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Posts Tagged ‘Conversion’

Discussion Guide: 3rd Sunday of Easter – Their hearts burned within them!

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Reflection Questions:

• The church continues for 8 weeks soaking us with the message and stories of Easter. Consider the story of the newly married Catholic German couple. The wife welcomed fleeing Jews into their house for safety. The husband on returning challenges his wife on their own safety and possible death. She replies: but we believe in the resurrection. Is your heart glad?Tongue exulting? Flesh hopeful?death. She replies: but we believe in the resurrection. Is your heart glad?Tongue exulting? Flesh hopeful?

• Peter with the ‘Eleven’ standing in the midst of many ‘Jews’ is a picture of the early Church in Jerusalem. Considering the tone of their words and the audience, fear of persecution is heavily present behind the scenes. Picture yourself today, in the Church, one of the ‘eleven’. What are the challenges and obstacles of the christian community today? The Holy Spirit moved the disciples from fear behind closed doors to courage and preaching in public places. Do you sense the Holy Spirit moving and inspiring you toward a certain action, attitude, mission task?

• The word ‘ransom’ has a special history in the Old Testament. If a member of your family was sold as a slave, imprisoned, or family land was in-debt, the eldest member of the family had a special duty to ‘ransom’ (buy-back) the family member or land. This image is used by Peter. We have not been won back to God by gold but ‘with the precious blood of Christ’. Do you glimpse the cost of God wanting us to know we are ‘reconciled’ with him? Do you glimpse how loved and loveable you are? What is your life-style response?

• The Road to Emmaus features disciples so upset and downcast. They had such high hopes in Jesus. They now ‘walk away’ from Jerusalem. They could not understand why the death of Jesus was necessary. Their saviour had become a failure. To understand they need to be shocked and humbled at how God’s power is able to work through human weakness. Are you ‘walking away’ from Easter /Jerusalem disappointed? Do you ‘see’?

• In the Church’s liturgy what was present in Christ has now passed over into the mysteries / sacraments. Past events are truly made present now. The Emmaus story reflects this truth. Jesus is truly present when his words are shared and his actions at table are repeated. When he ‘blessed, broke, gave’ bread were very very important to the community. These particular actions and words were unique to him and were commanded to be repeated. How could your heart burn more with scripture? What do you need so that you may ‘recognise him’ in the celebration of the Eucharist?

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

Discussion Guide: Holy Thursday – Wash, Serve, Heal. Restore is HERE

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 Christ’s 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 Jesus’ 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 Paul’s 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 Jesus’ own words and command at the last supper. If the Eucharist is proclaiming 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.  What does self emptying work, washing the dirty parts of humanity, look like in our society today? Who are the ones no-one wants to touch or reach out to, let alone wash their feet? How does Jesus’ last example and the ʻtools of the tradeʼ of a basin and towel challenge you today?

• Much of the world is living in some degree of isolation and social distancing due to Covid 19. What opportunities are in your reduced contact circle to live foot washing love and service?

. How will you  ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide: Listen to Him 

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Reflection Questions

Abram (later to be given a new name Abraham) experiences the first ‘call’. It becomes the ‘pattern’ of each person God continues to ‘call’, move, inspire. God seems to want each of us to ‘move’ from our current place which could be psychologically, spiritually, geographically. In the season of Lent what would it mean for you to ‘Go forth from the land of your family, your home’? What attachments may be stopping you hearing God’s ‘call’?

• God promises a response to those who respond to the mystery of divine inspiration – blessing! The word is mentioned 5 times. How could your life become more of a ‘blessing’ so that others might remember your life as a beautiful legacy. Have you considered how the name ‘christian’ is honored or dishonored through your life and example. How could those who bear the name of ‘Christ’ (Christian) make a huge impact on the world during Lent? Traditionally the practices of prayer, fasting and giving are meant to do this. What would you suggest?

