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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Discussion Guide for Abandon Yourself in Trust to God

1 Kgs 17:10-16, Heb. 9:24-28, Gospel Mk 12:38-44

Image result for elijah widow oil

Reflection Questions

  • Behind the scenes of the first reading is a show of strength by God (Yahweh) over the worshippers of Baal (the god of fertility, rain, nature). Ahaz, the King of Israel, married Jezebel, allowed her to import her Baal priests and eventually she attempted to convert everyone to Baal worship. Elijah showed Gods strength by killing the priests of Baal and then proclaiming a drought as punishment on the land and teaching them that Yahweh is more powerful than Baal. Elijah himself has become hungry and thirsty. God tells him to go to Zarephath. This town was ‘enemy’ territory as it was the home of Jezebel’s Father! He would be met by a woman who would help him. A widow is on her last meal and desperate for survival. Open to God and showing hospitality she responds to Elijah. Her response is blessed by God…. ‘she was able to eat for a year…..’ Imagine this scene. Reflect on the obedience and trust of both Elijah and the Widow. Do you trust God? How could you show it?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews paints a picture of the special Feast of Atonement described in Lev 16. The Priest would take blood into the Tent (Holy of Holies) and cover the mercy seat with blood to represent forgiveness of sins. The Priest would then appear at the entrance to the tent and announce forgiveness. Jesus has not just entered a ʻtentʼ but ʻheavenʼ and his own blood has been offered as a ʻsacrifice to take away sinʼ. He will return – not to take away sin – butto welcome all those who eagerly await him. Do you look forward to Jesusʼ second coming? Does Sunday Mass give you an experience of ʻsalvationʼ ʻat-one-mentʼ where the Priest is holding up the gift of our reconciliation and communion with God?
  • Scribes were experts at knowing and interpreting the religious laws of the Jewish People. When a Husband died, a widow was vulnerable and often without support if a ʻbrother in lawʼ did not choose to marry her. With few legal rights, scribes at times became care-takers of widows property. They were supposed to protect the vulnerable but often ʻdevouredʼ the house and property of widows charging a commission for their services. At the same time they pretended to be ʻholyʼ and continued to wear their temple garb into the streets to attract attention. Jesus does not condemn the role of someone interpreting the laws but invites authenticity. Who today is a modern ʻwidowʼ – vulnerable and in need of care? In what ways would Jesusʼ words challenge the Church, Priests, Theologians, Lawyers, Politicians?
  • The ʻtreasuryʼ was 13 trumpet shaped containers that collected the coins, tithes and contributions of people at the Temple. A poor widow places all she has, in contrast to rich people giving to God something of their surplus. Love of God and Love of Neighbour will actually look like something. Is God honored by laws, lengthy prayers, long robes, large sums…. or the complete total trust and surrender of the poor widow with her 2 cents?
  • Jesus now leaves the Temple and walks toward the event of his total and complete self-giving to the Father for the salvation of the world. Like the widows in the readings today he will ʻhold nothing backʼ from God. How could you make a further step to give all that you are and have to God?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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: Casual or Committed?

Wisdom,7:7-11, Hebrews 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30
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Reflection Questions:

• The Book of Wisdom is thought to have been written by King Solomon. Today’s text links to the story of young King Solomon, newly married to a princess of
Egypt, heavily aware of leadership responsibilities and following the example of his Father, King David. In 1 Kings 3:6-9 Solomon prays for wisdom – a heart to
understand what is good and what is evil. Today is Solomon’s reflection on just what a precious gift wisdom is. Have you ever needed to search for and find a wise person to offer direction and guidance? How would you describe your need? What happened?

• ‘I chose to have her rather than the light’. Wisdom is not a ‘possession’ or equal to worldly wealth of Gold of Silver. It is the spiritual gift of knowing the truth and the very will of God. ‘Discernment’ of God’s will is a discipleship skill. It literally means ‘to cut away’. Consider a choice that you need to make. List the choices. Pray for wisdom. ‘Cut away’ options that are shallow, or not spiritually motivated. Pay attention to the desire beneath the choice. Ask a wise person for advice.

