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Archive for the ‘Love for the Poor’ Category

Discussion Guide:   5th Sunday Yr. A : Go, Savour and Light Your World

 

 

Be salt and light.... (Matthew 5:13-16) www.facebook.com/TheGoodNewsCartoon | Salt and light, Light of the world, Knowing god

Reflection Questions:      • Isaiah chapter 58 is a very significant chapter for the church community. Isaiah is writing to the Jewish community that has returned to Jerusalem after exile, built the new temple, but forgotten what real worship and honouring of God involves. The prophet invites us to ‘share’ our bread with the hungry not ‘give’ bread to the hungry. There is a big difference. One sits down and enters a relationship. Another gives ‘charity’, closes the door and remains at a distance from the ‘poor’ ‘homeless’ ‘naked’ ‘person in need’. Have you experienced the difference between ‘giving’ and ‘sharing’? Have you seen or do you know someone in real need at the moment? Is there a member of your family, close friend whom you are ‘turning your back on’?

• In the time of St Paul, great travelling preachers and philosophers would delight the crowd with grand speeches and words of wisdom. Paul tried only to speak of Jesus and the great and humble love of God revealed in Jesus crucified. Putting aside arguments, personalities, theologies, can you say you have discovered the person of Jesus and the beautiful forgiving love of the cross? What happened? Who (could) help(ed) you?

• Salt has a very different meaning in the time of Jesus than it does today. Salt was so valuable it was used in Roman times instead of ‘money’ to purchase goods. It acted as a preservative stopping food ‘turning rotten’. Significantly it was also mixed with camel and donkey ‘dung’ because it has catalytic properties which helped the ‘dung’ burn as fuel for cooking ovens. Part of the process involved dung being thrown onto a salt block. Eventually the block lost its ‘saltiness’ and was thrown out onto the road and was trampled upon. What image of salt inspires you and helps you understand your Christian calling: being a presence that stops the world turning rotten? Mixing with dung to produce a fire?

• Jerusalem, the special city on the hill-top, the place of the Temple and ‘dwelling place’ of God is often pictured in the Old Testament as a ‘light’ for the world. It is ridiculous to light a lamp and then ‘hide it’ under your bed. A light guides. Welcomes. Protects. Shows a pathway. Stops us knocking into sharp objects in the dark! ‘Jerusalem’ is the ‘church’ but also the ‘individual Christian disciple’. How can your ‘light’ be uncovered? What ‘good deeds’ have you always wanted to do? What would you like to do so that others may give praise and thanks to God for
your life?

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

Discussion Guide:    2nd Sunday Advent Yr. A : How ‘On Fire’ Are You For God?

 

The Paraclete - the Holy Spirit - Main Street UMC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide:    31st Sunday Yr. C – Do You Run To See Jesus?

 

Don't Stimulate the Evil out of Others — Luke 19:1-10 Jesus and Zacchaeus – Matlana"s Blog

Reflection Questions:  • The writer of the book of Wisdom is sharing the special insights of Jewish thinking to a society heavily influenced by Greek thinking. Greek thought promoted dualism. The human body was evil and continually dragged the mind and spirit down to earth. The result was a thinking and feeling that there was a large gap between humanity and God. Too large to be bridged! What do you think?

• Have you ever pondered how magnificent God is in creating and sustaining all of ʻcreationʼ? Have you ever created something and felt a deep connection to it because it is ʻyour creationʼ? If the same is true for God, what does this mean for Godʼs relationship to you personally?

• 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the earliest letters we have in the New Testament. A fear had taken over the community that the final ʻday of the lordʼ was here. Some had left their jobs. Have you had an unsettling faith experience which shook your mind and caused you ʻalarmʼ? How did you cope? Did you choose to walk through it or around it?

• The Gospel of Luke continues to share with us the relationship that Jesus and God has with ʻtax collectorsʼ (who were considered the greatest sinners and outcasts because they taxed Jewish people and gave this money to the occupying Roman soldiers and government).

• Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector of the large city of Jericho. He would have been extremely wealthy. And yet he does something extremely humbling – he climbs a tree. He publicly admits he is short in front of the large crowd. He exposes himself to ridicule in his effort of seeking Jesus. Life changing meetings with Jesus are often the result of extraordinary actions by gospel characters. What made Zaccheaus climb the tree? Instead of climbing the tree, what action could you take to get closer to Jesus? What is the risk or fear that could stop you?Who could give you support or advice?

