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Archive for the ‘Image of God’ Category

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:   Christmas Yr. B – And the Word became flesh

 

 

Amazon.com: ConversationPrints Virgin Mary Baby Jesus Glossy Poster Picture  Photo Christianity Religion god: Prints: Posters & Prints

 

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 dog? Sharing its life totally and fully? You have entered the world of your dog 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 ‘dirty’ but also 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 one in being 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 image is one of God pitching 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 look at Christmas in a new and fresh way? How could you be surprised by Christmas again?

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

Merry Christmas from livingtheword

 

Discussion Guide:  4th Sunday Advent Yr. B – Can you say ‘YES’ to God?

 

Luke 1:26-38 Birth of Jesus Foretold

Reflection Questions:Advent Story. A Kitten at Christmas. A Catholic couple were celebrating Christmas Eve. The wife invited her husband to Midnight mass, but he declined. He thought he would instead stay at home on this cold night, watch television, and they could have a christmas drink when she returned. His wife left early to attend christmas carols and shortly after he heard a noise at the front door. Opening the back door he noticed a cold and wet kitten. He reached toward it but it cried in fear and retreated further away. He pondered to himself how he could help comfort this poor kitten. He got some milk from the fridge, poured it into a plate, showed the kitten and placed it just inside the door. He hoped to welcome the kitten into the warm and dry room of his house. The kitten continued its crying. He tried again to reach out to it. But the kitten interpreted these actions fearfully and moved further away into the cold. As the man continued to ponder how he could truly communicate positively with this kitten it dawned on him that he would need to become like this kitten. Suddenly he realised what God had done. He jumped into his car to attend midnight mass and whispered to his wife: for the first time Iʼve realised Christmas is God born among us in Jesus to help us!

•King David had unified the tribes of Israel by bringing the ‘ark’ (the special wooden box containing the tablets of the 10 commandments) to Jerusalem. He now thought he would build a Temple to give a proper ‘home’ to God. Nathan went along with this plan but God had to intervene. God describes 11 times (I…) what he has done. God has intervened in history – not the other way around! As you approach the end of the year and consider what you would like to do next year have you consulted God in prayer? Is there someone like Nathan who could help you?

• Paul writes of a ‘mystery kept secret for long ages’ but now made public to all nations bringing about obedience of faith. Is your faith in Jesus ‘secret’ or ‘public’? At your own level of comfort, how could you witness to being a believer and follower of Jesus? Could you invite someone to Christmas carols? Midnight Mass? Mention Jesus at your family gathering?

• God zooms in from eternity to a historical place (Galilee), to a town (Nazareth), to a person (Mary), engaged to a descendant of the King of David (Joseph). Here is a scriptural window into the most significant historical event of eternity. God, through the angel, awaits Mary’s response. What part of Mary’s experience can you identify with the most?

• Mary saying Yes to God’s calling and birthing Jesus into the world at Christmas is also symbolic of every disciple. Have you ever had a ‘God’ moment, a sense of a significant job God has planned for you, and then ‘the angel departed’. It was over. Are you living in obedience? Forgetfulness? Laziness? Fear?

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

Discussion Guide:   1st Sunday Advent Yr. B – Be Alert!

 

How Soon Will Jesus Return? Living in the Last Days | Desiring God

Reflection Questions:  • The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and a new Year (the Gospel of Mark). The readings turn us to the theme of ‘waiting’ and being ‘ready’. As the Christmas season and advertising moves us toward end of year celebrations and shopping for gifts be encouraged to intentionally plan time for waiting daily in prayer, and becoming spiritually awake’ through receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.

• The Isaiah passage today is a prayer of Lament. The purpose of this type of prayer was to remember how things ‘were’ and then contrast them with things ‘now’ – with the large ‘gap’ causing a psychological crisis. It aimed at giving both sides (God and People) a ‘kick start’ into action. The large ‘job’ God’s people needed to do was to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. What do you need to do to get ‘started’ on your journey closer to God this Advent? What image speaks to you: come down from the heavens, polluted rags, withered leaves, the potter and the clay? Share with God…

• Paul’s letters always start with a warm greeting. Later in his letter to the Corinthians he will warn them that although they are ‘not lacking in any spiritual gift’ (many were celebrating and boasting of gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy etc) it had turned into a competition. Pride had turned them away from Purpose. ‘You were  called to fellowship with Jesus’. What change do you desire this Advent?

• Instead of starting at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we begin at the end: The Parable of the Doorkeeper. It is Jesus’ final words to the disciples. He is the ‘man travelling abroad’ and his disciples are ‘servants in charge’, gatekeepers told to be ‘on watch’. The Master expects to return and find his ‘house’ in proper order. What would Jesus find if he returned now to the home of your ‘heart’? Your family / home? Your Parish Community? Do you feel a ‘servant responsibility’ to make the Master’s home ‘ready’?

• The Advent challenge of being watchful and alert in ‘waiting’ is problematic. Watching and waiting can be boring. The command to ‘watch!’ could also be understood to watch out for opportunities to live as Jesus commanded us (remember last week: feeding the hungry, hospitality to the stranger….) so as to be found ‘ready’. Examine the past week and explore what you have ‘seen’. How could you be more watchful and alert to seeing Jesus hidden in daily events of your life this week?

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

Discussion Guide:  Feast of Christ the King Yr. A – Can the ‘poor’ call you righteous?

 

A Modern Interpretation Of Matthew 25:31 #1852637 - PNG Images - PNGio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide:  33rd Sunday Yr. A – Faithful in small things or afraid to act? Which does God ask of us?

