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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

Discussion Guide for 24th Sunday is here

Isaiah 50:5-9, Ps.114, James 2:14-18, Mark 8:27-35See the source image

Reflection Questions

  • The 3rd Song of the Suffering Servant reading from Isaiah has been chosen today to ‘match’ with the Gospel reading and Jesus’ predication of suffering in Jerusalem. Isaiah gets battered and bruised as he shares a message of hope amongst his people in Exile in Babylon. So disheartened are God’s people they feel their ‘God’ has been over-powered by Babylon’s God by allowing them to be exiled. Each day Isaiah listens to God and seeks to comfort his people. Have you‘heard’ anything from God recently…. and ‘not turned your back’ on it?
  • Isaiah chooses above all to trust in God and ultimately he believes he will not be disgraced. Even though the experience of rejection is hard. Have you ever realised deeply your purpose and passion and calling. What would it involve to ‘set your face like flint’ in living and achieving this call from God? Do you know someone who is an example to you? Have you ever asked their advice?
  • A beautiful part of Jewish tradition and piety was an emphasis on helping the poor. It was more than an obligation. In fact, lifting up the poor (through almsgiving) earned one the title ‘righteous’ before God. If faith is words only, it is ‘dead’. Can your faith be seen in any ‘works’ for lifting up the poor
  • Today we arrive half-way in the Gospel of Mark. It is a turning point. Jesus’ secret identity only known and shouted by evil spirits is now public and spoken by Peter. The healing ministry of Galilee turns toward the suffering and saving mystery of Jerusalem – the Cross. Peter correctly states Jesus’ identity but misunderstands what this really means. Do you secretly wish God will ride triumphantly into the world and with power and might (violence!) ʻsave the worldʼ?
  • Peterʼs – and Jewish- expectation was for a Messiah / Saviour to be a Royal leader, political figure, show military might and ʻboot outʼ the occupation Army of Rome. Bring a military victory. Restore Israelʼs national honor. Jesus gets ʻtold offʼ by Peter when he suggests there is another way God will ʻsaveʼ. Jesus ʻrebukesʼ Peter and told him to get behind him (the rightful place for a disciple to walk is behind the master). A major argument reveals a major disagreement. What do you think is going on here? Satan is the Hebrew word for ʻobstacleʼ. What is the obstacle that needs to be removed?
  • As Jesus turns the disciples toward Jerusalem he gathered them together to teach them. To ʻtake up your crossʼ was a shocking idea for disciples of the time. We have sanitized it with the thought of privately enduring little hardships and spiritual difficulties. Essentially, the cross was the most shameful object to die upon. It was the means by which Rome torturedand crucified anyone who resisted them
    and the power ʻstatus quoʼ. It symbolised the powerful, crushing the poor. The fear of death (violence used by the powerful elite) reduced the poor to inaction and non revolution. Jesus points the pathway to over-turning this violence with nonviolent resistance and the willingness to even take up your cross, deny yourself, be willing to die. You will ransom (lead someone from slavery to freedom) societies structures and interrupt the cycleof violence in the world. The disciples didn’t get it. Do you?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?
livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ www.livingtheword.org.nz email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide is here

