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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ 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?

 

Discussion Guide:      1st Sunday of Lent Yr. A – Turn Away from Sin

 

Will your sorrow over sin will move you to repent of sin, turning away from and giving up your sinful actions (2 Corinthians 7:10)?

 

Reflection Questions:  • The journey of Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Have you recognised the significance of wearing a cross of ‘ashes’. Ashes symbolise a connection with the earth and being ‘humble’. The cross points to a life of sacrificial love with wide open arms embracing the world. What does living humbly mean for you? Is your life lived closed up tight, or with arms wide open?

• A goal without a plan is still a dream. Many people line up at the beginning of the lent ‘race’ but do not make much progress from the start line. What is your plan for Lent? Will this lead you into a ‘deep transformation’ or a mere ‘shallow show’?

• Genesis shares a truth about sin using a story. Have you ever noticed that the best the serpent can do is talk and try to make people doubt God? “Did God really tell you…..” The serpent actually has no power other than suggestion. What voices and fears do you need to turn off this
Lent? How will you listen to God?

• For St Paul Life and Death represent two different directions. Toward God (righteousness) and away from God (sin). Jesus has actually destroyed death by becoming human and offering his life in forgiveness. There is no more distance. Jesus rising from the dead reveals death actually has no power at all. Lent is an opportunity for intensive spiritual living towards what is life-giving. What relationships in your life are not right? Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you know what to bring to the sacrament of reconciliation this Lent.

• In the original Greek, the word is ‘tested’ rather than ‘tempted’. A ‘test’ or trial can reveal what decisions and choices are made. We become aware if we are ‘ready’ for a challenge or responsibility to be given to us. Is being ‘led by the spirit into the desert’ of your heart positive or negative for you? Have you tried a daily practice of silence to listen to the voices of your heart?

• ‘command these stones become loaves’. Fasting is a remedy for being controlled by food and satisfying our ‘body’. Our bodies are good but we are not to become slaves to every sensual pleasure. Rather than a focus on diet or weight loss, how could you ‘stop’ some activities to ‘start’ some more positive activities?

• ‘throw yourself down’ is pretending that everything is ok and God will look after me no matter what I do. Am I responsible? You are where you are because you have chosen it. What do you need to take responsibility for this Lent?

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

Discussion Guide:  Ash Wednesday Lent Yr. A

 

Ash Wednesday 2020 – The Cathedral of St John the Baptist

Reflection Questions:    • Ash Wednesday begins Lent. It is easy for 6 weeks of Lent to pass by and one has not placed oneself on the ‘starting line’ to begin the journey. Taking part in the reception of the ashes symbolises starting the journey. It is possible to appear at the starting line but not enter the race. What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? Share a decision and plan with a faith-friend and ask for them to cheer you on over the next 40 days.

• The image from the prophet Joel is an invitation for everything to come to a complete stop. Call everyone. Old. Young. Babies. Newly married. Priests in the middle of their work at the altar. How could you ‘stop’? Where? When? The image is of a special people called to be a ‘light’ not a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Pray for the whole christian church throughout the world during the season of renewed faithfulness in turning from sin and being faithful to the Gospel.

• Imagine being an ‘Ambassador’. The responsibility and challenge of representing and delivering important communication. If you accepted the job your witness and life-style would be challenged to be in harmony with your message. Jesus gives his disciples an ambassador’s task of proclaiming ‘on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’. Will you, as an ambassador, receive the sacrament of reconciliation during this season of Lent?

• Jesus does not ask, but presumes that a disciple will do certain actions. When you give alms…. When you pray…. When you fast…. These traditional lenten practices are powerful practices that help us to clearly focus on what is important.

• Prayer: What voices do you listen to?
• Fasting: What things fill your life?
• Almsgiving: Do you hear the cries
of those in need and respond?

• Jesus emphasises doing these actions in ‘secret’ will be ‘repaid’ by God. ‘In secret’ guards us from seeking attention and personal ‘glory’ from others. Lent is not to turn into a shallow show. Do not be afraid to share your secret lent journey with a friend – and encourage your friend into the depths rather than the surface show.

