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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Discussion Guide: Fan the Gift of God Into a Flame

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Reflection Questions

• Today is the only time this year we hear from the prophet Habakkuk. Disheartened by the violence and the harm done to the innocent he receives a vision and instruction from God. Literally, he is told to ʻwrite a sign so that those who run by may be able to read itʼ. The first Billboard! God will save the just. He is asked to trust that the Babylonian army entering Israel will ultimately serve Godʼs purpose of a renewal of faith in Israel. What disheartens you? What words of comfort have you heard from God or friends? What ʻbillboardʼ sign would you create to help and comfort people to trust in God?

• Timothy is a young man Paul appointed to lead his community in Ephesus. He is discouraged and thinking about giving up that mission. Paul encourages him to ʻstir into a flameʼ the gifts that God has given him. When we ‘stir’ a fire we stoke it to break it open and expose more oxygen and fuel so the flame burns hotter. What will help you fan the flame of your faith? What fuel and oxygen do you need? Timothy is not to be timid or ashamed of his youth and is to see his strength in God not his own abilities. Is your faith precious to guard and fan for the service of others? What gifts do you recognize and celebrate in yourself? Talk to God about how fear, shame, timidity or tired faith limits you?

• When a text is confusing it can be helpful to place the ʻtext in contextʼ. Luke 17 has a number of small teachings given by Jesus to his disciples on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus guides them on their leadership responsibilities in their future communities. They are not to cause the downfall of a ʻsingle little oneʼ (17,2). They are to forgive people in their community seven times a day (17,4)! This challenge makes the
disciples ask ʻincrease our fai1thʼ (17,5). The word ʻfaithʼ can also be understood as ʻloyaltyʼ in following the instructions of a teacher. Is there a ʻlittle oneʼ you may be bringing down by a poor example? Is there anyone you find difficult to forgive seven times?

• The disciples do not ask for more teaching. They ask for help in surrendering more fully to God. Write a one line prayer asking for deeper trust in and surrender to God.

• A servant was normally working in the fields or in domestic house work. Strikingly this servant is doing ʻdouble dutiesʼ and is expected to do so without complaining. Society today expects individuals to be accoladed for their service. Yet Jesus calls disciples to servant leadership; the ʻdouble dutyʼ of gentle, faithful servant leadership and extravagant forgiveness is a minimum for discipleship in Christ. What are your
struggles with servant leadership ?

• The idea of obedience is very unpopular today. The image of Master and Servant can stir up feelings and resentments. Expectations are often the source of those feelings. “I should (should not) have been treated…” What are your expectations about ʻservingʼ God? How comfortable are with the identity of being an obedient servant? A joyful servant sees the gift in work and delights in serving. They know
their housing, responsibilities, food and needs will be provided for. Can you trust God to provide? Am I able to say truthfully ʻI am simply a servantʼ? What are your frequent feelings about your expectations and identity?

• 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,  Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: God’s Astonishing Mercy

Readings: Is. 43:16-21, Phil. 3:8-14, Gospel Jn 8:1-11

Image result for Jesus "Go and sin no more"

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 horseman 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 honor 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 starting 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?

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

N.B.  in communities that are welcoming candidates for Baptism at Easter, different readings may be used for the ‘Rite of Scrutinies’ this Sunday.

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz   Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Generous Good Measure – God’s Way of Living and Giving

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49,  Gospel: Luke 6:27-38 

Reflection QSee the source imageuestions

1] David and around 600 men are living in caves in the desert of Ziph. King Saul brings 3,000 elite troops to hunt and kill him (Consider reading 1 Samuel as a short story.) After David killed Goliath, Saul kept David close, made him chief commander and his son-in-law. But soon, filled with fear and jealous insecurity he plots to kill David. In this episode, David and Abishai have the chance to kill Saul but David refuses; “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Contrast David’s wisdom, constraint and wit with Abishai, who though brave and faithful is quick to act rashly without thought. Have you ever felt condemned by someone you trusted? How does David deal with his desire for revenge? What qualities does David use that might help us in our relationships with people in authority?