• ‘Bear your share of hardship for the gospel’. Do you know anyone or any project that is experiencing ‘hardship’ in trying to bring God’s love to the world? It often requires great sacrifice and walking in faith like Abram into unclear territory’. In this season of lent how could you learn about, give generously, ‘bear the burden’ so as to bring God’s blessing upon the world? If you made a decision to give are you willing to give so that you share in a little insecurity and discomfort so as to bring others into security and comfort?

• Peter, James and John are three disciples Jesus chooses to give a special experience of who he truly is. A ‘mountain’ or ‘high place’ was symbolic of a place where one can ‘be in touch with God’. Where is a ‘place’ where you feel close to God and helps you ‘listen’ to yourself and God?

• Jewish people remembered living in tents in the 40 years of wandering in the desert. They believed God would come among them and look after them again with the coming of the Messiah. They thought Moses or Elijah would come again. Peter acknowledges Jesus’ true identity. White symbolizes divinity and Jesus being truly God among us. What are you waiting for God to ‘do’ for you? Can you identify ways God is showing himself present and active now in your life?

• The disciples were ‘afraid’. Have you ever been ‘afraid’ of breaking a love relationship with someone close to you? This is called ‘holy fear’. How could you live a ‘holy fear’ this lent?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for Year A – 2nd Sunday. Be a Light to the Nations

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Reflection Questions

1] This Sunday marks the beginning of ‘Ordinary’ Time. The season of Christmas has ended. Isaiah is among the group of Jewish exiles who return to Jerusalem (Zion). Yet there is continuity with last Sunday’s Baptism of the Lord through the themes of holiness, servanthood and John the Baptist. Isaiah prophesies a relationship of more than a servant. There is deep tenderness in his wording that Jacob and Israel be ‘gathered to him’. “It is too little for you to be a servant” he says. The vision presented is far beyond Israel’s understanding and stretches us all to serve and reveal God’s mercy to all nations, all peoples! Israel, Christand the Church are called to be ‘a light to the nations’ that ‘salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. As you look at Yourself, the Church and the World, what do you ‘see’? What do you think is God’s vision for disciples, the Church, the World? What would it mean for parish and family life if we more actively embraced this vision of being ‘a light’ in our geographical locations and spheres of influence?

2] Paul and Isaiah call us to relationship with God and remind us that God makes us holy; we are called to see ourselves as being sanctified (made holy) in Christ. An object, place or person who has been blessed (sanctified) can be described as ‘holy’. Our holiness comes from Baptism and anointing in Christ. How do you feel about God seeing you as ‘holy’? Are there some ideas about holiness you need to challenge to accept how God sees you? Self-condemning thoughts and feeling as if ‘its all up to me’ are common. How does this Scripture challenge such views about ourselves and about Christian holiness?

3] The Gospel is from John in a year of Matthew. This suggests we be attentive. John’s account of Jesus’ Baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is to reveal Jesus to Israel. John portrays events to excite personal testimony about Jesus. Instead of narrating the baptism; he shows its meaning through John the Baptist’s testimony; “The reason why I came…was that he [Jesus] might be made known.” What are we asked to learn from John the Baptist?

4] We are created by God, for God. Living from this truth may take a life-time. John the Baptist’s, first insight was in the womb: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb” (Lk 1:41). His first encounter with the Son of God, was unconscious and mediated by his mother. How did John’s life reflect that experience? For many of us, our first encounters with God were unconscious and mediated by parents. Ask; ‘How does my life reflect the gift of God’s anointing?’ Then talk to God in prayer.

5] The voice from heaven instructs the Baptizer that the one on whom the Spirit descends is the Chosen One; he baptizes with the Holy Spirit. The last sentence of today’s Gospel expresses the conviction we are all invited to experience after hearing John the Baptist’s “evidence.” Are you able to say, “I have seen for myself…’This is God’s chosen One!’ (v 34)” It is that conviction, born not from our own efforts but from embracing the Holy Spirit’s ongoing grace in our lives, that enables us to recognize ourselves as ‘holy’ and to be ‘lumen gentium:’ light to the nations. Is that conviction rooted firmly in your heart? How does it make you feel? What do you need from God to embrace it more fully?

