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Posts Tagged ‘lent’

Discussion Guide for Missionary: Who Me? 

Reflection Questions

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

 

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 is here     Jer 31:31-34, Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-33

During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and the meaning of their baptism. These readings and reflection are available for download here:Yr B RCIA

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Reflection Questions. 

• To enter into a covenant is like entering into a ‘marriage commitment and relationship’. A special bond is created. Have you ever had an experience of feeling God is ‘taking you by the hand and leading you’?   Break the relationship with God – Suffering. God seeking you out and speaking to your ‘heart’? Life does not necessarily become easier but perspectives are transformed and whatever happens there is a sense of God with us; nothing can separate us from Gods love. What has been your covenant journey with God?
• The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is like a personal inside view of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as he struggles to accept the consequence of obedience and
doing God’s will. What do you pray, cry, shout to God about? Have you tried it?
• Jesus’ journey involved obedience and suffering, but it also became a vehicle for him being ‘made perfect’. What suffering is hard for you at the moment? What is the wisdom you are learning from it? Because of your journey have you been able to be a source of comfort and hope for others?                        • In the Gospel of John, the ʻhourʼ that Jesus talks about is the moment where everything will be revealed on the cross. In all of history, it will be the ʻhourʼ when God is revealed as doing something to ʻforgiveʼ and ʻsaveʼ humanity. Love triumphs over violence. The drama of evil and goodness is played out. In the greek text, the phrase being ʻlifted upʼ is a word to describe a coach being ʻliftedʼ up onto peopleʼs shoulders to signify victory. Do you see the ʻhourʼ of Jesus on the cross as Ugly? Glorious?
Victorious? All three?
• Greeks (outsiders from Judaism) arrive wanting to ʻsee Jesusʼ. This causes Jesus to say the ʻhourʼ has
come for him to be revealed to the whole world. Would people who are not Christian see enough evidence in your life to know you are Christian? Would they experience you as friendly and welcoming enough to ask for help to ʻfind and see Jesusʼ?
• Three times in the Gospel of John the voice of God speaks clearly to Jesus and those near-by. It gives Jesus courage and confidence in his identity and purpose to walk a very difficult path. Have you asked for, received a clear sense of your calling and purpose from God? Will you enter the sacrificial and obedient lifestyle of ʻthe hourʼ? What ʻdeathʼ is God inviting you to live so as to bear fruit for the world?
• 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: 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?

