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Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

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

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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

Discussion Guide for Palm Sunday is here.   Is 50:4-7. Phil 2:6-11,  Mk 14:1-15:47 or Mk 15:1-39

Reflection Questions Palm Sunday

• The Procession into Church with Palms and singing ‘Hosanna’ marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palms were symbolic of victory. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew word ‘Save us now’. Riding on a donkey was the animal of choice in ancient times for Kings-to-be, portraying peace (rather than a horse used for battle). Placing cloaks on the road in front of the donkey was the ancient equivalent of the modern ‘red carpet’ treatment for special dignitaries. The scene is set. We are welcoming the Messiah – the ‘Christ’. Take time to imagine the scene, experience the hope, the joy. Can you identify with the symbols of today: the Palms, the Hosanna Cry, the throwing of your cloak?

• The Passion Reading from Mark has many details. There is betrayal by close friends, the violence of crowds, politicalnand religious leaders protecting their self interests, rulers symbolically trying to ‘wash themselves of blood’. What detail of the Passion attracts your attention this year, in the circumstances of our world? your life?

•Raymond Brown a Catholic Scripture scholar warns against a self-righteous reading and celebration of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. This week the curtain is about to come up on the drama that will ultimately change the world. We are there and it is now. The Gospel is convicting. Today. Can you see how the same issues are present today. Where do you ‘fit’ in this Gospel?
• Judas – selling out on God for money?
• Fleeing disciples – worrying so much about one’s own safety?
• Peter – professing and denying Jesus within the hour?
• Soldiers – carrying out unjust instructions from above, persecuting the innocent without thought?
• Pilate – pretending to be powerless, washing hands of justice and choosing to ignore evil?
• Religious Leaders – condemning Jesus and prefering the rules are kept and people are ‘safe’?
• Barabbas can be literally translated as Bar – Son. Abbas – Father. Who is the true Son of the Father? Jesus or Barabbas? Will it be a revolution of the heart and a message of peace, or a violent revolt
against military powers using military means that will bring ʻsalvationʼ? Why does the crowd choose ʻBarabbasʼ?

• The veil of the sanctuary separated into a special area of the Temple the Holy of Holies. In this place only the High Priest could enter to meet ‘face to face’ with God. The Gospel of Mark writes interpretively that this ‘private and exclusive’ meeting place with God has now been revealed as ‘on the cross’ for everyone. Here is the Son of God crucified out of passionate love and the desire to create a new covenant of forgiveness. The cross becomes the ‘new mercy seat’ (hidden behind the veil in the
Holy of Holies) for all to see, believe in, and receive. Spend some time in prayer and looking upon Jesus on the cross. What do you ‘see’? What does this teachyou?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz.  Livingtheword weekly download and resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are made available by Bev McDonald, Facilitator, Marist Laity NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for “Is He Your King?” Feast of Christ the King 2017, 

Image result for christ the servant king

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 XIrecognised 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 wouldany 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 and serve your servant King?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz

 

Reflection Guide is here: Creative risk or Fear: who is God for you?

Image result for let it hurt let it bleed

Discussion Questions:

  • The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings for daily living. Today a woman (not necessarily exceptional or beautiful as modern media might portray), does routine daily chores filled with wisdom and purpose. Her love extends beyond her family to the poor and needy. Her life and good works is spoken of ‘at the city gates’. Have you experienced ‘charm’ as deceptive and ‘beauty’ fleeting? Two
    quite different life-styles are presented as a ‘mirror’ to expose the reader. Where do you ‘see’ yourself?
  • Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament Letter. They were concerned that ‘the Day of the Lord’ (Jesus’ return) had not happened. St Paul shares with them and us that the exact date of the ‘day of the Lord’ is not known. But we are all to be ‘living in the light’ following the way of Jesus. What image speaks more to you: not sleeping, staying alert, being sober? How could you apply this ‘image’ to an application in your life?
  • The end of the Church’s Year is coming! Next week is the end: Christ the King. The Judgement Parable of the Talents is given to us today as a way of helping us to reflect seriouslyon the end of the world and the Lord’s second coming. A careful reading of the Parable reveals some disturbingrealities.
  • One ‘talent’ is a large weight of metal equivalent to 15 years of an average wage ($750,000!). Is the Master generous or mean? What image of God do you ‘read into thetext’?
  • Two different ‘images’ and perceptions of the Master are found. Servants 1 and 2 are spurred into creativity, Servant 3 is filled with fear. He will take no risks, avoid any wrongoing, and will give back to God in ‘strict justice’ what was given. Is Servant 3 ‘self-ish’? His fear of judgement tends to paralyse him. He is not filled with a freedom and love for creative risk taking in works of mercy. Could this be an image of the Jewish community for Matthew? The Christian Community today?
  • Very large amounts of money are being traded. Is this supporting capitalist greed and risk taking or is it reduced to a ‘small matter’ in comparison to the new ‘great responsibilities’ of the Kingdom of God?
  • Reflect personally and name your ‘talents’. From this parable what do you think God asks of you? If you were to be judged on your current use of your talents what might be the conclusion?
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Reflection Guide

