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Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

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.

Reflection and Scripture: Do You Run to See Jesus?

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Discussion Questions

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

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

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

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Reflection Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide:(10th March 2019) 1st Sunday of Lent-Listen: How is the Spirit calling you?

DT 26:4-10, Rms 10:8-13, Gospel LK 4:1-13

Reflection Questions 

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• 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?

Discussion Guide for 10th Sunday: Who is Jesus’ Family?

Mark 3:35 - Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother

Reflection Questions

  • The first reading reminds us we are created for relationship with God. When we love someone, we like to know where they are, what they’re doing, and instinctively want to protect them. What’s it like to realize God is searching for you; wanting to know how you are and to listen to what is happening for you? Talk with God about that.
  • The tragedy of sin is that it damages the relationship of love and trust between God and his people. Self-deceit, thoughtless choices or destructive life patterns are ways we try to hide from ourselves and God. What are you uncomfortable talking to God about or facing in your life? Accepting responsibility and natural consequences are part of maturing. Can you think of a time when God allowed consequences to help you grow and mature? How has that experience impacted your faith and trust in God?
  • St Paul talks with conviction about ‘knowing’ that Jesus rose from the dead and that we too will be raised up with Jesus and be with all believers. How strong is your conviction about the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life? What aspect of your faith needs strengthening? What could help you grow more firm in faith?
  • What is Paul’s perspective on affliction and hardship? He is suggesting that our struggles somehow ‘train’ us and get us ready to live eternally in the glory of God. Does the thought of heaven permeate your daily life? What would change if you let yourself believe more deeply? How difficult
    or easy is it for you to share the Good News of the Resurrection? What stops you?
  • Paul links living a life of thanksgiving to the Resurrection. What practical steps will you take to build greater thankfulness into your daily life?
  • Jesus has been preaching the Kingdom, healing many sick, and casting out demons in the region around his home base of Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. His family thought he was quite ‘mad’ and tried to ‘seize him’, while the Scribes thought he was possessed by Satan. Jesus’ response
    was to tell stories to try to get them to recognize their error. Can you see anything of yourself in the attitude of His family or the Scribes? What challenges you most about being a disciple? How do you react when those you love, and respect misunderstand or mock you? Share those challenges with God.
  • In Judaism, blood relatives and kinship are critically important. Jesus makes it shockingly clear that natural kinship is superseded when we enter the kingdom of God. We become sisters and brothers of Jesus, heirs to the kingdom of God and eternal life with him when we do the will of
    God. Who are the people around you in need of healing, comfort, compassion, mercy and the gift of hearing the Good News and the witness of thanksgiving in your life? How is the Holy Spirit nudging you to do the will of God
  • How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail:contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources this week by Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