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Archive for the ‘Sunday Readings’ Category

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

Discussion Guide for ‘What Star is Guiding You? The Feast of the Epiphany’ is HERE

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Reflection Questions

• Epiphany is the Greek word meaning to ‘show’ or ‘make manifest’. The Magi from the East (coming from the Greek word for people of special knowledge) pay homage to Jesus. This symbolises all nations recognising Jesus as King and Lord. If you had to write a story to
teach the truth about Jesus what truths would you seek to include? How could the Church make Christ known more creatively today? What is the most creative Christian evangelisation message you have seen lately?

• Isaiah makes a beautiful prophecy which is fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew story and the Magi today. God’s chosen people have just
returned from exile and their country and beautiful city of Jerusalem and its Temple are in ruins. Isaiah begins with the image of Jerusalem as a woman lying down in defeat. ‘Rise up Jerusalem! Your light has come.’ As we enter the beginning of the New Year how could you experience ‘rising up’ to your most beautiful self? How could you help the Church ‘rise up’ and make Christ known? What would it take for you to be radiant and your heart throb with joy and pride in the Church community? What will you do?

• Paul states very clearly a mind-shattering truth: ‘the gentiles are coheirs’. Jewish people thought of and treated ‘gentiles’ as ‘unclean’. Paul says they are ‘clean’ and ‘co-partners’ in the inheritance of God’s promises and family. What adjustments in mind, heart, and action, would take place if God revealed to you that everyone was clean and equal and a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ to you and you were all part of the same family? Imagine what life- style change this would involve. Are you willing to try? Can you glimpse this is the central gospel message of Jesus?

• In ancient times a new star was thought to indicate a new leader being born. The Magi are on a journey of seeking God. They have knowledge. Resources. Time. All that the world declares is necessary for fulfilment. Yet they are hungry for something more. What is currently guiding your life? Would you say you are thirsty, hungry, searching? How and where do you find Jesus today?

• The three gifts presented reveal the identity of Jesus. Gold for a king. Frankincense for a priest whose role is to pray and send prayers to God in heaven. Myrrh pointing toward Jesus’ sacrifice and death and future burial. As the new year begins what personal ‘gifts’, ‘talents’, are you willing to ‘give’ in service to God? Consider the deeper meaning of homage and surrender. How could you express a deeper commitment to following Jesus? What change of direction would you like to make to imitate the Magi?

• What action  will you take to 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 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is HERE

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Discussion Questions

• This Feast day is the Oldest Marian Feast in our liturgical calendar. The Solemnity of Mary Holy Mother of God is celebrated a week after Christmas Day. It is a ‘Christological’ Feast in which the focus is on Jesus Christ and his identity. We recognise the special role that Mary had
in accepting the call to be ‘Mother of God’. This title of Mary – Theotokos – Mother of God points to Jesus’ Divine identity as truly God.

• The Blessing referred to in the Book of Numbers is still practiced by the Jewish ancestors of the Priestly line of Aaron today and in our Catholic prayer as we pray ‘Lord Hear Us’. Calling upon the Name of God brought his presence. And God himself taught Moses how to bring
this blessing upon God’s family. LORD is an English translation of the Greek KYRIOS, which is a translation of the Hebrew YAHWEH – which is the Divine Name of God given to Moses on the Mountain of Sinai meaning ‘I AM THE ONE WHO IS’ (Ex 3:14). Can you see the Old Testament – Gospel link in the readings: God’s face and looking upon you and Jesus born among us. Think of close friends and pray this blessing upon them for the New Year ahead.

•Paul’s letter to the Galatians is written by Paul upset at the travellers who would journey behind him and tell his communities that his message about Jesus was wrong. In the community of Galatia new converts who were not Jewish were being told they must obey all the Jewish requirements of the Law regarding food, cleanliness, circumcision, ritual practices. Paul uses a dramatic image to dismiss their arguments. Jews are slaves to a ‘law’. Christians are adopted as ‘sons’ and are now ‘heirs’ to the inheritance of freedom and unconditional acceptance by God. Do you understand and experience your relationship with God as a slave and legal observance, or as a son / daughter and a ‘family member’? What is the difference?

