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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Discussion Guide: 3rd Sunday Easter Yr. B – Live in and for Christ

 

To Live Is Christ, to Die Is Gain'? Meaning of Paul's Words Explained

Reflection Questions:  • Peter has gone through a remarkable experience of change since his denial of Christ and now has the confidence to preach the core Christian message to unbelievers. He now knows what it is to be forgiven and to turn back to relationship with Jesus. Notice then how his preaching flows from his living and the signs that he works (he just cured someone!). ʻPreachingʼ comes after ʻlivingʼ. What sign / action / witness can I ʻliveʼ this week to let people experience Jesus through me?

• Holiness is a universal call to everyone. “Repent and be converted  is an invitation to a complete change of one’s value system. The worldview of the early disciples had been tipped upside down with the Resurrection. Consider what change took place for the early disciples to sell land and give to those in need? Is your value system that of the ʻworldʼ or ʻChristʼ? Ask God what areas of your life need more of the Holy Spirit, so you can change and grow as a disciple. Then take the next most obvious steps to cooperate with God and bring that change about.

• Some people in the Johannine community believed that ‘knowledge’ of salvation was salvation. ‘Knowing’ Jesus and his forgiveness was all that was important. Moral behaviour and changing one’s lifestyle seemed irrelevant. Yet the Easter Acts of the Apostles and Gospel readings teach that the disciples of Jesus witnessed to the resurrection with power and signs and wonders. Their lives were transformed. The Easter Sunday Victory of the Resurrection is supposed to overturn the evil of good Friday. Christians are not just baptised and waiting for the idea of the resurrection to become true when they die and enter eternal life. We have a job to do. Holiness is for now. As disciples we are each called to live in and for Christ in everyday life whatever that entails for us. How could you ʻkeep the wordʼ more and let the ʻlove of God come to perfection within youʼ more?

• Jesus was ʻmade known to them in the breaking of breadʼ. This new action and new words with it, was so new at the last supper that it transformed the traditional Passover meal. Only the Son of God could do this. Yet the resurrected Jesus must have appeared different to the disciples as it was only ‘in the breaking of the bread’ that they recognised him. How do you understand what happens at the celebration of the Mass / Eucharist? How does it help you experience the ongoing presence of Jesus? Do you have questions of the Scriptures that require some help to understand them? What are they? Who could you ask for help?

• “Why are you troubled and what are the questions rising in your heart” What are the things you need to look at, discuss with someone, write about, research, pray about, so you too can reach the peace and transformation Jesus offers today?

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

Divine Mercy Sunday: Jesus I Trust in You. The Reflection Guide is HERE

Discussion Questions:

See the source image

The Easter season known as Eastertide lasts 7 weeks marking the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost. How can you live the next 50 days intentionally aware of Easter and let its message get ʻunder your skinʼ and
change you?

• Since 2000, the 2nd Sunday of Easter became Divine Mercy Sunday after the witness of St Faustina Kowalska. The readings reveal a path of mercy. Christ taught that humanity not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called to practice mercy toward others. The message is about the value of every human being. Each person is precious: Christ gave his life for each one; to everyone the Father gives the Spirit and offers family intimacy and compassion. We are all beloved children of God given the grace and power to live in God’s love.

• The followers of Christ became a “community”. A love in their hearts was expressed in love to others – especially those ʻin needʼ. What change happened in the lives of the disciples to enable them to
share everything in common so that there was no-one in need? What change am I invited to make in my own life with regard to possessions? How could I show a deeper commitment to my parish community?

• The victory that conquers the world is our faith. Victory and conquer are ʻbattleʼ words. There is a ʻfightʼ to be victorious over the ʻworldʼ. It is not by ʻwaterʼ (baptism) alone but also by ʻbloodʼ(sacrifice – martyrdom, which means witness). How does true Easter faith challenge us? Will I walk the path Jesus
endured to overcome injustice, discrimination, hatred and fear? Only full commitment to Christ brings Resurrection victory and we need to receive the Holy Spirit to live the radical mercy of God. Ask Jesus to empower you with His Holy Spirit? How are you being invited to live God’s mercy?

