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Archive for the ‘Ordinary Time’ Category

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?

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

 

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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?

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?

Discussion Guide: Fulfilling the Law

 

Image result for Matthew 5:17

Reflection Questions

• The book of Sirach was a collection of wisdom sayings, attempting to show the beauty and depth of Jewish wisdom. Personally imagine the scene of water and fire before you. What do these symbols represent in your personal life? In what ways do you stretch out your hand toward water? Toward fire? What joy have you found in reaching toward water? What wisdom have you found in being ‘burnt’ by fire?

• ‘If you choose’ you can keep the commandments is pointing to human free will and capacity of each of us to follow the ways of God. The meaning of the word ‘commandment’ actually means something placed into your hand. Do you see the guidance of ‘laws’ and teachings of Jesus and the Church as a ‘stick’ or a ‘message of love placed into your hands’ by someone who loves you? What is the consequence of viewing ‘laws’ as ‘a stick’?

• St Paul had many people in the Corinthian community turn against him. A particular group in the Corinthian community claimed to be more spiritual and knowledgeable. St Paul humbly points out that academic and worldly debate is not the sign of true wisdom from God. Knowledge and wisdom are different. Wisdom is found in love and often through suffering. And the spirit is present especially in those who love God. Who is a wisdom figure for you? How do you see love present in their life?

• The Gospel of Matthew is unique in that the community began with Jewish Christians, and then was increasingly joined by Greek converts to Christianity. Jewish Christians had grown up keeping all 613 laws of the Old Testament. Scribes (scripture scholars) and Pharisees (lay men determined to keep all the Jewish laws exactly) prided themselves on being ‘righteous’ and yet Jesus says their living is ‘shallow’. Jesus invites followers to live far more deeply. Murder is healed when people resolve their ‘anger’. Adultery is healed when people can live and look upon each other without ‘lust’. Easy divorce is not a positive option. Let your word be always true in Yes and No. Anger. Lust. Relationships. Lies. What area do you need to work to transform so your life is living in right relationship with God and others?

• Recall if any brother or sister has anything against you. What would the invitation ‘go first and be reconciled’ before coming to Sunday Mass personally mean for you?

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

Discussion Guide 3rd Sunday Year A Follow Me

Image result for Fisher of Men Scripture

 

Reflection Questions

• The Prophet Isaiah remarks that the land called ‘District of the Gentiles’ (the area around the sea of Galilee) will see ‘a great light’. Imagine a small narrow road linking one part of the world with the other. This is the ‘Holy Land’ (Israel). It was a very busy trading route. Consequently there were many ‘foreigners’. For Jewish people it sometimes felt like a curse. However in God’s plan the light shines brighter in the darkness. Have you ever experienced being lost in darkness and then helped by a light? What happened. What is Isaiah trying to teach us about God?

• St Paul continues his writing to the people of Corinth. He is upset that their witness and service to Christ has turned towards arguments
rather than charity. Have you ever felt a group of people wanting you to ‘belong’ to ‘their idea’? Have you had an experience of ‘division’ in the community or workplace or parish, people claiming the same purpose but not united in ‘mind’? Did you seek to understand ‘both sides’ and seek unity, or, did you grow division?

• Today in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus leaves his home town of Nazareth and arrives in Galilee. Fulfilling the 1st Reading prophecy of Isaiah,
Jesus spends most of his 3 years of public ministry between 3 towns in Galilee. As the new year begins do you feel it is time to leave your
‘Nazareth’, your place of comfort, and enter ‘Galilee’ to undertake a new challenge? How could you be a light to ‘people who sit in darkness? Those overshadowed by death, sickness, sadnees?

• In the time of Jesus, the phrase Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God were special. Everyone was waiting for the time when God
would finally overcome the power of evil. Essentially Jesus begins preaching a ‘wake up’ call: ‘change your mind (repent), take notice, God is now showing victory over evil! This is the good news. Have you ever noticed Jesus both preaches and heals. Words and actions go together. How does your life bring the kingdom of heaven and contribute to the overcoming of evil? Is your faith words and actions?

• Fishing was the main industry around the sea of Galilee. Peter, Andrew, James and John were probably not ‘poor’. Boats, nets,
family, work colleagues, commitments and bank accounts are significant for them (and us!). Yet they are placed second to Jesus’ invitation to follow. Is the presence of your life curing and comforting (disease and illness?) or comfortable and callous? If you had to write a sentence of what you thought God would personally like you to do / be, what would you write?

• What is one action that you will do to live the word this week?

