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Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category

The easy-print reflection and discussion guide can be found HERE

Printable Reflection Guide is HERE.

 


• 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?

 

Printable Discussion Guide is HERE

Reflection and Questions

Whoever Has Ears, Let Them Hear... Part 1 - Real Life Fellowship• 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?

Printable Discussion Guide HERE

Reflection and Questions:

Image result for bullock yoke• 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 todays readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. It can also be translated as ‘teachable’. Think of a person feeling anger yet staying in control, open to listen and learn and respond with justice not violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. They are open to learn rather than being locked into a closed thinking pattern. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek (teachable) character?

• ‘Flesh’ is Paul’s expression for a life lived without God, like an animal just following its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is 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?

• In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God; 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. He challenges the idea of Jesus as a comfortable teacher or earthly King. What is Jesus claiming? How does his claim challenge me today?

• Jesus says learned religious figures struggle to accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, unlearned, simple folk, manual workers) accept him. Jesus was shaking up all the accepted patterns of religion and society. Why do you think learned people found his claims so difficult? How does pride and position impact our ability to be meek (teachable) and humble? When we are heavily invested in our understanding of life we can become ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’. How does that block our ability to be ‘open’? Are you satisfied with the answers about your life? How have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus is
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 (Sadducees, 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 relationship with the person of Jesus who is choosing to be yoked with us. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made, avoiding painful imbalance or abrasions and it
evenly distributed the load. An experienced bullock was paired with a young one to teach it how to work in tandem to bear far more than it could do on its own. What does this image convey to you? How are you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to go it alone or are you working with Jesus?

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

 

Discussion Guide:    4th Sunday of Lent Yr. A – Arise…from the darkness!

 

John 9 - Why the blind man saw - Jesus.net

Reflection Questions:    • Anointing with oil and ‘eyes being opened’ are part of the special journey in Lent for candidates asking for baptism at Easter. For those already baptized, these readings teach us about the deep meaning of our own baptism.

• Samuel was the young boy who sat in the temple and was taught how to listen to God’s voice. He became one of the greatest prophets because ‘he never let a word spoken to him by God fall to the ground’. Today he is told by God to do a very dangerous action – high treason! While King Saul was still alive, Samuel was to go to Bethlehem and anoint another King. Are you open to being shocked by what God plans for you? Samuel was told to fill his horn with oil and go… what do you think God is asking of you?

• Samuel had previously anointed King Saul who was tall and handsome ‘head and shoulder above the rest’. He may have been tempted, or had truly learnt a lesson not to judge a person by their ‘appearance’. God sees beyond appearance into a person’s heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.

• St Paul writes about the difference in a person’s life before knowing Jesus. Imagine you are in an unfamiliar house and need to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not knowing where the light switch is you knock into chairs and hard edged furniture. You walk slowly and carefully. Now, turn the light switch on and you walk differently. Peacefully. Confidently. ‘Arise…from death and darkness, Christ will give you light’. Imagine the experience of being blind and then being able to see. This was the experience the early church said happened through Baptism preparation for each adult.

• Around the year 85-90 Jewish Christians were excluded from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The man born blind became a very special story and symbol of life being changed by Jesus. The blind man considers Jesus a ‘man’. Then recognizes him as a ‘prophet’. Finally he believes Jesus to be truly the Son of Man – the promised Messiah (anointed one). He calls him Lord (the name of God) and worships him. As a result the blind man becomes rejected by the Pharisees, his family and the community’. They threw him out…. How has your faith journey grown in understanding of Jesus? Would you be willing to endure rejection or persecution for your belief? What do you think happened to the blind man? Can you identify with any of his Christian experience?

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

Discussion Guide:      2nd Sunday Lent Yr. C – This Promise Is For You

 

Luke 9:35 | Scripture quotes, Scripture verses, Bible love

Reflection Questions:    • Abram has 3 conversations with God about a promise made to him. This is the second and Abram is upset. He has left his home, is in a foreign land, and the promise to be the Father of a large nation is almost laughable as he and his wife are now so old. They do not have a child. Abram asks for a sign. God makes a covenant. In the Old Testament a covenant was a solemn promise between two parties. Both parties would walk through the middle of the split animals as a symbol of what would happen if either party broke the promise. God is the only one to walk through the animals (v17) symbolised by the fire. What do you think this means? Can you identify with Abram in your life? What does God’s covenant faithfulness mean for you today?

• St Paul loved the Philippian community. They were his first community. They were being pressured politically. To be acceptable they needed to partake in civic ceremonies and the worship of the Emperor cult. They were worried about their image of acceptability. St Paul reminds them their citizenship is in heaven. What pressures do you face to be acceptable in the eyes of the world? How can you live more fully for ‘heaven’ during this time of Lent?