See the source image

Reflection Questions

Isaiah 35:4-7, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37

  1. The Prophet Isaiah is with the community of Israel as it endures exile in the foreign land of Babylon. No temple. No liturgy. God is experienced as ‘silent’. In their difficulty Isaiah reveals the hope of God rescuing his people through a promised ‘Messiah’ – anointed one – who will ‘come to save you.’ Have you experienced the ‘silence’ of God? Isaiah teaches God seeks complete restoration and wholeness: imagine blind people now seeing. Deaf hearing. Crippled leaping. Silent singing. Desert now flowing. Do you consider yourself as an agent of God’s hope for a broken world?
  2. James demands concrete behaviour and action. It is not enough to know and say we care for the poor. We must show it. James highlights the Christian Assembly. As we gather for worship we reveal our truth to the world: equality as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Gold rings or shabby clothing is irrelevant. Have you ‘made distinctions’ amongst friends, extended family? Do you ‘change’ when you are in the company of different people? Are you in relationship and friendship with the ‘poor’? Would they experience you as kind but still instructing them to ‘stand there’ or ‘sit at your feet’?
  3. An early document called ‘Statutes of the Apostles’ charged the priests with making a seat available for a poor person arriving at Church but he did not have to go out of his way for a rich person. Why? How are our liturgical gatherings meant to mirror the world disciples of Christ seek to create?
  4. Mark uses the same Greek word from Isaiah to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah who helps the mute speak – healing his speech impediment. Today Theology and Geography connect. Jesus intentionally travels back to Galilee but by a very long and unusual route stepping into ʻGentile – uncleanʼ territory. Not only would the Pharisees and those spying on him now not follow him, but like a bull- dozer, he shows by his actions he will not live by the ʻcleanʼ ʻuncleanʼ categories that label people as distant from God. Have your words of concern for the poor been transformed into practical action? What boundaries could you ʻstep overʼ to welcome in those who feel distant from God ?
  5. Healing passages are powerful opportunities for healing in our own lives. Consider the ʻdeaf man’. He was lucky to have some friends. Normally illness or disease was considered the result of sin, the presence of an evil spirit. The person was shunned, isolated from family, considered ʻuncleanʼ. In addition this man could not hear or speak. A picture of the most painful experience of human life and our broken humanity. As you reflect on this passage do you identify with the deaf and mute man or the carers who ʻbrought him to Jesusʼ? Why?
  6. Jesus took the man ʻoff by himself, away from the crowdʼ. Saving him from embarrassment, and tenderly healing the parts of his wounded body. What parts of your life need to ʻbe openedʼ so that you may be whole, reunited and accepted with the community. What would it mean for you to be led ʻaway from the crowds for healing’. How could you take up this offer this week? What would it take for you to hear God. Sing God’s praises. Dance for joy
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ

Discussion Guide: Holiness Comes from the Inside Out. 

Image result for Mark 7 :1-23

Reflection Questions:

• Deuteronomy literally means ‘second book of law’. The 10 commandments given to Moses when applied to daily life became a large set of 613 guidelines to
live a holy life. These are explored in the Book of Deuteronomy and added to by the ‘teaching of the elders’. Jewish people treasured their ‘laws’ as a national
treasure. Truth. Wisdom. Justice. Is a relationship helped or hindered by ‘laws’? What religious guidelines do you ‘observe carefully’? What practices have you found help you feel ‘close’ to God?

• The Letter of James is regarded as a ‘Catholic’ or ‘general’ letter as it was not written for a particular community. James insists liturgy and life-style are linked
together. He paints a beautiful picture: a disciple is like a new birth, a new creation of ‘truth’ made from the WORD. Like the first-fruit of a plant, the seed of the word is planted in us and should show itself outwardly. Eventually the aim of the plant is to ‘look like something’ – actions of caring for orphans and widows (the lowest in society) and an ‘unworldly’ character. Planting takes some preparation and nurturing. How could you allow the word to be more fully ‘planted in you’? It is easy for religion to be ‘skin deep’. Who are ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’ in your life? What would it look like for you to be ‘unstained by the world’ – less worldly?

• Returning back to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is in Galilee but ʻspiesʼ from Jerusalem come to watch him. Pharisees and scribes seek to shame him in public
telling Jesus and his disciples they are not keeping the ʻtraditions of the eldersʼ (613 laws) and obeying the ʻpurity codesʼ. Eating food is an intimate practice as it involves what goes into our bodies. Washing and cleansing rules were to apply. These rules gradually developed into such a complex list that poor and
working people of the land could not satisfy all the conditions. This experience turned religion into oppression and made people feel distant from God. Jesus
challenged this dynamic of oppression and exclusion under the guise of holiness. How might Jesus challenge us today?

• Pharisees saw themselves as lay people stirring up the faithful toward a ʻsuper- pietyʼ. Israel was called to Holiness – Lets be holy! Two characteristics mark the pharisee spirituality. (1) religion becomes a set of rules to be lived rather than a relationship of love to be lived. (2) Judgement is made of others who do not follow ʻrulesʼ consequently separating those who are ʻin – cleanʼ and ʻout – uncleanʼ. How can you see this dynamic within yourself? In others? What does
authentic holiness look like for you?

