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Posts Tagged ‘repentance’

Reflection Guide for 33rd Sunday Year C: Do Not Be Terrified-Persevere in Hope is HERE

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Discussion Questions

• The Prophet Malachi is upset. Israel has returned from exile, the Temple has been rebuilt, the liturgy is celebrated, and yet the rich and proud are increasingly hurting the poor. One writer expresses it this way: I know what living for God looks like on ʻSundayʼ, but what does it look like on ʻMondayʼ? How do you integrate ʻliturgyʼ with ʻlifeʼ? How does life flow into your worship and how does Sunday impact the rest of your week?
• Malachi shares a judgment scene for the end of days. There will be a radical reversal of fortunes; the text is reminiscent of Mary’s Magnificat. How do you interpret ʻyou who fear my nameʼ. Awe, reverence and trembling are all synonyms for fear but today we tend to use the word ‘fear’ negatively. There have always been protocols for meeting a High Court judge. Imagine they are merciful to you, resolving your needs with deep respect and kindness. How would you feel in spite of your awe and ‘fear’? Malachi prophesies a perfect judge who brings healing and restoration. Share your needs and hopes for mercy and justice with God today.
• Some Thessalonian disciples were so convinced the ʻDay of the Lordʼ had arrived that they actually retired early! Unfortunately they became ʻarmchairʼ critics of others and a ʻburdenʼ. They focused on the shortcomings of others rather than joy and preparation for the ʻcoming of the Lordʼ. Is your energy focused on criticism of others? How could your energy be turned toward Jesus?
• When will the final day arrive is a big question. Jesus and the Gospel writers do not give an answer to ʻwhenʼ but only ʻthatʼ it will happen. The Gospel of Luke challenges us to be ready for the last day. When the Gospel of Luke was written the community had already witnessed Jewish persecution causing many to leave Jerusalem. Those disciples who ended up in Rome were also persecuted there (60AD). The beautiful Jewish temple was totally destroyed (as Jesus predicted) in Jerusalem (70AD). Further persecution occurred under emperor Domitian (80AD). Under such oppression, apocalyptic writing gave disciples hope that there would be a final victory of good over evil. Every generation gets tempted to follow false prophets and radical voices. Jesus says ‘Do not Follow them’, ‘Do not be terrified.  God calls us to trust and persevere in faith meeting the ongoing challenges with good moral choices both ʻpersonallyʼ and as a community placing our hope in Christ and Gospel ʻnowʼ. What words in the gospel give you ʻhopeʼ. What challenges you deeply? Are you ʻreadyʼ?
• Is it getting harder to proclaim Christian faith in highly secularized countries? Many Christians around the world are suffering intense persecution. Both ʻredʼ (blood) martyrdom, and what writers call  ʻwhiteʼ (perseverance) martyrdom is increasing. What would a modern synagogue or prison be? How do you experience Christians being taunted, threatened, influenced, tempted away from Christ?What does it mean to ʻgive testimonyʼ and be hated because of ʻmy nameʼ?
• Next week is the Feast of Christ The King. We celebrate ʻas if’ it was the ʻend of timeʼ!Imagine the urgency of only a few weeks to live. What would be most important?What would be demanded of you in your spiritual life? What do you need to ʻdoʼ?
• 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, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection and Scripture: Do You Run to See Jesus?

