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Posts Tagged ‘catholic bible study’

Discussion Guide 25th Sunday Year A

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Reflection Questions

• If you ever experience God being ‘distant’ the words of Prophet Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. Yet they cannot go back to Jerusalem and the Temple. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been demolished. Isaiah invites you to turn inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. Does your lifestyle allow for quiet time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God?

• Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle. He could be passive and let God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? An earthquake and conversion of the jailor provides the way forward. Could you trust God’s design of providence                  and guiding your life like Paul?

• Laborers would often stand in the middle of town waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, and not having been selected for a job, many would walk home downcast. What do the laborers feel? In desperation some continue to stay until 4pm! What is strange about the landowners (God) behaviour?

• The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is also called the Parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Christian community was Jewish but gradually became filled with more Gentile converts. Jews who had served long and hard in faithful obedience to the Laws of God now witnessed Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God is unmasked in this parable as one who is generous. Were you upset or delighted in this parable? Why?

• The landowner’s (God’s) generosity in the parable creates a problem. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money earned. Few hours worked = little money earned. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’?

• The ways of God are different from worldly ways. As a member of the community building the ‘kingdom of God’, what would it look like to be generous with your money like the landowner? Does your giving establish true justice or maintain charity with unjust structures and policies? check out www.caritas.org.nz

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

 

Discussion Guide for 24th Sunday Year A 

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Reflection Questions

• The Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) was also known as the ‘Church Book’ as it was used to instruct new candidates for Baptism with all its lessons of wisdom for living. Today, forgiveness is the theme. Are you ‘hugging tightly’ any anger or resentment? What behaviour is this causing in your life?

• Breaking the chain of hurt, unforgiveness, violence is extremely difficult. Can you ‘remember the Most High’s covenant’ (the forgiveness of our sins on the cross) and knowing our faults have been overlooked… ‘overlook faults’?

• Today is the final Sunday this year we hear from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Tensions existed between Jews who kept all their ‘laws’ and customs faithfully, and Gentiles who did not feel the obligation of the ‘laws’ and ‘customs’ of the Jews. Do you identify with a particular ‘group’ within
the Church? Do you create barriers and ill feeling toward ‘others’ not in ‘your group’? Paul reminds us we are not individuals or ‘groups’ but one. How could you be an agent of ‘unity’?

• Encouraged from the previous Gospel episode of forgiveness, Peter asks Jesus precisely how generous does one have to be toward someone whohas sinned. Rabbi’s taught three times. Peter suggests a large and generous amount using the perfect number 7. Jesus pronounces an uncountable amount: 77 (double
perfection!). Justice and its strict legal prescription is to be overwhelmed by Mercy and God’s love. Do you have a struggle with forgiveness? Acceptance of or Giving of? Consider what you need to do.

• 10,000 talents is very descriptive. 10,000 is the largest number in Jewish Arithmetic. And the word ‘talent’ is a greek word for a weight of metal. It is the largest unit of measurement. 10,000 talents is equal to our phrase ‘billions of dollars’. It is an unrepayable debt. Strikingly it is ‘forgiven’. This same servant then refuses to ‘forgive’ someone owing him $100. He has been unmoved by the forgiveness
offered him. Have you allowed God’s forgiveness on the cross to profoundlychange you? How could you express your acceptance of God’s incredible forgiveness?

• A parable has within it the seed of subversion of the currently established patterns of operating. The King (God) in the parable offers forgiveness, and yet the full meaning of the parable indicates this forgiveness is conditional. The receiver is expected in turn to forgive. This is dangerous and unexpected. God could change and take back an earlier decision?
What will happen to me? What does living forgiveness involve for me?

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

Discussion Guide Year A 20th Sunday is here

Reflection Questions for individuals or groups.

Gospel Mt 15:21-28

1)God’s chosen people, who were marched away from home into exile in Babylon, are now given permission to return home and rebuild their temple. King Cyrus even gives them back their sacred vessels stolen from the Temple 60 years earlier. The Hebrew people could hardly believe what was happening. God could even work through a Gentile King to rescue and restore his people. Isaiah shares a vision of all peoples being able to worship together in the Temple. This vision was never truly fulfilled. Non Jews were only allowed into an ‘outer courtyard’ of the Temple. What vision of welcome do you have for your Church? What limits your vision from becoming a reality?

