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Posts Tagged ‘Baptism’

Discussion Guide for 30th Sunday Year B: Jesus is Calling You.

Readings: Jer. 31:7-9, Heb. 5:1-6, Gospel Mk 10:46-52

Image result for Take Courage Jesus is calling you

Reflection Questions

• Jeremiah is a prophet during one of the most difficult times. Reluctantly, God allows his chosen people to be led off to exile as a consequence of their
unfaithfulness. Jeremiah makes a prophecy that God will always be truly a Father and will ensure a safe return for all – even the blind and lame. Have you ever
had to let someone ‘learn a lesson’ the hard way? Does pain and suffering mean that God does not care? As a parent, what is special about a ‘first-born’?
• Although Jesus did not wear the special vestments and serve in the Temple as a Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches that Jesus is qualified and actually fulfills the role of the High Priest in the Old Testament: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is understood as completing all sacrifices. How do you relate to your ‘priest’? Have you ever asked for help to draw closer to God? Has he been able to ‘deal patiently’ with his people? Has he been beset by weakness himself? Have you prayed for him lately?
• To teach Jewish people the identity of Jesus the text links Jesus to the mysterious figure of Melchizedek – King of Peace, of unknown origin, who served
Abraham as a Priest. Jewish scholars understood Melchizedek not to have died and to be eternally a priest of God – What would it mean that Jesus is eternally your personal priest standing in the presence of God the Father in Heaven for you?
• “Sight” is a special theme in todays readings. It was a prophecy that the Messiah would ʻrestore sight to the blindʼ. As Jesus began his journey to Jersualem
he gave sight to the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8,22) and now gives sight to Bartimaeus (Mark 10,46). Like two slices of bread between these two
episodes the disciples are told three times about the Messiah who will suffer and they do not ʻseeʼ and understand. How has your understanding of Jesus grown lately? Is the deep root of your prayer requests ʻto sit at your right handʼ(glory) or ʻhave pity on meʼ (mercy) or ʻmaster I want to seeʼ (discipleship)?
• The name Bartimaeus means ʻson of the uncleanʼ. Sitting at the gate of the great city of Jericho he is labelled as unclean, unworthy. In his loneliness and need he cries out to Jesus. He gets rebuked from the crowd and told to be silent. He cries even louder. When called he throws away his begging cloak, the only source of his warmth and money collection. ʻI want to seeʼ – I want to truly live and enter life fully. The experience of living in darkness and then seeing is the most transforming experience a human person can receive. It became a symbol of baptism. Can you identify with Bartimaeus? What label do you wear? What is the security cloak that you may need to ʻthrow asideʼ? What is your response deep down when Jesus asks ʻwhat do you want me to do for you?ʼ
• Unlike the rich young man recently who walked away sad (Mark 10,22), Bartimaeus is instructed ʻgo your wayʼ. He chooses to follow Jesus ʻon the wayʼ (to Jerusalem). In what ʻwayʼ am I walking the journey of my life. Going my own way? Walking with a sad heart unable to let go of experiences or false sources of
security? Am I searching and responsive to Godʼs will and following that even if it means a great sacrifice? Will I join Jesus ʻon the wayʼ to Jerusalem?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection Guide Divine Mercy Sunday

Image result for My Lord and My God

Discussion Questions

• We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song. Easter lasts 7 weeks in the Catholic experience. It is called Eastertide and marks 50 days between Easter – Pentecost. What practice or ritual could you live for the next 50 days to truly celebrate the meaning of Easter and let its message get ‘under your skin’ and change you?

• The followers of Christ became a “community”. The love in their hearts was expressed in love to others – especially those ‘in need’. What transformation happened to the disciples to enable them to live so generously? When have you experienced God’s transforming mercy? Ask Jesus to reveal His mercy to you this week. What change am I invited to make in my life regarding possessions? How could I show deeper commitment in my parish community?

