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Archive for the ‘lent’ Category

Discussion Guide:  Palm Sunday – The Lord’s Passion

Image result for The Lord's passion

Reflection Questions:

• On Palm Sunday we wave ʻpalmsʼ in remembrance of Jesusʼ procession into Jerusalem. We cry ʻHosannaʼ (in Hebrew meaning ʻSave Us Now). What is your expectation of God ʻsaving usʼ? Are you willing to let go of a strong powerful military figure and allow a ʻsuffering servantʼ? On a donkey? What do you think happened in the minds and hearts of the crowd gathered to eventually cry ʻcrucify him!ʼ?

• Palm Sunday is also called ʻPassionʼ Sunday as we listen to the whole story of Jesusʼ personal betrayal by his disciples, his court appearance before religious and political rulers, his rejection by previously welcoming crowds, his cruel whipping and torture by soldiers. Watch, listen, feel the violence. Where does such cruelty originate from in the world? Why does the world seek a ʻvictimʼ?

• ‘He made no answer’. The silence of Jesus as Pontius Pilate questions and interrogates him is striking. Have you ever been tempted to argue your way out of a difficult situation to ‘save yourself.’ Jesus’ silence is a deep act of trust in God. How would you have behaved in this situation?

• It may be a surprise to learn that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as a bunch of revolutionaries from Galilee, hanging out in parks, carrying swords, wanted and hunted by police. How would such a group be considered today? In the Church?

• Jesusʼ sufferings ʻunmasksʼ and reveals the worldʼs violence and cruelty. Jesus responds peacefully in interrogation. Heals a soldier’s ear. Asks the Father to forgive. Welcomes criminals to heaven. Commits his spirit into the hands of the Father. Is Jesus a ʻdoor-matʼ or a ʻsaviourʼ? How?

• Soldiers make a game of teasing Jesus. He is stripped, humiliated, hit, played with as a ‘game’. Consider in the world today soldiers abusing innocent people. Can you feel their pain. Pray for them and soldiers in places of terror and oppression today.

• Simon from Cyrene did not want to lift the heavy wooden cross of Jesus. Have you ever felt you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a heavy job? Has someone in great need crossed your path recently? Do you run away from people suffering?

• The veil of the sanctuary was a large thick curtain that separated the ‘holy of holies’ from the rest of the temple. It was the sacred place where God’s presence was known to dwell sitting on the mercy seat’ (that held the 10 commandments). The gospel of Matthew paints with words the truth that here on the cross is the new ‘mercy seat’ where God dwells. Spend time with a crucifix this week and ponder what you see.

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

Discussion Guide: Believe and You Will See the Glory of God

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Reflection Questions:

• Ezekiel is an interesting person. He was both a prophet and a priest. He was also taken away with the first group of Israelites into exile. He shares a positive and hopeful message to his people. God will turn this situation around. Name a difficult struggle you experience in your life. Can you see a slow transformation and wisdom in the midst of your suffering? What does the deep voice of the spirit invite you to do so you can ‘rise from your grave’?

• St Paul uses the word ‘flesh’ (sarx) to mean people who have a self-centred orientation towards the world. Frequently those who live this way make themselves, their senses and pleasure, their ‘idol’ / god. Those who live directed by the spirit of Christ are turned outward in love and ‘self-lessness’. Ponder the powerful bodily image of arms wrapped around yourself tightly, or arms open and outstretched in embrace of the world. How do you live your life? How is your almsgiving this lent?

• In the Gospel of John Jesus performs 7 signs. Each sign is a fulfillment of a Messianic hope from the Old Testament. Each sign reveals the presence of God in Jesus. Today is the 7th and most important sign. Jesus overcomes death. And only God can overcome death! Place yourself in this gospel story. If you were really there in this scene what questions would you ask? What would you believe from this experience?

• Martha’s questions reveal a growing knowledge of who Jesus really is. She begins with Jesus as someone close to God – “whatever you ask, God will give to you.” Jesus responds to Mary’s belief in the resurrection on the last day with a powerful statement: Mary, the one who is in charge of the resurrection is looking at you! I AM the resurrection and the life. And to prove it, Jesus raises Lazarus. What does Jesus wish to reveal to Mary? Do you see the ‘sign’ and believe what it is pointing to?

