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Archive for the ‘Ordinary Time’ Category

Discussion Guide:  33rd Sunday Yr. A – Faithful in small things or afraid to act? Which does God ask of us?

 

Don't Bury Your Talent!" Matthew 25:14-30 - YouTube

Reflection Questions:  • The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings for daily living. Today a woman (not necessarily exceptional or beautiful as modern media might portray), does routine daily chores filled with wisdom and purpose. Her love extends beyond her family to the poor and needy. Her life and good works is spoken of ‘at the city gates’. Have you experienced charm’ as deceptive and ‘beauty’ fleeting? Two quite different life-styles are presented as a ‘mirror’ to expose the reader. Where do you ‘see’ yourself?

• Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament Letter. They were concerned that ‘the Day of the Lord’ (Jesus’ return) had not happened. St Paul shares with them and us that the exact date of the ‘day of the Lord’ is not known. But we are all to be ‘living in the light’ following the way of Jesus. What image speaks more to you: not sleeping, staying alert, being sober? How could you apply this ‘image’ to an application in your life?

• The end of the Church’s Year is coming! Next week is the end: Christ the King. The Judgement Parable of the Talents is given to us today as a way of helping us to reflect seriously on the end of the world and the Lord’s second coming. A careful reading of the Parable reveals some disturbing realities.

• One ‘talent’ is a large weight of metal equivalent to 15 years of an average wage ($750,000!). Is the Master generous or mean? What image of God do you ‘read into the text’?

• Two different ‘images’ and perceptions of the Master are found. Servants 1 and 2 are spurred into creativity, Servant 3 is filled with fear. He will take no risks, avoid any wrongdoing, and will give back to God in ‘strict justice’ what was given. Is Servant 3 ‘self-ish’? His fear of judgement tends to paralyse him. He is not filled with a freedom and love for creative risk taking in works of mercy. Could this be an image of the Jewish community for Matthew? The Christian Community today?

• Very large amounts of money are being traded. Is this supporting capitalist greed and risk taking or is it reduced to a ‘small matter’ in comparison to the new ‘great responsibilities’ of the kingdom of God?

• Reflect personally and name your ‘talents’. From this parable what do you think God asks of you? If you were to be judged on your current use of your talents what might be the conclusion?

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

Discussion Guide:     32nd Sunday Yr. A – Be wise – stay alert!

 

In the Bible, it says to keep your lamps full of oil. What does this mean? - Quora

Reflection Questions:  • The month of November begins by celebrating All Saints (Nov 1st) and All Souls (Nov 2nd). Be invited to visit a Church to pray in thanks for all those who have brightened our journey with their lives.

• The Book of Wisdom was written to share the beauty of Jewish ‘wisdom’ different from Greek ‘wisdom’. For Greeks, wisdom was the result of hard human study and work. Jewish people understood wisdom as a feminine aspect of God and a gift ‘received’. At dawn was the favoured time for prayer. During the day ‘the gate’ was a place of gathering for elders making legal decisions and where city trade took place. Do you love, seek, watch, pray into the night for… wisdom? v17 continues: wisdom begins with the sincere desire for instruction. What would you like ‘instruction’ in? Who could you ask for help?

• Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is one of the earliest letters in the New Testament. In contrast to the belief that death was the very end, our Christian faith rests on a certain hope. Use your imagination to enter Paul’s picture of the final day. Why do you think scripture refers to this as a ‘great and terrible’ day?

• In the ancient Middle – East, the complete wedding celebration would take up several days. The first stage involved the fathers of the couple discussing and arranging the contract and legal matters between the two families. The Groom would then arrive to the Brides house to take her home. It was not known how long the various discussions would take. Guests at the Groom’s house were frequently ‘waiting’ as a result of delays. You can imagine the surprise with the Groom and Bride arriving at midnight! Jesus uses this image for his ‘return’. The Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King (November 20) as if it was the ‘return’. What would you do if Jesus returned in 2 weeks?

• The Bridesmaids and ‘oil for their lamps’ is symbolic of being ‘ready’. ‘Oil’ equals readiness. It cannot be ‘shared’. Spiritual preparation cannot be done by someone else. There is the striking image of a ‘locked door’. Cries to ‘open the door’. A negative response. The parable draws us in. We are left with self accusation: will I be ‘ready’? In what way does this parable challenge you?

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

Discussion Guide:    Solemnity of All Saints – Our saintly identity calls us to holiness.

 

Living the Beatitudes — Fr. Bill's Personal Pages

Reflection Questions:    1. The book of Revelation uses symbolic imagery to paint the Apostle John’s vision of heaven. The symbolic imagery can sound confusing, it portrays deep meaning about salvation and eternal life. Today we celebrate All Saints Day. This great solemnity calls us to look toward heaven and remember that we are all called to be saints.

