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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

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?

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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?

Download 24th Sunday Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Turning to God and receiving Godʼs forgiveness is at the centre of the readings this week. In the first reading God has just revealed his ʻnameʼ and ʻfaceʼ to Moses and given Israel guidelines for their living (10 Commandments). Israel is pictured as restless. They have been waiting for Moses to reveal God to them. They give up waiting. They want something ʻvisibleʼ. They make an ʻidolʼ of a golden calf – an ancient symbol of fertility, life, fruitfulness. Godʼs love and tenderness meets human rebellion. Have you had an experience of ʻwaitingʼ for God? Did you decide to make a ʻcalfʼ instead? Is there anything today you are ʻwaitingʼ for God to show you? Have you taken the time to listen to his ʻwordʼ or sought the advice of a ʻMosesʼ whom God wishes to speak through? Who is a Moses figure you could go to?
  2. The second reading is omitted so as to focus upon the Parable of Mercy – the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Jesus is seeking to shatter a human misunderstanding and image of God. Who would go after 1 lost sheep and leave 99? Who would tip upside down a house to find 1 coin? Who would welcome home without question a son who wished his Father dead and totally disgraced the family in public?! The Father is an image of what God is truly like – wanting to find whoever is lost, and embracing with forgiveness all who have sinned. What ʻimageʼ of God do you have in your heart and mind from your family and religious experience? What fresh image or new understanding attracts you in Luke 15?
  3. Tax Collectors and Sinners were excited but Pharisees and Scribes were complaining. The religious issue was who does God ʻincludeʼ and welcome into the heavenly ʻbanquetʼ (heaven). Some could not accept Jesusʼ inclusivity as it turned their religious world-view ʻupside downʼ. What is the deep reason the older son wants to exclude his younger brother? Is this attitude present in your life?
  4. The young son commits the biggest sin possible for a young Jewish person (asking for the inheritance was like wishing Dad was ‘dead’). Yet the father’s love does not change. Do you feel distant from God because of something you have done …. will you accept the love that the Father shows to his child is the same love that is shown to you? Would you accept this love is given to you in the sacrament of reconciliation? What holds you back?
  5. Identify the thoughts and feelings of each character, the younger son, the older brother, the Father. Which character do you identify more strongly with? Why?
  6. The Father does a number of humiliating actions which show the depth of his love. The Father runs in public. It was unbecoming for a Jewish elder to show one’s ankles in public. It is the equivalent of ‘baring one’s bottom’. The crowds attention is now drawn away from the son and the possibility of hurting him. The father accepts the humiliation, in front of the whole community, of the older son angry and argumentative. Does the older son wish the father was dead too? Does anyone appreciate the Fathers love? If this is what God is like toward you what is your response?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be livingthewordʼ this week?

Download 11th Sunday Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Imagine a great religious and political leader committing adultery and trying to cover up the pregnancy with the secret killing of the husband. This is actually what has happened with the great leader of Israel – King David (see 2 Sam 11). David moves from covering up to confession. God forgives David. What strikes you about Godʼ s forgiveness? The painful consequences of sin? What is your experience?
  2. King David is thought to have composed the famous Psalm 51 expressing heartfelt sorrow for sin. If you were to have a heartfelt conversation with God what words would you use? Use Psalm 51 to help you. Consider making use of the sacrament of confession this coming week. What obstacles do you need to overcome to experience Godʼ s waiting embrace?
  3. Paul is responding to a big question: Am I acceptable to God? Jewish people in the Galatian community were trying to convince new christian disciples they still had to observe all the Jewish laws to be ʻrightʼ  and acceptable to God. Paul, who was a very law-abiding Pharisee cries No! Human frailty eventually breaks the law and observing ʻ lawsʼ  pales in comparison to what has been given in Jesus! God has come among us, taught us, forgiven us, revealed the resurrection to us. Faith is entering into the embrace of Godʼ s acceptance for us in Jesus. What is your response? How could you accept the ʻacceptanceʼ of God?
  4. Paul paints a powerful picture. ‘I have been crucified with Christ’. Imagine each day climbing onto the cross – arms extended in an embrace of our broken world – like Christ giving of his body and blood on the cross to heal the world. Is your life lived with arms open generously or arms tightly closed in self preservation?
  5. Some cultural information behind this parable is helpful for reflection. Hospitality was always to be shown to guests. Water to wash feet, hands. Perfume / oil to annoint oneʼ s head. Simon shows no hospitality to Jesus. Women were also conditioned only to show and let down their hair for their husband. The woman is showing very intimate actions of love toward Jesus. What now strikes you in this parable?
  6. Simon the Pharisee and the Woman who was regarded as a ʻ sinnerʼ in the town are both struggling with who is ʻacceptable to Godʼ . The Pharisee thought only people keeping all the rules and laws were satisfying the ʻpurityʼ code of being ʻ cleanʼ and therefore ʻ rightʼ  with God. Simon is horrified that Jesus allows a sinful woman to ʻtouchʼ him and thereby make him ʻ uncleanʼ. What is Simonʼ s deep theological problem?
  7. Imagine someone releasing you of a debt of a year and a half of your wages. Or 3 months of your wages. What would your feelings be? Would this experience find expression in any action? What is the greatest ʻ releaseʼ  experience you have had. Did it change your lifestyle in any way?
  8. The quality and image of discipleship between the Woman and Simon is different. What attracts you? Why?
  9. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Reflection documents

Holy Thursday – The Eucharist is for the soul what food is for the body

Good Friday – God’s judgement on the world is forgiveness

Easter Vigil – Don’t be afraid Jesus has overcome all evil