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Posts Tagged ‘livingtheword’

Reflection Guide for 33rd Sunday Year C: Do Not Be Terrified-Persevere in Hope is HERE

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Discussion Questions

• The Prophet Malachi is upset. Israel has returned from exile, the Temple has been rebuilt, the liturgy is celebrated, and yet the rich and proud are increasingly hurting the poor. One writer expresses it this way: I know what living for God looks like on ʻSundayʼ, but what does it look like on ʻMondayʼ? How do you integrate ʻliturgyʼ with ʻlifeʼ? How does life flow into your worship and how does Sunday impact the rest of your week?
• Malachi shares a judgment scene for the end of days. There will be a radical reversal of fortunes; the text is reminiscent of Mary’s Magnificat. How do you interpret ʻyou who fear my nameʼ. Awe, reverence and trembling are all synonyms for fear but today we tend to use the word ‘fear’ negatively. There have always been protocols for meeting a High Court judge. Imagine they are merciful to you, resolving your needs with deep respect and kindness. How would you feel in spite of your awe and ‘fear’? Malachi prophesies a perfect judge who brings healing and restoration. Share your needs and hopes for mercy and justice with God today.
• Some Thessalonian disciples were so convinced the ʻDay of the Lordʼ had arrived that they actually retired early! Unfortunately they became ʻarmchairʼ critics of others and a ʻburdenʼ. They focused on the shortcomings of others rather than joy and preparation for the ʻcoming of the Lordʼ. Is your energy focused on criticism of others? How could your energy be turned toward Jesus?
• When will the final day arrive is a big question. Jesus and the Gospel writers do not give an answer to ʻwhenʼ but only ʻthatʼ it will happen. The Gospel of Luke challenges us to be ready for the last day. When the Gospel of Luke was written the community had already witnessed Jewish persecution causing many to leave Jerusalem. Those disciples who ended up in Rome were also persecuted there (60AD). The beautiful Jewish temple was totally destroyed (as Jesus predicted) in Jerusalem (70AD). Further persecution occurred under emperor Domitian (80AD). Under such oppression, apocalyptic writing gave disciples hope that there would be a final victory of good over evil. Every generation gets tempted to follow false prophets and radical voices. Jesus says ‘Do not Follow them’, ‘Do not be terrified.  God calls us to trust and persevere in faith meeting the ongoing challenges with good moral choices both ʻpersonallyʼ and as a community placing our hope in Christ and Gospel ʻnowʼ. What words in the gospel give you ʻhopeʼ. What challenges you deeply? Are you ʻreadyʼ?
• Is it getting harder to proclaim Christian faith in highly secularized countries? Many Christians around the world are suffering intense persecution. Both ʻredʼ (blood) martyrdom, and what writers call  ʻwhiteʼ (perseverance) martyrdom is increasing. What would a modern synagogue or prison be? How do you experience Christians being taunted, threatened, influenced, tempted away from Christ?What does it mean to ʻgive testimonyʼ and be hated because of ʻmy nameʼ?
• Next week is the Feast of Christ The King. We celebrate ʻas if’ it was the ʻend of timeʼ!Imagine the urgency of only a few weeks to live. What would be most important?What would be demanded of you in your spiritual life? What do you need to ʻdoʼ?
• What is one action that you will do to  ʻlivethewordʼ 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 and Scriptures for 32nd Sunday Year C is HERE.

