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Posts Tagged ‘Compassion’

Discussion Guide for Advent week 3: Joy Overflows to Others

Zeph.3:14-18, Phil.4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18

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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.
• Today is the only time every 3 years we hear this beautiful passage from the Prophet Zephaniah. Zion is the name for Jerusalem, and Christians understand
Jerusalem signifies God’s people. Replace ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ prayerfully with your own name. How does this prophecy make you feel? What line strikes you the most? Why?
• St Paul is writing to the Philippians trying to resolve an argument between two women which is destroying the unity of the Christian community. He puts their argument into the ‘big picture’. Rejoicing, kindness and no anxiety are trademarks of a christian. Paul reminds the community that each member is to reflect Christ. In the hostile town of Philippi, they are to be attractive and lead people to Christ – not turn them off. Is ʻyour kindness known to allʼ? Do you have anxieties that you refuse to make ʻknown’ and truly hand over to him?
• A practice of Advent preparation is celebrating forgiveness. Crowds gathered to be with John the Baptist, not in the Temple, but by the Jordan River. Hungry
for God and for the world to experience ʻchangeʼ they claimed their own need for conversion: ʻwhat should we do?ʼ John directs their attention toward care of the poor – sharing clothing and food. What do you have plenty of? Who has none? Have you ever desired to simplify your life and be more generous? What happened?
• Tax collectors were present, along with soldiers who protected them. John does not deny their ʻjobʼ but reminds them all jobs are to serve the unity of the
community. Look deeply into your ordinary tasks of life. Are you doing them well? Enter the gospel scene in prayer and ask John the question: What should I
do? What happened?
• John baptises and cleanses with water. Jesus baptises and cleanses with the Holy Spirit and fire. Water and Fire. What would you choose? Fire purifies through hot temperatures. What have been ʻhotʼ ʻpurifyingʼ moments for you this year? What wisdom have you been led into? What parts of your life would you like to bring to God for reconciliation at the end of the year?
• A ʻwinnowing fanʼ was used in the barn to throw the grain up into the air, the dust and ʻchaffʼ – seed casings and bits of stalk – drifted away. This stage separated the wheat. How do you relate to the image of judgement and ʻfireʼ at the end of time?
• A common practice in the time of Jesus was for disciples to carry the sandals of their teacher. John shares he is not even worthy to undo the straps of Jesusʼ sandals let alone carry them! Whose sandals do you carry? Who do you listen to as your ʻteacherʼ? What life lessons or teaching would you like to ask about at this point in your life journey?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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Reflection Questions

  1. Like the Book of Exodus, the Book of Numbers is filled with God’s people complaining of life in the desert. Moses finds the experience of leadership so heavy he wishes God would allow him to die rather than carry such a heavy burden. In prayer Moses is invited to share leadership with 70 others. Have you had an experience of feeling ‘heavy’ and ‘tired’ with responsibilities and complaints? What happened? Do you have the freedom to ‘let go’, ‘share responsibilities’? Admit you are in need of help?
  2. Joshua, the ‘leader in training’ was jealous and protective of power and authority. Moses shares a new vision with him – wouldn’t it be great if everyone was attentive to God and spoke of God’s will and lived out their responsibilities and leadership gifts. Do you see people as problems needing correction, or, people gifted needing motivation?
  3. James warns of the storing up of wealth. St Basil gives a colorful reflection: If everyone kept only what is necessary for ordinary needs and left the surplus to the poor, wealth and poverty would be abolished…. Are you not a thief? The bread you store belongs to the hungry. The cloak kept in your closet belongs to those who lack clothing. The money you keep hidden away belongs to the needy. Thus you oppress as many people as you are in a position to help. Have you ever reflected upon what your ʻordinaryʼ needs are, and how much ʻsurplusʼ you have? Do you give to the needs of the poor?
  4. John is jealous that an ʻoutsiderʼ of the disciples group is obviously sharing in the power and authority of Jesus. ʻHe does not follow usʼ. He is not in our ʻgroupʼ. Johnʼs comments reveal their misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. They still think of it as a power structure of a political kingdom with favours granted to a small group. Have you prevented or excluded someone from service, ministry, a job, because they did not ʻfollowʼ you?
  5. Jesus uses striking imagery to warn about being a scandal – obstacle to someone believing in Jesus. Cut off or out anything that could stop people following Jesus. What do you consider are obstacles for people coming to faith in Jesus and participating in the life of the Church? Does your life display a desire for wealth or the poor? Comfort or compassion? Arrogance or understanding? What do you need to ʻcut offʼ from your life?
  6. Gehenna is a place just outside of Jerusalem. Historically it was where shameful sacrifices of children were offered to the Canannite god ʻMolechʼ. It was then regarded as an unclean and sinful place. It became a rubbish tip with constantly burning fires. Jesus uses it as a symbol of ʻHellʼ. Uncomfortably, the issue of a final judgment and consequences of our life-style and actions is raised. Do I give a good or bad example of christian living? Have I caused anyone to ʻstumbleʼ in their relationship with God? How do I understand God as merciful yet also having a day of judgement?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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Reflection Questions

