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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Discussion Guide: Feast of the Ascension

Reflection Questions

• The writer of the Gospel of Luke is also understood to have written the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn of the unfolding events after Easter. The Feast of the Ascension is not trying to claim historically after 40 days Jesus ‘ascended’ but simply reflect on his ‘Ascension’ and new presence now in Heaven. Jesus states a promise has been made by the ‘Father’ to send the Holy Spirit. Have you ever asked someone to make a ‘promise’? Why? What does this reveal about Jesus and ‘us’?

• The disciples are almost ‘told off’ by the Angels. ‘Why are you looking up at the sky?’ Instead of looking up, look around and get to work. The text also encourages waiting for the spirit and the Spirit’s power so that each disciple can ‘witness’. Have you ‘waited in prayer’ calling for the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit? Consider how you could enter deeply into this prayer request leading to the celebration of Pentecost next week? Consider a place and time. The Spirit is often given through other people’s prayer. Who could you ask?

• Paul teaches beautifully about the deeper reality of ‘Church’. Rather than a mere ‘building’ Paul reminds us our identity and mission is to be the ‘body of Christ’. It will take plenty of work to present to the world a community ‘fully mature’ and with the ‘full stature’ of Christ. What virtue do you think you could live more intentionally at home/work/Church? Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Bearing with one another. Preserving unity?

• The Gospel of Mark is the earliest Gospel and was written at a time when the early disciples still thought the return of Christ would be soon. The urgency to share the gospel with every creature before the return of Jesus can almost be felt in the text. This mission is still an active job description to us by Jesus. Imagine having such a wonderful message that you know will bring people joy and life. As you
prepare to share it, would you consider just how the message would be received, what obstacles may be in the way, so that they truly ‘get it’ when you speak. St Francis of Assisi told his followers ‘Preach the Gospel to the whole world, and when necessary, use words’. Do you witness more by words or example? How could you try the other option?

• Mark uses dramatic language to highlight the truth that the power of the Holy Spirit is truly at work in the lives of disciples and in ‘signs’ that accompany the ‘words’. The image is of an intimate connection between Jesus in heaven and his disciples preaching. What signs would you like to pray for on your journey at the moment?

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

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary & distributed by Marist Laity NZ, Diocese of Auckland, NZ.   www.livingtheword.org.nz

 

Discussion Guide is here     Jer 31:31-34, Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-33

During Lent, parishes with people preparing for the sacraments at Easter have special readings helping them understand the identity of Jesus and the meaning of their baptism. These readings and reflection are available for download here:Yr B RCIA

Related image

Reflection Questions. 

• To enter into a covenant is like entering into a ‘marriage commitment and relationship’. A special bond is created. Have you ever had an experience of feeling God is ‘taking you by the hand and leading you’?   Break the relationship with God – Suffering. God seeking you out and speaking to your ‘heart’? Life does not necessarily become easier but perspectives are transformed and whatever happens there is a sense of God with us; nothing can separate us from Gods love. What has been your covenant journey with God?
• The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is like a personal inside view of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as he struggles to accept the consequence of obedience and
doing God’s will. What do you pray, cry, shout to God about? Have you tried it?
• Jesus’ journey involved obedience and suffering, but it also became a vehicle for him being ‘made perfect’. What suffering is hard for you at the moment? What is the wisdom you are learning from it? Because of your journey have you been able to be a source of comfort and hope for others?                        • In the Gospel of John, the ʻhourʼ that Jesus talks about is the moment where everything will be revealed on the cross. In all of history, it will be the ʻhourʼ when God is revealed as doing something to ʻforgiveʼ and ʻsaveʼ humanity. Love triumphs over violence. The drama of evil and goodness is played out. In the greek text, the phrase being ʻlifted upʼ is a word to describe a coach being ʻliftedʼ up onto peopleʼs shoulders to signify victory. Do you see the ʻhourʼ of Jesus on the cross as Ugly? Glorious?
Victorious? All three?
• Greeks (outsiders from Judaism) arrive wanting to ʻsee Jesusʼ. This causes Jesus to say the ʻhourʼ has
come for him to be revealed to the whole world. Would people who are not Christian see enough evidence in your life to know you are Christian? Would they experience you as friendly and welcoming enough to ask for help to ʻfind and see Jesusʼ?
• Three times in the Gospel of John the voice of God speaks clearly to Jesus and those near-by. It gives Jesus courage and confidence in his identity and purpose to walk a very difficult path. Have you asked for, received a clear sense of your calling and purpose from God? Will you enter the sacrificial and obedient lifestyle of ʻthe hourʼ? What ʻdeathʼ is God inviting you to live so as to bear fruit for the world?
• 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 for 24th December, 4th Sunday Advent, Year B

