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Archive for the ‘Ordinary Time’ Category

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 & Scriptures for 25th Sun. Year A:The Parable of the Generosity of God-HERE

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Reflection Questions

• Many feel displaced from church and Sacraments due to the pandemic. God feeling ‘distant’ is a common spiritual experience. The words of Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been
demolished so they cannot go back to Jerusalem or the Temple. Isaiah invites us to look inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. How can you allow more time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God in daily life?

• Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He has choices; he could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle or he could be passive and let  God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? What was the outcome for you? An earthquake and conversion of the jailer provides the way forward for Paul. Talk to God about what you need to be able to trust God’s providence and guidance for your life.

• Workers would stand in the middle of town as a labour pool waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, not having been given a job, many would walk home downcast. What do you think those labourers felt? In desperation some continue to stay until after 4pm! What strikes you most about the landowners (God) behaviour?

• This Labourers in the Vineyard parable could be the parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew. That Christian community was Jewish but gradually swelled with Gentile converts. Jews who had served long in faithful obedience to the Law now saw Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God seems almost ludicrously generous. Who do you identify with in the parable? What is your emotional response to the parable and why? Consider both the practical aspects of it for today as well as its eternal life message?

• The landowner’s (God’s) generosity creates a problem then and for us. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money. Fewer hours worked = less money. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’? How would you describe the difference between equality and equity?

• God’s ways are different from worldly ways. As someone building the ‘kingdom of God’, how are you called to be like the landowner? How can you establish true justice and equity within your sphere of influence? Why is it easier to maintain unjust structures/policies and simply give charity?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly  resources by Fr Frank Bird sm & Bev McDonald – distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection for Sunday 24th is here – Extravagant, Dangerous Forgiveness.

Discussion Questions.

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The Book of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus was used to instruct new candidates for Baptism with all its wisdom lessons. Today, forgiveness is the theme. Are you ‘hugging tightly’ any anger or resentment? What behaviour is this causing? How does that behaviour help or hinder you in daily living?

• Breaking the habit of bitterness takes courage and humility. We are asked to humbly ‘remember the Most High’s covenant’ (the forgiveness of our sins on the cross). When we remember that we are loved and forgiven, we are called to respond by humbly sharing forgiveness  to others. Reflect on God’s love and mercy for you and pray for the grace to forgive when you find it hard.

• We hear St Paul’s letter to the Romans for the last time this Sunday. Tensions existed between Jews who kept ‘laws’ and customs faithfully, and Gentiles who felt no obligation of the Jews. Do you identify with a particular ‘group’ in the church? What barriers or ill feeling exists toward ‘others’ NOT in ‘your
group’? Paul reminds us we are one. How could you be an agent of ‘unity’?

• Encouraged from the previous Gospel episode of forgiveness, Peter asks Jesus precisely how generous does one have to be toward someone who has sinned. Rabbi’s taught three times. Peter suggests a large and generous amount using the perfect number 7. He thinks he must be right. Jesus pronounces an absurd preposterous amount: 77 (double perfection!). Justice gives strict legal prescriptions but gets overwhelmed by Mercy and God’s love. What is your struggle with forgiveness? Perhaps accepting it from others or forgiving yourself is a problem? See yourself as loved, cherished and forgiven by God – just as you are! You cannot earn forgiveness -it is pure gift. Is withholding forgiveness your issue?
What makes you worthy to judge another? How does God see it? Consider what you need to do.

• 10,000 talents is the largest number in Jewish Arithmetic. The word ‘talent’ is Greek for a weight of metal; the largest unit of measurement. 10,000 talents is equal to our phrase ‘billions of dollars’.
It is beyond repayable. Strikingly it is ‘forgiven’. This same servant then refuses to ‘forgive’ someone owing him $100. He is unmoved by the extraordinary forgiveness he received. Have you allowed God’s forgiveness on the cross to profoundly change you or is there some sense that you take it for granted? What would help you grow in appreciation of God’s inexhaustible forgiveness to you?

