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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

Discussion Guide 31st Sunday Year B: Hear-Listen-Love! Live the Word

Readings: Dt 6:2-6, Heb. 7:23-28, Gospel Mk 12:28B-34

Image result for Greatest commandment

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Deuteronomy (second law) is a summary of God’s teachings to help guide God’s people as they leave the desert and enter their new and promised home-land Israel). Moses reminds them they have been looked after and loved so beautifully that the only proper response to God is to return love. ‘Love your God with all your heart’. Have you ‘taken into your heart’ God’s love and care for you?
• Jewish people still treasure this ‘command’ to hear and remember. Devout Jews wear this prayer in little prayer containers (phylacteries) on their wrist
and forehead, pray it morning and evening, and have a container at the doorway of their home which they touch to remind them to love God who loved
them. How could you be reminded of God’s love each day? Where could you put a crucifix so that it is a daily visible and touchable reminder as you ‘come and
go’ in and out of your home?
• The Letter to the Hebrews is written for Jewish christians who are struggling and tempted to return to the practices of the temple, the laws, the sacrifices. Jesus is shown to be the true and perfect high- priest who will never die and whose sacrifice on the cross forgives ‘once and for all’. Do you ever think something else needs to be done to forgive you? make you acceptable? Do you find yourself holding God’s love at arms length until you become perfect by your own actions? What practices or traditions do you long for that used to make you feel well?
• Jesus is now in Jerusalem. He has chased out money changers from the Temple, had arguments with Pharisees and Scribes. Today a frequent faith question is discussed. Jews believed that 613 laws were developed from the 10 commandments. Living all these laws put one in right relationship with God. Scribes
who were teachers of the laws especially to the younger generation were often asked: Make it simple? Which is the greatest? Jesus quotes from Dt 6, 4 (1st
Reading) but also adds Lev 19,18 – care of the poor (check out Lev 19.9-17). 613 becomes 2. How do you move from love of God on Sunday to love of God on
Monday? Do you find it easy to separate love of God from love of neighbour? How do you see this in your life? In the Church?
• The Prophets of the Old Testament constantly pointed out the ease at which people worshipped in the temple with ʻburnt offerings and sacrificesʼ but did not
love their ʻneighbourʼ shown by helping others in need. Love of God draws me into a relationship with all whom God loves. God painfully wishes our love to be
extended to lift up the lowest and forgotten in society. Imagine entering a home for dinner and saying nice words at the table. Upon leaving the house kicking
the children and scratching the hosts car. What is going on?
• The scribe agrees with Jesus. But Jesus says things are still incomplete: ʻyou are not far from the Kingdom of Godʼ. Close but not there yet! Your head is ʻon boardʼ but is your life going to truly show direct ʻactionʼ linking God AND Neighbour? The crowd stayed silent. Why? What would it involve to actually live and love neighbour as your own flesh and blood?
• 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 30th Sunday Year B: Jesus is Calling You.