Image result for 2 thessalonians 2

Reflection Questions

  • The stories of the Mother and 7 Brothers in the book of Maccabees aims to share Jewish Hero stories. While under persecution from Roman Emperors it was helpful to look to examples of great courage and faithfulness to Jewish teaching and tradition. It is best understood not primarily as exact history, but faith lessons taught via story. It was the Maccabean family that stirred up a revolt against Syrian authorities and drove them out of Israel. These young brothers along with their Mum defiantly proclaim their belief in the resurrection. If in the midst of a violent persecution, where would your heart and thoughts turn to?
  • St Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are not to sit idle, waiting for the end of time. They are to do all they can so that the Word of the Lord may speed forward… and keep on ʻdoingʼ what they have been instructed to do by Paul. This requires the endurance of Christʼ. How would you rate your discipleship journey at present. Idle? Speeding forward? What do you require endurance in?
  • Sadducees were the elite priestly class that served in the Temple. They only believed in the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and did not consider other writings or oral traditions as binding. Consequently they did not believe in the Resurrection. They sought to involve Jesus in a conversation that would cause others to ridicule him. Their view of marriage was a Levirate view. Marriage continued the
    family line and stopped a family dying out. Jesus challenges the Sadducees not to think so narrowly. In death we are changed, not ʻdeadʼ. And there is more to marriage than maintaining children. Have you ever considered that Marriage is to symbolise the union we will have with God in heaven? Marriage is a sign pointing to a heavenly reality. When you are in the ʻrealityʼ of the restaurant you no
    longer need the ʻsignʼ for the restaurant.What does this teach you about Christian Marriage?
    • Celibacy and Chastity are connected with Marriage as they seek to live the ʻrealityʼ of union with God in heaven instead of living the ʻsignʼ of God in marriage. Can you see how married people, priests, sisters, brothers, consecrated lay people, are all ʻpointingʼ to the same reality? Have you ever had difficulty understanding the vow of ʻchastityʼ that religious people make? Do you understand a little more now?
    • In celebrating the recent All Souls Day (November 2nd), did it stir up within you thoughts of resurrection and your belief in the after-life. How would you say the Resurrection affects your life ʻnowʼ?
    • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Reflection Guide for 30th Sunday Year C: Smug Self-Righteousness or Humble Authenticity is here

See the source imageDiscussion Questions

• The writer of Ecclesiasticus is Ben Sirach which is why this book sometimes has different names in the Bible.  He was the headmaster of an Academy in Jerusalem that mentored Jewish students in the art of living well. His writings are a collection of the best of Jewish thought and philosophy. It contrasts with Greek culture and thought which accepted a huge gap between the rich and poor, those who were ʻfreeʼ and those who were slaves. Why do you think ʻthe prayer of the lowly pierces the cloudsʼ?

• Paul is writing from Prison in Rome. In his pre-trial hearing Paul shares that there was no-one who came to support him in court. Imagine his loneliness and sense of betrayal! And yet he does not choose to blame or get angry. Scholars suggest Christians in Rome were afraid of persecution if they came to support Paul. Have you had an experience of hurt from those you thought would support and protect you? Can you say like Paul ʻmay it not be held against them!ʼ Paulʼs attention continued to focus on imitating the life of Jesus, being poured out like a libation (offering)ʼ. In your struggles, is your attention on your ʻenemyʼ or ʻJesusʼ? Do you think Paul is being self-righteous or humbly authentic with God and the reader?

• Jesus teaches about prayer and righteousness in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. What do the words of the Pharisee’s prayer reveal about his attitude toward God and sinners? What does it mean to be smugly self-righteous? Authentically humble?

• A Pharisee was a strict observer of the law. Going beyond what was required they fasted 2 days per week (Jews were only required to fast on 1 day a year) and tithed on everything they received (even the goods that had already been ‘tithed’). They were extremely observant. They enjoyed their ʻholyʼ and righteous reputation. Deuteronomy 26 taught Jews to bring a tenth of their produce to the temple, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing, and giving to the Levites,(priests) foreigners, orphans and widows. What has the Pharisee failed to understand about the Law and about God? Is the Pharisee ‘righteous’? Listen around you; who is talked about in disparaging ways, excluded, despised, looked down on? How do you react? Humility is recognizing the truth about yourself, God and others. What are some ways we are tempted to self-righteousness in our culture?

• Tax Collectors (often Jewish) worked with the Roman authorities to collect road charges, goods and sales tax. They made significant profits above their contracted price. They were despised by Jews for being in partnership with the occupying forces. For a tax collector to make amends, they had to pay-back overcharged taxes plus an additional 1/5th. They could never know everyone they’d cheated so could never repair their ‘wrong They often felt their religious situation was hopeless. They could never be forgiven! Name some of the feelings experienced by the tax collector. What is it about the tax collector that you can relate to? How would the Sacrament of Reconciliation help?