• Hebrews is written for Jewish Christians struggling with persecution and the difficulties and fragility of the early Christian church. They remembered with
joy the clear Jewish laws and customs and the sacrificial practices of the Temple. The author of Hebrews points them to the penetrating power of the Word.
Have you every experienced the powerful and personal way the scriptures can reach deeply inside you and speak to you deepest pain and questions? Reveal you to yourself? Challenge you? Inspire you? What scripture passage has done this for you? What happened?

• The theme of wisdom is contrasted with wealth in the Gospel. A rich young man faithful to the ʻlawsʼ still finds himself unsatisfied in life. His question: ʻWhat must I do?ʼ is still focussed on external actions of obedience. Jesus wishes to lead him from ʻobservance of lawsʼ to ʻliving in loveʼ. The invitation to change the base of his security from possessions to ʻtreasure in heavenʼ causes his face to fall. What possessions would you be terrified of letting go? Why? Do you trust that God will supply everything you need?

• The invitation to a deeper discipleship does not necessarily require letting go of ʻwealthʼ but letting go of its ʻattachmentʼ. Jesus uses an image. To get a camel loaded with items for trade through a ʻnarrow gateʼ in Jerusalem required unloading items, the camel sometimes having to kneel down and crawl through a small space (eye of a needle). Some scholars also suggest a misspelling of a word means it is a ʻcableʼ that is trying to be threaded through the eye of a needle. How would you describe your ʻuse of wealthʼ. Is it available for building the Kingdom of God? The needs of the poor? How much ʻsecurityʼ and ʻlifeʼ does your bank balance or possessions bring you? What does this story reveal to youpersonally?

• Peter implies a disciples question about reward and security. 100% is an incredibly fruitful return. Normally a return would be 10%. It will be mixed up ʻwith
persecutionsʼ however. Consider asking a Priest, Brother, Sister, Christian friend how they have experienced Godʼs faithfulness in relying on God for their security.

• 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: Marriage-Partnership with God 

Image result for Jesus blesses marriage and children

Reflection Questions

• Genesis describes a truth, in a story, about our human condition. Man and Woman are different from the rest of creation. God’s invitation and partnership
with creation invites Man to ‘name’ the animals and exercise authority over them. It seems God’s most beautiful act of creation is woman. In Genesis we learn,
‘male and female he created them’ … ‘in God’s image and likeness he created them.’ Have you considered that the intimacy of Man and Woman becoming ‘one flesh’ together points to the image and reality of what God is like? One Flesh is the Old Testament and Jewish phrase describing the deep and total union of mind, body, emotion, and spirit that is lived in the marriage covenant. The sacrament of marriage is therefore pointing toward and making God’s love present for the other. If you were to explain Christian marriage to someone what would you share?

• The Letter to the Hebrews seeks to show Jesus as the replacement of the Jewish Temple Priesthood and sacrifices. The Temple in Jerusalem was like an ‘earthly shadow’ of the reality of ‘Heaven’. God ‘came down’ in Jesus, and completed the task of salvation and continues to link Heaven and Earth. Do you see the link between Heaven and Earth in the Church, liturgy, priesthood, sacraments?

• Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem and is questioned by Pharisees. Frequently they seek to trap him with difficult questions and arguments. This would
embarrass him in front of the crowds and disciples. Jewish custom and practice had allowed a Husband to divorce his wife for anything ʻobjectionableʼ. A Jewish woman was not allowed to divorce. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Rather than talk about legal arguments of divorce, Jesus chose to talk about what marriage is: two becoming one flesh and joined together by God. Jesus states man and woman are equal. He reintroduces womanʼs equality and states this injustice of easy divorce is not Godʼs plan. Why do you think the scriptures continue to use the phrase ʻtwo become one fleshʼ? What does this mean for you? What would you like to ask Jesus if you were involved in this conversation?

