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Archive for the ‘kingdom of God’ Category

Discussion Guide: Getting the Balance Right as a Disciple

Readings: Gen 18:1-10, Col.1:24-28, Luke 10:38-42

See the source imageReflection Questions

• ʻThe New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is only fully revealed in the New Testamentʼ. Here forms a special link between the First Reading and the Gospel Reading each Sunday. The common theme in the readings is Hospitality.

• Abraham has just won a significant battle, is a wealthy leader and herdsman. Yet he runs from his tent in the heat of the day, gets the equivalent of 20 pounds of flour, kills a steer, which would be an extraordinary feast for a small village, and then he ʻwaited on themʼ. Abraham shows middle eastern hospitality in providing safe passage for travelers. Strangers become guests. How do you show hospitality in your life, family, friends, work colleagues, strangers … ?

• Sarah and Abraham are surprised in receiving news that they will have a child. What surprises have you enjoyed and received recently in showing hospitality?

• Paul rejoices in sufferings and sees them as part of the work of Christ. Any suffering that is part of growth and extending the work of the Church is Christʼs work continuing and making up or completing what was unfinished in Christ. Enduring difficulties became a privilege and an honour for Paul. What sufferings do you find hard to carry? Can you see a different way of looking at them as gradually transforming the world and the Church starting with your own ʻfleshʼ?

• Paul goes where no-one else would go – to the gentiles – to warn, teach and present them to Christ. Is there someone you know who has drifted away from God and the Church. How might you ʻwarnʼ them, ʻteachʼ them, ʻpresentʼ them to God?

• Martha and Mary have Jesus – and his hungry disciples – arrive at their home. Cultural expectations of women would have weighed heavily on both Martha and Mary to give hospitality and serve food. Mary chose to do what was not socially acceptable, and sit at the masters feet, the traditional expression of being a ‘disciple’ – and one normally reserved for ‘males’. Consider what obstacles Mary overcame to ‘sit and listen’. What obstacles do you need to overcome to listen in prayer?

• Martha’s serving is another crucial aspect of discipleship. So Jesus is challenging the status quo here also. He recognizes both Martha and Mary as disciples, challenging Martha to step outside her cultural role and understand who Jesus is calling her to be as his follower. Martha tries to reinforce the norms by getting Mary to help. Mary courageously resists her sister. What is going on? If Welcome and Serving feel overly burdensome or a ʻcomplainingʼ spirit is developing in your life, work, relationships, ministry, take time to figure out where the ʻworryʼ is coming from and talk to God about it?

• This passage comes straight after the parable of the Good Samaritan and offers a great picture of balanced Christian discipleship. Hearing and Doing are not opposites but inter-twined. What is Jesus saying to you about the choice that Mary made to sit and listen to him and our need to carefully discern the roles we adopt and review them from time to time in prayer?

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

 Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. web: www.livingtheword.org.nz.     E-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com    www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Reflection Guide: Freed and Called to Serve

1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21, Gal 5:1, 13-18, Gospel Lk 9:51-62