• The Pharisee only encountered himself in prayer. He was extremely self-satisfied. Is this prayer? The Tax collector humbly needs God’s  mercy. Why does God listens to the Tax Collector?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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

 

Reflection Guide & Scriptures for 29th Sunday Year C: Is Prayer your steering wheel or Spare Tyre?

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Discussion Questions

• The Amalekites were a constant threat to the peaceful settlement of Godʼs people in the promised land. The battle scene is describing a theological point. Other countries made political and military alliances. Israel was to rely on God. And prayer works! What does the phrase ʻkeeping your hands raised upʼ mean for you? Have you asked anyone to pray to God for your protection? “Is prayer a spare tyre or a steering wheel for you?” (Corrie Ten Boom) Can you remember an experience where you recognized the power of prayer?

• Moses, the leader of Godʼs people is getting tired. He needs Aaron and Hur to support his hands. Who do you recognize as a spiritual leader and guide for you? What support could you offer? Joshua was out fighting in the field. Aaron was being trained as a leader at the side of Moses. Hur is a hidden and unknown figure behind the scenes. Which character do you most identify with? Who is at your side when you need prayer support? What is the next step for you in public leadership in the Church?

• It’s not intellectual proofs of God that convince people, but witnesses. St Paul reminds Timothy of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2Tim 1,5) who taught and witnessed faith to him from his infancy. Who has been a faith witness to you through your life?

• Scripture is inspired by God – literally ‘God breathed’! – and is able to continually inspire, encourage and challenge in a living way at every reading.  Remember and write down an experience when the Word made you uncomfortable? Convinced you about some truth? Challenged you deeply? Encouraged and comforted you?

• Jesus paints a picture of a judge who does not listen or care about anyone. Jesus is saying that God is NOT like that. Evil as the judge is, he responds to the persistent pleading and is fearful of the widow who will (in Greek) ‘strike me and give me a black eye’ ! Jesus encourages us that God is not someone we need to ‘wear down’ with constant prayer. God wants to meet the needs of his chosen ones as a perfect parent.  Have you moved from praying with lots of words to praying with lots of silence? What does the image of a baby silent in a parents arms symbolize for you? What brings you to peace and assurance of God’s love?

• Widows were not allowed to inherit their husbands property. If without family they had no one to care or look after them. Judges were to ensure widows, orphans and aliens (foreigners) were looked after. This widow is obviously raising her voice to demand justice. She will not sit down, feel powerless, reduce herself to being broken and afraid, she uses her voice with courage and persistence. She is not willing to be silenced in the face of injustice. Jesus reveals God is on the side of the poor and marginalized, the One who listens to their prayers. Woe to those who allow the world to remain an unjust and inhospitable place for many. When have you raised your voice for justice? What area of need or justice project catches your attention. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit we are sensitive to God calling us through the things we notice and pay attention to, or sometimes try to avoid. What could you do to be involved?

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

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

Discussion Guide for 28th Sunday: Living the Hospitality and Mercy of God is here

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Reflection Questions

• Our readings today have 2 characters who suffer from Leprosy. Lepers were excluded from living in the community. People didn’t want to catch the disease. It was also commonly believed that leprosy was a sign of being punished by God and that the leper was both morally and ritually unclean. The forced isolated shunned life living outside the community (Lev 13,46) caused incredible loneliness and constant rejection. How do we shun, isolate and cause chronic loneliness and rejection for people today? What are some modern forms of social ʻleprosyʼ?

• Naaman was a general in the Syrian Army, both a foreigner and an enemy, and he had leprosy so was excluded and to be feared. Israel and Syria were not friendly. Possibly from a previous conquest Naaman had even taken a Jewish slave girl for his household. Everyone would have been against him! Consider the courage he had in going to a holy man in Israel; Elisha. How welcoming are we toward strangers, or those we fear?