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

Discussion Guide:    29th Sunday Yr. C – Is Prayer Your Steering Wheel or Spare Tyre?

 

Flat Tires and Unexpected Graces

 

Reflection Questions:    • The Amalekites were a constant threat to the peaceful settlement of Godʼs people in the promised land. The battle scene is describing a theological point. Other countries made political and military alliances. Israel was to rely on God. And prayer works! What does the phrase ʻkeeping your hands raised upʼ mean for you? Have you asked anyone to pray to God for your protection? Is prayer a spare tyre or a steering wheel for you? (Corrie Ten Boom) Can you remember an experience where you recognized the power of prayer?

• Moses, the leader of Godʼs people is getting tired. He needs Aaron and Hur to support his hands. Who do you recognize as a spiritual leader and guide for you? What support could you offer? Joshua was out fighting in the field. Aaron was being trained as a leader at the side of Moses. Hur is a hidden and unknown figure behind the scenes. Which character do you most identify with? Who is at your side when you need prayer support? What is the next step for you in public leadership in the Church?

• It’s not intellectual proofs of God that convince people, but witnesses. St Paul reminds Timothy of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2Tim 1,5) who taught and witnessed faith to him from his infancy. Who has been a faith witness to you through your life?

• Scripture is inspired by God – literally ʻGod breathed! – and is able to continually inspire, encourage and challenge in a living way at every reading. Remember and write down an experience when the Word made you uncomfortable? Convinced you about some truth? Challenged you deeply? Encouraged and comforted you?

• Jesus paints a picture of a ʻmeanʼ judge who does not listen or care about anyone. Jesus is saying that God is NOT like that. Evil as the judge is, he responds to the persistent pleading and is fearful of the widow who will (in Greek) ʻstrike me and give me a black eyeʼ! Jesus encourages us that God is not someone we need to ʻwear downʼ with constant prayer. God wants to meet the needs of his chosen ones as a perfect parent. Have you moved from ʻpraying with lots of wordsʼ to ʻpraying with lots of silenceʼ? What brings you to peace and assurance of God’s love? What does the image of a baby silent in a parents arms symbolize for you?

• Widows were not allowed to inherit their husband’s property. If without family they had no one to care or look after them. Judges were to ensure widows, orphans and ʻaliensʼ (foreigners) were looked after. This widow is obviously raising her voice to demand justice. She will not sit down, feel powerless, reduce herself to being broken and afraid, she uses her voice with courage and persistence. She is not willing to be silenced in the face of injustice. Jesus reveals God is on the side of the poor and marginalized, the One who listens to their prayers. Woe to those who allow the world to remain an unjust and inhospitable place for many. When have you raised your voice for justice? What area of need or justice project catches your attention. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit we are sensitive to God calling us through the things we notice and pay attention to, or sometimes try to avoid. What could you do to be involved?

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

Discussion Guide:   3rd Sunday Lent Yr. C – Repent and Bear Fruit

 

Luke 13:1-9

 

Reflection Questions:    •In our first reading God meets Moses at the mountain of God; while Moses was simply carrying out his duties tending the flock, something caught his attention and he investigated. How attentive are you to God communicating in your everyday life?

•God explains to Moses that this revelation is not completely new but rather is in continuity with the history and experience of the Jewish people. (I am the God of your fathers…). Moses ‘hid his face’ ‘afraid to look at God’. Reverence and awe before the sacred and acceptance of historical continuity in community are not easy concepts in today’s Western culture. Why is it so important that our spiritual experiences be tested within a historical community of continuity? How much is that a challenge for you and why?

•God chooses to reveal the Divine Name to Moses; “I AM WHO I AM.” It is so sacred to Judaism that they use initials ‘YHWH’. What does it mean when someone shares their name with you? How have you encountered God so far during Lent?

•When we listen to God do we take on the role of passive spectator OR actively engage with God as a change agent. Moses shared with God that he felt too weak and unable to talk properly. God provides answers to all Moses’ issues…How has God asked something of you lately? Have you freely explained your concerns to God and who might you ask to help you be obedient to fulfilling God’s will?