6] In v 29 John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The “lamb of God” is central in the Mass. Christ, as the sacrifice who reveals God’s love for us, is often symbolized by a lamb; a young ram up to a year old. The title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Exodus 12); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10). What image means most to you and why?

7] How will you be livingtheword this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 3rd Sunday Advent: Sorrow and Mourning will Flee

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Reflection Questions

• The 3rd Sunday of Advent is known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’ because a joyful first reading always points to the joy of Christmas about to arrive. The Prophet Isaiah has images of people being returned ‘home’. Isaiah 35 paints a picture of exiles being returned back to Jerusalem. But they were a little scared of all the hard work ahead of rebuilding homes, growing crops. Do you look into the future feeling afraid? Have you been able to see ‘parched land’ this year change to ‘abundant flowers’?

• God ‘saving’ his people is prophesied to take place with wonderful ‘signs’. The blind see, deaf hear, lame leap, mutes sing. Can you imagine these are the most life changing events that could take place for someone. What would need to happen to cause you to ‘leap’ and ‘shout’ for joy? Does Jesus bring this experience into your life? How? Why not? Share this conversation with God for an advent prayer. There are many tragedies in our world today. How do you live in the hope and joy of Christs return in glory, while sharing care & solidarity for the suffering?

• Patience is needed when you wait for someone or something that does not come at the expected time. You quickly realise you need to hold on to a positive attitude or frustration even anger will creep in. Trusting in the faithfulness of a friend, or remembering their strong relationship with you, allows you to endure the hardship and maintain hope that they will arrive. Can you remember an experience of waiting for a friend to arrive? What happened? In your life what gives you confidence and trust in God? What does God’s future coming
mean for you?

• John the Baptist has a special friendship with Jesus. Yet, John is confused. Jesus is not fighting the military powers of Rome. And certainly not breaking John out of his imprisonment. He asks painfully: “Are you really the one we are waiting for”? Jesus refers to the prophesy above of Isaiah. Special signs are being shown but they are different from what people wanted or expected. Do you sit back “waiting” for God or get involved in completing the work of God… helping people regain their life, sight, walk, cleanse peoples lives of a leprous state? Stand by or Stand in for God?

• When people were normally expected to go to the Temple, many walked in another direction out to the ‘desert’ to hear a different message. How could you prepare for Jesus at Christmas differently than you have ever done before? Reconciliation? Shopping? Fasting? Slowing down? Sharing with your children?…

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: What Does the Kingship of Christ Mean For Me?

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Reflection Questions

• The Feast of Christ the King was initially assigned to the last Sunday in October. In 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the Year to highlight the eschatological (end times) importance of Christʼs ʻKingshipʼ. Would you consider yourself ʻreadyʼ today to meet Christ the King?

• David was anointed and made ʻKingʼ of Israel. But many people in Israel did not want to be like other nations and have a ʻKingʼ. They wanted to have only ʻGodʼ as their ʻrulerʼ. They were cautious of taxes, abuse of power, wealth and excess that often went with earthly ʻkingdomsʼ. David is invited by God to be first a ʻshepherdʼ of people before being a ʻcommander of Israelʼ. What does this show us about God and leadership?

• Paulʼs letter to the Colossians today is an ancient baptismal prayer. Imagine the baptismal scene. Thankful. Being given an inheritance. Transferred from living in darkness to light. Redeemed (returning back to your true family, purchased back from slavery). Forgiven. All of this has happened through Jesus – who makes the ʻinvisible Godʼ visible – the ʻikonʼ / image of God. What word in this baptismal prayer teaches you about your baptism?

