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Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Category

Discussion Guide:    25th Sunday Year B – The greatest is the least

 

 

Mark 9:30-37: The Greatest is the Least — Shepherd of the Hills

Reflection Questions: • The Book of Wisdom continues the suffering servant theme of Isaiah last week and points to the suffering that Jesus will experience. Many Jewish people were searching for meaning and guidance outside Judaism while living in Alexandria (a large Greek city). Have you experienced a time when you went searching for other belief systems because the society you lived in made fun of your religious beliefs? Where did you turn? What happened?

• The Book of Wisdom reveals worldly people oppose Godly people. They pretend righteous motivations…. ‘let us see whether his words be true’…. ‘let him prove his gentleness and patience’. Has this experience of persecution and trial been part of your Christian witness? Have you been able to live in trust that ‘God will take care of you’? Can you see and believe evil actions ultimately get found out and goodness is vindicated?

• Living in peace with each other in Christian community is our calling. A desire for glory and power and possessions needs to be brought out into the open. What peace-full virtue from James could you practice more of: be pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant? What object or honor are you wanting to possess? Name a ‘selfish ambition’…

• Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark has 3 predictions of the passion. Each time Jesus talks about his suffering the disciples completely misunderstand what he is talking about. Today is the second prediction. Jesus talks about Death. Disciples talk about Glory. Jesus’s teaching about accepting suffering is contrasted with his disciples argument about seniority. 2 lifestyles are revealed. What style of living describes you: living upward (glory and honor and violence) or living downward (service and humility and nonviolence)?

• Jesus chooses to expose the disciples lust for power in a quieter moment ʻinside the houseʼ. He challenges them. They were really just concerned about ʻpower and gloryʼ… ʻwho was the greatestʼ. Jesus does a very revealing action. While they wanted to know who was ʻat the topʼ, Jesus takes a child representing someone ʻat the bottomʼ. He collapses the social and power structure. Receive and welcome and show hospitality and inclusion to the ʻbottomʼ in society. Can you see how living this invitation will inevitably enter a disciple into upsetting the status quo. Upsetting the power structure of society. Jesus calls this a disciple ʻpicking up the crossʼ. In your world, community family, workplace, who is ʻat the bottomʼ (equivalent of a child in Jesusʼ time). How could you ʻreceiveʼ them? Jesus identifies with them. Will you stand up for them?

• In Jesusʼ time, a child was ʻat the bottomʼ of society because in a shame / honor culture, it would be highly unlikely that a good act toward a child would be ʻrewardedʼ by the child talking to the community about the hospitality received. As a result, a kind action does not get rewarded with ʻhonorʼ in the eyes of the community. Therefore it is not worth doing. Can you recognise how subversive Jesusʼ placing the child ʻin their midstʼ is to the culture of the disciples. Who is the equivalent of a ʻchildʼ today?

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

Discussion Guide:  24th Sunday Yr. B – Can we Deny ourselves to Take up the Cross of Jesus?

 

 

Harold Crow L.C.D.C., A.D.C.III,C.A.R.T.,S.A.P - Owner - Crow Consultation/Trendsetters 2000+ | LinkedIn

Reflection Questions:    • The 3rd Song of the Suffering Servant reading from Isaiah has been chosen today to ‘match’ with the Gospel reading and Jesus’ predication of suffering in Jerusalem. Isaiah gets battered and bruised as he shares a message of hope amongst his people in Exile in Babylon. So disheartened are God’s people they feel their ‘God’ has been over-powered by Babylon’s God by allowing them to be exiled. Each day Isaiah listens to God and seeks to comfort his people. Have you ‘heard’ anything from God recently…. and ‘not turned your back’ on it?

• Isaiah chooses above all to trust in God and ultimately he believes he will not be disgraced. Even though the experience of rejection is hard. Have you ever realised deeply your purpose and passion and calling. What would it involve to ‘set your face like flint’ in living and achieving this call from God? Do you know someone who is an example to you? Have you ever asked their advice?

• A beautiful part of Jewish tradition and piety was an emphasis on helping the poor. It was more than an obligation. In fact, lifting up the poor (through almsgiving) earned one the title ‘righteous’ before God. If faith is words only, it is ‘dead’. Can your faith be seen in any ‘works’ for lifting up the poor?

• Today we arrive half-way in the Gospel of Mark. It is a turning point. Jesusʼ secret identity only known and shouted by ʻevil spiritsʼ is now public and spoken by Peter. The healing ministry of Galilee turns toward the suffering and saving mystery of Jerusalem – the Cross. Peter correctly states Jesusʼ identity but misunderstands what this really means. Do you secretly wish God will ride triumphantly into the world and with power and might (violence!) ʻsave the worldʼ?

• Peterʼs – and Jewish- expectation was for a Messiah / Saviour to be a Royal leader, political figure, show military might and ʻboot outʼ the occupation Army of Rome. Bring a military victory. Restore Israelʼs national honor. Jesus gets ʻtold offʼ by Peter when he suggests there is another way God will ʻsaveʼ. Jesus ʻrebukesʼ Peter and told him to get behind him (the rightful place for a disciple to walk is behind the master). A major argument reveals a major disagreement. What do you think is going on here? Satan is the Hebrew word for ʻobstacleʼ. What is the obstacle that needs to be removed?