•The Corinthian community was becoming comfortable. They assumed that receiving Baptism and celebrating Eucharist was all one needed to be saved. St Paul reminds them of the dangers of presuming salvation. Our Hebrew ancestors did this and they “were struck down in the desert”. This is a warning, we need to continually try to cooperate with God. Are you feeling comfortable in your faith? What lifestyle choice or action could you make to express a more committed following of Jesus?

•The theme of God’s judgment enters Lent in this passage of Luke. Pilate had killed religious revolutionaries from Galilee while they were offering sacrifices to God in the temple. That event was compared to a tower falling over near the Temple (pool of Siloam) killing 18 people. They asked Jesus if these people were sinners, and if God was punishing them. Jesus provides a shocking answer. We are all going to die and receive judgment before God. It is urgent and your first concern to be found ‘ready’. Are you ready to die? Why not?

•The fig tree, the only tree mentioned in the the garden of Eden, is at the same time a symbol of the promised Land, God’s people, & the blessing of God. In the parable, can you see yourself as the fig tree? Who do you think the gardener is? It took about 3 years for a fig to fruit. By God’s mercy it is given more time -but it is still under judgment. Consider God’s call on each of us as disciples. What is it like to know God is merciful? How is God fertilizing and cultivating you? What fruit are we are asked to produce?

•In ancient times people thought God was vengeful & punishing. Jesus says God is NOT this way. He shares the importance of people moving away from sin and destructive patterns of guilt and blame. Repent means literally ‘to turn your life around’. What would you like to turn ‘from’ and ‘toward?

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

Discussion Guide:     1st Sunday Lent Yr C: Listen – How is the Spirit Calling You?

 

Reflection Questions:

• The book of Deuteronomy shares one of the most important statements of faith in the Old Testament. It was spoken every time a person gave their offering to the priest in the Temple. It reminded them of their identity and how God ‘saved’ them. Bringing the tithe (tenth) of the harvest to the temple acknowledged God’s care and provision. How could you express this religious practice of thankfulness – ‘tithing’ (giving a 10th)? Dt 26: 12-15 invites giving to the levite (priest), the foreigner (refugee), the orphan and the widow (those without family and financial support). This is at the heart of the Lenten practice of ‘almsgiving’. How generous will you be in giving of your time, talent, money, compassion… this Lent as a way of ‘thanksgiving’ for what God has given you?

• Paul’s letter to the Romans is a careful explanation of how we are made right with God. Justification by keeping the ‘law’ was deeply ingrained in Jewish consciousness and history. Paul reminds us that it is faith in God’s covenantal relationship with us in Jesus that saves us. In a relationship, what is the difference between ‘law’ and ‘love’?  Do you ‘enjoy-love’ your relationship with God? Does a ‘love’ relationship need to respect any ‘law’? What word or image would describe your relationship with God ‘now’ as the journey of Lent begins?

• Jesus in the desert provides us with the starting point of Lent. Consider how you can create some ‘desert’ space in your life, away from distractions and noise, to be with God and discover your ‘true’ self? What is 1 decision you can make to enter the Lenten ‘desert’?

• Careful reflection on Jesus’ temptations leads us to see a mirror conflict within ourselves between good and evil. Get bread for ‘self’. Seek power and reputation. Demand support from others. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are practices during Lent to deconstruct our false self and reconstruct our true self. Almsgiving enables the hungry at our door and beyond to be fed and healed. Fasting turns us from worldly consumerism to clarity of purpose and compassion for others. Prayer tunes us into God’s vision and voice. From Jesus’ temptations, which core temptation do you notice strongly at work in your life? Which Lenten practice do you need?

• Repent literally means ‘change your mind’. It could be understood as ‘turn your value system around completely – 180 degrees’. As Lent begins, Jesus guides us: there is more to life than satisfying our ‘bread-belly’ and physical or material cravings. What creative fasting experience could you create to nourish your spirit and soul journey?

• Returning from the great baptism event in the Jordan, Jesus would have faced pressure to get active and do things. Interestingly his choice was to listen to where the Holy Spirit deep inside was calling. Are you faced with a temptation to ‘perform’ and be a certain type of person in public? Whose voice is the Spirit and what is the Desert for you?

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