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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Discussion Guide: 14th Sunday Yr A: Take Christ’s yoke and you’ll find rest

 

Year A, 14th Sunday. Being yoked with Christ. « livingtheword

Reflection Questions: • Zechariah makes a prophesy that the Saviour will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Horse and Chariot were symbols of power and war. A donkey was a symbol of humble work and peace. Horse and Donkey. Power and Humility. Violence and Service. Why does the world favour a horse, God a donkey?

• “Meek” is a word mentioned twice in today’s readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. Like a person feeling anger and yet staying in full control, able to turn it to justice rather than violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek character?

• ‘Flesh’ is St Paul’s expression talking about a life that is lived without God, like an animal following only its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is a life open to God and turned outward in love. How do you experience the disciple’s tension of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? Which life do you feed and nourish?

• Back into Ordinary Time we return to the Year A Gospel of Matthew. In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Jesus is greater than the Torah (Law given by Moses) and all the Prophets. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ is a knowledge claim by Jesus. What does this statement mean for you?

• Jesus remarks how great learned religious figures (Pharisees and Scribes) cannot accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, those without learning, workers of the land) accept him. It is not necessarily learning that has proven an obstacle but pride and position. Within those who are ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’ grows an inability to be ‘open’. Are you satisfied? Have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus do you find hardest to be ‘open’ to?

• The Torah (OT Law) handed down by Moses required knowing and being obedient to 613 laws. This was a ‘heavy burden’. People felt oppressed by the rules and those enforcing them (Saducees, Scribes, Pharisees). Jewish people referred to this as the ‘yoke of the law’. Jesus invites a radical change. ‘Come to me’ all who are feeling heavily burdened. I will give you rest. Put on my yoke. Learn from me. The Torah is being replaced by the person of Jesus. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made to avoid painful imbalance. In your disciples journey, how are  you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to do and carry more than is required?

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

 

Discussion Guide: 12th Sunday Yr A: Know Your True Worth

 

Pin on jw.org

Reflection Questions:

 Jeremiah expresses total confidence that the Lord will protect him even though he is in a volatile situation where even one-time friends are out to trip him up. Have you ever felt trapped and surrounded by difficulties out of your control? How did you relate with God through that time?

 How hard is it for you to ‘trust your cause’ to God like Jeremiah? What do you need to be able to move from knowledge about faith to faith in a warm, honest, deep relationship in which you experience of love, power, mercy and justice of God at ‘gut’ level in your life? Try praying the prayer of Jeremiah and keep a record of how God works in your situation.

 In Romans 5 Paul explains why the revelation of Jesus means God can be utterly trusted. Because he put his love on the line by sending Jesus to rescue us when we were trapped in sin and separated from God. Sin entered the world and because of sin we struggle with trials, difficulties, addictions and disordered desires and relationships with people and creation in a myriad of ways. But just as one person caused the problem, Jesus – true God and true Man – overcame sin not simply for himself but for many. That is the essence of the Good News. While we were trapped in sin, Jesus came to set us free. It is a gift to be accepted and opened. What aspect of your life do you struggle most with? Ask Jesus to give you the grace of what you need to be set free in that area today.

 Jesus tells us to “Fear no one”. That takes enormous freedom born out of trust in the absoluteness of God’s power and care for us. Jesus asks us to recognize our true worth – that we are so precious to God that every hair on our head has been counted and even a sparrow is known to God. What does the imagery tell you about how attentive God is to you? Did you know how much God values you? Pray for the gift of knowing the worth God sees in you.

 The Gospel tells us that anyone who acknowledges Jesus before others will be acknowledged by Jesus before the Father. What opportunities to share God’s love can you take this week? How do you feel knowing that Jesus speaks up for you and your needs?

 The word ‘fear’ appears, 92 times in the New Testament. God knows our human tendency to be afraid and wants to encourage us to trust God. Pope St John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” How does knowing your true worth help you do that?

 What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Reflection Guide for Trinity Sunday is here

Discussion Questions

• The Feast of the Holy Trinity was born out of the Arian controversy debating the divinity of Christ. This was resolved with the Nicene Creed and the Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381). By the early 400’s preaching and liturgical texts sought to strengthen the Church’s faith and teaching on the Trinity and the origin of this feast began.