2) Paul continues to grieve over his own Jewish people. He hopes that disobedience will eventually meet mercy! People labelled and feeling distant from God (Gentiles) will experience union with God. Paul reminds the Church of God’s passionate desire for all the ‘unclean’ / gentiles to be made welcome in the Church. Who do you judge unclean?

3) Some geography helps to understand the context of the Gospel reading today. Jesus has just finished arguing with the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-20) about what is ‘clean and unclean’. He now travels into unclean ‘gentile’ territory. He moves out of the ‘Holy Land’ and into Canaanite territory. Is he trying to get rid of the Pharisees who keep following and arguing with him? Or is he trying to teach his disciples a lesson going beyond mere words of teaching? The disciples would have been hesitant to go themselves into ‘unclean’ territory. What do you think Jesus could be teaching the disciples? The Church?

4) Without napkins at the dinner table, it was a practice that bread was broken and ones hands were cleaned with bread. Bread and food was left after dinner on the floor. House dogs were frequently able to mop up the crumbs and foodscraps after the guests had finished. This is an image used in the reading today. Is Jesus derogatory toward the woman or just revealing his first concern was ‘lost sheep of Israel’?

5) The disciples wanted the canaanite woman sent away. She was unsettling. Was Jesus waiting for the disciples reaction to her as a way of teaching them about clean / unclean?

6) The Gentile woman kneels before Jesus and prays ‘Lord help me’. Jesus praises and rewards her persistence and faith. To the Jewish community of the Gospel of Matthew this event would have come as a shock. Jesus entered into and found faith among the unclean gentiles. Imagine feeling or being labelled as ‘unclean’ by ‘the church’. What obstacles need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus? Are you helping or hindering?

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

Year A 16th Sunday Small stories, powerful ideas Reflection here.

Reading 1 Wis 12:13, 16-19, Reading II Rom 8:26-27, Gospel Mt 13:24-33

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Discussion Guide and Questions

The Book of Wisdom was written for Jewish people living in cities heavily influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. Wisdom teaching was to remind them of their history and relationship with God. People are to learn from the patience and gentleness and forgiving nature of God and show this in their own lives. How can you be both ‘just’ and ‘kind’? Does your use of power show itself in being ‘lenient’ and gentle to all?

Last week the Spirit dwelling within us was referred to as a ‘first-fruits’. A first installment. An engagement ring looking forward to the promise of the wedding day! St Paul today provides a beautiful image of the presence and power of the Spirit at work in us. The Spirit prays within us in a unique way to God. Have you experienced a time of wanting to pray to God but not having words to describe how you feel. What prayer intention does your body and spirit ‘groan’ with to God? Do you recognise that this experience can be a powerful prayer? Offer this groaning today to God in prayer.

Weeds. Seeds. Yeast. Each image expresses something of the way that God and God’s project (growing the Kingdom of heaven) is present and alive in the world. Allowing wheat and weeds to grow together is risky farming. What is your emotional reaction to the presence of good and evil existing alongside each other? Within you? Can you glimpse the patience of God?

The mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet within a year it can turn into a shrub large enough to be mistaken for a tree. From very small beginnings it becomes something extraordinarily large. Can you identify a small action of love and service that made a profound impact on you? Can you recognise your daily ‘sowing’ mustard seeds of justice and forgiveness and gentleness builds the kingdom of heaven? What ‘seed’ needs to be sown most in your workplace / home today?

The humble presence of a small amount of yeast in a large quantity of flour dramatically transforms a flour mixture into bread (three measures would feed 100 people). Jesus challenges disciples to be this type of ‘presence’ in the world. Yet the kingdom requires a person to be completely possessed by a small seed: love your neighbour as yourself.