Readings: Jer. 31:7-9, Heb. 5:1-6, Gospel Mk 10:46-52

Image result for Take Courage Jesus is calling you

Reflection Questions

• Jeremiah is a prophet during one of the most difficult times. Reluctantly, God allows his chosen people to be led off to exile as a consequence of their
unfaithfulness. Jeremiah makes a prophecy that God will always be truly a Father and will ensure a safe return for all – even the blind and lame. Have you ever
had to let someone ‘learn a lesson’ the hard way? Does pain and suffering mean that God does not care? As a parent, what is special about a ‘first-born’?
• Although Jesus did not wear the special vestments and serve in the Temple as a Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches that Jesus is qualified and actually fulfills the role of the High Priest in the Old Testament: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is understood as completing all sacrifices. How do you relate to your ‘priest’? Have you ever asked for help to draw closer to God? Has he been able to ‘deal patiently’ with his people? Has he been beset by weakness himself? Have you prayed for him lately?
• To teach Jewish people the identity of Jesus the text links Jesus to the mysterious figure of Melchizedek – King of Peace, of unknown origin, who served
Abraham as a Priest. Jewish scholars understood Melchizedek not to have died and to be eternally a priest of God – What would it mean that Jesus is eternally your personal priest standing in the presence of God the Father in Heaven for you?
• “Sight” is a special theme in todays readings. It was a prophecy that the Messiah would ʻrestore sight to the blindʼ. As Jesus began his journey to Jersualem
he gave sight to the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8,22) and now gives sight to Bartimaeus (Mark 10,46). Like two slices of bread between these two
episodes the disciples are told three times about the Messiah who will suffer and they do not ʻseeʼ and understand. How has your understanding of Jesus grown lately? Is the deep root of your prayer requests ʻto sit at your right handʼ(glory) or ʻhave pity on meʼ (mercy) or ʻmaster I want to seeʼ (discipleship)?
• The name Bartimaeus means ʻson of the uncleanʼ. Sitting at the gate of the great city of Jericho he is labelled as unclean, unworthy. In his loneliness and need he cries out to Jesus. He gets rebuked from the crowd and told to be silent. He cries even louder. When called he throws away his begging cloak, the only source of his warmth and money collection. ʻI want to seeʼ – I want to truly live and enter life fully. The experience of living in darkness and then seeing is the most transforming experience a human person can receive. It became a symbol of baptism. Can you identify with Bartimaeus? What label do you wear? What is the security cloak that you may need to ʻthrow asideʼ? What is your response deep down when Jesus asks ʻwhat do you want me to do for you?ʼ
• Unlike the rich young man recently who walked away sad (Mark 10,22), Bartimaeus is instructed ʻgo your wayʼ. He chooses to follow Jesus ʻon the wayʼ (to Jerusalem). In what ʻwayʼ am I walking the journey of my life. Going my own way? Walking with a sad heart unable to let go of experiences or false sources of
security? Am I searching and responsive to Godʼs will and following that even if it means a great sacrifice? Will I join Jesus ʻon the wayʼ to Jerusalem?
• 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 29th Sunday: NO to Greed, Pride and Power

Isaiah 53:10-11, Hebrews 4:14-16, Mark 10:35-45

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Reflection Questions

• The Prophet Isaiah is with God’s people in Exile in Babylon. He makes a prophecy of a great leader who will not be like any leader ever known: God will allow his life to be crushed which will ‘ransom’ and ‘justify’ (make right) all people. Verses like this in Isaiah form the ‘4 songs of the suffering servant’. Christians understand these texts as teaching us about Jesus’ suffering. Have you experienced anyone willing to ‘suffer’ for you? Can you think of any story where someone restored friendship with another at great ‘cost’? What happened? How does this help you make sense of Jesus’ suffering for you?

• The Letter to the Hebrews continues to explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection has replaced the Jewish High Priest in the Temple. Instead of ‘walking through the curtain’ which separated people in the Temple from the sacred place of the ‘Holy of Holies’ – God’s presence – Jesus’ death allows him to ‘pass into heaven’. Instead of the High Priest sprinkling blood on the ‘Mercy Seat’ inside the Holy of Holies to bring forgiveness, Jesus on the cross has become the ‘throne of grace’ – the new revelation of God’s Mercy. Where do you go to, look at, feel, the mercy and forgiveness of God? Consider praying this week with a crucifix or at church in front of the tabernacle – to ‘find grace’.

•Jesus has just finished his third prediction of his suffering and death (Mk 10,32). The immediate request of James and John for ʻpositions of powerʼ reveal
they do not understand what Jesus’ death means. The ʻindignationʼ of the others reveals they were all secretly seeking power and glory. The Kingdom of God
and the Messiah to make it happen is still thought of as a strong political and military figure, and a triumphant banquet and honors given when the victory is won. And like other ʻrulersʼ, power will then be exercised as ʻauthority overʼ them. Such a mindset will breed continual violence. How do you view violence and war. Do you secretly wish leaders would use ʻpower overʼ others? Do you think the way of ʻnon-violenceʼ works?

• ʻDrink the cupʼ and ʻbaptismʼ are phrases full of meaning. The Father of the house would fill the cup of each member of the home. It was descriptive of God the Father giving out the plan / lot which was assigned for each person. It symbolised ʻGodʼs willʼ. Baptism was not so much a water baptism as an immersion into the will of God – often involving some struggle and pain. Jesus is sharing with disciples the cup (job) is to set people free from the grip of sin and bondage and satan. This is a task which will involve hardship and suffering. What does ʻdrink the cupʼ and ʻbaptismʼ mean for your life? Now? Does it ʻcostʼ you anything?

