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Archive for the ‘Love for the Poor’ Category

Discussion Guide for Breaking Barriers

Image result for Jairus

Reflection Questions

• The book of Wisdom was a book of Jewish wisdom teachings for Jews living
in the midst of Greek culture and philosophy. The question of death is pondered. Physical death does not cause an end to God’s relationship with those who belong to him. This reading links to the Gospel with Jairus’ daughter raised to life. Have you reflected the beauty of creation lately? Considered what it means that each person is made ‘in the image of God’? If all of creation belongs to God, how does this affect your relationship to creation and respect-full ‘life-style’?

• St Paul, in writing to the Corinthians was raising money for the poor church in Jerusalem. Paul’s fund-raising starting point is ‘the gracious act’ of Jesus who in his divinity was ‘rich’, yet for our sake ‘became poor’. Paul calls this Kenosis – self-emptying. Christians are to live this self-emptying. Our surplus should help relieve those who have little so that their needs are met. Christians need to practice a basic human equality. Can you glimpse how much Jesus has ‘let go’ by taking on our human condition and then suffering death? Some Christians have been so deeply called to imitate this they have chosen voluntary poverty. Have you made a decision how much you need to live on? And what to do with your
‘surplus’? Have you responded to the needs of the ‘poor’? How?

•The Gospel has two stories of great faith. Jairus was a leader of Liturgy at the Jewish Synagogue. It required great courage for him to approach Jesus as he could lose his job seeking the help of anʻoutsiderʼ to the Synagogue. He humbles himself and pleads for his sick daughter. Have you ever wanted to ask for help but were too embarrassed? What is it that really holds you back? What healing do you seek? Can you notice in the reading that healing often requires faith and action – and not just prayer alone? What does this inspire you to do?

• In ancient times many women would endure bleeding after childbirth. The unnamed women endured this condition for 12 years. In Jewish law, a flow of blood held her in a state of ritual uncleanliness. She was not to touch others as that would make them also ʻuncleanʼ. Can you glimpse her courage in seeking help? Walking secretly through the crowd? Her intense prayer and action in ʻtouching his clothesʼ? Her
embarrassment when asked to identify herself in public? Why do you think Jesus wanted to make this ʻpublicʼ?

• Jesus breaks two very significant social and religious barriers. Touching a dead person and being touched by an ʻuncleanʼ woman. He has made himself ʻuncleanʼ so as to make the ʻuncleanʼ ʻcleanʼ. Have you ever gone out of your way to the extent of being rejected so as to include and welcome those the group has ʻexcludedʼ? How does it feel? What is the cost to society of not doing this? How do
you experience the personal ʻcostʼ of creating the Kingdom of God?

• ʻAnd they ridiculed himʼ….. The people attached to the Synagogue, (12 tribes) are symbolically represented by the 12-year-old dead Jewish girl but are now invited to rise and believe in Jesus. So too the woman, excluded by the Jewish code of holiness for 12 years, is now made whole and welcomed by Jesus. A new people is born by faith. What does this teach us about Jesus? The Church?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail:contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ

Discussion Guide for 4th Sunday Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday – Acts 4:8-12, 1 Jn 3:1-2, John 10:11-18

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Reflection Questions

• The Church celebrates ʻGood Shepherd Sundayʼ today. It is an opportunity to consider service of Christ in the Church for the World through a vocation in single life, married life, priesthood, religious life. Can you think of people who are good examples for you of each vocation? Spend time in prayer praying for each one.
• Vocation means ʻcallʼ. St Ignatius teaches us that: “God writes his hopes into our deepest desires”. What does that mean in terms of what God may be calling you to? Imagine the highs and lows of each vocation – what attracts you? What desire is strongest? Are you willing to follow it?

• ʻLaying down oneʼs life for the sheepʼ is contrasted with being a ʻhired manʼ who works for pay and has no ʻconcernʼ for the sheep. What do you think is the difference between Vocation and Career? Does one
lead down and the other attempt climbing up?

• St Peter shares a building image. Very large stones were measured and cut to ʻfitʼ and be suitable for building upon. Is your life truly ʻbuiltʼ upon Jesus or is it merely ʻlookingʼ at Jesus? Does your lifestyle ʻshowʼ you are ʻGodʼs childʼ?

