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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

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

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Discussion Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide: Fan the Gift of God Into a Flame

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Reflection Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions

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

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

Discussion Guide, 19th Sunday Year C: Will You Be Found Ready?

Readings: Wis. 18:6-9, Heb. 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12, Gospel Lk 12:32-48 or 12:35-40

Image result for Are you ready Luke 12Reflection Questions

• The Book of Wisdom was written to help Jews life faithfully in the midst of the big and unbelieving city of Alexandria. The strong Greek culture, pagan worship, and completely different view on life caused many Alexandrian Jews to have a crisis of faith. The writer encourages them to have courage in the ʻoaths in which they put their faithʼ and to live according to the divine commands given by God. What is your biggest struggle in living in a secular society? What particular belief, knowledge or practice is at the source of your courage to keep ʻfaithfulʼ?

• The Letter to the Hebrews is the 2nd reading for the next 4 weeks. It is a letter written to ʻHebrewsʼ to help them understand how First Testament worship is completed and overtaken by the Cross of Christ. Abraham and Sarah are both inspirational models of ʻfaithʼ. They left home not knowing where they were going, actively stepped out and searched for land, conceived a child because they believed in the promise of God rather than their human understanding. It would have been easy to sit on the couch waiting for God’s promises. Abraham and Sarah remind us to be active in our faith. Are their areas in life where you need to participate more with God? What is your next step?

• Luke continues to develop a theme of Jesusʼ teachings on wealth and greed.  Building a bigger barn to house more grain was considered foolish – it signalled a decision to move from having ʻenoughʼ to having ʻluxuryʼ, total sensual satisfaction combined with a blindness to those who do not have ʻenoughʼ to eat and drink. Have you considered moving from ʻhoping to be generousʼ to a decision ʻto be generousʼ? Opening up a ʻGod bank accountʼ? Asking your priest or friends who is in need in your local area?

• The invitation to sell your belongings and give alms is for Luke a decision to live a very different lifestyle. To throw away all plans of greed and self centeredness and live simply so others may simply ‘live’. How you ever considered voluntary poverty and simplicity of life so that
resources may be shared for others? Is there a life-style choice that you could make this week to live this invitation?

• The Christian community is recognising Jesusʼ return is not coming immediately. The parable shares an image. Disciples are to understand themselves as ʻcare- takersʼ charged with the task of ʻfood distributionʼ. Attending to this task determines where believers will spend eternity! Did you know 1 billion people are hungry every day? Ever thought of dropping off food to a ʻfood bankʼ or starting a collection in your parish?

• If entry into heaven was based on a quiz, and you knew the answers before-hand, would you practise the answers? If we are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the sick and lost – and we know this is the ʻmasters willʼ – would we be found ʻreadyʼ? Do we fear not being found ready…. are we in for a ʻsevere beatingʼ?

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

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 – 17th Sunday Year C:  Are You Confident Before God?

Readings: Gn 18:20-32, Col 2:12-14, Gospel Lk 11:1-13

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Reflection Questions

• Confidence before God in prayer is a theme of our readings this week. Abraham is bold and has a very real and honest conversation with God about the sinful town of Sodom (See Gen 19). What strikes you in this conversation, what do you learn about Abraham? What do you
learn about God?

• Consider having an extremely honest conversation with God. What would you talk about? Would you push God to side with the righteous and what would your specific request be today?

• In Middle Eastern Cultures honour is extremely important. Abraham uses God’s honour and leans on God’s name and reputation being hel
have you experienced a request to keep the family name upheld, the school reputation in good standing in the community or to represent your culture well? Why was this considered important? What happened? Do you consider yourself bearing the name / honour / reputation / image of God? The Church? Does this affect your behaviour in any way?

• Circumcision was the removal of the foreskin from a manʼs body. It was considered a ʻbadgeʼ of honour, marking a chosen people as belonging to God (and all his family too!). Jews in the Colossian community were trying to force Gentiles to undergo circumcision and be
obedient to the many Jewish laws that would ʻsaveʼ them. St Paul again teaches that Baptism replaces circumcision and something far more radical than a flesh mark has happened. All sin and ʻtransgressionsʼ against the law have been nailed to the cross. Have you ever thought of yourself as having been buried during your baptism? And your rising from the water is Christʼs rising. You live now not for the world but for God. What does the badge of baptism mean for you?

• The disciples request for a ʻprayerʼ was common practise between a Master and disciples. Followers of a particular religious leader would ask for a prayer that set them apart and gave them a special identity. Read the short Lukan ʻOur Fatherʼ prayer slowly. It is a programme for life and discipleship. Consider

• ‘Our Father’ in Hebrew is ʻAbbaʼ which is very close to our word ʻDaddy’. In the Middle East you will hear children calling out ‘Abba, Abba’ to their father  – what sort of relationship is Jesus revealing that God wants with us. What attitude of mind or feeling in your heart does this generate?
• Holy Be Your Name is an honour request so important in middle eastern cultures. A Fathers / Family name is honoured in the community through the children, their lives, acts of justice, hospitality. Is your Christian life and witness bringing honour to Godʼs
name? Are you lowering Godʼs reputation? Is the Church giving honour to Godʼs name in the world today?
• Your Kingdom Come. The prophets cried out in public of Godʼs desire to see Mercy and Justice come. Honestly examine your life-style. Are you chasing possessions, power and prestige OR people, justice and mercy? Our prayer is not to be merely words but a battle cry.

