God has actually spoken

The scripture readings for Sunday are a great starting point to start listening

more

It's more enjoyable with others

There are some simple and effective ways to share scripture in homes, cafes, parishes

more

Let's walk the talk

Prayer becomes lived out when we make decisions and lifestyle commitments

more

Sign up for email notifications

Or follow us via Twitter, facebook, RSS and more

more

Posts Tagged ‘Mass’

Discussion Guide: Feast of Christ the King

Dan.7:13-14, Rev. 1:5-8, John 18:33-37

See the source image

Reflection Questions

  • As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, there is an urgency in the readings to ‘prepare’ and ‘be ready’ for the end of time. Fr Anthony De Mello, a famous preacher and teacher once began a retreat by asking: Hands up if you want to go to heaven. All eagerly put their hands up. He responded. Hands up if you want to go to heaven now. No hands went up. He suggested they think about why they were ‘not ready’ and he walked out of the room! If Jesus’ birth at Christmas was also the ‘second coming’ what would you be inspired to do so that you were ‘ready’ for Christ?
  • The Book of Daniel is written to encourage Jewish people during a time of great persecution. Mighty armies, Kings, powerful empires would cease and be
    silenced by the ‘Son of Man’. This is an enthronement vision of Jesus before God the Father. In the midst of super-powers and battles for resources and status do you view the world and history with ‘hope’ that the way of Jesus will be victorious? When you look at the cross of Jesus do you see only pain? Or victory?
  • Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning ‘revelation’ or ‘unveiling’. Apocalyptic writing seeks to give hope to those suffering. It will end. Jesus will triumph.
    This truth has been ‘unveiled’ in visions which make up the Book of Revelation. 666 (the Beast) was the spelling of Nero Caesar in the Semitic alphabet who blamed Christians for the devastating fires of Rome around 90 AD. Domitian who persecuted Christians in the East around 95 AD was thought to be Nero come back to life. What form of persecution do you experience as a Christian? How may the words of Revelation encourage you: Jesus (was) is faithful. Was raised from death. Rules over all kings. Loves, frees and forgives our sins by his blood. Made  us priests – called to bring the world to God and God to the world. How could your persecution become an opportunity for witness? For God?
  • In Year B readings on the Feast of Christ the King, Mark readings are left aside in favour of the Gospel of John and a curious debate about the meaning of ʻKingʼ. Jesus is face-to-face with Pilate symbolising secular and political power. Pilate asks: Is Jesus a ʻworldly kingʼ or the mysterious Jewish figure spoken of as Messiah? Jesus teaches ʻkingʼ and ʻkingdomʼ need a new definition to cope with Godʼs viewpoint. Such a king and kingdom has not existed in ʻthe worldʼ. The Kingdom of God involves not being served, but serving. Non violence. The true ʻKingʼ is one who gives his life ʻfor othersʼ not seeking wealth comfort and personal security. Jesus ʻcame into the worldʼ to bring this reality and truth into existence. What ʻkingdomʼ do you ʻbelongʼ to? Domination, Power, Prestige or Love, Justice, Service? Pilate or Jesus? Is the kingdom better expressed in words or actions?
  • Pilate will soon wash his hands in water and pretend not to be involved in the brutality and bloodshed soon to happen to Jesus. How do you pretend not to be involved in the injustices of the world in the newspaper, television news? Consider the phrase: early christians followed before they worshipped, Christians today worship and refuse to follow.
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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

 

Discussion Guide for Winning the World, Heart by Heart.

