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Archive for the ‘kingdom of God’ Category

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

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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: 17th Sunday Yr. A: What Is Your Treasure?

 

Pearl of Great Price - Part 5 - Pocket Fuel Parable Series

Reflection Questions:   

• Solomon is not simply having a ‘dream’. The last person to possibly take his kingship (Shimei see 1Kings 2, 8) has now died so Solomon is now truly King. He has also just married the King of Egypt (Pharoah’s) daughter! Solomon’s power and political responsibilities are immense. He makes a special journey to Gibeon, a very special ‘high place’ and altar. With him he presents 1000 burnt offerings on the altar! (1Kings 3:4). The intensity of his prayer and yet his humility is striking. You have made me. I am your servant. I have the responsibilities of a King. Yet I am young. I don’t know what to do. Give me an ‘understanding heart’. What would your deepest and most heart-felt prayer be to God as God asks you: ‘Ask something of me’.

• The journey of life involves ‘ups and downs’. It takes great faith to trust that ‘all things work for good for those who love God’. Consider a difficult life experience. How has it ‘worked for your good’? Have you allowed it to mould you closer ‘to the image of his Son’?

• The phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ is the idea Jesus most talked about in the gospels. Having a heart for the poor. A desire and commitment to see that all are ‘included’. Fighting all systems that exclude and oppress. The compassion and forgiveness offered to us by God. These can be ‘ideas’ or ‘lived realities’. A treasure ‘thought about’ or a ‘treasure possessed’. Being possessed by ‘The Kingdom’ comes at a cost because it invites us into a complete transformation of our life. Compare your lifestyle with Jesus in the Gospels. What attracts you?What do you need to ‘let go’? What risk are you being invited to take?

• Filled with joy, the person in the parable sells all that he owns to buy it. The treasure (the kingdom) has now possessed him! Have you ever had an experience where something you valued is now considered ‘worthless’. How did your heart change ‘attachment’? What do you truly ‘love’ and would be willing to ‘sell all that you have’ for its possession? Are the top ‘values’ that steer your life Kingdom values or Worldly values?

• As in previous Ch 13 parables, Jesus includes a subversive challenge. There will be a judgment at the end of time based on how we have lived. Have we chosen and lived for the Kingdom and lived ‘rightly’ (righteously)? Or have we been ‘wicked’, consciously or unconsciously not contributing to justice and God’s plan for all? If the final judgement was to take place within a few months what would this cause you to do?

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

Discussion Guide16th Sunday Yr. A: Parables – small stories to help build the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is like…..Kudzu? | Sherry Cothran

Reflection Questions:

• The Book of Wisdom was written for Jewish people living in cities heavily influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. Wisdom teaching was to remind them of their history and relationship with God. People are to learn from the patience and gentleness and forgiving nature of God and show this in their own lives. How can you be both ‘just’ and ‘kind’? Does your use of power show itself in being ‘lenient’ and gentle to all?

• Last week the Spirit dwelling within us was referred to as a ‘first-fruits’. A first installment. An engagement ring looking forward to the promise of the wedding day! St Paul today provides a beautiful image of the presence and power of the Spirit at work in us. The Spirit prays within us in a unique way to God. Have you experienced a time of wanting to pray to God but not having words to describe how you feel. What prayer intention does your body and spirit ‘groan’ with to God? Do you recognise that this experience can be a powerful prayer? Offer this groaning today to God in prayer.

• Weeds. Seeds. Yeast. Each image expresses something of the way that God and God’s project (growing the Kingdom of heaven) is present and alive in the world. Allowing wheat and weeds to grow together is risky farming. What is your emotional reaction to the presence of good and evil existing alongside each other?Within you? Can you glimpse the patience of God?

• The mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet within a year it can turn into a shrub large enough to be mistaken for a tree. From very small beginnings it becomes something extraordinarily large. Can you identify a small action of love and service that made a profound impact on you? Can you recognise that your daily ‘sowing’ mustard seeds of justice and forgiveness and gentleness, builds the kingdom of heaven? What ‘seed’ needs to be sown most in your workplace / home today?

• The humble presence of a small amount of yeast in a large quantity of flour dramatically transforms a flour mixture into bread (three measures would feed 100 people). Jesus challenges disciples to be this type of ‘presence’ in the world. Yet the kingdom requires a person to be completely possessed by a small seed: love your neighbour as yourself.

• Parables often hide a challenging message. The apparent power of evil. The littleness of the ‘seeds’ of our loving. The small amount of our ‘yeast’ in the vastness of the world and its problems. Yet the mustard seed is tremendously fruitful. The yeast succeeds in transforming flour. Hope is at the centre of kingdom living. The ‘righteous will shine’. Can you live full of hope – refusing to be beaten by the reality you see?