• Victory that conquers the world is ‘our faith’. Victory and conquer are ‘battleʼ words. Faith is to be victorious over the ‘world’– not by ‘water’ (baptism) alone but also by ‘blood’ (sacrifice) and the Spirit. Easter challenges us: am I willing to work with Christ to overcome injustice, discrimination and fear with mercy? Only then can Easter Sunday Victory swallow up the evil of Friday.

• It is significant that immediately after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples are afraid. Locked in a room. Scared. They are followers of a ‘rebel’ who has been crucified as a threat to the religious and political status- quo. Consider rebel fighters today as a possible contemporary image. Yet this rebellion is to bring mercy, peace and forgiveness. Can you imagine the scene; try to experience their fear and pray with it?

• The disciples are huddled in a locked room in fear and Jesus brings peace and the guaranteed forgiveness of their sins through the Holy Spirit in the Church. What is the source of your ‘un-peace’ and fear that Jesus wishes to heal? Share those fears with Jesus.

• Thomas likes to check the truth of things, he doesn’t believe simply because others do. Sound familiar? Thomas needs to see and touch Jesus. God honours that need in Thomas and promises that the transformative joy and happiness of Thomas and the other disciples can truly be ours today. We may not ‘see’ with our physical eyes but are promised that faith can allow us to experience the Risen Lord through His Spirit and to ‘touch’ His wounds and receive Him fully in Eucharist. We are invited today
to make the same full faith commitment of Thomas to Jesus – “My Lord and my God!” What do you need to help you believe, grow in faith and joy and put God in the centre of your life like Thomas? Spend time asking Jesus for that.

• The South African civil rights proponent Allan Boesak stated that Jesus, at the pearly gates, won’t question us about how well we carried out our religious obligations. He’ll only ask us to show our wounds, that are the outward sign we’ve spent our lives imitating him. God’s love ignites mercy
within us and through us for others. Mercy, forgiveness, faith, truth; theses take courage and form wounds of love within us. What if the only question Jesus asks on entry to heaven is: ‘show me your wounds’?

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

 

 

Reflection Guide is here.

N.B.During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and meaning of their baptism. Those alternative Scripture reflections are here. 

Discussion Questions:2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23, Eph 2:4-10, Gospel Jn 3:14-21.

  • Godʼs people suffered the destruction of their Temple in Jerusalem and were exiled into another country for 70 years. Something had gone horribly wrong. Wasnʼt God supposed to provide them with unconditional protection? Have you had an experience of feeling abandoned or being forgotten by God? What caused that experience? The first reading shares the idea of false worship. What do you think ʻretrieved its lostsabbathsʼ could mean? For you?
  • Godʼs guidance of history stirs a secular leader, Cyrus King of Persia, to release Godʼs chosen people and also to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It is beyond anyones imagination that such an event could happen. What does this show about God? History? Your life?
  • The Ephesians reading is a beautiful text for the Lenten journey. The generosity of Gods love to die while we were still sinful. We glimpse ʻhow infinitely rich he is in graceʼ towards us. Do you consider yourself forgiven, cleansed, called to be ʻGodʼs work of artʼ and live the ʻgood lifeʼ? What steps toward greater holiness of life could you take into Week 4 of Lent? The discussion with Nicodemus in the darkness of night is symbolic. Nicodemus wants to protect his reputation and not be exposed. Found out. He is scared of making his belief ʻpublicʼ. It could involve him losing friends. Is there something I feel called to bring to the light of reconciliation during this time of Lent?
  • John 3:16 is a popular line in the scriptures to summarise Godʼs love for us “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It is linked with the Gospel image of Jesus being ʻlifted up”. Locate a crucifix to pray with or go into a church and ponder Jesus on the Cross. Consider the depth of what the cross teaches us personally: I am forgiven. I am so loved – and therefore loveable! How does that make you feel? What is your response?
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz

 

 

 

Discussion Guide for The Feast of the Holy Family.