• For Jesus, seeking out and saving the lost was not an ʻideaʼ but a lived reality. To the greatest ʻsinnerʼ in Jericho, he says: Zacchaeus…. today I must stay at your house. What does this teach us about Jesusʼ understanding of his mission? What does this teach us about the mission of the Church today? What conversion needs to go on within you to live out this mission of the Church?

• Salvation is not something that happens in the far distant future. Jesus says it happens ʻtodayʼ for Zacchaeus with his actions in response to Jesus. He gives half his property to the poor and promises to pay the full price of compensation that Roman law states (four times the original
amount). Living salvation ʻtodayʼ is radical. A daily response to the love of God revealed in Jesus and his life-style challenging gospel message. The one who was outside is ʻinsideʼ. Can you be at home in this inclusive community of the Church? What will you do if a modern ʻtax collectorʼ does not ʻrepentʼ?

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

Discussion Guide:    26th Sunday Yr. C – Complacency has Eternal Consequences

 

Sermo Veritas — Gospel Luke 16:19-31 Jesus said to the Pharisees:...

Reflection Questions:    • Amos continues his public speech in Jerusalem against the incredibly wealthy who are so ʻsatisfiedʼ with beautiful beds, couches, food, wine, concerts and cosmetics. ʻThey are not made ill by the collapse of their fellow people (Joseph)ʼ. How can wealth create a ʻblindnessʼ to the poor? Can you remember any experience where you had your eyes opened to the cry of the poor? What happened?

• Godʼs covenant relationship in Dt. 15:4 stated that ʻthere should be no poor among you because the Lord will richly bless youʼ. Implied in this is that the richly blessed share with others to ensure all are provided for. How aware are you that our Christian commitment /covenant involves a social obligation / covenant toward the ʻpoorʼ? What are you doing to make that commitment practical ?

• Some scholars consider this passage from Timothy could come from an ordination ceremony. Who might be your Pontius Pilate? Do you have ʻcourageunder fireʼ to give your testimony and confess your faith in difficult situations? Where and when have you found it hard?

• Purple clothing was the ultimate sign of luxury and wealth because its source was a rare shellfish and insect being crushed. It showed status in the way ʻbrandedʼ clothing and luxury merchandise distinguish a person of wealth today. What symbols today mean great wealth to you? What part of the economic ʻsystemʼ are you in? How does wealth and status impact you?

• The Great Reversal of fortunes is a theme of the Gospel of Luke. The Rich will be brought low, the poor will be lifted up. However it is not riches themselves that are the problem (Abraham himself was a very rich man!). It is allowing wealth to so preoccupy and claim ones attention and energy that the needs of others go unnoticed. The rich man clearly knew Lazarus because he uses his name. However he refused to share his wealth and his conscience is dulled to conversion or compassion. The Rich Man claims he had no warning about the reversal. If this parable describes what will happen in the after-life, what does it demand of us today? How are you wealthy and what would it take for you to share it? We are charged to give to the poor not just because they need it, but because it is essential to our own salvation. Have you considered the difference between charity and true justice which recognizes that we are intrinsically in solidarity with every member of the human family who have equal rights to the goods of the earth? The gulf between rich and poor is immense. What can I change around me?

• How might the Parable of Lazarus challenge our Eucharistic Communities? The parish is charged with the care of every soul within its geographic boundary? Are we wealthy in Godʼs great blessing and Eucharistic Banquet? Who do we share with? Do we drive vehicles yet fail to arrange transport for those in need? Are we wearing fashion clothes, and enjoying coffees, while nearby, people struggle to feed, clothe or house their family? In Luke, Jesus refuses to allow his disciples to be satisfied with the worlds default settings. Every 6th line of Luke’s Gospel is a challenge to reach out to the poor in either charity or justice. What are your obstacles to deeper conversion to solidarity and justice for the poor?

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

Discussion Guide:      25th Sunday Yr. C – Mercy and Money Matters

 

Luke 16:1-13 « Gospel Reflection

Reflection Questions:    • When Amos preached, Israel was prosperous and at peace with its neighbours. Amos, whose ʻday-jobʼ was to look after orchard trees, was upset at the growing gap between the rich and poor. He decided to go the city of Jerusalem to shout out his concerns. False weights in scales, selling the poor as slaves because they could not pay their debt, selling to the poor the food scraps off the floor of the wheat barns of the rich. Banks trading money, mortgagee sales of those unable to pay interest on their home loans, the rich forcing the poor further into slavery who are only able to buy 2 minute noodles for their families. Do you ʻseeʼ what is happening in society? What is your response to God who says ʻI will never forget a thing they have done!ʼ How does God feel? How do you feel?