• The Rabbis believed and taught that the spirit and breath of life hovered around a dead body for three days. Waiting for 4 days can be understood as Jesus ensuring everyone knew Lazarus had truly died. Twice Jesus is ‘perturbed’ or angry that someone he loves has been tied hand and foot and buried.(A symbol of what sin and death can do to us.) Untie him and let him go becomes a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s promise (1st reading) and an image of what Jesus can do personally for each disciple. What tomb am I in?What cloths bind me up? Who might God be using to ‘take away the stone’ blocking me from joy and life?

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

Discussion Guide: 4th Sunday of Lent – Arise…from the darkness!

Image result for from darkness to light

 

Reflection Questions:

• Anointing with oil and ‘eyes being opened’ are part of the special journey in Lent for candidates asking for baptism at Easter. For those already baptized, these readings teach us about the deep meaning of our own baptism.

• Samuel was the young boy who sat in the temple and was taught how to listen to God’s voice. He became one of the greatest prophets because ‘he never let a word spoken to him by God fall to the ground’. Today he is told by God to do a very dangerous action – high treason! While King Saul was still alive, Samuel was to go to Bethlehem and anoint another King. Are you open to being shocked by what God plans for you? Samuel was told to fill his horn with oil and go… what do you think God is asking of you?

• Samuel had previously anointed King Saul who was tall and handsome ‘head and shoulder above the rest’. He may have been tempted, or had truly learnt a lesson not to judge a person by their ‘appearance’. God sees beyond appearance into a person’s heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.

• St Paul writes about the difference in a person’s life before knowing Jesus. Imagine you are in an unfamiliar house and need to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not knowing where the light switch is you knock into chairs and hard edged furniture. You walk slowly and carefully. Now, turn the light switch on and you walk differently. Peacefully. Confidently. ‘Arise…from death and darkness, Christ will give you light’. Imagine the experience of  see. This was the experience the early church said happened through Baptism preparation for each adult.

• Around the year 85-90 Jewish Christians were excluded from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The man born blind became a very special story and symbol of life being changed by Jesus. The blind man considers Jesus a ‘man’. Then recognizes him as a ‘prophet’. Finally he believes Jesus to be truly the Son of Man – the promised Messiah (anointed one). He calls him Lord (the name of God) and worships him. As a result the blind man becomes rejected by the Pharisees, his family and the community’. They threw him out…. How has your faith journey grown in understanding of Jesus? Would you be willing to endure rejection or persecution for your belief? What do you think happened to the blind man? Can you identify with any of his Christian experience?

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

Discussion Guide: Thirsting for God?

Image result for the samaritan woman at the well modern

Reflection Questions:

• ‘A goal without a plan is still a dream’. Reflect on your experience of Lent so far. How would you evaluate your Lenten journey and commitment? What has worked well and could be practised more?

• People ‘grumbled’. Moses, heavy with the experience of leading God’s people is frightened he will get stones thrown at him! Wisdom is shared with Moses. Go ahead of the people with some wise people. Get away from the grumbling voices. Do grumbling or criticizing voices pull you down and make you feel sad? How could you walk away from complaining voices this Lent, select some ‘wisdom voices’ (elders), and get on with the job of providing water for people to drink and survive?

• St Paul paints a picture for our imagination. Have you ever had someone love you and show continued kindness even when you were rebelling against them? Imagine if this person was willing to ‘die’ to ‘win you over’? Have you ever considered just how precious and ‘loveable’ you are that God would be willing to die for you? This historical event is located at the cross. Consider visiting a catholic church and spending time with the ‘stations of the cross’.

• Samaritans were considered unclean and unworthy because they were historically Jewish people that had inter-married with non believers in the area of Samaria. Jews would normally avoid close contact and speech with Samaritans and refused to allow them into the temple in Jerusalem. A conversation begins around ‘water’ a symbol of the life giving relationship with God. In the
‘heat of the day’ where do you go to find rest and water? What is your ‘Jacobs well’?

• It is possible that the Samaritan woman has chosen to collect water at the most inconvenient time under the midday sun to avoid the company of other women. Has she had experiences of ejection or  gossip? Life has been hard for her. She wants to ‘never be thirsty or have to keep coming here’. This Lent ask yourself the two deep questions of spiritual direction: What do you want? Where do you hurt? Consider writing in a special journal your answers to these two special questions.