2] Continuing his teaching on Resurrection St Paul says that when Jesus rose from the dead, he became ‘life-giving spirit’ releasing the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world. Our human body grows throughout life. While not describing our resurrected bodies, Paul makes it clear that real transformation takes place. Remember Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and was never the same again. When we enter relationship with God, a real encounter takes place and in some way the mystery of becoming part of the body of Christ transforms us, while also allowing for us to continue to grow more deeply into the perfect image of the ‘heavenly one’. As you reflect on that mystery what do you most want to ask God for? What area of your life needs transforming? How do you need to grow, in order to become more like Christ?
3] The sermon on the mount continues with very challenging teaching from Jesus. The Gospel is in some sense acted out in the story of David and Saul. What links do you see between the two readings?
4] When you reflect on the Gospel what teaching stands out most for you? Talk with God about why that strikes you and what area of your life, God is inviting you to open to His transforming life-giving Spirit?
5] The so called ‘golden rule’ says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Abuse in any form is an abomination. How can we adhere to these radical teachings of Christ and still stay safe, respecting our own bodies and needs in the face of violence or abuse? How can we be merciful to those enduring violence and ill treatment?
6] The Jews listening to Jesus despised the Romans because they were occupying their land and controlling their freedom. Soldiers routinely insulted Jews demanding they carry their loads, give up their cloaks and worse. So, the teaching to ‘love your enemies and do good to them’ was profoundly shocking. Jesus explains that our mercy needs to be abundant like Gods. A merchant who gives a ‘good measure’ pours grain into your container, presses it down, shakes it, presses, shakes and fills again. As a result, your contents are compressed. You continue receiving grain until your container is literally running over the sides ‘into your lap.’ You only pay for that one container but it gets filled with far more than seems possible. Use your imagination in prayer and see yourself receiving from God like that. How does it feel? Ask God for the grace to give and forgive like that?
7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ.
Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com     Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Turning Toward God

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Gn 9:8-15/1 Pt 3:18-22/Mk 1:12-15 

Reflection Questions

• The season of Lent begins with the receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you were not able to attend Ash Wednesday ask your priest if he could mark the ashes on your forehead with a prayer on Sunday. Or you may consider placing your thumb in soil and marking yourself with the sign of the cross. It takes a physical experience to remind us of something beginning. Consider Ash Wednesday like arriving at the starting line of a race. We need to be present and committed – when the starting gun goes
off we need ‘begin’ the journey to the finish line of Easter. Are you psychologically ‘ready’? What will the
spiritual practices of ‘Prayer’ ‘Fasting’ and ‘Alms-Giving’ involve for your daily / weekly routine?
• In the season of Lent, the First and Gospel readings are not specifically linked, but independently teach us a truth about God and ourselves. The word describing the ‘Ark’ built by Noah, is also used for the ark carrying baby moses tosafety, the ark holding the special tablets of the commandments and symbolic of the Ark of the Church. God has made a covenant / promise to protect and be with those who belong to him. Have you ever had an experience or sign showing God’s protection for you? Can you see the Church as an ‘Ark’ today? How?

•The Second readings of Lent teach us the meaning of Baptism. The cleansing of Baptism waters is not
washing away physical dirt, but literally a ‘putting away of filth’ as one now living in Christ. Lent becomes a time of renewed effort in living our christian identity. What do you recognise needs to be ‘put away’ from your life? What is the first step on this journey?
• Jesus responded to the Spirits inspiration into the Desert. To help create a prayer-full lent, what place
and time each day can you identify that will work for you? How could you symbolise beginning this journey?
• Being in the desert for 40 days links to Israel being in the desert for 40 years. A time of testing, proving loyalty, closer union with God. As Adults, Lent is not a season for child-like practices of giving up lollies. It is a journey facing struggle and sin, being ʻtestedʼ, proving my loyalty to God. Is my Lenten commitment serious enough? Do I consider it will bring me closer to God?
• “The angels ministered to him.” God does not leave us alone. Angels are provided. Literally, Angels mean ʻgood message bearersʼ. In my Lenten journey and wilderness experience who are some ʻangelsʼ that God may have already placed in my life to support me but I have not responded to. Is there someone you could ask to accompany you on your journey of Lent? It could be just the help you need!
• Repent and believe the gospel. This is Jesusʼ first public words ever spoken. The Greek word is metanoia – change, physically turn your life around. What do I know needs to change to find wholeness in my life?
• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: Enter and Live Lent Deeply

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Jl 2:12-18/2 Cor 5:20—6:2/Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Reflection Questions
• What word, sentence or idea struck you from the readings?
• What do you think God may be personally trying to say to you?
• “thoroughly wash me from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps50) God does not want us to stay
in sadness and guilt but to grow from our experiences in wisdom, in compassion…. what wisdom might
my ʻsinʼ be teaching me? What do I need to do to move on?
• Now is a very acceptable time – Lent is a special time, but only works if we make it important. Is there any decision I have been putting off? Having I been waiting
for the right ʻtimeʼ? What decisions could I make for Lent to grow in freedom, in forgiveness, in
holiness…..?

