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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Scripture Readings’

Reflection Guide for Jesus’ Invitation

Discussion Questions

Jon 3:1-5, 10/1 Cor 7:29-31/Mk 1:14-20

  • The Book of the Prophet Jonah is a  book about his life. It is understood not to be an historical writing, but a reflection on the nationalism of the Hebrew people (represented by Jonah) who could not consider ‘Gentiles’ as worthy of recieving God’s Mercy and attention (represented by the Gentile city of Nineveh). Jonah was called by God to speak to the people of Nineveh but instead chose to run in the opposite direction. Only after trying to escape and spending 3 days in the belly of a whale did he show obedience to God’s call. Strikingly the people of Nineveh responded to God’s call to change and ‘turn from their evil way’. Have you heard a constant voice, noticed a constant desire, felt a passion stir withinthat does not go away? This is frequently the way people experience God’s ‘call’ upon their life. Are you ‘running in the opposite direction’? Arguing with God (like Jonah) with reasons ‘why you will not do it’. What is your best guess as God’s calling on your life today. What is your response?
  • Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is an early letter when Paul still thought Jesus would be returning ‘very soon’. While we are conscious of Jesus’ delayed return his message still holds: all the things of the world will pass away and nothing is to become an obstacle between ourselves and God. List the relationships and objects / possessions that are important to you. Is anyone / anything damaging the time and relationship and obedience that God is asking of you? What could you do to restore a balance? What could you ‘let go of’ to be more available to God?
  • The beginning of Mark’s Gospel quickly teaches about being a disciple of Jesus. In a dark way the cost of being a true disciple is suggested with John the Baptist being ‘handed over’. Jesus too will be handed over. Disciples too will be handed over. A battle scene is subtly painted with words. Satan’s rule is now going to be replaced by that of God: The Kingdom of God is at hand! While sometimes slower at revealing itself, God’s way, to bring justice and overcome evil, will triumph. Are you with God? Are you engaged in overcoming ‘evil’ or are you passively watching? What does ‘Repent’ (change) mean for you?
  • Simon and Andrew, with their Father and hired men are considered to be at least ‘middle class’. Part of a family business, boats, employees. In following Jesus they are letting go of family expectations and financial security. They must be attracted to an even greater concern. What is it? Re-image the scene using your own ‘family’ and ‘work’. What is your response to Jesus?
  • In the Gospel of Mark, immediately Jesus chooses disciples. Immediately he places himself with others in a community. He will teach but also receive companionship. Who are like-minded people who you need to support your discipleship? How could you ‘build community’ together to encourage faithfulness and obedience to Jesus?
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide for 3rd Sunday of Advent 2017 is here:

Advent: Presence not Presents

Reflection Questions

• Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday when the Pink candle of the Advent Wreath is lit. The third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the entrance antiphon – ‘Rejoice’. This theme is found in the first two readings. We are reminded that the joyful coming of Christ is drawing nearer. Christmas celebrates presence with presents.

• Isaiah gives us the prophetic text which Jesus himself uses as his mission and identity statement in Luke(4:16). It speaks of bringing people back home, releasing them from slavery and imprisonment in foreign lands. A ‘year of favour’ was the 50th ‘Jubilee Year’ practice of forgiving all debts and return of all land back to its original family. What a beautiful revolution! What aspect of Jesus’ mission could you practice this Christmas? With family?

• The marriage covenant image of God marrying his people is beautifully presented. In Christ – at Christmas – Heaven is now wedded to Earth. What does it mean? Do you truly rejoice?

•The call to holiness is repeated again as we journey toward the Second Coming (Advent continuously refuses to separate the first and second coming of Jesus). The Second Reading becomes like a spiritual ‘health – check’. Do you: Rejoice? Pray frequently? Give thanks in the ups and downs? Pursue the will of God? Stop the spirit? Avoid opportunities for God to speak? Filter good and evil influences upon your life? Hold fast to what is good? Turn from evil? Perhaps this ‘check list’ may help you in Advent preparation forthe sacrament of reconciliation.