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Discussion Questions

  1. A special relationship between God and his people was created with Abraham and Moses. This relationship was two-way. God would look after and guide his people. God’s people would listen to and obey certain ‘laws’. The first 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
    Numbers, Deuteronomy) express what is required by both parties to live this ‘Covenant’. Todays reading explores the ‘covenant code’ and what social behaviours are required by God. Aliens (foreigners), widows and orphans have no protection of family or friends. But God loves them. We are to love, include and provide for them. Who are the equivalent of aliens, widows and orphans today? Are you living in ‘covenant-love’ with them?
  2. Jewish people were not to demand interest. They developed the practice of a ‘pledge’ to ensure repayment. As a safe-guard God stated a poor person was not to go cold at night without his ‘cloak’. Certain measures were in place to protect the dignity of the poor. How could you relate this to today?
  3. Paul continues his praise of the community of Thessalonika. Despite Paul and the other teachers being forced to leave them because of persecution, their ‘imitation of them’ and ‘the word of the Lord sounding forth’ from them to other communities showed such courage and faith. Have you ever had someone inspirational leave you and yet you decided to ‘continue their example’? Who has done this for your faith journey? What happened?
  4. Jesus is again forced into an argument with religious leaders. Pharisees decide to attack Jesus’ knowledge of the ‘Laws’. Jewish people had summarised all the laws of the first 5 books of the Old Testament into 613 laws. All were to be observed. Some were interpreted as ‘heavy -very important’ and some were thought of as ‘light – not as important’. Surprisingly, Jesus took a heavy law and and a light law and said they were intimately linked. Love God AND Neighbour. Jewish people interpreted ‘neighbour’ as fellow Israelites. Jesus’ teaching pushed ‘neighbour’ to include everyone. Everyone is to be treated as belonging to ‘yourself’ – as family! How does your love get ‘limited’? Why? Who gets excluded? Can you glimpse the heart of the gospel in this brief statement?
  5. A common criticism of the prophets in the Old Testament was that love of God was celebrated in the temple with sacrifices and gifts – Sunday worship. But it stopped there! They cried: what God wants is ‘mercy, not sacrifices’. Christianity is not lived on Sunday alone. How could you show more clearly a Sunday AND Monday discipleship?
  6. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide 25th Sunday Year A

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Reflection Questions

• If you ever experience God being ‘distant’ the words of Prophet Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. Yet they cannot go back to Jerusalem and the Temple. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been demolished. Isaiah invites you to turn inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. Does your lifestyle allow for quiet time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God?

• Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle. He could be passive and let God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? An earthquake and conversion of the jailor provides the way forward. Could you trust God’s design of providence                  and guiding your life like Paul?

• Laborers would often stand in the middle of town waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, and not having been selected for a job, many would walk home downcast. What do the laborers feel? In desperation some continue to stay until 4pm! What is strange about the landowners (God) behaviour?

• The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is also called the Parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Christian community was Jewish but gradually became filled with more Gentile converts. Jews who had served long and hard in faithful obedience to the Laws of God now witnessed Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God is unmasked in this parable as one who is generous. Were you upset or delighted in this parable? Why?

• The landowner’s (God’s) generosity in the parable creates a problem. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money earned. Few hours worked = little money earned. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’?

• The ways of God are different from worldly ways. As a member of the community building the ‘kingdom of God’, what would it look like to be generous with your money like the landowner? Does your giving establish true justice or maintain charity with unjust structures and policies? check out www.caritas.org.nz

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