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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

Discussion Guide: God’s Astonishing Mercy

Readings: Is. 43:16-21, Phil. 3:8-14, Gospel Jn 8:1-11

Image result for Jesus "Go and sin no more"

Reflection Questions

• Chapters 40-55 are a special part of the Book of Isaiah. While still away from their homeland struggling with life in exile in Babylon, Isaiah invites people to understand God ‘is doing something new’. Have you ever wanted things to ‘return to the way they were’ when chariots and horseman of Egypt were beaten up by God? If you had to ‘see’ new ‘rivers’, current experiences that are forming you, what would you identify? Do you allow yourself to see difficult times as experiences that can grow you eventually into ‘praise’?

• In his previous life as a Pharisee, Paul would have treasured living all 613 Jewish laws taught by Moses. He would have had honor and status in the community. This is now colourfully referred to as ‘rubbish’. (Literally the word means scraps thrown to dogs). Paul’s life is now aimed toward ‘being taken possession of by Jesus’. Have you ever desired to be ‘fully taken over by God’? How could you pursue this as a ‘goal’? Paul reflects this reality of possession is not ‘taken’ but received as a gift. What part of your life would you like to ask the Spirit into this Lent?

• In the season of Lent special readings are chosen to hopefully puncture our lives so that we let in God’s mercy. The Prodigal Son is now followed this week
with the Woman caught in Adultery. Both readings reveal an unexpected forgiveness.

• Early in the morning people starting coming to Jesus in the temple area and listened to his teaching. In this last week of Lent how could you bring yourself into the presence of Jesus to ‘listen’ and ask for guidance. Is there a church in your neighbourhood, on your way to work which can help you achieve this?

• Scribes and Pharisees believed following Laws strictly would bring a person into ‘holiness’. They were upset Jesus spent time with those doing the opposite (sinners). They test him publicly if he keeps the Laws Moses commanded. They wish to maintain a way of relating to God that puts people into ‘holy’- right -and ‘sinners’ – wrong. Love and mercy is abandoned in favour of judgment and punishment. Jesus beautifully takes away all ‘holy’ pretending as he knows we all sin. Faced with this deep truth we meet God’s response. Consider praying vulnerably in the context of your own life: neither do I condemn you. What is your response to someone when you realise they do not judge you but love you?

• Can you remember a time when your relationship with God changed away from a focus on sin toward a deeper knowing of forgiveness? What has been the deepest experience you have had of the Mercy of God? Do you allow the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help you move beyond guilt into wisdom and forgiveness?

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

N.B.  in communities that are welcoming candidates for Baptism at Easter, different readings may be used for the ‘Rite of Scrutinies’ this Sunday.

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

Discussion Guide: Repent and Bear Fruit

Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15, 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12, Gospel Lk 13:1-9