• Jesus over-turns the entire Jewish system of ritual purity which focussed on set external actions making one acceptable God. It is revolutionary as these
purity laws were proud identity markers for Jews of their ʻholinessʼ. He points deeply into the heart adding three ideas not normally listed

• blasphemy – literally ʻsaying what is wrong is actually rightʼ
• arrogance – literally ʻtrying to make a thing shinyʼ
• folly – foolish – literally ʻwithout a deeper perspectiveʼ

Do you consider these inner characteristics harmful? What virtues could you practice as their ʻantidoteʼ?
• What is one action that you will do to be
this week?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ

Relection Guide: Eucharist-Food for our Souls is here.

Discussion Questions

See the source image

• The Book of Proverbs shares many short wisdom sayings. Wisdom and Foolishness are two pathways we can walk. Two ‘women’, are presented as
preparing a home and a banquet. A prostitute (foolishness) chapters 5-7. A Lady (wisdom) chapters 8-9. Stolen bread and water are contrasted with fine food.
Which voice and house will you enter? Where do you go for ‘wisdom’ and ‘guidance’? What recent wisdom have you learnt from walking down wrong paths?

• Paul continues to explain the life-style of a baptised person in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘watch carefully how you live’. When was the last opportunity you took to have some time of reflection and review of your life….. asking for a clear vision and trying to understand ‘what is the will of the Lord’. Consider planning a few hours in the week to reflect on how you could live the life-style of Christ more deeply.

• We are at week 4 of 5 weeks sitting with the Gospel of John chapter 6. Jesus has challenged the Jewish understanding of Passover ‘bread from Heaven’ and insists he is the one sent from Heaven. He is ‘living bread’ and he goes even further to claim he will give his ‘flesh’ for the life of the world. Ponder what the symbol and experience of ‘bread’ means for you. How is Jesus’ life like ‘bread’ for you?

•The gospel of John invites us to make a significant transition from ʻbreadʼ [the Jewish Passover meal] to ʻflesh-and- bloodʼ – the whole person [Jesusʼ replacement of the passover with the offering of his life on the cross]. The special Jewish celebration of Godʼs love and forgiveness is now replaced with the
Cross – the sign of Godʼs love and forgiveness for the whole world. Unleavened Bread and Passover Lamb has now become a sacrificial meal transformed. Wine and Bread is now transformed to Blood and Flesh because Jesus has said it, promised it, given it. Enlightened or confused?

• The deep language and expression of love helps our heart seeking understanding. Love desires to ʻgiveʼ and gift oneʼs ʻpresenceʼ to the beloved. To
resolve the human difficulty of not knowing how to come to God, we find God comes to us through the gift of the true presence of Jesus in the body and blood at Mass. We are seated at a God- given (wisdom) banquet. For John, it is not enough to ʻbelieveʼ in Jesus, we are also called to ʻreceiveʼ the physical gift
and life-presence of Jesus into our physical bodies. Do you receive in ʻignoranceʼ or with ʻknowledgeʼ?

• True life, ʻeternal lifeʼ is given and received. The life and spirit of Jesus is now present within the receiver of the Eucharist (good -gift). It is because of this
truth we call the experience ʻHoly – Communion (many becoming one with the one who is Holy – God). After receiving communion how could you develop a greater appreciation of this physical intimacy with Jesus? Consider making up a personal prayer to pray at this time of silence after communion.

• St Thomas Aquinas offers two simple sentences for reflection. Where do these sentences lead you in reflection…..
“What food is for our bodies, the Eucharist is for our souls”.
          • “The proper effect of the Eucharist is to transform us into God”

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

 

 

Discussion Guide: Sealed and Fed to Thrive

1 Kgs 19:4-8, Eph. 4:30-5:2, Gospel Jn 6:41-51

See the source image
Reflection Questions

• The continuing theme of being ‘fed by God’ is developed in the readings this week. Elijah sits exhausted under a tree in the desert. He is being hunted down by Princess Jezebel who was married to the King of Israel. She tried to replace all prophets and temples of Yahweh by importing 450 prophets and followers of
B’aal from her homeland in Sidon. Elijah has just killed them all and is now on the RUN! (see 1Kings 18, 19-46). Have you ever got into difficulty as a result of
obedience to God? Have you ever said to God: ‘this is enough’? Is there any painful purifying of the Church that you find particularly difficult to participate in and endure?

