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Archive for the ‘love of the poor’ Category

Discussion Guide: Trust in the Lord and Live the Beatitudes 6th Sunday Year C  

Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20, Gospel: Luke 6:17,20-26
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Reflection Questions

1] Jeremiah shares a blessing and curse prophecy which is frequent in the Old Testament. It is designed to wake us up and help us think. He warns against trusting in mere mortals. Even powerful personalities can lead us astray. Only the Lord is worthy of our trust and when we invite God to guide our lives, even disaster won’t destroy us. Allow your imagination to ponder the two images – a barren bush in the dry salty desert versus a tree always bearing fruit beside a stream. What strikes you as you see yourself in these images?

2] Trust and fear are often linked. What do you most fear losing in life? Talk to God about how that impacts your trust.

3] St Paul speaks to some in Corinth who do not believe in the Resurrection. They struggle to believe that our bodies could be glorified in heaven. St Paul makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection is central to our Faith which becomes ‘most pitiable’ unless we believe Jesus is Lord. His birth, life and teaching, death, resurrection and ascension are one continuous salvation event. God reveals his eternal love and desire that we be with Him forever and then provides the way where we become one with Christ through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. As you reflect on your Baptism provides the way through Baptism and the Holy Spirit; we die to our old self under the water and rise to new life, becoming one with Christ. Reflect on your Baptism. What links can you see between Baptism and Resurrection? N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’ Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” How do you react to that statement?

4] We never say Jesus ‘has’ risen. We proclaim, ‘Jesus IS Risen’. “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Our belief in the resurrection of our bodies (Creed) is established through the Resurrection of Christ. How deep is your conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and how does that impact your daily choices and decisions? Who do you really put your trust in? Talk with God about your belief or struggles. Try praying, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

5] Jesus has just spent the night in prayer, chosen the twelve (his team!) and he sits them down. The stage is set for his most important teaching: the Beatitudes. Nowhere in Luke does the Gospel challenge us so severely. What are my ultimate pursuits? What world order am I living for? What measurement system of success am I committed to? Am I on the side of the poor and hungry or the rich and the full? What does your lifestyle and actions show? Are you good news to the poor? (note Luke means primarily economically poor not the tamer ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew). We sometimes speak of these teachings as “BE-Attitudes”. It seems that the choices we make ‘now’ will impact us for eternity. What do you think Jesus means?

6] The Beatitudes bring together a clashing of two ideas and worldviews. It causes a conflict within us. All things being equal, to have riches and to be full is a good. But the reality of our world is inequality. The status quo is unacceptable for God and Jesus’ disciples. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes does not let Christians off the hook. There will be a radical reversal of fortune in God’s judgement. Woe to you who are rich, filled, who can laugh now. How can I proclaim,
‘Jesus is Lord’ with integrity and not take this teaching seriously?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ. Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com       Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide 31st Sunday Year B: Hear-Listen-Love! Live the Word

Readings: Dt 6:2-6, Heb. 7:23-28, Gospel Mk 12:28B-34

Image result for Greatest commandment

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Deuteronomy (second law) is a summary of God’s teachings to help guide God’s people as they leave the desert and enter their new and promised home-land Israel). Moses reminds them they have been looked after and loved so beautifully that the only proper response to God is to return love. ‘Love your God with all your heart’. Have you ‘taken into your heart’ God’s love and care for you?
• Jewish people still treasure this ‘command’ to hear and remember. Devout Jews wear this prayer in little prayer containers (phylacteries) on their wrist
and forehead, pray it morning and evening, and have a container at the doorway of their home which they touch to remind them to love God who loved
them. How could you be reminded of God’s love each day? Where could you put a crucifix so that it is a daily visible and touchable reminder as you ‘come and
go’ in and out of your home?
• The Letter to the Hebrews is written for Jewish christians who are struggling and tempted to return to the practices of the temple, the laws, the sacrifices. Jesus is shown to be the true and perfect high- priest who will never die and whose sacrifice on the cross forgives ‘once and for all’. Do you ever think something else needs to be done to forgive you? make you acceptable? Do you find yourself holding God’s love at arms length until you become perfect by your own actions? What practices or traditions do you long for that used to make you feel well?
• Jesus is now in Jerusalem. He has chased out money changers from the Temple, had arguments with Pharisees and Scribes. Today a frequent faith question is discussed. Jews believed that 613 laws were developed from the 10 commandments. Living all these laws put one in right relationship with God. Scribes
who were teachers of the laws especially to the younger generation were often asked: Make it simple? Which is the greatest? Jesus quotes from Dt 6, 4 (1st
Reading) but also adds Lev 19,18 – care of the poor (check out Lev 19.9-17). 613 becomes 2. How do you move from love of God on Sunday to love of God on
Monday? Do you find it easy to separate love of God from love of neighbour? How do you see this in your life? In the Church?
• The Prophets of the Old Testament constantly pointed out the ease at which people worshipped in the temple with ʻburnt offerings and sacrificesʼ but did not
love their ʻneighbourʼ shown by helping others in need. Love of God draws me into a relationship with all whom God loves. God painfully wishes our love to be
extended to lift up the lowest and forgotten in society. Imagine entering a home for dinner and saying nice words at the table. Upon leaving the house kicking
the children and scratching the hosts car. What is going on?
• The scribe agrees with Jesus. But Jesus says things are still incomplete: ʻyou are not far from the Kingdom of Godʼ. Close but not there yet! Your head is ʻon boardʼ but is your life going to truly show direct ʻactionʼ linking God AND Neighbour? The crowd stayed silent. Why? What would it involve to actually live and love neighbour as your own flesh and blood?
• 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 download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 26th Sunday is here.