Parables often hide a challenging message. The apparent power of evil. The littleness of the ‘seeds’ of our loving. The small amount of our ‘yeast’ in the vastness of the world and its problems. Yet the mustard seed is tremendously fruitful. The yeast succeeds in transforming flour. Hope is at the centre of kingdom living. The ‘righteous will shine’. Can you live full of hope – refusing to be beaten by the reality you see?

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

Download Divine Mercy Sunday Document

Reflection Questions

• Over the next 8 weeks the Readings reflect on the mystery of Easter. Take a moment to reflect on your experience of Easter. What do you remember? What did you hear? See? Feel? What personal message do you think God wishes you to store and treasure in your spirit? On this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, can you see God’s love and forgiveness at Easter?

• Luke, in writing the Acts of the Apostles is trying to teach the earlyChristian community how to live and grow. It is the ideal the Christian Community strives to live and witness to. It is the lived expression of conversion. Consider personally (and for your community) what lifestyle change is invited for you to

• pray daily at home and in the temple

• share property, possessions, food and resources with those in need

• celebrate the liturgy (breaking of bread) and learn the teachings of the apostles

•For Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity the break with family and social bonds caused them to be rejected and persecuted. Jewish converts to Christianity saw their own family conduct a funeral for them considering them lost and dead! Gentiles faced suspicion of subverting the social order. Peter encourages them not to be surprised. Your inheritance is waiting in heaven. Be certain that the genuiness of your faith will eventually prove to give praise to God. Do you experience being ‘tested’ by friends, family, society for your faith? Do you need to let go of some relationships and influences to remain ‘faith-full’? Does your faith ‘cost’ you anything?

• The resurrection greeting Jesus gives his disciples is important. The Jewish belief was the reign of the Messiah would bring a time of peace and people living in reciprocal covenant relationship with God and one another. Peace is given by the forgiveness of sins, won on the cross, given to the Church through the activity of the Holy Spirit. While this text points to the sacrament of reconciliation, it also has within it a charge for all disciples to actively live the forgiveness they have received from Christ. Do you recognise your call to be a living witness to the peace and forgiveness – covenant – of God?

• Thomas is present within each of us and in our communities. Sometimes with disciples. Sometimes not. Struggling with questions and doubts. Do you know a ‘Thomas’? How could you support them?

• The Roman Emperor of the time, ‘Domitian’ demanded people address him with the title ‘Our Lord and God’. What might John be trying to teach us in Thomas’ profession of faith?

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

Download Good Friday Readings

Spend time today aware that you too are the beloved disciple standing with Mary at the foot of the cross.  Reflect on the depth of God’s love for you and every person.

 