• Jesus teaches about leadership. He uses some colorful images. Servant / Slave – humble service at a meal rather than a position of glory and being ʻwaited on
hand and footʼ. Ransom – in Jewish culture a person in debt or enslaved could be ʻransomedʼ back. Like a special family object in a pawn shop that is to be
recovered and returned to the family. In religious worship it was also understood as an ʻatonementʼ (at-one-ment) offering to bring forgiveness and a re-union with God. How do you understand and exercise leadership? Have you ever actively said NO to Power. Pride. Greed?

• 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 is here

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Reflection Questions

Isaiah 35:4-7, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37

  1. The Prophet Isaiah is with the community of Israel as it endures exile in the foreign land of Babylon. No temple. No liturgy. God is experienced as ‘silent’. In their difficulty Isaiah reveals the hope of God rescuing his people through a promised ‘Messiah’ – anointed one – who will ‘come to save you.’ Have you experienced the ‘silence’ of God? Isaiah teaches God seeks complete restoration and wholeness: imagine blind people now seeing. Deaf hearing. Crippled leaping. Silent singing. Desert now flowing. Do you consider yourself as an agent of God’s hope for a broken world?
  2. James demands concrete behaviour and action. It is not enough to know and say we care for the poor. We must show it. James highlights the Christian Assembly. As we gather for worship we reveal our truth to the world: equality as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Gold rings or shabby clothing is irrelevant. Have you ‘made distinctions’ amongst friends, extended family? Do you ‘change’ when you are in the company of different people? Are you in relationship and friendship with the ‘poor’? Would they experience you as kind but still instructing them to ‘stand there’ or ‘sit at your feet’?
  3. An early document called ‘Statutes of the Apostles’ charged the priests with making a seat available for a poor person arriving at Church but he did not have to go out of his way for a rich person. Why? How are our liturgical gatherings meant to mirror the world disciples of Christ seek to create?
  4. Mark uses the same Greek word from Isaiah to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah who helps the mute speak – healing his speech impediment. Today Theology and Geography connect. Jesus intentionally travels back to Galilee but by a very long and unusual route stepping into ʻGentile – uncleanʼ territory. Not only would the Pharisees and those spying on him now not follow him, but like a bull- dozer, he shows by his actions he will not live by the ʻcleanʼ ʻuncleanʼ categories that label people as distant from God. Have your words of concern for the poor been transformed into practical action? What boundaries could you ʻstep overʼ to welcome in those who feel distant from God ?
  5. Healing passages are powerful opportunities for healing in our own lives. Consider the ʻdeaf man’. He was lucky to have some friends. Normally illness or disease was considered the result of sin, the presence of an evil spirit. The person was shunned, isolated from family, considered ʻuncleanʼ. In addition this man could not hear or speak. A picture of the most painful experience of human life and our broken humanity. As you reflect on this passage do you identify with the deaf and mute man or the carers who ʻbrought him to Jesusʼ? Why?
  6. Jesus took the man ʻoff by himself, away from the crowdʼ. Saving him from embarrassment, and tenderly healing the parts of his wounded body. What parts of your life need to ʻbe openedʼ so that you may be whole, reunited and accepted with the community. What would it mean for you to be led ʻaway from the crowds for healing’. How could you take up this offer this week? What would it take for you to hear God. Sing God’s praises. Dance for joy
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ

Reflection Guide is here

Mustard Seed Clip Art | Parable of the Mustard Seed

Discussion Questions

  1. Ezekiel is different because he was both a Priest and a Prophet. He was with God’s people when they were deported to Babylon enduring suffering and slavery. They were without a Temple, their Land, a King. In a time of great distress, he is humbled to realise that very few people listen to him (and God) and even less respond with obedient living to God’s ways. He shares an image of a ‘snip’ of a great tree, a ‘faithful small remnant’ of people will be planted by God in Jerusalem. So deeply does he believe in God’s guidance of history he repeats ‘the Lord will do this’ 86 times. Would you consider yourself part of God’s ‘tender shoot’, faithful and obedient? The tree (Church) of God will include all types of birds and winged creatures and the ‘lowly’. How inclusive are you toward others?
  2. It is important to understand St Paul. Our bodies are good but there is a ‘desire’ in our flesh that is deeply selfish. A Christian disciple lives and walks by ‘faith’ not by ‘flesh’. Jesus guides our life and choices not the selfish desires many in the ‘world’ chase. Is your ‘home’ in Jesus or the ways of the world. Paul encourages disciples to face this tension and question head-on. Imagine an examination of your life at the end of time: What did you live for? What was your heart attached to?
  3. Jesus very early on in the Gospel of Mark meets great resistance. His family think he is ʻout of his mindʼ and religious leaders from Jerusalem suggest he is possessed by a demonʼ (Mark 3,20). It
    does not look like Jesus is having much success. Have you met resistance from family and people in leadership? How did you cope? What did you hold on to so as to continue your call and purpose?
  4. Jesus shares a story of the mysterious and silent working of God in bringing theʻKingdomʼ. Just as farmers presume something is happening to a seed under the ground, we also need to trust not
    always by sight but what we know. In truth, the mustard seed only grows to a 4 foot ʻbushʼ! Are you expecting Church to be a magnificent Cedar tree and struggle with the reality of a stumpy ʻbushʼ? Is Jesus suggesting a change from strong and powerful to humble and ʻmedicinalʼ? The mustard-seed was considered to be a medication for many ills.
  5. The topic most frequently talked about by Jesus was the ʻKingdom of Godʼ (Kingdom of Heaven). He chose to use parables to describe ʻGodʼs waysʼ. Parables trap us. We agree with some parts of the story but resist or donʼt want to agree with other parts. We reject it, or open ourselves to an opportunity of a new way of understanding (conversion). Why did Jesus choose to describe the
    Kingdom as a mustard seed? We like the idea of many birds finding shelter and the
    church ʻwelcoming and includingʼ all people. But a ʻmustardʼ seed and bush was a backyard weed, very stubborn and difficult to get rid of. Is the way of God really requiring a revolution? Who gets
    threatened by that? Do you prefer the status quo or an inclusive change welcoming the poor and marginalized?
  6. 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 for 4th Sunday Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday – Acts 4:8-12, 1 Jn 3:1-2, John 10:11-18

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Reflection Questions

• The Church celebrates ʻGood Shepherd Sundayʼ today. It is an opportunity to consider service of Christ in the Church for the World through a vocation in single life, married life, priesthood, religious life. Can you think of people who are good examples for you of each vocation? Spend time in prayer praying for each one.
• Vocation means ʻcallʼ. St Ignatius teaches us that: “God writes his hopes into our deepest desires”. What does that mean in terms of what God may be calling you to? Imagine the highs and lows of each vocation – what attracts you? What desire is strongest? Are you willing to follow it?

• ʻLaying down oneʼs life for the sheepʼ is contrasted with being a ʻhired manʼ who works for pay and has no ʻconcernʼ for the sheep. What do you think is the difference between Vocation and Career? Does one
lead down and the other attempt climbing up?

• St Peter shares a building image. Very large stones were measured and cut to ʻfitʼ and be suitable for building upon. Is your life truly ʻbuiltʼ upon Jesus or is it merely ʻlookingʼ at Jesus? Does your lifestyle ʻshowʼ you are ʻGodʼs childʼ?

• One of the actions done by a good shepherd is to ʻlie downʼ in the ʻgatewayʼ of a small low fenced circle of stones to care for the sheep and protect them from harm. The good shepherd was willing to fight to the death any wolf or lion seeking to harm the sheep. It was an expectation that a child who was looking after the sheep, if attacked, was to show evidence of scratches or wolf fur to the family. Are you willing to fight and protect Godʼs family? Seek out the lost who have strayed? Stand attentive to warn of dangerous influences?

• ʻLaying down ones lifeʼ is another scriptural picture of the way Jesus lay down his life on the cross – as the good shepherd. Laying down and enduring a sleep-shortened night is something parents do for love of their children. Knowing sheep by name, sharing each day and providing nourishment and shelter. What similarities can you see between parenthood and priesthood? Does ʻlaying down your lifeʼ appeal to you or frighten you? Does love lead you – or does fear fill you?