• Week 2 and 3 of Advent present the figure of John the Baptist. He is theone announcing the public arrival of the Messiah – Jesus. Like a Herald announcing a King, the intention is to ensure readiness and welcome. Jewish custom expected Elijah and a prophet like Moses to return to make this announcement. Religious leadersare confused. What do you make of this ‘debate’? The Gospel writer John neatly plays on words with John saying ‘I am not’ which will later contrast with Jesus repeated
statements I AM (the divine name received by Moses on Mt Sinai). Does John the Baptist stir you to ‘get ready’. If not, what would it take? What are you waiting for?

• The image of sandals actually teach us about Jesus. It was a custom for disciples to carry the sandals of  their teacher. But only a slave would untie the sandals and wash feet. John proclaims that Jesus is so holy that he is not ‘fit’ to be even considered a slave in the presence of Jesus. It is a reference to the holiness of God. We touch the awesome reality of Christmas: God is birthed – enfleshed – among us in Jesus. Do you get it?

• 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.

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?

Download Reflection Document: 5th Sunday Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. Ezekiel is an interesting person. He was both a prophet and a priest. He was also taken away with the first group of Israelites into exile. He shares a positive and hopeful message to his people. God will turn this situation around. Name a difficult struggle you experience in your life. Can you see a slow transformation and wisdom in the midst of your suffering? What does the deep voice of the spirit invite you to do so you can ‘rise from your grave’?
  2. St Paul uses the word ‘flesh’ (sarx) to mean people who have a selfcentred orientation towards the world. Frequently those who live this way make themselves, their senses and pleasure, their ‘idol’ / god. Those who live directed by the spirit of Christ are turned outward in love and ‘self-lessness’. Ponder the powerful bodily image of arms wrapped around yourself tightly, or arms open and outstretched in embrace of the world. How do you live your life? How is your almsgiving this lent?
  3. In the Gospel of John Jesus performs 7 signs. Each sign is a fulfillment of a Messianic hope from the Old Testament. Each sign reveals the presence of God in Jesus. Today is the 7th and most important sign. Jesus overcomes death. And only God can overcome death! Place yourself in this gospel story. If you were really there in this scene what questions would you ask? What would you believe from this experience?
  4. Martha’s questions reveal a growing knowledge of who Jesus really is. She begins with Jesus as someone close to God – “whatever you ask, God will give to you.” Jesus responds to Mary’s belief in the resurrection on the last day with a powerful statement: Mary, the one who is in charge of the resurrection is looking at you! I AM the resurrection and the life. And to prove it, Jesus raises Lazarus. What does Jesus wish to reveal to Mary? Do you see the ‘sign’ and believe what it is pointing to?
  5. The Rabbi’s believed and taught that the spirit and breath of life hovered around a dead body for three days. Waiting for 4 days can be understood as Jesus ensuring everyone knew Lazarus had truly died. Twice Jesus is ‘perturbed’ or angry that someone he loves has been tied hand and foot and buried. (A symbol of what sin and death can do to us.) Untie him and let him go becomes a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s promise (1st reading) and an image of what Jesus can do personally for each disciple. What tomb am I in? What cloths bind me up? Who might God be using to ‘take away the stone’ blocking me from joy and life?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 14th Sunday Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Isaiah provides a very intimate feminine image of a baby being comforted at a Motherʼs breast to symbolise the return of exiles back to Jerusalem. It is one of the most cherished images of Godʼs love for sinful humanity. Some commentators share this as a feminine image in the Old Testament to the Compassionate Father in the Prodigal Son Gospel story. Try replacing ʻJerusalemʼ with your own name. What feelings are stirred within you? If the Old Testament ʻJerusalemʼ is now the ʻChurchʼ, which sacraments provide us with this tender grace of love?
  2. St Paul leads us into a deeper discovery of the meaning of the cross. The cross does not only give us Jesusʼ forgiveness of sins but reveals a rule and ʻlife-styleʼ. Christian disciples are now drawn into a way of living that reveals they are ʻcrucified to the worldʼ. Many worldly attractions are no longer top priorities. My life direction and purpose is now in Jesus and for others. Consider what your deepest desires are and what you are really living for? If 1000 people lived your ʻlife-styleʼ what sort of world would be emerging?
  3. Jesus sent out 72 people – the number of known nations in the world. He urgently seeks to bring people to God – and to dethrone Satanʼs power in the world. Have you ever thought of a ʻmissionʼ project that is bigger than yourself and requires others to help? What would you need to do to start the project? Have you been attracted to a project? What happened?
  4. Take no money, no bag, no extra shoes, donʼt be distracted by talking to anyone on the way to your job, and donʼt jump from house to house to seek comfort. A serious challenge! Disciples are to be detached from any security other than their relationship with Jesus. They only resource they bring is ʻpeaceʼ, and working and praying in Jesusʼ name to ʻcure the sickʼ. Can you identify anyone who lives this ʻabsolute trust in God lifestyleʼ as an example for you? Has their inspiration changed anything in you?
  5. Jesus warns disciples to be ready for rejection. Peace not anger and argument are trademark signs of christian disciples. Have you had the courage to witness to Christ? Have you shared ideas and projects that were not ʻreceivedʼ? Shaking of the dust was not done individually but by a ʻpairʼ. Why do you think it was important for Jesus to send out disciples in ʻpairsʼ? Who could you have as a ʻpairʼ to journey and share with – especially in the rejection moments?
  6. Jesus did not delay sending people out on mission until the disciples were complete and perfect. I need more formation. Iʼm not good enough. Iʼm not confident enough. Iʼm too broken and sinful are easy responses to not engage in mission and ministry. Sometimes we need prayerfilled focus. What is God asking of me and what is the next step in ʻdoing itʼ? ʻBehold, I have given you the power…..
  7. What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Download Reflection Document 5th Sunday Lent