• “God does not prove himself; he shows himself”. God’s self-revelation (unveiling) is necessary, because all human attempts to know the depths of God are inadequate. It is fitting then, that the first reading shares one of the great moments of God ‘revealing’ himself on Mount Sinai with Moses. Todays text is actually the fourth time Moses has gone up the mountain to speak with God. The title ‘LORD’ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew YAWHEH – I AM WHO I AM – the DIVINE NAME. But God wishes to go further. ‘I am merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity’. The Hebrew word used to describe this character of God is found in the word ‘Hesed’. It means that God has a covenantal-spousal love which is ever faithful; astonishingly in particular when the other covenant partner,(humanity) is unfaithful. How does this change your image of God? Heal an ‘old’ image of God? Comfort you?In what way?

• St Paul’s letter today shares an early liturgical greeting (still used today). A kiss of peace was to be offered to each other, not after the Our Father before communion, but as a greeting at the beginning of worship to show and sign the love we aim to live and celebrate. How do you greet others in your faith community? Covid 19 has made greetings like a kiss problematic. How can we continue to show love and connection within our community in a way which allows people experience the warmth and love of Christ made visible before their eyes? How could the sign of peace become more significant for you?

• The Gospel does not attempt to explain the Three Divine Persons in One God, but to provide us with a glimpse of the inner nature of God who IS LOVE. Sometimes God is portrayed as a surly master needing to be ‘pacified’ or ‘persuaded to forgive’ by Jesus. Todays text completely negates that idea. God sent his Son not to condemn the world but to save it. God’s only motive is; love, self-communication, forgiveness, mercy. How do we humans respond to God’s offer – will we receive it? We are totally free not to believe but that choice is a kind of ‘self-imposed judgment’. How could you witness more authentically to help others ‘receive’ Christ?

• Rublev’s famous Trinity Icon is shown here. It has inspired many to recognize and ponder the inner union and profound dynamic love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do you notice a gap at the table? The invitation is to pull up a chair and enter in? What does that mean for you?

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

Discussion Guide: 5th Sunday of Easter – We are Called to Show the ‘WAY’ to others

 

like living stones - All Souls Parish

Reflection Questions:

• The early Christian community described in Acts endures many challenging experiences. Today marks an incredible ‘break-through’. Greek speaking (Hellenists) Christians complained their widows were not being fed in the daily distribution of food to the poor. Jewish Christians may have been favouring their own kind. The Church was transitioning from a Jewish Christian community to a more Greek speaking and Greek cultured community. Imagine the tensions and arguments! Yet the Apostles creatively responded with wisdom and preserved unity. A new service structure was implemented into the community. Who is getting all the attention in your community? Who is not? What creative response is needed to meet the needs of ‘the poor’?

• The passage of scripture from Peter is regarded as part of an Easter Baptismal Homily. The image is of a Temple built with stones aligned with the ‘cornerstone – Jesus’ which holds the whole ‘house’ together. Who is a ‘living stone’ you look to in your local community for ‘alignment’ with Jesus? How do you ‘measure up’?

• Priesthood, a Holy People set apart, a people bringing the world to God and God to the world, is not to be understood as confined to the ‘Temple’. Peter reminds all the baptised they are no longer limited to bringing animal and grain offerings to the Temple. Their lives are to announce God’s love and care. Feeding the poor, clothing and care of the sick, prayers for the community are all part of the great ‘spiritual sacrifices’ offered to God to bring God to the people and the people to God. Do you glimpse your ‘royal’ and ‘priestly’ job description of Baptism into the family of Christ? Can you glimpse the connection between the Sunday altar and the Monday office desk?

• John 14-17 is Jesus’ departing words to his disciples. His words are filled with the language of intimate love. Have you ever had someone beautifully prepare a guest room for you? Say they want you to be always with them? How did it feel? How does it feel to know Jesus wants this relationship with you?

• Without Jesus and no longer welcome in the Jewish Temple, the Johannine community felt they were lost. ‘How can we know the ‘way’? ‘I AM the way’ is a theological punch. Jesus uses the
‘divine name (I AM) and challenges his followers to live ‘his way – the way of God’. Our life-style, our time-style, our ‘way’, is to be in exact replication of Christ. How does this challenge you?

• “Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” What ‘works’ are we called to do?

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

Discussion Guide:   4th Sunday of Easter – Jesus, the Good Shepherd

 

THE FINAL CHAPTERS: FOLLOW THE LEADER

Reflection Questions:

• Today is Vocation Sunday. It is also called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ as the readings will often focus upon Jesus identifying with the role of being a ‘Shepherd’ for us, his sheep. Have you ever thought that Jesus does call some sheep to become ‘Shepherds’?