• A parable carries the seed of subversion of established patterns. The King in this parable, (God)offers
extravagant forgiveness, while the full meaning indicates that the receiver is expected to pay it forward and forgive in turn. This is dangerous and unexpected. We have a clear warning that our ongoing choices and actions in life matter? What does living forgiveness involve for me?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly  resources by Fr Frank Bird sm and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

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 Guide22nd Sunday Yr. A – Do not conform – but be transformed!

ReflecSwimming Against the Tidetion Questions

• Jeremiah was a young prophet who spoke out against King Jehoiakim. The King was so upset with Jeremiah’s words pointing out injustice he burnt Jeremiah’s writings. Prophets were passionately aware of the call to love God and show this in true worship. To care for the poor and the stranger through hospitality and giving. Often this put them in conflict with the religious, political and social systems of their day. Do you see in the world a cause for ‘crying out’? Do you see and wish to share outrage at what is accepted by society? What would you feel is a desire ‘burning in your heart, imprisoned in your bones’?

• Both Roman citizens and Jews in Rome were familiar with offering sacrifices in a temple. St Paul leads them on. It is not an external sacrifice of food to God which is required, but your very bodies offered in loving service. Do you consider your daily faithful service as an ‘offering’ pleasing to God? How could you offer your body more to God? Are you conformed to this age or the will of God?

• Within minutes of Peter being made the ‘rock’ upon which the Church would be built, Jesus now calls him ‘Satan’. Although Peter recognised Jesus as the Christ and Son of God he was wrong in understanding what this actually meant. The Jewish hope was of a glorious ruler who would put to death all enemies of Israel. It was inconceivable that the ‘Christ’ the ‘anointed one’ should suffer. He was supposed to make others suffer. Can you glimpse how difficult it would have been for Peter and the disciples to have their understanding of the ‘Christ’ changed? Would you naturally presume glory rather than suffering is fitting for God?

• Satan is a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary’. One who puts another pathway against you which leads away from God. Peter is suggesting ‘another way’ from the path to suffering in Jerusalem. He is acting as Satan does. He is told to ‘get behind’ (the position of a disciple following his master). What are you arguing with God about in your life? Does it involve the pathway of comfort and glory, or suffering and self denial? Will you ‘get behind’ or stay arguing?

• Taking up the ‘cross’ is more than coping with burdens and failures. It is an act of revolutionary zeal to stand in opposition to structures of injustice which block the coming of the Kingdom of God. Only revolutionaries against the Roman authorities suffered crucifixion on the cross. Are you willing to lose your life in the cause of justice and true reconciliation? Can you imagine the joy when your conduct and life is repaid in Heaven?

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

Discussion Guide: 21st Sunday Yr. A – Who do YOU say I am?

and u say you are a christian | was condemned as a criminal and ...

Reflection Questions• The special office of ‘Master of the Palace’ also had another well known title ‘Keeper of the Keys’. This involved wearing the key to the palace door. It hung from just below the shoulder and was obvious to all who saw it. Symbolically and physically, this person had access to the King and had authority to act in the name of the King. Unfortunately Shebna in the first reading had a liking for the King’s chariots (Is 22, 16-18) and was building himself a special tomb – both expressions of status and power. He was removed from his office by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah makes a prophecy that such a person given this role will be a ‘peg in a sure spot’. What do you think this means?

• St Paul comes to the end of his painful sharing and confusion as to why his own people (Israel) could not accept Jesus. After all his wrestling and argument with God he finishes in prayer. He hands over this struggle to the mystery of how God works. What do you feel you need to hand over to God?

•The Gospel of Matthew from Chapter 14 has Jesus giving special instruction to his 12 disciples. Dramatically he leaves Galilee and walks them into a place filled with Temples to Roman Emperors and Baal worship. There is even a temple dedicated to the fertility cult of the ‘dancing goat’! Against the background of this pagan worship he confronts his disciples, and us: Who do YOU say I am? What do YOU think of me? Imagine being in this scene. Jesus asks this question of you.