Dn 12:1-3, Heb. 10:11-14, 18, Gospel Mk 13:24-32

Image result for Salvador Dali Christ in Perspective

Reflection Questions

  • In the context of the Church’s liturgy, the 33rd Sunday is only one week away from the end of the year. Next week is Christ The King. Liturgically we enter an atmosphere of reaching the ‘end of time’. Because of this pattern todays readings have an apocalyptic atmosphere of end time struggle and judgement.
  • Daniel means ‘My judge is God’. The Book of Daniel is written during a time of great persecution when Antiochus Epiphanes is forcing Jews to convert to
    pagan gods. Here is the first time in Hebrew scriptures that a resurrection of the faithful is mentioned. God is the master of history. All those ‘in the book’
    who ‘shine brightly’ and lead people on the way to ‘justice’ will be like stars living forever. Examine your own life. How would the statement ‘my judge is God’ shape your life? Antiochus may not be forcing you to eat pigs flesh (abhorent and unclean to Jews) but what idols or practices are you subtly invited to ‘eat’?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews concludes. We are taught about the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilling and finishing the Old Testament sacrifices. Notice the image of the Old Testament Priest ‘standing’ and working each day. Jesus, after the sacrifice of the cross, now being ‘seated’ and waiting for the time of gathering. Consider the victory and offer of forgiveness that has taken place on the cross. Imagine a winning sports team lifting the captain high onto their shoulders with winning trophy held high! This sacrifice of the cross – like a trophy – is held by the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine into the sacrifice and body and blood of Jesus. We stand together rejoicing. And we receive this sacrifice as a sacred forgiveness and communion meal
    bringing us into a total physical and spiritual union with God and each other. Do you see the depth and great celebration taking place at Mass? What
    would you like to learn more about? Who could you ask?
  • The Book of Daniel and The Book of Revelation are apocalyptic writings ʻunveilingʼ a vision of what will take place at the end of time. Each Gospel inserts
    some apocalyptic passages pointing toward that final day. The images of the sun darkened, stars falling, heavenly struggle, share a cosmic event affecting
    all of creation. Have you noticed that at the crucifixion of Jesus these images appear. Could this mean that the final ʻeventʼ and ʻstruggleʼ and ʻvictoryʼ has taken place on the cross? Could this be why the early disciples were so expectant of Jesusʼ return before ʻthis generation passed awayʼ?
  • Why the delay in the second coming is a question asked by Christians. Why is Jesus sitting ʻwaitingʼ in heaven as portrayed in Hebrews? The Gospel points to a ʻgathering of the elect from the four corners of the earthʼ. Will this require all the earth to ʻhear the message of Jesusʼ? Is Jesus lazy on a heavenly chair or waiting urgently to work in the Church, in the sacraments, in each disciple, winning the world ʻheart by heartʼ? How do you understand christian ʻwaitingʼ for the second coming?
  • ʻThat day or hourʼ is unknown. That it will happen is certain, when it will happen is uncertain. Consider a spiritual practice of imagination prayer. Present yourself to Jesus at the end of time. What does he say? What do you say?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

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

Relection Guide: Eucharist-Food for our Souls is here.

Discussion Questions

See the source image

• The Book of Proverbs shares many short wisdom sayings. Wisdom and Foolishness are two pathways we can walk. Two ‘women’, are presented as
preparing a home and a banquet. A prostitute (foolishness) chapters 5-7. A Lady (wisdom) chapters 8-9. Stolen bread and water are contrasted with fine food.
Which voice and house will you enter? Where do you go for ‘wisdom’ and ‘guidance’? What recent wisdom have you learnt from walking down wrong paths?

• Paul continues to explain the life-style of a baptised person in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘watch carefully how you live’. When was the last opportunity you took to have some time of reflection and review of your life….. asking for a clear vision and trying to understand ‘what is the will of the Lord’. Consider planning a few hours in the week to reflect on how you could live the life-style of Christ more deeply.

• We are at week 4 of 5 weeks sitting with the Gospel of John chapter 6. Jesus has challenged the Jewish understanding of Passover ‘bread from Heaven’ and insists he is the one sent from Heaven. He is ‘living bread’ and he goes even further to claim he will give his ‘flesh’ for the life of the world. Ponder what the symbol and experience of ‘bread’ means for you. How is Jesus’ life like ‘bread’ for you?

•The gospel of John invites us to make a significant transition from ʻbreadʼ [the Jewish Passover meal] to ʻflesh-and- bloodʼ – the whole person [Jesusʼ replacement of the passover with the offering of his life on the cross]. The special Jewish celebration of Godʼs love and forgiveness is now replaced with the
Cross – the sign of Godʼs love and forgiveness for the whole world. Unleavened Bread and Passover Lamb has now become a sacrificial meal transformed. Wine and Bread is now transformed to Blood and Flesh because Jesus has said it, promised it, given it. Enlightened or confused?