Download Holy Thursday Discussion Document

Reflection Questions

  • Holy Thursday is a celebration of the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and a reminder of the last command of Jesus for disciples to love and serve each other. There are some dramatic images of blood being painted on doorways and a humble servant washing dirty feet. Both are heavy with meaning as we enter the celebration of the sacred 3 days of Easter.
  • A lamb being sacrificed and the blood placed on the doorways of the house caused the angel of death to ʻpass-overʼ the house. All the houses not marked with blood were affected by death (see Ex 12,23). Symbolically blood represented life. It also had the power to overcome sin and death. It cleansed. It forgave sin. Can you make the link between the Passover lamb and Jesus being the ʻlamb of God that takes away the sins of the worldʼ? What is the significance of Christʼs blood?
  • In a typical Jewish celebration of the Passover meal the Father would take some unleavened bread and remind the family of having to leave Egypt in great haste. Imagine the surprise of the disciples when Jesus speaks not of the Exodus or unleavened bread but states his own body will bring about a new Exodus / Passover. Jesus is replacing the Jewish Passover with new sacramental words and signs. Can you see the link between unleavened bread and the gift of Jesusʼ body?
  • To understand the Eucharist we need first to understand the Passover (which the Eucharist fulfills and replaces). In the Jewish Passover there were four cups of wine. The second cup was the most important. It remembered the blood of the lambs sprinkled on the doorposts. Jesus in the words of institution at the last supper did not make reference to the blood of the lamb, but instead states he is beginning a new and everlasting covenant with his own blood. Can you see how Jesus is fulfilling and replacing the Jewish Passover?
  • St Paulʼs letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest passages of scripture in the New Testament. Paul states very clearly that what was handed on to him about the celebration of the Eucharist was connected with Jesusʼ own words and command at the last supper. If the Eucharist is ʻproclaimingʼ the death of the Lord what does this mean for you? For the world? •
  • St John does not have the last supper scene like the other gospels. Instead John teaches christian disciples that to celebrate the Eucharist is by implication to participate in the life of Jesus who emptied himself, washed, served. Foot washing was considered such a lowly task that even Jewish slaves were not expected or asked to perform it! John teaches us not to disconnect the Eucharist with service to repair and heal the world. How does Jesusʼ last example and the ʻtools of the tradeʼ of a basin and towel challenge you today? What is self emptying work washing the dirty parts of humanity look like in our society today?
  • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Download Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. 40 days have passed since Easter. What is a significant memory, learning, faith experience you have had since Holy Week? Has the Easter mystery become clearer in any way? Have you learnt something new about what Christ has done for our salvation?
  2. Restoring the ʻKingdom to Israelʼ is still a theme and question of the Apostles. They may still be holding onto a military hope of salvation with a clear and convincing victory of God by power. What is your understanding of the idea of ʻkingdom of God? What does it look like? How is it achieved?
  3. The Feast of the Ascension celebrates Jesusʼ place now in Heaven, promising the Holy Spirit (1st Reading), acting as the Heavenly Priest (2nd Reading) and sending his disciples to witness to all nations (Gospel). The Angels challenge the disciples (and Us): ʻwhy are you standing there looking at the sky?ʼ Where is the focus of your energy and attention as a disciple: looking upward to heaven, or looking sideways to mission?
  4. Ascension Sunday has 2 options for the second reading. The letter to the Hebrews teaches how Jesus replaces all the sacrifices, offerings and prayers of the Temple Priests. A picture is created of the High Priest acting on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) with blood (symbol of life) to rub on the mercy seat (Godʼs resting place) in the holy of holies – the sanctuary / tabernacle). Jesusʼ sacrifice of himself is the one eternal sacrifice to fulfill and replace all sacrifice offerings for the forgiveness of sin. This great act is complete. Jesus now gives us confidence that our relationship with God is made ʻcleanʼ. Jesus acts now and intercedes for us as our ʻheavenly priestʼ. What strikes you from this image in the Hebrews reading?
  5. Jesus sends his disciples as ʻwitnessesʼ to all the world. This is our job description. The early Christian community so heavily persecuted linked witness with martyrdom. In what ways do you consider yourself a ʻwitnessʼ to Jesus? If people were to watch your life what would they ‘see’?
  6. The Holy Spirit is ʻthe promise of the Father upon youʼ giving disciples a ʻpower from on highʼ. What is your image and experience of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever earnestly prayed for the Spirit? Awaiting Pentecost this coming week, create a simple phrase that you could pray frequently (eg. ʻpromise of the Father, come.ʼ ʻpower from on high, fill me.ʼ)
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Reflection Document 31st Sunday 

Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Deuteronomy (second law) is a summary of God’s teachings to help guide God’s people as they leave the desert and enter their new and promised home-land Israel). Moses reminds them they have been looked after and loved so beautifully that the only proper response to God is to return love. ‘Love your God with all your heart’. Have you ‘taken into your heart’ God’s love and care for you?
  2. Jewish people still treasure this ‘command’ to hear and remember. Devout Jews wear this prayer in little prayer containers (phylacteries) on their wrist and forehead, pray it morning and evening, and have a container at the doorway of their home which they touch to remind them to love God who loved them. How could you be reminded of God’s love each day? Where could you put a crucifix so that it is a daily visible and touchable reminder as you ‘come and go’ in and out of your home?
  3. The Letter to the Hebrews is written for Jewish christians who are struggling and tempted to return to the practices of the temple, the laws, the sacrifices. Jesus is shown to be the true and perfect high- priest who will never die and whose sacrifice on the cross forgives ‘once and for all’. Do you ever think something else needs to be done to forgive you?…make you acceptable? Do you find yourself holding Godʼs love at arms length until you become perfect by your own actions? What practices or traditions do you long for that used to make you feel well?
  4. Jesus is now in Jerusalem. He has chased out money changers from the Temple, had arguments with Pharisees and Scribes. Today a frequent faith question is discussed. Jews believed that 613 laws were developed from the 10 commandments. Living all these laws put one in right relationship with God. Scribes who were teachers of the laws especially to the younger generation were often asked: Make it simple? Which is the greatest? Jesus quotes from Dt 6, 4 (1st Reading) but also adds Lev 19,18 – care of the poor (check out Lev 19.9-17). 613 becomes 2. How do you move from love of God on Sunday to love of God on Monday? Do you find it easy to separate love of God from love of neighbour? How do you see this in your life? In the Church?
  5. The Prophets of the Old Testament constantly pointed out the ease at which people worshipped in the temple with ʻburnt offerings and sacrificesʼ but did not love their ʻneighbourʼ shown by helping others in need. Love of God draws me into a relationship with all whom God loves. God painfully wishes our love to be extended to lift up the lowest and forgotten in society. Imagine entering a home for dinner and saying nice words at the table. Upon leaving the house kicking the children and scratching the hosts car. What is going on?
  6. The scribe agrees with Jesus. But Jesus says things are still incomplete: ʻyou are not far from the Kingdom of Godʼ. Close but not there yet! Your head is ʻon boardʼ but is your life going to truly show direct ʻactionʼ linking God AND Neighbour? The crowd stayed silent. Why? What would it involve to actually live and love neighbour as your own flesh and blood?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Download Reflection Document 4th Sunday Easter

Reflection Questions

  1. The Church celebrates ʻGood Shepherd Sundayʼ today. It is an opportunity to consider service of Christ in the Church for the World through a vocation in single life, married life, priesthood, religious life. Can you think of people who are good examples for you of each vocation? Spend time in prayer praying for each one.
  2. Vocation means ʻcallʼ. St Ignatius teaches us that: “God writes his hopes into our deepest desires”. What does that mean God may be calling you to? Imagine the highs and lows of each vocation – what attracts you? What desire is strongest? Are you willing to follow it?
  3. ʻLaying down oneʼs life for the sheepʼ is contrasted with being a ʻhired manʼ who works for pay and has no ʻconcernʼ for the sheep. What do you think is the difference between Vocation and Career? Does one lead down and the other attempt climbing up?
  4. St Peter shares a building image. Very large stones were measured and cut to ʻfitʼ and be suitable for building upon. Is your life truly ʻbuiltʼ upon Jesus or is it merely ʻlookingʼ at Jesus? Does your lifestyle ʻshowʼ you are ʻGodʼs child…ʼ?
  5. One of the actions done by a good shepherd is to ʻlie downʼ in the ʻgatewayʼ of a small low fenced circle of stones to care for the sheep and protect them from harm. The good shepherd was willing to fight to the death any wolf seeking to harm the sheep. It was an expectation that a child who was looking after the sheep, if attacked, was to show evidence of scratches or wolf fur to the family. Are you willing to fight and protect Godʼs family? Seek out the lost who have strayed? Stand attentive to warn of dangerous influences?
  6. ʻLaying down ones lifeʼ is another scriptural picture of the way Jesus lay down his life on the cross – as the good shepherd. Laying down and enduring a sleep-shortened night is something parents do for love of their children. Knowing sheep by name, sharing each day and providing nourishment and shelter. Can you see similarities between parenthood and priesthood? Does ʻlaying down your lifeʼ appeal to you or frighten you? Does love lead you – or does fear fill you?
  7. ʻNo-one takes it from me, I lay it down on my ownʼ. A vocation is something freely chosen. We ʻhearʼ the call of God through desire and attraction, we give ourselves to walk the journey of discovery and we ʻtake upʼ what is involved in faithfulness to our personal calling. Fear. Iʼm not good enough. I feel stuck. I donʼt know are all human responses. Consider reflecting on the document ʻDiscerning your vocationʼ to show your willingness to take a further step into Godʼs call. Click here or go to http://livingtheword.org.nz/resources/
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?