• Timothy is a young man left by St Paul to lead and guide the community at Ephesus. He is trying to keep the Christian community together. Some believed they had special knowledge and should have more importance in the community. Others were promoting civil disobedience, not wanting to go along with Roman authorities and governmental structures. On Sunday do you lift up holy hands without anger or argument?

• Jesusʼ Parable of the Crafty Steward provides Luke with an opportunity to combine the themes of Mercy and Money. Godʼs mercy and care for Godʼs people is to be mirrored by the material care and support of the poor by Godʼs people. This is the ʻcovenantʼ or ʻarrangementʼ Godʼs people are to live by (the reason for Prophet Amos going to Jerusalem in the first reading). Are you in relationship with anyone who is ʻpoorʼ and in need? What might living this covenant mean for you?

• The rich man has a dishonest steward, but Jesus concludes by praising some of the dishonest steward’s actions. The steward has just lost his job. Before everyone finds out, he has a crafty but risky plan. He will not charge the full interest and commission on the debt. He will win friends and those in debt will also praise the honour of the rich land owner believing that the master is truly honorable in not charging them interest on their ʻloanʼ. Jesus comments that worldly people are often more creative and faithful to their goals and use of money to build ʻtheir kingdomʼ than are spiritual people. How could you creatively use money to build the ʻKingdom of Godʼ. Have you considered any creative fund raising project which could serve the poor? Have you shared your wealth and shown a preferential option for the poor recently?

• In the Gospel of Luke, the best use of money is to use it in the service of lifting up the poor. In doing this you will also be ʻrich in the sight of Godʼ – and you will be truly welcomed into your ʻeternal dwellingʼ in heaven. Do you connect Mercy and Money? Have you considered what standard of living is ʻenoughʼ so that you may have something to share with the poor and those in need? How could you be a ʻcrafty stewardʼ of your resources and lifestyle so that you please God and the poor?

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

Discussion Guide:    The Transforming power of Mercy and Compassion…

 

Come Home" A Modern Version of the Prodigal Son

Reflection Questions:    • God’s inexhaustible patience and mercy are the key to todays’ readings. In Exodus God revealed his ʻnameʼ and ʻfaceʼ to Moses and gave the 10 Commandments. But the people lose patience and give up waiting for Moses to return to them. In their eyes God and Moses has disappointed and abandoned them. They resolve their own solution to their issues making an ʻidolʼ of a golden calf – an ancient symbol of fertility, life and fruitfulness. Moses pleads for his stiff-necked people and God responds with mercy. Have you had an experience of ʻwaitingʼ for an answer or being disappointed by God? Have you ever lost patience with God, or felt abandoned and decided to take things into your own hands? What were the results for you and for those around you?

• Is there anything today you are ʻwaitingʼ for God to show you? Are you listening to his ʻwordʼ? Can you share your disappointment with God? Or perhaps there is a Moses figure God has placed in your life to help and guide you? Are you seeking their wise counsel and prayer for your needs? Who do you know that may be far from God, off on their own track or even blaspheming God? How often do you respond like Moses and plead for them in prayer?

• In the 2nd reading Paul writes as a mentor to his ‘child in faith’, Timothy. He shares his wisdom born of personal experience about God’s ‘inexhaustible patience’ and mercy. Who has shared their experience of the mercy of God with you? How have you experienced God’s compassion and patience? With whom, and how are you called to share that message?

• In these Parables of Mercy – Jesus shatters our misconceptions about the image of God. In striving for efficiency and profit, who would go after 1 lost sheep? It would be ‘written off’ as a predictable percentage loss. Who would ‘waste’ productivity to hunt for 1 coin? Who would welcome without question a son or daughter who wished their parents dead and disgraced the family in public?! Jesus reveals the true image of who God is – inexhaustibly patient filled with compassion and longing to find whoever is lost, embracing with tender mercy all who have sinned. What is your ʻimageʼ of God? How did that image form? What attracts you in how Jesus presents His Father in Luke 15?