• What obstacles has Naaman had to overcome for healing? He tries to offer wealth as payment but Elisha refuses. How freely do we share the Lord’s goodness? He asks for soil from Israel to take home to build an Altar. His full acceptance of God is symbolized in that action. What is your symbol of thanksgiving and acceptance of God and what could you build to offer worship to God for healing and forgiveness?

• Scholars suggest that St Paulʼs letter to Timothy was written while he was in prison. St Paul was ʻin chainsʼ, treated as a criminal for his preaching the gospel of inclusion by God in Christ to the gentiles. He invites young Timothy to also be willing to persevere and suffer for this mission. What would you be willing to endure ʻchainsʼ for? What do you understand Paul means by; “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.” What effort do you put into changing the patterns of exclusion in your community and society?

• Gospel stories are like icebergs: 90% of the story is beneath the surface. Underneath the story of the lepers are further stories of exclusion, hurt, isolation. The Samaritan is like Naaman in the first reading; a hated foreigner. Past events meant Samaritans no longer acknowledge Jerusalem and the Temple as the place of true worship. Healing from leprosy required a certificate of health by the Priest before a leper could be accepted back in community. The 9 lepers are obviously so keen to see the priest that they lost sight of who did the healing -Jesus. Only the foreigner stopped and showed gratitude. When do you take your life and health for granted? Have you had some high moments and forgotten to give thanks to God. Write, share or pray a thank-you list to God about things in life you forget to say thanks to God for.

• God wishes to include and bring to faith the most unlikely of characters. Naaman and the Samaritan leper show God’s desire to include, not exclude.  What does this teach us about God? Does it adjust your image of God? Which unlikely character in your community might God be inviting you to bring to faith? What misconceptions do you and they need to let go of so that Godʼs welcome and inclusion can be realized?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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: Fan the Gift of God Into a Flame

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Reflection Questions

• Today is the only time this year we hear from the prophet Habakkuk. Disheartened by the violence and the harm done to the innocent he receives a vision and instruction from God. Literally, he is told to ʻwrite a sign so that those who run by may be able to read itʼ. The first Billboard! God will save the just. He is asked to trust that the Babylonian army entering Israel will ultimately serve Godʼs purpose of a renewal of faith in Israel. What disheartens you? What words of comfort have you heard from God or friends? What ʻbillboardʼ sign would you create to help and comfort people to trust in God?

• Timothy is a young man Paul appointed to lead his community in Ephesus. He is discouraged and thinking about giving up that mission. Paul encourages him to ʻstir into a flameʼ the gifts that God has given him. When we ‘stir’ a fire we stoke it to break it open and expose more oxygen and fuel so the flame burns hotter. What will help you fan the flame of your faith? What fuel and oxygen do you need? Timothy is not to be timid or ashamed of his youth and is to see his strength in God not his own abilities. Is your faith precious to guard and fan for the service of others? What gifts do you recognize and celebrate in yourself? Talk to God about how fear, shame, timidity or tired faith limits you?

• When a text is confusing it can be helpful to place the ʻtext in contextʼ. Luke 17 has a number of small teachings given by Jesus to his disciples on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus guides them on their leadership responsibilities in their future communities. They are not to cause the downfall of a ʻsingle little oneʼ (17,2). They are to forgive people in their community seven times a day (17,4)! This challenge makes the
disciples ask ʻincrease our fai1thʼ (17,5). The word ʻfaithʼ can also be understood as ʻloyaltyʼ in following the instructions of a teacher. Is there a ʻlittle oneʼ you may be bringing down by a poor example? Is there anyone you find difficult to forgive seven times?

• The disciples do not ask for more teaching. They ask for help in surrendering more fully to God. Write a one line prayer asking for deeper trust in and surrender to God.

• A servant was normally working in the fields or in domestic house work. Strikingly this servant is doing ʻdouble dutiesʼ and is expected to do so without complaining. Society today expects individuals to be accoladed for their service. Yet Jesus calls disciples to servant leadership; the ʻdouble dutyʼ of gentle, faithful servant leadership and extravagant forgiveness is a minimum for discipleship in Christ. What are your
struggles with servant leadership ?