• God encourages Elijah not to focus upon his own pain and fear. God wants to offer food and strength for the “40 day” journey ahead. Do you tend to focus on your own pain and mumble and groan? How could you develop a habit of being open to help and ‘being fed’? God wishes us to move from simply ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’. If you were to ask God or someone for help, what would be your question in one sentence? How could you grow your hunger so you experience being ‘fed’ with scripture and the eucharist?

• St Paul teaches that we were ‘sealed’ at our Baptism. A ‘seal’ was a special jewel or stone or metal cylinder marked with a ʻsignʼ and pressed upon clay or wax or object. The ʻmark – sealʼ indicated the owners signature, ownership, authority on a legal document or object. The link between the person and / or object was now displayed to the world. As ʻsealedʼ people we are to witness to whom we belong. Paul inserts attributes displaying God; kindness, compassion, forgiveness. Are you conscious of being ʻsealedʼ? Is there any anger or bitterness the spirit would like you to let go of so as not to ʻgrieve the spiritʼ dwelling in you?

• Jewish people often referred to their ʻlawsʼ as ʻbread from heavenʼ. Their laws and teachings from Moses gave them life and revealed God to them. They grumble and ‘murmurʼ at Jesusʼ claim: I am the bread that comes down from Heaven. Hidden within this phrase Jesus is claiming the Divine Name ʻI AMʼ and to replace the ʻlawʼ. He teaches further that he is true life-giving ʻbreadʼ but that ʻbreadʼ will now be replaced with ʻfleshʼ. John presents clearly the levels of meaning: Bread. Jesus. Flesh. Can you see in this text of John 6 the threads of our belief that in the Eucharist / Mass it is truly the ʻfleshʼ of Jesus we receive? Do you recognise the invitation following reception of Jesus to now become ʻlife-for-the-worldʼ?

• The only way God can be truly revealed is someone must come from God and live among us. This is indeed the great religious hope of the Jewish people.
However they become satisfied with the laws of God and were not ready to accept the ʻpersonʼ of God. Jesus claims he is this person truly ʻfromʼ God, has ʻseenʼ God. This is the claim of Christianity that sets us apart from other world religions. Because Jesus is divine – God – among – us what he promises to give us – his flesh and blood – he can and will do. As we approach the end of 5 weeks of teaching on the Eucharist consider prayerfully reading John 6. How would you explain the Eucharist now in your own words?

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

Discussion Guide,: Time For a Christ Makeover?

Readings:  Ex 16:2-4, 12-15, Eph. 4:17, 20-24, Jn. 6:24-35

 

Image result for New Person in Christ Butterfly

 

 

Reflection Questions

• The Exodus story teaches us of our covenant relationship with God. Each time the people grumbled, Moses prayed to God, and God responded faithfully to his covenant love commitment. Remembering the first reading is chosen to highlight the Gospel reading, John 6 and Exodus are both reflecting on the
meaning of the Jewish ‘Passover’. The treasured memory of God feeding his people with ‘manna’ (literally from the word ‘man hu’ meaning ‘what is this?’)
was an essential part of the Passover celebration. Rather ungratefully, God’s people continually grumbled. Do I grumble frequently against ‘Moses and
Aaron…..’ How could I speak words of ‘affirmation’? How could I practice gratefulness for the ‘daily feeding’ by God of every gift and blessing?

• Parts of the Letter to the Ephesians are prayers used at Baptism in the early  community. A colorful image is pointed to in the Baptism ceremony. In
ancient times one’s clothing was considered part of oneself. In the ceremony you took off your old clothes and put on a new white garment. Your old self was put aside. Your new self is the life of Christ. Your new life-style is as a citizen of Heaven not a citizen of Rome. How could you show Righteousness, Holiness
and Truth more in your life? Amongst your family? At work?

• Last week we began 5 weeks of hearing the Gospel of John chapter 6. It is important to notice the context of John 6. The famous ʻbread of lifeʼ passage is the
second of three passover celebrations in the Gospel of John. At each passover, Jesus replaces the passover with his own ʻbodyʼ (see John 2, 6, 19). Last week the crowd tried to take Jesus away to make him ʻKingʼ because there was a Jewish expectation (2 Baruch 29:3,18) that there would be a miraculous feeding of bread from heaven which would reveal the promised Messiah. Jesus comments to the crowd, they are only looking and working for ʻfoodʼ to fill their bellies. He promises something greater. Can you understand what Jesus is doing when he claims he is the ʻSon of Manʼ, the one on whom the Father, God, has ʻset his sealʼ? What does it mean if you ʻset your sealʼ upon your letter, object…?

