questions

• Many feel displaced from church and Sacraments due to the pandemic. God feeling ‘distant’ is a common spiritual experience. The words of Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been
demolished so they cannot go back to Jerusalem or the Temple. Isaiah invites us to look inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. How can you allow more time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God in daily life?

• Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He has choices; he could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle or he could be passive and let  God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? What was the outcome for you? An earthquake and conversion of the jailer provides the way forward for Paul. Talk to God about what you need to be able to trust God’s providence and guidance for your life.

• Workers would stand in the middle of town as a labour pool waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, not having been given a job, many would walk home downcast. What do you think those labourers felt? In desperation some continue to stay until after 4pm! What strikes you most about the landowners (God) behaviour?

• This Labourers in the Vineyard parable could be the parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew. That Christian community was Jewish but gradually swelled with Gentile converts. Jews who had served long in faithful obedience to the Law now saw Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God seems almost ludicrously generous. Who do you identify with in the parable? What is your emotional response to the parable and why? Consider both the practical aspects of it for today as well as its eternal life message?

• The landowner’s (God’s) generosity creates a problem then and for us. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money. Fewer hours worked = less money. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’? How would you describe the difference between equality and equity?

• God’s ways are different from worldly ways. As someone building the ‘kingdom of God’, how are you called to be like the landowner? How can you establish true justice and equity within your sphere of influence? Why is it easier to maintain unjust structures/policies and simply give charity?

• 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 & Bev McDonald – distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: 23rd Sunday Yr. A – Love Fulfills the Law

 

Living the Lectionary: Lectionary 23 A - Matthew 18:15-20

 

Reflection Questions:

• Ezekiel is regarded as one of the 3 great prophets (Behind Isaiah and Jeremiah). Ezekiel is both a priest and a prophet and is speaking during a time of Exile away from Home. Without temple practices, faithfulness to the laws of God kept Jewish identity and preserved unity. Ezekiel provides a powerful image of a ‘watchman’, standing, watching, ‘looking out’ for dangers that may be approaching your family. God’s family. Have you had the courage to ‘say anything and warn others’? What happens without ‘watchmen’? Are you challenged into action knowing that your salvation is at stake? What do you feel needs to be spoken of in your family? Community? Parish?

• To love your neighbour as your own flesh is a striking challenge. Jewish interpretation wriggled around the challenge by regarding one’s ‘neighbour’ as their own Jewish citizens. This allowed Jews not to care for ‘outsiders’. Ponder the essential challenge of loving everyone as your own flesh. In what ways have you wriggled out of the challenge?

• Matthew 18 is dedicated to life inside the Christian community. How is the community of Jesus supposed to respond to hurts and arguments that come from living together? A pattern is developed to avoid hurting and shaming those involved. Private conversation, then semi-private conversation and only as a last resort a public church decision. Reconciliation is not ‘brooding’ in silence. Is there anyone you need to approach ‘face to face’?

• Have you experienced the importance of a wise person to help ensure ‘every fact is established on the testimony of two or three’. Anger and resentment cripple christian hearts and disciples. Who are your ‘two or three’ guides to help your reconciliation journey?

• Treating a person like a Gentile or tax collector can be interpreted two ways. If reconciliation does not result, do we exclude or offer continued hopeful patience? What did Jesus do?

• The goal of Christian community is to witness to the world the love of Christ with each other. The authority to bind and loose is given by Jesus to the community in the context of prayer and agreement together. Is there need for prayer and discernment with a group about decisions you (or your ministry group, parish…) are making?

• Jesus makes a promise where two or more are in agreement in prayer it shall be granted to them. What prayer request would you like to share with friends. Who could you invite into your prayer / voice to God?

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

 

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 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: 19th Sunday Yr. A – Walk on Water

 

Come and Go in Faith - YCK Chapel - Authentic | Intentional ...

Reflection Questions:

• The mountain of Horeb was another term for the famous Mt Sinai where Moses met face to face with God. Unlike Moses, Elijah is being chased. He challenged the Queen for putting statues of Baal in the temple, killed 400 Baal prophets and is running frightened in the desert. He seeks God. He experiences God in the ‘tiny whispering sound’ of God’s voice in prayer. Have you had an experience of doing something for God and it meets resistance? Where do you go to seek God? What would you say you have heard recently from God?

• In St Paul’s letter to the Romans,  chapters 9-11 reflect a great sadness that the Jewish people – Paul’s own people – have not recognised and believed in Jesus. Have you experienced sorrow and anguish for someone who has not believed in Jesus or has left their christian faith? Consider placing them before God in prayer. Paul used this anguish to become an incredible missionary and very talented in preaching in a relevant way. How could you be more missionary?

•After feeding the 5000 people start to suggest that Jesus is the long awaited messiah. This has dangerous consequences. Herod, who has just killed John, could be identifying Jesus as the next target and threat to his power. He ‘compels’ (in the greek) the disciples to leave. Dissolves the crowd and goes up the mountain to pray. Not only does he wish to mourn the loss of John his close friend and cousin. He is also teaching the disciples about mission (Mt 14) and seeks to be grounded in prayer with God.

• A boat tossed about in the sea has always been an early symbol of the Church. In the middle east the rough sea was considered a symbol of darkness and chaos. Throughout history many storms have caused the Church to cry out to Jesus for help. Walking on water is a display of Jesus’ power over all chaos and darkness along with his use of the Divine Name ‘It is I’. A simplification of the divine name given to Moses on Mt Sinai. While the english uses ‘tossed about’ the greek word is literally ‘tortured’. What forces torture you and the church today? Imaginatively enter the boat scene and hear Jesus personally say the words ‘ Take courage, do not be afraid’ to you. What would this mean for you?

• Peter represents church leadership but also the individual disciple. Urged to take the risk of obedience to Jesus’ word the ‘walk on the water to Jesus’ can be sunk by dwelling on the experience of strong winds and big waves. Problems. Fear. Sinking. What could you pray for God to ‘save’ the Church from today? Save you from today?

• Jesus is invited into the boat. The storm calms. Their crisis and Jesus’ help leads them to bow down humbly. Have you had an experience like this?

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