Traditional Lenten Practices
• Prayer – seeking to listen to God: try finding a time and place each day to be with God?
• Fasting – seeking to be free of what is unnecessary: try giving up music in the car, internet, video games, some television, and fill it with a practice that helps you reflect on life?
• Almsgiving – seeking to care for those in need: try focusing on a particular need you know about and giving either your time or money to a person or cause. Check with God how much! We only need to imagine the renewed and healed world if all were to make a commitment to these spiritual practices. What decision will you make to enter and live Lent deeply?

Discussion Guide for 24th Sunday Year A 

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Reflection Questions

• The Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) was also known as the ‘Church Book’ as it was used to instruct new candidates for Baptism with all its lessons of wisdom for living. Today, forgiveness is the theme. Are you ‘hugging tightly’ any anger or resentment? What behaviour is this causing in your life?

• Breaking the chain of hurt, unforgiveness, violence is extremely difficult. Can you ‘remember the Most High’s covenant’ (the forgiveness of our sins on the cross) and knowing our faults have been overlooked… ‘overlook faults’?

• Today is the final Sunday this year we hear from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Tensions existed between Jews who kept all their ‘laws’ and customs faithfully, and Gentiles who did not feel the obligation of the ‘laws’ and ‘customs’ of the Jews. Do you identify with a particular ‘group’ within
the Church? Do you create barriers and ill feeling toward ‘others’ not in ‘your group’? Paul reminds us we are not individuals or ‘groups’ but one. How could you be an agent of ‘unity’?

• Encouraged from the previous Gospel episode of forgiveness, Peter asks Jesus precisely how generous does one have to be toward someone whohas sinned. Rabbi’s taught three times. Peter suggests a large and generous amount using the perfect number 7. Jesus pronounces an uncountable amount: 77 (double
perfection!). Justice and its strict legal prescription is to be overwhelmed by Mercy and God’s love. Do you have a struggle with forgiveness? Acceptance of or Giving of? Consider what you need to do.

• 10,000 talents is very descriptive. 10,000 is the largest number in Jewish Arithmetic. And the word ‘talent’ is a greek word for a weight of metal. It is the largest unit of measurement. 10,000 talents is equal to our phrase ‘billions of dollars’. It is an unrepayable debt. Strikingly it is ‘forgiven’. This same servant then refuses to ‘forgive’ someone owing him $100. He has been unmoved by the forgiveness
offered him. Have you allowed God’s forgiveness on the cross to profoundlychange you? How could you express your acceptance of God’s incredible forgiveness?

• A parable has within it the seed of subversion of the currently established patterns of operating. The King (God) in the parable offers forgiveness, and yet the full meaning of the parable indicates this forgiveness is conditional. The receiver is expected in turn to forgive. This is dangerous and unexpected. God could change and take back an earlier decision?
What will happen to me? What does living forgiveness involve for me?

