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Archive for the ‘Hope in a broken world’ Category

Discussion Guide:    The Transforming power of Mercy and Compassion…

 

Come Home" A Modern Version of the Prodigal Son

Reflection Questions:    • God’s inexhaustible patience and mercy are the key to todays’ readings. In Exodus God revealed his ʻnameʼ and ʻfaceʼ to Moses and gave the 10 Commandments. But the people lose patience and give up waiting for Moses to return to them. In their eyes God and Moses has disappointed and abandoned them. They resolve their own solution to their issues making an ʻidolʼ of a golden calf – an ancient symbol of fertility, life and fruitfulness. Moses pleads for his stiff-necked people and God responds with mercy. Have you had an experience of ʻwaitingʼ for an answer or being disappointed by God? Have you ever lost patience with God, or felt abandoned and decided to take things into your own hands? What were the results for you and for those around you?

• Is there anything today you are ʻwaitingʼ for God to show you? Are you listening to his ʻwordʼ? Can you share your disappointment with God? Or perhaps there is a Moses figure God has placed in your life to help and guide you? Are you seeking their wise counsel and prayer for your needs? Who do you know that may be far from God, off on their own track or even blaspheming God? How often do you respond like Moses and plead for them in prayer?

• In the 2nd reading Paul writes as a mentor to his ‘child in faith’, Timothy. He shares his wisdom born of personal experience about God’s ‘inexhaustible patience’ and mercy. Who has shared their experience of the mercy of God with you? How have you experienced God’s compassion and patience? With whom, and how are you called to share that message?

• In these Parables of Mercy – Jesus shatters our misconceptions about the image of God. In striving for efficiency and profit, who would go after 1 lost sheep? It would be ‘written off’ as a predictable percentage loss. Who would ‘waste’ productivity to hunt for 1 coin? Who would welcome without question a son or daughter who wished their parents dead and disgraced the family in public?! Jesus reveals the true image of who God is – inexhaustibly patient filled with compassion and longing to find whoever is lost, embracing with tender mercy all who have sinned. What is your ʻimageʼ of God? How did that image form? What attracts you in how Jesus presents His Father in Luke 15?

• In teaching on this Gospel Pope Francis said,“the Jews treated the Samaritans with contempt, considering them strangers to the chosen people” In choosing a Samaritan in the parable Jesus shocks us into recognizing our own call to overcome prejudice and that “even a foreigner; one who does not know the true God and does not attend his temple, is able to behave according to God’s will, feeling compassion for a ‘brother’ in need and helping with all the means at his disposal”. “The Pope said. “If you come across a homeless person, and pass by without looking, do not ask yourself whether that person has had too much to drink, but whether your own heart has stiffened and turned to ice,” How does that challenge you?

• Notice each character, the younger son, the older brother, the Father. Which do you identify with and why? Asking for the inheritance was like the youngest son wishing Dad ‘dead’. He makes his father appear a fool. Yet the father’s unwavering love watches longingly for the son’s return, then he runs in public which was the equivalent of ‘baring one’s bottom’. The crowds attention moves from condemnation of the son toward the foolish father. His humiliation before the whole community, including the outrage of his older son are for the sake of compassion and mercy. How could the community and older son become part of that relationship of mercy?

• Jesus wants us to know that the compassion the father has in this parable is the same love God wants to show each of us? How do you respond? In the sacrament of reconciliation God longingly waits to pour mercy & transformation into your life? What holds you back?

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

Discussion Guide:    15th Sunday Yr. C: Loving Beyond Barriers

 

Luke 10:37 | Jesus quotes, Gospel of luke, Luke

Reflection Questions   • Moses is giving his final words of farewell in the book of Deuteronomy today. The ʻLawʼ which Moses gave to Israel from God is not simply written in decrees but is written into our very nature…. ʻvery near to youʼ. Jewish people kept this ʻshemaʼ close to them by posting it on their doorways and wrapping it around their foreheads in times of prayer. How could you keep Godʼs ways and guidelines close to you? Is there any practice or habit you could adopt to express a love for Godʼs teachings?

• We hear from St Paulʼs letter to the Colossians in the next 3 Sundays. Paul is writing a letter to correct errors of a heresy. Gnosticism taught that God was only spirit and did not mix with the material world of ʻmatterʼ. Jesus therefore was thought of as an ʻintermediaryʼ between God and Man, like an Angel. God couldnʼt become ʻfleshʼ because this would involve God getting ʻdirtyʼ and mixing with humanity! Paul responds Jesus Christ is truly the image and exact representative of the invisible God, the fulness of God dwelt in him. God has truly come among us and reconciled us. What was the obstacle of Gnosticism? Is this obstacle in your own thinking?