• As Jesus turns the disciples toward Jerusalem he gathered them together to teach them. To ʻtake up your crossʼ was a shocking idea for disciples of the time. We have sanitized it with the thought of privately enduring little hardships and spiritual difficulties. Essentially, the cross was the most shameful object to die upon. It was the means by which Rome tortured and crucified anyone who resisted them and the power ʻstatus quoʼ. It symbolised the powerful, crushing the poor. The fear of death (violence used by the powerful elite) reduced the poor to inaction and non revolution. Jesus points the pathway to over-turning this violence with non violent resistance and the willingness to even take up your cross, deny yourself, be willing to die. You will ransom (lead someone from slavery to freedom) society’s structures and interrupt the cycle of violence in the world. The disciples didnʼt get it. Do you?

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

Discussion Guide:   14th Sunday Yr. B – Remain ‘open’ to Jesus

 

DailyDevo | Mark 6:1-6 | Envy is a powerful emotion. It prevented the people of Nazareth from embracing Jesus. We see someon… | Daily devotional, Humility, Blessed

Reflection Questions:

• Ezekiel worked as a Priest in the Temple before being exiled with Israelites into Babylon. It was here, in a distant land, he experienced the spirit enter him and raise him to his feet to ‘speak’. It was not a popular message; the cause of their exile and punishment was due to their unfaithfulness to God. Have you experienced being moved from a ‘comfortable’ to an ‘uncomfortable’ place? Have you felt the spirit strengthen you for a new and difficult challenge? How do you think Ezekiel felt knowing the outcome of his words was uncertain… will they heed or resist?

• Today we reflect on a deep and personal self revelation of St Paul. It is uncertain if the ‘thorn’ (translated also as stake’) was a physical ailment, disease, depression. Was it constant persecution? Lust? Upset with being ‘short’? It is probably helpful we do not know as we can now all symbolically identify with Paul in our own personal experience of ‘pain’. What would you humbly own as your ‘thorn’? Some spiritual writers suggest the first deep question of spiritual direction is: where are you hurting? Boast comes from the word meaning ‘having your head held high’, from a position of understanding. Have you shared this with anyone. Would you like to receive encouragement to move from pain to boasting, and being accepting of your weakness?

• Jesus returns home to Nazareth and experiences rejection. Mark, the earliest gospel writer clearly describes the lack of faith of Jewish people and the Synagogue toward Jesus. At home in Nazareth they are attracted to his teaching but take offense (skandalizmai – scandalised) and even make a negative remark calling him ʻSon of Maryʼ. It was normal to refer to someone only using the title of ʻSon of Joseph- Fatherʼ. They are objecting to the uncertain origin of Jesus. Can you glimpse the pain and rejection of Jesus at home, with his own family members? Have you had a personal experience of rejection. Lack of belief in you. ʻCutting you downʼ. ʻPutting you into a boxʼ? How did you react? How does Jesus react? Are you curious as to what Jesus does next?

• The three readings today highlight a theme of ʻif only …ʼ. If only people would listen (Ezekiel)… If only I didnʼt have this personal difficulty (St Paul)… If only my family and friends would believe in me (Jesus)…. Difficult circumstances can shut us down, take away our energy. We need another source of energy and identity. The spirit sustained Ezekiel, Paul, Jesus to respond positively not negatively. Consider naming your challenges and decide on positive solutions. How do you overcome the ʻNazareth syndromeʼ?

• It is mysterious how Jesus ʻwas not able to perform any mighty deed thereʼ. Have you ever decided about someone and your mind and heart becomes ʻclosedʼ and not ʻopenʼ to that person? The relationship now becomes ʻstuckʼ in possibility and expectation. We bring the closed door and negative view into each conversation and meeting. How open are you to Jesus? Pray for an open mind and heart to see signs and wonders and glimpses of the kingdom at work in daily events. How are you seeking to grow your faith and relationship with Jesus?

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

 

 

Preparing With All Your Heart: The Passion of Christ: Discussion Guide is HERE

Reflection Questions

Image result for palm sunday year b

Palm Sunday: The Passion of the Lord
• The Procession into Church with Palms and singing ‘Hosanna’ marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palms were symbolic of victory. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew word ‘Save us now’. Riding on
a donkey was the animal of choice in ancient times for Kings-to-be, portraying peace (rather than a horse used for battle). Placing cloaks on the road in front of the donkey was the ancient equivalent
of the modern ‘red carpet’ treatment for special dignitaries. The scene is set. We are welcoming the Messiah – the ‘Christ’ – The anointed One. Take time to imagine the scene, experience the hope, the joy.
Can you identify with the symbols of today: the Palms, the Hosanna Cry, the throwing of your cloak? When have you been part of an ecstatic crowd of welcome and jubilation? How did you feel during, and after the event?

• The Passion Reading from Mark has many details.  There is betrayal by close friends, the mob violence, milling crowds, political and religious leaders protecting their self interests, rulers symbolically trying to ‘wash themselves of blood’. What detail of the Passion strikes you most this year, in the particular circumstances of our world today? Your life? Talk to God about that and share with others about it as you are comfortable.

