God has actually spoken

The scripture readings for Sunday are a great starting point to start listening

more

It's more enjoyable with others

There are some simple and effective ways to share scripture in homes, cafes, parishes

more

Let's walk the talk

Prayer becomes lived out when we make decisions and lifestyle commitments

more

Sign up for email notifications

Or follow us via Twitter, facebook, RSS and more

more

Posts Tagged ‘Conversion’

Discussion Guide:    17th Sunday Yr. C – You Live not for the World, but for God

 

Lord, teach us to pray – St Mary Magdalene

 

Reflection Questions:    • Confidence before God in prayer is a theme of our readings this week. Abraham is bold and has a very real and honest conversation with God about the sinful town of Sodom (See Gen 19). What strikes you in this conversation, what do you learn about Abraham? What do you learn about God?

• Consider having an extremely honest conversation with God. What would you talk about? Would you push God to side with the righteous and what would your specific request be today?

• In Middle Eastern Cultures ʻhonourʼ is extremely important. Abraham uses Godʼs honour and leans on Godʼs name and reputation being ʻheld highʼ. In your own family / culture or school / workplace, have you experienced a request to keep the ʻfamily nameʼ upheld, the ʻschool reputationʼ in good standing in the community or to represent your culture ʻwellʼ? Why was this considered important? What happened? Do you consider yourself bearing the name / honour / reputation / image of God? The Church? Does this affect your behaviour in any way?

• Circumcision was the removal of the foreskin from a manʼs body. It was considered a ʻbadgeʼ of honor marking a chosen people as belonging to God (and all in his family too!). Jews in the Colossian community were trying to force Gentiles to undergo circumcision and be obedient to the many Jewish laws that would ʻsaveʼ them. St Paul again teaches that Baptism replaces circumcision and something far more radical than a flesh mark has happened. All sin and ʻtransgressionsʼ against the law have been nailed to the cross. Have you ever thought of yourself as having been buried during your baptism? And your rising is Christʼs rising. You live now not for the world but for God. What does the badge of baptism mean for you?

• The disciples request for a ʻprayerʼ was common practice between a Master and disciples. Followers of a particular religious leader would ask for a prayer that gave them a special identity. Read the short Lukan ʻOur Fatherʼ prayer slowly. It is a programme for life and discipleship.  Consider:

* ‘Our Father’ in Hebrew is ʻAbbaʼ which is very close to our word ʻDaddy’. In the Middle East you will hear children calling out ‘Abba, Abba’ to their father – what sort of relationship is Jesus revealing that God wants with us. What attitude of mind or feeling in your heart does this generate?
* Holy Be Your Name is an honour request so important in middle eastern cultures. A Fathers / Family name is honoured in the community through the children, their lives, acts of justice, hospitality. Is your Christian life and witness bringing honour to Godʼs name? Are you lowering Godʼs reputation? Is the Church giving honour to Godʼs name in the world today?
*Your Kingdom Come. The prophets cried out in public of Godʼs desire to see Mercy and Justice come. Honestly examine your life-style. Are you chasing possessions, power and prestige OR people, justice and mercy? Our prayer is not to be merely words but a battle cry.

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

Discussion Guide:        14th Sunday Yr. C – Disciples are Missionaries of Peace

 

 

Seek, Knock, Follow – St. James – St. Leo Catholic Community

Reflection Questions:

• 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?

• 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?

• 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? Whathappened?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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 prayer-filled focus. What is God asking of me and what is the next step in ʻdoing itʼ? ʻBehold, I have given you the power…..

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

Discussion Guide:          Pentecost Sunday Yr. C – Receive the Holy Spirit

 

New Testament 5: The Holy Spirit Leads the Apostles Archives - Seeds of Faith Podcast

 

Reflection Questions:      • Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast which also involved a liturgical celebration of bringing water into the temple and pouring water from the side of the altar. Life-giving water would symbolically flow from Jerusalem and give life to the whole world! Jesus fulfills and replaces this Jewish feast saying that out of him will flow life-giving water (Jn 7:37-39). What does this image of Pentecost teach you?

• Pentecost is the reversal of the Old Testament Tower of Babel story (see Gen 11). Human-kindʼs sin and self-importance building the tower to reach and equal God eventuated in the scattering of people and the confusion caused by different languages. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unites people and leads people to understand each other and the Christian message ʻin his native languageʼ. What does this suggest is the true function of the Holy Spirit in the world? In the Church?

• Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didnʼt have the gift of tongues were considered inferior. It was causing division in the community. One gift was not to be stressed over another. Everyone is gifted What gift do you find easy to share and benefit others with? What gift do you feel you would like to develop more and use for God and the community?

• The Spirit and ʻgiftsʼ are connected to the ʻbodyʼ. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ do you identify with your gifts – eyes, head, heart, hands, mouth, ears. How do you show this in your daily life?

• Jesus is able to pass through locked doors to offer peace and forgiveness. What ʻlocked doorsʼ are present in your life? Use your imagination in a time of prayer and allow Jesus to meet you on the other side of these locked doors….. what happened?

• The Spirit sends the Disciples / the Church ʻon missionʼ. The Church is as it were ʻplugged inʼ to a living power moulding all into the image and consciousness of Christ. Pentecost fills the Church and allows the Church to be the extension of Jesusʼ ministry in the world. What feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ? Are you conscious of being sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the worldʼ?

• In the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit had a difficult time in getting the disciples out from hiding behind locked doors and praying in the temple and in peoples’ homes. It was only persecution in Jerusalem that eventually caused the light of the good news of Jesus to be given ʻto all the nationsʼ. Welcoming gentiles into the Christian community was a huge obstacle and struggle for Jews who were the first Christians. What are the big obstacles to unity and inclusion in the Church today? How could the Church be more reconciling in the marketplace and with those the world ʻexcludes’?

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

Discussion Guide:    5th Sunday Easter Yr. C – New Heaven and New Earth

 

See the source image

 

Reflection Questions:      • Paul and Barnabas travelled great distances, endured resistance and persecution and spent years away from their ʻhome baseʼ of Antioch. On finishing their ʻjourneyʼ they returned back through the various towns – even those that persecuted them! What does this teach you about Paul and Barnabas? What would ʻtheirʼ missionary journey look like in ʻyourʼ world, office or workplace?

• Paul and Barnabas broke centuries old prejudices of considering God only loved ʻthe Jewsʼ. His ʻchosenʼ. Going to the Gentiles was an enormous change. To put this into context, if a Jew married a Gentile in Jesusʼ time the Jewish family would conduct a public funeral to say to everyone that you were now ʻdeadʼ to the family. Gentiles were considered ʻintrinsically uncleanʼ. Strict Jews believed they were ʻdefiledʼ by being with Gentiles. Which group of people today are considered ʻoutcastsʼ, ʻsinnersʼ, beyond Godʼs love? Could you be a missionary to them? What might need to change in you? In the Church?

• The Book of Revelation gives us the final seventh vision. Although Jerusalem had been destroyed and Christians were being severely persecuted a vision is seen of what will come true. Can you look at the Church today – in its current struggles – and see the bride (church) adorned for her husband (Christ) and Godʼs presence everdwelling in the Church in the Eucharist and the Word?

• In Johnʼs gospel the moment of Jesus dying on the cross is not simply a place of suffering. The word Glory is used 5 times in todays gospel. It is Jesus being ʻlifted upʼ like a winning coach on the shoulders of the winning sports team. It is a moment of victory. Glorious! When you look at the cross, do you see only suffering? Can you see why it is also ʻgloriousʼ?

• Jesus gives a commandment to his disciples which is ʻnewʼ. While the Old Testament encouraged Jews to ʻloveʼ their neighbour, it was interpreted within the boundaries of your ʻinner circleʼ of family. Jesus tells his disciples the love his followers are to show is to be qualitatively different. A self-sacrificing love to all like his own ʻoutsidersʼ not simply ʻinsidersʼ. Would people see in your lifestyle and ʻloveʼstyle something different? Can you identify a lived action where you lived and showed Christ recently?

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

Discussion Guide:    3rd Sunday Easter Yr. C – Do You Love Me?

 

 

John 21:16 He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said

Reflection Questions:    • The Sanhedrin involved 71 members of the High Priests, former High Priests and ruling families of Jerusalem. It was the highest Jewish civil and religious court. Peter and the apostles show impressive courage in witnessing to Christ. Peter focuses the argument to obedience to God rather than ʻto menʼ. What does obedience to God actually mean for you and your life-style? How could you show you live more ʻfor Godʼ than ‘the world’?

• The Book of Revelation was written to comfort christians suffering persecution. It is ‘resistance literature’. Using symbols and code language it reveals that the Empire of Rome is only temporary, the final scene will be eternal life for those faithful to the ‘lamb’ / Jesus.