• The mystery of Christianity is revealed as it worships itʼs Lord and King today. Instead of a scene of a throne indicating power and authority and judgment, we have Jesus crucified on a cross giving forgiveness. The way Jesus reveals Godʼs ʻkingshipʼ is radically different from the worldʼs power, wealth and honor. Imagine being in the crowd contemplating Jesus (or pray in front of a crucifix!). What questions are stirred up within you? What answers does God reveal to you about leadership. Salvation. Sin. Your life?

• Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! The promised ʻChristʼ (Messiah /Saviour) was supposed to be a strong military leader. Instead Jesus is tortured and dies at the hands of Roman soldiers. Yet mysteriously the soldiers refer to him as ʻthe chosen oneʼ, the ʻChrist of Godʼ, the ʻKing of the Jewsʼ. The scene is gruesome, but with the eyes of faith the reality taking place is ʻgloriousʼ. How would you explain Christʼs death as ʻgloriousʼ?

• Our human nature demands visible signs. We want to know with our own eyes that God has ʻsavedʼ us, forgives us, loves us. How does this crucifixion scene reveal the powerfully hidden way that God is able to work out (y)our redemption? Is God afraid of the mess of our ʻhumanityʼ? Are you?

• The Church places before us the paradox of Christ the KING. Instead of a royal procession, Jesus rode a donkey. Instead of a sceptre of power, Jesus held a towel. Instead of a throne, Jesus was lifted up on a cross. Disciples replaced an army. Thorns replaced a golden crown. Mercy was his judgment. Humble homes his palace. Meals with sinners his preference. Humble sacrifice of life instead of the military sword. We, the Church, are called to exercise this style of ʻleadershipʼ and reflect his ʻimageʼ in the world today? How does this challenge you in your lifestyle? Leadership?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide and Scriptures for 32nd Sunday Year C is HERE.

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Reflection Questions

  • The stories of the Mother and 7 Brothers in the book of Maccabees aims to share Jewish Hero stories. While under persecution from Roman Emperors it was helpful to look to examples of great courage and faithfulness to Jewish teaching and tradition. It is best understood not primarily as exact history, but faith lessons taught via story. It was the Maccabean family that stirred up a revolt against Syrian authorities and drove them out of Israel. These young brothers along with their Mum defiantly proclaim their belief in the resurrection. If in the midst of a violent persecution, where would your heart and thoughts turn to?
  • St Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are not to sit idle, waiting for the end of time. They are to do all they can so that the Word of the Lord may speed forward… and keep on ʻdoingʼ what they have been instructed to do by Paul. This requires the endurance of Christʼ. How would you rate your discipleship journey at present. Idle? Speeding forward? What do you require endurance in?
  • Sadducees were the elite priestly class that served in the Temple. They only believed in the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and did not consider other writings or oral traditions as binding. Consequently they did not believe in the Resurrection. They sought to involve Jesus in a conversation that would cause others to ridicule him. Their view of marriage was a Levirate view. Marriage continued the
    family line and stopped a family dying out. Jesus challenges the Sadducees not to think so narrowly. In death we are changed, not ʻdeadʼ. And there is more to marriage than maintaining children. Have you ever considered that Marriage is to symbolise the union we will have with God in heaven? Marriage is a sign pointing to a heavenly reality. When you are in the ʻrealityʼ of the restaurant you no
    longer need the ʻsignʼ for the restaurant.What does this teach you about Christian Marriage?
    • Celibacy and Chastity are connected with Marriage as they seek to live the ʻrealityʼ of union with God in heaven instead of living the ʻsignʼ of God in marriage. Can you see how married people, priests, sisters, brothers, consecrated lay people, are all ʻpointingʼ to the same reality? Have you ever had difficulty understanding the vow of ʻchastityʼ that religious people make? Do you understand a little more now?
    • In celebrating the recent All Souls Day (November 2nd), did it stir up within you thoughts of resurrection and your belief in the after-life. How would you say the Resurrection affects your life ʻnowʼ?
    • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Reflection and Scripture: Do You Run to See Jesus?

