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Posts Tagged ‘lent’

Discussion Guide:   4th Sunday Lent (RCIA readings) – Now I can see

 

4th Sunday in Lent (A) - The Catholic News

Reflection Questions:  • Remember Samuel as a young boy, woken in the middle of the night by the voice of God (1Sam 3:4). Now trained in the discipline of listening and doing what God asks Samuel now faces an incredible challenge: God is asking  him to find and anoint a new King (while King Saul is currently still alive!) This would be treason. Consider the emotions and struggles of Samuel? What struggle can you identify with? How is God inviting you to ‘fill your horn with oil, and be on your way’?

• Some translations emphasize that David was a young boy, with a fresh and clear appearance. He is not big, has no military training or obvious talent for battle. To the human ‘eye’ and ‘outward appearance’ this is not a wise choice for a King and future military leader. But this public calling and anointing, this ‘baptism’ of David changes everything. No longer did David suffer psychologically from his fathers view of being the ‘smallest’ or ‘weakest’. When the Lord looks into your heart what desire, passion, gifts does he ‘see’? What do you see?

• This text from St Paul to the Ephesians is thought to be part of an ancient baptismal liturgy: baptism calls us to bring our lives into the ‘light’. As Easter approaches, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one practice that leads us to bring our struggles into the light of Jesus for help and guidance. Awake from sleep and death! Ponder for a few minutes what you would like to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent?

• Gospel stories from John are used to encourage baptism candidates on the final journey to Easter. Today’s story is a man born blind receiving his sight. The full story immediately has him involved in an argument with the Pharisees, and then with his parents. The story ends with him being rejected – to believe in Jesus meant being thrown out of the synagogue (and community)! Do you experience some people in conflict with you because you hold on to the values of Jesus? Do you walk away from Jesus or ‘worship him’ by faithfulness? What do you think happened to the ‘blind’ man?

• The early Christian Church used this story and reality of being ‘blind’ and receiving ‘sight’ as an image of the journey to Baptism. Baptism was even called a ceremony of ‘enlightenment’. Consider how blind ‘darkness’ to seeing ‘light’ is possibly the greatest transformation that can take place for a person. Seeing is symbolic of knowing ‘truth’. Truth is gradually clearer for the blind man (baptismal candidate) regarding Jesus’ identity. His daily life is now completely changed. How would you say your knowledge and life in Jesus affects your daily life?

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

Discussion Guide:    3rd Sunday Lent Yr. B (RCIA readings) – Give me water that I may not thirst again

 

 

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman - John 4:1-42 | Marg Mowczko

Reflection Questions:  • The symbol of ‘water’ has different levels of meaning. It can represent life keeping us from death. Water can be symbolic of a life journey yearning for something more. In Exodus, Moses is in the midst of leading his people who feel like they are ‘dying of thirst’ and they blame him. God invites him to go away from all the moaning voices, taking only a few elders with him. Which part of the story does your life and lent journey identify with at the moment: Water. Thirst. Moaning. Crying. Going away from voices. Quarreling. Testing. Questioning?

• Paul continues the important teaching of being made ‘right’ with God. It is not our doing, but faith in the cross of Jesus. This brings peace in our heart and spirit. And we look forward in hope to heaven and the final victory. Have you ever given a gift to someone whose behaviour has not yet changed to show they are ‘worthy’ or ‘thankful’? Why do it? There is the hope that the person may ‘see’ the depth of your love. What does it mean that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners?

•Week 3, 4, 5 of Lent in Year A features Gospel of John readings. These are specially inserted for helping people preparing for Baptism at Easter. They contain powerful symbols of water (quenching our thirst), light (a blind man sees) and the gift of life (raising Lazarus from death). Reflect on the image of sitting in the heat of the midday sun beside a well. What would you feel?Think about? Do? What questions would you ask Jesus? Spend 5 minutes imaginatively praying into this scene. What happened?

• It was unusual for a woman to collect water in the heat of the day alone. The longer gospel text reveals she has had 5 ‘husbands’. It is possible she has been hurt by the gossip of other women. Her journey is our journey. Which part of the journey of the Samaritan woman can you identify with?