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Discussion Questions

  • The writer of the book of Wisdom is sharing the special insights of Jewish thinking to a society heavily influenced by Greek thinking. Greek thought promoted dualism. The human body was evil and continually dragged the mind and spirit down to earth. The result was a thinking and feeling that there was a large gap between humanity and God. Too large to be bridged! What do you think?
  •  Have you ever pondered how magnificent God is in creating and sustaining all of ʻcreationʼ? Have you ever created something and felt a deep connection to it because it is something you made? If the same is true for God, what does this mean for Godʼs relationship to you personally?
  • 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the earliest  letters we have in the New Testament. A fear had taken over the community that the final ʻday of the Lordʼ was here. Some had left their jobs. Have you had an unsettling faith experience which shook your mind and caused you ʻalarmʼ? How did you cope? Did you choose to walkthrough it or around it?
  • The Gospel of Luke continues to share with us the relationship that Jesus and God has with ʻtax collectorsʼ (who were considered the greatest sinners andoutcasts because they taxed Jewish people and gave this money to the occupying Roman soldiers and government.
  • Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector of the large city of Jericho. He would have been extremely wealthy. And yet he does something extremely humbling – he runs and climbs a tree. He publicly admits he is short in front of the large crowd. He exposes himself to ridicule in his effort of seeking Jesus. Life changing meetings with Jesus are often the result of extraordinary actions by gospel characters. What made  Zacchaeus climb the tree? Instead of climbing the tree, what action could you take to get closer to Jesus? What is therisk or fear that could stop you? Who could give you support or advice?
  • For Jesus, seeking out and saving the lost was not an ʻideaʼ but a lived reality. To the greatest ʻsinnerʼ in Jericho, he says: Zacchaeus…. today I must stay at your house. What does this teach us about Jesusʼ understanding of his mission? What does this teach us about the
    mission of the Church today? What conversion needs to go on within you to live out this mission of the Church?
  • Salvation is not something that happens in the far distant future. Jesus says it happens ʻtodayʼ for Zacchaeus with his actions in response to Jesus. He gives half his property to the poor and promises to pay the full price of compensation that Roman law states (four times the original amount). Living salvation ʻtodayʼ is radical. A daily response to the love of God revealed in Jesus and his challenging life-style transformin gospel message. The one who was outside is ʻinsideʼ. Can you be at home in this inclusive community of the
    Church? What will you do if a modern ʻtax collectorʼ does not ʻrepentʼ?
  • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword resources created by Fr Frank Bird sm, Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

Reflection Guide for 30th Sunday Year C: Smug Self-Righteousness or Humble Authenticity is here

See the source imageDiscussion Questions

• The writer of Ecclesiasticus is Ben Sirach which is why this book sometimes has different names in the Bible.  He was the headmaster 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 were slaves. Why do you think ʻthe prayer of the lowly pierces the cloudsʼ?

• 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 imitating the life of Jesus, being poured out like a libation (offering)ʼ. In your struggles, is your attention on your ʻenemyʼ or ʻJesusʼ? Do you think Paul is being self-righteous or humbly authentic with God and the reader?

• 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? What does it mean to be smugly self-righteous? Authentically humble?

• 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 righteous reputation. Deuteronomy 26 taught Jews to bring a tenth of their produce to the temple, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing, and giving to the Levites,(priests) foreigners, orphans and widows. What has the Pharisee failed to understand about the Law and about God? Is the Pharisee ‘righteous’? Listen around you; who is talked about in disparaging ways, excluded, despised, looked down on? How do you react? Humility is recognizing the truth about yourself, God and others. What are some ways we are tempted to self-righteousness in our culture?

• Tax Collectors (often Jewish) worked with the Roman authorities to collect road charges, goods and sales tax. They made significant profits above their contracted price. They were despised by Jews for being in partnership with the occupying forces. For a tax collector to make amends, they had to pay-back overcharged taxes plus an additional 1/5th. They could never know everyone they’d cheated so could never repair their ‘wrong They often felt their religious situation was hopeless. They could never be forgiven! Name some of the feelings experienced by the tax collector. What is it about the tax collector that you can relate to? How would the Sacrament of Reconciliation help?

• The Pharisee only encountered himself in prayer. He was extremely self-satisfied. Is this prayer? The Tax collector humbly needs God’s  mercy. Why does God listens to the Tax Collector?

• 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, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide for 28th Sunday: Living the Hospitality and Mercy of God is here

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Reflection Questions

• Our readings today have 2 characters who suffer from Leprosy. Lepers were excluded from living in the community. People didn’t want to catch the disease. It was also commonly believed that leprosy was a sign of being punished by God and that the leper was both morally and ritually unclean. The forced isolated shunned life living outside the community (Lev 13,46) caused incredible loneliness and constant rejection. How do we shun, isolate and cause chronic loneliness and rejection for people today? What are some modern forms of social ʻleprosyʼ?

• Naaman was a general in the Syrian Army, both a foreigner and an enemy, and he had leprosy so was excluded and to be feared. Israel and Syria were not friendly. Possibly from a previous conquest Naaman had even taken a Jewish slave girl for his household. Everyone would have been against him! Consider the courage he had in going to a holy man in Israel; Elisha. How welcoming are we toward strangers, or those we fear?

• What obstacles has Naaman had to overcome for healing? He tries to offer wealth as payment but Elisha refuses. How freely do we share the Lord’s goodness? He asks for soil from Israel to take home to build an Altar. His full acceptance of God is symbolized in that action. What is your symbol of thanksgiving and acceptance of God and what could you build to offer worship to God for healing and forgiveness?