Image result for Yes to God Advent

Reflection Questions

• Advent Story. A Kitten at Christmas. A Catholic couple were celebrating Christmas Eve. The wife invited her husband to Midnight mass, but he declined. He thought he would instead stay at home on this cold night, watch television, and they could have a christmas drink when she returned. His wife left early to attend christmas carols and shortly after he heard a noise at the door. Opening the back door he noticed a cold and wet kitten. He reached toward it but it cried in fear and retreated further away. He pondered to himself how he could help comfort this poor kitten. He got some milk from the fridge, poured it into a plate, showed the kitten and placed it just inside the door. He hoped to welcome the kitten into the warm and dry room of his house. The kitten continued its crying. He tried again to reach out to it. But the kitten interpreted these actions fearfully and moved further away into the
cold. As the man continued to ponder how he could truly communicate positively with this kitten it dawned on him that he would need to become like this kitten. Suddenly he realised what God had done. He jumped into his car to attend midnight mass and whispered to his wife: for the first time Iʼve realised Christmas is God born among us in Jesus to help us! (p.s. he gave the kitten a warm box to curl up in.)

•King David had unified the tribes of Israel by bringing the ‘ark’ (the special wooden box containing the tablets of the 10 commandments) to Jerusalem. He now thought he would build a Temple to give a proper ‘home’ to God. Nathan went along with this plan but God had to intervene. God describes 11 times (I…) what he has done. God has intervened in history – not the other way around! As  you approach the end of the year and consider what you would like to do next year have you consulted God in prayer? Is there someone like Nathan who could help you?

• Paul writes of a ‘mystery kept secret for long ages’ but now made public to all nations bringing about obedience of faith. Is your faith in Jesus ‘secret’ or ‘public’? At your own level of comfort, how could you witness to being a believer and follower of Jesus? Could you invite someone to Christmas carols? Midnight Mass? Mention Jesus at your family gathering?

• God zooms in from eternity to a historical place (Galilee), to a town (Nazareth), to a person (Mary),
engaged to a descendant of the King of David (Joseph). Here is a scriptural window into the most significant historical event of eternity. God, through the angel, awaits Mary’s response. What part of Mary’s experience can you identify with the most?

• Mary saying ‘Yes’ to God’s calling and birthing Jesus into the world at Christmas is also symbolic of every disciple. Have you ever had a ‘God’ moment, a sense of a significant job God has planned for you, and then ‘the angel departed’. It was over. Are you living in obedience? Forgetfulness? Laziness? Fear?

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

6th Sunday Easter. Love is a Verb Reflection is here.

Pope Francis quote:

Discussion questions.

  1. Persecution in Jerusalem saw many christians go out to other towns and cities. Samaria was the Northern part of Israel, the home of the ‘Samaritans’. Because of history and religious differences – they waited for the Messiah to come to Mt Gerazim instead of Jerusalem – Samaritans and Jews did not associate together. It is a newly appointed Greek speaking Philip (see last weeks readings) who enters into this area. Looking back on your life, has sufferings, trials, persecution helped you expand the horizons of your life? In your workplace or parish do some barriers need to be broken down? Who could be a ‘Philip’ without the baggage of the past to work in this area?
  2. Philip’s whole life won people over to his message. It was not only his words but ‘the signs’ he was doing. Does your lifestyle help or hinder people to hear and accept the gospel?
  3. Peter’s letter acknowledges suffering. Keep your conscience clear and show good conduct. How could this apply to your life?
  4. The Easter-tide readings are still dwelling upon the farewell speech of Jesus to his disciples in the Gospel of John (Jn 14-17). He promises to send to them ‘another advocate’. Advocate comes from a greek legal word meaning someone who will give ‘good advice’ and stand alongside to speak for you. Like a lawyer in a courtroom. In trials and troubles the Holy Spirit will lead into ‘truth’. John will also use the words ‘Paraclete’ (one standing alongside) and comforter as words to explain the role and experience the Holy Spirit will bring. Ponder the words ‘Advocate’ and ‘Paraclete’ and ‘Comforter’. Does this expand your appreciation of the Holy Spirit?
  5. Many consider the Holy Spirit difficult to know and experience. A guide from the scripture texts – could it be that being more courageous in mission – being ‘taken to court’ – might help us experience the Holy Spirit at work in our lives? Can you identify an experience of the spirit in your life? How could this experience be grown and deepened?
  6. There is a long prayer tradition of repeating and deeply feeling the words of a scripture phrase. Our mind focusses upon the words and our heart feels its truth. John shares some beautiful phrases today. Pray for 5 minutes with a phrase… take one with you for your car journey, lunchtime prayer, personal quiet time….
  • ‘I am in the Father and you are in me and I in you’.
  • ‘Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father’
  • ‘I will love you and reveal myself to you’.