• Jesus breaks the social barriers of talking with a woman alone, and with a despised enemy (Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus sits with her, talks, asks for help, offers her life that will quench her ‘thirst’ forever. A ‘rejected outsider’ becomes a disciple and the only person to evangelise a whole community in the gospel of John! She now rushes to the market place full of men to tell them the good news of meeting Jesus. Deep hopes have been fulfilled. Does your relationship with Jesus show itself others?

• The woman at the well reveals a disciple’s learning. Jesus is first thought a ‘prophet’, then possibly the ‘Messiah’ and then indeed ‘truly the ‘Saviour of the world’. Hidden in the text is Jesus saying ‘I AM..’ This is the Divine Name – the name Jews gave to God (Ex 3,14). What does this mean?

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

Discussion Guide:    2nd Sunday Lent Yr. B – Listening to and Trusting in God

 

 

Image result for the transfiguration modern

Reflection Questions:  • 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 willask. Has God called you to do  something? Have you delayed? Why does God invite followers to ‘give up’ things we hold so tightly?

• 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?

•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?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference to the Living the Word website.

Discussion Guide:    1st Sunday Lent Yr. B – Turn towards God

 

Image result for turn to God roadsign

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 to ‘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 to safety, 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 Spirit’s 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?

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference to the Living the Word website.

Ash Wednesday Readings Reflection

• Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent, a six-week period (excluding Sundays) dedicated to prayer, fasting, and reflection in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum. The late Henri Nouwen described Lent as a time to ‘re-focus and re-enter a place of truth’. It is a journey of love, toward love, in love.

• Taking part in the reception of the ashes symbolizes starting the journey. What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? Share a decision and plan with a faith-friend about how you intend to enter & journey through these 40 days & cheer each other on.

• The image from the prophet Joel is an invitation for everything to come to a complete stop. Call everyone; Old, Young, Babies, Newly married, Priests in the middle of their work at the altar. The world is being invited to STOP due to Covid. How could that enforced ‘stop’ become more personal and intentional for God? What could you Stop? When? How? The image is of a special people called to be ‘light’ rather than a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Pray for the whole Christian church throughout the world during the season of renewed faithfulness. As we turn from sin to become more faithful to the Gospel may our fresh witness resonate with the people of today with the hope that ‘now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day…’.

• Imagine being an ‘Ambassador’ with the responsibility of representing and delivering crucial communication. Your witness and life-style gets challenged to be in harmony with your message. Jesus gives us an ambassadors task of proclaiming ‘on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’. Will you, as an ambassador, receive the sacrament of reconciliation during this season of Lent? How will your daily life witness to Jesus as a disciple of worship, compassion, and mercy for others?• Jesus presumes that a disciple will be doing certain actions. When you give alms… When you pray… When you fast… These traditional Lenten practices are powerful tools that help us clearly focus on what is important.

• Prayer: What voices do you listen to?
• Fasting: What things fill your life?
• Almsgiving: Do you hear the cries of those in need and respond?

• Jesus emphasizes that doing these actions in ‘secret’ will be ‘repaid’ by God. ‘In secret’ guards us from seeking attention and personal ‘glory’ from others. Lent is not to be a shallow show. But do not be afraid to share your personal Lent journey with a friend – and also encourage your friend into the depths rather than the surface show.

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

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference given to the Living the Word website.

 

Ash Wednesday – Starting the Lenten Journey

HOW DO I START?

Ash Wednesday begins Lent. It is easy for 6 weeks of Lent to pass by without really placing oneself on the ‘starting line’. Taking part in the reception of ashes symbolizes our decision to start the journey.

If you cannot be part of a service due to health or Covid issues, pray at home or find an on-line service. You can read the Scripture of the day and make the sign of the cross in some way.

It is possible to be at the starting line but not enter the race!

What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? How
can you make this more meaningful? Share a decision/plan with a
faith-friend & ask them to encourage you over the next 40 days.

IT TAKES TIME
The image from the prophet Joel 2:12-18 (1st Reading Ash Wednesday) is an invitation
for everything to come to a complete stop. Call everyone. Old. Young. Babies.
Newly married. Priests in the middle of their work at the altar. STOP!

Covid may have required an enforced STOP for you. How could make an intentional ‘stop’ at
a personal, spiritual or social level? Where? When?