Download Reflection Document 5th Sunday Lent (RCIA Readings)

Reflection Questions

  1. Rising from the dead is an image in the First and Gospel readings. Ezekiel was not referring to the resurrection of individuals but returning from exile in ‘slavery’ as God’s people were trapped in a ‘foreign land’. As the journey of Lent nears completion we are encouraged to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. We invite the spirit to ‘open our graves’ and ‘rise from them’. Where do you experience ‘lifelessness’? Sadness? Dryness? Death?
  2. Suffering is well known to the prophet Ezekiel. He writes of suffering as tough meat being boiled to tenderness in a pot and the heat of fire burning off the rust on the pot (Ez 24). In the midst of suffering Ezekiel writes 86 times ‘I am the LORD’ reminding us that God is guiding our personal lives and history. Can you trust God can work through your suffering? What is your suffering / salvation story?
  3. While we all live as ‘flesh and blood’ St Paul recognises it is possible for our ‘body / flesh’ to steer our life seeking only to satisfy itself with food and pleasure. Selfish and sensual living (flesh living) alone does not ‘please God’. Our baptism welcomed into our lives the Spirit of Christ which inspires and nudges us to become more like Christ. Consider the great power of the spirit to raise Christ from the dead. What would you like to pray for?
  4. Chapter 11 of John is very special. Raising Lazarus from the dead is the seventh ‘sign’ of Jesus. It is important to recognise a sign points to a reality. Jesus, on hearing of his friends death strangely talks immediately of ‘glory’. He even waits for four days as the Jewish belief was that the spirit of the body hovered over the body for 3 days. It is clear Lazarus is truly dead. Only God can bring someone back from the dead. This will be Jesus’ greatest sign to prove his identity as God. If you were present to this scene what would your questions be?
  5. Martha and Mary ask questions and respond to Jesus like true Jewish disciples and faith seekers. Jesus is considered an intermediary – someone ‘close to God’ ‘whatever you ask of God God will give you’. Jesus is unhappy with this response. Martha responds with a Jewish belief in the final resurrection from the dead and a hope in the Messiah. Jesus boldly proclaims ‘Martha, I AM the resurrection and the life’. In effect Jesus is teaching Martha (and us) I am God and I am in charge of and responsible for the resurrection and all life! Let me prove this to you ‘where have you laid him’? Can you trace your faith journey about Jesus’ identity in the questions of Martha? What does this 7th sign now teach you about Jesus? Do you believe?
  6. The Gospel of John was written in Greek. Greek thinking did not allow God to ‘change’ as this would suggest God was weak and not all-powerful. In the midst of his loved friends we have the profound short sentence. ‘And Jesus wept.’ God weeps and is deeply moved by our pain and sadness. Jesus is also perturbed and troubled. John stirs questions up for us about God. If God weeps what does that mean? Is Jesus upset and angry that people do not recognise who he is? What is your response personally to Jesus in this Gospel story?
  7. Jesus strangely says a prayer of thanksgiving before the tomb. Can you allow yourself to hear this prayer to you in the tomb of your wounds and bandages from your life journey. What do you request this Easter to be untied from?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