• One of the actions done by a good shepherd is to ʻlie downʼ in the ʻgatewayʼ of a small low fenced circle of stones to care for the sheep and protect them from harm. The good shepherd was willing to fight to the death any wolf or lion seeking to harm the sheep. It was an expectation that a child who was looking after the sheep, if attacked, was to show evidence of scratches or wolf fur to the family. Are you willing to fight and protect Godʼs family? Seek out the lost who have strayed? Stand attentive to warn of dangerous influences?

• ʻLaying down ones lifeʼ is another scriptural picture of the way Jesus lay down his life on the cross – as the good shepherd. Laying down and enduring a sleep-shortened night is something parents do for love of their children. Knowing sheep by name, sharing each day and providing nourishment and shelter. What similarities can you see between parenthood and priesthood? Does ʻlaying down your lifeʼ appeal to you or frighten you? Does love lead you – or does fear fill you?

• ʻNo-one takes it from me, I lay it down on my ownʼ. A vocation is something freely chosen. We ʻhearʼ the call of God through desire and attraction, we give ourselves to walk the journey of discovery and we
ʻtake upʼ what is involved in faithfulness to our personal calling. Fear. Iʼm not good enough. I feel stuck. I donʼt know – are all human responses. Consider reflecting on the document ʻDiscerning your vocationʼ
to show your willingness to take a further step into Godʼs call. Click here or go to http://livingtheword.org.nz/resources/
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide: Freedom for Purpose

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Jb 7:1-4, 6-7/1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23/Mk 1:29-39

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Job is very rarely seen in the Sunday Lectionary. Job is ‘successful’ with a large family, significant wealth, health, a good name and reputation. Then suffering strikes. Significantly, in the midst of his suffering Job refuses to believe that suffering is God’s punishment for sin. He is innocent. Today’s passage is Job’s cry from the depths of his personal suffering. Only through courage, perseverance and openness to God does Job recognise God is always looking after him. God is not manipulated by good or evil. Suffering is a profound mystery of being human. What sentence of Job can you identify with personally? What experience of ‘suffering’ has taught you most?
• Paul had decided not to accept money from people in the town of Corinth for hispreaching. Some later  preachers came after Paul and claimed this showed Paul did not believe in his own authority as a
messenger of God. Paul responds that he wished to highlight the difference between the message of Jesus and other ‘wandering preachers and healers’ (who demanded money for their services). It is
not ‘Paul’s message’ but ‘Christ’s message’ and he is under obligation to do this for free! Paul was careful how the message of Jesus would be received. Are you able to ‘adapt’ your witness and example to ensure Jesus is ‘received’? Can you think of an example today?

• Mark continues to show the Kingdom (Reign) of God is truly coming into the world through Jesus’ words and actions overcoming evil. This is symbolised through healing those who were sick and casting out evil spirits. People who were sick or tormented were regarded as ‘unclean’ and ‘sinful’. They were not permitted into the Temple to worship. Jesus ‘touches’ them and cures them. Now they are free to be with family and in the Temple. They can now participate fully in the life of the community. Does your life heal or harm? Include or exclude? What happens when someone in need is brought to you?
• Jesus’ disciples find Jesus in prayer. They seek to make him return home to carry on the healing. His reputation (and their own reputation) is growing because of his success. Many people and their needs cause Jesus to find silence and pray to God for direction. From prayer Jesus clarifies his ‘purpose’. Consider how busy Jesus became. How busy are you? What burdens and expectations do people pressure you to meet? Have you lost your ‘purpose’? Spend time in prayer in a deserted place and ask direction from God.
• Disciples of Jesus continue the ministry of Jesus. Jesus heals many lives. Healing is making ‘whole’,
comforting, welcoming back into community, lifting burdens. Does your life, words and actions ‘drive out demons’; Establish peace, forgiveness, hospitality, justice? Do you see and fight evil?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide for 3rd Sunday of Advent 2017 is here:

Advent: Presence not Presents

Reflection Questions

• Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday when the Pink candle of the Advent Wreath is lit. The third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the entrance antiphon – ‘Rejoice’. This theme is found in the first two readings. We are reminded that the joyful coming of Christ is drawing nearer. Christmas celebrates presence with presents.

• Isaiah gives us the prophetic text which Jesus himself uses as his mission and identity statement in Luke(4:16). It speaks of bringing people back home, releasing them from slavery and imprisonment in foreign lands. A ‘year of favour’ was the 50th ‘Jubilee Year’ practice of forgiving all debts and return of all land back to its original family. What a beautiful revolution! What aspect of Jesus’ mission could you practice this Christmas? With family?