Sagrada familia 2

Reflection Questions:

  • Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. Each of the readings provide a reflection on how family life is lived so as to lead us into ‘holiness’.
  • The Book of Ecclesiasticus gives us a reflection on the commandment to Honor one’s Parents. It implies a respectful relationship between Parents and children. The covenant relationship with God is mirrored in relationship to Parents. This relationship is lived through prayer, obedience, forgiveness and justice. Consider the ups and downs your parents have been through in raising your family. How do you currently show and practice ‘thankfulness’?
  • As Parents grow old, sometimes ‘the mind fails’ which can result in big challenges for adult children. How might reflecting on what your parents did for you as a young child help? What do you do that may ‘grieve’ your parents? How do you show ‘kindness’? If your family relationship was difficult what does God promise you when you honour your parents? We sometimes treat God like our parents. What impact might that be having on your image and relationship with God?
  • Paul writes to the Colossians who are struggling to welcome ‘Gentiles’ – (Greeks) into what had been a Jewish Christian community. He writes about the ‘Family Code’ also called the ‘Holiness Code’. We are all called to ‘put on’ the white garment of baptism and live in the new life of Christ. In the Church (or your Family), who gets included or excluded? What are the points of tension? What attitudes could you practice more in your ‘family’ to develop ‘peace’ as the controlling virtue of your life?
  • Christmas celebrates the fruit of Mary and Joseph’s trust in God. They sacrificed greatly to raise Jesus. As Pope Francis says, “Ambiguity, uncertainty, and brokenness touched the Holy Family. Their lives teach us that we cannot understand God’s designs. This wonderful lesson urges parents to put their families in God’s hands and trust that their efforts will bear fruit.” How did your family respond to struggles? How has that impacted your life? Faithful parents are examples for us, single or married. How can you put yourself more fully in God’s hands? Jesus and Mary offered the sacrifice of the poor; two doves. What simple sacrifices do you offer God? Are there older members of your community who contribute wisdom and spiritual support? How did Simeon and Anna live this out? How might you honour these elders?
  • Christians were keen to live by the ‘family code’ to show Roman authorities that they were not dangerous to government. How is order in family life healthy? How can married couples live in equality and unity with deep respect and honour for each other? How might that level of respect and practical love impact family life? How is ‘bitterness’ resolved? What arguments arise over children? What might ‘provoke’ or ‘discourage’ your children? What support do you think a family needs today? Does the Word of God dwell richly in your home? How do you build singing, joy and thanksgiving into the way you pray and show gratitude to God in daily life
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide is Here: Advent 2nd Sunday Year B

Reflection Questions

• Isaiah chapters 40-55 are known as the ‘Book of Comfort’. The prophet is speaking encouraging words to the exiles as they return home and seek to rebuild their lives and the Temple in
Jerusalem. Isaiah is also known as the ‘carrier of the hope of the Messiah’. Foretelling a time when God will come among his people. Can you see the prediction of John the Baptist and Jesus in the reading from Isaiah? What image speaks personally to you on your advent journey?

• The preparation of a straight road or a royal highway was known to happen in ancient times when a very special person was to visit. Physically, valleys were filled and hills were lowered to make the way smooth and easy. At great expense! As Advent invites us to make a clear pathway for the Lord,
what roadblocks, ditches, hills require the earthmoving equipment of prayer, spiritual direction, reconciliation?

• The 2nd Letter of Peter is regarded as possibly the latest of the New Testament Letters. Obviously they are concerned with the delay of Jesus. Peter teaches God’s final judgement is not based upon human calendars. While Peter uses the popular belief of the time of a final ‘fire’ at the end of
time, he also emphasises the need for good behaviour and ‘righteousness’ (whereas gnostics did
not consider there would be a future judgment and therefore immorality was irrelevant). Would Christ’s coming find you ‘eager to be found without spot’? At peace? What is the source of your ‘dis-ease’?