• The deep language and expression of love helps our heart seeking understanding. Love desires to ʻgiveʼ and gift oneʼs ʻpresenceʼ to the beloved. To
resolve the human difficulty of not knowing how to come to God, we find God comes to us through the gift of the true presence of Jesus in the body and blood at Mass. We are seated at a God- given (wisdom) banquet. For John, it is not enough to ʻbelieveʼ in Jesus, we are also called to ʻreceiveʼ the physical gift
and life-presence of Jesus into our physical bodies. Do you receive in ʻignoranceʼ or with ʻknowledgeʼ?

• True life, ʻeternal lifeʼ is given and received. The life and spirit of Jesus is now present within the receiver of the Eucharist (good -gift). It is because of this
truth we call the experience ʻHoly – Communion (many becoming one with the one who is Holy – God). After receiving communion how could you develop a greater appreciation of this physical intimacy with Jesus? Consider making up a personal prayer to pray at this time of silence after communion.

• St Thomas Aquinas offers two simple sentences for reflection. Where do these sentences lead you in reflection…..
“What food is for our bodies, the Eucharist is for our souls”.
          • “The proper effect of the Eucharist is to transform us into God”

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

 

 

Discussion Guide: Sealed and Fed to Thrive

1 Kgs 19:4-8, Eph. 4:30-5:2, Gospel Jn 6:41-51

See the source image
Reflection Questions

• The continuing theme of being ‘fed by God’ is developed in the readings this week. Elijah sits exhausted under a tree in the desert. He is being hunted down by Princess Jezebel who was married to the King of Israel. She tried to replace all prophets and temples of Yahweh by importing 450 prophets and followers of
B’aal from her homeland in Sidon. Elijah has just killed them all and is now on the RUN! (see 1Kings 18, 19-46). Have you ever got into difficulty as a result of
obedience to God? Have you ever said to God: ‘this is enough’? Is there any painful purifying of the Church that you find particularly difficult to participate in and endure?

• God encourages Elijah not to focus upon his own pain and fear. God wants to offer food and strength for the “40 day” journey ahead. Do you tend to focus on your own pain and mumble and groan? How could you develop a habit of being open to help and ‘being fed’? God wishes us to move from simply ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’. If you were to ask God or someone for help, what would be your question in one sentence? How could you grow your hunger so you experience being ‘fed’ with scripture and the eucharist?

• St Paul teaches that we were ‘sealed’ at our Baptism. A ‘seal’ was a special jewel or stone or metal cylinder marked with a ʻsignʼ and pressed upon clay or wax or object. The ʻmark – sealʼ indicated the owners signature, ownership, authority on a legal document or object. The link between the person and / or object was now displayed to the world. As ʻsealedʼ people we are to witness to whom we belong. Paul inserts attributes displaying God; kindness, compassion, forgiveness. Are you conscious of being ʻsealedʼ? Is there any anger or bitterness the spirit would like you to let go of so as not to ʻgrieve the spiritʼ dwelling in you?

• Jewish people often referred to their ʻlawsʼ as ʻbread from heavenʼ. Their laws and teachings from Moses gave them life and revealed God to them. They grumble and ‘murmurʼ at Jesusʼ claim: I am the bread that comes down from Heaven. Hidden within this phrase Jesus is claiming the Divine Name ʻI AMʼ and to replace the ʻlawʼ. He teaches further that he is true life-giving ʻbreadʼ but that ʻbreadʼ will now be replaced with ʻfleshʼ. John presents clearly the levels of meaning: Bread. Jesus. Flesh. Can you see in this text of John 6 the threads of our belief that in the Eucharist / Mass it is truly the ʻfleshʼ of Jesus we receive? Do you recognise the invitation following reception of Jesus to now become ʻlife-for-the-worldʼ?

• The only way God can be truly revealed is someone must come from God and live among us. This is indeed the great religious hope of the Jewish people.
However they become satisfied with the laws of God and were not ready to accept the ʻpersonʼ of God. Jesus claims he is this person truly ʻfromʼ God, has ʻseenʼ God. This is the claim of Christianity that sets us apart from other world religions. Because Jesus is divine – God – among – us what he promises to give us – his flesh and blood – he can and will do. As we approach the end of 5 weeks of teaching on the Eucharist consider prayerfully reading John 6. How would you explain the Eucharist now in your own words?

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

Discussion Guide,: Time For a Christ Makeover?