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

Download 29th Sunday Reflection Document

Discussion Questions

  1. The Amelekites were a constant threat to the peaceful settlement of Godʼs people in the promised land. The battle scene is describing a theological point. Other countries made political and military alliances. Israel was to rely on God. And prayer works! What does the phrase ʻkeeping your hands raised upʼ mean for you? Have you asked anyone to pray to God for your protection? Can you remember an experience where you recognised the power of prayer?
  2. Moses, the leader of Godʼs people is getting tired. He needs Aaron and Hur to support his hands. Who do you recognise as a spiritual leader and guide for you? What support could you offer? Joshua was out fighting in the field. Aaron was being trained as a leader at the side of Moses. Hur is a hidden and unknown figure behind the scenes. Which character do you identify with? What is the next step for you in public leadership in the Church?
  3. It is not intellectual proofs of God that convince people, but witnesses. St Paul reminds Timothy of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2Tim 1,5) who taught and witnessed faith to him from his infancy. Who has been a great faith witness to you from your infancy?
  4. Scripture is inspired by God – literally ʻGod breathed! – and is able to continually inspire, encourage and challenge in a living way at every reading. Can you remember an experience when the word made you uncomfortable? Convinced you about some teaching? Challenged you deeply? Encouraged and comforted you?
  5. Jesus paints a picture of a ʻmeanʼ judge who does not listen or care about anyone. Jesus is saying that God is NOT like this judge. Evil as the judge is, he responds to the persistent prayer and is fearful of the widow who will (in Greek) ʻstrike me and give me a black eyeʼ! Jesus encourages us. God is not someone who we need to ʻwear downʼ by our constant prayer. We are to trust in God as a loving parent.
  6. Have you moved from ʻpraying with lots of wordsʼ to ʻpraying with lots of silenceʼ? What does the image of a baby silent in a parents arms symbolise for you?
  7. Widows were not allowed to inherit their husbands property. If without family they had no one to care or look after them. Judges were to ensure widows, orphans and ʻaliensʼ (foreigners) were looked after. This widow is obviously raising her voice to demand justice. She will not sit down, feel powerless, reduce herself to being broken and afraid. Silent. Jesusʼ parable reveals that God is on the side of the poor and listens to their prayers. Wow to those who allow the world to remain for many an unjust and inhospitable place. Have you ever raised your voice for the cause of justice? What area of need or justice project has caught your attention recently. What could you do to be involved?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Download 2nd Sunday Lent Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Abram has 3 conversations with God about a promise made to him. This is the second and Abram is upset. He has left his home, is in a foreign land, and the promise to be the Father of a large nation is almost laughable as he and his wife are now so old. They do not have a child. Abram asks for a sign. God makes a covenant. In the Old Testament a covenant was a solemn promise between two parties. Both parties would walk through the middle of the split animals as a symbol of what would happen if either party broke the promise. God is the only one to walk through the animals (v17) symbolized by the fire. What do you think this means? Can you identify with Abram in your life? What does God’s covenant faithfulness mean for you today?
  2. St Paul loved the Philippian community. They were his first community. They were being pressured politically. To be acceptable they needed to partake in civic ceremonies and the worship of the Emperor cult. They were worried about their image of acceptability. St Paul reminds them their citizenship is in heaven. What pressures do you face to be acceptable in the eyes of the world? How can you live more fully for ‘heaven’ during this time of Lent?
  3. The transfiguration of Jesus appearing dazzlingly white symbolises a heavenly reality. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Fulfilling the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Jesus’ divine nature shines through. While glorious, the ministry in Galilee is now over. Jesus will soon ‘set his face like flint’ (Lk 9,51) towards the ‘exodus’, his suffering, death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Peter wants to stay in glory on the mountain. Is there anything you have heard in prayer that requires costly obedience? Where would the ‘journey down the mountain’ (from prayer) and confronting evil (to the cross) lead you?
  4.  Making tents and sleeping in them was part of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It reminded Jewish people of the special time when God pitched his tent among them in the desert. It was a symbol of wanting God to be with them again. Jesus is revealed as the very presence of God among his people in the transfigured bright whiteness like Moses had met on Mt Sinai. Peter doesn’t get it. He seeks to build tents hoping for a future coming of God. Peter does not know what he is saying or doing. Are you mucking around with ‘tents’ or going down the mountain to work?
  5. The ‘Divine Voice’ of the Father from heaven speaks only a few times in the Gospels. 9 words are shared today: ‘This is my chosen Son, listen to him’. During the season of Lent how could you ‘listen’ more? What is the best way you have found in the past to ‘listen’ to God?
  6. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Reflection Document