• The Parable of the Good Samaritan is intended to ʻshake usʼ toward loving as God loves. Parables are meant to ʻshockʼ us out of the status quo. Stay with the parable until something ʻshocksʼ you.

• Jesus responds to an expert in the law of Moses. Jesus includes in the ʻshemaʼ an addition to ʻlove your neighbour as yourselfʼ (Lev 19,18). Jewish people practically limited this ʻadditionʼ to extending care only toward fellow Jewish citizens. Why do cultures limit and enforce cultural and social divisions of who is ʻincludedʼ and ʻexcludedʼ? In your social and religious circle, who do you ʻinclude / excludeʼ? Why?

• The ʻlawʼ stated that Priests and Levites were to be kept ʻcleanʼ for religious service. Getting close to a dead body or touching ʻbloodʼ would make them ʻuncleanʼ. They ʻseeʼ someone in great need – but decide to ʻpass byʼ. Jesus critiques this socially and religiously ʻacceptable behaviourʼ. Religious sacrifices and duties are no substitute for lack of compassion and injustice. In your week who have you ʻseenʼ, ʻpassed byʼ?

• A Samaritan was the cultural equivalent of a terrorist or drug dealer. It was the greatest shock for Jewish listeners to have a Samaritan as a hero surpassing a religiously observant Priest and Levite. The Samaritan put his money where his mouth was. His love for God showed itself in deep compassion not simply pious thoughts or words. Oil and Wine were gifts offered at the altar, used now to soften and disinfect wounds. 2 days wages and a promise of more if needed reveal not just first aid but ongoing care. What inspires you in the Samaritanʼs actions? What would it look like for you to ʻgo and do likewiseʼ?

• Jesus challenges the lawyer – and us – to a new approach to life. The question is not ʻwho is my neighbourʼ but will I be a ʻneighbourʼ ?

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

Discussion Guide:       7th Sunday Yr. C – Allow Christ to Transform You

 

Luke 6:27-38 Archives – PottyPadre

Reflection Questions:

1] David and around 600 men are living incaves in the desert of Ziph. King Saul brings 3,000 elite troops to hunt and kill him(Consider reading 1 Samuel as a short story.) After David killed Goliath, Saul kept David close, made him chief commander and his son-in-law. But soon, filled with fear and jealous insecurity he plots to kill David. In this episode, David and Abishai have the chance to kill Saul but David refuses; “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Contrast David’s wisdom, constraint and wit with Abishai, who though brave and faithful is quick to act rashly without thought. Have you ever felt condemned by someone you trusted? How does David deal with his desire for revenge? What qualities does David use that might help us in our relationships with people in authority?

2] Continuing his teaching on Resurrection St Paul says that when Jesus rose from the dead, he became ‘life-giving spirit’ releasing the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world. Our human body grows throughout life. While not describing our resurrected bodies, Paul makes it clear that real transformation takes place. Remember Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and was never the same again. When we enter relationship with God, a real encounter takes place and in some way the mystery of becoming part of the body of Christ transforms us, while also allowing for us to continue to grow more deeply into the perfect image of the ‘heavenly one’. As you reflect on that mystery what do you most want to ask God for? What area of your life needs transforming? How do you need to grow, in order to become more like Christ?

3] The sermon on the mount continues with very challenging teaching from Jesus. The Gospel is in some sense acted out in the story of David and Saul. What links do you see between the two readings?

4] When you reflect on the Gospel what teaching stands out most for you? Talk with God about why that strikes you and what area of your life, God is inviting you to open to His transforming life-giving Spirit?

5] The so called ‘golden rule’ says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Abuse in any form is an abomination. How can we adhere to these radical teachings of Christ and still stay safe, respecting our own bodies and needs in the face of violence or abuse? How can we be merciful to those enduring violence and ill treatment?