  1. Jeremiah had witnessed over 10 years Jerusalem being captured, the Holy Temple destroyed and God’s people walked out of their land into exile. Jeremiah’s early message and warning to the King and people had been ignored. The King even burnt Jeremiah’s first manuscript of writings and warnings! Jeremiah spoke to the ‘Shepherds’ – Priests and Rulers of Israel and told them they were at fault for not helping people remain close to God. Their ‘lack of care’ caused people to be ‘scattered’. What qualities do you wish to see in your Leaders? ‘Priests’? How could you encourage them in their responsibility as shepherds? Does ‘leadership’ also require ‘followship’?
  2. St Paul is the great teacher of how Jews and Gentiles – two peoples who were very ‘distant’ and ‘dis-liking’ of each other – have become one family through Jesus. How? The laws teaching Jews to be ‘separate’ from everyone else have now been completed and ‘abolished’. The purpose of the ‘laws’ was to be close to God. The ‘blood of christ’ has now become the forgiving sacrifice given by God to show all sin and ‘distance’ has been removed. And this applies to everyone. Jews and Greeks (Gentiles). Have you had any experience that united you to many people? Do you recognise this takes place profoundly at Mass?
  3. Can you identify any barriers of culture, language, fear, perception that has stopped you feeling and living as a ʻbrother or sisterʼ with someone different from you? What would be required to ʻput that enmity (obstacle causing hostility) to death? Is there a ʻcleanʼ ʻuncleanʼ distinction at the root of the problem? What do you think St Paul would say?
  4. Today is the only time in the Gospel of Mark the word ʻApostlesʼ is used. It means ʻones sentʼ. We come ʻfromʼ someone and ʻreportʼ back to someone. Disciples are missioned by Jesus and need to return to Jesus. Jesus ʻtakes them to a deserted placeʼ. So excited, so busy ʻthey had no opportunity even to eatʼ, Jesus guides his disciples toward rest. Do you consider you have a healthy balance of ʻwork and restʼ? Where is your ʻdeserted placeʼ? What is the most enjoyable way you find to ʻrestʼ? Jewish people connected ʻrestʼ with ʻsabbathʼ. Are you allowing Sunday to be experience of real ʻrestʼ?
  5. Imagine a close family and personal friend has died. A busy atmosphere at home or work. People demanding many things. While wanting to rest, there is a vast crowd needing you. Jesus was ʻmoved with pityʼ. The word is translated also as compassion – mercy – which has its origin in the Jewish word for ʻwombʼ. What does this teach about Jesus? Can you relate to this experience? When have you ʻfedʼ people with your life, words, presence? What happened?
  6. This passage of Jesus teaching a large crowd will lead to his feeding the Jewish crowds (Mark 6) and the Gentile crowds (Mark 8). To teach us more about this the next 5 Sundays will jump into the Gospel of John chapter 6. Jesus, the Righteous Shepherd and True King of Israel will feed all people with the Eucharist. The Bread from Heaven. Consider a personal decision how you could learn more about the Eucharist over the next 5 weeks. Prayerfully reflect on John 6.
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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Reflection Questions