The image is of a special people called to be a ‘light’ not a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Take some quiet
time to tell yourself you have started the journey and write a decision or plan for Lent.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Jesus presumes that a disciple will be doing certain actions (see Gospel for Ash Wed, Matthew
6:1-6,16-18). When you give alms…. When you pray…. When you fast….
These are the three traditional and powerful Lenten practices that help us focus on what is
important: Our relationship with God, our discipline and discipleship, our interrelationships, witness and community.

Practice of Prayer: What voices do I listen to? How much of my time do I set aside to hear God?

Practice of Fasting: What things fill my life? What is unhealthy? What do I have trouble letting go of? What needs change? Balance? How do my choices care for the environment and the poor?

Practice of Almsgiving: How do I spend my money and resources? Do I hear the cries of those in need and respond? Could I live more simply and be more generous? Do I seek Gods guidance about my financial and resource decisions?

Whether you have access to an Ash Wednesday service this year or not, try to gather with at least one other person face to face or online and give to God your commitment to begin the journey of Lent with a plan and a desire to grow as His disciple.

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference to the Living the Word website.

Discussion Guide:  Palm Sunday – The Lord’s Passion

Image result for The Lord's passion

Reflection Questions:

• On Palm Sunday we wave ʻpalmsʼ in remembrance of Jesusʼ procession into Jerusalem. We cry ʻHosannaʼ (in Hebrew meaning ʻSave Us Now). What is your expectation of God ʻsaving usʼ? Are you willing to let go of a strong powerful military figure and allow a ʻsuffering servantʼ? On a donkey? What do you think happened in the minds and hearts of the crowd gathered to eventually cry ʻcrucify him!ʼ?

• Palm Sunday is also called ʻPassionʼ Sunday as we listen to the whole story of Jesusʼ personal betrayal by his disciples, his court appearance before religious and political rulers, his rejection by previously welcoming crowds, his cruel whipping and torture by soldiers. Watch, listen, feel the violence. Where does such cruelty originate from in the world? Why does the world seek a ʻvictimʼ?

• ‘He made no answer’. The silence of Jesus as Pontius Pilate questions and interrogates him is striking. Have you ever been tempted to argue your way out of a difficult situation to ‘save yourself.’ Jesus’ silence is a deep act of trust in God. How would you have behaved in this situation?

• It may be a surprise to learn that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as a bunch of revolutionaries from Galilee, hanging out in parks, carrying swords, wanted and hunted by police. How would such a group be considered today? In the Church?

• Jesusʼ sufferings ʻunmasksʼ and reveals the worldʼs violence and cruelty. Jesus responds peacefully in interrogation. Heals a soldier’s ear. Asks the Father to forgive. Welcomes criminals to heaven. Commits his spirit into the hands of the Father. Is Jesus a ʻdoor-matʼ or a ʻsaviourʼ? How?

• Soldiers make a game of teasing Jesus. He is stripped, humiliated, hit, played with as a ‘game’. Consider in the world today soldiers abusing innocent people. Can you feel their pain. Pray for them and soldiers in places of terror and oppression today.

• Simon from Cyrene did not want to lift the heavy wooden cross of Jesus. Have you ever felt you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a heavy job? Has someone in great need crossed your path recently? Do you run away from people suffering?

• The veil of the sanctuary was a large thick curtain that separated the ‘holy of holies’ from the rest of the temple. It was the sacred place where God’s presence was known to dwell sitting on the mercy seat’ (that held the 10 commandments). The gospel of Matthew paints with words the truth that here on the cross is the new ‘mercy seat’ where God dwells. Spend time with a crucifix this week and ponder what you see.

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

Discussion Guide: Believe and You Will See the Glory of God

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Reflection Questions:

• 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’?

• 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?

• 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?

• 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?

• The Rabbis 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?

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

Discussion Guide: 4th Sunday of Lent – Arise…from the darkness!

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Reflection Questions:

• 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.

• 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?

• 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 person’s heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.

• St Paul writes about the difference in a person’s 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  see. This was the experience the early church said happened through Baptism preparation for each adult.

• 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?

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

Discussion Guide: Thirsting for God?

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Reflection Questions:

• ‘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?

• 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?

• 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’.

• 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’?

• 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 ejection 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.

• 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?

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