6] The Jews listening to Jesus despised the Romans because they were occupying their land and controlling their freedom. Soldiers routinely insulted Jews demanding they carry their loads, give up their cloaks and worse. So, the teaching to ‘love your enemies and do good to them’ was profoundly shocking. Jesus explains that our mercy needs to be abundant like God’s. A merchant who gives a ‘good measure’ pours grain into your container, presses it down, shakes it, presses, shakes and fills again. As a result, your contents are compressed. You continue receiving grain until your container is literally running over the sides ‘into your lap.’ You only pay for that one container but it gets filled with far more than seems possible. Use your imagination in prayer and see yourself receiving from God like that. How does it feel? Ask God for the grace to give and forgive like that?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:  Christmas Yr. C Day Mass – The Word Became Flesh!

 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... (John 1:14) | Bible truth, Scripture quotes, Scripture

 

Reflection Questions:    • Christmas Story – The Master and the Puppy. C.S. Lewis is well known for writing children’s stories. He was also a committed Christian and wanted to express deep theological truths simply. He explores Christmas – the Incarnation of Jesus with an illustration of a Master and his puppy.

• Imagine. You have a puppy. If you really loved your puppy how could you show your love to it? Wash. Cuddle. Feed. Brush. Exercise. Allow inside by the fire…..etc. As the Master of the puppy, how about while still holding onto your human condition you take on fully the condition of becoming like your puppy? Sharing its life totally and fully? You have entered the world of your puppy so that you can be with your puppy totally and reveal just how much you love your puppy. Would you do this? God has with us. What would you have to let go? What has God had to let go? What is your response to this truth at Christmas?

• ‘The Lord bares his holy arm’ is an image of God ‘rolling up his sleeves’ to get stuck into the work of salvation. Rolling up one’s sleeves recognises the work may get messy. The Incarnation is God entering our messy world. Is this good news for you? Why?

• Today’s reading from Isaiah brings us the original meaning of ‘Good News’. It was a messenger running back from battle with news of victory – good news! The messengers’ feet were beautiful as they brought a joyful message. Do you ‘carry’ a message of joy and peace in your heart because of Jesus?

• The Letter to the Hebrews is essentially a long sermon explaining to Jewish People and Jewish Temple Priests the significance of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the ‘Son’ of God, and ‘the very imprint of his being’. Some translations use the phrase ‘the perfect copy of his nature’. The Letter to the Hebrews also had to make clear that Jesus was above the angels and not an ‘intermediary’ or angelic ‘messenger’. What words or ideas best explain Jesus’ identity for you?

• In the Gospel of John, Jesus is given the title ‘Word’. Your ‘word’ expresses your deepest being. Is intimately ‘you’. It is self revelation. Jesus = Word is a creative way of teaching us about Jesus’ identity and being one-with- God. ‘In the beginning’ is John’s way of referring back to Genesis 1,1 and the existence of Jesus prior to creation. The great climax is the ‘Word became flesh’. The Hebrew language states God ‘pitched his tent among us’. It is this truth that writers call ‘the marvelous exchange’. It is this truth shown in the crib scene of Jesus and Mary and Joseph. We look on in wonder. How could you be surprised by the ‘incarnation – enfleshment’ of God among us at Christmas again?

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

Merry Christmas from livingtheword

Discussion Guide:      Christmas Yr. C Midnight – A Saviour has been Born for You

 

Christmas Midnight Mass - Our Lady of Africa Parish, Mbuya

Reflection Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide:  2nd Sunday Advent Yr. C – Prepare Your Hearts to Welcome the King!

 

 

Luke 3:6 NIV

Reflection Questions:

• The Prophet Baruch shares a beautiful image for Advent. Have you noticed when you take off ʻold clothesʼ and put on ʻnew clothesʼ there is a sense of joy and a new ʻattitudeʼ. In ancient times, when a significant transformation happened a ʻnew nameʼ was also given. Like last week, Jerusalem – which is us in the Church today – is invited to prepare by shaking off the old and putting on ʻthe cloak of justiceʼ. And, our new name is to be ʻPeace of Justiceʼ. What old ways of mourning and misery would you like to leave behind this advent season? How could your life reflect God’s hope for you of ʻpeaceʼ and ʻjusticeʼ, ʻgloryʼ and ʻworshipʼ?

• The city of Jerusalem is on a hill. The view from the top of the Temple could see all peoples coming from every direction. Can you glimpse Godʼs hope wanting us to stand up and invite everyone ʻhomeʼ to Church this Christmas? Through us, mountains and gorges – difficult pathways – will be made ‘level ground’ so people can return easily. Mercy and justice will be our story and song. Do you know anyone who is experiencing an obstacle to returning to God? The Church? What earthmoving help could you offer personally to them?