Nm 11:25-29, Jas 5:1-6Gospel Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

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Reflection Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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 ordinary needs are, and how much “surplus” you have? Do you give to the needs of the poor?
  4. John is jealous that an outsider of the disciples group is obviously sharing in the power and authority of Jesus. “He does not follow us”. He is not in our group. John’s 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 follow you?
  5. 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 cut off from your life?
  6. Gehenna is a place just outside of Jerusalem. Historically it was where shameful sacrifices of children were offered to the Canaanite 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 “Hell”. 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 “stumble” in their relationship with God? How do I understand God as merciful yet also having a day of judgement?
  7. 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 download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide is here

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Reflection Questions

Isaiah 35:4-7, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37

  1. 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?
  2. 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’?
  3. 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? How are our liturgical gatherings meant to mirror the world disciples of Christ seek to create?
  4. 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 bull- dozer, 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 ?
  5. Healing passages are powerful opportunities for healing in our own lives. Consider the ʻdeaf man’. 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?
  6. 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 healing’. How could you take up this offer this week? What would it take for you to hear God. Sing God’s praises. Dance for joy
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ

Reflection Guide is here

Mustard Seed Clip Art | Parable of the Mustard Seed

Discussion Questions

  1. Ezekiel is different because he was both a Priest and a Prophet. He was with God’s people when they were deported to Babylon enduring suffering and slavery. They were without a Temple, their Land, a King. In a time of great distress, he is humbled to realise that very few people listen to him (and God) and even less respond with obedient living to God’s ways. He shares an image of a ‘snip’ of a great tree, a ‘faithful small remnant’ of people will be planted by God in Jerusalem. So deeply does he believe in God’s guidance of history he repeats ‘the Lord will do this’ 86 times. Would you consider yourself part of God’s ‘tender shoot’, faithful and obedient? The tree (Church) of God will include all types of birds and winged creatures and the ‘lowly’. How inclusive are you toward others?
  2. It is important to understand St Paul. Our bodies are good but there is a ‘desire’ in our flesh that is deeply selfish. A Christian disciple lives and walks by ‘faith’ not by ‘flesh’. Jesus guides our life and choices not the selfish desires many in the ‘world’ chase. Is your ‘home’ in Jesus or the ways of the world. Paul encourages disciples to face this tension and question head-on. Imagine an examination of your life at the end of time: What did you live for? What was your heart attached to?
  3. Jesus very early on in the Gospel of Mark meets great resistance. His family think he is ʻout of his mindʼ and religious leaders from Jerusalem suggest he is possessed by a demonʼ (Mark 3,20). It
    does not look like Jesus is having much success. Have you met resistance from family and people in leadership? How did you cope? What did you hold on to so as to continue your call and purpose?
  4. Jesus shares a story of the mysterious and silent working of God in bringing theʻKingdomʼ. Just as farmers presume something is happening to a seed under the ground, we also need to trust not
    always by sight but what we know. In truth, the mustard seed only grows to a 4 foot ʻbushʼ! Are you expecting Church to be a magnificent Cedar tree and struggle with the reality of a stumpy ʻbushʼ? Is Jesus suggesting a change from strong and powerful to humble and ʻmedicinalʼ? The mustard-seed was considered to be a medication for many ills.
  5. The topic most frequently talked about by Jesus was the ʻKingdom of Godʼ (Kingdom of Heaven). He chose to use parables to describe ʻGodʼs waysʼ. Parables trap us. We agree with some parts of the story but resist or donʼt want to agree with other parts. We reject it, or open ourselves to an opportunity of a new way of understanding (conversion). Why did Jesus choose to describe the
    Kingdom as a mustard seed? We like the idea of many birds finding shelter and the
    church ʻwelcoming and includingʼ all people. But a ʻmustardʼ seed and bush was a backyard weed, very stubborn and difficult to get rid of. Is the way of God really requiring a revolution? Who gets
    threatened by that? Do you prefer the status quo or an inclusive change welcoming the poor and marginalized?
  6. 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: What Does Love Look Like?