• Leaving ʻfather and mother and be joined togetherʼ holds an incredible challenge. Family traditions, customs, expectations, money, support misunder-standing, frustration, resentment can easily creep in. Forgiveness will be required. Cracks and fractures left unacknowledged or repaired can become un-repairable. How good are you at ʻforgivingʼ? Talking and sharing in a way that ʻrepairsʼ hurt feelings and unmet needs? Have you shared your availability and willingness to help married couples in times of stress and need? Consider whose marriage you were at most recently. Were you there for the ʻcelebrationʼ AND to show your support for their life-long journey? Have you shown support? How could you support those whose marriage dream has been broken?

• Jesus sought to include and show the equality of women. He also insists that children be included and not prevented from the Kingdom of God (2nd week in a row!) The openness and receptivity of a child is emphasised. What does it mean to ʻacceptʼ the Kingdom of God? Like a child?

• 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: Holiness Comes from the Inside Out. 

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Reflection Questions:

• Deuteronomy literally means ‘second book of law’. The 10 commandments given to Moses when applied to daily life became a large set of 613 guidelines to
live a holy life. These are explored in the Book of Deuteronomy and added to by the ‘teaching of the elders’. Jewish people treasured their ‘laws’ as a national
treasure. Truth. Wisdom. Justice. Is a relationship helped or hindered by ‘laws’? What religious guidelines do you ‘observe carefully’? What practices have you found help you feel ‘close’ to God?

• The Letter of James is regarded as a ‘Catholic’ or ‘general’ letter as it was not written for a particular community. James insists liturgy and life-style are linked
together. He paints a beautiful picture: a disciple is like a new birth, a new creation of ‘truth’ made from the WORD. Like the first-fruit of a plant, the seed of the word is planted in us and should show itself outwardly. Eventually the aim of the plant is to ‘look like something’ – actions of caring for orphans and widows (the lowest in society) and an ‘unworldly’ character. Planting takes some preparation and nurturing. How could you allow the word to be more fully ‘planted in you’? It is easy for religion to be ‘skin deep’. Who are ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’ in your life? What would it look like for you to be ‘unstained by the world’ – less worldly?

• Returning back to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is in Galilee but ʻspiesʼ from Jerusalem come to watch him. Pharisees and scribes seek to shame him in public
telling Jesus and his disciples they are not keeping the ʻtraditions of the eldersʼ (613 laws) and obeying the ʻpurity codesʼ. Eating food is an intimate practice as it involves what goes into our bodies. Washing and cleansing rules were to apply. These rules gradually developed into such a complex list that poor and
working people of the land could not satisfy all the conditions. This experience turned religion into oppression and made people feel distant from God. Jesus
challenged this dynamic of oppression and exclusion under the guise of holiness. How might Jesus challenge us today?

• Pharisees saw themselves as lay people stirring up the faithful toward a ʻsuper- pietyʼ. Israel was called to Holiness – Lets be holy! Two characteristics mark the pharisee spirituality. (1) religion becomes a set of rules to be lived rather than a relationship of love to be lived. (2) Judgement is made of others who do not follow ʻrulesʼ consequently separating those who are ʻin – cleanʼ and ʻout – uncleanʼ. How can you see this dynamic within yourself? In others? What does
authentic holiness look like for you?

• Jesus over-turns the entire Jewish system of ritual purity which focussed on set external actions making one acceptable God. It is revolutionary as these
purity laws were proud identity markers for Jews of their ʻholinessʼ. He points deeply into the heart adding three ideas not normally listed

• blasphemy – literally ʻsaying what is wrong is actually rightʼ
• arrogance – literally ʻtrying to make a thing shinyʼ
• folly – foolish – literally ʻwithout a deeper perspectiveʼ

Do you consider these inner characteristics harmful? What virtues could you practice as their ʻantidoteʼ?
• What is one action that you will do to be
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