Readings:  Ex 16:2-4, 12-15, Eph. 4:17, 20-24, Jn. 6:24-35

 

Image result for New Person in Christ Butterfly

 

 

Reflection Questions

• The Exodus story teaches us of our covenant relationship with God. Each time the people grumbled, Moses prayed to God, and God responded faithfully to his covenant love commitment. Remembering the first reading is chosen to highlight the Gospel reading, John 6 and Exodus are both reflecting on the
meaning of the Jewish ‘Passover’. The treasured memory of God feeding his people with ‘manna’ (literally from the word ‘man hu’ meaning ‘what is this?’)
was an essential part of the Passover celebration. Rather ungratefully, God’s people continually grumbled. Do I grumble frequently against ‘Moses and
Aaron…..’ How could I speak words of ‘affirmation’? How could I practice gratefulness for the ‘daily feeding’ by God of every gift and blessing?

• Parts of the Letter to the Ephesians are prayers used at Baptism in the early  community. A colorful image is pointed to in the Baptism ceremony. In
ancient times one’s clothing was considered part of oneself. In the ceremony you took off your old clothes and put on a new white garment. Your old self was put aside. Your new self is the life of Christ. Your new life-style is as a citizen of Heaven not a citizen of Rome. How could you show Righteousness, Holiness
and Truth more in your life? Amongst your family? At work?

• Last week we began 5 weeks of hearing the Gospel of John chapter 6. It is important to notice the context of John 6. The famous ʻbread of lifeʼ passage is the
second of three passover celebrations in the Gospel of John. At each passover, Jesus replaces the passover with his own ʻbodyʼ (see John 2, 6, 19). Last week the crowd tried to take Jesus away to make him ʻKingʼ because there was a Jewish expectation (2 Baruch 29:3,18) that there would be a miraculous feeding of bread from heaven which would reveal the promised Messiah. Jesus comments to the crowd, they are only looking and working for ʻfoodʼ to fill their bellies. He promises something greater. Can you understand what Jesus is doing when he claims he is the ʻSon of Manʼ, the one on whom the Father, God, has ʻset his sealʼ? What does it mean if you ʻset your sealʼ upon your letter, object…?

• The crowd asks for proof from Jesus that he is ʻbetterʼ than Moses who fed Israel with ʻmannaʼ in the desert. Jesus responds using a very important phrase: ʻI AM the bread of Lifeʼ. I AM is the divine name given by God to Moses in Ex 3,16. Jesus reminds the crowd that it was God not Moses who fed his people, and in fact, I AM is standing right in front of you.

• The Gospel of John often requires the reader to step down into deeper levels of meaning. Never hungry and never thirsty recognises a physical ʻhungerʼ and invites the reader to recognise a deeper spiritual hunger and thirst for life. Beyond feeding your body and satisfying your thirst, what do you really live for? What is ʻlifeʼ for?

• Many people came seeking Jesus but they did not want to follow him. Jesus will soon make the connection that He is and will become the ʻbread of Godʼ from Heaven which gives life. He will do this with the gift of his ʻBodyʼ and his ʻBloodʼ on the cross which will be received in the celebration of the Mass John 6, 55. Do you ʻseeʼ that you truly receive Jesus at Mass? Do you ʻseekʼ AND ʻfollowʼ Jesus?