Image result for galatians 5:1, 13-18

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. Elijah is one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. But even he gets tired. God tells him to find his successor to continue the prophetʼs work. In your ministry and service of God are you ʻfinding a successorʼ to share the load and replace you? Have a conversation with God about this.
  2. 2. Elijah is very wealthy. Most families would own only 1 Oxen. He kills 12 Oxen and uses the farming tools to create a fire. He destroys everything so as to not be attracted back to his old life. He makes a decision that Godʼs work has primacy of place and is the first calling upon his life. Imagine living these actions within your own life and circumstances. What attracts you? In what areas of your life are you not ʻfreeʼ?
  3. St Paul continues to teach the Galatian community about the true nature of freedom. Freedom is really being ʻfree for othersʼ. To not be
    attached or enslaved to material possessions and self indulging desires (flesh) requires discipline and effort. In what area of your life could you make a daily prayer this week for God to help you? Is there an action you could do, to enter this particular journey of ʻfreedomʼ this week?
  4. From Luke 9,51 we meet a tougher Jesus. Some texts have Jesus ʻset his face like flintʼ toward Jerusalem. He is determined and makes large demands of his disciples. Going to Jerusalem represents Jesusʼ obedience to Gods willʼ. Is there anything you ‘have heard God ask you to do? What will it involve for you to ʻset your faceʼ resolutely toward doing it?
  5. Three unknown people have questions about discipleship in the Gospel. We are invited to hear their questions echo in our own hearts,
    enter the conversation, respond to Jesusʼ challenge. Jesus has nowhere to lay his head. Are you free enough to leave home, security, comfort?
  6. Care for and burial of oneʼs parents was a top social and cultural priority for Jewish people. Allegiance to parents and duties as a child is replaced by Jesus with ʻproclaiming the kingdom of Godʼ. What pressures or expectations does society or your family place upon you? Do these ʻlimitʼ your freedom to respond to God by living the values and lifestyle of Jesus? How? What will you now do?
  7. Jesus takes disciples on a special journey toward Jerusalem from this point in the Gospel. There is no turning back. The joy and success of ministry in Galilee changes to resistance by religious people and civil authorities. Jesus urgently teaches his disciples about mission and the Kingdom of God. Imagine a fire is burning and many peopleʼs lives are in danger. Would you let go of your ʻworkʼ to ʻsaveʼ these people? Such is the call of the Kingdom of God. How will you respond?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

 

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection Guide: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Reading 1 Gn 14:18-20, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Lk 9:11b-17

Image result for body and blood of christDiscussion Questions

• When the Church celebrates a special ʻFeastʼ or ʻSolemnityʼ it is frequently the result of controversy. The origin of this feast dates to the 12th Century responding to debate about the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. When was the first time you can remember debating and seeking to understand Jesus truly present with the gift of his body and blood in the Mass? How would you describe and share this eucharistic faith with a friend today?

• Melchizedek, King of Salem is a very mysterious figure without a genealogy. By his actions he is both King and Priest. And Salem is known as the future city of Jerusalem – the dwelling place of God the Most High for Israel. Abraham has just returned from overcoming 4 kings and rescuing Lot and all his possessions. A King was normally wary of such a visitor as Abraham. They would show welcome by tending to the wounded – hoping that their ʻkingdomʼ would not be pillaged by the visiting army. Strikingly Abraham who represents Godʼs people, offers this Priest / King a tenth of all his possessions! Many writers comment Melchizedek is a sign of an altogether new and divine priesthood able to confer a special blessing from God. How do you understand the Priesthood today?

• Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is the earliest writing we have of the celebration of the Eucharist (15-20 years before the first gospel). Paul
shares  his ‘tradition’ (which means ‘handing on’) comes from Jesus himself. We are told to ‘Do this’. For Jewish people, to do a ritual liturgical action in ʻremembranceʼ was to actually enter and receive the event celebrated. Paul shares the Eucharist proclaims and makes present the cross and victory of Jesus. We receive Godʼs forgiveness but also intimate communion. What does receiving ʻholy communionʼ mean for you?

• King Herod has just asked a question ʻwho is this man of whom I hear such wondersʼ? (Luke 9,9). The Gospel of Luke shares this miracle story of the loaves. Old Testament background stories add texture to this passage where Elisha showed himself working by Godʼs power to feed 100 people with a few loaves. God fed his hungry people in the journey in the desert through Moses. Jesus now feeds the hungry, sick,  and poor of Israel. Godʼs hospitality and Jesusʼ mission is shown. Jesus gets the 12 Apostles to serve the banquet. What might this teach us about the mission of the church in the world to the hungry? The Eucharist?

• The disciples attitude was one of inward focus and concern, ʻturn them awayʼ we donʼt have enough resources. As you receive Jesusʼ body
and blood will your attitude be one of simply ʻlookingʼ? selfishly ʻgettingʼ? generously self offering?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Pentecost – Lord Send Out Your Spirit

Readings: Acts 2:1-11;  1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Rom 8:8-17 1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
Jn 20:19-23

Pentecost Sequence Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home                                       Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store!                                      Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest;                        Sweet refreshment here below; In our labor, rest most sweet;                             Grateful coolness in the heat; Solace in the midst of woe.
 O most blessed Light divine, Shine within these hearts of yours,                          And our inmost being fill! Where you are not, we have naught,                       Nothing good in deed or thought, Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew;              Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will;                          Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.                                  On the faithful, who adore And confess you evermore, In your sevenfold gift descend; Give them virtue’s sure reward; Give them your salvation, Lord;          Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.