• Today we hear the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel we will listen to for the rest of the Year. Mark immediately shares the ‘secret’ in the first line. We are about to hear ‘gospel’ (good news about a victory battle over evil) done by Jesus Christ. He is the one who reveals by words, actions of power, that he has all the attributes of God = Son of God. Is your interest raised? Consider spending a few hours to read Mark (the shortest gospel) for Advent.

• To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to ‘proclaim’ the imminent arrival. This is the role of John the Baptist. Significantly John does this at the Jordan river (at the same crossing point Israel left the desert and entered the Promised Land). A new rescuing by God is taking place. John is painted to be like the great prophet Elijah who was to return to prepare for the ‘great
day of the Lord’. Who has been a holy witness and ‘prophet’ like John the Baptist for your journey? Who could you be a holy witness for this advent calling them back to God?

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

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary. Administered by Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ Facilitator. web: www.livingtheword.org.nz        www.maristlaitynz.org     e-mail: contact@livingtheword.

 

Download Readings for the Easter Vigil of Light

Reflection Questions

  1. St Augustine has famously called the Easter Vigil ‘The Mother of All Feasts’. This special night gives us signs, symbols, words, gestures which are at the heart of our Catholic Christian faith and identity. Every Sunday celebration flows from this Easter Celebration.
  2. We gather in the dark of night. Darkness symbolizing an absence of light, an unclear path to walk. Gathering around the light of a fire. Like people of ancient times have gathered and talked. We remember the pillar of fire that led God’s family through the desert journey. From this fire we light the Easter Candle the symbol of Christ. Our true ‘light’. It is normal to turn a light-switch and ‘see’. Can you locate an experience of darkness, feeling lost, uncertain of where and how to walk? And the joy of a ‘light’ to guide you? This dark / light reality is important to let enter your religious imagination this night.
  3. The foundational story of our beginnings and the divine statement 6 times of creation being ‘very good’ is deeply important. Despite the chaos of history, pollution, violence, can you look deeply into life and see ‘goodness’ and the ‘beauty of men and women in the ‘image of God’? How might this foundational attitude of goodness and thank-full-ness toward life cause you to live?
  4. Lights turn on and bells ring at the reading of the New Testament. Why?
  5. St Paul teaches us about baptism and the renewal of our baptismal promises made at the Easter Vigil. Our baptism actually involved us into Jesus’ death. We were ‘buried’. Our baptism calls us into ‘a death like his’. Our ‘old self’ of selfishness and sin has and is being crucified and ‘put to death’. Christ’s rising is also our future rising. Consider Paul’s words personally: ‘you must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ’. What do these words teach you about your baptism?
  6. The Resurrection continues from the crucifixion scene with ‘end time events’ being seen: earthquakes, angels, people shaking with fear. Matthew wants us to recognize a truly cosmic event is taking place. A tomb, a place of death is now empty. What does this mean? Jesus has been raised from the dead. What does this mean? As we profess our belief in the resurrection of our bodies, is this merely present as an idea in your head stored up for when you die, or a reality that takes away fear and profoundly influences your living ‘now’?
  7. Jesus calls his disciples ‘brothers’ not hopeless losers who abandoned him. We are ‘family’ to Jesus. No matter how Lent went, enjoy Easter!
  8. What is one action that you will do to ‘live the word’ this week?