• John provides a picture of the ʻheavenly liturgyʼ. The Old Testament expectation awaited a ʻLionʼ but instead Jesus comes as a ʻLamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength…ʼ What is the difference between a Lion and a Lamb? How does Easter reveal God conquers through Love not Power?

• Jesus appears to his disciples as they seek to return to their previous lives. Some walk away from Jerusalem and others go fishing. Jesus turns them around and sends them on mission. The large catch of fish shows that the disciples working on their own can catch nothing, but in obedience to Christ – everything is possible. 153 is said to be the number of nations known in the world, and the total number of fish types known at that time. The missionary outreach is to all nations and all peoples! Is there a particular mission field that you feel attracted to work in? What next little step might obedience to Christ involve for you in being part of the Churchʼs ʻmissionʼ?

• Jn 21 is regarded as an ʻadditionʼ to the conclusion of the Gospel of John showing the ʻrehabilitation of Peterʼ. Peter is chastened by his failures and publicly, in front of the others, is invited to profess his love for the Lord. Each request ʻdo you love meʼ is a painful reminder to Peter of his betrayal. Do you think a rehabilitated shepherd is a better shepherd? What does Jesusʼ re-appointment of Peter as leader show us about Jesus? About God?

• The ultimate and final invitation of Jesus is framed by the request to lay down your life: ʻfollow meʼ. What reaction takes place in your head and heart to the invitation to ʻlay down your lifeʼ for the Lord?

• Frequently people comment that there are so many ‘lapsed Catholics’ no longer practising their faith or coming to Church. Perhaps another perspective is seeing them as ‘collapsed – Catholics’. The Sheep were not being ‘fed’. How could you respond to the invitation Jesus gave to Peter to ‘feed and tend’ his sheep so that they are well nourished. What has fed you that you could creatively share?

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

Discussion Guide:    2nd Sunday Easter Yr. C – Divine Mercy for All

 

100 Reach for me ideas | jesus, jesus pictures, jesus art

Reflection Questions:    • Early followers of Jesus were fearful that authorities would persecute them and their families. Consequently ʻmany dared not join the Apostles in the Temple porchʼ. Is there something you would like to join in your Church family but are scared for some reason? What would help you get over your ʻfearʼ? Do you fear your Priest? Public leadership in the Church?

• Easter changed the disciples. A presence and power of Christ comes out of Peter that heals the sick and disturbed. It is primarily actions and ʻsignsʼ that helped people ʻbelieveʼ. What signs and wonders could be done by your hands to bring Christ to the sick and disturbed?

• John, the Beloved Disciple, the writer of the Book of Revelation, was exiled on the island of Patmos because he ʻgave testimony to Jesusʼ. Yet in the midst of imprisonment he has deep and enlightening ʻrevelationsʼ from Christ – dressed in white walking among the lampstands (symbols of  Christian communities). John shares he experiences the distress of trials, a kingdom vision which sustains him the endurance and comforting presence of being in Jesus. Imagine Jesus walking amongst the lampstands of Christian communities. Is your community ‘shining’? Is there any experience of the disciple John that you can identify with in your life at present?

• Fear was very real for the disciples of Jesus. If Jesus had been hunted and killed the same could be done with his followers. Violent persecution eventually changed toward another type of persecution. Converts from Judaism to Christianity would be disowned by family. A ‘funeral service’ would even be held to cut a convert off from their family and community. These kinds of oppressive and violent discrimination experiences are still all too real in our world today. Do you recognize as a Christian the calling to be living an ‘alternative society’ to witness to God’s ways whatever the challenges? How does your life-style ‘challenge the world’? We also recall St Peter Chanel today who experienced a violent death for being Christian. In what ways do you or your community stand in solidarity with victims of violence and oppression?

• While other disciples had believed in Peter and John and Mary, Thomas refused and placed certain conditions on his belief. He needed Jesus to be very ʻrealʼ for him. Jesus responded to Thomasʼ probing and questioning. Do you identify with Thomas or know someone who is like Thomas? What is their/your question or source of ʻunbeliefʼ? Ask Jesus for what you need from him. How could you be like Jesus for unbelievers and make faith ‘real’?

• Peace is a special gift Jesus promises to his disciples. The disciples are afraid of the Jews and meeting behind ʻlocked doorsʼ. Jesus repeats his words of peace twice. Peacefulness, as a gift of the spirits forgiveness and presence is to be characteristic of a disciples encounter with the world and the world with us. Can you say you are ʻat peaceʼ?