• Scholars suggest that St Paulʼs letter to Timothy was written while he was in prison. St Paul was ʻin chainsʼ, treated as a criminal for his preaching the gospel of inclusion by God in Christ to the gentiles. He invites young Timothy to also be willing to persevere and suffer for this mission. What would you be willing to endure ʻchainsʼ for? What do you understand Paul means by; “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.” What effort do you put into changing the patterns of exclusion in your community and society?

• Gospel stories are like icebergs: 90% of the story is beneath the surface. Underneath the story of the lepers are further stories of exclusion, hurt, isolation. The Samaritan is like Naaman in the first reading; a hated foreigner. Past events meant Samaritans no longer acknowledge Jerusalem and the Temple as the place of true worship. Healing from leprosy required a certificate of health by the Priest before a leper could be accepted back in community. The 9 lepers are obviously so keen to see the priest that they lost sight of who did the healing -Jesus. Only the foreigner stopped and showed gratitude. When do you take your life and health for granted? Have you had some high moments and forgotten to give thanks to God. Write, share or pray a thank-you list to God about things in life you forget to say thanks to God for.

• God wishes to include and bring to faith the most unlikely of characters. Naaman and the Samaritan leper show God’s desire to include, not exclude.  What does this teach us about God? Does it adjust your image of God? Which unlikely character in your community might God be inviting you to bring to faith? What misconceptions do you and they need to let go of so that Godʼs welcome and inclusion can be realized?

• 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, distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 26th Sunday is here

Image result for Catholic solidarity justice poorReflection Questions

  1. 1.Amos continues his public speech in Jerusalem against the incredibly wealthy who are so satisfied with beautiful beds, couches, food, wine, concerts and cosmetics. ‘They are not made ill by the collapse of their fellow people (Joseph)ʼ. How can wealth create a ʻblindnessʼ to the poor? Can you remember any experience where you had your eyes opened to the cry of the poor? What happened?
  2. 2.God’s covenant relationship in Dt. 15:4 stated that ‘there should be no poor among you because the Lord will richly bless you. Implied in this is that the richly blessed share with others to ensure all are provided for. How aware are you that our Christian commitment /covenant involves a social obligation / covenant toward the ‘poor’? What are you doing to make that commitment practical ?
  3. Some scholars consider this passage from Timothy could come from an ordination ceremony. Who might be your Pontius Pilate? Do you have ‘courage under fire’ to give your testimony and confess your faith in difficult situations? Where and when have you found it hard?
  4. Purple clothing was the ultimate sign of luxury and wealth because its source was a rare shellfish and insect being crushed. It showed status in the way ‘branded’ clothing or luxury items distinguish a person of wealth today. What symbols of great wealth are used today? What part of the economic ‘system’ are you in?  How does wealth and status impact you?
  5. The Great Reversal of fortunes is a theme of the Gospel of Luke. The Rich will be brought low, the poor will be lifted up. However it is not riches themselves that are the problem (Abraham himself was a very rich man!). It is allowing wealth to so preoccupy and claim ones attention and energy that the needs of others go unnoticed. The rich man clearly knew Lazarus because he uses his name. However he refused to share his wealth and his conscience is dulled to conversion or compassion. The Rich Man claims he had
    no warning about the reversal. If this parable describes what will happen in the after-life, what does it demand of us today?
  6. How are you wealthy and what would it take for you to share it? We are charged to give to the poor not just because they need it, but because it is essential to our own salvation. Have you considered the difference between charity and true justice which recognizes that we are intrinsically in solidarity with every member of the human family who have equal rights to the goods of the earth? The gulf between rich and poor is immense. What can I change around me?
    • How might the Parable of Lazarus challenge our Eucharistic Communities? The parish is charged with the care of every soul within its geographic boundary? Are we wealthy in God’s great blessing and Eucharistic Banquet? Who do we share that with? Do we drive vehicles yet fail to arrange transport for those in need? Are we wearing fashion clothes, and enjoying coffees, while nearby, people struggle to feed, clothe or house their family? In Luke, Jesus refuses to allow his disciples to be satisfied with the worlds default settings. Every 6th line of Luke’s Gospel is a challenge to reach out to the poor in either charity or justice. What are your obstacles to
    deeper conversion to solidarity and justice for the poor?
  7. 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, distributed by 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: 18th Sunday Year C – How Big is Your Barn?

Readings: Eccl. 1:2; 2:21-23, Col 3:1-5, 9-11, Gospel Lk 12:13-21

See the source imageReflection Questions

• Ecclesiasticus comes from the Greek word for the ʻperson who gathers the assembly togetherʼ. The word ʻvanityʼ could more accurately be translated as ʻbreathʼ or ʻvapourʼ. Feel the words and the profound questioning going on in the text. Respond in one sentence what motivates and gives your life direction and purpose. What are you really living for?