• Simon’s response brings together two ‘titles’. The Christ (in greek or Messiah in Hebrew) is the long awaited one promised by God to save his people. But added to this Simon recognises the unique filial relationship Jesus has with God. Jesus is not simply a prophet (John Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah…) but uniquely one with God. Would you say you ‘know about’ Jesus or that you ‘know Jesus’? Is your christian faith ‘second hand’ or grounded on a ‘personal encounter’ with Jesus?

• Peter – Cephas (meaning Rock) was not a known Jewish name. It is a striking image. Rock was immediately associated with God. And combined with the role of ‘keeper of the keys’ Peter’s leadership and authority within the group of 12 is made clear. The Church is being provided with a teaching authority for the time when Jesus will not be physically present to interpret the Laws of Moses and Gospel of Jesus. Do you view this gift of authority by Jesus positively or negatively?

• Binding and loosing and powers of the netherworld present a Jewish view of the rule of God. Jesus is understood as wrestling the human world from the grip of satan and reclaiming it for God.
How do you relate to power, order, authority. Is it needed in the Church?

• 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?

Discussion Guide: 19th Sunday Yr. A – Walk on Water

 

Come and Go in Faith - YCK Chapel - Authentic | Intentional ...

Reflection Questions:

• The mountain of Horeb was another term for the famous Mt Sinai where Moses met face to face with God. Unlike Moses, Elijah is being chased. He challenged the Queen for putting statues of Baal in the temple, killed 400 Baal prophets and is running frightened in the desert. He seeks God. He experiences God in the ‘tiny whispering sound’ of God’s voice in prayer. Have you had an experience of doing something for God and it meets resistance? Where do you go to seek God? What would you say you have heard recently from God?

• In St Paul’s letter to the Romans,  chapters 9-11 reflect a great sadness that the Jewish people – Paul’s own people – have not recognised and believed in Jesus. Have you experienced sorrow and anguish for someone who has not believed in Jesus or has left their christian faith? Consider placing them before God in prayer. Paul used this anguish to become an incredible missionary and very talented in preaching in a relevant way. How could you be more missionary?

•After feeding the 5000 people start to suggest that Jesus is the long awaited messiah. This has dangerous consequences. Herod, who has just killed John, could be identifying Jesus as the next target and threat to his power. He ‘compels’ (in the greek) the disciples to leave. Dissolves the crowd and goes up the mountain to pray. Not only does he wish to mourn the loss of John his close friend and cousin. He is also teaching the disciples about mission (Mt 14) and seeks to be grounded in prayer with God.

• A boat tossed about in the sea has always been an early symbol of the Church. In the middle east the rough sea was considered a symbol of darkness and chaos. Throughout history many storms have caused the Church to cry out to Jesus for help. Walking on water is a display of Jesus’ power over all chaos and darkness along with his use of the Divine Name ‘It is I’. A simplification of the divine name given to Moses on Mt Sinai. While the english uses ‘tossed about’ the greek word is literally ‘tortured’. What forces torture you and the church today? Imaginatively enter the boat scene and hear Jesus personally say the words ‘ Take courage, do not be afraid’ to you. What would this mean for you?

• Peter represents church leadership but also the individual disciple. Urged to take the risk of obedience to Jesus’ word the ‘walk on the water to Jesus’ can be sunk by dwelling on the experience of strong winds and big waves. Problems. Fear. Sinking. What could you pray for God to ‘save’ the Church from today? Save you from today?

• Jesus is invited into the boat. The storm calms. Their crisis and Jesus’ help leads them to bow down humbly. Have you had an experience like this?

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

 

Discussion Guide16th Sunday Yr. A: Parables – small stories to help build the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is like…..Kudzu? | Sherry Cothran

Reflection Questions:

• The Book of Wisdom was written for Jewish people living in cities heavily influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. Wisdom teaching was to remind them of their history and relationship with God. People are to learn from the patience and gentleness and forgiving nature of God and show this in their own lives. How can you be both ‘just’ and ‘kind’? Does your use of power show itself in being ‘lenient’ and gentle to all?