• The transfiguration of Jesus appearing dazzlingly white symbolises a heavenly reality. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Fulfilling the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Jesus’ divine nature shines through. While glorious, the ministry in Galilee is now over. Jesus will soon ‘set his face like flint’ (Lk 9:51) towards the ‘exodus’, his suffering, death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Peter wants to stay in glory on the mountain. Is there anything you have heard in prayer that requires costly obedience? Where would the ‘journey down the mountain’(from prayer) and confronting evil (to the cross) lead you?

• Making tents and sleeping in them was part of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It reminded Jewish people of the special time when God pitched his tent among them in the desert. It was a symbol of wanting God to be with them again. Jesus is revealed as the very presence of God among his people in the transfigured bright whiteness like Moses had met on Mt Sinai. Peter doesn’t get it. He seeks to build tents hoping for a future coming of God. Peter does not know what he is saying or doing. Are you mucking around with ‘tents’ or going down the mountain to work?

• The ‘Divine Voice’ of the Father from heaven speaks only a few times in the Gospels. 9 words are shared today: ‘This is my chosen Son, listen to him’. During the season of Lent how could you ‘listen’ more? What is the best way you have found in the past to ‘listen’ to God?

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

Discussion Guide:    4th Sunday Yr. C – Reputation or Conversion?

 

This is the Greatest" — PowerPoint Background of 1 Corinthians 13:13 Cross Love — Heartlight®

Reflection Questions:    • Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet’ because people did not listen to his message (King Jehoiakim even burned one of Jeremiah’s manuscripts). He experienced God’s word deeply and in the midst of false ‘prosperity prophets’ who declared God was looking favourably on his people and good times were coming, Jeremiah shares his personal call and his preparedness for rejection. What is the challenge of being a ‘prophet to the nations’ like Jeremiah today? Do you feel formed and called by God to stand up for (or against) something in society? What has been your response so far? What happened?

• St Paul continues discussing the ‘elitist’ problem in the Corinthian community. Some people were setting themselves apart as a ‘spiritual elite’ with boastful talk of their charisms and gifts. Gifts and charisms mean nothing if love is absent. Evaluate your life by the qualities of love in the second reading: Are you patient? Kind. Jealous? Proud? Resentful? Do you take offence easily? Gossip? Delight in truth? Forgiving, trusting, and hopeful? What aspect of your character could you invite the Holy Spirit to help you with?

• St Paul uses a special word (agape) for love. It is not a sexual love (eros) or a family love (philia). Agape is a quality of love that is given regardless of a response. Agape love is loving like God loves. In what ways and in what relationships do you show ‘agape’ love? Do you recognise people in need constitute God’s agape call to us?

• Jesus continues to speak to his hometown. In an ‘honour and shame’ culture of the ancient Middle East, an expectation is placed over Jesus to bring honour, glory, acclaim to Nazareth. Be our ‘local’ prophet, set up a healing station here in Nazareth like you have been doing at Capernaum. Bring in the tourists! Their attitude and concern is reputation rather than conversion. Jesus confronts them. In what ways does ‘reputation’ take priority over ‘conversion’ in your life? When was the last time you experienced the ‘cost’ of discipleship like Jeremiah and Jesus?

• Jesus identifies himself with the mission of the great prophets of Elijah and Elisha who were sent out to nearby gentile lands (Sidon) and people (Naaman the Syrian) which infuriates them. They react violently to the idea that God’s favour is also for the gentiles and not exclusively to Israel. Why do you think removing barriers and cultural walls meets resistance? What is beneath the categories of right / wrong,    clean / unclean?

• The ‘community’ at Nazareth limit Jesus by confining him to be ‘Joseph’s son’. Have you experienced the support of family, friends and community and then as time goes on, recognise the limitations people’s perception puts on you? Do you feel called to ‘break out’ of ‘reputation’ and move toward ‘doing the will of God’? What obstacles do you face? How will you respond to people ‘springing to their feet and trying to throw you off the cliff’?

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

Discussion Guide:    1st Sunday Advent Yr. C – Your Redemption is at Hand

 

luke 21: 34-36 – Page 2 – till Christ is formed

Reflection Questions:    • Advent begins today. The color purple has an interesting background for us to ponder. Purple dye historically originated from a tiny shell-fish. It took 12,000 shell-fish to make 1.5 grams of pure dye. The expense meant it was used only by the wealthy and became a symbol of royalty. Advent purple indicates we are waiting for the coming of the King of Kings. We are ‘preparing’ for the birth of Jesus but also spiritually for the second ‘coming’. Ponder for a few minutes what you would do if in 4 weeks time you were truly going to stand before Jesus Christ the King.

• Jeremiah was a prophet in a very difficult time. Jewish King after Jewish King had failed to bring peace. God’s people were now in exile in Babylon. In the midst of foreign people and their gods Jewish people began to lose hope. Jeremiah reminds them of a promise made by God to believe in: I will raise up a ‘just shoot’ from the line of David. So beautiful will this event be, the great city of Jerusalem will be renamed – Justice! In the midst of life’s difficulties what brings you hope? Frequently we think of God’s love, but do we recognise what God really wants is ‘justice’. Do you hope for this as a future event or do you give your life to its fulfillment ‘today’?