Download Reflection Document 1st Week of Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. The book of Deuteronomy shares one of the most important statements of faith in the Old Testament. It was spoken every time a person gave their offering to the priest in the Temple. It reminded them of their identity and how God ‘saved’ them. Bringing the tithe (tenth) of the harvest to the temple acknowledged God’s care and provision. How could you express this religious practice of thankfulness – ‘tithing’ (giving a 10th)?  Dt 26: 12-15 invites giving to the levite (priest), the foreigner (refugee), the orphan and the widow (those without family and financial support). This is at the heart of the Lenten practice of ‘almsgiving’. How generous will you be in giving of your time, talent, money, compassion… this Lent as a way of ‘thanksgiving’ for what God has given you?
  2. Paul’s letter to the Romans is a careful explanation of how we are made right with God. Justification by keeping the ‘law’ was deeply ingrained in Jewish consciousness and history. Paul reminds us that it is faith in God’s covenantal relationship with us in Jesus that saves us. In a relationship, what is the difference between ‘law’ and ‘love’? Do you ‘enjoy-love’ your relationship with God? Does a ‘love’ relationship need to respect any ‘law’? What word or image would describe your relationship with God ‘now’ as the journey of Lent begins?
  3. Jesus in the desert provides us with the starting point of Lent. Consider how you can create some ‘desert’ space in your life, away from distractions and noise, to be with God and discover your ‘true’ self? What is 1 decision you can make to enter the Lenten ‘desert’?
  4. Careful reflection on Jesus’ temptations leads us to see a mirror conflict within ourselves between good and evil. Get bread for ‘self’. Seek power and reputation. Demand support from others. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are practices during Lent to deconstruct our false self and reconstruct our true self. Almsgiving enables the hungry at our door and beyond to be fed and healed. Fasting turns us from worldly consumerism to clarity of purpose and compassion for others. Prayer tunes us into God’s vision and voice. From Jesus’ temptations, which core temptation do you notice strongly at work in your life? Which Lenten practice do you need?
  5. Repent literally means ‘change your mind’. It could be understood as ‘turn your value system around completely – 180 degrees’. As Lent begins, Jesus guides us: there is more to life than satisifying our ‘bread-belly’ and physical or material cravings. What creative fasting experience could you create to nourish your spirit and soul journey?
  6. Returning from the great baptism event in the Jordan, Jesus would have faced pressure to get active and do things. Interestingly his choice was to listen to where the Holy Spirit deep inside was calling. Are you faced with a temptation to ‘perform’ and be a certain type of person in public? Whose voice is the Spirit and what is the Desert for you?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Discussion Document 2nd Sunday Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. At first glance, Abraham’s willingness to kill his son Isaac looks like murder. A deeper reflection leads us to recognise what is involved in offering a ‘sacrifice’. Abraham’s hope and future promise for many descendants is in Isaac. Abraham places his life and future in the hands of God. A ‘test’ for Abraham has found him ‘worthy’ and completely abandoned and obedient to whatever God will ask. Has God called you to do something? Have you delayed? Why does God invite followers to ‘give up’ things we hold so tightly?
  2. Some scholars suggest that this special ‘high place’ where Abraham was to offer Isaac was the actual site of the 1st Temple of Solomon. High places were often on ‘mountains’ and were ‘meeting places with God’. Where is your ‘high place’ and what ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ could you offer to God showing you yield to God’s will for your life in total trust?
  3. St Paul encourages us to enter our imagination to feel how great God’s love must be. Have you ever had a friend or family show great generosity in buying or doing something for you? That ‘proof’ of their love allows you to deeply know they are ‘for’ you. If God did not spare his own Son, there is nothing more he could give to show the depth of his love. Does this give you confidence? To ask? Love?
  4. The Transfiguration is in the middle of Markʼs gospel. It is time to go deeper. Jesus has just challenged disciples to be willing to ʻgive up your lifeʼ(8,34-35) for his cause. They probably want ʻproofʼ that it will be ʻworth itʼ. Jesus shows disciples his divinity (dazzling white as a sign of Godʼs presence) and authority (Moses and Elijah both spoke to God face to face on special mountains). He is truly the Son of God! Persecution and even death will be moments of persecutors merely bringing judgement upon themselves as against God, and will be a doorway for a disciple into heaven and victory. Do you overly spiritualize the phrase ʻdeny oneselfʼ? Is Lent about punishing the body or a transformed lifestyle and society confronting injustice? How much ʻcostʼ are you willing to endure? How could you ʻgive almsʼ to lift up those in need this Lent?
  5. The presence of God – like a cloud covering the Mountain to speak face to face with Moses – speaks. We are not simply to gaze or adore, but LISTEN TO HIM. How could you more faithfully ʻlistenʼ to Jesus in prayer this Lent? What has worked? What has not worked?
  6. Fasting has often been a spiritual practice that intensifies within our bodies a focus, a need, a prayer, a request, a cause. What or Who could you fast From or For?
  7. How will you be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

 

Download 5th Sunday Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. Ezekiel is an interesting person. He was both a prophet and a priest. He was also taken away with the first group of Israelites into exile. He shares a positive and hopeful message to his people. God will turn this situation around. Name a difficult struggle you experience in your life. Can you see a slow transformation and wisdom in the midst of your suffering? What does the deep voice of the spirit invite you to do so you can ‘rise from your grave’?
  2. St Paul uses the word ‘flesh’ (sarx) to mean people who have a self-centred orientation towards the world. Frequently those who live this way make themselves, their senses and pleasure, their ‘idol’ / god. Those who live directed by the spirit of Christ are turned outward in love and ‘self-lessness’. Ponder the powerful bodily image of arms wrapped around yourself tightly, or arms open and outstretched in embrace of the world. How do you live your life? How is your almsgiving this lent?
  3. In the Gospel of John Jesus performs 7 signs. Each sign is a fulfillment of a Messianic hope from the Old Testament. Each sign reveals the presence of God in Jesus. Today is the 7th and most important sign. Jesus overcomes death. And only God can overcome death! Place yourself in this gospel story. If you were really there in this scene what questions would you ask? What would you believe from this experience?
  4. Martha’s questions reveal a growing knowledge of who Jesus really is. She begins with Jesus as someone close to God – “whatever you ask, God will give to you.” Jesus responds to Mary’s belief in the resurrection on the last day with a powerful statement: Mary, the one who is in charge of the resurrection is looking at you! I AM the resurrection and the life. And to prove it, Jesus raises Lazarus. What does Jesus wish to reveal to Mary? Do you see the ‘sign’ and believe what it is pointing to?
  5. The Rabbi’s believed and taught that the spirit and breath of life hovered around a dead body for three days. Waiting for 4 days can be understood as Jesus ensuring everyone knew Lazarus had truly died.  Twice Jesus is ‘perturbed’ or angry that someone he loves has been tied hand and foot and buried. (A symbol of what sin and death can do to us.) Untie him and let him go becomes a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s promise (1st reading) and an image of what Jesus can do personally for each disciple. What tomb am I in? What cloths bind me up? Who might God be using to ‘take away the stone’ blocking me from joy and life?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 4th Sunday Lent Yr A