• The crowd asks for proof from Jesus that he is ʻbetterʼ than Moses who fed Israel with ʻmannaʼ in the desert. Jesus responds using a very important phrase: ʻI AM the bread of Lifeʼ. I AM is the divine name given by God to Moses in Ex 3,16. Jesus reminds the crowd that it was God not Moses who fed his people, and in fact, I AM is standing right in front of you.

• The Gospel of John often requires the reader to step down into deeper levels of meaning. Never hungry and never thirsty recognises a physical ʻhungerʼ and invites the reader to recognise a deeper spiritual hunger and thirst for life. Beyond feeding your body and satisfying your thirst, what do you really live for? What is ʻlifeʼ for?

• Many people came seeking Jesus but they did not want to follow him. Jesus will soon make the connection that He is and will become the ʻbread of Godʼ from Heaven which gives life. He will do this with the gift of his ʻBodyʼ and his ʻBloodʼ on the cross which will be received in the celebration of the Mass John 6, 55. Do you ʻseeʼ that you truly receive Jesus at Mass? Do you ʻseekʼ AND ʻfollowʼ Jesus?

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

Discussion Guide for 17th Sunday is here

Image result for took loaves fishes blessed them

Reflection Questions

  • Over the next 5 weeks, our scripture readings focus upon the events of God feeding his people. We depart from the normal Gospel of Mark readings from
    Mark chapter 6 and are placed into the Gospel of John chapter 6. The next five weeks provide an opportunity for prayer and deeper reflection upon the Eucharist and its meaning for our lives.
  • Jewish people recognised miraculous events of Prophets feeding God’s people with bread symbolised God feeding his family and satisfying their hunger. It was normal to bring Barley – which was harvested around the time of the Jewish Passover – to the temple as an offering. Significantly, because the temple in the North (Gilgal) was following false Baal worship the bread / barley offering is presented to a holy man (Elisha) who distributed it to the poor. Do you experience the prophetic connection between worship and being fed and ‘morality’ – now feeding the poor of the world on behalf of God?
  • Last week we heard Jesus has united us all together – Jews and Gentiles. Paul encourages us ‘to live in a manner worthy….’ showing this unity. How do you experience disunity?
  • Imagine your life, relationships, work-place. How could you practice unity-creating virtues: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with, striving to preserve unity, maintaining  bonds of peace? What is your biggest challenge?
  • Because the Gospel of Mark (Yr B) has only 16 chapters, we jump into John chapter 6 for 5 weeks to explore Jesusʼ feeding the 5,000. The story of Jesus feeding with bread is told 6 times in the Gospels. John is the most theologically full with special words and meaning. It is around the Jewish Feast of the Passover. At Passover Jewish people remembered Moses the great prophet feeding them with ʻmanna in the desertʼ. The promised Messiah (King) would also do a miraculous feeding. We notice in each of the three Passovers of Jesusʼ public ministry (Jn 2, 6, 19) the passover is fulfilled and replaced ʻwith his bodyʼ. 5 loaves and 2 fish = 7 the perfect Jewish number indicating a perfect feeding. Taking the loaves, gave thanks, gave it to distribute, gather (synagein), fragment  (klasma) are all special words used by the early church for the celebration of  the Eucharist. Twelve indicates ʻall Jewish tribes / peopleʼ. What do you make of all these ʻcluesʼ in the reading today? What does this story now mean for you?
  •  In the midst of large crowds who are hungry, Philip offers no solution. Instead he remarks it will cost so much to fix this problem, 2/3rds of a years wage! What thought or feeling decides your  (in)actions: cost or compassion? Do you offer your small contribution of money or compassion, or give up in the sight of large injustice / poverty / hunger?
  •   The crowds ʻseeʼ the sign Jesus has worked, think of him as ʻtruly the prophet’Comapssion, UnityC they have been waiting for – the Messiah. The one promised. They wish to make him King. A Political Ruler. Why do you think Jesus ʻwithdrawsʼ? Why is the ʻlifting up of Jesusʼ on the cross the enthronement moment in the gospel of John?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide for Missionary: Who Me? 