  1. Moses is giving his final words of farewell in the book of Deuteronomy today. The ʻLawʼ which Moses gave to Israel from God is not simply written in decrees but is written into our very nature…. ʻvery near to youʼ. Jewish people kept this ʻshemaʼ close to them by posting it on their doorways and wrapping it around their foreheads in times of prayer. How could you keep Godʼs ways and guidelines close to you? Is there any practice or habit you could adopt to express a love for Godʼs teachings?
  2. We hear from St Paulʼs letter to the Colossians in the next 3 Sundays. Paul is writing a letter to correct errors of a heresy. Gnosticism taught that God was only spirit and did not mix with the material world of ʻmatterʼ. Jesus therefore was thought of as an ʻintermediaryʼ between God and Man, like an Angel. God couldnʼt become ʻfleshʼ because this would involve God getting ʻdirtyʼ and mixing with humanity! Paul responds Jesus Christ is truly the image and exact representative of the invisible God, the fulness of God dwelt in him. God has truly come among us and reconciled us. What was the obstacle of Gnosticism? Is this obstacle in your own thinking?
  3. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is intended to ʻshake usʼ toward loving as God loves. Parables are meant to ʻshockʼ us out of the status quo. Stay with the parable until something ʻshocksʼ you.
  4. Jesus responds to an expert in the law of Moses. Jesus includes in the ʻshemaʼ an addition to ʻlove your neighbour as yourselfʼ (Lev 19,18). Jewish people practically limited this ʻadditionʼ to extending care only toward fellow Jewish citizens. Why do cultures limit and enforce cultural and social divisions of who is ʻincludedʼ and ʻexcludedʼ? In your social and religious circle, who do you ʻinclude / excludeʼ? Why?
  5. The ʻlawʼ stated that Priests and Levites were to be kept ʻcleanʼ for religious service. Getting close to a dead body or touching ʻbloodʼ would make them ʻuncleanʼ. They ʻseeʼ someone in great need – but decide to ʻpass byʼ. Jesus critiques this socially and religiously ʻacceptable behaviourʼ. Religious sacrifices and duties are no substitute for lack of compassion and injustice. In your week who have you ʻseenʼ, ʻpassed byʼ?
  6. A Samaritan was the cultural equivalent of a terrorist or drug dealer. It was the greatest shock for Jewish listeners to have a Samaritan as a hero surpassing a religiously observant Priest and Levite. The Samaritan put his money where his mouth was. His love for God showed itself in deep compassion not simply pious thoughts or words. Oil and Wine were gifts offered at the altar, used now to soften and disinfect wounds. 2 days wages and a promise of more if needed reveal not just first aid but ongoing care. What inspires you in the Samaritanʼs actions? What would it look like for you to ʻgo and do likewiseʼ?
  7. Jesus challenges the lawyer – and us – to a new approach to life. The question is not ʻwho is my neighbourʼ but will I be a ʻneighbourʼ ?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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Reflection Questions

  1. In the first reading the People of God were returning from exile in Babylon. They were a band of refugees returning to their ‘religious’ home. Nehemiah was their leader helping the community to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. Ezra was their priest leading the community in listening to the ‘laws’ of God. Ezra is known for strict adherence to the laws of Moses and not allowing intermarriage. The people cry because they hear the law and have it interpreted for them so that they understand. Is there an area of the Church’s teaching which you may need to hear and have interpreted for you? What is it? Who could you ask for help? Why do you think Ezra tells them to eat and drink? 
  2. St Paul continues teaching the community about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some of the community thought they were ‘better’ than others because they had the gift of tongues. St Paul teaches the gifts of the spirit serve the community and help it to truly be the ‘body’ of Christ in the world. Do you feel your gifting for serving the Church is in the head (teaching), heart (caring), hands (serving), feet (missionary) of the Church? Are you accepting and celebrate your gifts or are you ‘jealous’ of others? How could you share your gifting this week? This year? In your Parish?
  3. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ‘public’ ministry to the most difficult group – his hometown! Jesus is clear and bold in his vision. Do you have a clear sense of mission and purpose in your life and service of God? Jesus uses 50 words, what would you write in 50 words for your personal mission statement as you begin the year?
  4. The ‘Lord’s year of favour’ is the 50th year (the Jubilee Year as established in Leviticus 25). Debts were cancelled, prisoners and slaves freed, land was returned to its original family ownership. The whole financial, social and political structure was renewed. The Jewish people called this the ‘Tikkan Olam’ meaning ‘the repair of the world’. Repairing the world is an essential part of the work of the Church and every follower of Jesus. Allow this idea to enter your imagination for a moment. Do you consider ‘healing the world’ as part of your consciousness and job description as a follower of Jesus? What area of need in the world ‘attracts you’ -calls out to you? What has been your response so far? 
  5. This year we will journey with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. A focus for Luke is Jesus’ care and attention to those who are hurting, excluded, ‘downtrodden’. If you were to look about in your family, community, wider society, who do you notice has been knocked over and hurt by life… and is now ‘trampled on’ by the invisible hidden foot of societies structures? The Gospel of Luke is also known as the ‘Gospel of Mercy’. Mercy comes from the Hebrew word for ‘womb’. Will you be moved to compassion for those in need? Information without application is fascination. Information with application is transformation. Will the Gospel of Luke transform you this year? 
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?