Reflection Questions

  • In our first reading God meets Moses at the mountain of God; while Moses was simply carrying out his duties tending the flock, something caught his attention and he investigated. How attentive are you to God communicating in your everyday life?
  • God explains to Moses that this revelation is not completely new but rather is in continuity with the history and experience of the Jewish people. (I AM the God of your fathers…). Moses ‘hid his face’ ‘afraid to look at God’. Reverence and awe before the sacred and acceptance of historical continuity in community are not easy concepts in today’s Western culture. Why is it so important that our spiritual experiences be tested within a historical community of continuity? How much do these concepts challenge you and why?
  • God chooses to reveal the Divine Name to Moses; “I AM WHO I AM.” It is so sacred to Judaism that they use initials ‘YHWH’. What does it mean when
    someone shares their name with you? How have you encountered God so far during Lent?
  • When we listen to God do we take on the role of passive spectator OR actively engage with God as a change agent. Moses shared with God that he felt too
    weak and unable to talk properly. God provides answers to all Moses’ issues. How has God asked something of you lately? Have you freely explained your concerns to God and who might you ask to help you be obedient to fulfilling God’s will?
  • The Corinthian community was becoming comfortable. They assumed that receiving Baptism and celebrating Eucharist was all one needed to be saved. St Paul reminds them of the dangers of presuming salvation. Our Hebrew ancestors did this and they “were struck down in the desert”. This is a warning, we need to continually try to cooperate with God. Are you feeling comfortable in your faith? What lifestyle choice or action could you make to express a more committed following of Jesus?
  • The theme of God’s judgment enters Lent in this passage of Luke. Pilate had killed religious revolutionaries from Galilee while they were offering
    sacrifices to God in the temple. That event was compared to a tower falling over near the Temple (pool of Siloam) killing 18 people. They asked Jesus if
    these people were sinners, and if God was punishing them. Jesus provides a shocking answer. We are all going to die and receive judgment before God. It
    is urgent and your first concern is to be found ‘ready’. Are you?  If not, why not?
  • The fig tree, the only tree mentioned in the the garden of Eden, is at the same time a symbol of the promised Land, God’s people, & the blessing of God. In the parable, can you see yourself as the fig tree? Who do you think the gardener is? It took about 3 years for a fig to fruit. By God’s mercy it is given more time – but it is still under judgment. Consider God’s call on each of us as disciples. What is it like to know God is merciful? How is God fertilizing and cultivating you? What fruit are we are asked to produce?
  • In ancient times people thought God was vengeful & punishing. Jesus says God is NOT this way. He shares the importance of people moving away from sin and destructive patterns of guilt and blame. Repent means literally ‘to turn your life around’. What would you like to turn ‘from’ and ‘toward’?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

www.livingtheword.org.nz    Livingtheword download and resources this week are by Fr Frank Bird sm, Marist Priest, and Mrs Bev McDonald, ACSD,

Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com They are distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.  www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: 8th Sunday Year C – Walking the Talk

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 27:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58, Lk 6:39-45

Image result for pope francis with the sick

Reflection Questions

1] The Book of Sirach is also known as “Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach.” It teaches ethical and theological topics and ideas. It talks a lot about the tongue and speech and the author indicates here that a person’s thoughts and words are a mirror of what lies in the soul. People can be ‘smooth talkers’ until they are shaken or put through tribulation and the ‘husks’ they try to hide are revealed. How true do you think it is that a person’s talk reveals who they really are? How attentive are you to your own speech?

2]  The revolutionary hope of Christianity is in these words of Paul. Corinth was a major cosmopolitan sea-trading city. Idolatry and immorality were rife. Paul insists we can overcome sin through Christ. (15:57). What do you think Paul means when he says God gives us the ‘victory’ through Jesus? How have you experienced this ‘victory’ or a degree of mastery over sin? What area of your life do you most need ‘victory’?

3] Paul acknowledges our ‘corruptible’ bodies but states we will be clothed in Christ’s ‘incorruptibility’ and ‘immortality’. How does that make you feel?

4] Most of us know someone with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Many times, the vulnerable are gifted with a differently abled way of seeing, hearing or sensitivity which is both gift and challenge to us all. Pope Benedict stated; “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” … “Man is worth so much to God that he himself became human in order to suffer with us in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed in … Jesus’s Passion.” (Spe Salvi, 37, 39) How do you reconcile suffering with the promises of Christ? What encourages you most about Paul’s words?

5] Paul says that the Resurrection means nothing we do is wasted. We often don’t see the results of our efforts but if we truly believe Christ has won the victory then as the saying goes; we may lose the battle but win the war. In God’s case the war is already won. Paul’s perspective calls us not to idly ‘hope’ for some future heaven, but to live right now in God’s Reign.  We are called to do all the good we can today, knowing everything we do matters to God. How can I allow that truth to more deeply impact my daily life?