• In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ – the head and shepherd – authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation – particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no 15). What does this statement teach you about the role of the Priest? Have you ever been ‘thankful’ for the gift and ministry of a priest?

• Jesus identifies himself as a Shepherd but also a ‘gate’. In the middle east, shepherds would gather their sheep together at night sometimes creating a shelter or collection of wooden sticks to build a fence. Sometimes they may have built with blocks a square with a narrow gap for the sheep to enter in and out. One shepherd would take the role of ‘gate’, lying down in the ‘gap’ as an expression of caring for the sheep and not letting them out, and protecting the sheep from danger coming in. What does this image reveal to you about Jesus? Can you identify anyone’s vocation who follows this ‘laying down of their life’? Can you see the similarities between a Mum, Dad, Priest, Sister, Brother?

• God writes his hopes and plans for you into your desires” (says St Ignatius). Persistent thoughts, attractions, ideas that don’t go away are symbolic of the nudges of the Holy Spirit and God’s desire at work in us. In what ways or experiences have you noticed God’s call for your life? Do you get a sense of good pasture and ‘abundant life’ from following God or does fear dominate?

• A Christian disciple is drawn to look upon the love of Christ on the cross, and then, in co-operation with grace, is drawn to ‘be’ Christ on the cross with arms outstretched in love of the world. Those called to the ‘consecrated life’ seek to conform their whole existence to Christ (Vita Consecrata 16). Have you ever considered what it would be like to be a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to everyone?

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

Discussion GuideDivine Mercy Sunday – The Love and Mercy of God

 

Truly, today we celebrate Divine Mercy" - Mission San Luis Rey Parish

Reflection Questions:

• Over the next 8 weeks the Readings reflect on the mystery of Easter. Take a moment to reflect on your experience of Easter. What do you remember? What did you hear? See? Feel? What personal message do you think God wishes you to store and treasure in your spirit? On this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, can you see God’s love and forgiveness at Easter?

• Luke, in writing the Acts of the Apostles is trying to teach the early Christian community how to live and grow. It is the ideal the Christian Community strives to live and witness to. It is the lived expression of conversion. Consider personally (and for your community) what lifestyle change is invited for you to

• pray daily at home and in the temple

• share property, possessions, food and resources with those in need

• celebrate the liturgy (breaking of bread) and learn the teachings of the apostles

• For Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity the break with family and social bonds caused them to be rejected and persecuted. Jewish converts to Christianity saw their own family conduct a funeral for them considering them lost and dead! Gentiles faced suspicion of subverting the social order. Peter encourages them not to be surprised. Your inheritance is waiting in heaven. Be certain that the genuineness of your faith will eventually prove to give praise to God. Do you experience being ‘tested’ by friends, family, society for your faith? Do you need to let go of some relationships and influences to remain ‘faith-full’? Does your faith ‘cost’ you anything?

• The resurrection greeting Jesus gives his disciples is important. The Jewish belief was the reign of the Messiah would bring a time of peace and people living in reciprocal covenant relationship with God and one another. Peace is given by the forgiveness of sins, won on the cross, given to the Church through the activity of the Holy Spirit. While this text points to the sacrament of reconciliation, it also has within it a charge for all disciples to actively live the forgiveness they have received from Christ. Do you recognise your call to be a living witness to the peace and forgiveness -covenant – of God?

 

• Thomas is present within each of us and in our communities. Sometimes with disciples. Sometimes not. Struggling with questions and doubts. Do you know a ‘Thomas’? How could you support them?

• The Roman Emperor of the time, ‘Domitian’ demanded people address him with the title ‘Our Lord and God’.What might John be trying to teach us in Thomas’ profession of faith?

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

Discussion Guide: Easter Sunday – “He has been Raised!”

See the source image

 

Reflection Questions:

• Easter (and the next 7 weeks) is filled with the belief in the Resurrection, the appearances of Jesus, and readings from the Acts of Apostles. Acts 10 (first reading) is very significant as it involves Peter addressing a gentile (Cornelius) and his family in their home. Jews could not be in a gentile house or eat with them because of the clean / unclean restrictions of the Jewish Laws. This ‘uncleanʼ ʻsinnerʼ ʻimpureʼ label is the biggest obstacle between Jews and gentiles not only in the Old and New Testament but even today. God was demanding the unthinkable from good and law abiding Jews. Peter was being taught by God to ʻlift the status of ʻuncleanʼ off the backs of the gentiles.ʼ What cultural, religious, family boundaries have you been brought up with which lead you to separate yourself from others? Who does the world label ʻuncleanʼ?