Discussion Guide for Year A – 2nd Sunday. Be a Light to the Nations

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Reflection Questions

1] This Sunday marks the beginning of ‘Ordinary’ Time. The season of Christmas has ended. Isaiah is among the group of Jewish exiles who return to Jerusalem (Zion). Yet there is continuity with last Sunday’s Baptism of the Lord through the themes of holiness, servanthood and John the Baptist. Isaiah prophesies a relationship of more than a servant. There is deep tenderness in his wording that Jacob and Israel be ‘gathered to him’. “It is too little for you to be a servant” he says. The vision presented is far beyond Israel’s understanding and stretches us all to serve and reveal God’s mercy to all nations, all peoples! Israel, Christand the Church are called to be ‘a light to the nations’ that ‘salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. As you look at Yourself, the Church and the World, what do you ‘see’? What do you think is God’s vision for disciples, the Church, the World? What would it mean for parish and family life if we more actively embraced this vision of being ‘a light’ in our geographical locations and spheres of influence?

2] Paul and Isaiah call us to relationship with God and remind us that God makes us holy; we are called to see ourselves as being sanctified (made holy) in Christ. An object, place or person who has been blessed (sanctified) can be described as ‘holy’. Our holiness comes from Baptism and anointing in Christ. How do you feel about God seeing you as ‘holy’? Are there some ideas about holiness you need to challenge to accept how God sees you? Self-condemning thoughts and feeling as if ‘its all up to me’ are common. How does this Scripture challenge such views about ourselves and about Christian holiness?

3] The Gospel is from John in a year of Matthew. This suggests we be attentive. John’s account of Jesus’ Baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is to reveal Jesus to Israel. John portrays events to excite personal testimony about Jesus. Instead of narrating the baptism; he shows its meaning through John the Baptist’s testimony; “The reason why I came…was that he [Jesus] might be made known.” What are we asked to learn from John the Baptist?

4] We are created by God, for God. Living from this truth may take a life-time. John the Baptist’s, first insight was in the womb: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb” (Lk 1:41). His first encounter with the Son of God, was unconscious and mediated by his mother. How did John’s life reflect that experience? For many of us, our first encounters with God were unconscious and mediated by parents. Ask; ‘How does my life reflect the gift of God’s anointing?’ Then talk to God in prayer.

5] The voice from heaven instructs the Baptizer that the one on whom the Spirit descends is the Chosen One; he baptizes with the Holy Spirit. The last sentence of today’s Gospel expresses the conviction we are all invited to experience after hearing John the Baptist’s “evidence.” Are you able to say, “I have seen for myself…’This is God’s chosen One!’ (v 34)” It is that conviction, born not from our own efforts but from embracing the Holy Spirit’s ongoing grace in our lives, that enables us to recognize ourselves as ‘holy’ and to be ‘lumen gentium:’ light to the nations. Is that conviction rooted firmly in your heart? How does it make you feel? What do you need from God to embrace it more fully?

6] In v 29 John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The “lamb of God” is central in the Mass. Christ, as the sacrifice who reveals God’s love for us, is often symbolized by a lamb; a young ram up to a year old. The title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Exodus 12); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10). What image means most to you and why?

7] How will you be livingtheword this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection Guide for 33rd Sunday Year C: Do Not Be Terrified-Persevere in Hope is HERE

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Discussion Questions

• The Prophet Malachi is upset. Israel has returned from exile, the Temple has been rebuilt, the liturgy is celebrated, and yet the rich and proud are increasingly hurting the poor. One writer expresses it this way: I know what living for God looks like on ʻSundayʼ, but what does it look like on ʻMondayʼ? How do you integrate ʻliturgyʼ with ʻlifeʼ? How does life flow into your worship and how does Sunday impact the rest of your week?
• Malachi shares a judgment scene for the end of days. There will be a radical reversal of fortunes; the text is reminiscent of Mary’s Magnificat. How do you interpret ʻyou who fear my nameʼ. Awe, reverence and trembling are all synonyms for fear but today we tend to use the word ‘fear’ negatively. There have always been protocols for meeting a High Court judge. Imagine they are merciful to you, resolving your needs with deep respect and kindness. How would you feel in spite of your awe and ‘fear’? Malachi prophesies a perfect judge who brings healing and restoration. Share your needs and hopes for mercy and justice with God today.
• Some Thessalonian disciples were so convinced the ʻDay of the Lordʼ had arrived that they actually retired early! Unfortunately they became ʻarmchairʼ critics of others and a ʻburdenʼ. They focused on the shortcomings of others rather than joy and preparation for the ʻcoming of the Lordʼ. Is your energy focused on criticism of others? How could your energy be turned toward Jesus?
• When will the final day arrive is a big question. Jesus and the Gospel writers do not give an answer to ʻwhenʼ but only ʻthatʼ it will happen. The Gospel of Luke challenges us to be ready for the last day. When the Gospel of Luke was written the community had already witnessed Jewish persecution causing many to leave Jerusalem. Those disciples who ended up in Rome were also persecuted there (60AD). The beautiful Jewish temple was totally destroyed (as Jesus predicted) in Jerusalem (70AD). Further persecution occurred under emperor Domitian (80AD). Under such oppression, apocalyptic writing gave disciples hope that there would be a final victory of good over evil. Every generation gets tempted to follow false prophets and radical voices. Jesus says ‘Do not Follow them’, ‘Do not be terrified.  God calls us to trust and persevere in faith meeting the ongoing challenges with good moral choices both ʻpersonallyʼ and as a community placing our hope in Christ and Gospel ʻnowʼ. What words in the gospel give you ʻhopeʼ. What challenges you deeply? Are you ʻreadyʼ?
• Is it getting harder to proclaim Christian faith in highly secularized countries? Many Christians around the world are suffering intense persecution. Both ʻredʼ (blood) martyrdom, and what writers call  ʻwhiteʼ (perseverance) martyrdom is increasing. What would a modern synagogue or prison be? How do you experience Christians being taunted, threatened, influenced, tempted away from Christ?What does it mean to ʻgive testimonyʼ and be hated because of ʻmy nameʼ?
• Next week is the Feast of Christ The King. We celebrate ʻas if’ it was the ʻend of timeʼ!Imagine the urgency of only a few weeks to live. What would be most important?What would be demanded of you in your spiritual life? What do you need to ʻdoʼ?
• What is one action that you will do to  ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection and Scripture: Do You Run to See Jesus?