•Raymond Brown, a Catholic Scripture scholar, warns against a self-righteous reading and celebration of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. This week the curtain is about to come up on the drama that changed the world. We are there and it is now. Every Mass makes it present today. The Gospel is the living word-
convicting us, converting us -Today! Can you see ways that the same issues are still present today?

Where do you ‘fit’ in this Gospel?
Judas – Putting money and his own ideas ahead of his commitment to Jesus.
Fleeing disciples – putting all the focus on personal safety?
Peter – professing and then denying Jesus within the hour?
Soldiers – carrying out unjust orders from above, persecuting the innocent without thought?
Pilate – pretending he has no power, washing his hands of justice and ignoring evil?
Religious Leaders – condemning Jesus and preferring that rules be kept and ‘safety’  maintained?
Narrator – dispassionately observing and unmoved. Share your responses in prayer over this week.

Barabbas literally translated is Bar = Son, Abbas = (of the) Father. Who is the true ‘Son of the Father‘ – Jesus or Barabbas? What will bring ‘salvation’ : Will it be a revolution of the heart and a message of peace, or a violent revolt against military powers using military means? Why does the crowd choose ʻBarabbasʼ?

• The veil of the Temple sanctuary separated off the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter to meet ‘face to face’ with God. Mark writes interpretively that this ‘private and exclusive’ meeting place with God has now been revealed as ‘on the cross’ for everyone. Here is the Son of God crucified out of passionate love and the desire to create a new covenant of forgiveness. The cross becomes the ‘new mercy seat’ (hidden behind the veil in the Holy of Holies) for all to see, believe in, and receive. Spend some time in prayer with Jesus on the cross. What do you ‘see’? What does this teach you?

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

These Resources by Living the Word, are prepared by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, ACSD, Marist Laity NZ. You are welcome to copy and share them for personal or group use but please ensure the website is credited. www.livingtheword.org.nz, Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide  5th Sunday Lent (RCIA) – Come out

 

Radical Faith – Daily Dose With Dr.Shermaine

Reflection Questions:  • Rising from the dead is an image in the First and Gospel readings. Ezekiel was not referring to the resurrection of individuals but returning from exile in ‘slavery’ as God’s people were trapped in a ‘foreign land’. As the journey of Lent nears completion we are encouraged to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. We invite the spirit to ‘open our graves’ and ‘rise from them’. Where do you experience ‘lifelessness’? Sadness? Dryness? Death?

• Suffering is well known to the prophet Ezekiel. He writes of suffering as tough meat being boiled to tenderness in a pot and the heat of fire burning off the rust on the pot (Ez 24). In the midst of suffering Ezekiel writes 86 times ‘I am the LORD’ reminding us that God is guiding our personal lives and history. Can you trust God can work through your suffering? What is your suffering / salvation story?

• While we all live as ‘flesh and blood’ St Paul recognises it is possible for our ‘body / flesh’ to steer our life seeking only to satisfy itself with food and pleasure. Selfish and sensual living (flesh living) alone does not ‘please God’. Our baptism welcomed into our lives the Spirit of Christ which inspires and nudges us to become more like Christ. Consider the great power of the spirit to raise Christ from the dead. What would you like to pray for?

• Chapter 11 of John is very special. Raising Lazarus from the dead is the seventh ‘sign’ of Jesus. It is important to recognise a sign points to a reality. Jesus, on hearing of his friends death strangely talks immediately of ‘glory’. He even waits for four days as the Jewish belief was that the spirit of the body hovered over the body for 3 days. It is clear Lazarus is truly dead. Only God can bring someone back from the dead. This will be Jesus’ greatest sign to prove his identity as God. If you were present to this scene what would your questions be?

• Martha and Mary ask questions and respond to Jesus like true Jewish disciples and faith seekers. Jesus is considered an intermediary – someone ‘close to God’ ‘whatever you ask of God, God will give you’. Jesus is unhappy with this response. Martha responds with a Jewish belief in the final resurrection from the dead and a hope in the Messiah. Jesus boldly proclaims ‘Martha, I AM the resurrection and the life’. In effect Jesus is teaching Martha (and us) I am God and I am in charge of and responsible for the resurrection and all life! Let me prove this to you ‘where have you laid him’? Can you trace your faith journey about Jesus’ identity in the questions of Martha? What does this 7th sign now teach you about Jesus? Do you believe?

• The Gospel of John was written in Greek. Greek thinking did not allow God to ‘change’ as this would suggest God was weak and not all-powerful. In the midst of his loved friends we have the profound short sentence. ‘And Jesus wept.’ God weeps and is deeply moved by our pain and sadness. Jesus is also perturbed and troubled. John stirs questions up for us about God. If God weeps what does that mean? Is Jesus upset and angry that people do not recognise who he is? What is your response personally to Jesus in this Gospel story?

• Jesus strangely says a prayer of thanksgiving before the tomb. Can you allow yourself to hear this prayer to you in the tomb of your wounds and bandages from your life journey. What do you request this Easter to be untied from?

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