• ʻNo-one takes it from me, I lay it down on my ownʼ. A vocation is something freely chosen. We ʻhearʼ the call of God through desire and attraction, we give ourselves to walk the journey of discovery and we
ʻtake upʼ what is involved in faithfulness to our personal calling. Fear. Iʼm not good enough. I feel stuck. I donʼt know – are all human responses. Consider reflecting on the document ʻDiscerning your vocationʼ
to show your willingness to take a further step into Godʼs call. Click here or go to http://livingtheword.org.nz/resources/
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Reflection Guide Divine Mercy Sunday

Image result for My Lord and My God

Discussion Questions

• We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song. Easter lasts 7 weeks in the Catholic experience. It is called Eastertide and marks 50 days between Easter – Pentecost. What practice or ritual could you live for the next 50 days to truly celebrate the meaning of Easter and let its message get ‘under your skin’ and change you?

• The followers of Christ became a “community”. The love in their hearts was expressed in love to others – especially those ‘in need’. What transformation happened to the disciples to enable them to live so generously? When have you experienced God’s transforming mercy? Ask Jesus to reveal His mercy to you this week. What change am I invited to make in my life regarding possessions? How could I show deeper commitment in my parish community?

• Victory that conquers the world is ‘our faith’. Victory and conquer are ‘battleʼ words. Faith is to be victorious over the ‘world’– not by ‘water’ (baptism) alone but also by ‘blood’ (sacrifice) and the Spirit. Easter challenges us: am I willing to work with Christ to overcome injustice, discrimination and fear with mercy? Only then can Easter Sunday Victory swallow up the evil of Friday.

• It is significant that immediately after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples are afraid. Locked in a room. Scared. They are followers of a ‘rebel’ who has been crucified as a threat to the religious and political status- quo. Consider rebel fighters today as a possible contemporary image. Yet this rebellion is to bring mercy, peace and forgiveness. Can you imagine the scene; try to experience their fear and pray with it?

• The disciples are huddled in a locked room in fear and Jesus brings peace and the guaranteed forgiveness of their sins through the Holy Spirit in the Church. What is the source of your ‘un-peace’ and fear that Jesus wishes to heal? Share those fears with Jesus.

• Thomas likes to check the truth of things, he doesn’t believe simply because others do. Sound familiar? Thomas needs to see and touch Jesus. God honours that need in Thomas and promises that the transformative joy and happiness of Thomas and the other disciples can truly be ours today. We may not ‘see’ with our physical eyes but are promised that faith can allow us to experience the Risen Lord through His Spirit and to ‘touch’ His wounds and receive Him fully in Eucharist. We are invited today
to make the same full faith commitment of Thomas to Jesus – “My Lord and my God!” What do you need to help you believe, grow in faith and joy and put God in the centre of your life like Thomas? Spend time asking Jesus for that.

• The South African civil rights proponent Allan Boesak stated that Jesus, at the pearly gates, won’t question us about how well we carried out our religious obligations. He’ll only ask us to show our wounds, that are the outward sign we’ve spent our lives imitating him. God’s love ignites mercy
within us and through us for others. Mercy, forgiveness, faith, truth; theses take courage and form wounds of love within us. What if the only question Jesus asks on entry to heaven is: ‘show me your wounds’?

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

 

 

Reflection Guide is here.

N.B.During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and meaning of their baptism. Those alternative Scripture reflections are here. 

Discussion Questions:2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23, Eph 2:4-10, Gospel Jn 3:14-21.

  • Godʼs people suffered the destruction of their Temple in Jerusalem and were exiled into another country for 70 years. Something had gone horribly wrong. Wasnʼt God supposed to provide them with unconditional protection? Have you had an experience of feeling abandoned or being forgotten by God? What caused that experience? The first reading shares the idea of false worship. What do you think ʻretrieved its lostsabbathsʼ could mean? For you?
  • Godʼs guidance of history stirs a secular leader, Cyrus King of Persia, to release Godʼs chosen people and also to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It is beyond anyones imagination that such an event could happen. What does this show about God? History? Your life?
  • The Ephesians reading is a beautiful text for the Lenten journey. The generosity of Gods love to die while we were still sinful. We glimpse ʻhow infinitely rich he is in graceʼ towards us. Do you consider yourself forgiven, cleansed, called to be ʻGodʼs work of artʼ and live the ʻgood lifeʼ? What steps toward greater holiness of life could you take into Week 4 of Lent? The discussion with Nicodemus in the darkness of night is symbolic. Nicodemus wants to protect his reputation and not be exposed. Found out. He is scared of making his belief ʻpublicʼ. It could involve him losing friends. Is there something I feel called to bring to the light of reconciliation during this time of Lent?
  • John 3:16 is a popular line in the scriptures to summarise Godʼs love for us “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It is linked with the Gospel image of Jesus being ʻlifted up”. Locate a crucifix to pray with or go into a church and ponder Jesus on the Cross. Consider the depth of what the cross teaches us personally: I am forgiven. I am so loved – and therefore loveable! How does that make you feel? What is your response?
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz

 

 

 

Discussion Guide: Enter and Live Lent Deeply

Image result for ash wednesday 2018

Jl 2:12-18/2 Cor 5:20—6:2/Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Reflection Questions
• What word, sentence or idea struck you from the readings?
• What do you think God may be personally trying to say to you?
• “thoroughly wash me from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps50) God does not want us to stay
in sadness and guilt but to grow from our experiences in wisdom, in compassion…. what wisdom might
my ʻsinʼ be teaching me? What do I need to do to move on?
• Now is a very acceptable time – Lent is a special time, but only works if we make it important. Is there any decision I have been putting off? Having I been waiting
for the right ʻtimeʼ? What decisions could I make for Lent to grow in freedom, in forgiveness, in
holiness…..?

Traditional Lenten Practices
• Prayer – seeking to listen to God: try finding a time and place each day to be with God?
• Fasting – seeking to be free of what is unnecessary: try giving up music in the car, internet, video games, some television, and fill it with a practice that helps you reflect on life?
• Almsgiving – seeking to care for those in need: try focusing on a particular need you know about and giving either your time or money to a person or cause. Check with God how much! We only need to imagine the renewed and healed world if all were to make a commitment to these spiritual practices. What decision will you make to enter and live Lent deeply?

Discussion Guide for 3rd Sunday of Advent 2017 is here:

Advent: Presence not Presents

Reflection Questions

• Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday when the Pink candle of the Advent Wreath is lit. The third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the entrance antiphon – ‘Rejoice’. This theme is found in the first two readings. We are reminded that the joyful coming of Christ is drawing nearer. Christmas celebrates presence with presents.

• Isaiah gives us the prophetic text which Jesus himself uses as his mission and identity statement in Luke(4:16). It speaks of bringing people back home, releasing them from slavery and imprisonment in foreign lands. A ‘year of favour’ was the 50th ‘Jubilee Year’ practice of forgiving all debts and return of all land back to its original family. What a beautiful revolution! What aspect of Jesus’ mission could you practice this Christmas? With family?

• The marriage covenant image of God marrying his people is beautifully presented. In Christ – at Christmas – Heaven is now wedded to Earth. What does it mean? Do you truly rejoice?

•The call to holiness is repeated again as we journey toward the Second Coming (Advent continuously refuses to separate the first and second coming of Jesus). The Second Reading becomes like a spiritual ‘health – check’. Do you: Rejoice? Pray frequently? Give thanks in the ups and downs? Pursue the will of God? Stop the spirit? Avoid opportunities for God to speak? Filter good and evil influences upon your life? Hold fast to what is good? Turn from evil? Perhaps this ‘check list’ may help you in Advent preparation forthe sacrament of reconciliation.

• Week 2 and 3 of Advent present the figure of John the Baptist. He is theone announcing the public arrival of the Messiah – Jesus. Like a Herald announcing a King, the intention is to ensure readiness and welcome. Jewish custom expected Elijah and a prophet like Moses to return to make this announcement. Religious leadersare confused. What do you make of this ‘debate’? The Gospel writer John neatly plays on words with John saying ‘I am not’ which will later contrast with Jesus repeated
statements I AM (the divine name received by Moses on Mt Sinai). Does John the Baptist stir you to ‘get ready’. If not, what would it take? What are you waiting for?

• The image of sandals actually teach us about Jesus. It was a custom for disciples to carry the sandals of  their teacher. But only a slave would untie the sandals and wash feet. John proclaims that Jesus is so holy that he is not ‘fit’ to be even considered a slave in the presence of Jesus. It is a reference to the holiness of God. We touch the awesome reality of Christmas: God is birthed – enfleshed – among us in Jesus. Do you get it?

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

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