talentsDownload 33rd Sunday

Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings for daily living. Today a woman (not necessarily exceptional or beautiful as modern media might portray), does routine daily chores filled with wisdom and purpose. Her love extends beyond her family to the poor and needy. Her life and good works is spoken of ‘at the city gates’. Have you experienced ‘charm’ as deceptive and ‘beauty’ fleeting? Two quite different life-styles are presented as a ‘mirror’ to expose the reader. Where do you ‘see’ yourself?
  2. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament Letter. They were concerned that ‘the Day of the Lord’ (Jesus’ return) had not happened. St Paul shares with them and us that the exact date of the ‘day of the Lord’ is not known. But we are all to be ‘living in the light’ following the way of Jesus. What image speaks more to you: not sleeping, staying alert, being sober? How could you apply this ‘image’ to an application in your life?
  3. The end of the Church’s Year is coming! Next week is the end: Christ the King. The Judgement Parable of the Talents is given to us today as a way of helping us to reflect seriously on the end of the world and the Lord’s second coming. A careful reading of the Parable reveals some disturbing realities
  4. • One ‘talent’ is a large weight of metal equivalent to 15 years of an average wage ($750,000!). Is the Master generous or mean? What image of God do you ‘read into the text’?
  5. • Two different ‘images’ and perceptions of the Master are found. Servants 1 and 2 are spurred into creativity, Servant 3 is filled with fear. He will take no risks, avoid any wrongoing, and will give back to God in ‘strict justice’ what was given. Is Servant 3 ‘self-ish’? His fear of judgement tends to paralyse him. He is not filled with a freedom and love for creative risk taking in works of mercy. Could this be an image of the Jewish community for Matthew? The Christian Community today?
  6. Very large amounts of money are being traded. Is this supporting capitalist greed and risk taking or is it reduced to a ‘small matter’ in comparison to the new ‘great responsibilities’ of the Kingdom of God?
  7. Reflect personally and name your ‘talents’. From this parable what do you think God asks of you? If you were to be judged on your current use of your talents what might be the conclusion?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 25th Sunday

Reflection Questions

  1. When Amos preached, Israel was prosperous and at peace with its neighbours. Amos, whose ʻday-jobʼ was to look after orchard trees, was upset at the growing gap between the rich and poor. He decided to go the city of Jerusalem to shout out his concerns. False weights in scales, selling the poor as slaves because they could not pay their debt, selling to the poor the food scraps off the floor of the wheat barns of the Rich. Banks trading money, mortgagee sales of those unable to pay interest on their home loans, the rich forcing the poor further into slavery who are only able to buy 2 minute noodles for their families. Do you ʻseeʼ what is happening in society? What is your response to God who says ʻI will never forget a thing they have done!ʼ How does God feel? How do you feel?
  2. Timothy is a young man left by St Paul to lead and guide the community at Ephesus. He is trying to keep the Christian community together. Some believed they had special knowledge and should have more importance in the community. Others were promoting civil disobedience, not wanting to go along with Roman authorities and governmental structures. On Sunday do you lift up holy hands without anger or argument?
  3. Jesusʼ Parable of the Crafty Steward provides Luke with an opportunity to combine the themes of Mercy and Money. Godʼs mercy and care for Godʼs people is to be mirrored by the material care and support of the poor by Godʼs people. This is the ʻcovenantʼ or ʻarrangementʼ Godʼs people are to live by (the reason for Prophet Amos going to Jerusalem in the first reading). Are you in relationship with anyone who is ʻpoorʼ and in need? What might living this covenant mean for you?
  4. The rich man has a dishonest steward, but Jesus concludes by praising some of the dishonest stewards actions. The steward has just lost his job. Before everyone finds out, he has a crafty but risky plan. He will not charge the full interest and commission on the debt. He will win friends and those in debt will also praise the honour of the rich land owner believing that the master is truly honorable in not charging them interest on their ʻloanʼ. Jesus comments that worldly people are often more creative and faithful to their goals and use of money to build ʻtheir kingdomʼ than are spiritual people. How could you creatively use money to build the ʻKingdom of Godʼ. Have you considered any creative fund raising project which could serve the poor? Have you shared your wealth and shown a preferential option for the poor recently?
  5. In the Gospel of Luke, the best use of money is to use it in the service of lifting up the poor. In doing this you will also be ʻrich in the sight of Godʼ – and you will be truly welcomed into your ʻeternal dwellingʼ in heaven. Do you connect Mercy and Money? Have you considered what standard of living is ʻenoughʼ so that you may have something to share with the poor and those in need? How could you be a ʻcrafty stewardʼ of your resources and lifestyle so that you please God and the poor?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