Reflection Questions

  • Amos was a curious character. His ‘job’ had been to cut and prune trees. But he decided to go to the Bethel ‘Shrine’ (think National Cathedral) and declare that while the country was not at war – and wealth was increasing – the poor were being oppressed. Because God’s will was often spoken through ‘prophet’s’, a King would carefully silence this prophetic voice by putting priests and prophets working in the national shrine ‘on the pay-roll’. Amos declares enough is enough! The Priest of Bethel, Amaziah, wants Amos to ‘go away’. Amos declares ‘I am not corrupt and ‘paid off’ like you. In the wealthy-and- oppressed debate today, who is an ‘Amos’ you know? Who is an ‘Amaziah’ you know? What do you say about the issues affecting the poor when it is raised in conversation?
  •  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can be understood as a collection of hymns and prayers used in the early liturgy of the Church. Consider the beauty of this prayer. You are blessed with every spiritual blessing.You are chosen to be holy and pure. You have been adopted into God’s family. You have been forgiven and washed clean from all sin by the blood of Jesus. You exist for the praise of God. You have heard the word of truth. You have been sealed and marked and indwelt by the holy spirit. Which idea in this prayer speaks deeply to you?
  • At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark a very clear pattern of events takes place with Jesus. Everywhere. Everyday. Jesus casts out evil. The kingdom of God is more than an idea. It is to be an experience where good replaces evil. After his own townspeople of Nazareth refuse to believe in him, instead of sulking and being limited by their rejection, he calls ʻtwelveʼ to go out with power to cast out evil. Jesus empowers others to become ʻlikeʼ him. Have you experienced a moment of decision: Shall I react and let myself become ʻsmallʼ or be proactive and allow myself to become ʻbigʼ? How can you work toward becoming a kingdom person of ʻhealing and curingʼ?
  • The lifestyle of the disciple is significant. We are to live as Jesus lived. Only wandering missionary items were to be taken – sandals and walking stick. An extra tunic was frequently used as a tent to keep one warm for the night. No extra signs of wealth or comfort. No ʻhouse- hoppingʼ when the food or bedroom may not be great. Disciples were to witness to a life-style that revealed the concerns of the kingdom, not concerns of comfort. Are you concerned or comfortable? Is life becoming cluttered with Items at the expense of Interest at taking ʻauthority over unclean spiritsʼ?
  • A missionary disciple can become worried or saddened they are not welcomed or listened to. Jesus tells them they can adopt the Jewish practice of ʻdusting their shoesʼ. Jewish people on returning from a gentile land into the ʻholy landʼ dusted their feet at the border crossing. They symbolically ʻshook offʼ any rejection of God from unbelievers. Is there a rejection experience you are still trying to work through and ʻshake offʼ?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

Reflection Guide is here

Discussion Questions

Image result for My Grace is sufficient

  • Ezekiel worked as a Priest in the Temple before being exiled with Israelites into Babylon. It was here, in a distant land, he experienced the spirit enter him and raise him to his feet to ‘speak’. It was not a popular message; the cause of their exile and punishment was due to their unfaithfulness to God. Have you experienced being moved from a
    ‘comfortable’ to an ‘uncomfortable’ place? Have you felt the spirit strengthen you for a new and difficult challenge? How do you think Ezekiel felt knowing the outcome of his words was uncertain… will they heed or resist?
    • Today we reflect on a deep and personal self-revelation of St Paul. It is uncertain if the ‘thorn’ (translated also as stake’) was a physical ailment, disease, depression. Was it constant persecution? Lust? Upset with being ‘short’? It is probably helpful we do not know as we can now all symbolically identify with Paul in our own personal experience of ‘pain’. What would you humbly own as your ‘thorn’? Some spiritual writers suggest the first deep question of spiritual direction is: where are you hurting? Boast comes from the word meaning ‘having your head held high’,
    from a position of understanding. Have you shared this with anyone? Would you like to receive encouragement to move from pain to boasting, and being accepting of your weakness?
  • Jesus returns home to Nazareth and experiences rejection. Mark, the earliest gospel writer clearly describes the lack of faith of Jewish people and the Synagogue toward Jesus. At home in Nazareth, they are attracted to his teaching but take offense (skandalizmai – scandalised) and even make a negative remark calling him ʻSon of Maryʼ. It was normal to refer to someone only using the title of ʻSon of Joseph- Fatherʼ. They are objecting to the uncertain origin of Jesus. Can you glimpse the pain and rejection of Jesus at home, with his own family members? Have you had a personal experience of rejection? Lack of belief in you; ʻCutting you downʼ, ʻPutting you into a boxʼ? How did you react? How does Jesus react? Are you curious as to what Jesus does next?
    • The three readings today highlight a theme of ʻif only …ʼ. If only people would listen (Ezekiel)… If only I didnʼt have this personal difficulty (St Paul)… If only my family and friends would believe in me (Jesus)… Difficult circumstances can shut us down, take away our energy. We need another source of energy and identity. The spirit sustained Ezekiel, Paul, Jesus to respond positively not negatively. Consider naming your challenges and decide on positive solutions. How do you overcome the ʻNazareth syndromeʼ?
    • It is mysterious how Jesus ʻwas not able to perform any mighty deed thereʼ. Have you ever decided about someone and your mind and heart become ʻclosedʼ and not ʻopenʼ to that person? The relationship now becomes ʻstuckʼ in
    possibility and expectation. We bring the closed door and negative view into each conversation and meeting. How open are you to Jesus? Pray for an open mind and heart to see signs and wonders and glimpses of the kingdom at work in daily events. How are you seeking to grow your faith and relationship with Jesus?
    • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