• The Lukan reading continues on from Christmas Day. God is surprisingly born in an unclean place (stable) and seen first by unclean people (shepherds, who were often not able to meet ritual cleanliness requirements due to the care of their animals). Which places and people do you consider today to be ‘unclean’ and ‘unfit’ for God? How might Luke’s theme of God’s hospitality and inclusion to all challenge you this
year? Who do you exclude?

• Mary is the model for all disciples. Her life was open to God’s call and plan. Her whole-hearted Yes called her to walk forward within a plan she did not fully understand. She reflected on each days events ‘in her heart’. She lived a pregnancy with the Word and let it come to birth. As the New Year begins what challenges may you say Yes to? How could you create a regular pattern of ‘prayer and reflection’ to ensure plans and resolutions move from pregnancy to physical birth?

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

Discussion Guide: Feast of the Holy Family

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Reflection Questions

•Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. Each of the readings reflects on living family life in a way that leads to ‘holiness’.

•The Book of Wisdom – or Sirach – reflects on the commandment to honour parents in every stage of their life. Implied is a respectful relationship between parents and children. Our covenant relationship with God mirrors our relationship to parents. This relationship is expressed through prayer, obedience, justice & forgiveness. Consider the challenges of raising a family. What is the promise for our kindness to parents? How can respect apply in broken families? We are called to be considerate and caring even as parents age. What does this passage say to us about euthanasia, dementia and the elderly?

•Family life has struggles and difficulties. The Community of Colossae that Paul is writing to, is struggling greatly with Jewish Christians welcoming ‘Gentiles’ – (Greeks) into the Christian community ‘family’. St Paul writes about the ‘Family Code’ also called the ‘Holiness Code’. We are all called to ‘put on’ the white garment of baptism and the new life of Jesus that we live. In the Church (or your Family), who is included or excluded?  Which attitude could be practiced more by you in your ‘family’? How could ‘peace’ control your hearts? The Scriptures depict journey as a path to life and holiness. How can the ‘journey’ motif encourage you?

• Subordinate (“under”) reflects the customs of the early Roman times. Christians were keen to live by the ‘family code’ to show Roman authorities that they were not dangerous to government. Is order in family life healthy? What ‘order’ do you have in the family? Home? How is ‘bitterness’ resolved? What arguments arise over children’s behaviour or obedience? What attitudes or behaviours provoke or discourage your children? Does the Word of God dwell richly in your home? Is there any singing and praying and showing gratitude to God?

• Joseph is revealed as a man who faithfully responds four times to amessage from an angel. 1st to take Mary – pregnant – home to be his wife. 2nd to become a refugee and take his wife and newborn baby into a foreign land (Egypt). 3rd to return to Israel with an uncertain political leader and future. 4th responding to a warning about where to live. Imagine yourself in each of these 4 examples. What do you learn about Joseph? What would Mary’s experience have been at each of these moments? What does this teach you about the ‘Holy Family’? Listening prayer is discernment and wisdom: it is being attentive to inspiration & circumstances through prayer. How can Joseph be our
guide?

•What is one action you can take to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com
livingtheword resources by Fr Frank Bird sm, of the Society of Mary and Bev McDonald www.maristlaitynz.org.

Discussion Guide 4th Sunday of Advent Year A. Has Your ‘Yes’ to Jesus changed your Life?

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Reflection Questions

• The 4th Sunday of Advent points excitedly to the next few days – the birth of Jesus. In the final days before Christmas how could you achieve a balance: writing christmas cards and preparing heart and home for Christ. Attending christmas parties and choosing space and
silence for prayerful listening to God. Buying christmas presents and being a christmas presence? If you were asked to describe your joy at
Christmas what would you say?