• The Resurrection is a belief in Jesus rising from death. It is also deeply a life-style victory over powerful rulers who crush the poor and powerless. Does your belief in the Resurrection show itself in a Resurrection lifestyle?

• The image of Easter Sunday is the empty tomb. If thieves had stolen Jesus they would not have unwrapped him. The burial cloths are ʻaloneʼ. The story and evidence is shared. People consider it ʻnonsenseʼ. Peter walks home ʻamazedʼ. If you were present in the Resurrection scene, having witnessed his suffering, death and burial. And now the empty tomb with burial cloths on the ground… what would you think? A stolen body or risen Lord? What thoughts and emotions would be present? Spend some time at the ʻtombʼ and see what it teaches you. Can you ʻseeʼ and ʻbelieveʼ?

• Jesus is risen as he said! Jesusʼ resurrection shows a victory over death. Death has lost its ʻstingʼ. Identify 3 things that you would now allow to enter your consciousness as a consequence of believing in the Resurrection? What are ʻResurrectionʼ behaviours? What does it mean to be ʻEaster peopleʼ and ʻChristianʼ?

• Imagine someone you have loved in a very intimate and special way. This person died and you were personally involved in seeing the death, the burial. In grief you go to the place of burial and see first-hand that your friend is not there. There is evidence of burial cloths and a messenger that ʻhe has been raisedʼ and that your friend so wants to meet with you and you will see each other soon. What would be your thoughts and feelings? If the resurrection is true, what change in thinking happens about death? About life? About God?

• As you have participated in the Holy Week ceremonies over the past few days what do you remember most, what struck you personally from the words, symbols, liturgies? What do you think God was trying to show you for your life journey?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week

Discussion Guide:  Palm Sunday – The Lord’s Passion

Image result for The Lord's passion

Reflection Questions:

• On Palm Sunday we wave ʻpalmsʼ in remembrance of Jesusʼ procession into Jerusalem. We cry ʻHosannaʼ (in Hebrew meaning ʻSave Us Now). What is your expectation of God ʻsaving usʼ? Are you willing to let go of a strong powerful military figure and allow a ʻsuffering servantʼ? On a donkey? What do you think happened in the minds and hearts of the crowd gathered to eventually cry ʻcrucify him!ʼ?

• Palm Sunday is also called ʻPassionʼ Sunday as we listen to the whole story of Jesusʼ personal betrayal by his disciples, his court appearance before religious and political rulers, his rejection by previously welcoming crowds, his cruel whipping and torture by soldiers. Watch, listen, feel the violence. Where does such cruelty originate from in the world? Why does the world seek a ʻvictimʼ?

• ‘He made no answer’. The silence of Jesus as Pontius Pilate questions and interrogates him is striking. Have you ever been tempted to argue your way out of a difficult situation to ‘save yourself.’ Jesus’ silence is a deep act of trust in God. How would you have behaved in this situation?

• It may be a surprise to learn that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as a bunch of revolutionaries from Galilee, hanging out in parks, carrying swords, wanted and hunted by police. How would such a group be considered today? In the Church?

• Jesusʼ sufferings ʻunmasksʼ and reveals the worldʼs violence and cruelty. Jesus responds peacefully in interrogation. Heals a soldier’s ear. Asks the Father to forgive. Welcomes criminals to heaven. Commits his spirit into the hands of the Father. Is Jesus a ʻdoor-matʼ or a ʻsaviourʼ? How?

• Soldiers make a game of teasing Jesus. He is stripped, humiliated, hit, played with as a ‘game’. Consider in the world today soldiers abusing innocent people. Can you feel their pain. Pray for them and soldiers in places of terror and oppression today.

• Simon from Cyrene did not want to lift the heavy wooden cross of Jesus. Have you ever felt you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a heavy job? Has someone in great need crossed your path recently? Do you run away from people suffering?