• Last week the Spirit dwelling within us was referred to as a ‘first-fruits’. A first installment. An engagement ring looking forward to the promise of the wedding day! St Paul today provides a beautiful image of the presence and power of the Spirit at work in us. The Spirit prays within us in a unique way to God. Have you experienced a time of wanting to pray to God but not having words to describe how you feel. What prayer intention does your body and spirit ‘groan’ with to God? Do you recognise that this experience can be a powerful prayer? Offer this groaning today to God in prayer.

• Weeds. Seeds. Yeast. Each image expresses something of the way that God and God’s project (growing the Kingdom of heaven) is present and alive in the world. Allowing wheat and weeds to grow together is risky farming. What is your emotional reaction to the presence of good and evil existing alongside each other?Within you? Can you glimpse the patience of God?

• The mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet within a year it can turn into a shrub large enough to be mistaken for a tree. From very small beginnings it becomes something extraordinarily large. Can you identify a small action of love and service that made a profound impact on you? Can you recognise that your daily ‘sowing’ mustard seeds of justice and forgiveness and gentleness, builds the kingdom of heaven? What ‘seed’ needs to be sown most in your workplace / home today?

• The humble presence of a small amount of yeast in a large quantity of flour dramatically transforms a flour mixture into bread (three measures would feed 100 people). Jesus challenges disciples to be this type of ‘presence’ in the world. Yet the kingdom requires a person to be completely possessed by a small seed: love your neighbour as yourself.

• Parables often hide a challenging message. The apparent power of evil. The littleness of the ‘seeds’ of our loving. The small amount of our ‘yeast’ in the vastness of the world and its problems. Yet the mustard seed is tremendously fruitful. The yeast succeeds in transforming flour. Hope is at the centre of kingdom living. The ‘righteous will shine’. Can you live full of hope – refusing to be beaten by the reality you see?

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

 

Discussion Guide: 15th Sunday Yr A:   Listen – hear the Word – and act on it!

 

epexegesis: Sowing the Word of the Kingdom (Matt 13:1-23)

Reflection Questions:

• The final chapters of Isaiah are called the ‘Book of Consolations’, written to comfort and encourage the Israelites in exile. God’s people are invited to trust deeply in the power and promises of God. They will return home. The power of God’s word to do and bring about what is spoken points also to the Gospel reading and the power of the ‘seed’ that is sown to be extremely fruitful. The Hebrew ‘dabar’ is translated as both ‘word’ and ‘deed’. Consider your own word. Do you ‘do’ as you ‘say’? Is your word powerful? Effective? Can people rely on your ‘word’ and ‘what you say you will do’?

• St Paul uses striking imagery to describe our spiritual journey. We groan within ourselves as we ‘wait for adoption’ and the ultimate redemption of our bodies. What life experience at present is causing you to ‘groan inwardly’? Do you accept or resent your human frailty and weakness? St Paul’s words suggest he talked with God about this. What is the experience of ‘waiting for adoption’? Can you link this with your discipleship and suffering?

• Matthew chapter 13 has a series of parables. Today we listen to the first about the ‘Sower and the Seed’. The seed is the focus of the parable. It is symbolic of Jesus’ ‘word’ being sown by his preaching. A concern of Jesus’ disciples and the early Christian community was why Jesus was apparently so ‘unsuccessful’. Many people listened, were healed, but did not believe and ‘follow’. This parable may be an attempt by the community of Matthew to explain why this happened.

• Two points would have astounded the listeners of this parable. The generosity – or foolishness of the sower – putting seed in places where it will not grow. And the extreme fruitfulness of the seed planted in rich soil. A good crop would have been a yield of 30% of the seed, but this seed brings also 60% and 100% fruitfulness! What does this show about God and the power of His Word? Consider the fruitfulness of the scriptures in your life. Can you identify a time when you responded to the Word asking you to do something incredibly challenging? Life-changing? What passage did this for you?

• The reader is invited to reflect upon what type of ‘soil’ is present in their life and if there are any obstacles to the Word (seed)? Things closing my eyes, ears, heart? A question or topic of faith that I have not pursued enough and been satisfied with ‘not understanding’? Some trial or tribulation that I have let dominate my life, whose voice I have let be louder than God’s voice? Concern and ‘anxiety’ for money, job, clothing, possessions, relationships that have led me to choose the world over God?

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