• Paul continues to teach the Colossians about Baptism. The baptism ceremony involved taking off their old clothes, being plunged into water as if being plunged into the earth like Christ to ʻdieʼ. They would rise and be annointed with oil, and be clothed with the white garment of the
ʻnew selfʼ. These external signs were symbolising a change within the person. A baptised Christian is now dead to the world and alive with Christ. Consider a phrase such as ʻSport is his lifeʼ, or ʻMusic is her lifeʼ. What does it involve do have an all encompassing pursuit or hobby?
What is Paul suggesting by a favourite phrase he develops in this letter ʻChrist your lifeʼ?

• Rabbiʼs were expected to make decisions on religious and civil matters. Yet Jesus chooses not to be the ʻjudgeʼ of this inheritance dispute. He is not interested in property but he is interested in talking about ʻgreedʼ. St Paul in the second reading referred to greed as ʻidolatryʼ –
replacing God. Have you ever considered your answer to the question: ʻWhat is enough?ʼ (money, car, savings, food allowance, clothing). What is a benchmark that when you have reached it you now have a duty to ʻshareʼ? On a spectrum of ʻgetting and ʻgivingʼ where would you mark your lifestyle?

• Building up supplies, having enough to ʻrest, eat, drink, be merry!ʼ. Isnʼt this what we all hope for? Isnʼt this a nice picture of retirement? Satisfaction? And yet this text is one of the few times in the Gospels when God actually ʻspeaksʼ in a parable: “fool”. Why is personal comfort and material care of our families not enough?

• ʻI work to pay billsʼ is a humorous phrase. Yet it indicates a trap we can so easily walk into. What debts, hire purchases, possessions are you ʻworking forʼ? Are you investing your self and your fortune on projects and items that have no lasting significance?

• Being rich ʻin what matters to Godʼ is obviously not a property portfolio or a large amount of wealth. Find a way this week to open up a discussion with a friend what you think matters most to God.

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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 Divine Mercy for All here

Readings: Acts 5:12-16, Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19, Gospel Jn 20:19-31

Image result for doubting thomas scripture

Reflection Questions

• Early followers of Jesus were fearful that authorities would persecute them and their families. Consequently many dared not join the Apostles in the Temple porch. Is there something you would like to join in your Church family but are scared for some reason? What would help you get over your fear? Do you fear your Priest? Public leadership in the Church?

• Easter changed the disciples. A presence and power of Christ comes out of Peter that heals the sick and disturbed. It is primarily actions and signs that helped people believe. What signs and wonders could be done by your hands to bring Christ to the sick and disturbed?

• John, the Beloved Disciple, the writer of the Book of Revelation, was exiled on the island of Patmos because he gave testimony to Jesus. Yet in the midst of imprisonment he has deep and enlightening revelations from Christ – dressed in white walking among the lampstands (symbols of Christian communities). John shares he experiences the distress of trials, a kingdom vision which sustains him, the endurance and comforting presence of being in Jesus. Imagine Jesus walking amongst the lampstands of Christian communities. Is your community ‘shining’? Is there any experience of the disciple John that you can identify with in your life at present?

• Fear was very real for the disciples of Jesus. If Jesus had been hunted and killed the same could be done with his followers. Violent persecution eventually changed toward another type of persecution. Converts from Judaism to Christianity would be disowned by family.
A ‘funeral service’ would even be held to cut a convert off from their family and community. These kinds of oppressive and violent discrimination experiences are still all too real in our world today. Do you recognize as a Christian the calling to be living an ‘alternative society’ to witness to God’s ways whatever the challenges? How does your life-style ‘challenge the world’? We also recall St Peter Chanel
today who experienced a violent death for being Christian. In what ways do you or your community stand in solidarity with victims of violence and oppression?

• While other disciples had believed in Peter and John and Mary, Thomas refused and placed certain conditions on his belief. He needed Jesus to be very real for him. Jesus responded to Thomas’ probing and questioning. Do you identify with Thomas or know someone who is like Thomas? What is their/your question or source of ʻunbeliefʼ? Ask Jesus like Thomas for what you need. How could you be like Jesus for unbelievers and make faith ‘real’?

• 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 this week by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary, and Bev McDonald ACSD and distributed by Marist Laity NZ www.maristlaitynz.org.