Reflection Questions

  1. Anointing with oil and ‘eyes being opened’ are part of the special journey in Lent for candidates asking for baptism at Easter. For those already baptized, these readings teach us about the deep meaning of our own baptism.
  2. Samuel was the young boy who sat in the temple and was taught how to listen to God’s voice. He became one of the greatest prophets because ‘he never let a word spoken to him by God fall to the ground’. Today he is told by God to do a very dangerous action – high treason! While King Saul was still alive, Samuel was to go to Bethlehem and anoint another King. Are you open to being shocked by what God plans for you? Samuel was told to fill his horn with oil and go… what do you think God is asking of you?
  3.  Samuel had previously anointed King Saul who was tall and handsome ‘head and shoulder above the rest’. He may have been tempted, or had truly learnt a lesson not to judge a person by their ‘appearance’. God sees beyond appearance into a persons heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.
  4. St Paul writes about the difference in a persons life before knowing Jesus. Imagine you are in an unfamiliar house and need to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not knowing where the light switch is you knock into chairs and hard edged furniture. You walk slowly and carefully. Now, turn the light switch on and you walk differently. Peacefully. Confidently. ‘Arise…from death and darkness, Christ will give you light’. Imagine the experience of being blind and then being able to see. This was the experience the early church said happened through Baptism preparation for each adult.
  5. Around the year 85-90 Jewish Christians were excluded from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The man born blind became a very special story and symbol of life being changed by Jesus. The blind man considers Jesus a ‘man’. Then recognizes him as a ‘prophet’. Finally he believes Jesus to be truly the Son of Man – the promised Messiah (anointed one). He calls him Lord (the name of God) and worships him. As a result the blind man becomes rejected by the Pharisees, his family and the community’. They threw him out…. How has your faith journey grown in understanding of Jesus? Would you be willing to endure rejection or persecution for your belief? What do you think happened to the blind man? Can you identify with any of his Christian experience?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 3rd Sunday Lent

Reflection Questions

  1. ‘A goal without a plan is still a dream’. Reflect on your experience of Lent so far. How would you evaluate your Lenten journey and commitment? What has worked well and could be practised more?
  2. People ‘grumbled’. Moses, heavy with the experience of leading God’s people is frightened he will get stones thrown at him! Wisdom is shared with Moses. Go ahead of the people with some wise people. Get away from the grumbling voices. Do grumbling or criticizing voices pull you down and make you feel sad? How could you walk away from complaining voices this Lent, select some ‘wisdom voices’ (elders), and get on with the job of providing water for people to drink and survive?
  3.  St Paul paints a picture for our imagination. Have you ever had someone love you and show continued kindness even when you were rebelling against them? Imagine if this person was willing to ‘die’ to ‘win you over’? Have you ever considered just how precious and ‘loveable’ you are that God would be willing to die for you? This historical event is located at the cross. Consider visiting a catholic church and spending time with the ‘stations of the cross’.
  4. Samaritans were considered unclean and unworthy because they were historically Jewish people that had inter-married with non believers in the area of Samaria. Jews would normally avoid close contact and speech with Samaritans and refused to allow them into the temple in Jerusalem. A conversation begins around ‘water’ a symbol of the life-giving relationship with God. In the ‘heat of the day’ where do you go to find rest and water? What is your ‘Jacobs well’?
  5. It is possible that the Samaritan woman has chosen to collect water at the most inconvenient time under the midday sun to avoid the company of other women. Has she had experiences of rejection or gossip? Life has been hard for her. She wants to ‘never be thirsty or have to keep coming here’. This Lent ask yourself the two deep questions of spiritual direction: What do you want? Where do you hurt? Consider writing in a special journal your answers to these two special questions.
  6.  Some scripture scholars suggest that the 5 husbands the woman has already had, is actually the 5 different ‘gods’ which have influenced the Samaritans by their inter-marriage with ‘outsiders’ and their ‘gods’. Jesus says He is ‘I AM’ which is the Divine Name given by God to Moses. What do you think this means?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?