Reflection Questions

  1. Samuel is a young boy who eventually becomes one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. It is possible he was given the job of ensuring the ‘sacred flame’ in the Temple did not burn out and for that reason is ‘sleeping in the temple’. Today God calls him. He is confused, and even his mentor ‘Eli’ takes a while to recognise it is God speaking in prayer to Samuel. Is your lifestyle allowing for time in prayer and silence? Have you ever sincerely presented yourself before God and stated ‘Here I am…. Speak…. I am listening’?
  2. Samuel needed Eli to mentor him in the ways of listening to God and prayerful obedience. Who has been an ‘Eli’ figure for you in your journey with God? Has there been any word or inspiration from God or an Eli-Mentor that you have heard but not been obedient to? What happened?
  3. Samuel was blessed. The Lord helped him to not let any word spoken ‘fall to the ground’. He both caught the Lord’s word and Spoke the Lord’s word. How could you be more effective in ‘catching’ every word of the Lord spoken to you? Consider starting a spiritual journal of your prayer time and finding a spiritual director (Eli). Check out www.livingtheword.org.nz/ resources and click on spiritual director and keeping a journal.
  4. There was a problem among some of the community at Corinth. Some separated the body and the spirit believing that it did not matter what one did with their ‘bodies’. Paul teaches them about the dignity of their bodies. Joined with Christ, filled with the Spirit, our bodies are true ‘Temples’ of God. What we do in and with the dwelling place of God should bring God Glory. Do you respect and protect the dignity of your body? How could you give God greater glory? Whose ‘bodies’ are being broken or abused today in society. Do you care?
  5. John the Baptist points his disciples toward Jesus and they begin the journey of discipleship. The first question Jesus asks of a disciple points deeply to their heart: What are you looking for? Imaginatively enter the scene. What is your response to this very first question of Jesus?
  6.  ‘Come and see’ is an invitation by Jesus to ‘abide’ and ‘stay’ with him. Like Samuel, could you find a frequent way of drawing close to Jesus, spending time beside the tabernacle in Church? It means leaving friends, normal routine, unknown conversation. Where does the adventure of ‘come and see’ ask of you?
  7. While Peter is well known, it was his brother Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus. The time spent with Jesus impacted Andrew so much he had to find someone to share this good news with. Have you experienced the joy of Jesus and the desire to lead others to share this faith experience? Is your lack of courage stopping a future Church leader? Saint?
  8. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download 25th Sunday Yr A 

Reflection Questions

  1. If you ever experience God being ‘distant’ the words of Prophet Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. Yet they cannot go back to Jerusalem and the Temple. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been demolished. Isaiah invites you to turn inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. Does your lifestyle allow for quiet time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God?
  2. Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle. He could be passive and let God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? An earthquake and conversion of the jailor provides the way forward. Could you trust God’s design of providence and guiding your life like Paul?
  3. Laborers would often stand in the middle of town waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, and not having been selected for a job, many would walk home downcast. What do the laborers feel? In desperation some continue to stay until 4pm! What is strange about the landowners (God) behaviour?
  4. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is also called the Parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Christian community was Jewish but gradually became filled with more Gentile converts. Jews who had served long and hard in faithful obedience to the Laws of God now witnessed Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God is unmasked in this parable as one who is generous. Were you upset or delighted in this parable? Why?
  5. The landowner’s (God’s) generosity in the parable creates a problem. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money earned. Few hours worked = little money earned. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’?
  6. The ways of God are different from worldly ways. As a member of the community building the ‘kingdom of God’, what would it look like to be generous with your money like the landowner? Does your giving establish true justice or maintain charity with unjust structures and policies? check out www.caritas.org.nz
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Download Ash Wednesday

