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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Discussion Guide:    3rd Sunday Lent Yr. B (RCIA readings) – Give me water that I may not thirst again

 

 

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman - John 4:1-42 | Marg Mowczko

Reflection Questions:  • The symbol of ‘water’ has different levels of meaning. It can represent life keeping us from death. Water can be symbolic of a life journey yearning for something more. In Exodus, Moses is in the midst of leading his people who feel like they are ‘dying of thirst’ and they blame him. God invites him to go away from all the moaning voices, taking only a few elders with him. Which part of the story does your life and lent journey identify with at the moment: Water. Thirst. Moaning. Crying. Going away from voices. Quarreling. Testing. Questioning?

• Paul continues the important teaching of being made ‘right’ with God. It is not our doing, but faith in the cross of Jesus. This brings peace in our heart and spirit. And we look forward in hope to heaven and the final victory. Have you ever given a gift to someone whose behaviour has not yet changed to show they are ‘worthy’ or ‘thankful’? Why do it? There is the hope that the person may ‘see’ the depth of your love. What does it mean that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners?

•Week 3, 4, 5 of Lent in Year A features Gospel of John readings. These are specially inserted for helping people preparing for Baptism at Easter. They contain powerful symbols of water (quenching our thirst), light (a blind man sees) and the gift of life (raising Lazarus from death). Reflect on the image of sitting in the heat of the midday sun beside a well. What would you feel?Think about? Do? What questions would you ask Jesus? Spend 5 minutes imaginatively praying into this scene. What happened?

• It was unusual for a woman to collect water in the heat of the day alone. The longer gospel text reveals she has had 5 ‘husbands’. It is possible she has been hurt by the gossip of other women. Her journey is our journey. Which part of the journey of the Samaritan woman can you identify with?

• Jesus breaks the social barriers of talking with a woman alone, and with a despised enemy (Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus sits with her, talks, asks for help, offers her life that will quench her ‘thirst’ forever. A ‘rejected outsider’ becomes a disciple and the only person to evangelise a whole community in the gospel of John! She now rushes to the market place full of men to tell them the good news of meeting Jesus. Deep hopes have been fulfilled. Does your relationship with Jesus show itself others?

• The woman at the well reveals a disciple’s learning. Jesus is first thought a ‘prophet’, then possibly the ‘Messiah’ and then indeed ‘truly the ‘Saviour of the world’. Hidden in the text is Jesus saying ‘I AM..’ This is the Divine Name – the name Jews gave to God (Ex 3,14). What does this mean?

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

Discussion Guide:    2nd Sunday Lent Yr. B – Listening to and Trusting in God

 

 

Image result for the transfiguration modern

Reflection Questions:  • At first glance, Abraham’s willingness to kill his son Isaac looks like murder. A deeper reflection leads us to recognise what is involved in offering a ‘sacrifice’. Abraham’s hope and future promise for many descendants is in Isaac. Abraham places his life and future in the hands of God. A ‘test’ for Abraham has found him ‘worthy’ and completely abandoned and obedient to whatever God willask. Has God called you to do  something? Have you delayed? Why does God invite followers to ‘give up’ things we hold so tightly?

• Some scholars suggest that this special ‘high place’ where Abraham was to offer Isaac was the actual site of the 1st Temple of Solomon. High places were often on ‘mountains’ and were ‘meeting places with God’. Where is your ‘high place’ and what ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ could you offer to God showing you yield to God’s will for your life in total trust?

•St Paul encourages us to enter our imagination to feel how great God’s love must be. Have you ever had a friend or family show great generosity in buying or doing something for you? That ‘proof’ of their love allows you to deeply know they are ‘for’ you. If God did not spare his own Son, there is nothing more he could give to show the depth of his love. Does this give you confidence? To ask?Love?

• The Transfiguration is in the middle of Markʼs gospel. It is time to go deeper. Jesus has just challenged disciples to be willing to ʻgive up your lifeʼ(8,34-35) for his cause. They probably want ʻproofʼ that it will be ʻworth itʼ. Jesus shows disciples his divinity (dazzling white as a sign of Godʼs presence) and authority (Moses and Elijah both spoke to God face to face on special mountains). He is truly the Son of God! Persecution and even death will be moments of persecutors merely bringing judgement upon themselves as against God, and will be a doorway for a disciple into heaven and victory. Do you overly spiritualize the phrase ʻdeny oneselfʼ? Is Lent about punishing the body or a transformed lifestyle and society confronting injustice? How much ʻcostʼ are you willing to endure? How could you ʻgive almsʼ to lift up those in need this Lent?

• The presence of God – like a cloud covering the Mountain to speak face to face with Moses – speaks. We are not simply to gaze or adore, but LISTEN TO HIM. How could you more faithfully ʻlistenʼ to Jesus in prayer this Lent? What has worked? What has not worked?

• Fasting has often been a spiritual practice that intensifies within our bodies a focus, a need, a prayer, a request, a cause. What or Who could you fast From or For?

• How will you ‘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 to the Living the Word website.

Discussion Guide:  6th Sunday Yr. B – Healing and Restoration

 

The God With Dirty Hands - FaithGateway

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 were 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 one’s 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?

Discussion Guide:  5th Sunday Yr B: Healed – and Free to Participate!

 

Carolinas Mission District | North American Lutheran Church | Page 112

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 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 his preaching. 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:   Christmas Yr. B – And the Word became flesh

 

 

Amazon.com: ConversationPrints Virgin Mary Baby Jesus Glossy Poster Picture  Photo Christianity Religion god: Prints: Posters & Prints

 

Reflection Questions:  • Christmas Story – The Master and the Puppy. C.S. Lewis is well known for  writing children’s stories. He was also a committed Christian and wanted to express deep theological truths simply. He explores Christmas – the Incarnation of Jesus with an illustration of a Master and his puppy.

• Imagine. You have a puppy. If you really loved your puppy how could you show your love to it? Wash. Cuddle. Feed. Brush. Exercise. Allow inside by the fire…..etc. As the Master of the puppy, how about while still holding onto your human condition you take on fully the condition of becoming like your dog? Sharing its life totally and fully? You have entered the world of your dog so that you can be with your puppy totally and reveal just how much you love your puppy. Would you do this? God has with us. What would you have to let go? What has God had to let go? What is your response to this truth at Christmas?

• ‘The Lord bares his holy arm’ is an image of God ‘rolling up his sleeves’ to get stuck into the work of salvation. Rolling up one’s sleeves recognises the work may get messy. The Incarnation is God entering our messy world. Is this good news for you? Why?

• Today’s reading from Isaiah brings us the original meaning of ‘Good News’. It was a messenger running back from battle with news of victory – good news! The messengers feet were ‘dirty’ but also beautiful as they brought a joyful message. Do you ‘carry’ a message of joy and peace in your heart because of Jesus?

• The Letter to the Hebrews is essentially a long sermon explaining to Jewish People and Jewish Temple Priests the significance of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the ‘Son’ of God, and ‘the very imprint of his being’. Some translations use the phrase ‘the perfect copy of his nature’. The Letter to the Hebrews also had to make clear that Jesus was above the angels and not an ‘intermediary’ or angelic ‘messenger’. What words or ideas best explain Jesus’ identity for you?

• In the Gospel of John, Jesus is given the title ‘Word’. Your ‘word’ expresses your deepest being. Is intimately ‘you’. It is self revelation. Jesus = Word is a creative way of teaching us about Jesus’ identity and one in being with God. ‘In the beginning’ is John’s way of referring back to Genesis 1,1 and the existence of Jesus prior to creation. The great climax is the ‘Word became flesh’. The image is one of God pitching his tent among us. It is this truth that writers call ‘the marvelous exchange’. It is this truth shown in the crib scene of Jesus and Mary and Joseph. We look on in wonder. How could you look at Christmas in a new and fresh way? How could you be surprised by Christmas again?