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Discussion Questions

  • The writer of the book of Wisdom is sharing the special insights of Jewish thinking to a society heavily influenced by Greek thinking. Greek thought promoted dualism. The human body was evil and continually dragged the mind and spirit down to earth. The result was a thinking and feeling that there was a large gap between humanity and God. Too large to be bridged! What do you think?
  •  Have you ever pondered how magnificent God is in creating and sustaining all of ʻcreationʼ? Have you ever created something and felt a deep connection to it because it is something you made? If the same is true for God, what does this mean for Godʼs relationship to you personally?
  • 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the earliest  letters we have in the New Testament. A fear had taken over the community that the final ʻday of the Lordʼ was here. Some had left their jobs. Have you had an unsettling faith experience which shook your mind and caused you ʻalarmʼ? How did you cope? Did you choose to walkthrough it or around it?
  • The Gospel of Luke continues to share with us the relationship that Jesus and God has with ʻtax collectorsʼ (who were considered the greatest sinners andoutcasts because they taxed Jewish people and gave this money to the occupying Roman soldiers and government.
  • Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector of the large city of Jericho. He would have been extremely wealthy. And yet he does something extremely humbling – he runs and climbs a tree. He publicly admits he is short in front of the large crowd. He exposes himself to ridicule in his effort of seeking Jesus. Life changing meetings with Jesus are often the result of extraordinary actions by gospel characters. What made  Zacchaeus climb the tree? Instead of climbing the tree, what action could you take to get closer to Jesus? What is therisk or fear that could stop you? Who could give you support or advice?
  • For Jesus, seeking out and saving the lost was not an ʻideaʼ but a lived reality. To the greatest ʻsinnerʼ in Jericho, he says: Zacchaeus…. today I must stay at your house. What does this teach us about Jesusʼ understanding of his mission? What does this teach us about the
    mission of the Church today? What conversion needs to go on within you to live out this mission of the Church?
  • Salvation is not something that happens in the far distant future. Jesus says it happens ʻtodayʼ for Zacchaeus with his actions in response to Jesus. He gives half his property to the poor and promises to pay the full price of compensation that Roman law states (four times the original amount). Living salvation ʻtodayʼ is radical. A daily response to the love of God revealed in Jesus and his challenging life-style transformin gospel message. The one who was outside is ʻinsideʼ. Can you be at home in this inclusive community of the
    Church? What will you do if a modern ʻtax collectorʼ does not ʻrepentʼ?
  • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword resources created by Fr Frank Bird sm, Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection Guide for 30th Sunday Year C: Smug Self-Righteousness or Humble Authenticity is here

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• The writer of Ecclesiasticus is Ben Sirach which is why this book sometimes has different names in the Bible.  He was the headmaster of an Academy in Jerusalem that mentored Jewish students in the art of living well. His writings are a collection of the best of Jewish thought and philosophy. It contrasts with Greek culture and thought which accepted a huge gap between the rich and poor, those who were ʻfreeʼ and those who were slaves. Why do you think ʻthe prayer of the lowly pierces the cloudsʼ?

• Paul is writing from Prison in Rome. In his pre-trial hearing Paul shares that there was no-one who came to support him in court. Imagine his loneliness and sense of betrayal! And yet he does not choose to blame or get angry. Scholars suggest Christians in Rome were afraid of persecution if they came to support Paul. Have you had an experience of hurt from those you thought would support and protect you? Can you say like Paul ʻmay it not be held against them!ʼ Paulʼs attention continued to focus on imitating the life of Jesus, being poured out like a libation (offering)ʼ. In your struggles, is your attention on your ʻenemyʼ or ʻJesusʼ? Do you think Paul is being self-righteous or humbly authentic with God and the reader?

• Jesus teaches about prayer and righteousness in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. What do the words of the Pharisee’s prayer reveal about his attitude toward God and sinners? What does it mean to be smugly self-righteous? Authentically humble?