 

 

Good Friday

April 15, 2019

Good Friday Scriptures   Is 52:13—53:12Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9Jn 18:1—19:42  

A Guide for the Good Friday Liturgy is here 

The Gospel Reading is here

  • Take time today and through Holy Saturday to ponder the Passion of Christ from the readings above.
  • To help you prepare and reflect we present you with material from Creighton University on the Good Friday Liturgy.

     A Good Friday Opening Prayer:

Remember your mercies, O Lord,
and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants,
for whom Christ your Son, by the shedding of his Blood,
established the Paschal Mystery.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

        • We enter the liturgy on Good Friday in silence. We don’t need a “gathering rite.” It is as though we have been “gathered” since the night before. The first act of the liturgy is for the Presider and ministers to lay face down before the cross, in silence. As with all liturgical rituals, that invites us to lay prostrate before the cross as well. That takes some preparation.
        • We can prepare to begin the Good Friday celebration by reflecting upon ourselves laying there – with all the feelings we want to identify and pay attention to. Our feelings may not be consistent or even inspiring. I might feel awe, gratitude, guilt, powerlessness, all at once. In preparing for Good Friday, I prepare that brief silent moment at the beginning of the service. Perhaps I will want to simply open my hands when the Presider lays face down and say “I know this is all for me; thank you.
        • The scripture readings take on a special power today, from the quiet and solemnity of the service.
        • The General Intercessions
          These prayers, and their style, are perhaps the oldest liturgical ritual we have. They link us to the prayer of our sisters and brothers down through the centuries. They also give us a sense of our long tradition of public prayer. The Presider makes an invitation to pray – saying who it is we pray for and what it is that we ask. We respond to the invitation with our silent prayer. Then, the Presider prays out loud in our name, first praising God and naming how God has been loving and caring for the person or need we present, then asking for a particular grace. We affirm that prayer with our “Amen.” We could prepare for these great intercessions by reflection on our prayer for each of the people groups mentioned and their needs. That will help us with our responding to the invitation to pray in silence, and to appreciate the powerful words of these ancient prayers.
        • Adoration of the Holy Cross.
          We adore the cross upon which our Savior gained for us the salvation of the world. We do that concretely by venerating an actual cross in our churches, which represents that divine act of love. This rite of veneration is called “The Showing of the Holy Cross.”
        • To “venerate” is becoming a lost experience to many of our cultures. In our growing equal-itarianism, we want and expect everyone to be “equal” (which is a good thing). But, sometimes it is at the expense of reverence. To revere a wise person, an extraordinary role model, or someone who has struggled heroically, is still very important. And part of that is to have reverence for places or objects or symbols which are full of meaning and very special significance for us, because they re-connect us with relationships.
        • Visiting the place where I grew up, holding a newborn baby, treasuring a gift from a loved one, seeing a photograph or piece of art that stirs my spirit, and a thousand other places and things, all can become “religious” and objects of veneration.
          We revere and venerate the wood of the cross, because our Savior was nailed there, and gave his life for us there. Preparing for this special veneration on Good Friday is very important. We may want to pray by making the Stations of the Cross, in our church, or in the privacy of our home, or with our Online version at: http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/stations.html
        • We want to be prepared to touch, kiss, embrace the cross with the greatest devotion we can express. We want our gesture to be able to ritualize our acceptance for the love, forgiveness and everlasting life that flows from that cross. We want to feel the love of Jesus, to feel it as being “for me,” and to express our grateful response as reverence.
        • Receiving the Eucharist from the Holy Thursday Celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We fast from celebrating the Eucharist today, but we are gathered by the Spirit to re-connect with our celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. We do not want to forget what that liturgy continues to mean for us. This is the bread that gives life. This is his self-giving love for us. This is our nourishment for our mission.
        • Prayer After Communion.

Almighty ever-living God, who have restored us to life,

by the blessed Death, Resurrection of your Christ,

preserve in us the work of your mercy, that,

by partaking of this mystery,

we may have a life unceasingly devoted to you.

Through Christ our Lord.

    •  
      • Departing in Silence, Again. With closing prayer and a blessing, we again depart in silence. We are a people who are full of faith, but who continue to wait for the fullness of our redemption.

Good Friday Closing Prayer:
May abundant blessings, O Lord, we pray,

descend upon your people,

who have honored the Death of your Son

in the hope of their resurrection:

may pardon come, comfort be given, holy faith increase,

     and everlasting redemption be made secure.

After the celebration, the altar is stripped but the cross remains with two candles lit. We leave in Silence. Our leaving in silence links this celebration to the Easter Vigil, as our beginning in silence connected us with Holy Thursday.

www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html

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