I talk a lot of love, this is what I'm talking about. Romance is a lovely thing, but just one very small way of loving:

Reflection Questions

• Peter entering the home of Cornelius (A Roman Centurion / Soldier) is an incredibly important moment in the early Church. It sets in motion the whole Christian mission to non-jews – to the untouchables, the pagans, the ‘greeks’. God wants to include everyone. Who do I consider an ‘outsider’ to the Church? Why? How could I be more inclusive? In my family? My church?

• Acts 10 reveals the early struggle to be open and welcoming. The Holy Spirit spoke in dreams and visions to inspire and move the Church and disciples. Consider the words of St Peter: ‘Get up, I myself am a human being’ and ‘God shows no partiality’. What has happened within Peter? What invitation and challenge do you notice for your own journey?

• Both Peter and Cornelius are spoken to in prayer. Thankfully they responded obediently. What have you heard in prayer and life lately? Have you been obedient in living the word? What are some obstacles you have encountered?

•John repeats the word love 9 times in his letter and 9 times in the Gospel. In John’s community, they were fighting with gnostics who didn’t think Christian behaviour was important. John reinforces the idea that love actually ‘looks like something’. Christian love is to love all others as God has loved us
in Christ. Consider how God has initiated the relationship of love with us. Dying as an expiation (offering) to show us the forgiveness of our sins and the extent of God’s love. Do you initiate love or merely respond to love? Does your love change depending on a response? How does your love-style
witness to Christian love?

• God wants disciples to ‘bear fruit’. Yet fruitfulness requires attachment to the vine/trunk. The fruitfulness of joy and peace and love develops from ‘friendship with’ the Father. Friendships grow and develop in responding to needs and requests. Hence Jesus invites us to ask so the Father can give and be glorified. Would you describe your relationship with God as a ‘friend’? What is your attitude toward intercessory prayer? Ask or text your friends what they need and pray specifically for them. Don’t be afraid to ask God for signs so that God may receive ‘glory’. He gives plenty in the Acts of the Apostles!

• When asked to describe the love to which believers are called, St Augustine replied: “It has the feet to
hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the signs and sorrow of others. That is what love looks like.”

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ 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: Healing and Restoration

Image result for If you wish yu can make me clean

Lv 13:1-2, 44-46/1 Cor 10:31—11:1/Mk 1:40-45

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Leviticus is a set of legal instructions (code) for Priests to ensure proper worship. Priests had the job of judging if someone was suffering, among many other things, from a skin condition ‘blotch’ – leprosy – which would make them ‘contagious’ and therefore ‘unclean’. In close living conditions this would have ensured disease did not spread. Unfortunately, when labelled ‘unclean’ a
person had to leave family, friends, was excluded from society and worship in the Temple. It was psychologically and physically ‘death by exclusion’. Imagine having to shout to everyone that you were
‘unclean’! Who do you label as ‘unclean’? Who is ‘living outside the Church camp’ feeling unable to be with the community as they feel and perceive to be judged ‘unclean’? What could you do?
• Paul seeks to address another problem in the town of Corinth. Some christians were upset that fellow christians were buying food from the local butcher that had been sacrificed in pagan temples. Some were firm in their belief that there was no other gods so it was irrelevant. Others were afraid. Paul encourages an approach of ‘avoid giving offence’ and ‘try to please everyone’. Is there anything in your life which is offending another? How could you more closely imitate Christ?

• Healing is costly for the Leper and the Healer (Jesus). The Leper has put himself in danger being in the crowd. They could have been violent, outraged that his closeness to them made them ‘ritually unclean’ and possibly contaminating them with his skin disease. Is there something in your life causing you great sadness. Can you find the willingness to suffer the cost of seeking healing? What obstacles do you need to break through?
• Jesus is full of emotion toward the Leper. ‘Moved with pity’ does not accurately translate the original Greek. It is literally ‘having ones intestines in an uproar!’ Some translations write ‘moved with anger’. Jesus is angry at the sad state of the Leper, the exclusion, the pain. God’s heart is wrenched with compassion and pain. If Jesus heals he knows this will further increase his popularity and possibly misinterpret him as only a ‘wonder worker’. He heals him but commands him to be quiet. He insists
he go to get a certificate of cleanliness from the Temple. He wants him to be included back into society and made ‘whole’ again. Are your intestines in an uproar about injustice, people caught in the bondage of sin, unjust exclusion? If not, why not?
• Jesus’ popularity increases to such an extent that he is now forced into ‘deserted places’, unable to  enter a town openly. His life has now taken on the lived experience of those who were labelled ‘unclean’. Have you experienced the ‘cost’ of helping someone and living with the consequences of upsetting community and religious boundaries? Has it made you more or less willing to ‘heal’ again? What happened…
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?