Reflection Questions

1] • Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast which also involved a liturgical celebration of bringing water into the temple and pouring water from the side of the altar. Life-giving water would symbolically flow from Jerusalem and give life to the whole world! Jesus fulfills and  replaces this Jewish feast saying that out of him will flow life-giving water (Jn 7:37-39). What does this image of Pentecost teach you?

2]• Pentecost is the reversal of the First Testament Tower of Babel story (see Genesis 11). Humankind’s sin and self importance building the tower to reach and equal God eventuated in the scattering of people and the confusion caused by different languages. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unites people and leads people to understand each other and the Christian message ‘in his native language’. What does this suggest is the true function of the Holy Spirit in the world? In the Church?

3]• Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didn’t have the gift of tongues were considered inferior. It was causing division in the community. One gift was not to be stressed over another. Everyone is gifted! What gift do you find easy to share and benefit others with? What gift do you feel you would like to develop more and use for God and the community?

4] • The Spirit and ʻgiftsʼ are connected to the body. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ do you identify with your gifts – eyes, head, heart, hands, mouth, ears. How do you show this in your daily life?

5]• Jesus is able to pass through locked doors to offer peace and forgiveness. What ʻlocked doorsʼ are present in your life? Use your imagination in a time of prayer and allow Jesus to meet you on the other side of these locked doors … what happened?

6]• The Spirit sends the Disciples / the Church ʻon missionʼ. The Church is as it were ʻplugged inʼ to a living power moulding all into the image and consciousness of Christ. Pentecost fills the Church and allows the Church to be the extension of Jesus’ ministry in the world. What feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ? Are you conscious of being  sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the worldʼ?

7]• In the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit had a difficult time in getting the disciples out from hiding behind locked doors and praying in the temple and in peopleʼs homes. It was only persecution in Jerusalem that eventually caused the light of the good news of Jesus to be given ʻto all the nationsʼ. Welcoming Gentiles into the Christian community was a huge obstacle and struggle for Jews who were the first Christians. What are the big obstacles to unity and inclusion in the Church today? How could the Church be more reconciling in the marketplace and with those the world excludes?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: 8th Sunday Year C – Walking the Talk

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 27:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58, Lk 6:39-45

Image result for pope francis with the sick

Reflection Questions

1] The Book of Sirach is also known as “Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach.” It teaches ethical and theological topics and ideas. It talks a lot about the tongue and speech and the author indicates here that a person’s thoughts and words are a mirror of what lies in the soul. People can be ‘smooth talkers’ until they are shaken or put through tribulation and the ‘husks’ they try to hide are revealed. How true do you think it is that a person’s talk reveals who they really are? How attentive are you to your own speech?

2]  The revolutionary hope of Christianity is in these words of Paul. Corinth was a major cosmopolitan sea-trading city. Idolatry and immorality were rife. Paul insists we can overcome sin through Christ. (15:57). What do you think Paul means when he says God gives us the ‘victory’ through Jesus? How have you experienced this ‘victory’ or a degree of mastery over sin? What area of your life do you most need ‘victory’?

3] Paul acknowledges our ‘corruptible’ bodies but states we will be clothed in Christ’s ‘incorruptibility’ and ‘immortality’. How does that make you feel?

4] Most of us know someone with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Many times, the vulnerable are gifted with a differently abled way of seeing, hearing or sensitivity which is both gift and challenge to us all. Pope Benedict stated; “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” … “Man is worth so much to God that he himself became human in order to suffer with us in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed in … Jesus’s Passion.” (Spe Salvi, 37, 39) How do you reconcile suffering with the promises of Christ? What encourages you most about Paul’s words?