Discussion Guide for 17th Sunday is here

Image result for took loaves fishes blessed them

Reflection Questions

  • Over the next 5 weeks, our scripture readings focus upon the events of God feeding his people. We depart from the normal Gospel of Mark readings from
    Mark chapter 6 and are placed into the Gospel of John chapter 6. The next five weeks provide an opportunity for prayer and deeper reflection upon the Eucharist and its meaning for our lives.
  • Jewish people recognised miraculous events of Prophets feeding God’s people with bread symbolised God feeding his family and satisfying their hunger. It was normal to bring Barley – which was harvested around the time of the Jewish Passover – to the temple as an offering. Significantly, because the temple in the North (Gilgal) was following false Baal worship the bread / barley offering is presented to a holy man (Elisha) who distributed it to the poor. Do you experience the prophetic connection between worship and being fed and ‘morality’ – now feeding the poor of the world on behalf of God?
  • Last week we heard Jesus has united us all together – Jews and Gentiles. Paul encourages us ‘to live in a manner worthy….’ showing this unity. How do you experience disunity?
  • Imagine your life, relationships, work-place. How could you practice unity-creating virtues: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with, striving to preserve unity, maintaining  bonds of peace? What is your biggest challenge?
  • Because the Gospel of Mark (Yr B) has only 16 chapters, we jump into John chapter 6 for 5 weeks to explore Jesusʼ feeding the 5,000. The story of Jesus feeding with bread is told 6 times in the Gospels. John is the most theologically full with special words and meaning. It is around the Jewish Feast of the Passover. At Passover Jewish people remembered Moses the great prophet feeding them with ʻmanna in the desertʼ. The promised Messiah (King) would also do a miraculous feeding. We notice in each of the three Passovers of Jesusʼ public ministry (Jn 2, 6, 19) the passover is fulfilled and replaced ʻwith his bodyʼ. 5 loaves and 2 fish = 7 the perfect Jewish number indicating a perfect feeding. Taking the loaves, gave thanks, gave it to distribute, gather (synagein), fragment  (klasma) are all special words used by the early church for the celebration of  the Eucharist. Twelve indicates ʻall Jewish tribes / peopleʼ. What do you make of all these ʻcluesʼ in the reading today? What does this story now mean for you?
  •  In the midst of large crowds who are hungry, Philip offers no solution. Instead he remarks it will cost so much to fix this problem, 2/3rds of a years wage! What thought or feeling decides your  (in)actions: cost or compassion? Do you offer your small contribution of money or compassion, or give up in the sight of large injustice / poverty / hunger?
  •   The crowds ʻseeʼ the sign Jesus has worked, think of him as ʻtruly the prophet’Comapssion, UnityC they have been waiting for – the Messiah. The one promised. They wish to make him King. A Political Ruler. Why do you think Jesus ʻwithdrawsʼ? Why is the ʻlifting up of Jesusʼ on the cross the enthronement moment in the gospel of John?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Reflection Guide: The Birth of John the Baptist

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Discussion Questions

1] Our first reading speaks of the Servant of God ‘formed from the womb’ and called to be a ‘light to the nations’ that ‘salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. The context is that God’s people were defeated,
their temple destroyed, and they are Babylonian slaves, alienated from their land and their God. They suffer a crisis of both identity and faith. Are they still God’s people? How can they worship in this foreign land? Have you or a group you know experienced a crisis of identity or faith? What helped or hindered?

2] Exile is to be replaced by something radically wonderful and new and Isaiah shouts this from the rooftops. The message is for the whole world. This hidden and unknown servant of God, a nobody, is made the instrument of God’s glory. We are called as disciples to be instruments of justice, mercy and hope yet may feel as if nothing we do matters much. (I toiled in vain…). When I focus on me, I easily feel
irrelevant. Isaiah invites us to see ourselves as part of Gods plan, the ‘we’ of salvation and respond simply with practical faith in hope and trust. How might this passage speak to the refugee crisis today and our response? What connections can you also make in your local setting?

