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Posts Tagged ‘livingtheword’

Discussion Guide: Easter Sunday – “He has been Raised!”

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Reflection Questions:

• Easter (and the next 7 weeks) is filled with the belief in the Resurrection, the appearances of Jesus, and readings from the Acts of Apostles. Acts 10 (first reading) is very significant as it involves Peter addressing a gentile (Cornelius) and his family in their home. Jews could not be in a gentile house or eat with them because of the clean / unclean restrictions of the Jewish Laws. This ‘uncleanʼ ʻsinnerʼ ʻimpureʼ label is the biggest obstacle between Jews and gentiles not only in the Old and New Testament but even today. God was demanding the unthinkable from good and law abiding Jews. Peter was being taught by God to ʻlift the status of ʻuncleanʼ off the backs of the gentiles.ʼ What cultural, religious, family boundaries have you been brought up with which lead you to separate yourself from others? Who does the world label ʻuncleanʼ?

• The Resurrection is a belief in Jesus rising from death. It is also deeply a life-style victory over powerful rulers who crush the poor and powerless. Does your belief in the Resurrection show itself in a Resurrection lifestyle?

• The image of Easter Sunday is the empty tomb. If thieves had stolen Jesus they would not have unwrapped him. The burial cloths are ʻaloneʼ. The story and evidence is shared. People consider it ʻnonsenseʼ. Peter walks home ʻamazedʼ. If you were present in the Resurrection scene, having witnessed his suffering, death and burial. And now the empty tomb with burial cloths on the ground… what would you think? A stolen body or risen Lord? What thoughts and emotions would be present? Spend some time at the ʻtombʼ and see what it teaches you. Can you ʻseeʼ and ʻbelieveʼ?

• Jesus is risen as he said! Jesusʼ resurrection shows a victory over death. Death has lost its ʻstingʼ. Identify 3 things that you would now allow to enter your consciousness as a consequence of believing in the Resurrection? What are ʻResurrectionʼ behaviours? What does it mean to be ʻEaster peopleʼ and ʻChristianʼ?

• Imagine someone you have loved in a very intimate and special way. This person died and you were personally involved in seeing the death, the burial. In grief you go to the place of burial and see first-hand that your friend is not there. There is evidence of burial cloths and a messenger that ʻhe has been raisedʼ and that your friend so wants to meet with you and you will see each other soon. What would be your thoughts and feelings? If the resurrection is true, what change in thinking happens about death? About life? About God?

• As you have participated in the Holy Week ceremonies over the past few days what do you remember most, what struck you personally from the words, symbols, liturgies? What do you think God was trying to show you for your life journey?

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

Reflection Guide: Good Friday Readings are HERE

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Ponder the Good Friday Scripture and Liturgy