5] Paul says that the Resurrection means nothing we do is wasted. We often don’t see the results of our efforts but if we truly believe Christ has won the victory then as the saying goes; we may lose the battle but win the war. In God’s case the war is already won. Paul’s perspective calls us not to idly ‘hope’ for some future heaven, but to live right now in God’s Reign.  We are called to do all the good we can today, knowing everything we do matters to God. How can I allow that truth to more deeply impact my daily life?

6]  The Gospel links strongly with the first reading.  What are the main connections for you? Jesus challenges us to not just talk the talk but to walk the talk. St Augustine asked, “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” When did you last seriously review your own talk, habits & reactions for ‘vinegar’? How hard is it for you to trust others? How is testing others different from criticizing? What help do you need from God to fill your heart with honey and ‘a store of goodness’? “…Every tree is known by its own fruit’. God has equipped us to bear good fruit. How are you tending the fruit tree of your life? How do others experience you as a person and a Christian? Is there a difference?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com  Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

 

Discussion Guide: Generous Good Measure – God’s Way of Living and Giving

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49,  Gospel: Luke 6:27-38 

Reflection QSee the source imageuestions

1] David and around 600 men are living in caves 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 Gods. 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?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ.
Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com     Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Trust in the Lord and Live the Beatitudes 6th Sunday Year C  

Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20, Gospel: Luke 6:17,20-26
See the source image

Reflection Questions

1] Jeremiah shares a blessing and curse prophecy which is frequent in the Old Testament. It is designed to wake us up and help us think. He warns against trusting in mere mortals. Even powerful personalities can lead us astray. Only the Lord is worthy of our trust and when we invite God to guide our lives, even disaster won’t destroy us. Allow your imagination to ponder the two images – a barren bush in the dry salty desert versus a tree always bearing fruit beside a stream. What strikes you as you see yourself in these images?

2] Trust and fear are often linked. What do you most fear losing in life? Talk to God about how that impacts your trust.

3] St Paul speaks to some in Corinth who do not believe in the Resurrection. They struggle to believe that our bodies could be glorified in heaven. St Paul makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection is central to our Faith which becomes ‘most pitiable’ unless we believe Jesus is Lord. His birth, life and teaching, death, resurrection and ascension are one continuous salvation event. God reveals his eternal love and desire that we be with Him forever and then provides the way where we become one with Christ through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. As you reflect on your Baptism provides the way through Baptism and the Holy Spirit; we die to our old self under the water and rise to new life, becoming one with Christ. Reflect on your Baptism. What links can you see between Baptism and Resurrection? N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’ Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” How do you react to that statement?

4] We never say Jesus ‘has’ risen. We proclaim, ‘Jesus IS Risen’. “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Our belief in the resurrection of our bodies (Creed) is established through the Resurrection of Christ. How deep is your conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and how does that impact your daily choices and decisions? Who do you really put your trust in? Talk with God about your belief or struggles. Try praying, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

5] Jesus has just spent the night in prayer, chosen the twelve (his team!) and he sits them down. The stage is set for his most important teaching: the Beatitudes. Nowhere in Luke does the Gospel challenge us so severely. What are my ultimate pursuits? What world order am I living for? What measurement system of success am I committed to? Am I on the side of the poor and hungry or the rich and the full? What does your lifestyle and actions show? Are you good news to the poor? (note Luke means primarily economically poor not the tamer ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew). We sometimes speak of these teachings as “BE-Attitudes”. It seems that the choices we make ‘now’ will impact us for eternity. What do you think Jesus means?