• Significantly, after Jesusʼ resurrection the disciples are locked in a room – scared for their lives. They followed a convicted ʻrebelʼ crucified for seeking to overturn religious and political status quos. Consider ‘rebels’ in Myanmar as a possible contemporary image. Yet Christ’s ‘rebellion’ is to bring peace, freedom, and forgiveness. Can you connect with the fear. Imagine the scene and pray with it.

• The final gift of Jesus to his terrified disciples is peace and guaranteed forgiveness of their sins through the gift of the Holy Spirit. What causes your ʻun-peaceʼ and fear? This Eastertide try praying the Divine Mercy prayer daily; “Jesus I trust in You” & whenever you feel anxiety or fear.

• Thomas struggles to believe. He was not with the group who saw Jesus the first time. He wants to ʻsee with his own eyes and ʻtouchʼ Jesus. He asks for ʻsignsʼ to help him. What do you need to help you believe and grow stronger in your faith? Spend time asking Jesus to meet you at your point of need. Let Him love you there.

• The South African civil rights proponent Allan Boesak once stated that, at the pearly gates, Jesus wonʼt question us about how well we carried out our religious obligations. Heʼll only ask us to show our wounds, those outward signs that weʼve spent our lives imitating Him. Mercy and compassion costs us. Are you ready to hear Jesus ask ʻshow me your woundsʼ?

• How will you ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

These Resources by Living the Word, are prepared by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, ACSD, Marist Laity NZ. You may copy and share them for personal or group use but please ensure the website is credited. www.livingtheword.org.nz

The Easter Triduum:

Reflection Guides are available for

Holy Thursday HERE,

Good Friday Readings are HERE,

A Guide to help reflect on Good Friday from Creighton University is here

Easter Saturday VIGIL is HERE

 

Easter Blessings from the Team at Living the Word.

 

 

 

Discussion Guide  5th Sunday Lent (RCIA) – Come out

 

Radical Faith – Daily Dose With Dr.Shermaine

Reflection Questions:  • Rising from the dead is an image in the First and Gospel readings. Ezekiel was not referring to the resurrection of individuals but returning from exile in ‘slavery’ as God’s people were trapped in a ‘foreign land’. As the journey of Lent nears completion we are encouraged to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. We invite the spirit to ‘open our graves’ and ‘rise from them’. Where do you experience ‘lifelessness’? Sadness? Dryness? Death?

• Suffering is well known to the prophet Ezekiel. He writes of suffering as tough meat being boiled to tenderness in a pot and the heat of fire burning off the rust on the pot (Ez 24). In the midst of suffering Ezekiel writes 86 times ‘I am the LORD’ reminding us that God is guiding our personal lives and history. Can you trust God can work through your suffering? What is your suffering / salvation story?

• While we all live as ‘flesh and blood’ St Paul recognises it is possible for our ‘body / flesh’ to steer our life seeking only to satisfy itself with food and pleasure. Selfish and sensual living (flesh living) alone does not ‘please God’. Our baptism welcomed into our lives the Spirit of Christ which inspires and nudges us to become more like Christ. Consider the great power of the spirit to raise Christ from the dead. What would you like to pray for?

• Chapter 11 of John is very special. Raising Lazarus from the dead is the seventh ‘sign’ of Jesus. It is important to recognise a sign points to a reality. Jesus, on hearing of his friends death strangely talks immediately of ‘glory’. He even waits for four days as the Jewish belief was that the spirit of the body hovered over the body for 3 days. It is clear Lazarus is truly dead. Only God can bring someone back from the dead. This will be Jesus’ greatest sign to prove his identity as God. If you were present to this scene what would your questions be?