6]  The Gospel links strongly with the first reading.  What are the main connections for you? Jesus challenges us to not just talk the talk but to walk the talk. St Augustine asked, “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” When did you last seriously review your own talk, habits & reactions for ‘vinegar’? How hard is it for you to trust others? How is testing others different from criticizing? What help do you need from God to fill your heart with honey and ‘a store of goodness’? “…Every tree is known by its own fruit’. God has equipped us to bear good fruit. How are you tending the fruit tree of your life? How do others experience you as a person and a Christian? Is there a difference?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com  Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

 

Discussion Guide: Generous Good Measure – God’s Way of Living and Giving

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49,  Gospel: Luke 6:27-38 

Reflection QSee the source imageuestions

1] David and around 600 men are living in caves in the desert of Ziph. King Saul brings 3,000 elite troops to hunt and kill him (Consider reading 1 Samuel as a short story.) After David killed Goliath, Saul kept David close, made him chief commander and his son-in-law. But soon, filled with fear and jealous insecurity he plots to kill David. In this episode, David and Abishai have the chance to kill Saul but David refuses; “I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.” Contrast David’s wisdom, constraint and wit with Abishai, who though brave and faithful is quick to act rashly without thought. Have you ever felt condemned by someone you trusted? How does David deal with his desire for revenge? What qualities does David use that might help us in our relationships with people in authority?

2] Continuing his teaching on Resurrection St Paul says that when Jesus rose from the dead, he became ‘life-giving spirit’ releasing the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world. Our human body grows throughout life. While not describing our resurrected bodies, Paul makes it clear that real transformation takes place. Remember Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and was never the same again. When we enter relationship with God, a real encounter takes place and in some way the mystery of becoming part of the body of Christ transforms us, while also allowing for us to continue to grow more deeply into the perfect image of the ‘heavenly one’. As you reflect on that mystery what do you most want to ask God for? What area of your life needs transforming? How do you need to grow, in order to become more like Christ?
3] The sermon on the mount continues with very challenging teaching from Jesus. The Gospel is in some sense acted out in the story of David and Saul. What links do you see between the two readings?
4] When you reflect on the Gospel what teaching stands out most for you? Talk with God about why that strikes you and what area of your life, God is inviting you to open to His transforming life-giving Spirit?
5] The so called ‘golden rule’ says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Abuse in any form is an abomination. How can we adhere to these radical teachings of Christ and still stay safe, respecting our own bodies and needs in the face of violence or abuse? How can we be merciful to those enduring violence and ill treatment?
6] The Jews listening to Jesus despised the Romans because they were occupying their land and controlling their freedom. Soldiers routinely insulted Jews demanding they carry their loads, give up their cloaks and worse. So, the teaching to ‘love your enemies and do good to them’ was profoundly shocking. Jesus explains that our mercy needs to be abundant like Gods. A merchant who gives a ‘good measure’ pours grain into your container, presses it down, shakes it, presses, shakes and fills again. As a result, your contents are compressed. You continue receiving grain until your container is literally running over the sides ‘into your lap.’ You only pay for that one container but it gets filled with far more than seems possible. Use your imagination in prayer and see yourself receiving from God like that. How does it feel? Ask God for the grace to give and forgive like that?
7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

 

The livingtheword resource this week is by Mrs Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ.
Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com     Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide: Trust in the Lord and Live the Beatitudes 6th Sunday Year C  

Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20, Gospel: Luke 6:17,20-26
See the source image

Reflection Questions

1] Jeremiah shares a blessing and curse prophecy which is frequent in the Old Testament. It is designed to wake us up and help us think. He warns against trusting in mere mortals. Even powerful personalities can lead us astray. Only the Lord is worthy of our trust and when we invite God to guide our lives, even disaster won’t destroy us. Allow your imagination to ponder the two images – a barren bush in the dry salty desert versus a tree always bearing fruit beside a stream. What strikes you as you see yourself in these images?

2] Trust and fear are often linked. What do you most fear losing in life? Talk to God about how that impacts your trust.