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

 

Discussion Guide: Fulfilling the Law

 

Image result for Matthew 5:17

Reflection Questions

• The book of Sirach was a collection of wisdom sayings, attempting to show the beauty and depth of Jewish wisdom. Personally imagine the scene of water and fire before you. What do these symbols represent in your personal life? In what ways do you stretch out your hand toward water? Toward fire? What joy have you found in reaching toward water? What wisdom have you found in being ‘burnt’ by fire?

• ‘If you choose’ you can keep the commandments is pointing to human free will and capacity of each of us to follow the ways of God. The meaning of the word ‘commandment’ actually means something placed into your hand. Do you see the guidance of ‘laws’ and teachings of Jesus and the Church as a ‘stick’ or a ‘message of love placed into your hands’ by someone who loves you? What is the consequence of viewing ‘laws’ as ‘a stick’?

• St Paul had many people in the Corinthian community turn against him. A particular group in the Corinthian community claimed to be more spiritual and knowledgeable. St Paul humbly points out that academic and worldly debate is not the sign of true wisdom from God. Knowledge and wisdom are different. Wisdom is found in love and often through suffering. And the spirit is present especially in those who love God. Who is a wisdom figure for you? How do you see love present in their life?

• The Gospel of Matthew is unique in that the community began with Jewish Christians, and then was increasingly joined by Greek converts to Christianity. Jewish Christians had grown up keeping all 613 laws of the Old Testament. Scribes (scripture scholars) and Pharisees (lay men determined to keep all the Jewish laws exactly) prided themselves on being ‘righteous’ and yet Jesus says their living is ‘shallow’. Jesus invites followers to live far more deeply. Murder is healed when people resolve their ‘anger’. Adultery is healed when people can live and look upon each other without ‘lust’. Easy divorce is not a positive option. Let your word be always true in Yes and No. Anger. Lust. Relationships. Lies. What area do you need to work to transform so your life is living in right relationship with God and others?

• Recall if any brother or sister has anything against you. What would the invitation ‘go first and be reconciled’ before coming to Sunday Mass personally mean for you?

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

Discussion Guide 3rd Sunday Year A Follow Me

Image result for Fisher of Men Scripture

 

Reflection Questions

• The Prophet Isaiah remarks that the land called ‘District of the Gentiles’ (the area around the sea of Galilee) will see ‘a great light’. Imagine a small narrow road linking one part of the world with the other. This is the ‘Holy Land’ (Israel). It was a very busy trading route. Consequently there were many ‘foreigners’. For Jewish people it sometimes felt like a curse. However in God’s plan the light shines brighter in the darkness. Have you ever experienced being lost in darkness and then helped by a light? What happened. What is Isaiah trying to teach us about God?

• St Paul continues his writing to the people of Corinth. He is upset that their witness and service to Christ has turned towards arguments
rather than charity. Have you ever felt a group of people wanting you to ‘belong’ to ‘their idea’? Have you had an experience of ‘division’ in the community or workplace or parish, people claiming the same purpose but not united in ‘mind’? Did you seek to understand ‘both sides’ and seek unity, or, did you grow division?

• Today in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus leaves his home town of Nazareth and arrives in Galilee. Fulfilling the 1st Reading prophecy of Isaiah,
Jesus spends most of his 3 years of public ministry between 3 towns in Galilee. As the new year begins do you feel it is time to leave your
‘Nazareth’, your place of comfort, and enter ‘Galilee’ to undertake a new challenge? How could you be a light to ‘people who sit in darkness? Those overshadowed by death, sickness, sadnees?

• In the time of Jesus, the phrase Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God were special. Everyone was waiting for the time when God
would finally overcome the power of evil. Essentially Jesus begins preaching a ‘wake up’ call: ‘change your mind (repent), take notice, God is now showing victory over evil! This is the good news. Have you ever noticed Jesus both preaches and heals. Words and actions go together. How does your life bring the kingdom of heaven and contribute to the overcoming of evil? Is your faith words and actions?

• Fishing was the main industry around the sea of Galilee. Peter, Andrew, James and John were probably not ‘poor’. Boats, nets,
family, work colleagues, commitments and bank accounts are significant for them (and us!). Yet they are placed second to Jesus’ invitation to follow. Is the presence of your life curing and comforting (disease and illness?) or comfortable and callous? If you had to write a sentence of what you thought God would personally like you to do / be, what would you write?

• What is one action that you will do to live the word this week?

Discussion Guide for ‘What Star is Guiding You? The Feast of the Epiphany’ is HERE

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Reflection Questions

• Epiphany is the Greek word meaning to ‘show’ or ‘make manifest’. The Magi from the East (coming from the Greek word for people of special knowledge) pay homage to Jesus. This symbolises all nations recognising Jesus as King and Lord. If you had to write a story to
teach the truth about Jesus what truths would you seek to include? How could the Church make Christ known more creatively today? What is the most creative Christian evangelisation message you have seen lately?

