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Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

Discussion Guide:       7th Sunday Yr. C – Allow Christ to Transform You

 

Luke 6:27-38 Archives – PottyPadre

Reflection Questions:

1] David and around 600 men are living incaves 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 God’s. 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?

Discussion Guide:    6th Sunday Yr. C – Trust in God and Live the Beatitudes

 

Matthew 5:1-12 - Holy Textures

Reflection Questions:

1]Jeremiah shares a blessing and curse prophecy which is frequent in the Old Testament. It is designed to wake us up and help us think. He warns against trusting in mere mortals. Even powerful personalities can lead us astray. Only the Lord is worthy of our trust and when we invite God to guide our lives, even disaster won’t destroy us. Allow your imagination to ponder the two images – a barren bush in the dry salty desert versus a tree always bearing fruit beside a stream. What strikes you as you see yourself in these images?

2]Trust and fear are often linked. What do you most fear losing in life? Talk to God about how that impacts your trust.

3] St Paul speaks to some in Corinth who do not believe in the Resurrection. They struggle to believe that our bodies could be glorified in heaven. St Paul makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection is central to our Faith which becomes ‘most pitiable’ unless we believe Jesus is Lord. His birth, life and teaching, death, resurrection and ascension are one continuous salvation event. God reveals his eternal love and desire that we be with Him forever and then provides the way where we become one with Christ through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. As you reflect on your Baptism  what links can you see between Baptism and Resurrection? N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’ Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth the life of heaven.” How do you react to that statement?

4]We never say Jesus ‘has’ risen. We proclaim, ‘Jesus IS Risen’. “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Our belief in the resurrection of our bodies(Creed) is established through the Resurrection of Christ. How deep is your conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and how does that impact your daily choices and decisions? Who do you really put your trust in? Talk with God about your belief or struggles. Try praying, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

5]Jesus has just spent the night in prayer, chosen the twelve (his team!) and he sits them down. The stage is set for his most important teaching: The Beatitudes. Nowhere in Luke does the Gospel challenge us so severely. What are my ultimate pursuits? What world order am I living for? What measurement system of success am I committed to? Am I on the side of the poor and hungry or the rich and the full? What does your lifestyle and actions show? Are you good news to the poor? (note Luke means primarily economically poor not the tamer ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew). We sometimes speak of these teachings as “BE-Attitudes”. It seems that the choices we make ‘now’ will impact us for eternity. What do you think Jesus means?

6]The Beatitudes bring together a clashing of two ideas and worldviews. It causes a conflict within us. All things being equal, to have riches and to be full is a good. But the of our world is inequality. The status quo is unacceptable for God and Jesus’ disciples. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes does not let Christians off the hook. There will be a radical reversal of fortune in God’s judgement. Woe to you who are rich, filled, who can laugh now. How can I proclaim, ‘Jesus is Lord’ with integrity and not take this teaching seriously? What is your reaction?

7]How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:  2nd Sunday Advent Yr. C – Prepare Your Hearts to Welcome the King!

 

 

Luke 3:6 NIV

Reflection Questions:

• The Prophet Baruch shares a beautiful image for Advent. Have you noticed when you take off ʻold clothesʼ and put on ʻnew clothesʼ there is a sense of joy and a new ʻattitudeʼ. In ancient times, when a significant transformation happened a ʻnew nameʼ was also given. Like last week, Jerusalem – which is us in the Church today – is invited to prepare by shaking off the old and putting on ʻthe cloak of justiceʼ. And, our new name is to be ʻPeace of Justiceʼ. What old ways of mourning and misery would you like to leave behind this advent season? How could your life reflect God’s hope for you of ʻpeaceʼ and ʻjusticeʼ, ʻgloryʼ and ʻworshipʼ?

• The city of Jerusalem is on a hill. The view from the top of the Temple could see all peoples coming from every direction. Can you glimpse Godʼs hope wanting us to stand up and invite everyone ʻhomeʼ to Church this Christmas? Through us, mountains and gorges – difficult pathways – will be made ‘level ground’ so people can return easily. Mercy and justice will be our story and song. Do you know anyone who is experiencing an obstacle to returning to God? The Church? What earthmoving help could you offer personally to them?

• Paul had a special place in his heart for the Community at Philippi. Paul wrote this letter to them while in prison, facing a death sentence. They had provided financial assistance for his missionary journeys and now supported him in prison. He invites them to discern what is of value in their lives. At the end of the year consider evaluating your life positively: what has helped you in purity? What areas of your life are blameless? How have you shown righteousness? How could you develop these experiences and practices more?