 

Don't Bury Your Talent!" Matthew 25:14-30 - YouTube

Reflection Questions:  • The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings for daily living. Today a woman (not necessarily exceptional or beautiful as modern media might portray), does routine daily chores filled with wisdom and purpose. Her love extends beyond her family to the poor and needy. Her life and good works is spoken of ‘at the city gates’. Have you experienced charm’ as deceptive and ‘beauty’ fleeting? Two quite different life-styles are presented as a ‘mirror’ to expose the reader. Where do you ‘see’ yourself?

• Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament Letter. They were concerned that ‘the Day of the Lord’ (Jesus’ return) had not happened. St Paul shares with them and us that the exact date of the ‘day of the Lord’ is not known. But we are all to be ‘living in the light’ following the way of Jesus. What image speaks more to you: not sleeping, staying alert, being sober? How could you apply this ‘image’ to an application in your life?

• The end of the Church’s Year is coming! Next week is the end: Christ the King. The Judgement Parable of the Talents is given to us today as a way of helping us to reflect seriously on the end of the world and the Lord’s second coming. A careful reading of the Parable reveals some disturbing realities.

• One ‘talent’ is a large weight of metal equivalent to 15 years of an average wage ($750,000!). Is the Master generous or mean? What image of God do you ‘read into the text’?

• Two different ‘images’ and perceptions of the Master are found. Servants 1 and 2 are spurred into creativity, Servant 3 is filled with fear. He will take no risks, avoid any wrongdoing, and will give back to God in ‘strict justice’ what was given. Is Servant 3 ‘self-ish’? His fear of judgement tends to paralyse him. He is not filled with a freedom and love for creative risk taking in works of mercy. Could this be an image of the Jewish community for Matthew? The Christian Community today?

• Very large amounts of money are being traded. Is this supporting capitalist greed and risk taking or is it reduced to a ‘small matter’ in comparison to the new ‘great responsibilities’ of the kingdom of God?

• Reflect personally and name your ‘talents’. From this parable what do you think God asks of you? If you were to be judged on your current use of your talents what might be the conclusion?

• 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 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 Guide: 14th Sunday Yr A: Take Christ’s yoke and you’ll find rest

 

Year A, 14th Sunday. Being yoked with Christ. « livingtheword

Reflection Questions: • Zechariah makes a prophesy that the Saviour will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Horse and Chariot were symbols of power and war. A donkey was a symbol of humble work and peace. Horse and Donkey. Power and Humility. Violence and Service. Why does the world favour a horse, God a donkey?

• “Meek” is a word mentioned twice in today’s readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. Like a person feeling anger and yet staying in full control, able to turn it to justice rather than violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek character?

• ‘Flesh’ is St Paul’s expression talking about a life that is lived without God, like an animal following only its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is a life open to God and turned outward in love. How do you experience the disciple’s tension of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? Which life do you feed and nourish?

• Back into Ordinary Time we return to the Year A Gospel of Matthew. In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Jesus is greater than the Torah (Law given by Moses) and all the Prophets. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ is a knowledge claim by Jesus. What does this statement mean for you?

• Jesus remarks how great learned religious figures (Pharisees and Scribes) cannot accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, those without learning, workers of the land) accept him. It is not necessarily learning that has proven an obstacle but pride and position. Within those who are ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’ grows an inability to be ‘open’. Are you satisfied? Have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus do you find hardest to be ‘open’ to?

• The Torah (OT Law) handed down by Moses required knowing and being obedient to 613 laws. This was a ‘heavy burden’. People felt oppressed by the rules and those enforcing them (Saducees, Scribes, Pharisees). Jewish people referred to this as the ‘yoke of the law’. Jesus invites a radical change. ‘Come to me’ all who are feeling heavily burdened. I will give you rest. Put on my yoke. Learn from me. The Torah is being replaced by the person of Jesus. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made to avoid painful imbalance. In your disciples journey, how are  you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to do and carry more than is required?

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

 

Discussion Guide: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

 

File:Christ the True Vine icon (Athens, 16th century).jpg ...

Reflection Questions:

• The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) began as a response to increased devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the 12th Century. This led to a desire to ‘see’ Jesus in the consecrated elements. In 1220 in Paris the practice of elevating the host began.

• God’s journey with his people in the desert involved difficulties but also God’s providence and care. You were bhungry and I fed you with manna – ‘a food unknown to you’. (See Ex 16). Providing food is a basic expression of care for your children. It creates a bond. And yet they soon grew tired of this ‘manna’. It became taken for granted. How could you reawaken a deeper sense of appreciation for God feeding us with the Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus at mass? Is it ‘normal’ or ‘special’? How?

• There were many temples in the city of Corinth. It was ‘normal’ to take food and offer it to various ‘god’s and pledge allegiance to them. St Paul writes this is not to happen with christians. At the sacred meal (Eucharist) we participate in and receive the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. It is not right to then join your body with worship to other ‘altars’ and ‘demons’ (1Cor 10,21). Is my communion with Jesus real or superficial? Does my life-style show I have many ‘gods’ and ‘altars’ that I worship at? What change and purification may be necessary in my life?

• Moses was greatly revered for ‘feeding’ people with bread from heaven (1st Reading). Jesus now replaces Moses and this ‘event’ with his body. ‘Heavenly Bread’ is now replaced with ‘flesh’. It is no accident that the words flesh and blood are repeated 10 times in this text. How can this man give us his flesh to eat is a question that leads to layers of questions. Is Jesus a ‘man’ or the Divine Son of God? Is the real question ‘how’ can this happen or ‘who’ is making this promise? Do you believe in these words? This promise? What the Mass brings into the life of the world and the Church and offers personally to you?

• Meditate / reflect on these scriptural lines and allow a conversation to begin with God.

• The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world….
• My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink….
• Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you….
• Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them…..

• Is your experience of the Eucharist one of looking, sitting, getting or becoming? Does it progress from Sunday into Monday…?

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