• Thessalonica was one of the earliest christian communities. A port city bringing trade and culture, hot springs bringing tourists. It was prime real estate in a Roman provincial town. With many cultures came many gods, Greek, Egyptian, Roman Emperor worship. Paul had been chased out of this town quickly but had established a small group of christian followers. He writes to encourage them to be blameless in holiness, living lives pleasing to God. Ready ʻfor the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy onesʼ. Picture your own town instead of Thessalonica. What is the purpose of ʻconducting yourselves to please Godʼ? Is it only for heaven or a sign for people ʻtodayʼ of heaven?

• Year C begins with our move from the Gospel of Mark to the Gospel of Luke. Lukeʼs community is tired of waiting on a promise of Christʼs return. Luke gives instruction on how christians are to live while ʻwaitingʼ. What does the image: ʻstand erect and raise your headʼ mean to you. What would make you do this? What does living in readiness ʻnowʼ actually look like for you?

• Luke contrasts people of the ʻworldʼ with hearts drowsy or hardened with excessive sensual pleasure, drunkenness, worries, with christian disciples watchful and vigilant, praying and ready to stand before the Son of Man. Where are you in this picture? What advent practices could you begin to be ʻvigilantʼ ʻprayerfulʼ ʻreadyʼ? What would you like to bring to God in the Advent practice of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation?

• We all know what December will involve: shopping, cooking, socialising, end of year celebrations. Will you be satisfied? How could you ʻslow downʼ and set aside time to soak up the christian focus of Christmas – is there a church near or on the journey from work you could visit for 5 minutes daily?

• Christians view the end of the world differently: ʻWhat the caterpillar calls end of the world, the Master calls a butterflyʼ

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

Discussion Guide:      33rd Sunday Yr. B – Are you Ready to Present yourself to Jesus?

 

Grupos de Jesús – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – B (Mark 13,24-32) - Grupos de Jesús -

Reflection Questions:

• In the context of the Church’s liturgy, the 33rd Sunday is only one week away from the end of the year. Next week is Christ The King. Liturgically we enter an atmosphere of reaching the ‘end of time’. Because of this pattern todays readings have an apocalyptic atmosphere of end time struggle and judgement.

• Daniel means ‘My judge is God’. The Book of Daniel is written during a time of great persecution when Antiochus Epiphanes is forcing Jews to convert to pagan gods. Here is the first time in Hebrew scriptures that a resurrection of the faithful is mentioned. God is the master of history. All those ‘in the book’ who ‘shine brightly’ and lead people on the way to ‘justice’ will be like stars living forever. Examine your own life. How would the statement ‘my judge is God’ shape your life? Antiochus may not be forcing you to eat pigs flesh (abhorrent and unclean to Jews) but what idols or practices are you subtly invited to ‘eat’?

• The Letter to the Hebrews concludes. We are taught about the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilling and finishing the Old Testament  sacrifices. Notice the image of the Old Testament Priest ‘standing’ and working each day. Jesus, after the sacrifice of the  cross, now being ‘seated’ and waiting for the time of gathering. Consider the victory and offer of forgiveness that has taken place on the cross. Imagine a winning sports team lifting the captain high onto their shoulders with winning trophy held high! This sacrifice of the cross – like a trophy – is held by the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine into the sacrifice and body and blood of Jesus. We stand together rejoicing. And we receive this sacrifice as a sacred forgiveness and communion meal bringing us into a total physical and spiritual union with God and each other. Do you see the depth and great celebration taking place at Mass? What would you like to learn more about? Who could you ask?

• The Book of Daniel and The Book of Revelation are apocalyptic writings ʻunveilingʼ a vision of what will take place at the end of time. Each Gospel inserts some apocalyptic passages pointing toward that final day. The images of the sun darkened, stars falling, heavenly struggle, share a cosmic event affecting all of creation. Have you noticed that at the crucifixion of Jesus these images appear. Could this mean that the final ʻeventʼ and ʻstruggleʼ and ʻvictoryʼ has taken place on the cross? Could this be why the early disciples were so expectant of Jesusʼ return before ʻthis generation passed awayʼ?

• Why the delay in the second coming is a question asked by Christians. Why is Jesus sitting ʻwaitingʼ in heaven as portrayed in Hebrews? The Gospel points to a ʻgathering of the elect from the four corners of the earthʼ. Will this require all the earth to ʻhear the message of Jesusʼ? Is Jesus lazy on a heavenly chair or waiting urgently to work in the Church, in the sacraments, in each disciple, winning the world ʻheart by heartʼ? How do you understand christian ʻwaitingʼ for the second coming?

• ʻThat day or hourʼ is unknown. That it will happen is certain, when it will happen is uncertain. Consider a spiritual practice of imagination prayer. Present yourself to Jesus at the end of time. What does he say? What do you say?

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

Discussion Guide:      28th Sunday Yr. B: Letting go…to commit

 

inherit | "Dan's Blunders & Wonders of Thought!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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