• Righteousness is an interesting word. In the Old Testament it was a title that was given by the poor to those who ʻlifted up the poorʼ. A rich person could not give this title to themselves. Reflecting upon the year, would the ʻpoorʼ give you the title ʻrighteousʼ? In what ways have you lifted them up? Was it charity or justice?

• Luke, like St Paul, is aware of a claim by courts and rulers that these christian disciples are ʻmadʼ. Making up strange stories! Luke insists the evidence and life of Jesus is historical. Christianity started in a particular place and time in history. In the 15th year… etc. With a great twist Luke lines up the different rulers of the time. Traditionally when rulers returned victorious from battle, people would line the streets and shout triumphantly: ʻLord, Saviour!ʼ Luke is turning attention to the true Saviour – Jesus – whose preparation victory voice is John the Baptist. How would you personally describe Jesus as ʻsaviourʼ?

• Celebrating the advent practice of reconciliation (confession) encourages us to ʻprepare our heartsʼ. When a great King visited a city, workers were sent to straighten pathways, cut into mountains, level valleys. Consider the effort involved to welcome the King! Reflect on this image and the famous words of John. What needs to be straightened out and filled in? How much effort will you put into Advent?

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

Discussion Guide:  Feast of Christ the King Yr. A – Can the ‘poor’ call you righteous?

 

A Modern Interpretation Of Matthew 25:31 #1852637 - PNG Images - PNGio

Reflection Questions:  • The Feast of Christ the King was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 responding to the ills of the time: The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, spread of facism, Church’s loss of political power, decadence of 1920’s. Instead of simply writing a Church document which are read by only a few, Pius XI recognised a ‘Feast’ of the Church would be celebrated by the whole Church every year and speak not only to the mind but also to the heart. At first it was celebrated at the end of October but it now rests at the very end of the Liturgical year to enhance the experience of meeting Christ at the ‘end of time’.

• In a farming culture, the image of a Shepherd and Sheep was extremely special. Israel saw it as an image of God looking after them. Ezekiel uses this image and creates a picture of what God ‘will’ do (11 times!). Tend. Rescue. Pasture. Rest. Seek out. Bring back. Bind up. Heal. Destroy. Judge. What word speaks more to your life at the moment? Have you experienced a call to shepherd  others?

•St Paul provides an image of the vital role the Church plays in history today. The ‘absence’ of Christ after his resurrection and our waiting for his final ‘return’ actually involves Christ working through the witness and works of the Church. Through our following ‘the way of Christ’ various powers and authorities are ‘overcome’ so that everything will eventually fall ‘under his feet’. What powers and sovereignties do you see at work in the world today which require christians to do ‘battle’?

• The Gospel of Matthew this year finishes with the scene of the Final Judgement. Interestingly, the final scene refers to something going on ‘now’. It is a judgement according to ‘works’ and ‘care of the poor’ (not faith and attendance at Mass). If you knew life’s final exam question for entry to heaven and it required showing ‘practical experience of care of the poor’ what would you do? Are you doing it ‘now’? Does the final question of life shock or surprise you? Matthew is pointing, finally, to Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Is your love truly extending to your neighbour in need?

• Separating sheep (honorable) from goats (shameful) was a daily ‘end of the day’ task for shepherds. Goats were not as strong and did not manage the cold. Goats allowed male goats to access other female goats which was also considered a shameful behaviour. An honorable life is a ‘righteous’ life – where we show by our actions a care for those in need. Interestingly, the title ‘righteous’ was a title given by the poor to those who helped them. At the end of time would any of the ‘poor’ stand in your defence and give you the title ‘righteous’?

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

Discussion Guide: Feast of the Holy Family

See the source image

Reflection Questions

•Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. Each of the readings reflects on living family life in a way that leads to ‘holiness’.

•The Book of Wisdom – or Sirach – reflects on the commandment to honour parents in every stage of their life. Implied is a respectful relationship between parents and children. Our covenant relationship with God mirrors our relationship to parents. This relationship is expressed through prayer, obedience, justice & forgiveness. Consider the challenges of raising a family. What is the promise for our kindness to parents? How can respect apply in broken families? We are called to be considerate and caring even as parents age. What does this passage say to us about euthanasia, dementia and the elderly?