• The idea of obedience is very unpopular today. The image of Master and Servant can stir up feelings and resentments. Expectations are often the source of those feelings. “I should (should not) have been treated…” What are your expectations about ʻservingʼ God? How comfortable are with the identity of being an obedient servant? A joyful servant sees the gift in work and delights in serving. They know
their housing, responsibilities, food and needs will be provided for. Can you trust God to provide? Am I able to say truthfully ʻI am simply a servantʼ? What are your frequent feelings about your expectations and identity?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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,  Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 26th Sunday is here

Image result for Catholic solidarity justice poorReflection Questions

  1. 1.Amos continues his public speech in Jerusalem against the incredibly wealthy who are so satisfied with beautiful beds, couches, food, wine, concerts and cosmetics. ‘They are not made ill by the collapse of their fellow people (Joseph)ʼ. How can wealth create a ʻblindnessʼ to the poor? Can you remember any experience where you had your eyes opened to the cry of the poor? What happened?
  2. 2.God’s covenant relationship in Dt. 15:4 stated that ‘there should be no poor among you because the Lord will richly bless you. Implied in this is that the richly blessed share with others to ensure all are provided for. How aware are you that our Christian commitment /covenant involves a social obligation / covenant toward the ‘poor’? What are you doing to make that commitment practical ?
  3. Some scholars consider this passage from Timothy could come from an ordination ceremony. Who might be your Pontius Pilate? Do you have ‘courage under fire’ to give your testimony and confess your faith in difficult situations? Where and when have you found it hard?
  4. Purple clothing was the ultimate sign of luxury and wealth because its source was a rare shellfish and insect being crushed. It showed status in the way ‘branded’ clothing or luxury items distinguish a person of wealth today. What symbols of great wealth are used today? What part of the economic ‘system’ are you in?  How does wealth and status impact you?
  5. The Great Reversal of fortunes is a theme of the Gospel of Luke. The Rich will be brought low, the poor will be lifted up. However it is not riches themselves that are the problem (Abraham himself was a very rich man!). It is allowing wealth to so preoccupy and claim ones attention and energy that the needs of others go unnoticed. The rich man clearly knew Lazarus because he uses his name. However he refused to share his wealth and his conscience is dulled to conversion or compassion. The Rich Man claims he had
    no warning about the reversal. If this parable describes what will happen in the after-life, what does it demand of us today?
  6. How are you wealthy and what would it take for you to share it? We are charged to give to the poor not just because they need it, but because it is essential to our own salvation. Have you considered the difference between charity and true justice which recognizes that we are intrinsically in solidarity with every member of the human family who have equal rights to the goods of the earth? The gulf between rich and poor is immense. What can I change around me?
    • How might the Parable of Lazarus challenge our Eucharistic Communities? The parish is charged with the care of every soul within its geographic boundary? Are we wealthy in God’s great blessing and Eucharistic Banquet? Who do we share that with? Do we drive vehicles yet fail to arrange transport for those in need? Are we wearing fashion clothes, and enjoying coffees, while nearby, people struggle to feed, clothe or house their family? In Luke, Jesus refuses to allow his disciples to be satisfied with the worlds default settings. Every 6th line of Luke’s Gospel is a challenge to reach out to the poor in either charity or justice. What are your obstacles to
    deeper conversion to solidarity and justice for the poor?
  7. What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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 for 25th Sunday Year C:  Mercy and Money Matters

See the source imageReflection Questions


• When Amos preached, Israel was prosperous and at peace with its neighbours. Amos, whose ʻday-jobʼ was to look after orchard trees, was upset at the growing gap between the rich and poor. He decided to go the city of Jerusalem to shout out his concerns. False weights in scales, selling the poor as slaves because they could not pay their debt, selling to the poor the food scraps off the floor of the wheat barns of the Rich. Banks trading money, mortgagee sales of those unable to pay interest on their home loans, the rich forcing the poor further into slavery who are only able to buy 2 minute noodles for their families. Do you ʻseeʼ what is happening in society? What is your response to God who says ʻI will never forget a thing they have done!ʼ How does God feel? How do you feel?