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

Merry Christmas from livingtheword

 

Discussion Guide: 30th Sunday Yr. A – Love God AND Neighbour

 

30th Sunday Year A: Love God, Love others. « livingtheword

Reflection Questions:

• A special relationship between God and his people was created with Abraham and Moses. This relationship was two-way. God would look after and guide his people. God’s people would listen to and obey certain ‘laws’. The first 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) express what is required by both parties to live this ‘Covenant’. Today’s reading explores the ‘covenant code’ and what social behaviours are required by God. Aliens (foreigners), widows and orphans have no protection of family or friends. But
God loves them. We are to love, include and provide for them. Who are the equivalent of aliens, widows and orphans today? Are you living in ‘covenant-love’ with them?

• Jewish people were not to demand interest. They developed the practice of a ‘pledge’ to ensure repayment. As a safe-guard God stated a poor person was not to go cold at night without his ‘cloak’. Certain measures were in place to protect the dignity of the poor. How could you relate this to today?

• Paul continues his praise of the community of Thessalonika. Despite Paul and the other teachers being forced to leave them because of persecution, their ‘imitation of them’ and ‘the word of the Lord sounding forth’ from them to other communities showed such courage and faith. Have you ever had someone inspirational leave you and yet you decided to ‘continue their example’? Who has done this for your faith journey? What happened?

• Jesus is again forced into an argument with religious leaders. Pharisees decide to attack Jesus’ knowledge of the ‘Laws’. Jewish people had summarised all the laws of the first 5 books of the Old Testament into 613 laws. All were to be observed. Some were interpreted as ‘heavy – very important’ and some were thought of as ‘light – not as important’. Surprisingly, Jesus took a heavy law and a light law and said they were intimately linked. Love God AND Neighbour. Jewish people interpreted ‘neighbour’ as fellow Israelites. Jesus’ teaching pushed ‘neighbour’ to include everyone. Everyone is to be treated as belonging to ‘yourself’ – as family! How does your love get ‘limited’? Why? Who gets excluded? Can you glimpse the heart of the gospel in this brief statement?

• A common criticism of the prophets in the Old Testament was that love of God was celebrated in the temple with sacrifices and gifts – Sunday worship. But it stopped there! They cried: what God wants is ‘mercy, not sacrifices’. Christianity is not lived on Sunday alone. How could you show more clearly a Sunday AND Monday discipleship?

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

 

 

Discussion Guide:   29th Sunday Yr. A – Belonging Completely to God

Reflection Questions: 

• Cyrus was the King of Persia. He conquered Babylon and decreed that all exiles could return home and practice their religion. God’s people saw God’s power at work in this amazing event. God can use even a powerful Pagan King to deliver his chosen people. Is there some area of your life, a difficulty at work, an obstacle in your family which you think of as ‘impossible’ to change. Be invited to pray for a ‘Cyrus’ event!

• In ancient times a belief existed of different countries having different gods and the power of these ‘gods’ was territorial. Hence, the gods of Babylon would operate in Babylon. The God of Israel would operate in Israel? This event of liberation from Babylon marked a turning point in understanding. God is all powerful. Over all countries. Over all Kings. ‘There is no other’! Does your life reveal a trust and relationship with God who can make all Kings ‘run in his service… opening doors before him?

• When Paul began his preaching in Thessalonica he met resistance from the Jews. He turned to the Greeks in this important Roman City. Upset, the Jewish leaders chased him and others out of town. He sent Timothy back to learn how the church of God was coping with the persecution. He congratulates them on their endurance. Is there a particular persecution you face in following Christ? Are you working on your faith, laboring in love, enduring in hope? If Timothy was to arrive at your door what would you share with him?