• Martha and Mary ask questions and respond to Jesus like true Jewish disciples and faith seekers. Jesus is considered an intermediary – someone ‘close to God’ ‘whatever you ask of God, God will give you’. Jesus is unhappy with this response. Martha responds with a Jewish belief in the final resurrection from the dead and a hope in the Messiah. Jesus boldly proclaims ‘Martha, I AM the resurrection and the life’. In effect Jesus is teaching Martha (and us) I am God and I am in charge of and responsible for the resurrection and all life! Let me prove this to you ‘where have you laid him’? Can you trace your faith journey about Jesus’ identity in the questions of Martha? What does this 7th sign now teach you about Jesus? Do you believe?

• The Gospel of John was written in Greek. Greek thinking did not allow God to ‘change’ as this would suggest God was weak and not all-powerful. In the midst of his loved friends we have the profound short sentence. ‘And Jesus wept.’ God weeps and is deeply moved by our pain and sadness. Jesus is also perturbed and troubled. John stirs questions up for us about God. If God weeps what does that mean? Is Jesus upset and angry that people do not recognise who he is? What is your response personally to Jesus in this Gospel story?

• Jesus strangely says a prayer of thanksgiving before the tomb. Can you allow yourself to hear this prayer to you in the tomb of your wounds and bandages from your life journey. What do you request this Easter to be untied from?

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

Discussion Guide:   4th Sunday Lent (RCIA readings) – Now I can see

 

4th Sunday in Lent (A) - The Catholic News

Reflection Questions:  • Remember Samuel as a young boy, woken in the middle of the night by the voice of God (1Sam 3:4). Now trained in the discipline of listening and doing what God asks Samuel now faces an incredible challenge: God is asking  him to find and anoint a new King (while King Saul is currently still alive!) This would be treason. Consider the emotions and struggles of Samuel? What struggle can you identify with? How is God inviting you to ‘fill your horn with oil, and be on your way’?

• Some translations emphasize that David was a young boy, with a fresh and clear appearance. He is not big, has no military training or obvious talent for battle. To the human ‘eye’ and ‘outward appearance’ this is not a wise choice for a King and future military leader. But this public calling and anointing, this ‘baptism’ of David changes everything. No longer did David suffer psychologically from his fathers view of being the ‘smallest’ or ‘weakest’. When the Lord looks into your heart what desire, passion, gifts does he ‘see’? What do you see?

• This text from St Paul to the Ephesians is thought to be part of an ancient baptismal liturgy: baptism calls us to bring our lives into the ‘light’. As Easter approaches, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one practice that leads us to bring our struggles into the light of Jesus for help and guidance. Awake from sleep and death! Ponder for a few minutes what you would like to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent?

• Gospel stories from John are used to encourage baptism candidates on the final journey to Easter. Today’s story is a man born blind receiving his sight. The full story immediately has him involved in an argument with the Pharisees, and then with his parents. The story ends with him being rejected – to believe in Jesus meant being thrown out of the synagogue (and community)! Do you experience some people in conflict with you because you hold on to the values of Jesus? Do you walk away from Jesus or ‘worship him’ by faithfulness? What do you think happened to the ‘blind’ man?

• The early Christian Church used this story and reality of being ‘blind’ and receiving ‘sight’ as an image of the journey to Baptism. Baptism was even called a ceremony of ‘enlightenment’. Consider how blind ‘darkness’ to seeing ‘light’ is possibly the greatest transformation that can take place for a person. Seeing is symbolic of knowing ‘truth’. Truth is gradually clearer for the blind man (baptismal candidate) regarding Jesus’ identity. His daily life is now completely changed. How would you say your knowledge and life in Jesus affects your daily life?

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

Discussion Guide:    3rd Sunday Lent Yr. B (RCIA readings) – Give me water that I may not thirst again

 

 

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman - John 4:1-42 | Marg Mowczko

Reflection Questions:  • The symbol of ‘water’ has different levels of meaning. It can represent life keeping us from death. Water can be symbolic of a life journey yearning for something more. In Exodus, Moses is in the midst of leading his people who feel like they are ‘dying of thirst’ and they blame him. God invites him to go away from all the moaning voices, taking only a few elders with him. Which part of the story does your life and lent journey identify with at the moment: Water. Thirst. Moaning. Crying. Going away from voices. Quarreling. Testing. Questioning?