3] St Paul speaks to some in Corinth who do not believe in the Resurrection. They struggle to believe that our bodies could be glorified in heaven. St Paul makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection is central to our Faith which becomes ‘most pitiable’ unless we believe Jesus is Lord. His birth, life and teaching, death, resurrection and ascension are one continuous salvation event. God reveals his eternal love and desire that we be with Him forever and then provides the way where we become one with Christ through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. As you reflect on your Baptism provides the way through Baptism and the Holy Spirit; we die to our old self under the water and rise to new life, becoming one with Christ. Reflect on your Baptism. What links can you see between Baptism and Resurrection? N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’ Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” How do you react to that statement?

4] We never say Jesus ‘has’ risen. We proclaim, ‘Jesus IS Risen’. “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Our belief in the resurrection of our bodies (Creed) is established through the Resurrection of Christ. How deep is your conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and how does that impact your daily choices and decisions? Who do you really put your trust in? Talk with God about your belief or struggles. Try praying, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

5] Jesus has just spent the night in prayer, chosen the twelve (his team!) and he sits them down. The stage is set for his most important teaching: the Beatitudes. Nowhere in Luke does the Gospel challenge us so severely. What are my ultimate pursuits? What world order am I living for? What measurement system of success am I committed to? Am I on the side of the poor and hungry or the rich and the full? What does your lifestyle and actions show? Are you good news to the poor? (note Luke means primarily economically poor not the tamer ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew). We sometimes speak of these teachings as “BE-Attitudes”. It seems that the choices we make ‘now’ will impact us for eternity. What do you think Jesus means?

6] The Beatitudes bring together a clashing of two ideas and worldviews. It causes a conflict within us. All things being equal, to have riches and to be full is a good. But the reality of our world is inequality. The status quo is unacceptable for God and Jesus’ disciples. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes does not let Christians off the hook. There will be a radical reversal of fortune in God’s judgement. Woe to you who are rich, filled, who can laugh now. How can I proclaim,
‘Jesus is Lord’ with integrity and not take this teaching seriously?

7] How will you be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

The livingtheword resource this week is by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald and distributed by Marist Laity NZ. Email:nzlivingtheword@gmail.com       Web: www.livingtheword.org.nz

Discussion Guide 4th Sunday Year C: Delivered From Rejection for Mission

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19, 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13, Gospel Luke 4:21-30

See the source imageReflection Questions

• Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet’ because people did not listen to his message (King Jehoiakim even burned one of Jeremiah’s manuscripts).
He experienced God’s word deeply and in the midst of false ‘prosperity prophets’ who declared God was looking favorably on his people and good times were
coming, Jeremiah shares his personal call and his preparedness for rejection. What is the challenge of being a ‘prophet to the nations’ like Jeremiah today? Do you feel formed and called by God to stand up for (or against) something in society? What has been your response so far? What happened?

• St Paul continues discussing the ‘elitist’ problem in the Corinthian community. Some people were setting themselves apart as a ‘spiritual elite’ with boastful talk of their charisms and gifts. Gifts and charisms mean nothing if love is absent. Evaluate your life by the qualities of love in the second reading: Are you patient? Kind. Jealous? Proud? Resentful? Do you take offence easily? Gossip? Delight in truth? Forgiving, trusting, and hopeful? What aspect of your character could you invite the holy spirit to help you with?

• St Paul uses a special word (agape) for love. It is not a sexual love (eros) or a family love (philia). Agape is a quality of love that is given regardless of a
response. Agape love is loving like God loves. In what ways and in what relationships do you show ‘agape’ love? Do you recognise people in need constitute God’s agape call to us?

• Jesus continues to speak to his home-town. In an ‘honour and shame’ culture of the ancient Middle East, an expectation is placed over Jesus to bring honor, glory, acclaim to Nazareth. Be our ‘local’ prophet, set up a healing station here in Nazareth like you have been doing at Capernaum. Bring in the tourists! Their
attitude and concern is reputation rather than conversion. Jesus confronts them. In what ways does ‘reputation’ take priority over ‘conversion’ in your life? When was the last time you experienced the ‘cost’ of discipleship like Jeremiah and Jesus?