• Isaiah makes a beautiful prophecy which is fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew story and the Magi today. God’s chosen people have just
returned from exile and their country and beautiful city of Jerusalem and its Temple are in ruins. Isaiah begins with the image of Jerusalem as a woman lying down in defeat. ‘Rise up Jerusalem! Your light has come.’ As we enter the beginning of the New Year how could you experience ‘rising up’ to your most beautiful self? How could you help the Church ‘rise up’ and make Christ known? What would it take for you to be radiant and your heart throb with joy and pride in the Church community? What will you do?

• Paul states very clearly a mind-shattering truth: ‘the gentiles are coheirs’. Jewish people thought of and treated ‘gentiles’ as ‘unclean’. Paul says they are ‘clean’ and ‘co-partners’ in the inheritance of God’s promises and family. What adjustments in mind, heart, and action, would take place if God revealed to you that everyone was clean and equal and a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ to you and you were all part of the same family? Imagine what life- style change this would involve. Are you willing to try? Can you glimpse this is the central gospel message of Jesus?

• In ancient times a new star was thought to indicate a new leader being born. The Magi are on a journey of seeking God. They have knowledge. Resources. Time. All that the world declares is necessary for fulfilment. Yet they are hungry for something more. What is currently guiding your life? Would you say you are thirsty, hungry, searching? How and where do you find Jesus today?

• The three gifts presented reveal the identity of Jesus. Gold for a king. Frankincense for a priest whose role is to pray and send prayers to God in heaven. Myrrh pointing toward Jesus’ sacrifice and death and future burial. As the new year begins what personal ‘gifts’, ‘talents’, are you willing to ‘give’ in service to God? Consider the deeper meaning of homage and surrender. How could you express a deeper commitment to following Jesus? What change of direction would you like to make to imitate the Magi?

• What action  will you take to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection Guide for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is HERE

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Discussion Questions

• This Feast day is the Oldest Marian Feast in our liturgical calendar. The Solemnity of Mary Holy Mother of God is celebrated a week after Christmas Day. It is a ‘Christological’ Feast in which the focus is on Jesus Christ and his identity. We recognise the special role that Mary had
in accepting the call to be ‘Mother of God’. This title of Mary – Theotokos – Mother of God points to Jesus’ Divine identity as truly God.

• The Blessing referred to in the Book of Numbers is still practiced by the Jewish ancestors of the Priestly line of Aaron today and in our Catholic prayer as we pray ‘Lord Hear Us’. Calling upon the Name of God brought his presence. And God himself taught Moses how to bring
this blessing upon God’s family. LORD is an English translation of the Greek KYRIOS, which is a translation of the Hebrew YAHWEH – which is the Divine Name of God given to Moses on the Mountain of Sinai meaning ‘I AM THE ONE WHO IS’ (Ex 3:14). Can you see the Old Testament – Gospel link in the readings: God’s face and looking upon you and Jesus born among us. Think of close friends and pray this blessing upon them for the New Year ahead.

•Paul’s letter to the Galatians is written by Paul upset at the travellers who would journey behind him and tell his communities that his message about Jesus was wrong. In the community of Galatia new converts who were not Jewish were being told they must obey all the Jewish requirements of the Law regarding food, cleanliness, circumcision, ritual practices. Paul uses a dramatic image to dismiss their arguments. Jews are slaves to a ‘law’. Christians are adopted as ‘sons’ and are now ‘heirs’ to the inheritance of freedom and unconditional acceptance by God. Do you understand and experience your relationship with God as a slave and legal observance, or as a son / daughter and a ‘family member’? What is the difference?

• The Lukan reading continues on from Christmas Day. God is surprisingly born in an unclean place (stable) and seen first by unclean people (shepherds, who were often not able to meet ritual cleanliness requirements due to the care of their animals). Which places and people do you consider today to be ‘unclean’ and ‘unfit’ for God? How might Luke’s theme of God’s hospitality and inclusion to all challenge you this
year? Who do you exclude?

• Mary is the model for all disciples. Her life was open to God’s call and plan. Her whole-hearted Yes called her to walk forward within a plan she did not fully understand. She reflected on each days events ‘in her heart’. She lived a pregnancy with the Word and let it come to birth. As the New Year begins what challenges may you say Yes to? How could you create a regular pattern of ‘prayer and reflection’ to ensure plans and resolutions move from pregnancy to physical birth?

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

Discussion Guide 4th Sunday of Advent Year A. Has Your ‘Yes’ to Jesus changed your Life?