Reflection Questions:

  1. Ash Wednesday begins Lent. It is easy for 6 weeks of Lent to pass by and one has not placed oneself on the ‘starting line’ to begin the journey. Taking part in the reception of the ashes symbolises starting the journey. It is possible to appear at the starting line but not enter the race. What was the experience and journey of Lent last year like? Share a decision and plan with a faith-friend and ask for them to cheer you on over the next 40 days.
  2. The image from the prophet Joel is an invitation for everything to come to a complete stop. Call everyone. Old. Young. Babies. Newly married. Priests in the middle of their work at the altar. How could you ‘stop’? Where? When? The image is of a special people called to be a ‘light’ not a ‘reproach’ among the nations. Pray for the whole christian church throughout the world during the season of renewed faithfulness in turning from sin and being faithful to the Gospel.
  3. Imagine being an ‘Ambassador’. The responsibility and challenge of representing and delivering important communication. If you accepted the job your witness and life-style would be challenged to be in harmony with your message. Jesus gives his disciples an ambassadors task of proclaiming ‘on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’. Will you, as an ambassador, receive the sacrament of reconciliation during this season of Lent?
  4. Jesus does not ask, but presumes that a disciple will do certain actions. When you give alms…. When you pray…. When you fast…. These traditional lenten practices are powerful practices that help us to clearly focus on what is important. Prayer: What voices do you listen to? Fasting: What things fill your life?Almsgiving: Do you hear the cries of those in need and respond?
  5. Jesus emphasises doing these actions in ‘secret’ will be ‘repaid’ by God. ‘In secret’ guards us from seeking attention and personal ‘glory’ from others. Lent is not to turn into a shallow show. Do not be afraid to share your secret lent journey with a friend – and encourage your friend into the depths rather than the surface show.
  6. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Download 30th Sunday Yr C 

Reflection Questions

  1. The writer of Ecclesiasticus is a writer by the name Ben Sirach. He was the ʻheadmasterʼ of an Academy in Jerusalem that mentored Jewish students in the art of living well. His writings are a collection of the best of Jewish thought and philosophy. It contrasts with Greek culture and thought which accepted a huge gap between the rich and poor, those who were ʻfreeʼ and those who we ʻslavesʼ. Why do you think ʻthe prayer of the lowly pierces the cloudsʼ?
  2. Paul is writing from Prison in Rome. In his pre-trial hearing Paul shares that there was no-one who came to support him in court. Imagine his loneliness and sense of betrayal! And yet he does not choose to blame or get angry. Scholars suggest christians in Rome were afraid of persecution if they came to support Paul. Have you had an experience of hurt from those you thought would support and protect you? Can you say like Paul ʻmay it not be held against them!ʼ Paulʼs attention continued to focus on his life imitating the life of Jesus, ʻbeing poured out like a libation (offering)ʼ. In your struggles, is your attention on your ʻenemyʼ or ʻJesusʼ?
  3. Jesus teaches about prayer and righteousness in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. What do the words of the Pharisee’s prayer reveal about his attitude toward God and sinners?
  4. A Pharisee was a strict observer of the law. Going beyond what was required they fasted 2 days per week (Jews were only required to fast on 1 day a year) and tithed on everything they received (even the goods that had already been ‘tithed’). They were extremely observant. They enjoyed their ʻholyʼ and ʻrighteousʼ reputation. Deuteronomy 26 taught them to bring a 10th of ones produce to the temple, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing, and giving to the levite, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. Has this been fulfilled? Has the Pharisee done anything wrong? Is the Pharisee ‘righteous’?
  5. A Tax Collector (often Jewish) worked with the Roman authorities to collect road charges, goods tax, sales tax. They made significant profits above their contracted price. They were despised by Jews. For a tax collector to make amends, they were to pay-back overcharged taxes with an additional 1/5th to be added. They could never know everyone they had wronged and therefore could never repair their ‘wrongʼ The tax collectors often felt their religious situation was hopeless. They could never be forgiven! Name some of the feelings experienced by the ʻtax collectorʼ. What is it about the tax collector that you can relate to?
  6. The Pharisee encountered only himself in prayer. He was extremely satisfied with himself. Is this prayer? The Tax collector humbly looked to God for mercy. Why is it that God listens to the Tax Collector?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?