6] The Beatitudes bring together a clashing of two ideas and worldviews. It causes a conflict within us. All things being equal, to have riches and to be full is a good. But the reality of our world is inequality. The status quo is unacceptable for God and Jesus’ disciples. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes does not let Christians off the hook. There will be a radical reversal of fortune in God’s judgement. Woe to you who are rich, filled, who can laugh now. How can I proclaim,
‘Jesus is Lord’ with integrity and not take this teaching seriously?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ. Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com       Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide Baptism of the Lord: You are Chosen and Called

Is 42:1-4, 6-7, Acts 10:35-38, Gospel LK 3:15-16, 21-22

See the source image

Reflection Questions

• The prophet Isaiah speaks often of the promise that God will send a Messiah. Today’s prophecy foretells Jesus’ coming. Celebrating Jesus’ Baptism we learn also of our own ‘job description’ to live following Jesus’ lifestyle and example in the world. Have you made your baptism personal and meaningful? What does it mean for you to be: ‘chosen’, ‘upon whom I have put my spirit’, ‘bring forth justice’. Called personally for the ‘victory of justice’. Have you recognised God trying to take you by the hand and form you, ask you to be an example and light for others? Transform peoples lives who are blind and suffering in darkness?

• Acts 10 is a very important chapter and experience in the life of St Peter. Peter was Jewish and was brought up in strict observance knowing what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. Non Jews (Gentiles / Greeks) were considered ‘unclean’. If you entered their home or ate with them you became ‘unclean’. Peter is told by God to go into Cornelius’ home (He was a Gentile and a despised Roman soldier!). Peter has a significant conversion of the mind… ‘people of every nation are acceptable to God’. Who do you consider to be ‘clean’ ‘unclean’? What obstacles did Peter have to overcome to go into Cornelius’ house? What obstacles do you have to overcome?

• It was a custom for disciples to carry the masters sandals. It was a sign of discipleship. The image John shares is he is not even worthy to bow down and undo the sandals of Jesus. The holiness and distinctiveness between John and Jesus is emphasised. Why?

• Historical and theological writing is present in this Baptism scene of Jesus. Isaiah had cried out to God in the Old Testament – open the heavens and come down! Now the clouds are pushed apart, the spirit of God descends and God’s voice is heard. Here he is! The Messiah. The promised one. My Son. Imagine being  at this scene. Imagine this is your baptism scene. What do you feel? Think? Fulfilling the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah, do you accept your baptismal ‘job description’?

• You may have been too young to remember your own baptism. It does not mean that you cannot now become conscious of what happened and what it means ‘today’. A special prayer was prayed over you as part of your anointing, you were ‘Christed’ to be a Priest, Prophet and King. Your call as a Lay Disciple is to be

  1. • Priest – bring the world to God and God to the world
  2. • Prophet – listen to the scriptures and speak God’s word of comfort and challenge to the world
  3. • King – to lead the world not follow the world.

• How could you grow in awareness and expression of your God-given calling?

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

Discussion Guide for Advent week 3: Joy Overflows to Others

Zeph.3:14-18, Phil.4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18

See the source image

Reflection Questions

• Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday when the Pink candle of the Advent Wreath is lit. The third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the entrance
antiphon – ‘Rejoice’. This theme is found in the first two readings. We are reminded that the joyful coming of Christ is drawing nearer. Christmas celebrates presence with presents.
• Today is the only time every 3 years we hear this beautiful passage from the Prophet Zephaniah. Zion is the name for Jerusalem, and Christians understand
Jerusalem signifies God’s people. Replace ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ prayerfully with your own name. How does this prophecy make you feel? What line strikes you the most? Why?
• St Paul is writing to the Philippians trying to resolve an argument between two women which is destroying the unity of the Christian community. He puts their argument into the ‘big picture’. Rejoicing, kindness and no anxiety are trademarks of a christian. Paul reminds the community that each member is to reflect Christ. In the hostile town of Philippi, they are to be attractive and lead people to Christ – not turn them off. Is ʻyour kindness known to allʼ? Do you have anxieties that you refuse to make ʻknown’ and truly hand over to him?
• A practice of Advent preparation is celebrating forgiveness. Crowds gathered to be with John the Baptist, not in the Temple, but by the Jordan River. Hungry
for God and for the world to experience ʻchangeʼ they claimed their own need for conversion: ʻwhat should we do?ʼ John directs their attention toward care of the poor – sharing clothing and food. What do you have plenty of? Who has none? Have you ever desired to simplify your life and be more generous? What happened?
• Tax collectors were present, along with soldiers who protected them. John does not deny their ʻjobʼ but reminds them all jobs are to serve the unity of the
community. Look deeply into your ordinary tasks of life. Are you doing them well? Enter the gospel scene in prayer and ask John the question: What should I
do? What happened?
• John baptises and cleanses with water. Jesus baptises and cleanses with the Holy Spirit and fire. Water and Fire. What would you choose? Fire purifies through hot temperatures. What have been ʻhotʼ ʻpurifyingʼ moments for you this year? What wisdom have you been led into? What parts of your life would you like to bring to God for reconciliation at the end of the year?
• A ʻwinnowing fanʼ was used in the barn to throw the grain up into the air, the dust and ʻchaffʼ – seed casings and bits of stalk – drifted away. This stage separated the wheat. How do you relate to the image of judgement and ʻfireʼ at the end of time?
• A common practice in the time of Jesus was for disciples to carry the sandals of their teacher. John shares he is not even worthy to undo the straps of Jesusʼ sandals let alone carry them! Whose sandals do you carry? Who do you listen to as your ʻteacherʼ? What life lessons or teaching would you like to ask about at this point in your life journey?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide: Feast of Christ the King