• Jesus identifies himself with the mission of the great prophets of Elijah and Elisha who were sent out to nearby gentile lands (Sidon) and people (Naaman the Syrian) which infuriates them. They react violently to the idea that God’s favor is also for the gentiles and not exclusively to Israel. Why do you think removing barriers and cultural walls meets resistance? What is beneath the categories of right / wrong, clean / unclean?

• The ‘community’ at Nazareth limit Jesus by confining him to be ‘Joseph’s son’. Have you experienced the support of family, friends and community and then as time goes on, recognise the limitations people’s perception puts on you? Do you feel called to ‘break out’ of ‘reputation’ and move toward ‘doing the will of God’? What obstacles do you face? How will you respond to people ‘springing to their feet and trying to throw you off the cliff’?

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

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

Discussion Guide: Year C, Sunday Week 3. Jesus’ Mission-Our Mission

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27,  Gospel Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Reflection Questions

• In the first reading the People of God were returning from exile in Babylon. They were a band of refugees returning to their ‘religious’ home. Nehemiah was their leader helping the community to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. Ezra was their priest leading the community in listening to the ‘laws’ of
God. Ezra is known for strict adherence to the laws of Moses and not allowing intermarriage. The people cry because they hear the law and have it interpreted
for them so that they understand. Is there an area of the Church’s teaching which you may need to hear and have interpreted for you? What is it? Who could
you ask for help? Why do you think Ezra tells them to eat and drink?

• St Paul continues teaching the community about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some of the community thought they were ‘better’ than others because they had the gift of tongues. St Paul teaches the gifts of the spirit serve the community and help it to truly be the ‘body’ of Christ in the world. Do you feel your gifting for serving the Church is in the head (teaching), heart (caring), hands (serving), feet (missionary) of the Church? Are you accepting and celebrate your gifts or are you ‘jealous’ of others? How could you share your gifting this week? This year? In your Parish?

• In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ‘public’ ministry to the most difficult group – his hometown! Jesus is clear and bold in his vision. Do you have a clear sense of mission and purpose in your life and service of God? Jesus uses 50 words, what would you write in 50 words for your personal mission statement as you begin the year?

• The ‘Lord’s year of favour’ is the 50th year (the Jubilee Year as established in Leviticus 25). Debts were cancelled, prisoners and slaves freed, land was
returned to its original family ownership. The whole financial, social and political structure was renewed. The Jewish people called this the ‘Tikkan Olam’ meaning ‘the repair of the world’. Repairing the world is an essential part of the work of the Church and every follower of Jesus. Allow this idea to enter your
imagination for a moment. Do you consider ‘healing the world’ as part of your consciousness and job description as a follower of Jesus? What area of need
in the world ‘attracts you’ -calls out to you? What has been your response so far?

• This year we will journey with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. A focus for Luke is Jesus’ care and attention to those who are hurting, excluded, ‘downtrodden’. If
you were to look about in your family, community, wider society, who do you notice has been knocked over and hurt by life… and is now ‘trampled on’ by the
invisible hidden foot of societies structures? The Gospel of Luke is also known as the ‘Gospel of Mercy’. Mercy comes from the Hebrew word for ‘womb’. Will you be moved to compassion for those in need? Information without application is fascination. Information with application is transformation. Will the Gospel of Luke transform you this year?

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

Discussion Guide: Do Whatever He Tells You

See the source image

Is 62:1-5, 1 Cor 12:4-11, Gospel, Jn 2:1-11

Reflection Questions

• This Sunday marks the beginning of ‘Ordinary’ Time. The season of Christmas has ended. Isaiah is among the group of Jewish exiles who return to Jerusalem
(Zion). They see a city in ruins. Some wish to return to Babylon. Isaiah sees in hope and envisions a city shining beautifully ‘like a burning torch’. When some think ‘Forsaken’ Isaiah thinks ‘My delight’. When some see ‘desolate’ Isaiah sees ‘Married’. As you look at Yourself, the Church and the World, what do you ‘see’? How do you think God ‘sees’ You, the Church, the World? Do you need to move from self condemning thoughts to rejoicing thoughts? Imagine God wanting to dance and rejoice with you as if in a marriage dance. What are your feelings…..