• Ahaz was King of the southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah was trying to encourage him not to enter a military agreement with Assyria. Both God and Isaiah hold a conversation with Ahaz. Go on, ask for a sign from God! He declines, most probably because he does not want any sign to change his mind. Is there any decision you have made which you stubbornly refuse to change your mind about yet feel God wants a conversation about it? If you were to ask for a sign from God to guide your future, what would you ask for?

• The ‘sign’ of a young girl of marriageable age (maiden) conceiving and bearing a son ‘Emmanuel’ has been interpreted as a great fulfilment of Gods birth among us in Jesus through Mary. When a sign is given it requires both ‘seeing’ and ‘understanding’. Ponder a ‘sign’ that has changed your life. How has the ‘sign’ of Jesus changed your life?

• Paul frequently introduces himself as ‘a slave’ of Christ Jesus. Being a slave is actually freeing for Paul. The emperor, idols, money, possessions… nothing and nobody is his Master. Only Jesus. He lives in love and for love alone. Jesus, who is God ‘enfleshed’ has the first
call of obedience on his life. Can you glimpse Paul’s joy and freedom? What has God ‘sent’ (the meaning of the word ‘apostle’) you to ‘be’ and ‘do’? Are you free enough to say ‘Yes’?

• While we often remember Mary’s visit by the angel and her ‘Yes’ to God, we can easily miss Joseph also had a visit by an angel (message bearer) in a dream. Without Joseph saying ‘Yes’ Mary and Jesus could both have been killed! (public stoning was the penalty for pregnancy before marriage). Joseph ‘did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him’. Is your life open to being changed and disturbed by ‘an angel’? Have you ever pondered how vulnerable and uncertain is the experience that Mary and Joseph walk into with their combined ‘Yes’s’

• What is one action that you will do to 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

Discussion Guide with Scriptures for 1st Sunday of Advent Year A is HERE

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Reflection Questions

• The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and a new Year (the Gospel of Matthew). Advent prepares and challenges us to be ready to welcome the second coming of Jesus while also turning us to celebrate and remember with joy the first coming of Jesus. How will you celebrate both Advent and Christmas? What do you do to prepare to welcome someone special? How could you apply those ideas to the 4 Advent weeks of preparing & waiting?

• Isaiah was written during war and injustice. It reveals that the relationship with God impacts all humanity and the environment, not simply our hearts. Swords & spears becoming farming implements suggests the in-breaking of radical peace and love itself; our true hope of trans-formation. Isaiah reminds us that God makes the movement toward us as the Lords house is established and raised up for us. What connections can you see with the hope we have in Jesus’ birth? What does it mean to walk in the paths and the light of the Lord?

•   What does it mean for you to ‘awake from sleep’, ‘put on the armour of light’ and ‘put on the  Lord Jesus Christ’?
•   Jesus uses 3 short parables to wake his hearers. To survive a sudden flood needs preparation. Society encourages overeating, drinking,
and spending on ‘stuff’ at Christmas. What impact does this have on families, communities and the environment? How  does it feel to be a Noah when the world doesn’t appreciate your faith perspective?
•   Imagine discovering that someone you see everyday is different than you believed. Parables  shock to provoke change. Do you want to deepen your relationship with God or go with the crowd and be left alone. God sees us differently.  What deep longings and hopes would divine perception see in you?
•    To stop a thief entering your house you have put in place certain practices or habits (locking doors and windows, turning lights on, having mail collected by a friend…) so that you are ‘always ready’ ‘awake’. What spiritual practices could you commit to help you to constantly keep
‘spiritually awake’? Have you ever been ‘broken into’? What did you change after the theft? What is the wisdom Jesus wants us to apply to daily Christian life?
•    A famous retreat leader had hundreds of excited people waiting for very wise words and deep insights into their problems. He arrived at the microphone and asked: ‘Hands up who wants to go to Heaven?’ Everyone put their hand up. ‘Hands up those who are ready to go now’? No-one put their hand up. He said: you may consider asking yourself why you are not ready… Are you ready?
•    What is one action that you will do to 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 Guide for 30th Sunday Year C: Smug Self-Righteousness or Humble Authenticity is here

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• 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

 

Reflection Guide & Scriptures for 29th Sunday Year C: Is Prayer your steering wheel or Spare Tyre?