Discussion Guide for Breaking Barriers

Image result for Jairus

Reflection Questions

• The book of Wisdom was a book of Jewish wisdom teachings for Jews living
in the midst of Greek culture and philosophy. The question of death is pondered. Physical death does not cause an end to God’s relationship with those who belong to him. This reading links to the Gospel with Jairus’ daughter raised to life. Have you reflected the beauty of creation lately? Considered what it means that each person is made ‘in the image of God’? If all of creation belongs to God, how does this affect your relationship to creation and respect-full ‘life-style’?

• St Paul, in writing to the Corinthians was raising money for the poor church in Jerusalem. Paul’s fund-raising starting point is ‘the gracious act’ of Jesus who in his divinity was ‘rich’, yet for our sake ‘became poor’. Paul calls this Kenosis – self-emptying. Christians are to live this self-emptying. Our surplus should help relieve those who have little so that their needs are met. Christians need to practice a basic human equality. Can you glimpse how much Jesus has ‘let go’ by taking on our human condition and then suffering death? Some Christians have been so deeply called to imitate this they have chosen voluntary poverty. Have you made a decision how much you need to live on? And what to do with your
‘surplus’? Have you responded to the needs of the ‘poor’? How?

•The Gospel has two stories of great faith. Jairus was a leader of Liturgy at the Jewish Synagogue. It required great courage for him to approach Jesus as he could lose his job seeking the help of anʻoutsiderʼ to the Synagogue. He humbles himself and pleads for his sick daughter. Have you ever wanted to ask for help but were too embarrassed? What is it that really holds you back? What healing do you seek? Can you notice in the reading that healing often requires faith and action – and not just prayer alone? What does this inspire you to do?

• In ancient times many women would endure bleeding after childbirth. The unnamed women endured this condition for 12 years. In Jewish law, a flow of blood held her in a state of ritual uncleanliness. She was not to touch others as that would make them also ʻuncleanʼ. Can you glimpse her courage in seeking help? Walking secretly through the crowd? Her intense prayer and action in ʻtouching his clothesʼ? Her
embarrassment when asked to identify herself in public? Why do you think Jesus wanted to make this ʻpublicʼ?

• Jesus breaks two very significant social and religious barriers. Touching a dead person and being touched by an ʻuncleanʼ woman. He has made himself ʻuncleanʼ so as to make the ʻuncleanʼ ʻcleanʼ. Have you ever gone out of your way to the extent of being rejected so as to include and welcome those the group has ʻexcludedʼ? How does it feel? What is the cost to society of not doing this? How do
you experience the personal ʻcostʼ of creating the Kingdom of God?

• ʻAnd they ridiculed himʼ….. The people attached to the Synagogue, (12 tribes) are symbolically represented by the 12-year-old dead Jewish girl but are now invited to rise and believe in Jesus. So too the woman, excluded by the Jewish code of holiness for 12 years, is now made whole and welcomed by Jesus. A new people is born by faith. What does this teach us about Jesus? The Church?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail:contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