• Paul continues the important teaching of being made ‘right’ with God. It is not our doing, but faith in the cross of Jesus. This brings peace in our heart and spirit. And we look forward in hope to heaven and the final victory. Have you ever given a gift to someone whose behaviour has not yet changed to show they are ‘worthy’ or ‘thankful’? Why do it? There is the hope that the person may ‘see’ the depth of your love. What does it mean that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners?

•Week 3, 4, 5 of Lent in Year A features Gospel of John readings. These are specially inserted for helping people preparing for Baptism at Easter. They contain powerful symbols of water (quenching our thirst), light (a blind man sees) and the gift of life (raising Lazarus from death). Reflect on the image of sitting in the heat of the midday sun beside a well. What would you feel?Think about? Do? What questions would you ask Jesus? Spend 5 minutes imaginatively praying into this scene. What happened?

• It was unusual for a woman to collect water in the heat of the day alone. The longer gospel text reveals she has had 5 ‘husbands’. It is possible she has been hurt by the gossip of other women. Her journey is our journey. Which part of the journey of the Samaritan woman can you identify with?

• Jesus breaks the social barriers of talking with a woman alone, and with a despised enemy (Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus sits with her, talks, asks for help, offers her life that will quench her ‘thirst’ forever. A ‘rejected outsider’ becomes a disciple and the only person to evangelise a whole community in the gospel of John! She now rushes to the market place full of men to tell them the good news of meeting Jesus. Deep hopes have been fulfilled. Does your relationship with Jesus show itself others?

• The woman at the well reveals a disciple’s learning. Jesus is first thought a ‘prophet’, then possibly the ‘Messiah’ and then indeed ‘truly the ‘Saviour of the world’. Hidden in the text is Jesus saying ‘I AM..’ This is the Divine Name – the name Jews gave to God (Ex 3,14). What does this mean?

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

Ash Wednesday Readings Reflection

• Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent, a six-week period (excluding Sundays) dedicated to prayer, fasting, and reflection in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum. The late Henri Nouwen described Lent as a time to ‘re-focus and re-enter a place of truth’. It is a journey of love, toward love, in love.

• Taking part in the reception of the ashes symbolizes starting the journey. What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? Share a decision and plan with a faith-friend about how you intend to enter & journey through these 40 days & cheer each other on.

• The image from the prophet Joel is an invitation for everything to come to a complete stop. Call everyone; Old, Young, Babies, Newly married, Priests in the middle of their work at the altar. The world is being invited to STOP due to Covid. How could that enforced ‘stop’ become more personal and intentional for God? What could you Stop? When? How? The image is of a special people called to be ‘light’ rather than a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Pray for the whole Christian church throughout the world during the season of renewed faithfulness. As we turn from sin to become more faithful to the Gospel may our fresh witness resonate with the people of today with the hope that ‘now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day…’.

• Imagine being an ‘Ambassador’ with the responsibility of representing and delivering crucial communication. Your witness and life-style gets challenged to be in harmony with your message. Jesus gives us an ambassadors task of proclaiming ‘on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’. Will you, as an ambassador, receive the sacrament of reconciliation during this season of Lent? How will your daily life witness to Jesus as a disciple of worship, compassion, and mercy for others?• Jesus presumes that a disciple will be doing certain actions. When you give alms… When you pray… When you fast… These traditional Lenten practices are powerful tools that help us clearly focus on what is important.

• Prayer: What voices do you listen to?
• Fasting: What things fill your life?
• Almsgiving: Do you hear the cries of those in need and respond?