  • Considering the times we are living through, ponder Gods mercy, plan and protection by reflecting on the Good Friday Opening Prayer:
    Remember your mercies, O Lord, and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants, for whom Christ your Son, by the shedding of his Blood, established the Paschal Mystery. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
  • Even if you cannot attend the Good Friday Liturgy, you can enter into it in silence at home. The Liturgy begins in SILENCE.  It needs no “gathering rite” – it is a continuation of the Eucharist from the night before. It is as though we were “gathered” at Holy Thursday and live the experiences of the apostles and disciples through the watches of the night, we come together for Good Friday at  the foot of the Cross with Mary and the others, then live the silence of Holy Saturday before the joy of the Easter Vigil.  These three Easter services actually form one great Liturgy: the Triduum, highlighting that Easter is to the year what Sunday is to the week. The first act of the liturgy is for the Presider and ministers to lay face down before the cross, in silence. How can you prepare for and live this total surrender of your life to God?
  • Perhaps begin the Good Friday celebration by reflecting upon ourselves laying there – with all the feelings we want to identify and pay attention to. Our feelings may not be consistent or even inspiring. I might feel awe, gratitude, guilt, powerlessness, vulnerability all at once. In my silent moment at the beginning of the service, when the Presider lays face down, perhaps I will want to simply open my hands and say “I know this is for me; thank you.”
  • Intercessions for the world take on a powerful poignancy this year as we gather the needs of all before God’s mercy. Prepare for these ancient intercessions by reflection on each of the groups and the great needs of the world. We respond to the invitation with our silent prayer. Then, the Presider prays out loud in our name, first praising God and naming how God has been loving and caring for the person or need we present, then asking for a particular grace. We affirm that prayer with our “Amen.”
  • We adore the cross upon which our Saviour gained salvation of the world. We do that concretely by venerating a representation of the cross, Christs instrument of divine love. When we love someone deeply we treasure the items that meant the most to them and which they shared with us and in like manner we venerate the cross Jesus shared with us. Visiting the place where I grew up, holding a newborn baby, treasuring a gift from a loved one, seeing a photograph or piece of art that stirs my spirit, and a thousand other places and things, all can become “religious” and objects of veneration. We revere and venerate the wood of the cross, because our Savior was nailed there, and gave his life for us there. Preparing for this special veneration on Good Friday is important. We could pray by making the Stations of the Cross, an Online version is at: http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/stations.html We want our gesture to ritualize our acceptance of the love, forgiveness and everlasting life that flows from that cross. Perfect love produces a response of love. We want to feel Jesus’ death on the cross as being “for me,” and then express our gratitude as reverence.
  • Many of us are unable to receive Communion during the Covid19 pandemic. We are experiencing an extended Fast which has the potential to increase our longing for Christ in the Eucharist and lead us to deeper communion and acceptance of our mission as disciples. We are fasting from receiving the Eucharist but we are gathered by the Spirit to re-connect with our celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday even if we could only partake of it through spiritual communion. We do not want to forget what Eucharist means for us. This is the bread of life. This is his self-giving love for us. This is our nourishment for mission.
  • Prayer After Communion.
    Almighty ever-living God, who have restored us to life by the blessed Death, Resurrection of your Christ, preserve in us the work of your mercy, that, by partaking of this mystery, we may have a life unceasingly devoted to you. Through Christ our Lord.
  •  Silence, Again.
    With closing prayer and a blessing, we depart in silence. We are people of faith, who continue to wait for the fullness of salvation. Our conclusion in silence links this celebration to the Easter Vigil, just as our beginning in silence connected us with Holy Thursday. Much of the world is currently experiencing an unusual silence due to the pandemic. In the silence of human activity, the natural world seems to be reawakening. How can silence bring a reawakening in you to the mercy and intimacy God longs to have with you.  How can my silence support the world around me?
  • Good Friday Closing Prayer:
    May abundant blessings, O Lord, we pray, descend upon your people, who have honoured the Death of your Son in the hope of their resurrection: may pardon come, comfort be given, holy Faith increase, and everlasting redemption be made secure.
  • After the celebration, the altar is stripped but the cross remains with two candles lit. Perhaps you may wish to have a special place for a cross and enter into the deepened silence within your home through Easter Saturday as a way of uniting in prayer with Christ in the silence of the tomb for those who are living with enforced silence, through illness, isolation, injustice, poverty or loneliness. 
  • How will you ‘livetheword’ today?

This is an edited version of the Good Friday reflection from Creighton University. It can be found in PDF here

 

Discussion Guide: Holy Thursday – Wash, Serve, Heal. Restore is HERE

Reflection Questions

Holy Thursday is a celebration of the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and a reminder of the last command of Jesus for disciples to love and serve each other. There are some dramatic images of blood being painted on doorways and a humble servant washing dirty feet. Both are heavy with meaning as we enter the celebration of the sacred 3 days of Easter.

• A lamb being sacrificed and the blood placed on the doorways of the house caused the angel of death to ʻpass-overʼ the house. All the houses not marked with blood were affected by death (see Ex 12,23). Symbolically blood represented life. It also had the power to overcome sin and death. It cleansed. It forgave sin. Can you make the link between the Passover lamb and Jesus being the ʻlamb of God that takes away the sins of the worldʼ? What is the significance of Christ’s blood?

• In a typical Jewish celebration of the Passover meal the Father would take some unleavened bread and remind the family of having to leave Egypt in great haste. Imagine the surprise of the disciples when Jesus speaks not of the Exodus or unleavened bread but states his own body will bring about a new Exodus / Passover. Jesus is replacing the Jewish Passover with new sacramental words and signs. Can you see the link between unleavened bread and the gift of Jesus’ body?

• To understand the Eucharist we need first to understand the Passover (which the Eucharist fulfills and replaces). In the Jewish Passover there were four cups of wine. The second cup was the most important. It remembered the blood of the lambs sprinkled on the doorposts. Jesus in the words of institution at the last supper did not make reference to the blood of the lamb, but instead states he is beginning a new and everlasting covenant with his own blood. Can you see how Jesus is fulfilling and replacing the Jewish Passover?

• St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest passages of scripture in the New Testament. Paul states very clearly that what was handed on to him about the celebration of the Eucharist was connected with Jesus’ own words and command at the last supper. If the Eucharist is proclaiming the death of the Lord what does this mean for you? For the world?

• St John does not have the last supper scene like the other gospels. Instead John teaches Christian disciples that to celebrate the Eucharist is by implication to participate in the life of Jesus who
emptied himself, washed, served. Foot washing was considered such a lowly task that even Jewish slaves were not expected or asked to perform it! John teaches us not to disconnect the Eucharist with service to repair and heal the world.  What does self emptying work, washing the dirty parts of humanity, look like in our society today? Who are the ones no-one wants to touch or reach out to, let alone wash their feet? How does Jesus’ last example and the ʻtools of the tradeʼ of a basin and towel challenge you today?