• Some scripture scholars suggest that the 5 husbands the woman has already had, is actually the 5 different ‘gods’ which have influenced the Samaritans by their inter-marriage with ‘outsiders’ and their ‘gods’. Jesus says He is ‘I AM’ which is the Divine Name given by God to Moses. What do you think this means?

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

Discussion Guide: Listen to Him 

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Reflection Questions

Abram (later to be given a new name Abraham) experiences the first ‘call’. It becomes the ‘pattern’ of each person God continues to ‘call’, move, inspire. God seems to want each of us to ‘move’ from our current place which could be psychologically, spiritually, geographically. In the season of Lent what would it mean for you to ‘Go forth from the land of your family, your home’? What attachments may be stopping you hearing God’s ‘call’?

• God promises a response to those who respond to the mystery of divine inspiration – blessing! The word is mentioned 5 times. How could your life become more of a ‘blessing’ so that others might remember your life as a beautiful legacy. Have you considered how the name ‘christian’ is honored or dishonored through your life and example. How could those who bear the name of ‘Christ’ (Christian) make a huge impact on the world during Lent? Traditionally the practices of prayer, fasting and giving are meant to do this. What would you suggest?

• ‘Bear your share of hardship for the gospel’. Do you know anyone or any project that is experiencing ‘hardship’ in trying to bring God’s love to the world? It often requires great sacrifice and walking in faith like Abram into unclear territory’. In this season of lent how could you learn about, give generously, ‘bear the burden’ so as to bring God’s blessing upon the world? If you made a decision to give are you willing to give so that you share in a little insecurity and discomfort so as to bring others into security and comfort?

• Peter, James and John are three disciples Jesus chooses to give a special experience of who he truly is. A ‘mountain’ or ‘high place’ was symbolic of a place where one can ‘be in touch with God’. Where is a ‘place’ where you feel close to God and helps you ‘listen’ to yourself and God?

• Jewish people remembered living in tents in the 40 years of wandering in the desert. They believed God would come among them and look after them again with the coming of the Messiah. They thought Moses or Elijah would come again. Peter acknowledges Jesus’ true identity. White symbolizes divinity and Jesus being truly God among us. What are you waiting for God to ‘do’ for you? Can you identify ways God is showing himself present and active now in your life?

• The disciples were ‘afraid’. Have you ever been ‘afraid’ of breaking a love relationship with someone close to you? This is called ‘holy fear’. How could you live a ‘holy fear’ this lent?

• 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: Turn Away From Sin

Reflection Questions:

• The journey of Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Have you recognised the significance of wearing a cross of ‘ashes’? Ashes symbolise a connection with the earth and being ‘humble’. The cross points to a life of sacrificial love with wide open arms embracing the world. What does living humbly mean for you? Is your life lived tightly closed up or with arms wide open?

• A goal without a plan is still a dream. Many people line up at the beginning of the lent ‘race’ but do not make much progress from the start line. What is your plan for Lent? Will this lead you into a ‘deep transformation’ or a mere ‘shallow show’?

• Genesis shares a truth about sin using a story. Have you ever noticed that the best the serpent can do is talk and try to make people doubt God? “Did God really tell you…..” The serpent actually as no power other than suggestion. What voices and fears do you need to turn off this Lent? How will you listen to God?

• For St Paul, Life and Death represent two different directions. Toward God (righteousness) and away from God (sin). Jesus has actually destroyed death by becoming human and offering his life in forgiveness. There is no more distance. Jesus rising from the dead reveals death actually has no power at all. Lent is an opportunity for intensive spiritual living towards what is life-giving. What relationships in your life are not right? Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you know what to bring to the sacrament of reconciliation this Lent.

• In the original Greek, the word is ‘tested’ rather than ‘tempted’. A ‘test’ or trial can reveal what decisions and choices are made. We become aware of whether we are ‘ready’ for a challenge or responsibility to be given to us. Is being ‘led by the spirit into the desert’ of your heart positive or negative for you? Have you tried a daily practice of silence to listen to the voices of your heart? What happens for you in silence?

• ‘Command these stones to become loaves’. Fasting is a remedy for being controlled by food and satisfying our ‘body’. Our bodies are good but we are not to become slaves to every sensual pleasure. Rather than a focus on diet or weight loss, how could you ‘stop’ some activities to ‘start’ some more positive activities?

