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Posts Tagged ‘catholic lectionary readings’

Reflection Guide Divine Mercy Sunday

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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?

 

 

Discussion Guide, He Is Risen

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Reflection Questions

• Acts chapter 10 is an very significant part of the New Testament. It is hard for us to understand just how big were the divisions between Jews and Non Jews (Gentiles). Jews were not allowed to enter a Gentile house and were certainly not allowed to ‘eat a meal together’. Acts 10 reveals the story of Peter entering a Gentile home and having a meal with a Gentile (and Roman Soldier!) Cornelius. Peter had a vision from God that the ʻgentilesʼ were ʻcleanʼ and could sit at table together with Jews. This message
would upset many who had long held religious views of separation. What obstacle may God wish to remove within you so you can sit together with an ‘enemy’? Who do you consider ʻuncleanʼ?
• Before the Feast of the Passover Jewish women would spend hours sweeping and tidying their homes. They particularly got rid of any ʻleavenʼ (yeast to make the bread rise). It was a symbol of sin, capable of
affecting the whole ʻloafʼ. In response to the Resurrection we are called to be ʻnewʼ, people of the light, walking out of darkness. What particular action, habit, area of my life will I seek to tidy and sweep during the season of Easter as a response to living the new life of the Resurrection?

• Johnʼs gospel has Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John) – three foundational members of the early christian community – walking about confused. Belief in the Resurrection was
not something that happened instantly. Even the ʻother discipleʼ who saw burial cloths before Peter, had to look again before he believed. What has been your experience of Holy Thursday, Good Friday,
Easter Saturday Vigil. What have you seen? What do you remember? What was shown to you by God to help you ʻbelieveʼ?
• Imagine someone you have loved in a very intimate and special way. This person died and you were personally involved in seeing the death, the burial. In grief you go to the place of burial and see first-hand that your friend is not there. There is evidence of burial cloths and a messenger that ʻhe has been raisedʼ and that your friend so wants to meet with you and you will see each other soon. What would be your thoughts and feelings? If the resurrection is true, what change in thinking happens about death? About life? About God?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

Reflection Guide Good Friday

Readings – Is 52:13—53:12, Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9, Gospel – Jn 18:1—19:42

Good Friday is a day of fasting for those who are able and a day of reflection with Christ in His Passion. The Gospel is the only reflection Guide and we encourage you to take time today to be with the Lord praying with His Passion. Who stands out most for you as you read the Passion? How did that person respond to the events as they unfolded? How do you respond now?  What impact does Christ dying on the Cross have on your life? Pray honestly with God,  (in any personal, creative way that you feel led), about anything  His Passion and this Gospel reflection brings up for you.

 

 

Reflection Guide Holy Thursday

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Discussion 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 Easter?

Discussion Guide: Going Deeper

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Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18/Rom 8:31b-34/Mk 9:2-10

Reflection Questions

• At first glance, Abraham’s willingness to kill his son Isaac looks like murder. A deeper reflection leads us to recognise what is involved in offering a ‘sacrifice’. Abraham’s hope and future promise for many descendants is in Isaac. Abraham places his life and future in the hands of God. A ‘test’ for Abraham has found him ‘worthy’ and completely abandoned and obedient to whatever God will ask. Has God called you to do something? Have you delayed? Why does God invite followers to ‘give up’ things we hold so tightly?

• Some scholars suggest that this special ‘high place’ where Abraham was to offer Isaac was the actual site of the 1st Temple of Solomon. High places were often on ‘mountains’ and were ‘meeting places with God’. Where is your ‘high place’ and what ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ could you offer to God showing you yield to God’s will for your life in total trust?

•St Paul encourages us to enter our imagination to feel how great God’s love must be. Have you ever had a friend or family show great generosity in buying or doing something for you? That ‘proof’ of their love allows you to deeply know they are ‘for’ you. If God did not spare his own Son, there is nothing more he could give to show the depth of his love. Does this give you confidence? To ask?  To Love?

• The Transfiguration is in the middle of Markʼs gospel. It is time to go deeper. Jesus has just challenged disciples to be willing to ʻgive up your lifeʼ(8,34-35) for his cause. They probably want ʻproofʼ that it will be ʻworth itʼ. Jesus shows disciples his divinity (dazzling white as a sign of Godʼs presence) and authority (Moses and Elijah both spoke to God face to face on special mountains). He is truly the Son of
God! Persecution and even death will be moments of persecutors merely bringing judgement upon themselves as against God, and will be a doorway for a disciple into heaven and victory. Do you overly spiritualize the phrase ʻdeny oneselfʼ? Is Lent about punishing the body or a transformed lifestyle and society confronting injustice? How much ʻcostʼ are you willing to endure? How could you ʻgive almsʼ to lift up those in need this Lent?

• The presence of God – like a cloud covering the Mountain to speak face to face with Moses – speaks. We are not simply to gaze or adore, but LISTEN TO HIM. How could you more faithfully ʻlistenʼ to Jesus in prayer this Lent? What has worked? What has not worked?