• In teaching on this Gospel Pope Francis said,“the Jews treated the Samaritans with contempt, considering them strangers to the chosen people” In choosing a Samaritan in the parable Jesus shocks us into recognizing our own call to overcome prejudice and that “even a foreigner; one who does not know the true God and does not attend his temple, is able to behave according to God’s will, feeling compassion for a ‘brother’ in need and helping with all the means at his disposal”. “The Pope said. “If you come across a homeless person, and pass by without looking, do not ask yourself whether that person has had too much to drink, but whether your own heart has stiffened and turned to ice,” How does that challenge you?

• Notice each character, the younger son, the older brother, the Father. Which do you identify with and why? Asking for the inheritance was like the youngest son wishing Dad ‘dead’. He makes his father appear a fool. Yet the father’s unwavering love watches longingly for the son’s return, then he runs in public which was the equivalent of ‘baring one’s bottom’. The crowds attention moves from condemnation of the son toward the foolish father. His humiliation before the whole community, including the outrage of his older son are for the sake of compassion and mercy. How could the community and older son become part of that relationship of mercy?

• Jesus wants us to know that the compassion the father has in this parable is the same love God wants to show each of us? How do you respond? In the sacrament of reconciliation God longingly waits to pour mercy & transformation into your life? What holds you back?

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

Discussion Guide:    19th Sunday Yr. C: Will You Be Found Ready?

 

Giving

 

Reflection 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 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 ʻliveʼ. 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 ʻcaretakersʼ 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?

Discussion Guide:      26th Sunday Yr. B: Seeking comfort or living compassion?

 

 

 

Reflection Questions:  • Like the Book of Exodus, the Book of Numbers is filled with God’s people complaining of life in the desert. Moses finds the experience of leadership so heavy he wishes God would allow him to die rather than carry such a heavy burden. In prayer Moses is invited to share leadership with 70 others. Have you had an experience of feeling ‘heavy’ and ‘tired’ with responsibilities and complaints? What happened? Do you have the freedom to ‘let go’, ‘share responsibilities’? Admit you are in need of help?

• Joshua, the ‘leader in training’ was jealous and protective of power and authority. Moses shares a new vision with him – wouldn’t it be great if everyone was attentive to God and spoke of God’s will and lived out their responsibilities and leadership gifts. Do you see people as problems needing correction, or, people gifted needing motivation?

• James warns of the storing up of wealth. St Basil gives a colorful reflection: If everyone kept only what is necessary for ordinary needs and left the surplus to the poor, wealth and poverty would be abolished…. Are you not a thief? The bread you store belongs to the hungry. The cloak kept in your closet belongs to those who lack clothing. The money you keep hidden away belongs to the needy. Thus you oppress as many people as you are in a position to help. Have you ever reflected upon what your ʻordinaryʼ needs are, and how much ʻsurplusʼ you have? Do you give to the needs of the poor?

• John is jealous that an ʻoutsiderʼ of the disciples group is obviously sharing in the power and authority of Jesus. ʻHe does not follow usʼ. He is not in our ʻgroupʼ.  Johnʼs comments reveal their misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. They still think of it as a power structure of a political kingdom with favours granted to a small group. Have you prevented or excluded someone from service, ministry, a job, because they did not ʻfollowʼ you?

• Jesus uses striking imagery to warn about being a scandal – obstacle to someone believing in Jesus. Cut off or out anything that could stop people following Jesus. What do you consider are obstacles for people coming to faith in Jesus and participating in the life of the Church? Does your life display a desire for wealth or the poor? Comfort or compassion? Arrogance or understanding? What do you need to ʻcut offʼ from your life?

• Gehenna is a place just outside of Jerusalem. Historically it was where shameful sacrifices of children were offered to the Canannite god ʻMolechʼ. It was then regarded as an unclean and sinful place. It became a rubbish tip with constantly burning fires. Jesus uses it as a symbol of ʻHellʼ. Uncomfortably, the issue of a final judgment and consequences of our life-style and actions is raised. Do I give a good or bad example of christian living? Have I caused anyone to ʻstumbleʼ in their relationship with God? How do I understand God as merciful yet also having a day of judgement?

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

Discussion Guide:    23rd Sunday Yr. B – Do Your Actions Give Hope in a Broken World?

 

 

 

Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man

Reflection Questions:    • The Prophet Isaiah is with the community of Israel as it endures exile in the foreign land of Babylon. No temple. No liturgy. God is experienced as ‘silent’. In their difficulty Isaiah reveals the hope of God rescuing his people through a promised ‘Messiah’ – anointed one – who will ‘come to save you.’ Have you experienced the ‘silence’ of God? Isaiah teaches God seeks complete restoration and wholeness: imagine blind people now seeing. Deaf hearing. Crippled leaping. Silent singing. Desert now flowing. Do you consider yourself as an agent of God’s hope for a broken world?

• James demands concrete behaviour and action. It is not enough to know and say we care for the poor. We must show it. James highlights the Christian Assembly. As we gather for worship we reveal our truth to the world: equality as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Gold rings or shabby clothing is irrelevant. Have you ‘made distinctions’ amongst friends, extended family? Do you ‘change’ when you are in the company of different people? Are you in relationship and friendship with the ‘poor’? Would they experience you as kind but still instructing them to ‘stand there’ or ‘sit at your feet’?

• An early document called ‘Statutes of the Apostles’ charged the priests with making a seat available for a poor person arriving at Church, but he did not have to go out of his way for a rich person. Why? Can you see how our liturgical gathering is to mirror the world we seek to create.

• Mark uses the same Greek word from Isaiah to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah who helps the mute speak – healing his speech impediment. Today theology and geography connect. Jesus intentionally travels back to Galilee but by a very long and unusual route stepping into ʻgentile – uncleanʼ territory. Not only would the Pharisees and those spying on him now not follow him, but like a bulldozer, he shows by his actions he will not live by the ʻcleanʼ-ʻuncleanʼ categories that label people as distant from God. Have your words of concern for the poor been transformed into practical action? What boundaries could you ʻstep overʼ to welcome in those who feel distant from God?

• Healing passages are powerful opportunities for healing in our own lives. Consider the ʻdeaf manʼ. He was lucky to have some friends. Normally illness or disease was considered the result of sin, the presence of an evil spirit. The person was shunned, isolated from family, considered ʻuncleanʼ. In addition this man could not hear or speak. A picture of the most painful experience of human life and our broken humanity. As you reflect on this passage do you identify with the deaf and mute man or the carers who ʻbrought him to Jesusʼ? Why?

• Jesus took the man ʻoff by himself, away from the crowdʼ. Saving him from embarrassment, and tenderly healing the parts of his wounded body. What parts of your life need to ʻbe openedʼ so that you may be whole, reunited and accepted with the community. What would it mean for you to be led ʻaway from the crowds for healingʼ. How could you take up this offer this week? What would it take for you to hear God. Sing Godʼs praises. Dance for joy?

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

Ash Wednesday Readings Reflection

• Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent, a six-week period (excluding Sundays) dedicated to prayer, fasting, and reflection in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum. The late Henri Nouwen described Lent as a time to ‘re-focus and re-enter a place of truth’. It is a journey of love, toward love, in love.

• Taking part in the reception of the ashes symbolizes starting the journey. What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? Share a decision and plan with a faith-friend about how you intend to enter & journey through these 40 days & cheer each other on.

• The image from the prophet Joel is an invitation for everything to come to a complete stop. Call everyone; Old, Young, Babies, Newly married, Priests in the middle of their work at the altar. The world is being invited to STOP due to Covid. How could that enforced ‘stop’ become more personal and intentional for God? What could you Stop? When? How? The image is of a special people called to be ‘light’ rather than a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Pray for the whole Christian church throughout the world during the season of renewed faithfulness. As we turn from sin to become more faithful to the Gospel may our fresh witness resonate with the people of today with the hope that ‘now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day…’.

• Imagine being an ‘Ambassador’ with the responsibility of representing and delivering crucial communication. Your witness and life-style gets challenged to be in harmony with your message. Jesus gives us an ambassadors task of proclaiming ‘on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’. Will you, as an ambassador, receive the sacrament of reconciliation during this season of Lent? How will your daily life witness to Jesus as a disciple of worship, compassion, and mercy for others?• Jesus presumes that a disciple will be doing certain actions. When you give alms… When you pray… When you fast… These traditional Lenten practices are powerful tools that help us clearly focus on what is important.

• Prayer: What voices do you listen to?
• Fasting: What things fill your life?
• Almsgiving: Do you hear the cries of those in need and respond?

• Jesus emphasizes that doing these actions in ‘secret’ will be ‘repaid’ by God. ‘In secret’ guards us from seeking attention and personal ‘glory’ from others. Lent is not to be a shallow show. But do not be afraid to share your personal Lent journey with a friend – and also encourage your friend into the depths rather than the surface show.

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

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference given to the Living the Word website.