• ‘Throw yourself down’ is pretending that everything is ok and God will look after me no matter what I do. Am I responsible? You are where you are because you have chosen it. What do you need to take responsibility for this Lent?

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

Discussion Guide: God’s Astonishing Mercy

Readings: Is. 43:16-21, Phil. 3:8-14, Gospel Jn 8:1-11

Image result for Jesus "Go and sin no more"

Reflection Questions

• Chapters 40-55 are a special part of the Book of Isaiah. While still away from their homeland struggling with life in exile in Babylon, Isaiah invites people to understand God ‘is doing something new’. Have you ever wanted things to ‘return to the way they were’ when chariots and horseman of Egypt were beaten up by God? If you had to ‘see’ new ‘rivers’, current experiences that are forming you, what would you identify? Do you allow yourself to see difficult times as experiences that can grow you eventually into ‘praise’?

• In his previous life as a Pharisee, Paul would have treasured living all 613 Jewish laws taught by Moses. He would have had honor and status in the community. This is now colourfully referred to as ‘rubbish’. (Literally the word means scraps thrown to dogs). Paul’s life is now aimed toward ‘being taken possession of by Jesus’. Have you ever desired to be ‘fully taken over by God’? How could you pursue this as a ‘goal’? Paul reflects this reality of possession is not ‘taken’ but received as a gift. What part of your life would you like to ask the Spirit into this Lent?

• In the season of Lent special readings are chosen to hopefully puncture our lives so that we let in God’s mercy. The Prodigal Son is now followed this week
with the Woman caught in Adultery. Both readings reveal an unexpected forgiveness.

• Early in the morning people starting coming to Jesus in the temple area and listened to his teaching. In this last week of Lent how could you bring yourself into the presence of Jesus to ‘listen’ and ask for guidance. Is there a church in your neighbourhood, on your way to work which can help you achieve this?

• Scribes and Pharisees believed following Laws strictly would bring a person into ‘holiness’. They were upset Jesus spent time with those doing the opposite (sinners). They test him publicly if he keeps the Laws Moses commanded. They wish to maintain a way of relating to God that puts people into ‘holy’- right -and ‘sinners’ – wrong. Love and mercy is abandoned in favour of judgment and punishment. Jesus beautifully takes away all ‘holy’ pretending as he knows we all sin. Faced with this deep truth we meet God’s response. Consider praying vulnerably in the context of your own life: neither do I condemn you. What is your response to someone when you realise they do not judge you but love you?

• Can you remember a time when your relationship with God changed away from a focus on sin toward a deeper knowing of forgiveness? What has been the deepest experience you have had of the Mercy of God? Do you allow the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help you move beyond guilt into wisdom and forgiveness?

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

N.B.  in communities that are welcoming candidates for Baptism at Easter, different readings may be used for the ‘Rite of Scrutinies’ this Sunday.

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: Repent and Bear Fruit

Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15, 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12, Gospel Lk 13:1-9