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

Discussion Guide: Getting the Balance Right as a Disciple

Readings: Gen 18:1-10, Col.1:24-28, Luke 10:38-42

See the source imageReflection Questions

• ʻThe New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is only fully revealed in the New Testamentʼ. Here forms a special link between the First Reading and the Gospel Reading each Sunday. The common theme in the readings is Hospitality.

• Abraham has just won a significant battle, is a wealthy leader and herdsman. Yet he runs from his tent in the heat of the day, gets the equivalent of 20 pounds of flour, kills a steer, which would be an extraordinary feast for a small village, and then he ʻwaited on themʼ. Abraham shows middle eastern hospitality in providing safe passage for travelers. Strangers become guests. How do you show hospitality in your life, family, friends, work colleagues, strangers … ?

• Sarah and Abraham are surprised in receiving news that they will have a child. What surprises have you enjoyed and received recently in showing hospitality?

• Paul rejoices in sufferings and sees them as part of the work of Christ. Any suffering that is part of growth and extending the work of the Church is Christʼs work continuing and making up or completing what was unfinished in Christ. Enduring difficulties became a privilege and an honour for Paul. What sufferings do you find hard to carry? Can you see a different way of looking at them as gradually transforming the world and the Church starting with your own ʻfleshʼ?

• Paul goes where no-one else would go – to the gentiles – to warn, teach and present them to Christ. Is there someone you know who has drifted away from God and the Church. How might you ʻwarnʼ them, ʻteachʼ them, ʻpresentʼ them to God?

• Martha and Mary have Jesus – and his hungry disciples – arrive at their home. Cultural expectations of women would have weighed heavily on both Martha and Mary to give hospitality and serve food. Mary chose to do what was not socially acceptable, and sit at the masters feet, the traditional expression of being a ‘disciple’ – and one normally reserved for ‘males’. Consider what obstacles Mary overcame to ‘sit and listen’. What obstacles do you need to overcome to listen in prayer?

• Martha’s serving is another crucial aspect of discipleship. So Jesus is challenging the status quo here also. He recognizes both Martha and Mary as disciples, challenging Martha to step outside her cultural role and understand who Jesus is calling her to be as his follower. Martha tries to reinforce the norms by getting Mary to help. Mary courageously resists her sister. What is going on? If Welcome and Serving feel overly burdensome or a ʻcomplainingʼ spirit is developing in your life, work, relationships, ministry, take time to figure out where the ʻworryʼ is coming from and talk to God about it?

• This passage comes straight after the parable of the Good Samaritan and offers a great picture of balanced Christian discipleship. Hearing and Doing are not opposites but inter-twined. What is Jesus saying to you about the choice that Mary made to sit and listen to him and our need to carefully discern the roles we adopt and review them from time to time in prayer?

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

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

 

See the source imageDiscussion Guide: Disciples are Missionaries of Peace 

Readings: Is.66:10-14, Gal. 6:14-18, Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Reflection Questions

• Isaiah provides a very intimate feminine image of a baby being comforted at a Mother’s breast to symbolise the return of exiles back to Jerusalem. It is one of the most cherished images of Godʼs love for sinful humanity. Some commentators share this as a feminine image in the Old Testament to the Compassionate Father in the Prodigal Son Gospel story. Try replacing ʻJerusalemʼ with your own name. What feelings are stirred within you? If the Old Testament ʻJerusalemʼ is now the ʻChurchʼ, which sacraments provide us with this tender grace of love?

• St Paul leads us into a deeper discovery of the meaning of the cross. The cross does not only give us Jesusʼ forgiveness of sins but reveals a rule and ʻlife-styleʼ. Christian disciples are now drawn into away of living that reveals they are ʻcrucified to the worldʼ. Many worldly attractions are no longer top priorities. My life direction and purpose is now in Jesus and for others. Consider what your deepest desires are and what you are really living for? If 1000 people lived your ʻlife-styleʼ what sort of world would be emerging?

• Jesus sent out 72 people – the number of known nations in the world. He urgently seeks to bring people to God – and to dethrone Satanʼs power in the world. Have you ever thought of a ʻmissionʼ project that is bigger than yourself and requires others to help? What would you need to do to start the project? Have you been attracted to a project? What happened?

• Take no money, no bag, no extra shoes, donʼt be distracted by talking to anyone on the way to your job, and donʼt jump from house to house to seek comfort. A serious challenge! Disciples are to be detached from any security other than their relationship with Jesus. They only
resource they bring is ʻpeaceʼ, and working and praying in Jesusʼ name to ʻcure the sickʼ. Can you identify anyone who lives this ʻabsolute  trust in God  lifestyleʼ as an example for you? Has their inspiration changed anything in you?