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

Discussion Guide:    5th Sunday Lent Yr. C – God’s Astonishing Mercy

 

Neither do I condemn you - Faithlife Sermons

Reflection Questions:

• Chapters 40-55 are a special part of the Book of Isaiah. While still away from their homeland struggling with life in exile in Babylon, Isaiah invites people to understand God ‘is doing something new’. Have you ever wanted things to ‘return to the way they were’ when chariots and horsemen of Egypt were beaten up by God? If you had to ‘see’ new ‘rivers’, current experiences that are forming you, what would you identify? Do you allow yourself to see difficult times as experiences that can grow you eventually into ‘praise’?

• In his previous life as a Pharisee, Paul would have treasured living all 613 Jewish laws taught by Moses. He would have had honour and status in the community. This is now colourfully referred to as ‘rubbish’. (Literally the word means scraps thrown to dogs). Paul’s life is now aimed toward ‘being taken possession of by Jesus’. Have you ever desired to be ‘fully taken over by God’? How could you pursue this as a ‘goal’? Paul reflects this reality of possession is not ‘taken’ but received as a gift. What part of your life would you like to ask the Spirit into this Lent?

• In the season of Lent special readings  are chosen to hopefully puncture our lives so that we let in God’s mercy. The Prodigal Son is now followed this week with the Woman caught in Adultery. Both readings reveal an unexpected forgiveness.

• Early in the morning people started coming to Jesus in the temple area and listened to his teaching. In this last week of Lent how could you bring yourself into the presence of Jesus to ‘listen’ and ask for guidance. Is there a church in your neighbourhood, on your way to work which can help you achieve this?

• Scribes and Pharisees believed following Laws strictly would bring a person into ‘holiness’. They were upset Jesus spent time with those doing the opposite (sinners). They test him publicly if he keeps the Laws Moses commanded. They wish to maintain a way of relating to God that puts people into ‘holy’ – right -and ‘sinners’ – wrong. Love and mercy is abandoned in favour of judgment and punishment. Jesus beautifully takes away all ‘holy’ pretending as he knows we all sin. Faced with this deep truth we meet God’s response. Consider praying vulnerably in the context of your own life: neither do I condemn you.  What is your response to someone when you realise they do not judge you but love you?

• Can you remember a time when your relationship with God changed away from a focus on sin toward a deeper knowing of forgiveness? What has been the deepest experience you have had of the Mercy of God? Do you allow the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help you move beyond guilt into wisdom and forgiveness?

• Please note in communities that are welcoming candidates for Baptism at Easter different readings are used for the ‘Rite of Scrutinies’ this Sunday.

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

Discussion Guide:    4th Sunday Yr. C – Reputation or Conversion?

 

This is the Greatest" — PowerPoint Background of 1 Corinthians 13:13 Cross Love — Heartlight®

Reflection Questions:    • Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet’ because people did not listen to his message (King Jehoiakim even burned one of Jeremiah’s manuscripts). He experienced God’s word deeply and in the midst of false ‘prosperity prophets’ who declared God was looking favourably on his people and good times were coming, Jeremiah shares his personal call and his preparedness for rejection. What is the challenge of being a ‘prophet to the nations’ like Jeremiah today? Do you feel formed and called by God to stand up for (or against) something in society? What has been your response so far? What happened?

• St Paul continues discussing the ‘elitist’ problem in the Corinthian community. Some people were setting themselves apart as a ‘spiritual elite’ with boastful talk of their charisms and gifts. Gifts and charisms mean nothing if love is absent. Evaluate your life by the qualities of love in the second reading: Are you patient? Kind. Jealous? Proud? Resentful? Do you take offence easily? Gossip? Delight in truth? Forgiving, trusting, and hopeful? What aspect of your character could you invite the Holy Spirit to help you with?

• St Paul uses a special word (agape) for love. It is not a sexual love (eros) or a family love (philia). Agape is a quality of love that is given regardless of a response. Agape love is loving like God loves. In what ways and in what relationships do you show ‘agape’ love? Do you recognise people in need constitute God’s agape call to us?