• Paul had a special place in his heart for the Community at Philippi. Paul wrote this letter to them while in prison, facing a death sentence. They had provided financial assistance for his missionary journeys and now supported him in prison. He invites them to discern what is of value in their lives. At the end of the year consider evaluating your life positively: what has helped you in purity? What areas of your life are blameless? How have you shown righteousness? How could you develop these experiences and practices more?

• Righteousness is an interesting word. In the Old Testament it was a title that was given by the poor to those who ʻlifted up the poorʼ. A rich person could not give this title to themselves. Reflecting upon the year, would the ʻpoorʼ give you the title ʻrighteousʼ? In what ways have you lifted them up? Was it charity or justice?

• Luke, like St Paul, is aware of a claim by courts and rulers that these christian disciples are ʻmadʼ. Making up strange stories! Luke insists the evidence and life of Jesus is historical. Christianity started in a particular place and time in history. In the 15th year… etc. With a great twist Luke lines up the different rulers of the time. Traditionally when rulers returned victorious from battle, people would line the streets and shout triumphantly: ʻLord, Saviour!ʼ Luke is turning attention to the true Saviour – Jesus – whose preparation victory voice is John the Baptist. How would you personally describe Jesus as ʻsaviourʼ?

• Celebrating the advent practice of reconciliation (confession) encourages us to ʻprepare our heartsʼ. When a great King visited a city, workers were sent to straighten pathways, cut into mountains, level valleys. Consider the effort involved to welcome the King! Reflect on this image and the famous words of John. What needs to be straightened out and filled in? How much effort will you put into Advent?

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

Discussion Guide:    23rd Sunday Yr. B – Do Your Actions Give Hope in a Broken World?

 

 

 

Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man

Reflection Questions:    • The Prophet Isaiah is with the community of Israel as it endures exile in the foreign land of Babylon. No temple. No liturgy. God is experienced as ‘silent’. In their difficulty Isaiah reveals the hope of God rescuing his people through a promised ‘Messiah’ – anointed one – who will ‘come to save you.’ Have you experienced the ‘silence’ of God? Isaiah teaches God seeks complete restoration and wholeness: imagine blind people now seeing. Deaf hearing. Crippled leaping. Silent singing. Desert now flowing. Do you consider yourself as an agent of God’s hope for a broken world?

• James demands concrete behaviour and action. It is not enough to know and say we care for the poor. We must show it. James highlights the Christian Assembly. As we gather for worship we reveal our truth to the world: equality as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Gold rings or shabby clothing is irrelevant. Have you ‘made distinctions’ amongst friends, extended family? Do you ‘change’ when you are in the company of different people? Are you in relationship and friendship with the ‘poor’? Would they experience you as kind but still instructing them to ‘stand there’ or ‘sit at your feet’?

• An early document called ‘Statutes of the Apostles’ charged the priests with making a seat available for a poor person arriving at Church, but he did not have to go out of his way for a rich person. Why? Can you see how our liturgical gathering is to mirror the world we seek to create.

• Mark uses the same Greek word from Isaiah to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah who helps the mute speak – healing his speech impediment. Today theology and geography connect. Jesus intentionally travels back to Galilee but by a very long and unusual route stepping into ʻgentile – uncleanʼ territory. Not only would the Pharisees and those spying on him now not follow him, but like a bulldozer, he shows by his actions he will not live by the ʻcleanʼ-ʻuncleanʼ categories that label people as distant from God. Have your words of concern for the poor been transformed into practical action? What boundaries could you ʻstep overʼ to welcome in those who feel distant from God?

• Healing passages are powerful opportunities for healing in our own lives. Consider the ʻdeaf manʼ. He was lucky to have some friends. Normally illness or disease was considered the result of sin, the presence of an evil spirit. The person was shunned, isolated from family, considered ʻuncleanʼ. In addition this man could not hear or speak. A picture of the most painful experience of human life and our broken humanity. As you reflect on this passage do you identify with the deaf and mute man or the carers who ʻbrought him to Jesusʼ? Why?

• Jesus took the man ʻoff by himself, away from the crowdʼ. Saving him from embarrassment, and tenderly healing the parts of his wounded body. What parts of your life need to ʻbe openedʼ so that you may be whole, reunited and accepted with the community. What would it mean for you to be led ʻaway from the crowds for healingʼ. How could you take up this offer this week? What would it take for you to hear God. Sing Godʼs praises. Dance for joy?

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