• Fasting has often been a spiritual practice that intensifies within our bodies a focus, a need, a prayer, a
request, a cause. What or Who could you fast From or For?

• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

Discussion Guide: Turning Toward God

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Gn 9:8-15/1 Pt 3:18-22/Mk 1:12-15 

Reflection Questions

• The season of Lent begins with the receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you were not able to attend Ash Wednesday ask your priest if he could mark the ashes on your forehead with a prayer on Sunday. Or you may consider placing your thumb in soil and marking yourself with the sign of the cross. It takes a physical experience to remind us of something beginning. Consider Ash Wednesday like arriving at the starting line of a race. We need to be present and committed – when the starting gun goes
off we need ‘begin’ the journey to the finish line of Easter. Are you psychologically ‘ready’? What will the
spiritual practices of ‘Prayer’ ‘Fasting’ and ‘Alms-Giving’ involve for your daily / weekly routine?
• In the season of Lent, the First and Gospel readings are not specifically linked, but independently teach us a truth about God and ourselves. The word describing the ‘Ark’ built by Noah, is also used for the ark carrying baby moses tosafety, the ark holding the special tablets of the commandments and symbolic of the Ark of the Church. God has made a covenant / promise to protect and be with those who belong to him. Have you ever had an experience or sign showing God’s protection for you? Can you see the Church as an ‘Ark’ today? How?

•The Second readings of Lent teach us the meaning of Baptism. The cleansing of Baptism waters is not
washing away physical dirt, but literally a ‘putting away of filth’ as one now living in Christ. Lent becomes a time of renewed effort in living our christian identity. What do you recognise needs to be ‘put away’ from your life? What is the first step on this journey?
• Jesus responded to the Spirits inspiration into the Desert. To help create a prayer-full lent, what place
and time each day can you identify that will work for you? How could you symbolise beginning this journey?
• Being in the desert for 40 days links to Israel being in the desert for 40 years. A time of testing, proving loyalty, closer union with God. As Adults, Lent is not a season for child-like practices of giving up lollies. It is a journey facing struggle and sin, being ʻtestedʼ, proving my loyalty to God. Is my Lenten commitment serious enough? Do I consider it will bring me closer to God?
• “The angels ministered to him.” God does not leave us alone. Angels are provided. Literally, Angels mean ʻgood message bearersʼ. In my Lenten journey and wilderness experience who are some ʻangelsʼ that God may have already placed in my life to support me but I have not responded to. Is there someone you could ask to accompany you on your journey of Lent? It could be just the help you need!
• Repent and believe the gospel. This is Jesusʼ first public words ever spoken. The Greek word is metanoia – change, physically turn your life around. What do I know needs to change to find wholeness in my life?
• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide for Feast of the Epiphany

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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 inthe 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 somethingmore. 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 is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Discussion Guide for 4th Sunday of Easter.

 

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Reflection Questions:

  • Jesus identifies himself as a Shepherd but also a ‘gate’. In the middle east, shepherds would gather their sheep together at night sometimes creating a shelter or collection of wooden sticks to build a fence. Sometimes they may have built with blocks a square with a narrow gap for the sheep to enter in and out. One shepherd would take the role of ‘gate’, lying down in the ‘gap’ as an expression of caring for the sheep and not letting them out, and protecting the sheep from danger coming in. What does this image reveal to you about Jesus? Can you identify anyone’s vocation who follows this ‘laying down of their life’? Can you see the similarities between a Mum, Dad, Priest, Sister, Brother?
  • God writes his hopes and plans for you into your desires” (says St Ignatius). Persistent thoughts, attractions, ideas that don’t go away are symbolic of the nudges of the Holy Spirit and God’s desire at work in us. In what ways or experiences have you noticed God’s call for your life? Do you get a sense of good pasture and ‘abundant life’ from following God or does fear dominate?
  • Today is Vocation Sunday. It is also called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ as the readings will often focus upon Jesus identifying with the role of being a ‘Shepherd’ for us his sheep. Have you ever thought that Jesus does call some sheep to become ‘Shepherds’?
  • In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ – the head and shepherd – authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation – particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit.In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no 15). What does this statement teach you about the role of the Priest?  Have you ever been ‘thankful’ for the gift and ministry of a priest?
  • Today we can have an image of sheep being ‘driven’ by a shepherd on a horse using dogs to control the sheep in large nameless mobs or herds, but that is not an image of how the Holy Spirit works with us. A Christian disciple is never ‘driven’ but is ‘drawn’ to look upon the love of Christ on the cross, and then, in co-operation with grace, is drawn to ‘be’ Christ on the cross with arms outstretched in love of the world. Those called to the ‘consecrated life’ seek to conform their whole existence to Christ (Vita Consecrata 16). Have you ever considered what it would be like to be a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to everyone? Or even to join a Spiritual movement as a Lay person so you can grow in the ability to listen deeply to the voice of the Good Shepherd?
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

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 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.