2. In John’s vision of heaven, the saints (servants of God) are “marked with the seal.” This language invokes the Old Testament Ezekiel where the holy ones were marked on their foreheads with the Hebrew letter Tao. It is shaped like a cross so the saints are the ones marked with the sign of the cross. Ponder your own baptism (where you are signed with the cross), confirmation (where you are sealed with the Holy Spirit through the cross traced in oil on your forehead), and the sign of the cross itself (that we make in prayer and worship).

3. John saw, “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Heaven is not exclusive to one group. There will be people there “from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” All Saints day remembers all the servants of God, not just those who are canonized.

4. The saints endured “great distress” and have been “washed…in the Blood of the Lamb.” Becoming a saint is a journey It involves sacrifice and purification; a going against the grain of the world -Sanctity comes with a price. Ultimately, the price was Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. The price of sanctity involves us joining ourselves to Jesus’ sacrifice through self-giving love.

5. The Apostle John reminds us that baptized Christians are saints in the making, belonging to God and called to live accordingly. The whole Christian life is about turning from sin and giving ourselves completely to God. What is it like for you to recognize that your true identity is a saint and your primary call is to holiness?

6. Holiness is about living in a way that allows God to permeate every aspect of life. It is challenging, but God gives us everything we need to succeed. The reward is worth the effort, for “we shall see [God] as he is.” The reward is eternal life . Today we celebrate all the saints who have gone before us and are reminded that they are in communion with us and are also keen to help us in our Christian life. Name your favourite saints. How do these readings give you hope?

7. Jesus’ Beatitudes offer a blueprint for holy living. The world says success is about wealth, but Jesus says we are to be “poor in spirit.” Jesus calls us to be detached from wealth. The world says seek pleasure. Think of the popular phrase, “If it feels right, do it.” Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.”

8. The world tells us to seek power, but Jesus says be “meek.” The world applauds approval of others while Jesus says, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” Simply put, the beatitudes are the “how to” of sainthood. Saints are “meek;” “pure of heart;” “merciful” and “peacemakers;” they “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Go through each Beatitude and its impact in your life. What is the area you struggle with most?

9. Aligning our lives with the beatitudes is challenging but we remember, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” In other words, it’s all worth it in the end.

10. What is one action you will do to be livingtheword 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:  28th Sunday Yr. A – Are you ‘in’ or ‘out’?

Matthew 22:1-14

Reflection Questions• Isaiah has a special section in chapters 24-27 known as the ‘Isaiah Apocalypse’. A vision is shared of how God will eventually save us. For the many who are poor, rich food and fine wine at a banquet became a symbol of ‘heaven’. This will take place through a mountain ‘Jerusalem’ where a message of victory over death and tears and shame will be proclaimed. Can you see this message being fulfilled in the Cross On a Jerusalem Hill? In the Eucharistic Banquet? In the Church – the ‘New Jerusalem’?

• Listen deeply to the feelings in the Isaiah text. It is painting a picture of hope for God’s people. What image and feeling speaks more deeply to you? Why?

• While still in prison St Paul receives a gift of money from the christian community at Philippi. He normally discourages gifts to be given to him. But he is thankful of this expression of love and support. Paul shares he has ‘learnt a secret’. He lives attached only to Christ. He is free. Have you experienced living ‘humbly’ and also ‘in abundance’? What did the experience teach you?

• The Gospel of Matthew continues with ‘judgement parables’ (the two sons, the vineyard, and now the ‘wedding banquet’). Even today it is a great honor to receive a wedding invitation. What thoughts and feelings are present when you open a wedding invitation? Why would you ‘refuse to come’? Why have the chief priests and elders ‘refused’?

• In a shame / honor culture, the King has been highly insulted when those invited refuse to attend. ‘Burned their city’ could be Matthew’s attempt at explaining the fire destroying Jerusalem in 70CE. God’s invitation into relationship with Him is thrown open to all (gentiles, sinners, the poor, those living on the streets…) bad and good alike. Consider the honor of God. Do you painstakingly search and urgently invite people to Mass so the ‘hall can be filled with guests’?

• The invited guest being thrown out challenges our expectations for a ‘nice ending’ to the story. In the Book of Revelation the ‘white wedding garment’ is a symbol of the good deeds of the saints who persevered in faith and works of love and service. It seems that all are invited to the eternal wedding, but it is not sufficient to just ‘turn up’. To be ‘chosen to enter’ requires a life turned around to ‘good deeds’. Can I see the distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘works’?

• A judgement parable forces a crisis. Am I ‘in’ or ‘out’? It shakes the comfortable and those ‘presuming’ eternal life is theirs by ‘right’. How does this parable challenge / judge you?

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

See the source image

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.

See the source image

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?