• The marriage covenant image of God marrying his people is beautifully presented. In Christ – at Christmas – Heaven is now wedded to Earth. What does it mean? Do you truly rejoice?

•The call to holiness is repeated again as we journey toward the Second Coming (Advent continuously refuses to separate the first and second coming of Jesus). The Second Reading becomes like a spiritual ‘health – check’. Do you: Rejoice? Pray frequently? Give thanks in the ups and downs? Pursue the will of God? Stop the spirit? Avoid opportunities for God to speak? Filter good and evil influences upon your life? Hold fast to what is good? Turn from evil? Perhaps this ‘check list’ may help you in Advent preparation forthe sacrament of reconciliation.

• Week 2 and 3 of Advent present the figure of John the Baptist. He is theone announcing the public arrival of the Messiah – Jesus. Like a Herald announcing a King, the intention is to ensure readiness and welcome. Jewish custom expected Elijah and a prophet like Moses to return to make this announcement. Religious leadersare confused. What do you make of this ‘debate’? The Gospel writer John neatly plays on words with John saying ‘I am not’ which will later contrast with Jesus repeated
statements I AM (the divine name received by Moses on Mt Sinai). Does John the Baptist stir you to ‘get ready’. If not, what would it take? What are you waiting for?

• The image of sandals actually teach us about Jesus. It was a custom for disciples to carry the sandals of  their teacher. But only a slave would untie the sandals and wash feet. John proclaims that Jesus is so holy that he is not ‘fit’ to be even considered a slave in the presence of Jesus. It is a reference to the holiness of God. We touch the awesome reality of Christmas: God is birthed – enfleshed – among us in Jesus. Do you get it?

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

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary. Administered by Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ Facilitator. web: www.livingtheword.org.nz        www.maristlaitynz.org     e-mail: contact@livingtheword.

Discussion Guide Advent Year B, First Sunday: Advent is About Desire

Reflection Questions

.The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and anew Year (the Gospel of Mark). The readings turn us to the theme of ‘waiting’ and being ‘ready’. As the Christmas season and advertising moves us toward end of year celebrations and shopping for gifts be encouraged to intentionally plan time for waiting daily in prayer, and becoming ‘spiritually awake’ through
receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.

• The Isaiah passage today is a prayer of Lament. The purpose of this type of prayer was to remember how things ‘were’ and then contrast them with things ‘now’ – with the large ‘gap’ causing a psychological crisis. It aimed at giving both sides (God and People) a ‘kick start’ into action. The
large ‘job’ God’s people needed to do was to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. What do you need to do to get ‘started’ on your journey closer to God this Advent? What image speaks to you: come down from the heavens, polluted rags, withered leaves, the potter and the clay? Share with God…

• Paul’s letters always start with a warm greeting. Later in his letter to the Corinthians he will warn them that although they are ‘not lacking in any spiritual gift’ (many were celebrating and boasting of gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy etc) it had turned into a competition. Pride had turned them away from Purpose. ‘You were called to fellowship with Jesus’. What change do you desire this Advent?

• Instead of starting at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we begin at the end: The Parable of the Doorkeeper. It is Jesus’ final words to the disciples. He is the ‘man traveling abroad’ and his disciples are ‘servants in charge’, gatekeepers told to be ‘on watch’. The Master expects to return and find his
‘house’ in proper order. What would Jesus find if he returned now to the home of your ‘heart’? Your family / home? Your Parish Community? Do you feel a ‘servant responsibility’ to make the Masters home ‘ready’?

• The Advent challenge of being watchful and alert in ‘waiting’ is problematic. Watching and waiting can be boring. The command to ‘watch!’ could also be understood to watch out for opportunities to live as Jesus commanded us (remember last week: feeding the hungry, hospitality to the stranger….) so as to be found ‘ready’. Examine the past week and explore what you have ‘seen’. How could you be more watchful and alert to seeing Jesus hidden in daily events of your life this week?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week as part of your Advent journey?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary. Administered by Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ Facilitator. web: www.livingtheword.org.nz www.maristlaitynz.org     e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz.

Discussion Guide for “Is He Your King?” Feast of Christ the King 2017, 

Image result for christ the servant king

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 XIrecognised 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 wouldany 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 and serve your servant King?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz