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Archive for the ‘Love for the Poor’ Category

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.

 

Ash Wednesday – Starting the Lenten Journey

HOW DO I START?

Ash Wednesday begins Lent. It is easy for 6 weeks of Lent to pass by without really placing oneself on the ‘starting line’. Taking part in the reception of ashes symbolizes our decision to start the journey.

If you cannot be part of a service due to health or Covid issues, pray at home or find an on-line service. You can read the Scripture of the day and make the sign of the cross in some way.

It is possible to be at the starting line but not enter the race!

What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? How
can you make this more meaningful? Share a decision/plan with a
faith-friend & ask them to encourage you over the next 40 days.

IT TAKES TIME
The image from the prophet Joel 2:12-18 (1st Reading Ash Wednesday) 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. STOP!

Covid may have required an enforced STOP for you. How could make an intentional ‘stop’ at
a personal, spiritual or social level? Where? When?

The image is of a special people called to be a ‘light’ not a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Take some quiet
time to tell yourself you have started the journey and write a decision or plan for Lent.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Jesus presumes that a disciple will be doing certain actions (see Gospel for Ash Wed, Matthew
6:1-6,16-18). When you give alms…. When you pray…. When you fast….
These are the three traditional and powerful Lenten practices that help us focus on what is
important: Our relationship with God, our discipline and discipleship, our interrelationships, witness and community.

Practice of Prayer: What voices do I listen to? How much of my time do I set aside to hear God?

Practice of Fasting: What things fill my life? What is unhealthy? What do I have trouble letting go of? What needs change? Balance? How do my choices care for the environment and the poor?

Practice of Almsgiving: How do I spend my money and resources? Do I hear the cries of those in need and respond? Could I live more simply and be more generous? Do I seek Gods guidance about my financial and resource decisions?

Whether you have access to an Ash Wednesday service this year or not, try to gather with at least one other person face to face or online and give to God your commitment to begin the journey of Lent with a plan and a desire to grow as His disciple.

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 to the Living the Word website.

Discussion Guide:  Feast of Christ the King Yr. A – Can the ‘poor’ call you righteous?

 

A Modern Interpretation Of Matthew 25:31 #1852637 - PNG Images - PNGio

Reflection Questions:  • The Feast of Christ the King was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 responding to the ills of the time: The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, spread of facism, Church’s loss of political power, decadence of 1920’s. Instead of simply writing a Church document which are read by only a few, Pius XI recognised a ‘Feast’ of the Church would be celebrated by the whole Church every year and speak not only to the mind but also to the heart. At first it was celebrated at the end of October but it now rests at the very end of the Liturgical year to enhance the experience of meeting Christ at the ‘end of time’.

• In a farming culture, the image of a Shepherd and Sheep was extremely special. Israel saw it as an image of God looking after them. Ezekiel uses this image and creates a picture of what God ‘will’ do (11 times!). Tend. Rescue. Pasture. Rest. Seek out. Bring back. Bind up. Heal. Destroy. Judge. What word speaks more to your life at the moment? Have you experienced a call to shepherd  others?

•St Paul provides an image of the vital role the Church plays in history today. The ‘absence’ of Christ after his resurrection and our waiting for his final ‘return’ actually involves Christ working through the witness and works of the Church. Through our following ‘the way of Christ’ various powers and authorities are ‘overcome’ so that everything will eventually fall ‘under his feet’. What powers and sovereignties do you see at work in the world today which require christians to do ‘battle’?

• The Gospel of Matthew this year finishes with the scene of the Final Judgement. Interestingly, the final scene refers to something going on ‘now’. It is a judgement according to ‘works’ and ‘care of the poor’ (not faith and attendance at Mass). If you knew life’s final exam question for entry to heaven and it required showing ‘practical experience of care of the poor’ what would you do? Are you doing it ‘now’? Does the final question of life shock or surprise you? Matthew is pointing, finally, to Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Is your love truly extending to your neighbour in need?

• Separating sheep (honorable) from goats (shameful) was a daily ‘end of the day’ task for shepherds. Goats were not as strong and did not manage the cold. Goats allowed male goats to access other female goats which was also considered a shameful behaviour. An honorable life is a ‘righteous’ life – where we show by our actions a care for those in need. Interestingly, the title ‘righteous’ was a title given by the poor to those who helped them. At the end of time would any of the ‘poor’ stand in your defence and give you the title ‘righteous’?

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

Discussion Guide: 18th Sunday Yr. A – Jesus Abundantly Blesses Our Small Offerings

 

 

 

Loaves and Fishes 2 Painting by Graham Braddock

Reflection Questions:

• Isaiah 40-55 is known as ‘The Book of Comfort’. God will comfort and look after his people. In ancient cultures a relationship and bond of commitment was sealed by a meal together. They also acknowledged with a prayer of thanksgiving that something was sacrificed (an animal, a grain of wheat..) in order that human beings were fed. A ‘sacrifice’ enabled a ‘meal’ which established a ‘bond between the participants of a meal’. This is the basis of a ‘covenant’ meal in the Old Testament, the Last Supper and indeed the Eucharist Christians celebrate. God promises to feed us without money being paid. And to nourish us both physically and spiritually. Consider the gifts God gives you each day. How has God been ‘feeding’ you?

• St Paul himself endured being beaten, stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, imprisoned. Yet he boldly declares nothing can separate us from God’s love revealed in Christ. What current experience causes you to think and feel ‘separated’ from Christ? Does Christ on the Cross ‘bridge this gap’?

• Matthew 13 was filled with Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 14 is now concerned with the Kingdom of the Church and the mission of the Disciples. We are taught how we are to be and live.

• John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, has been killed. This sadness causes Jesus to retreat to a deserted and lonely place. Consider all the feelings of Jesus in losing a very close companion. Wanting silence and rest. Having a crowd chase after him. Tired and yet moved with pity and willing to give of himself. What do you learn about Jesus? About God? About yourself?

• John the Baptist spoke courageously reminding Herod he cannot marry his brothers wife. Why does the world seek to remove the ‘voice’ of a prophet? Have you experienced the tension and risk in being a ‘prophet’ today? What happened?

• Matthew is seeking to show Jesus as the fulfilment of Moses and all the prophets. Parallel to the feeding in the desert (Moses / Exodus) Jesus now feeds a large crowd in a ‘deserted place’ with bread. There is an abundance of food (a symbol of the great messianic age). Each Apostle is left holding one of 12 baskets of bread symbolic of the new Tribe of Israel (Church). The Disciples now have the job of feeding the hungry. Imaginatively enter the scene and pretend to be a disciple. What did you learn?

• The Disciples had a ‘poverty mentality’. Jesus had an ‘abundance mentality’ when even a small amount of resources were offered to God. Consider your response to the ‘poor and hungry’ this week. What could you do with the little you have?

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