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Archive for the ‘kingdom of God’ Category

Discussion Guide, 19th Sunday Year C: Will You Be Found Ready?

Readings: Wis. 18:6-9, Heb. 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12, Gospel Lk 12:32-48 or 12:35-40

Image result for Are you ready Luke 12Reflection Questions

• The Book of Wisdom was written to help Jews life faithfully in the midst of the big and unbelieving city of Alexandria. The strong Greek culture, pagan worship, and completely different view on life caused many Alexandrian Jews to have a crisis of faith. The writer encourages them to have courage in the ʻoaths in which they put their faithʼ and to live according to the divine commands given by God. What is your biggest struggle in living in a secular society? What particular belief, knowledge or practice is at the source of your courage to keep ʻfaithfulʼ?

• The Letter to the Hebrews is the 2nd reading for the next 4 weeks. It is a letter written to ʻHebrewsʼ to help them understand how First Testament worship is completed and overtaken by the Cross of Christ. Abraham and Sarah are both inspirational models of ʻfaithʼ. They left home not knowing where they were going, actively stepped out and searched for land, conceived a child because they believed in the promise of God rather than their human understanding. It would have been easy to sit on the couch waiting for God’s promises. Abraham and Sarah remind us to be active in our faith. Are their areas in life where you need to participate more with God? What is your next step?

• Luke continues to develop a theme of Jesusʼ teachings on wealth and greed.  Building a bigger barn to house more grain was considered foolish – it signalled a decision to move from having ʻenoughʼ to having ʻluxuryʼ, total sensual satisfaction combined with a blindness to those who do not have ʻenoughʼ to eat and drink. Have you considered moving from ʻhoping to be generousʼ to a decision ʻto be generousʼ? Opening up a ʻGod bank accountʼ? Asking your priest or friends who is in need in your local area?

• The invitation to sell your belongings and give alms is for Luke a decision to live a very different lifestyle. To throw away all plans of greed and self centeredness and live simply so others may simply ‘live’. How you ever considered voluntary poverty and simplicity of life so that
resources may be shared for others? Is there a life-style choice that you could make this week to live this invitation?

• The Christian community is recognising Jesusʼ return is not coming immediately. The parable shares an image. Disciples are to understand themselves as ʻcare- takersʼ charged with the task of ʻfood distributionʼ. Attending to this task determines where believers will spend eternity! Did you know 1 billion people are hungry every day? Ever thought of dropping off food to a ʻfood bankʼ or starting a collection in your parish?

• If entry into heaven was based on a quiz, and you knew the answers before-hand, would you practise the answers? If we are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the sick and lost – and we know this is the ʻmasters willʼ – would we be found ʻreadyʼ? Do we fear not being found ready…. are we in for a ʻsevere beatingʼ?

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

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

Discussion Guide: 18th Sunday Year C – How Big is Your Barn?

Readings: Eccl. 1:2; 2:21-23, Col 3:1-5, 9-11, Gospel Lk 12:13-21

See the source imageReflection Questions

• Ecclesiasticus comes from the Greek word for the ʻperson who gathers the assembly togetherʼ. The word ʻvanityʼ could more accurately be translated as ʻbreathʼ or ʻvapourʼ. Feel the words and the profound questioning going on in the text. Respond in one sentence what motivates and gives your life direction and purpose. What are you really living for?

• Paul continues to teach the Colossians about Baptism. The baptism ceremony involved taking off their old clothes, being plunged into water as if being plunged into the earth like Christ to ʻdieʼ. They would rise and be annointed with oil, and be clothed with the white garment of the
ʻnew selfʼ. These external signs were symbolising a change within the person. A baptised Christian is now dead to the world and alive with Christ. Consider a phrase such as ʻSport is his lifeʼ, or ʻMusic is her lifeʼ. What does it involve do have an all encompassing pursuit or hobby?
What is Paul suggesting by a favourite phrase he develops in this letter ʻChrist your lifeʼ?

• Rabbiʼs were expected to make decisions on religious and civil matters. Yet Jesus chooses not to be the ʻjudgeʼ of this inheritance dispute. He is not interested in property but he is interested in talking about ʻgreedʼ. St Paul in the second reading referred to greed as ʻidolatryʼ –
replacing God. Have you ever considered your answer to the question: ʻWhat is enough?ʼ (money, car, savings, food allowance, clothing). What is a benchmark that when you have reached it you now have a duty to ʻshareʼ? On a spectrum of ʻgetting and ʻgivingʼ where would you mark your lifestyle?

• Building up supplies, having enough to ʻrest, eat, drink, be merry!ʼ. Isnʼt this what we all hope for? Isnʼt this a nice picture of retirement? Satisfaction? And yet this text is one of the few times in the Gospels when God actually ʻspeaksʼ in a parable: “fool”. Why is personal comfort and material care of our families not enough?

• ʻI work to pay billsʼ is a humorous phrase. Yet it indicates a trap we can so easily walk into. What debts, hire purchases, possessions are you ʻworking forʼ? Are you investing your self and your fortune on projects and items that have no lasting significance?

• Being rich ʻin what matters to Godʼ is obviously not a property portfolio or a large amount of wealth. Find a way this week to open up a discussion with a friend what you think matters most to God.

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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: 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

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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?