• Timothy is a young man left by St Paul to lead and guide the community at Ephesus. He is trying to keep the Christian community together. Some believed they had special knowledge and should have more importance in the community. Others were promoting civil disobedience, not wanting to go along with Roman authorities and governmental structures. On Sunday do you lift up holy hands without anger or argument?

• Jesusʼ Parable of the Crafty Steward provides Luke with an opportunity to combine the themes of Mercy and Money. Godʼs mercy and care for Godʼs people is to be mirrored by the material care and support of the poor by Godʼs people. This is the ʻcovenantʼ or ʻarrangementʼ Godʼs people are to live by (the reason for Prophet Amos going to Jerusalem in the first reading). Are you in relationship with anyone who is ʻpoorʼ and in need? What might living this covenant mean for you?

• The rich man has a dishonest steward, but Jesus concludes by praising some of the dishonest stewards actions. The steward has just lost his job. Before everyone finds out, he has a crafty but risky plan. He will not charge the full interest and commission on the debt. He will win friends and those in debt will also praise the honour of the rich land owner believing that the master is truly honorable in not charging them interest on their ʻloanʼ. Jesus comments that worldly people are often more creative and faithful to their goals and use of money to build ʻtheir kingdomʼ than are spiritual people. How could you creatively use money to build the ʻKingdom of Godʼ. Have you considered any creative fund raising project which could serve the poor? Have you shared your wealth and shown a preferential option for the poor recently?

• In the Gospel of Luke, the best use of money is to use it in the service of lifting up the poor. In doing this you will also be ʻrich in the sight of Godʼ – and you will be truly welcomed into your ʻeternal dwellingʼ in heaven. Do you connect Mercy and Money? Have you considered what standard of living is ʻenoughʼ so that you may have something to share with the poor and those in need? How could you be a ʻcrafty stewardʼ of your resources and lifestyle so that you please God and the poor?

• What is one action that you will do to livethewordʼ 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

 

Reflection Guide for 24th Sunday Year C: God’s Inexhaustible Mercy

Discussion Questions

• God’s inexhaustible patience and mercy are the key to todays readings. In Exodus God revealed his ʻnameʼ and ʻfaceʼ to Moses and gave the 10 Commandments. But the people lose patience and give up waiting for Moses to return to them. In their eyes God and Moses has disappointed and abandoned them. They resolve their own solution to their issues making an ʻidolʼ of a golden calf – an ancient symbol of fertility, life and fruitfulness. Moses pleads for his stiff-necked people and God responds with mercy. Have you had an experience of ʻwaitingʼ for an answer or being disappointed by God? Have you ever lost patience with God, or felt abandoned and decided to take things into your own hands? What were the results for you and for those around you?
• Is there anything today you are ʻwaitingʼ for God to show you? Are you listening to his ʻwordʼ? Can you share your disappointment with God? Or perhaps there is a Moses figure God has placed in your life to help and guide you? Are you seeking their wise counsel and prayer for your needs? Who do you know that may be far from God, off on their own track or even blaspheming God? How often do you respond like Moses and plead for them in prayer?
• In the 2nd reading Paul writes as a mentor to his ‘child in faith’, Timothy. He shares his wisdom born of personal experience about God’s ‘inexhaustible patience’ and mercy. Who has shared their experience of the mercy of God with you? How have you experienced God’s compassion and patience? With whom, and how are you called to share that message?
• In these Parables of Mercy – Jesus shatters our misconceptions about the image of God. In striving for efficiency and profit, who would go after 1 lost sheep? It would be ‘written off’ as a predictable percentage loss. Who would ‘waste’ productivity to hunt for 1 coin? Who would welcome without question a son or daughter who wished their parents dead and disgraced the family in public?! Jesus reveals the true image of who God is – inexhaustibly patient, filled with compassion and longing to find whoever is lost, embracing with tender mercy all who have sinned. What is your ʻimageʼ of God? How did that image form? What attracts you in how Jesus presents His Father in Luke 15?
• In teaching on this Gospel Pope Francis said, “the Jews treated the Samaritans with contempt, considering them strangers to the chosen people” In choosing a Samaritan in the parable Jesus shocks us into recognizing our own call to overcome prejudice and that “even a foreigner; one who does not know the true God and does not attend his temple, is able to behave according to God’s will, feeling compassion for a ‘brother’ in need and helping with all the means at his disposal”.“The Pope said. “If you come across a homeless person, and pass by without looking, do not ask yourself whether that person has had too much to drink, but whether your own heart has stiffened and turned to ice,” How does that challenge you?
• Notice each character, the younger son, the older brother, the Father. Which do you identify with and why? Asking for the inheritance was like the youngest son wishing Dad ‘dead’. He makes his father appear a fool. Yet the father’s unwavering love watches longingly for the son’s return, then he runs in public which was the equivalent of ‘baring one’s bottom’. The crowds attention moves from condemnation of the son toward the foolish father. His humiliation before the whole community, including the outrage of his older son are for the sake of compassion and mercy. How could the community and older son become part of that relationship of mercy?
• Jesus wants us to know that the compassion the father has in this parable is the same love God wants to show each of us? How do you respond? In the sacrament of reconciliation God longingly waits to pour mercy & transformation into your life? What holds you back?
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Web: www.livingtheword.or.nz Email: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com
Livingtheword resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD, Marist Laity NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 23rd Sunday: What Does it Mean to Count the Cost?