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

Discussion Guide is Here


Reflection Questions

• Ezekial is regarded as one of the 3great prophets (Behind Isaiah and Jeremiah). Ezekiel is both a priest and
a prophet and is speaking during a time of Exile away from Home. Without temple practises, faithfulness to the laws of God kept Jewish identity and preserved unity. Ezekiel provides a powerful image of a ‘watchman’, standing, watching, ‘looking out’ for dangers that may be approaching your family. God’s family. Have you had the courage to ‘say anything and warn others’? What happens without ‘watchmen’? Are you challenged into action knowing that your salvation is at stake? What do you feel needs to be spoken of in your family? Community? Parish?
• To love your neighbour as your own flesh is a striking challenge. Jewish interpretation wriggled around the challenge by regarding one’s ‘neighbour’ as their own Jewish citizens. This allowed Jews not to care for ‘outsiders’. Ponder the essential challenge of loving everyone as your own flesh. In what ways have you wriggled out of the challenge?
• Matthew 18 is dedicated to life inside the Christian community. How is the community of Jesus supposed to
respond to hurts and arguments that come from living together? A pattern is
developed to avoid hurting and shaming those involved. Private conversation, then semi-privateconversation and only as a last resort a public church decision. Reconciliation is not ‘brooding’ in silence. Is there anyone you need to
approach ‘face to face’?
• Have you experienced the importance of a wise person to help ensure ‘every fact is established on the testimony of two or three’. Anger and resentment cripple christian hearts and disciples. Who are your ‘two or three’ guides to help your reconciliation journey?
• Treating a person like a Gentile or tax collector can be interpreted two ways.
If reconciliation does not result, do we exclude or offer continued hopeful patience? What did Jesus do?
• The goal of Christian community is to witness to the world the love of Christ with each other. The authority to bind and loose is given by Jesus to the community in the context of prayer and agreement together. Is there need for prayer and discernment with a group about decisions you (or your ministry group, parish…) are making?
• Jesus makes a promise where two or more are in agreement in prayer it shall be granted to them. What prayer
request would you like to share with friends. Who could you invite into your prayer / voice to God?
• What is one action that you will do to‘livetheword’ this week?

Download Good Friday Readings

Spend time today aware that you too are the beloved disciple standing with Mary at the foot of the cross.  Reflect on the depth of God’s love for you and every person.

 

Download Palm Sunday Document

Reflection Questions:

  • On Palm Sunday we wave ʻpalmsʼ in remembrance of Jesusʼ procession into Jerusalem. We cry ʻHosannaʼ (in Hebrew meaning ʻSave Us Now). What is your expectation of God ʻsaving usʼ? Are you willing to let go of a strong powerful military figure and allow a ʻsuffering servantʼ? On a donkey? What do you think happened in the minds and hearts of the crowd gathered to eventually cry ʻcrucify himʼ?
  • Palm Sunday is also called ʻPassionʼSunday as we listen to the whole story of Jesusʼ personal betrayal by his disciples, his court appearance before religious and political rulers, his rejection by previously welcoming crowds, his cruel whipping and torture by soldiers. Watch, listen, feel the violence. Where does such cruelty
  • originate from in the world? Why does the world seek a ʻvictimʼ?
  • ‘He made no answer’. The silence of Jesus as Pontius Pilate questions and interrogates him is striking. Have youever been tempted to argue your way out of a difficult situation to ‘save yourself’. Jesus’ silence is a deep act of trust in God. How would you have behaved in this situation?
  • It may be a surprise to learn that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as a bunch of revolutionaries from Galilee, hanging out in parks, carrying swords, wanted and hunted by police. How would such a group be considered today? In the Church?
  • Jesusʼ sufferings ʻunmasksʼ and reveals the worldʼs violence and cruelty. Jesus responds peacefully in interrogation. Heals a soldier’s ear. Asks the Father to forgive. Welcomes criminals to heaven. Commits his spirit into the hands of the Father. Is Jesus a ʻdoor-matʼ or a ʻsaviourʼ? How?
  • Soldiers make a game of teasing Jesus. He is stripped, humiliated, hit, played with as a ‘game’. Consider in the world today soldiers abusing innocent people. Can you feel their pain? Pray for them and soldiers in places of terror and oppression today.
  • Simon from Cyrene did not want to lift the heavy wooden cross of Jesus. Have you ever felt you were in thewrong place at the wrong time and got a heavy job? Has someone in great need crossed your path recently? Do you run away from people suffering?
  • The veil of the sanctuary was a large thick curtain that separated the ‘holy of holies’ from the rest of the temple. It was the sacred place where God’s presence was known to dwell sitting on the ‘mercy seat’ (that held the 10 commandments). The gospel of Matthew paints with words the truth that here on the cross is the new ‘mercy seat’ where God dwells. Spend time with a crucifix this week and ponder what you see.
  • What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

christ-the-king-risen-medal-crucifix-cross-pendant-2c53918fce161ef44940873785e5f1a1-1

Download Feast of Christ the King

Reflection Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. The Church places before us the paradox of Christ the KING. Instead of a royal procession, Jesus rode a donkey. Instead of a scepter 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?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?