•Family life has struggles and difficulties. The Community of Colossae that Paul is writing to, is struggling greatly with Jewish Christians welcoming ‘Gentiles’ – (Greeks) into the Christian community ‘family’. St Paul writes about the ‘Family Code’ also called the ‘Holiness Code’. We are all called to ‘put on’ the white garment of baptism and the new life of Jesus that we live. In the Church (or your Family), who is included or excluded?  Which attitude could be practiced more by you in your ‘family’? How could ‘peace’ control your hearts? The Scriptures depict journey as a path to life and holiness. How can the ‘journey’ motif encourage you?

• Subordinate (“under”) reflects the customs of the early Roman times. Christians were keen to live by the ‘family code’ to show Roman authorities that they were not dangerous to government. Is order in family life healthy? What ‘order’ do you have in the family? Home? How is ‘bitterness’ resolved? What arguments arise over children’s behaviour or obedience? What attitudes or behaviours provoke or discourage your children? Does the Word of God dwell richly in your home? Is there any singing and praying and showing gratitude to God?

• Joseph is revealed as a man who faithfully responds four times to amessage from an angel. 1st to take Mary – pregnant – home to be his wife. 2nd to become a refugee and take his wife and newborn baby into a foreign land (Egypt). 3rd to return to Israel with an uncertain political leader and future. 4th responding to a warning about where to live. Imagine yourself in each of these 4 examples. What do you learn about Joseph? What would Mary’s experience have been at each of these moments? What does this teach you about the ‘Holy Family’? Listening prayer is discernment and wisdom: it is being attentive to inspiration & circumstances through prayer. How can Joseph be our
guide?

•What is one action you can take to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com
livingtheword resources by Fr Frank Bird sm, of the Society of Mary and Bev McDonald www.maristlaitynz.org.

Discussion Guide: Feast of Christ the King

Dan.7:13-14, Rev. 1:5-8, John 18:33-37

See the source image

Reflection Questions

  • As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, there is an urgency in the readings to ‘prepare’ and ‘be ready’ for the end of time. Fr Anthony De Mello, a famous preacher and teacher once began a retreat by asking: Hands up if you want to go to heaven. All eagerly put their hands up. He responded. Hands up if you want to go to heaven now. No hands went up. He suggested they think about why they were ‘not ready’ and he walked out of the room! If Jesus’ birth at Christmas was also the ‘second coming’ what would you be inspired to do so that you were ‘ready’ for Christ?
  • The Book of Daniel is written to encourage Jewish people during a time of great persecution. Mighty armies, Kings, powerful empires would cease and be
    silenced by the ‘Son of Man’. This is an enthronement vision of Jesus before God the Father. In the midst of super-powers and battles for resources and status do you view the world and history with ‘hope’ that the way of Jesus will be victorious? When you look at the cross of Jesus do you see only pain? Or victory?
  • Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning ‘revelation’ or ‘unveiling’. Apocalyptic writing seeks to give hope to those suffering. It will end. Jesus will triumph.
    This truth has been ‘unveiled’ in visions which make up the Book of Revelation. 666 (the Beast) was the spelling of Nero Caesar in the Semitic alphabet who blamed Christians for the devastating fires of Rome around 90 AD. Domitian who persecuted Christians in the East around 95 AD was thought to be Nero come back to life. What form of persecution do you experience as a Christian? How may the words of Revelation encourage you: Jesus (was) is faithful. Was raised from death. Rules over all kings. Loves, frees and forgives our sins by his blood. Made  us priests – called to bring the world to God and God to the world. How could your persecution become an opportunity for witness? For God?
  • In Year B readings on the Feast of Christ the King, Mark readings are left aside in favour of the Gospel of John and a curious debate about the meaning of ʻKingʼ. Jesus is face-to-face with Pilate symbolising secular and political power. Pilate asks: Is Jesus a ʻworldly kingʼ or the mysterious Jewish figure spoken of as Messiah? Jesus teaches ʻkingʼ and ʻkingdomʼ need a new definition to cope with Godʼs viewpoint. Such a king and kingdom has not existed in ʻthe worldʼ. The Kingdom of God involves not being served, but serving. Non violence. The true ʻKingʼ is one who gives his life ʻfor othersʼ not seeking wealth comfort and personal security. Jesus ʻcame into the worldʼ to bring this reality and truth into existence. What ʻkingdomʼ do you ʻbelongʼ to? Domination, Power, Prestige or Love, Justice, Service? Pilate or Jesus? Is the kingdom better expressed in words or actions?
  • Pilate will soon wash his hands in water and pretend not to be involved in the brutality and bloodshed soon to happen to Jesus. How do you pretend not to be involved in the injustices of the world in the newspaper, television news? Consider the phrase: early christians followed before they worshipped, Christians today worship and refuse to follow.
  • 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 download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide for Winning the World, Heart by Heart.