3] The second reading from Acts presents us with the mission of Jesus, born to be the Saviour Servant King and John, with his mission to herald Christ and be the link between the First and New Testaments.
Like Isaiah, they are both servants ‘formed from the womb’. John is the sign that points to Christ and salvation? He longs to ‘prepare the way’. Who prepared the way for you to have a relationship with Jesus? Thank God for that person now.

4]What is it about John that stands out for you and what attributes of his,  might help you reach out to others who know nothing about Gods mercy and salvation?

5]The first thing we notice about Elizabeth and Zechariah are that they are in a community of neighbours and relatives who rejoiced with them about their new baby. How important are family, hospitality, and community in the experience of faith?

6] Luke reveals strong parallels between the birth of John and Jesus. Read the two accounts side by side if you can. Both are announced in extraordinary ways. The presence of the Holy Spirit infuses both
stories. Mary is present at each birth. John’s birth sparks joy, surprise, and amazement as miracles unfold and people respond with both fear and awe. People spread the news far and wide and everyone
who hears is amazed. The same is true of Jesus’ birth but at a heightened level. Shepherds were terrified as angels proclaim Jesus’ birth and they go in awe to see him. Everyone wonders about each child “What
then will this child be?” This question is about identity and about mission. As you reflect on your own life, both individually and as a community, ask God to reveal both your identity and mission.

7] Both boys have a mission from God. Both remain hidden and unknown through their childhood years. Both go into the desert for a time. John becomes the servant preparing others to respond to Jesus as
Saviour and pays with his life. Jesus renews and fulfills God’s eternal covenant and draws us all into the heart of the Trinity. Imagine yourself in the story with Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, the crowds of relatives and neighbours as John is born. What is God saying to you today?

8] What will you do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is created by Mrs Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ.
Email: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Web: www.livingtheword.org.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 for 10th Sunday: Who is Jesus’ Family?

Mark 3:35 - Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother

Reflection Questions

  • The first reading reminds us we are created for relationship with God. When we love someone, we like to know where they are, what they’re doing, and instinctively want to protect them. What’s it like to realize God is searching for you; wanting to know how you are and to listen to what is happening for you? Talk with God about that.
  • The tragedy of sin is that it damages the relationship of love and trust between God and his people. Self-deceit, thoughtless choices or destructive life patterns are ways we try to hide from ourselves and God. What are you uncomfortable talking to God about or facing in your life? Accepting responsibility and natural consequences are part of maturing. Can you think of a time when God allowed consequences to help you grow and mature? How has that experience impacted your faith and trust in God?
  • St Paul talks with conviction about ‘knowing’ that Jesus rose from the dead and that we too will be raised up with Jesus and be with all believers. How strong is your conviction about the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life? What aspect of your faith needs strengthening? What could help you grow more firm in faith?
  • What is Paul’s perspective on affliction and hardship? He is suggesting that our struggles somehow ‘train’ us and get us ready to live eternally in the glory of God. Does the thought of heaven permeate your daily life? What would change if you let yourself believe more deeply? How difficult
    or easy is it for you to share the Good News of the Resurrection? What stops you?
  • Paul links living a life of thanksgiving to the Resurrection. What practical steps will you take to build greater thankfulness into your daily life?
  • Jesus has been preaching the Kingdom, healing many sick, and casting out demons in the region around his home base of Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. His family thought he was quite ‘mad’ and tried to ‘seize him’, while the Scribes thought he was possessed by Satan. Jesus’ response
    was to tell stories to try to get them to recognize their error. Can you see anything of yourself in the attitude of His family or the Scribes? What challenges you most about being a disciple? How do you react when those you love, and respect misunderstand or mock you? Share those challenges with God.
  • In Judaism, blood relatives and kinship are critically important. Jesus makes it shockingly clear that natural kinship is superseded when we enter the kingdom of God. We become sisters and brothers of Jesus, heirs to the kingdom of God and eternal life with him when we do the will of
    God. Who are the people around you in need of healing, comfort, compassion, mercy and the gift of hearing the Good News and the witness of thanksgiving in your life? How is the Holy Spirit nudging you to do the will of God
  • How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail:contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources this week by Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