• Jesus warns disciples to be ready for rejection. Peace not anger and argument are trademark signs of Christian disciples. Have you had the courage to witness to Christ? Have you shared ideas and projects that were not ʻreceivedʼ? Shaking of the dust was not done individually but
by a ʻpairʼ. Why do you think it was important for Jesus to send out disciples in ʻpairsʼ? Who could you have as a ʻpairʼ to journey and share with – especially in the rejection moments?

• Jesus did not delay sending people out on mission until the disciples were complete and perfect. I need more formation. Iʼm not good enough. Iʼm not confident enough. Iʼm too broken and sinful are easy responses to NOT engage in mission and ministry. Sometimes we need prayer-filled focus. What is God asking of me and what is the next step in ʻdoing itʼ? ʻBehold, I have given you the power…..
• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com 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

Reflection Guide for Trinity Sunday is here

Readings: Proverbs 8:22-31, Rm. 5:1-5, Gospel JN 16:12-15

Discussion QuestionsFather, Son and Holy Spirit - spirit, christ, jesus, god

• Trinity Sunday has its origins in the Arian controversies of the 4-5th
Century (denying the divinity and humanity of Jesus). These arguments resulted in the Nicene Creed being formulated and an increase in preaching and devotion to the Holy Trinity arose. By the year 1000 the Feast of the Trinity was celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost.
• The passage from Proverbs is a unique reference to the Wisdom of God personified, playing, creating ‘beside God’. At times it has been interpreted as reference of the Word of God (Jesus) or the Power of God (Holy Spirit). Have you ever considered Jesus having a pre-existent life before being ‘born of Mary’? What does this mean for Jesus’ relationship with the Father?

• What strikes you about the image of God in the passage from Proverbs: Have you ever considered God ‘delighting day by day’,‘playing…’How might this help you relate to God?

• St Paul shares with his community in Rome that the experience of Christian faith brings peace and hope. Sometimes we can only know what
we have by imagining what life is like without it. What would life be like for you without Jesus?

• Jesus knows that disciples are not ready to know the complete truth immediately. Have you experienced the gentle guidance of the spirit into a deeper truth and freedom? Is there any area of your life where you desire more freedom? Do you recognise the desire for a deeper freedom is the sign of the spirit? What is the ‘truth’ (desired in you by the Spirit) that you would like to live?

• Reflecting over the past week consider any ‘God moments’ where you have felt God speaking to you through experiences, people, books,
prayer time, emotions… in a sentence what do you think God is trying to ‘speak’ to you?

• Consider entering a time of prayer with each person of the Trinity. What would you like to pray in thanks and praise to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit? What would you like to ask for?

• The work of the Holy Spirit is to ‘glorify’. Have you experienced your mind and heart being turned to wonder and awe at creation, salvation,
the sacraments of the Church, the gift of heaven? When was the last time you experienced a deep sense of rejoicing and praise / glory to God?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com 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 Sunday Year C: Ascension of the Lord – Be My Witnesses

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:17-23 or Heb. 9:24-28; 10:19-23 Gospel Lk 24:46-53

salvador dal237 the ascension of christ 2139x2022 wallpaper Art HD Wallpaper

Reflection Questions

• 40 days have passed since Easter. What is a significant memory, learning, faith experience you have had since Holy Week? Has the Easter mystery become clearer in any way? Have you learnt something new about what Christ has done for our salvation?

• Restoring the kingdom to Israel is still a theme and question of the Apostles. They may still be holding onto a military hope of salvation with a clear and convincing victory of God by power. What is your understanding of the idea of kingdom of God? What does it look like? How is it achieved?

• The Feast of the Ascension celebrates Jesus’ place now in Heaven, promising the Holy Spirit (1st Reading), acting as the Heavenly Priest (2nd Reading) and sending his disciples to witness to all nations (Gospel). The Angels challenge the disciples (and Us): why are you standing there looking at the sky? Where is the focus of your energy and attention as a disciple: looking upward to a future hope of heaven, or looking sideways to mission?

• Ascension Sunday has two options for the second reading. The letter to the Hebrews teaches how Jesus replaces all the sacrifices, offerings and prayers of the Temple Priests. A picture is created of the High Priest acting on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) with blood (symbol of life) to rub on the mercy seat (God’s resting place) in the holy of holies – the sanctuary / tabernacle). Jesus’ sacrifice of himself is the one eternal sacrifice to fulfill and replace all sacrifice offerings for the forgiveness of sin. This great act is complete. Jesus now gives us confidence that our relationship with God is made clean. Jesus acts now and intercedes for us as our heavenly priest. What strikes you from this image in the Hebrews reading?

• Jesus sends his disciples as ʻwitnessesʼ to all the world. This is our job description. The early Christian community so heavily persecuted,
linked witness with martyrdom. In what ways do you consider yourself a witness to Jesus? If people were to watch your life what would they ‘see’?

• The Holy Spirit is the ‘promise’ of the Father upon you giving disciples a ʻpower from on highʼ. What is your image and experience of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever earnestly prayed for the Spirit? Awaiting Pentecost this coming week, create a simple phrase that you could pray
frequently (eg. Promise of the Father; Come  or  Power from on high, fill me, or the simple Come Holy Spirit)

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com  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: 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