Reflection Questions

  • In our first reading God meets Moses at the mountain of God; while Moses was simply carrying out his duties tending the flock, something caught his attention and he investigated. How attentive are you to God communicating in your everyday life?
  • God explains to Moses that this revelation is not completely new but rather is in continuity with the history and experience of the Jewish people. (I AM the God of your fathers…). Moses ‘hid his face’ ‘afraid to look at God’. Reverence and awe before the sacred and acceptance of historical continuity in community are not easy concepts in today’s Western culture. Why is it so important that our spiritual experiences be tested within a historical community of continuity? How much do these concepts challenge you and why?
  • God chooses to reveal the Divine Name to Moses; “I AM WHO I AM.” It is so sacred to Judaism that they use initials ‘YHWH’. What does it mean when
    someone shares their name with you? How have you encountered God so far during Lent?
  • When we listen to God do we take on the role of passive spectator OR actively engage with God as a change agent. Moses shared with God that he felt too
    weak and unable to talk properly. God provides answers to all Moses’ issues. How has God asked something of you lately? Have you freely explained your concerns to God and who might you ask to help you be obedient to fulfilling God’s will?
  • The Corinthian community was becoming comfortable. They assumed that receiving Baptism and celebrating Eucharist was all one needed to be saved. St Paul reminds them of the dangers of presuming salvation. Our Hebrew ancestors did this and they “were struck down in the desert”. This is a warning, we need to continually try to cooperate with God. Are you feeling comfortable in your faith? What lifestyle choice or action could you make to express a more committed following of Jesus?
  • The theme of God’s judgment enters Lent in this passage of Luke. Pilate had killed religious revolutionaries from Galilee while they were offering
    sacrifices to God in the temple. That event was compared to a tower falling over near the Temple (pool of Siloam) killing 18 people. They asked Jesus if
    these people were sinners, and if God was punishing them. Jesus provides a shocking answer. We are all going to die and receive judgment before God. It
    is urgent and your first concern is to be found ‘ready’. Are you?  If not, why not?
  • The fig tree, the only tree mentioned in the the garden of Eden, is at the same time a symbol of the promised Land, God’s people, & the blessing of God. In the parable, can you see yourself as the fig tree? Who do you think the gardener is? It took about 3 years for a fig to fruit. By God’s mercy it is given more time – but it is still under judgment. Consider God’s call on each of us as disciples. What is it like to know God is merciful? How is God fertilizing and cultivating you? What fruit are we are asked to produce?
  • In ancient times people thought God was vengeful & punishing. Jesus says God is NOT this way. He shares the importance of people moving away from sin and destructive patterns of guilt and blame. Repent means literally ‘to turn your life around’. What would you like to turn ‘from’ and ‘toward’?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

www.livingtheword.org.nz    Livingtheword download and resources this week are by Fr Frank Bird sm, Marist Priest, and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD,

Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com They are distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.  www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide:(10th March 2019) 1st Sunday of Lent-Listen: How is the Spirit calling you?

DT 26:4-10, Rms 10:8-13, Gospel LK 4:1-13

Reflection Questions 

See the source image

• The book of Deuteronomy shares one of the most important statements of faith in the Old Testament. It was spoken every time a person gave their offering to the priest in the Temple. It reminded them of their identity and how God ‘saved’ them. Bringing the tithe (tenth) of the harvest to the temple acknowledged God’s care and provision. How could you express this religious practice of thankfulness – ‘tithing’ (giving a 10th)? Dt 26: 12-15 invites giving to the levite (priest), the foreigner (refugee), the orphan and the widow (those without family and financial support). This is at the heart of the Lenten practice of ‘almsgiving’. How generous will you be in giving of your time, talent, money, compassion… this Lent as a way of ‘thanksgiving’ for what God has given you?
• Paul’s letter to the Romans is a careful explanation of how we are made right with God. Justification by keeping the ‘law’ was deeply ingrained in Jewish consciousness and history. Paul reminds us that it is faith in God’s covenantal relationship with us in Jesus that saves us. In a relationship, what is the difference between ‘law’ and ‘love’? Do you ‘enjoy-love’ your relationship with God? Does a ‘love’ relationship need to respect any ‘law’? What word or image would describe your relationship with God ‘now’ as the journey of Lent begins?
• Jesus in the desert provides us with the starting point of Lent. Consider how you can create some ‘desert’ space in your life, away from distractions and noise, to be with God and discover your ‘true’ self? What is 1 decision you can make to enter the Lenten ‘desert’?
• Careful reflection on Jesus’ temptations leads us to see a mirror conflict within ourselves between good and evil. Get bread for ‘self’. Seek power and reputation. Demand support from others. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are practices during Lent to deconstruct our false self and reconstruct our true self. Almsgiving enables the hungry at our door and beyond to be fed and healed. Fasting turns us from worldly consumerism to clarity of purpose and compassion for others. Prayer tunes us into God’s vision and voice. From Jesus’ temptations, which core temptation do you notice strongly at work in your life? Which Lenten practice do you need?
• Repent literally means ‘change your mind’. It could be understood as ‘turn your value system around completely – 180 degrees’. As Lent begins, Jesus guides us: there is more to life than satisfying our ‘bread-belly’ and physical or material cravings. What creative fasting experience could you create to nourish your spirit and soul journey?
• Returning from the great baptism event in the Jordan, Jesus would have faced pressure to get active and do things. Interestingly his choice was to listen to
where the Holy Spirit deep inside was calling. Are you faced with a temptation to ‘perform’ and be a certain type of person in public? Whose voice is the Spirit and what is the Desert for you?
• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?