Dn 12:1-3, Heb. 10:11-14, 18, Gospel Mk 13:24-32

Image result for Salvador Dali Christ in Perspective

Reflection Questions

  • In the context of the Church’s liturgy, the 33rd Sunday is only one week away from the end of the year. Next week is Christ The King. Liturgically we enter an atmosphere of reaching the ‘end of time’. Because of this pattern todays readings have an apocalyptic atmosphere of end time struggle and judgement.
  • Daniel means ‘My judge is God’. The Book of Daniel is written during a time of great persecution when Antiochus Epiphanes is forcing Jews to convert to
    pagan gods. Here is the first time in Hebrew scriptures that a resurrection of the faithful is mentioned. God is the master of history. All those ‘in the book’
    who ‘shine brightly’ and lead people on the way to ‘justice’ will be like stars living forever. Examine your own life. How would the statement ‘my judge is God’ shape your life? Antiochus may not be forcing you to eat pigs flesh (abhorent and unclean to Jews) but what idols or practices are you subtly invited to ‘eat’?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews concludes. We are taught about the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilling and finishing the Old Testament sacrifices. Notice the image of the Old Testament Priest ‘standing’ and working each day. Jesus, after the sacrifice of the cross, now being ‘seated’ and waiting for the time of gathering. Consider the victory and offer of forgiveness that has taken place on the cross. Imagine a winning sports team lifting the captain high onto their shoulders with winning trophy held high! This sacrifice of the cross – like a trophy – is held by the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine into the sacrifice and body and blood of Jesus. We stand together rejoicing. And we receive this sacrifice as a sacred forgiveness and communion meal
    bringing us into a total physical and spiritual union with God and each other. Do you see the depth and great celebration taking place at Mass? What
    would you like to learn more about? Who could you ask?
  • The Book of Daniel and The Book of Revelation are apocalyptic writings ʻunveilingʼ a vision of what will take place at the end of time. Each Gospel inserts
    some apocalyptic passages pointing toward that final day. The images of the sun darkened, stars falling, heavenly struggle, share a cosmic event affecting
    all of creation. Have you noticed that at the crucifixion of Jesus these images appear. Could this mean that the final ʻeventʼ and ʻstruggleʼ and ʻvictoryʼ has taken place on the cross? Could this be why the early disciples were so expectant of Jesusʼ return before ʻthis generation passed awayʼ?
  • Why the delay in the second coming is a question asked by Christians. Why is Jesus sitting ʻwaitingʼ in heaven as portrayed in Hebrews? The Gospel points to a ʻgathering of the elect from the four corners of the earthʼ. Will this require all the earth to ʻhear the message of Jesusʼ? Is Jesus lazy on a heavenly chair or waiting urgently to work in the Church, in the sacraments, in each disciple, winning the world ʻheart by heartʼ? How do you understand christian ʻwaitingʼ for the second coming?
  • ʻThat day or hourʼ is unknown. That it will happen is certain, when it will happen is uncertain. Consider a spiritual practice of imagination prayer. Present yourself to Jesus at the end of time. What does he say? What do you say?
  • 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 download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for Abandon Yourself in Trust to God