Download 4th Sunday Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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 persons heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.
  4. St Paul writes about the difference in a persons 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.
  5. 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?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Reflection Document 1st Week of Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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’?
  4. 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?
  5. 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 satisifying our ‘bread-belly’ and physical or material cravings. What creative fasting experience could you create to nourish your spirit and soul journey?
  6. 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?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Baptism of the Lord Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. The prophet Isaiah speaks often of the promise that God will send a Messiah. Today’s prophecy foretells Jesus’ coming. Celebrating Jesus’ Baptism we learn also of our own ‘job description’ to live following Jesus’ lifestyle and example in the world. Have you made your baptism personal and meaningful? What does it mean for you to be: ‘chosen’, ‘upon whom I have put my spirit’, ‘bring forth justice’. Called personally for the ‘victory of justice’. Have you recognised God trying to take you by the hand and form you, ask you to be an example and light for others? Transform peoples lives who are blind and suffering in darkness?
  2. Acts 10 is a very important chapter and experience in the life of St Peter. Peter was Jewish and was brought up in strict observance knowing what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. Non Jews (Gentiles / Greeks) were considered ‘unclean’. If you entered their home or ate with them you became ‘unclean’. Peter is told by God to go into Cornelius’ home (He was a gentile and a despised Roman soldier!). Peter has a significant conversion of the mind…. ‘people of every nation are acceptable to God’. Who do you consider to be ‘clean’ ‘unclean’?
  3. What obstacles did Peter have to overcome to go into Cornelius’ house? What obstacles do you have to overcome?
  4. It was a custom for disciples to carry the masters sandals. It was a sign of discipleship. The image John shares is he is not even worthy to bow down and undo the sandals of Jesus. The holiness and distinctiveness between John and Jesus is emphasised. Why?
  5. Historical and theological writing is present in this Baptism scene of Jesus. Isaiah had cried out to God in the Old Testament – open the heavens and come down! Now the clouds are pushed apart, the spirit of God descends and God’s voice is heard. Here he is! The Messiah. The promised one. My Son. Imagine being at this scene. Imagine this is your baptism scene. What do you feel? Think? Fulfilling the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah, do you accept your baptismal ‘job description’?
  6. You may have been too young to remember your own baptism. It does not mean that you cannot now become conscious of what happened and what it means ‘today’. A special prayer was prayed over you as party of your annointing ‘christ-ing’ that you be a Priest, Prophet and King. Your call is to be a
  • Priest – bring the world to God and God to the world
  • Prophet – listen to the scriptures and speak God’s word of comfort and challenge to the world
  • King – to lead the world not follow the world.
  • How could you grow in awareness and expression of your God-given calling?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

quotescover-JPG-78Download 4th Sunday Reflection Document Year B

Download 4th Sunday Reflection Year B (RCIA READINGS)

Reflection Questions

  1. Godʼs people suffered the destruction of their Temple in Jerusalem and were exiled into another country for 70 years. Something had gone horribly wrong. Wasnʼt God supposed to provide them with unconditional protection? Have you had an experience of feeling abandoned or being forgotten by God? What caused that experience? The first reading shares the idea of false worship. What do you think ʻretrieved its lost sabbathsʼ could mean? For you?
  2. Godʼs guidance of history stirs a secular leader, Cyrus King of Persia, to release Godʼs chosen people and also to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It is beyond anyones imagination that such an event could happen. What does this show about God? History? Your life?
  3. The Ephesians reading is a beautiful text for the Lenten journey. The generosity of Gods love to die while we were still sinful. We glimpse ʻhow infinitely rich he is in graceʼ towards us. Do you consider yourself forgiven, cleansed, called to be ʻGodʼs work of artʼ and live the ʻgood lifeʼ? What steps toward greater holiness of life could you take into Week 4 of Lent?
  4. The discussion with Nicodemus in the darkness of night is symbolic. Nicodemus wants to protect his reputation and not be exposed. Found out. He is scared of making his belief ʻpublicʼ. It could involve him losing friends. Is there something I feel called to bring to the light of reconciliation during this time of Lent?
  5. John 3:16 is a popular line in the scriptures to summarise Godʼs love for us “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It is linked with the Gospel image of Jesus being ʻlifted up”. Locate a crucifix to pray with or go into a church and ponder Jesus on the Cross. Consider the depth of what the cross teaches us personally: I am forgiven. I am so loved – and therefore loveable! How does that make you feel? What is your response?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?