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

Discussion Guide for 17th Sunday is here

Image result for took loaves fishes blessed them

Reflection Questions

  • Over the next 5 weeks, our scripture readings focus upon the events of God feeding his people. We depart from the normal Gospel of Mark readings from
    Mark chapter 6 and are placed into the Gospel of John chapter 6. The next five weeks provide an opportunity for prayer and deeper reflection upon the Eucharist and its meaning for our lives.
  • Jewish people recognised miraculous events of Prophets feeding God’s people with bread symbolised God feeding his family and satisfying their hunger. It was normal to bring Barley – which was harvested around the time of the Jewish Passover – to the temple as an offering. Significantly, because the temple in the North (Gilgal) was following false Baal worship the bread / barley offering is presented to a holy man (Elisha) who distributed it to the poor. Do you experience the prophetic connection between worship and being fed and ‘morality’ – now feeding the poor of the world on behalf of God?
  • Last week we heard Jesus has united us all together – Jews and Gentiles. Paul encourages us ‘to live in a manner worthy….’ showing this unity. How do you experience disunity?
  • Imagine your life, relationships, work-place. How could you practice unity-creating virtues: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with, striving to preserve unity, maintaining  bonds of peace? What is your biggest challenge?
  • Because the Gospel of Mark (Yr B) has only 16 chapters, we jump into John chapter 6 for 5 weeks to explore Jesusʼ feeding the 5,000. The story of Jesus feeding with bread is told 6 times in the Gospels. John is the most theologically full with special words and meaning. It is around the Jewish Feast of the Passover. At Passover Jewish people remembered Moses the great prophet feeding them with ʻmanna in the desertʼ. The promised Messiah (King) would also do a miraculous feeding. We notice in each of the three Passovers of Jesusʼ public ministry (Jn 2, 6, 19) the passover is fulfilled and replaced ʻwith his bodyʼ. 5 loaves and 2 fish = 7 the perfect Jewish number indicating a perfect feeding. Taking the loaves, gave thanks, gave it to distribute, gather (synagein), fragment  (klasma) are all special words used by the early church for the celebration of  the Eucharist. Twelve indicates ʻall Jewish tribes / peopleʼ. What do you make of all these ʻcluesʼ in the reading today? What does this story now mean for you?
  •  In the midst of large crowds who are hungry, Philip offers no solution. Instead he remarks it will cost so much to fix this problem, 2/3rds of a years wage! What thought or feeling decides your  (in)actions: cost or compassion? Do you offer your small contribution of money or compassion, or give up in the sight of large injustice / poverty / hunger?
  •   The crowds ʻseeʼ the sign Jesus has worked, think of him as ʻtruly the prophet’Comapssion, UnityC they have been waiting for – the Messiah. The one promised. They wish to make him King. A Political Ruler. Why do you think Jesus ʻwithdrawsʼ? Why is the ʻlifting up of Jesusʼ on the cross the enthronement moment in the gospel of John?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide for the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus.

Image result for body and blood christ

Reflection Questions

  • The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) began as a response to increased devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the 12th Century. This led to a desire to ʻseeʼ, Jesus in the consecrated elements. In 1220 in Paris the practice of elevating the host began.
    • A Covenant was a binding agreement and promise between two parties. Moses conducts a ʻsacrificeʼ which seals the bond between God and Israel. Blood = life. Life = God. Everyone sprinkled now participates in a relationship and keeps the ʻagreementʼ: the 10 commandments. Being sprinkled with ʻbloodʼ was a very significant event. How would you make a life-long bond and commitment today? How well do you connect the sprinkling of blood, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the blood of the covenant with the Eucharist? What would help this connection for you?
    • The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews explores the Book of Numbers and Leviticus and helps us understand Jesus as fulfilling and replacing the role of the High Priest in the Temple. The Feast of the Atonement (at-one-ment described in Lev 16) involved God forgiving sins through the action of blood being rubbed on the Mercy Seat in the most holy of holies, the tabernacle. Life represented by Blood rubs out Death represented by Sin. As well as blood bringing forgiveness, the ashes of a sacrifice were sprinkled onto water and it became ʻwaters of purificationʼ for blessing and making people ʻcleanʼ. Can you see the links to Holy Water as we enter the Church? Our Bodies receiving the blood of Christ in the chalice? The Cross of Jesus is in the Cup? How could you prepare yourself to make this a deeply special experience?
    • The Jewish Passover involved a special meal with meat of a lamb (sacrifice), bread (remembering both unleavened bread and the quick escape from Egypt and the manna from heaven while in the desert) and cups of wine (the 3rd cup remembered passing through the red sea from Egypt into the desert). Jesus now changes the words and actions and institutes a new sacred meal. He speaks interpretative words upon the bread and wine to teach us his meaning. He longer looks backward in history, but forward to the next day of his death on the cross. The unrisen bread will now become his body broken on the cross. The 3rd cup of wine will become his blood poured out establishing a new covenant. Do you see the beauty and eternal significance of the celebration of Mass? Do you have any questions to ask that would help you growin faith and understanding? Who could you ask?
    • Receiving Jesus in Holy Communion can become ʻeasyʼ and ʻordinaryʼ. The Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus highlights the importance of the Mass in our lives. Do you accept the invitation to be in a ʻcovenantʼ and intimate relationship with God? Will you seek to maintain union in prayer and action during the week? Will you agree to ʻparticipateʼ in the building of the Kingdom of God of peace and justice? Are you willing to imitate Christ; to live for God and love all people to the extent that your body is broken and your blood poured out? Can you see a deeper invitation as you receive Jesus?
    • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail:contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ

Discussion Guide, He Is Risen

Related image

Reflection Questions

• Acts chapter 10 is an very significant part of the New Testament. It is hard for us to understand just how big were the divisions between Jews and Non Jews (Gentiles). Jews were not allowed to enter a Gentile house and were certainly not allowed to ‘eat a meal together’. Acts 10 reveals the story of Peter entering a Gentile home and having a meal with a Gentile (and Roman Soldier!) Cornelius. Peter had a vision from God that the ʻgentilesʼ were ʻcleanʼ and could sit at table together with Jews. This message
would upset many who had long held religious views of separation. What obstacle may God wish to remove within you so you can sit together with an ‘enemy’? Who do you consider ʻuncleanʼ?
• Before the Feast of the Passover Jewish women would spend hours sweeping and tidying their homes. They particularly got rid of any ʻleavenʼ (yeast to make the bread rise). It was a symbol of sin, capable of
affecting the whole ʻloafʼ. In response to the Resurrection we are called to be ʻnewʼ, people of the light, walking out of darkness. What particular action, habit, area of my life will I seek to tidy and sweep during the season of Easter as a response to living the new life of the Resurrection?

• Johnʼs gospel has Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John) – three foundational members of the early christian community – walking about confused. Belief in the Resurrection was
not something that happened instantly. Even the ʻother discipleʼ who saw burial cloths before Peter, had to look again before he believed. What has been your experience of Holy Thursday, Good Friday,
Easter Saturday Vigil. What have you seen? What do you remember? What was shown to you by God to help you ʻbelieveʼ?
• 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?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

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

Reflection Questions Palm Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide Year A 20th Sunday is here

Reflection Questions for individuals or groups.

Gospel Mt 15:21-28

1)God’s chosen people, who were marched away from home into exile in Babylon, are now given permission to return home and rebuild their temple. King Cyrus even gives them back their sacred vessels stolen from the Temple 60 years earlier. The Hebrew people could hardly believe what was happening. God could even work through a Gentile King to rescue and restore his people. Isaiah shares a vision of all peoples being able to worship together in the Temple. This vision was never truly fulfilled. Non Jews were only allowed into an ‘outer courtyard’ of the Temple. What vision of welcome do you have for your Church? What limits your vision from becoming a reality?

2) Paul continues to grieve over his own Jewish people. He hopes that disobedience will eventually meet mercy! People labelled and feeling distant from God (Gentiles) will experience union with God. Paul reminds the Church of God’s passionate desire for all the ‘unclean’ / gentiles to be made welcome in the Church. Who do you judge unclean?

3) Some geography helps to understand the context of the Gospel reading today. Jesus has just finished arguing with the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-20) about what is ‘clean and unclean’. He now travels into unclean ‘gentile’ territory. He moves out of the ‘Holy Land’ and into Canaanite territory. Is he trying to get rid of the Pharisees who keep following and arguing with him? Or is he trying to teach his disciples a lesson going beyond mere words of teaching? The disciples would have been hesitant to go themselves into ‘unclean’ territory. What do you think Jesus could be teaching the disciples? The Church?

4) Without napkins at the dinner table, it was a practice that bread was broken and ones hands were cleaned with bread. Bread and food was left after dinner on the floor. House dogs were frequently able to mop up the crumbs and foodscraps after the guests had finished. This is an image used in the reading today. Is Jesus derogatory toward the woman or just revealing his first concern was ‘lost sheep of Israel’?

5) The disciples wanted the canaanite woman sent away. She was unsettling. Was Jesus waiting for the disciples reaction to her as a way of teaching them about clean / unclean?

6) The Gentile woman kneels before Jesus and prays ‘Lord help me’. Jesus praises and rewards her persistence and faith. To the Jewish community of the Gospel of Matthew this event would have come as a shock. Jesus entered into and found faith among the unclean gentiles. Imagine feeling or being labelled as ‘unclean’ by ‘the church’. What obstacles need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus? Are you helping or hindering?

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