Image result for Joseph and the Angel

Reflection Questions

• The 4th Sunday of Advent points excitedly to the next few days – the birth of Jesus. In the final days before Christmas how could you achieve a balance: writing christmas cards and preparing heart and home for Christ. Attending christmas parties and choosing space and
silence for prayerful listening to God. Buying christmas presents and being a christmas presence? If you were asked to describe your joy at
Christmas what would you say?

• Ahaz was King of the southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah was trying to encourage him not to enter a military agreement with Assyria. Both God and Isaiah hold a conversation with Ahaz. Go on, ask for a sign from God! He declines, most probably because he does not want any sign to change his mind. Is there any decision you have made which you stubbornly refuse to change your mind about yet feel God wants a conversation about it? If you were to ask for a sign from God to guide your future, what would you ask for?

• The ‘sign’ of a young girl of marriageable age (maiden) conceiving and bearing a son ‘Emmanuel’ has been interpreted as a great fulfilment of Gods birth among us in Jesus through Mary. When a sign is given it requires both ‘seeing’ and ‘understanding’. Ponder a ‘sign’ that has changed your life. How has the ‘sign’ of Jesus changed your life?

• Paul frequently introduces himself as ‘a slave’ of Christ Jesus. Being a slave is actually freeing for Paul. The emperor, idols, money, possessions… nothing and nobody is his Master. Only Jesus. He lives in love and for love alone. Jesus, who is God ‘enfleshed’ has the first
call of obedience on his life. Can you glimpse Paul’s joy and freedom? What has God ‘sent’ (the meaning of the word ‘apostle’) you to ‘be’ and ‘do’? Are you free enough to say ‘Yes’?

• While we often remember Mary’s visit by the angel and her ‘Yes’ to God, we can easily miss Joseph also had a visit by an angel (message bearer) in a dream. Without Joseph saying ‘Yes’ Mary and Jesus could both have been killed! (public stoning was the penalty for pregnancy before marriage). Joseph ‘did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him’. Is your life open to being changed and disturbed by ‘an angel’? Have you ever pondered how vulnerable and uncertain is the experience that Mary and Joseph walk into with their combined ‘Yes’s’

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide and Scripture: How On Fire Are You For God?

Image result for Trinity Holy Spirit FireReflection Questions

The 2nd Sunday of Advent points to a promised leader (Christ) with the ‘spirit of the Lord’ resting on him. Again we are reminded of a difference between Advent and Christmas. Advent is preparing for a second coming ‘presence’, Christmas is celebrating the first coming with ‘presents’. As we seek to prepare our lives, what would it mean for you to ‘judge the poor with justice’? Do you recognise your brother / sister? Is there any charity or need you could donate to or get involved with this advent?

• A wolf living with a lamb, a panther and a goat lying down together, a calf and lion feeding together, a cow friends with a bear symbolise a reconciled and repaired world. This vision sees the country Israel full with the knowledge of God. It will be like a light for all nations. Replacing Israel with your local parish family, your own home, how can you seek healing of broken friendships? Reconciliation with an enemy? How could you make your home be a light this Christmas?

• As the end of the year approaches we are encouraged to give Glory to God by welcoming each other as Christ has embraced us. Consider someone who you ‘refuse to give up on’. What is an attitude and action you will continue to show them?

• To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to cry out and proclaim the arrival. This is the role of John the Baptist. Significantly, John does this at the Jordan river (at the same crossing point Israel left the desert and entered the Promised Land). The scriptures are trying to teach us ‘a new rescuing’ by God is taking place. A ‘washing’ and ‘confessing of sins’ began a process of returning to God. People left Jerusalem and walked over a days journey to meet and listen to John. What journey will you undertake to draw closer to God this advent? Would you like to celebrate the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How could you celebrate this personally and deeply?

• The preparation of a straight road or a royal highway was known to happen in ancient times when a very special person was to visit. Physically, valleys were filled and hills were lowered to make the way smooth and easy. And it was done at great expense! As Advent invites us to make a clear pathway for the Lord, what roadblocks, ditches, hills require the earthmoving equipment of prayer, spiritual direction, reconciliation?

• Have you ever thought in a relationship with a friend or family member that ‘actions speak louder than words’? The Gospel shares with us that we cannot presume to rely on Abraham / Baptism (words alone for salvation). If you fail to produce good fruit you will be cut down and thrown on the fire. How could your life show the good fruit of ‘justice’?

  •   List the attributes of fire? What does ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire’ mean? How on fire are you for God? Pray for God’s renewing fire this week.

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

livingtheword weekly resources by Fr Frank Bird, SM & Bev McDonald ACSD. Distributed by Marist Laity NZ. www.maristlaitynz.orgweb: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com