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Discussion Questions

  • The writer of the book of Wisdom is sharing the special insights of Jewish thinking to a society heavily influenced by Greek thinking. Greek thought promoted dualism. The human body was evil and continually dragged the mind and spirit down to earth. The result was a thinking and feeling that there was a large gap between humanity and God. Too large to be bridged! What do you think?
  •  Have you ever pondered how magnificent God is in creating and sustaining all of ʻcreationʼ? Have you ever created something and felt a deep connection to it because it is something you made? If the same is true for God, what does this mean for Godʼs relationship to you personally?
  • 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the earliest  letters we have in the New Testament. A fear had taken over the community that the final ʻday of the Lordʼ was here. Some had left their jobs. Have you had an unsettling faith experience which shook your mind and caused you ʻalarmʼ? How did you cope? Did you choose to walkthrough it or around it?
  • The Gospel of Luke continues to share with us the relationship that Jesus and God has with ʻtax collectorsʼ (who were considered the greatest sinners andoutcasts because they taxed Jewish people and gave this money to the occupying Roman soldiers and government.
  • Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector of the large city of Jericho. He would have been extremely wealthy. And yet he does something extremely humbling – he runs and climbs a tree. He publicly admits he is short in front of the large crowd. He exposes himself to ridicule in his effort of seeking Jesus. Life changing meetings with Jesus are often the result of extraordinary actions by gospel characters. What made  Zacchaeus climb the tree? Instead of climbing the tree, what action could you take to get closer to Jesus? What is therisk or fear that could stop you? Who could give you support or advice?
  • For Jesus, seeking out and saving the lost was not an ʻideaʼ but a lived reality. To the greatest ʻsinnerʼ in Jericho, he says: Zacchaeus…. today I must stay at your house. What does this teach us about Jesusʼ understanding of his mission? What does this teach us about the
    mission of the Church today? What conversion needs to go on within you to live out this mission of the Church?
  • Salvation is not something that happens in the far distant future. Jesus says it happens ʻtodayʼ for Zacchaeus with his actions in response to Jesus. He gives half his property to the poor and promises to pay the full price of compensation that Roman law states (four times the original amount). Living salvation ʻtodayʼ is radical. A daily response to the love of God revealed in Jesus and his challenging life-style transformin gospel message. The one who was outside is ʻinsideʼ. Can you be at home in this inclusive community of the
    Church? What will you do if a modern ʻtax collectorʼ does not ʻrepentʼ?
  • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

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

Reflection Guide for 30th Sunday Year C: Smug Self-Righteousness or Humble Authenticity is here

See the source imageDiscussion Questions

• The writer of Ecclesiasticus is Ben Sirach which is why this book sometimes has different names in the Bible.  He was the headmaster of an Academy in Jerusalem that mentored Jewish students in the art of living well. His writings are a collection of the best of Jewish thought and philosophy. It contrasts with Greek culture and thought which accepted a huge gap between the rich and poor, those who were ʻfreeʼ and those who were slaves. Why do you think ʻthe prayer of the lowly pierces the cloudsʼ?