• A surprising partnership of Pharisees (who resist Roman authority) and Herodians (who partner with ‘Herod’ and the Roman authorities) attack Jesus. It is a carefully staged question about paying the poll or census tax. Everyone aged between 12-65 was required to pay 1 days wages to Rome. If Jesus said Yes to tax he would be disloyal to the Jews and lose favour with the people. If he said No he would be seen as opposing Rome and be arrested as a revolutionary. Many Jews even refused to carry Roman coins as a sign of resistance. In a dramatic twist Jesus invites them to show the coin – which reveals they do carry it – and ‘accept the system’. What is your view on paying tax? Civil obedience? Making a personal contribution to the ‘common good’ and public services? What is your reaction to Jesus’ strikingly fresh detachment from money?

• Bearing the imprint of Caesar on the coin meant ‘it’ belonged to Caesar. Jesus invites a more profound reflection. We bear the imprint of our creator in our very being. We belong completely to God. Consider the depths of this truth. Do you repay and give your whole being to God grudgingly or gratefully?

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

Discussion Guide: 26th Sunday – Walk the Talk

 

 

matthew 21 28-32 two sons - Google Search | Bible time, Children's  ministry, Fathers sReflection Questions: • Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet with his people in exile in Babylon. Jewish people had a deep sense that sins of their ancestors had caused their current situation (in exile away from Home and their sacred Temple in Jerusalem). It was easy for them to ‘blame’ others for their current situation. They ‘blamed’ God that this exile was ‘unfair’. Ezekiel invites them to take personal responsibility for ‘sin’. Turn to virtue, do what is right and just. This is the way forward. God will teach us and lead us home. Is there an attitude in your life of ‘blame’ rather than taking ‘responsibility’? Blame leads to death. Responsibility leads to life. What change do you need to make?

• St Paul invites disciples to have the one essential attitude that will maintain unity: humility. Giving up an attitude of having special rights. Power. Influence. Can you think of a situation in which being ‘humble’ would have saved a meeting, argument, relationship. How could you become more ‘humble’?

•Jesus has now arrived in Jerusalem. Angry at his emptying of the Temple, the religious leaders challenge his actions and authority to teach. Jesus responds. Pious words and lip-service is easy. To be true children of God requires actions of doing the will of the Father. In your own self assessment, how large is the gap between your profession of faith and the practice of your faith? In what area of your life is more ‘action’ required? What would motivate you to action?

• Anyone can talk holiness, but it is quite another thing to live it. Consider someone in your life who ‘talks the talk and walks the walk’ of their christian belief. How do they inspire your journey?How could you follow their example?

• Both sons responses hurt the Father. No-one here is perfect. Jesus understands a priority for Jewish people is to show ‘honor’. The son who said ‘Yes, sir’ was honorable in front of the Father but it was soon revealed as empty and meaningless. Honor is shown ultimately in real obedience. What will it mean for you to ‘walk the talk’ in obedience this week? Consider writing it down.

• A requirement for ‘tax collectors’ to be truly repentant and ‘right with God’ was to repay money to those who had been ‘over-taxed’. However it was impossible for them to know and remember all the people they had wrongly taxed. Tax collectors felt helpless and stuck in a situation of never feeling they could be forgiven by God. Jesus reveals this is not the case. God welcomes those who turn to him. Do you know someone who needs help to hope and believe in God’s forgiveness? Consider praying a special prayer for them.

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

Discussion Guide: 23rd Sunday Yr. A – Love Fulfills the Law

 

Living the Lectionary: Lectionary 23 A - Matthew 18:15-20

 

Reflection Questions:

• Ezekiel is regarded as one of the 3 great prophets (Behind Isaiah and Jeremiah). Ezekiel is both a priest and a prophet and is speaking during a time of Exile away from Home. Without temple practices, faithfulness to the laws of God kept Jewish identity and preserved unity. Ezekiel provides a powerful image of a ‘watchman’, standing, watching, ‘looking out’ for dangers that may be approaching your family. God’s family. Have you had the courage to ‘say anything and warn others’? What happens without ‘watchmen’? Are you challenged into action knowing that your salvation is at stake? What do you feel needs to be spoken of in your family? Community? Parish?