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Discussion 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 ‘God 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 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) ‘strike me and give me a black eye’ ! Jesus encourages us that God is not someone we need to ‘wear down’ with constant prayer. God wants to meet the needs of his chosen ones as a perfect parent.  Have you moved from praying with lots of words to praying with lots of silence? What does the image of a baby silent in a parents arms symbolize for you? What brings you to peace and assurance of God’s love?

• Widows were not allowed to inherit their husbands property. If without family they had no one to care or look after them. Judges were to ensure widows, orphans and aliens (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?

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

Discussion Guide: Fan the Gift of God Into a Flame

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Reflection Questions

• Today is the only time this year we hear from the prophet Habakkuk. Disheartened by the violence and the harm done to the innocent he receives a vision and instruction from God. Literally, he is told to ʻwrite a sign so that those who run by may be able to read itʼ. The first Billboard! God will save the just. He is asked to trust that the Babylonian army entering Israel will ultimately serve Godʼs purpose of a renewal of faith in Israel. What disheartens you? What words of comfort have you heard from God or friends? What ʻbillboardʼ sign would you create to help and comfort people to trust in God?

• Timothy is a young man Paul appointed to lead his community in Ephesus. He is discouraged and thinking about giving up that mission. Paul encourages him to ʻstir into a flameʼ the gifts that God has given him. When we ‘stir’ a fire we stoke it to break it open and expose more oxygen and fuel so the flame burns hotter. What will help you fan the flame of your faith? What fuel and oxygen do you need? Timothy is not to be timid or ashamed of his youth and is to see his strength in God not his own abilities. Is your faith precious to guard and fan for the service of others? What gifts do you recognize and celebrate in yourself? Talk to God about how fear, shame, timidity or tired faith limits you?

• When a text is confusing it can be helpful to place the ʻtext in contextʼ. Luke 17 has a number of small teachings given by Jesus to his disciples on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus guides them on their leadership responsibilities in their future communities. They are not to cause the downfall of a ʻsingle little oneʼ (17,2). They are to forgive people in their community seven times a day (17,4)! This challenge makes the
disciples ask ʻincrease our fai1thʼ (17,5). The word ʻfaithʼ can also be understood as ʻloyaltyʼ in following the instructions of a teacher. Is there a ʻlittle oneʼ you may be bringing down by a poor example? Is there anyone you find difficult to forgive seven times?

• The disciples do not ask for more teaching. They ask for help in surrendering more fully to God. Write a one line prayer asking for deeper trust in and surrender to God.

• A servant was normally working in the fields or in domestic house work. Strikingly this servant is doing ʻdouble dutiesʼ and is expected to do so without complaining. Society today expects individuals to be accoladed for their service. Yet Jesus calls disciples to servant leadership; the ʻdouble dutyʼ of gentle, faithful servant leadership and extravagant forgiveness is a minimum for discipleship in Christ. What are your
struggles with servant leadership ?

• The idea of obedience is very unpopular today. The image of Master and Servant can stir up feelings and resentments. Expectations are often the source of those feelings. “I should (should not) have been treated…” What are your expectations about ʻservingʼ God? How comfortable are with the identity of being an obedient servant? A joyful servant sees the gift in work and delights in serving. They know
their housing, responsibilities, food and needs will be provided for. Can you trust God to provide? Am I able to say truthfully ʻI am simply a servantʼ? What are your frequent feelings about your expectations and identity?

• 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,  Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org