On Thursday 15th August the Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption. This is the Patronal Feast Day for New Zealand. To acknowledge this a special livingtheword reflection is posted for this celebration.

Download Feast of the Assumption

Reflection Questions

  1. The Assumption of Mary. Pope Pius XII asked all Bishops in 1950 if their congregations believed that Mary was assumed into heaven. 98 percent answered Yes. The Pope recognised that God was speaking through the Church and the sense of faith of the ʻfaithfulʼ. Maryʼs assumption – being taken up – does not mean she did not die but after her ʻsleepingʼ she was taken body and soul into heaven. We as Christian disciples hope to follow after her.
  2. Christian interpretation has often seen in this first reading the figure of Mary. However the early writer was not writing of Mary but the figure of ʻIsraelʼ – Godʼs People – The Bride – The ʻChurchʼ. The Church giving painful birth to disciples is in tension with the dragon who has worn a variety of faces. The Roman Empire seeking to crush Christianity. Persecution of Jewish leaders on the growing sect of disciples in Jerusalem. Reading the passage with this background what strikes you? What face of the dragon have you experienced trying to ʻdevourʼ your discipleship?
  3. On Special Solemnities the selection of readings seeks to teach deep truths of faith. St Paul writes of the first-fruits the first offering back to God. Jesus rises first… and then each one in proper order those who belong to Christ. Do you consider it fitting and right that Mary is ʻtaken upʼ first to enjoy the resurrection with her son? What is your response to the feast of the Assumption of Mary? What does it teach you? Mean for you?
  4. The historical site of the Visitation is in the small village on the outskirts of Jerusalem called ʻEin Karemʼ. In the Church of the Visitation there are large bronze figures of Mary and Elizabeth, their two pregnant tummies almost touching as they greet each other. A conversation happens between Elizabeth and Mary, but also between John and Jesus. The Old Testament is meeting the New Testament. Zechariah, the High Priestly family, the Jewish Priesthood, is meeting the New Priesthood of Christ. Godʼs promises of old, now fulfilled. The long waiting of the Old Testament is now turned to ʻleaping for joyʼ. The Ark of the Covenant which King David ʻleaped for joyʼ before (2 Sam 6,5) is now fulfilled with John leaping for Joy before Mary, bearing Christ and the new covenantʼ. In the baby and disciple John we see our own leaping for joy in the Church before the Eucharist. What image strikes you the most? What could it teach you for your life?
  5. The Magnificat of Mary rejoices in her Savior, but it is not in a timid tone of a young virgin. Luke places on Maryʼs lips a battle cry. A great reversal of life and fortunes is happening. She who is lowly, from a humble rural town, has had great things done ʻfor meʼ. The world has been tipped-up-side-down with everyone falling from their positions and posessions. In Maryʼs religious and prophetic prayer we glimpse the great reversal that Jesus will accomplish in his mission. What does casting down the mighty and lifting up the lowly mean to you?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?