• St Paul is concerned about people in the Corinthian community who consider only Christians who have the gift of tongues have great spiritual powers. Self righteous people have hurt others in the community. St Paul wants to heal the community and remind people there are many gifts – (and he places tongues last!). What gifts have you noticed within you? In others? What area of need in the Church matches your passion, energy and ‘gifts’?

• Mary was attentive to the ordinary needs of people around her. She noticed ‘They have no wine’ and had compassion for them. She knew it would bring shame on the family. How attentive are you to the everyday needs of people around you? Mary invited Jesus to help. Have you ever invited someone to do something and their response was ‘I’m not quite ready’. Its not the right time. Mary encourages Jesus into public ministry – and doesn’t get put off with his response! Jesus reminds her his ‘hour’ is something deeply personal between him and the Father. Have you reached a point in life when your ‘hour’ is near? Is it time to commit to a public witness of your faith? To ministry. Single life. Marriage. Religious life. Priesthood? Will you listen to the Father? Have you had a ‘Mary’ person ask and invite you into service? What was your response?

• Huge water jars were used for purification and ritual cleansing. The servants were told by Mary to ‘do whatever he tells you.’ They were not asked to perform the miracle. They were simply asked to do what they knew how to do; but to do it when they did not understand why. They ‘filled the jars to the brim’. Their obedience and commitment to service allowed the miracle of super-abundant wine to be revealed. When we serve God with what we know how to do even when it seems insignificant, Gods abundant grace fills not only us with wonder but provides amazing grace for others. Name a time you were asked to go the extra mile and do something apparently simple, then saw God work in a special way for others? What was that like for you? For them?

• The Jewish people had a prophecy that the Messiah would bring an abundance of great wine. Jesus’ first public ‘sign’ in the Gospel of John is to enter a marriage ceremony and replace water with at least$15,000 of the best wine ever tasted. What do you think this reveals for the Church? For you? For John, a ‘sign’ points to a deeper reality. What is the difference between ‘water’ and ‘wine’? Water is life-giving and cleansing. Wine is fermented for celebration and joy. Is your spiritual journey more like water or wine? Do you ‘believe’?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ 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 Bev McDonald, Facilitator of Marist Laity NZ
www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide: Maranatha; Come Lord Jesus.

Mi 5:1-4A, Heb 10:5-10, Gospel Lk 1:39-45

Image result for Advent Journey to Jerusalem

Reflection Questions

• As Christmas arrives, special passages of scripture are used to guide our understanding of Christmas. This Sunday is the only time that the Prophet Micah is
used for our Sunday Readings. A prophecy 700 years before Jesus points to the little town of Bethlehem, famous as it was the home of Jesse, King David’s
Father. It was from this royal line the Messiah would arrive. Ephrathah was a little and insignificant ‘clan / tribe’. Consider for a moment just how extraordinary is God’s power to guide history and prophecy to fulfillment. How might this help you ‘trust’ in God?
• The Letter to the Hebrews teaches about the significance of Jesus. Holocausts, sin offerings and sacrifices were experiences of Jewish worship in the Temple that were to bring people into union with God ‘according to the law’. Jesus is shown as following the will of God and bringing forgiveness and union with God ‘through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ on the cross. Why Jesus has come among us is pointed out. Do you keep Christmas separated from Easter? Have you noticed cards and decorations easily identify with the joy of a new-born child and the hope of ‘peace’ but prefer to leave out the next step of the sacrifices involved in ‘I come to do your will, O God?’ What is the will of God inviting you to do?’