• The veil of the sanctuary was a large thick curtain that separated the ‘holy of holies’ from the rest of the temple. It was the sacred place where God’s presence was known to dwell sitting on the mercy seat’ (that held the 10 commandments). The gospel of Matthew paints with words the truth that here on the cross is the new ‘mercy seat’ where God dwells. Spend time with a crucifix this week and ponder what you see.

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

Discussion Guide: Thirsting for God?

Image result for the samaritan woman at the well modern

Reflection Questions:

• ‘A goal without a plan is still a dream’. Reflect on your experience of Lent so far. How would you evaluate your Lenten journey and commitment? What has worked well and could be practised more?

• People ‘grumbled’. Moses, heavy with the experience of leading God’s people is frightened he will get stones thrown at him! Wisdom is shared with Moses. Go ahead of the people with some wise people. Get away from the grumbling voices. Do grumbling or criticizing voices pull you down and make you feel sad? How could you walk away from complaining voices this Lent, select some ‘wisdom voices’ (elders), and get on with the job of providing water for people to drink and survive?

• St Paul paints a picture for our imagination. Have you ever had someone love you and show continued kindness even when you were rebelling against them? Imagine if this person was willing to ‘die’ to ‘win you over’? Have you ever considered just how precious and ‘loveable’ you are that God would be willing to die for you? This historical event is located at the cross. Consider visiting a catholic church and spending time with the ‘stations of the cross’.

• Samaritans were considered unclean and unworthy because they were historically Jewish people that had inter-married with non believers in the area of Samaria. Jews would normally avoid close contact and speech with Samaritans and refused to allow them into the temple in Jerusalem. A conversation begins around ‘water’ a symbol of the life giving relationship with God. In the
‘heat of the day’ where do you go to find rest and water? What is your ‘Jacobs well’?

• It is possible that the Samaritan woman has chosen to collect water at the most inconvenient time under the midday sun to avoid the company of other women. Has she had experiences of ejection or  gossip? Life has been hard for her. She wants to ‘never be thirsty or have to keep coming here’. This Lent ask yourself the two deep questions of spiritual direction: What do you want? Where do you hurt? Consider writing in a special journal your answers to these two special questions.

• Some scripture scholars suggest that the 5 husbands the woman has already had, is actually the 5 different ‘gods’ which have influenced the Samaritans by their inter-marriage with ‘outsiders’ and their ‘gods’. Jesus says He is ‘I AM’ which is the Divine Name given by God to Moses. What do you think this means?

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

Discussion GuideLove Your Neighbour 

 

Reflection Questions:

Image result for love your neighbour• The Book of Leviticus is a special collection of ‘laws’. This book was special for the ‘Levites – Priests’. Amazingly, Jewish people developed the 10 commandments of Exodus into 613 laws to guide their life. Today we receive the essential teaching: be holy and love your neighbour as yourself. Have you ever re-imagined the invitation ‘love your neighbour as your own flesh’? What would it actually look like for you to live this invitation this week? This year?

• ‘Do you not know that you are…..?’ is a question about identity. Knowing your identity shapes your behaviour and life-style. Imagine if you were actually a Prince or Princess? Paul invites us into a profound reflection: ‘Do you not know that you are a temple of God’? If God’s spirit is in you what does this do to your ‘identity’? Use your imagination to ponder the consequences…..

• Gandhi famously quoted this saying of Jesus when he concluded: ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’ Jesus today is taking some basic and well known ‘laws’ and challenging his followers to be very different – revolutionaries of a radical love! Examine your upbringing and cultural expectations about life: ‘you have heard it said…..’ Are there any attitudes and values that you accept as normal from your parents and upbringing but in fact they are opposite to values you see lived by Jesus? Is there anything you are doing in your life that Jesus wouldn’t do?

• In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is teaching the heart of a Christian life-style. Some people have called Matthew Chapters 5-8 the ‘Be-Attitudes’. Why offer no resistance to the one who is evil?Hand over your tunic and cloak? Give to anyone who asks? Love your enemy? Pray for your persecutors? Is this silliness or a wisdom that can change the world? Does Jesus ‘uncover’ the violence of society and invite his followers to not be part of it?

• Many people feel distressed that they are not ‘perfect’. We all know our failings. However, Saints are not perfect, they are people who have sinned but keep on getting up! Christian spirituality encourages us to know that love practiced, grows, and overcomes darkness. Do you only love those who love you? Why? Can you glimpse God’s unconditional loving watering the earth… on good and bad alike. Would you like to abandon your life to this type of loving?

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