• Paul is writing from Prison in Rome. In his pre-trial hearing Paul shares that there was no-one who came to support him in court. Imagine his loneliness and sense of betrayal! And yet he does not choose to blame or get angry. Scholars suggest Christians in Rome were afraid of persecution if they came to support Paul. Have you had an experience of hurt from those you thought would support and protect you? Can you say like Paul ʻmay it not be held against them!ʼ Paulʼs attention continued to focus on imitating the life of Jesus, being poured out like a libation (offering)ʼ. In your struggles, is your attention on your ʻenemyʼ or ʻJesusʼ? Do you think Paul is being self-righteous or humbly authentic with God and the reader?

• Jesus teaches about prayer and righteousness in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. What do the words of the Pharisee’s prayer reveal about his attitude toward God and sinners? What does it mean to be smugly self-righteous? Authentically humble?

• A Pharisee was a strict observer of the law. Going beyond what was required they fasted 2 days per week (Jews were only required to fast on 1 day a year) and tithed on everything they received (even the goods that had already been ‘tithed’). They were extremely observant. They enjoyed their ʻholyʼ and righteous reputation. Deuteronomy 26 taught Jews to bring a tenth of their produce to the temple, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing, and giving to the Levites,(priests) foreigners, orphans and widows. What has the Pharisee failed to understand about the Law and about God? Is the Pharisee ‘righteous’? Listen around you; who is talked about in disparaging ways, excluded, despised, looked down on? How do you react? Humility is recognizing the truth about yourself, God and others. What are some ways we are tempted to self-righteousness in our culture?

• Tax Collectors (often Jewish) worked with the Roman authorities to collect road charges, goods and sales tax. They made significant profits above their contracted price. They were despised by Jews for being in partnership with the occupying forces. For a tax collector to make amends, they had to pay-back overcharged taxes plus an additional 1/5th. They could never know everyone they’d cheated so could never repair their ‘wrong They often felt their religious situation was hopeless. They could never be forgiven! Name some of the feelings experienced by the tax collector. What is it about the tax collector that you can relate to? How would the Sacrament of Reconciliation help?

• The Pharisee only encountered himself in prayer. He was extremely self-satisfied. Is this prayer? The Tax collector humbly needs God’s  mercy. Why does God listens to the Tax Collector?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide for 28th Sunday: Living the Hospitality and Mercy of God is here

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Reflection Questions

• Our readings today have 2 characters who suffer from Leprosy. Lepers were excluded from living in the community. People didn’t want to catch the disease. It was also commonly believed that leprosy was a sign of being punished by God and that the leper was both morally and ritually unclean. The forced isolated shunned life living outside the community (Lev 13,46) caused incredible loneliness and constant rejection. How do we shun, isolate and cause chronic loneliness and rejection for people today? What are some modern forms of social ʻleprosyʼ?

• Naaman was a general in the Syrian Army, both a foreigner and an enemy, and he had leprosy so was excluded and to be feared. Israel and Syria were not friendly. Possibly from a previous conquest Naaman had even taken a Jewish slave girl for his household. Everyone would have been against him! Consider the courage he had in going to a holy man in Israel; Elisha. How welcoming are we toward strangers, or those we fear?

• What obstacles has Naaman had to overcome for healing? He tries to offer wealth as payment but Elisha refuses. How freely do we share the Lord’s goodness? He asks for soil from Israel to take home to build an Altar. His full acceptance of God is symbolized in that action. What is your symbol of thanksgiving and acceptance of God and what could you build to offer worship to God for healing and forgiveness?

• Scholars suggest that St Paulʼs letter to Timothy was written while he was in prison. St Paul was ʻin chainsʼ, treated as a criminal for his preaching the gospel of inclusion by God in Christ to the gentiles. He invites young Timothy to also be willing to persevere and suffer for this mission. What would you be willing to endure ʻchainsʼ for? What do you understand Paul means by; “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.” What effort do you put into changing the patterns of exclusion in your community and society?

• Gospel stories are like icebergs: 90% of the story is beneath the surface. Underneath the story of the lepers are further stories of exclusion, hurt, isolation. The Samaritan is like Naaman in the first reading; a hated foreigner. Past events meant Samaritans no longer acknowledge Jerusalem and the Temple as the place of true worship. Healing from leprosy required a certificate of health by the Priest before a leper could be accepted back in community. The 9 lepers are obviously so keen to see the priest that they lost sight of who did the healing -Jesus. Only the foreigner stopped and showed gratitude. When do you take your life and health for granted? Have you had some high moments and forgotten to give thanks to God. Write, share or pray a thank-you list to God about things in life you forget to say thanks to God for.

• God wishes to include and bring to faith the most unlikely of characters. Naaman and the Samaritan leper show God’s desire to include, not exclude.  What does this teach us about God? Does it adjust your image of God? Which unlikely character in your community might God be inviting you to bring to faith? What misconceptions do you and they need to let go of so that Godʼs welcome and inclusion can be realized?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org