• Jesus continues to speak to his hometown. In an ‘honour and shame’ culture of the ancient Middle East, an expectation is placed over Jesus to bring honour, glory, acclaim to Nazareth. Be our ‘local’ prophet, set up a healing station here in Nazareth like you have been doing at Capernaum. Bring in the tourists! Their attitude and concern is reputation rather than conversion. Jesus confronts them. In what ways does ‘reputation’ take priority over ‘conversion’ in your life? When was the last time you experienced the ‘cost’ of discipleship like Jeremiah and Jesus?

• Jesus identifies himself with the mission of the great prophets of Elijah and Elisha who were sent out to nearby gentile lands (Sidon) and people (Naaman the Syrian) which infuriates them. They react violently to the idea that God’s favour is also for the gentiles and not exclusively to Israel. Why do you think removing barriers and cultural walls meets resistance? What is beneath the categories of right / wrong,    clean / unclean?

• The ‘community’ at Nazareth limit Jesus by confining him to be ‘Joseph’s son’. Have you experienced the support of family, friends and community and then as time goes on, recognise the limitations people’s perception puts on you? Do you feel called to ‘break out’ of ‘reputation’ and move toward ‘doing the will of God’? What obstacles do you face? How will you respond to people ‘springing to their feet and trying to throw you off the cliff’?

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

Discussion Guide:      4th Sunday Advent Yr. C – Leap for joy!

 

Luke 1:39-45: The Visitation | The Jesus Question

Reflection Questions:

• As Christmas arrives, special passages of scripture are used to guide our understanding of Christmas. This Sunday is the only time that the Prophet Micah is used for our Sunday Readings. A prophecy 700 years before Jesus points to the little town of Bethlehem, famous as it was the home of Jesse, King David’s Father. It was from this royal line the Messiah would arrive. Ephrathah was a little and insignificant ‘clan / tribe’. Consider for a moment just how extraordinary is God’s power to guide history and prophecy to fulfillment. How might this help you ‘trust’ in God?

• The Letter to the Hebrews teaches about the significance of Jesus. Holocausts, sin offerings and sacrifices were experiences of Jewish worship in the Temple that were to bring people into union with God ‘according to the law’. Jesus is shown as following the will of God and bringing forgiveness and union with God ‘through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ on the cross. Why Jesus has come among us is pointed out. Do you keep Christmas separated from Easter? Have you noticed cards and decorations easily identify with the joy of a new-born child and the hope of ‘peace’ but prefer to leave out the next step of the sacrifices involved in ‘I come to do your will, O God?’ What is the will of God inviting you to do?’

•This gospel scene of Mary ʻvisitingʼ Elizabeth aims to show us more than the greeting of two expectant mothers or that Mary is a caring young woman to her older cousin. Behind this scene are layers of stories. Mary, a ʻnew motherʼ (New testament) stands before Elizabeth an ʻold motherʼ (Old Testament). Behind Elizabeth is her husband, Zechariah the High Priest of the (old) Temple. Within the Temple rests the ʻArk of the Covenantʼ where the 10 commandments were kept housed in a special box (Ark) called the ʻMercy Seatʼ. Mary bears within her the Saviour child ʻGod-is-with-usʼ and is now the New Ark of the New Covenant. The little boy John the Baptist leaps for joy within the womb of Elizabeth like King David leapt for joy and danced before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6,14). The deepest and true response to God being ʻenfleshedʼ among us is to ʻleap for joyʼ.When was the last time you ʻleapt for joyʼ? Why is little baby John ʻleaping for joyʼ? How could you show the experience of joy more this Christmas?

• The gospel of Luke focusses upon Mary who always acts on what she hears. Her ʻvisitʼ to Elizabeth is a ʻresponseʼ to hearing Godʼs voice (through the angel). Mary is ʻblessedʼ but firstly it is because she ʻbelieved what was spoken to herʼ. Christmas becomes no longer simply an historical story for us when we recognise we too are called to allow the ʻWordʼ to become ʻFleshʼ. Today. Now. In the world. What words have you heard from God, in prayer, through others. How could you act on them so that they become ʻfleshʼ? Real? Acted out? Bring Godʼs presence? What words or promises have you made that have not been fulfilled?

• Advent is a time of joyful preparation. In the final days before Christmas how could you achieve a balance: writing Christmas Cards and the Call to Conversion. Christmas Parties and Prayerful Preparation. Christmas Presents and Christmas Presence?

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

Discussion Guide:    3rd Sunday Advent Yr. C – Rejoice! The Lord is Near

 

Waiting in expectancy – till Christ is formed

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 known’ 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 ‘change’ 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?