1 Kgs 17:10-16, Heb. 9:24-28, Gospel Mk 12:38-44

Image result for elijah widow oil

Reflection Questions

  • Behind the scenes of the first reading is a show of strength by God (Yahweh) over the worshippers of Baal (the god of fertility, rain, nature). Ahaz, the King of Israel, married Jezebel, allowed her to import her Baal priests and eventually she attempted to convert everyone to Baal worship. Elijah showed Gods strength by killing the priests of Baal and then proclaiming a drought as punishment on the land and teaching them that Yahweh is more powerful than Baal. Elijah himself has become hungry and thirsty. God tells him to go to Zarephath. This town was ‘enemy’ territory as it was the home of Jezebel’s Father! He would be met by a woman who would help him. A widow is on her last meal and desperate for survival. Open to God and showing hospitality she responds to Elijah. Her response is blessed by God…. ‘she was able to eat for a year…..’ Imagine this scene. Reflect on the obedience and trust of both Elijah and the Widow. Do you trust God? How could you show it?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews paints a picture of the special Feast of Atonement described in Lev 16. The Priest would take blood into the Tent (Holy of Holies) and cover the mercy seat with blood to represent forgiveness of sins. The Priest would then appear at the entrance to the tent and announce forgiveness. Jesus has not just entered a ʻtentʼ but ʻheavenʼ and his own blood has been offered as a ʻsacrifice to take away sinʼ. He will return – not to take away sin – butto welcome all those who eagerly await him. Do you look forward to Jesusʼ second coming? Does Sunday Mass give you an experience of ʻsalvationʼ ʻat-one-mentʼ where the Priest is holding up the gift of our reconciliation and communion with God?
  • Scribes were experts at knowing and interpreting the religious laws of the Jewish People. When a Husband died, a widow was vulnerable and often without support if a ʻbrother in lawʼ did not choose to marry her. With few legal rights, scribes at times became care-takers of widows property. They were supposed to protect the vulnerable but often ʻdevouredʼ the house and property of widows charging a commission for their services. At the same time they pretended to be ʻholyʼ and continued to wear their temple garb into the streets to attract attention. Jesus does not condemn the role of someone interpreting the laws but invites authenticity. Who today is a modern ʻwidowʼ – vulnerable and in need of care? In what ways would Jesusʼ words challenge the Church, Priests, Theologians, Lawyers, Politicians?
  • The ʻtreasuryʼ was 13 trumpet shaped containers that collected the coins, tithes and contributions of people at the Temple. A poor widow places all she has, in contrast to rich people giving to God something of their surplus. Love of God and Love of Neighbour will actually look like something. Is God honored by laws, lengthy prayers, long robes, large sums…. or the complete total trust and surrender of the poor widow with her 2 cents?
  • Jesus now leaves the Temple and walks toward the event of his total and complete self-giving to the Father for the salvation of the world. Like the widows in the readings today he will ʻhold nothing backʼ from God. How could you make a further step to give all that you are and have to God?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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

Reflection Guide is here

Mustard Seed Clip Art | Parable of the Mustard Seed

Discussion Questions

  1. Ezekiel is different because he was both a Priest and a Prophet. He was with God’s people when they were deported to Babylon enduring suffering and slavery. They were without a Temple, their Land, a King. In a time of great distress, he is humbled to realise that very few people listen to him (and God) and even less respond with obedient living to God’s ways. He shares an image of a ‘snip’ of a great tree, a ‘faithful small remnant’ of people will be planted by God in Jerusalem. So deeply does he believe in God’s guidance of history he repeats ‘the Lord will do this’ 86 times. Would you consider yourself part of God’s ‘tender shoot’, faithful and obedient? The tree (Church) of God will include all types of birds and winged creatures and the ‘lowly’. How inclusive are you toward others?
  2. It is important to understand St Paul. Our bodies are good but there is a ‘desire’ in our flesh that is deeply selfish. A Christian disciple lives and walks by ‘faith’ not by ‘flesh’. Jesus guides our life and choices not the selfish desires many in the ‘world’ chase. Is your ‘home’ in Jesus or the ways of the world. Paul encourages disciples to face this tension and question head-on. Imagine an examination of your life at the end of time: What did you live for? What was your heart attached to?
  3. Jesus very early on in the Gospel of Mark meets great resistance. His family think he is ʻout of his mindʼ and religious leaders from Jerusalem suggest he is possessed by a demonʼ (Mark 3,20). It
    does not look like Jesus is having much success. Have you met resistance from family and people in leadership? How did you cope? What did you hold on to so as to continue your call and purpose?
  4. Jesus shares a story of the mysterious and silent working of God in bringing theʻKingdomʼ. Just as farmers presume something is happening to a seed under the ground, we also need to trust not
    always by sight but what we know. In truth, the mustard seed only grows to a 4 foot ʻbushʼ! Are you expecting Church to be a magnificent Cedar tree and struggle with the reality of a stumpy ʻbushʼ? Is Jesus suggesting a change from strong and powerful to humble and ʻmedicinalʼ? The mustard-seed was considered to be a medication for many ills.
  5. The topic most frequently talked about by Jesus was the ʻKingdom of Godʼ (Kingdom of Heaven). He chose to use parables to describe ʻGodʼs waysʼ. Parables trap us. We agree with some parts of the story but resist or donʼt want to agree with other parts. We reject it, or open ourselves to an opportunity of a new way of understanding (conversion). Why did Jesus choose to describe the
    Kingdom as a mustard seed? We like the idea of many birds finding shelter and the
    church ʻwelcoming and includingʼ all people. But a ʻmustardʼ seed and bush was a backyard weed, very stubborn and difficult to get rid of. Is the way of God really requiring a revolution? Who gets
    threatened by that? Do you prefer the status quo or an inclusive change welcoming the poor and marginalized?
  6. 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