• Jesus emphasizes that doing these actions in ‘secret’ will be ‘repaid’ by God. ‘In secret’ guards us from seeking attention and personal ‘glory’ from others. Lent is not to be a shallow show. But do not be afraid to share your personal Lent journey with a friend – and also encourage your friend into the depths rather than the surface show.

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

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference given to the Living the Word website.

 

Discussion Guide:  6th Sunday Yr. B – Healing and Restoration

 

The God With Dirty Hands - FaithGateway

Reflection Questions:  • The Book of Leviticus is a set of legal instructions (code) for Priests to ensure proper worship. Priests had the job of judging if someone was suffering, among many other things, from a skin condition ‘blotch’ – leprosy – which would make them ‘contagious’ and therefore ‘unclean’. In close living conditions this would have ensured disease did not spread. Unfortunately, when labelled ‘unclean’ a person had to leave family, friends, was excluded from society and worship in the Temple. It was psychologically and physically ‘death by exclusion’. Imagine having to shout to everyone that you were ‘unclean’! Who do you label as ‘unclean’? Who is ‘living outside the Church camp’ feeling unable to be with the community as they feel and perceive to be judged ‘unclean’? What could you do?

• Paul seeks to address another problem in the town of Corinth. Some christians were upset that fellow christians were buying food from the local butcher that had been sacrificed in pagan temples. Some were firm in their belief that there were no other gods so it was irrelevant. Others were afraid. Paul encourages an approach of ‘avoid giving offence’ and ‘try to please everyone’. Is there anything in your life which is offending another? How could you more closely imitate Christ?

• Healing is costly for the Leper and the Healer (Jesus). The Leper has put himself in danger being in the crowd. They could have been violent, outraged that his closeness to them made them ‘ritually unclean’ and possibly contaminating them with his skin disease. Is there something in your life causing you great sadness. Can you find the willingness to suffer the cost of seeking healing? What obstacles do you need to break through?

• Jesus is full of emotion toward the Leper. ‘Moved with pity’ does not accurately translate the original Greek. It is literally ‘having one’s intestines in an uproar!’ Some translations write ‘moved with anger’. Jesus is angry at the sad state of the Leper, the exclusion, the pain. God’s heart is wrenched with compassion and pain. If Jesus heals he knows this will further increase his popularity and possibly misinterpret him as only a ‘wonder worker’. He heals him but commands him to be quiet. He insists he go to get a certificate of cleanliness from the Temple. He wants him to be included back into society and made ‘whole’ again. Are your intestines in an uproar about injustice, people caught in the bondage of sin, unjust exclusion? If not, why not.

• Jesus’ popularity increases to such an extent that he is now forced into ‘deserted places’, unable to enter a town openly. His life has now taken on the lived experience of those who were labelled ‘unclean’. Have you experienced the ‘cost’ of helping someone and living with the consequences of upsetting community and religious boundaries? Has it made you more or less willing to ‘heal’ again? What happened…

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

Discussion Guide:    3rd Sunday Yr. B – Are You With God?

AT ONCE” | Grace for the Race

Reflection Questions:    • The Book of the Prophet Jonah is a book about his life. It is understood not to be an historical writing, but a reflection on the nationalism of the Hebrew people (represented by Jonah) who could not consider ‘Gentiles’ as worthy of receiving God’s Mercy and attention (represented by the Gentile city of Nineveh). Jonah was called by God to speak to the people of Nineveh but instead chose to run in the opposite direction. Only after trying to escape and spending 3 days in the belly of a whale did he show obedience to God’s call. Strikingly the people of Nineveh responded to God’s call to change and ‘turn from their evil way’. Have you heard a constant voice, noticed a constant desire, felt a passion stir within that does not go away? This is frequently the way people experience God’s ‘call’ upon their life. Are you ‘running in the opposite direction’? Arguing with God (like Jonah) with reasons ‘why you will not do it’. What is your best guess as God’s calling on your life today. What is your response?

• Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is an early letter when Paul still thought Jesus would be returning ‘very soon’. While we are conscious of Jesus’ delayed return his message still holds: all the things of the world will pass away and nothing is to become an obstacle between ourselves and God. List the relationships and objects / possessions that are important to you. Is anyone / anything damaging the time and relationship and obedience that God is asking of you? What could you do to restore a balance? What could you ‘let go of’ to be more available to God?

• The beginning of Mark’s Gospel quickly teaches about being a disciple of Jesus. In a dark way the cost of being a true disciple is suggested with John the Baptist being ‘handed over’. Jesus too will be handed over. Disciples too will be handed over. A battle scene is subtly painted with words. Satan’s rule is now going to be replaced by that of God: The Kingdom of God is at hand! While sometimes  slower at revealing itself, God’s ways to bring justice and overcome evil will triumph. Are you with God? Are you engaged in overcoming ‘evil’ or are you passively watching? What does ‘Repent’ (change) mean for you?

• Simon and Andrew, with their Father and hired men are considered to be at least ‘middle class’. Part of a family business, boats, employees. In following Jesus they are letting go of family expectations and financial security. They must be attracted to an even greater concern. What is it? Re-image the scene using your own ‘family’ and ‘work’. What is your response to Jesus?

• In the Gospel of Mark, immediately Jesus chooses disciples. Immediately he places himself with others in a community. He will teach but also receive companionship. Who are likeminded people who you need to support your discipleship? How could you ‘build community’ together to encourage faithfulness and obedience to Jesus?

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

Discussion Guide:    2nd Sunday Yr. B – What Are You Looking For?

 

The Gospel According to John Blog: Come and See (John 1:35-51)

Reflection Questions:  • Samuel is a young boy who eventually becomes one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. It is possible he was given the job of ensuring the ‘sacred flame’ in the Temple did not burn out and for that reason is ‘sleeping in the temple’. Today God calls him. He is confused, and even his mentor ‘Eli’ takes a while to recognise it is God speaking in prayer to Samuel. Is your lifestyle allowing for time in prayer and silence? Have you ever sincerely presented yourself before God and stated ‘Here I am…. Speak…. I am listening’?

• Samuel needed Eli to mentor him in the ways of listening to God and prayerful obedience. Who has been an ‘Eli’ figure for you in your journey with God? Has there been any word or inspiration from God or an Eli-Mentor that you have heard but not been obedient to? What happened?

• Samuel was blessed. The Lord helped him to not let any word spoken ‘fall to the ground’. He both caught the Lord’s word and Spoke the Lord’s word. How could you be more effective in ‘catching’ every word of the Lord spoken to you? Consider starting a spiritual journal of your prayer time and finding a spiritual director (Eli). Check out www.livingtheword.org.nz/resources and  click on spiritual director and keeping a journal.

• There was a problem among some of the community at Corinth. Some separated the body and the spirit believing that it did not matter what one did with their ‘bodies’. Paul teaches them about the dignity of their bodies. Joined with Christ, filled with the Spirit, our bodies are true ‘Temples’ of God. What we do in and with the dwelling place of God should bring God Glory. Do you respect and protect the dignity of your body? How could you give God greater glory? Whose ‘bodies’ are being broken or abused today in society. Do you care?

• John the Baptist points his disciples toward Jesus and they begin the journey of discipleship. The first question Jesus asks of a disciple points deeply to their heart: What are you looking for? Imaginatively enter the scene. What is your response to this very first question of Jesus?

• ‘Come and see’ is an invitation by Jesus to ‘abide’ and ‘stay’ with him. Like Samuel, could you find a frequent way of drawing close to Jesus, spending time beside the tabernacle in Church? It means leaving friends, normal routine, unknown conversation. Where does the adventure of ‘come and see’ ask of you?

• While Peter is well known, it was his brother Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus. The time spent with Jesus impacted Andrew so much he had to find someone to share this good news with. Have you experienced the joy of Jesus and the desire to lead others to share this faith experience? Is your lack of courage stopping a future Church leader? Saint?

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