• A Pharisee was a strict observer of the law. Going beyond what was required they fasted 2 days per week (Jews were only required to fast on 1 day a year) and tithed on everything they received (even the goods that had already been ‘tithed’). They were extremely observant. They enjoyed their ʻholyʼ and righteous reputation. Deuteronomy 26 taught Jews to bring a tenth of their produce to the temple, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing, and giving to the Levites,(priests) foreigners, orphans and widows. What has the Pharisee failed to understand about the Law and about God? Is the Pharisee ‘righteous’? Listen around you; who is talked about in disparaging ways, excluded, despised, looked down on? How do you react? Humility is recognizing the truth about yourself, God and others. What are some ways we are tempted to self-righteousness in our culture?

• Tax Collectors (often Jewish) worked with the Roman authorities to collect road charges, goods and sales tax. They made significant profits above their contracted price. They were despised by Jews for being in partnership with the occupying forces. For a tax collector to make amends, they had to pay-back overcharged taxes plus an additional 1/5th. They could never know everyone they’d cheated so could never repair their ‘wrong They often felt their religious situation was hopeless. They could never be forgiven! Name some of the feelings experienced by the tax collector. What is it about the tax collector that you can relate to? How would the Sacrament of Reconciliation help?

• The Pharisee only encountered himself in prayer. He was extremely self-satisfied. Is this prayer? The Tax collector humbly needs God’s  mercy. Why does God listens to the Tax Collector?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide for 28th Sunday: Living the Hospitality and Mercy of God is here

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Reflection Questions

• Our readings today have 2 characters who suffer from Leprosy. Lepers were excluded from living in the community. People didn’t want to catch the disease. It was also commonly believed that leprosy was a sign of being punished by God and that the leper was both morally and ritually unclean. The forced isolated shunned life living outside the community (Lev 13,46) caused incredible loneliness and constant rejection. How do we shun, isolate and cause chronic loneliness and rejection for people today? What are some modern forms of social ʻleprosyʼ?

• Naaman was a general in the Syrian Army, both a foreigner and an enemy, and he had leprosy so was excluded and to be feared. Israel and Syria were not friendly. Possibly from a previous conquest Naaman had even taken a Jewish slave girl for his household. Everyone would have been against him! Consider the courage he had in going to a holy man in Israel; Elisha. How welcoming are we toward strangers, or those we fear?

• What obstacles has Naaman had to overcome for healing? He tries to offer wealth as payment but Elisha refuses. How freely do we share the Lord’s goodness? He asks for soil from Israel to take home to build an Altar. His full acceptance of God is symbolized in that action. What is your symbol of thanksgiving and acceptance of God and what could you build to offer worship to God for healing and forgiveness?

• Scholars suggest that St Paulʼs letter to Timothy was written while he was in prison. St Paul was ʻin chainsʼ, treated as a criminal for his preaching the gospel of inclusion by God in Christ to the gentiles. He invites young Timothy to also be willing to persevere and suffer for this mission. What would you be willing to endure ʻchainsʼ for? What do you understand Paul means by; “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.” What effort do you put into changing the patterns of exclusion in your community and society?

• Gospel stories are like icebergs: 90% of the story is beneath the surface. Underneath the story of the lepers are further stories of exclusion, hurt, isolation. The Samaritan is like Naaman in the first reading; a hated foreigner. Past events meant Samaritans no longer acknowledge Jerusalem and the Temple as the place of true worship. Healing from leprosy required a certificate of health by the Priest before a leper could be accepted back in community. The 9 lepers are obviously so keen to see the priest that they lost sight of who did the healing -Jesus. Only the foreigner stopped and showed gratitude. When do you take your life and health for granted? Have you had some high moments and forgotten to give thanks to God. Write, share or pray a thank-you list to God about things in life you forget to say thanks to God for.

• God wishes to include and bring to faith the most unlikely of characters. Naaman and the Samaritan leper show God’s desire to include, not exclude.  What does this teach us about God? Does it adjust your image of God? Which unlikely character in your community might God be inviting you to bring to faith? What misconceptions do you and they need to let go of so that Godʼs welcome and inclusion can be realized?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org