• To love your neighbour as your own flesh is a striking challenge. Jewish interpretation wriggled around the challenge by regarding one’s ‘neighbour’ as their own Jewish citizens. This allowed Jews not to care for ‘outsiders’. Ponder the essential challenge of loving everyone as your own flesh. In what ways have you wriggled out of the challenge?

• Matthew 18 is dedicated to life inside the Christian community. How is the community of Jesus supposed to respond to hurts and arguments that come from living together? A pattern is developed to avoid hurting and shaming those involved. Private conversation, then semi-private conversation and only as a last resort a public church decision. Reconciliation is not ‘brooding’ in silence. Is there anyone you need to approach ‘face to face’?

• Have you experienced the importance of a wise person to help ensure ‘every fact is established on the testimony of two or three’. Anger and resentment cripple christian hearts and disciples. Who are your ‘two or three’ guides to help your reconciliation journey?

• Treating a person like a Gentile or tax collector can be interpreted two ways. If reconciliation does not result, do we exclude or offer continued hopeful patience? What did Jesus do?

• The goal of Christian community is to witness to the world the love of Christ with each other. The authority to bind and loose is given by Jesus to the community in the context of prayer and agreement together. Is there need for prayer and discernment with a group about decisions you (or your ministry group, parish…) are making?

• Jesus makes a promise where two or more are in agreement in prayer it shall be granted to them. What prayer request would you like to share with friends. Who could you invite into your prayer / voice to God?

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

 

Discussion Guide20th Sunday Yr. A – God has Mercy Upon All

 

Great is Thy Faith, Matthew 15:21-28 - Syrophenician woman ...

Reflection Questions: • God’s chosen people, who were marched away from home into exile in Babylon, are now given permission to return home and rebuild their temple. King Cyrus even gives them back their sacred vessels stolen from the Temple 60 years earlier. The Hebrew people could hardly believe what was happening. God could even work through a Gentile King to rescue and restore his people. Isaiah shares a vision of all peoples being able to worship together in the Temple. This vision was never truly fulfilled. Non Jews were only allowed into an ‘outer courtyard’ of the Temple. What vision of welcome do you have for your Church? What limits your vision from becoming a reality?

• Paul continues to grieve over his own Jewish people. He hopes that disobedience will eventually meet mercy! People labelled and feeling distant from God (Gentiles) will experience union with God. Paul reminds the Church of God’s passionate desire for all the ‘unclean’ /gentiles to be made welcome in the Church. Who do you judge unclean?

• Some geography helps to understand the context of the Gospel reading today. Jesus has just finished arguing with the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-20) about what is ‘clean and unclean’. He now travels into unclean ‘gentile’ territory. He moves out of the ‘Holy Land’ and into Canaanite territory. Is he trying to get rid of the Pharisees who keep following and arguing with him? Or is he trying to teach his disciples a lesson going beyond mere words of teaching? The disciples would have been hesitant to go themselves into ‘unclean’ territory. What do you think Jesus could be teaching the disciples? The Church?

• Without napkins at the dinner table, it was a practice that bread was broken and ones hands were cleaned with bread. Bread and food was left after dinner on the floor. House dogs were frequently able to mop up the crumbs and foodscraps after the guests had finished. This is an image used in the reading today. Is Jesus derogatory toward the woman or just revealing his first concern was ‘lost sheep of Israel’?

• The disciples wanted the canaanite woman sent away. She was unsettling. Was Jesus waiting for the disciples reaction to her as a way of teaching them about clean / unclean?

• The Gentile woman kneels before Jesus and prays ‘Lord help me’. Jesus praises and rewards her persistence and faith. To the Jewish community of the Gospel of Matthew this event would have come as a shock. Jesus entered into and found faith among the unclean gentiles. Imagine feeling or being labelled as ‘unclean’ by ‘the church’. What obstacles need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus?Are you helping or hindering?

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