• Much of the world is living in some degree of isolation and social distancing due to Covid 19. What opportunities are in your reduced contact circle to live foot washing love and service?

. How will you  ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:  Palm Sunday – The Lord’s Passion

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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?

Discussion Guide: Listen to Him 

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Reflection Questions

Abram (later to be given a new name Abraham) experiences the first ‘call’. It becomes the ‘pattern’ of each person God continues to ‘call’, move, inspire. God seems to want each of us to ‘move’ from our current place which could be psychologically, spiritually, geographically. In the season of Lent what would it mean for you to ‘Go forth from the land of your family, your home’? What attachments may be stopping you hearing God’s ‘call’?

• God promises a response to those who respond to the mystery of divine inspiration – blessing! The word is mentioned 5 times. How could your life become more of a ‘blessing’ so that others might remember your life as a beautiful legacy. Have you considered how the name ‘christian’ is honored or dishonored through your life and example. How could those who bear the name of ‘Christ’ (Christian) make a huge impact on the world during Lent? Traditionally the practices of prayer, fasting and giving are meant to do this. What would you suggest?

• ‘Bear your share of hardship for the gospel’. Do you know anyone or any project that is experiencing ‘hardship’ in trying to bring God’s love to the world? It often requires great sacrifice and walking in faith like Abram into unclear territory’. In this season of lent how could you learn about, give generously, ‘bear the burden’ so as to bring God’s blessing upon the world? If you made a decision to give are you willing to give so that you share in a little insecurity and discomfort so as to bring others into security and comfort?

• Peter, James and John are three disciples Jesus chooses to give a special experience of who he truly is. A ‘mountain’ or ‘high place’ was symbolic of a place where one can ‘be in touch with God’. Where is a ‘place’ where you feel close to God and helps you ‘listen’ to yourself and God?

• Jewish people remembered living in tents in the 40 years of wandering in the desert. They believed God would come among them and look after them again with the coming of the Messiah. They thought Moses or Elijah would come again. Peter acknowledges Jesus’ true identity. White symbolizes divinity and Jesus being truly God among us. What are you waiting for God to ‘do’ for you? Can you identify ways God is showing himself present and active now in your life?

• The disciples were ‘afraid’. Have you ever been ‘afraid’ of breaking a love relationship with someone close to you? This is called ‘holy fear’. How could you live a ‘holy fear’ this lent?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz  Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com   Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird a Marist priest and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Turn Away From Sin

Reflection Questions:

• The journey of Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Have you recognised the significance of wearing a cross of ‘ashes’? Ashes symbolise a connection with the earth and being ‘humble’. The cross points to a life of sacrificial love with wide open arms embracing the world. What does living humbly mean for you? Is your life lived tightly closed up or with arms wide open?

• A goal without a plan is still a dream. Many people line up at the beginning of the lent ‘race’ but do not make much progress from the start line. What is your plan for Lent? Will this lead you into a ‘deep transformation’ or a mere ‘shallow show’?

• Genesis shares a truth about sin using a story. Have you ever noticed that the best the serpent can do is talk and try to make people doubt God? “Did God really tell you…..” The serpent actually as no power other than suggestion. What voices and fears do you need to turn off this Lent? How will you listen to God?

• For St Paul, Life and Death represent two different directions. Toward God (righteousness) and away from God (sin). Jesus has actually destroyed death by becoming human and offering his life in forgiveness. There is no more distance. Jesus rising from the dead reveals death actually has no power at all. Lent is an opportunity for intensive spiritual living towards what is life-giving. What relationships in your life are not right? Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you know what to bring to the sacrament of reconciliation this Lent.

• In the original Greek, the word is ‘tested’ rather than ‘tempted’. A ‘test’ or trial can reveal what decisions and choices are made. We become aware of whether we are ‘ready’ for a challenge or responsibility to be given to us. Is being ‘led by the spirit into the desert’ of your heart positive or negative for you? Have you tried a daily practice of silence to listen to the voices of your heart? What happens for you in silence?

• ‘Command these stones to become loaves’. Fasting is a remedy for being controlled by food and satisfying our ‘body’. Our bodies are good but we are not to become slaves to every sensual pleasure. Rather than a focus on diet or weight loss, how could you ‘stop’ some activities to ‘start’ some more positive activities?

• ‘Throw yourself down’ is pretending that everything is ok and God will look after me no matter what I do. Am I responsible? You are where you are because you have chosen it. What do you need to take responsibility for this Lent?

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