Link to the Readings for Sunday 23rd here

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Wisdom was a Jewish response to the wisdom writers and Greek Philosophers seeking to understand the meaning of life. Written for Jews in Alexandria, the international and
cultural centre of the time, many Jews were giving up their faith and adopting a Greek philosophy. Greek Philosophy taught that human nature was ʻagainst Godʼ and we could not ʻknow Godʼ. The Wisdom writer teaches we can be in tune with the Holy Spirit of God so our paths can become ʻstraightʼ. What do you think? Have you experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit at any point in your life?

• Philemon was a convert of Paul and he was obviously wealthy enough to have slaves. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon who had escaped, found Paul in Rome, and had become very helpful to
him. But Paul found out Onesimus was a ʻslaveʼ. He sent him back – with this letter – to his master Philemon. He does not try to change the slavery system, but seeks to change the heart of Philemon to treat Onesimus as a ʻbrotherʼ and to give him the status of being ʻfreeʼ. It was a dangerous move. Onesimus could have been killed, or at least be branded with ʻfʼ (fugitiveʼ) on his forehead. Why would Paul take such a risk for freedom?

• Today Luke shares the most radical challenge of following Jesus. Great crowds are following Jesus and he turns to them because they may not truly understand what following him will involve. The disturbing ʻcostʼ of discipleship is that they must ʻhateʼ their family! This is a Jewish teaching method to prove a point. Jesus challenges every disciple he must come first. Above all family relationships. For Jewish people this is upsetting. Jesus is to be preferred before Mum and Dad… Jesus is to be the top social priority of their lives. What does this discipleship challenge mean for you personally?

• Jesus often provides instruction, then offers an image into what living his teaching will look like. Building a house or marching into battle are two of the biggest challenges one might undertake in life. Instead of finances and military supplies, discipleship preparation is the task of being free of attachments to family and possessions. What would this large discipleship preparation task look like for you? Do you want to ʻfollow? What are your biggest obstacles?

• Freedom in relationships and possessions is a sign of a closer journey with Jesus. Imagine taking a modern person away from family and friends, cell phone and internet. Why is it difficult and why might it be ʻnecessaryʼ? Is there a relationship you are in which requires more freedom, possessions you may need to give away or your lifestyle simplified so that you may not be so ʻentangledʼ in following Christ?

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

Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.                                                 web: www.livingtheword.org.nz.     E-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com    www.maristlaitynz.org