Dan.7:13-14, Rev. 1:5-8, John 18:33-37

See the source image

Reflection Questions

  • As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, there is an urgency in the readings to ‘prepare’ and ‘be ready’ for the end of time. Fr Anthony De Mello, a famous preacher and teacher once began a retreat by asking: Hands up if you want to go to heaven. All eagerly put their hands up. He responded. Hands up if you want to go to heaven now. No hands went up. He suggested they think about why they were ‘not ready’ and he walked out of the room! If Jesus’ birth at Christmas was also the ‘second coming’ what would you be inspired to do so that you were ‘ready’ for Christ?
  • The Book of Daniel is written to encourage Jewish people during a time of great persecution. Mighty armies, Kings, powerful empires would cease and be
    silenced by the ‘Son of Man’. This is an enthronement vision of Jesus before God the Father. In the midst of super-powers and battles for resources and status do you view the world and history with ‘hope’ that the way of Jesus will be victorious? When you look at the cross of Jesus do you see only pain? Or victory?
  • Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning ‘revelation’ or ‘unveiling’. Apocalyptic writing seeks to give hope to those suffering. It will end. Jesus will triumph.
    This truth has been ‘unveiled’ in visions which make up the Book of Revelation. 666 (the Beast) was the spelling of Nero Caesar in the Semitic alphabet who blamed Christians for the devastating fires of Rome around 90 AD. Domitian who persecuted Christians in the East around 95 AD was thought to be Nero come back to life. What form of persecution do you experience as a Christian? How may the words of Revelation encourage you: Jesus (was) is faithful. Was raised from death. Rules over all kings. Loves, frees and forgives our sins by his blood. Made  us priests – called to bring the world to God and God to the world. How could your persecution become an opportunity for witness? For God?
  • In Year B readings on the Feast of Christ the King, Mark readings are left aside in favour of the Gospel of John and a curious debate about the meaning of ʻKingʼ. Jesus is face-to-face with Pilate symbolising secular and political power. Pilate asks: Is Jesus a ʻworldly kingʼ or the mysterious Jewish figure spoken of as Messiah? Jesus teaches ʻkingʼ and ʻkingdomʼ need a new definition to cope with Godʼs viewpoint. Such a king and kingdom has not existed in ʻthe worldʼ. The Kingdom of God involves not being served, but serving. Non violence. The true ʻKingʼ is one who gives his life ʻfor othersʼ not seeking wealth comfort and personal security. Jesus ʻcame into the worldʼ to bring this reality and truth into existence. What ʻkingdomʼ do you ʻbelongʼ to? Domination, Power, Prestige or Love, Justice, Service? Pilate or Jesus? Is the kingdom better expressed in words or actions?
  • Pilate will soon wash his hands in water and pretend not to be involved in the brutality and bloodshed soon to happen to Jesus. How do you pretend not to be involved in the injustices of the world in the newspaper, television news? Consider the phrase: early christians followed before they worshipped, Christians today worship and refuse to follow.
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
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