•This gospel scene of Mary ʻvisitingʼ Elizabeth aims to show us more than the greeting of two expectant mothers or that Mary is a caring young woman to her
older cousin. Behind this scene are layers of stories. Mary, a ʻnew motherʼ (New testament) stands before Elizabeth an ʻold motherʼ (Old Testament). Behind
Elizabeth is her husband, Zechariah the High Priest of the (old) Temple. Within the Temple rests the ʻArk of the Covenantʼ where the 10 commandments were kept in a special box (Ark) called the ʻMercy Seatʼ. Mary bears within her the Saviour child ʻGod-is-with-usʼ and is now the New Ark of the New Covenant. The
little boy John the Baptist leaps for joy within the womb of Elizabeth like King David leapt for joy and danced before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6,14). The
deepest and true response to God being ʻenfleshedʼ among us is to ʻleap for joyʼ. When was the last time you ʻleapt for joyʼ? Why is little baby John ʻleaping for joyʼ? How could you show the experience of joy more this Christmas?
• The gospel of Luke focusses upon Mary who always acts on what she hears. Her ʻvisitʼ to Elizabeth is a ʻresponseʼ to hearing Godʼs voice (through the angel).
Mary is ʻblessedʼ but firstly it is because she ʻbelieved what was spoken to herʼ. Christmas becomes no longer simply an historical story for us when we recognise we too are called to allow the ʻWordʼ to become ʻFleshʼ. Today. Now. In the world. What words have you heard from God, in prayer, through others. How could you act on them so that they become ʻfleshʼ? Real? Acted out? Bring Godʼs presence? What words or promises have you made that have not been fulfilled?
• Advent is a time of joyful preparation. In the final days before Christmas how could you achieve a balance: writing Christmas Cards and the Call to Conversion. Christmas Parties and Prayerful Preparation. Christmas Presents and Christmas Presence?

• 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 Advent week 3: Joy Overflows to Others

Zeph.3:14-18, Phil.4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18

See the source image

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.
• Today is the only time every 3 years we hear this beautiful passage from the Prophet Zephaniah. Zion is the name for Jerusalem, and Christians understand
Jerusalem signifies God’s people. Replace ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ prayerfully with your own name. How does this prophecy make you feel? What line strikes you the most? Why?
• St Paul is writing to the Philippians trying to resolve an argument between two women which is destroying the unity of the Christian community. He puts their argument into the ‘big picture’. Rejoicing, kindness and no anxiety are trademarks of a christian. Paul reminds the community that each member is to reflect Christ. In the hostile town of Philippi, they are to be attractive and lead people to Christ – not turn them off. Is ʻyour kindness known to allʼ? Do you have anxieties that you refuse to make ʻknown’ and truly hand over to him?
• A practice of Advent preparation is celebrating forgiveness. Crowds gathered to be with John the Baptist, not in the Temple, but by the Jordan River. Hungry
for God and for the world to experience ʻchangeʼ they claimed their own need for conversion: ʻwhat should we do?ʼ John directs their attention toward care of the poor – sharing clothing and food. What do you have plenty of? Who has none? Have you ever desired to simplify your life and be more generous? What happened?
• Tax collectors were present, along with soldiers who protected them. John does not deny their ʻjobʼ but reminds them all jobs are to serve the unity of the
community. Look deeply into your ordinary tasks of life. Are you doing them well? Enter the gospel scene in prayer and ask John the question: What should I
do? What happened?
• John baptises and cleanses with water. Jesus baptises and cleanses with the Holy Spirit and fire. Water and Fire. What would you choose? Fire purifies through hot temperatures. What have been ʻhotʼ ʻpurifyingʼ moments for you this year? What wisdom have you been led into? What parts of your life would you like to bring to God for reconciliation at the end of the year?
• A ʻwinnowing fanʼ was used in the barn to throw the grain up into the air, the dust and ʻchaffʼ – seed casings and bits of stalk – drifted away. This stage separated the wheat. How do you relate to the image of judgement and ʻfireʼ at the end of time?
• A common practice in the time of Jesus was for disciples to carry the sandals of their teacher. John shares he is not even worthy to undo the straps of Jesusʼ sandals let alone carry them! Whose sandals do you carry? Who do you listen to as your ʻteacherʼ? What life lessons or teaching would you like to ask about at this point in your life journey?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?