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Posts Tagged ‘repentance’

Discussion Guide:    5th Sunday Lent Yr. C – God’s Astonishing Mercy

 

Neither do I condemn you - Faithlife Sermons

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 horsemen 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 honour 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 started 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?

• Please note in communities that are welcoming candidates for Baptism at Easter different readings are used for the ‘Rite of Scrutinies’ this Sunday.

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

Discussion Guide:          4th Sunday Lent Yr. C – The Father’s Outrageous Love

 

 

Luke 15:11-32 GOD'S LOVE FOR THE LOST — Tell the Lord Thank You

Reflection Questions: 

• While Moses was a great leader and teacher, the courage of Joshua was needed to face the challenge of entering the ʻpromised landʼ. The manna ceased. They were now to work for their food. What change has God been trying to work in you and teach you this Lent?

• St Paul wanted to teach the Corinthian community that faith in Jesus was more than believing oneʼs sins forgiven. God has also given us the ministry of reconciliation in the world. Reconciliation between peoples and with God is a christian’s top priority. What relationships need ʻreconcilingʼ in your life? Who could you start with?

• In the middle of Lent the Church encourages us to look at our understanding of God with the parable of the prodigal son. It is Jesus teaching us what the Fathers love is really like. The Pharisees were complaining that Jesus did not obey the laws of keeping separate from sinners. Surely God does not want to get ʻcontaminatedʼ with sinners? What do you honestly think is Godʼs response to your sinfulness? What ʻimageʼ do you have of God?

• The young son commits the biggest sin possible for a young Jewish person. Asking for the inheritance was like wishing Dad was ‘dead’! Yet the father’s love does not change. Do you feel distant from God because of something you have done …. will you accept the love that the Father shows to his child is the same love that is shown to you? Will you accept this love in the sacrament of reconciliation this Lent? What might hold you back?

• The Father does a number of humiliating actions which show the depth of his love. The Father runs in public. It was unbecoming for a Jewish elder to show one’s ankles in public. It is the equivalent of ‘baring one’s bottom’. The crowds attention is now drawn away from the son and the possibility of hurting him. The father accepts the humiliation, in front of the whole community, of the older son angry and argumentative. Does the older son wish the father was dead too? Does anyone appreciate the Fathers love? If this is what God is like toward you what is your response?

• The Son reaches a very low point in his life. Literally, the phrase ‘coming to his senses’ can be translated ‘he entered into himself’. He makes the most profound decision of his life to ‘return’. What places, practices and people could help you journey ‘into yourself’ this Lent? What decisions have you resisted in the past that would most transform your life?

• The parable of the Prodigal (Reckless) Son is also called the Parable of the Prodigal Father. So unconditional is the Father’s love that neither the youngest son or eldest son fully accept it. The parable ends without a resolution. Will God’s children accept his unconditional love and enjoy the ‘fattened calf’ and banquet? Can you glimpse this invitation in the celebration of the Eucharist?

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

Discussion Guide:   3rd Sunday Lent Yr. C – Repent and Bear Fruit

 

Luke 13:1-9

 

Reflection Questions:    •In our first reading God meets Moses at the mountain of God; while Moses was simply carrying out his duties tending the flock, something caught his attention and he investigated. How attentive are you to God communicating in your everyday life?

•God explains to Moses that this revelation is not completely new but rather is in continuity with the history and experience of the Jewish people. (I am the God of your fathers…). Moses ‘hid his face’ ‘afraid to look at God’. Reverence and awe before the sacred and acceptance of historical continuity in community are not easy concepts in today’s Western culture. Why is it so important that our spiritual experiences be tested within a historical community of continuity? How much is that a challenge for you and why?

•God chooses to reveal the Divine Name to Moses; “I AM WHO I AM.” It is so sacred to Judaism that they use initials ‘YHWH’. What does it mean when someone shares their name with you? How have you encountered God so far during Lent?

•When we listen to God do we take on the role of passive spectator OR actively engage with God as a change agent. Moses shared with God that he felt too weak and unable to talk properly. God provides answers to all Moses’ issues…How has God asked something of you lately? Have you freely explained your concerns to God and who might you ask to help you be obedient to fulfilling God’s will?

•The Corinthian community was becoming comfortable. They assumed that receiving Baptism and celebrating Eucharist was all one needed to be saved. St Paul reminds them of the dangers of presuming salvation. Our Hebrew ancestors did this and they “were struck down in the desert”. This is a warning, we need to continually try to cooperate with God. Are you feeling comfortable in your faith? What lifestyle choice or action could you make to express a more committed following of Jesus?

•The theme of God’s judgment enters Lent in this passage of Luke. Pilate had killed religious revolutionaries from Galilee while they were offering sacrifices to God in the temple. That event was compared to a tower falling over near the Temple (pool of Siloam) killing 18 people. They asked Jesus if these people were sinners, and if God was punishing them. Jesus provides a shocking answer. We are all going to die and receive judgment before God. It is urgent and your first concern to be found ‘ready’. Are you ready to die? Why not?

•The fig tree, the only tree mentioned in the the garden of Eden, is at the same time a symbol of the promised Land, God’s people, & the blessing of God. In the parable, can you see yourself as the fig tree? Who do you think the gardener is? It took about 3 years for a fig to fruit. By God’s mercy it is given more time -but it is still under judgment. Consider God’s call on each of us as disciples. What is it like to know God is merciful? How is God fertilizing and cultivating you? What fruit are we are asked to produce?

•In ancient times people thought God was vengeful & punishing. Jesus says God is NOT this way. He shares the importance of people moving away from sin and destructive patterns of guilt and blame. Repent means literally ‘to turn your life around’. What would you like to turn ‘from’ and ‘toward?

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

Discussion Guide:     1st Sunday Lent Yr C: Listen – How is the Spirit Calling You?

 

Reflection Questions:

• The book of Deuteronomy shares one of the most important statements of faith in the Old Testament. It was spoken every time a person gave their offering to the priest in the Temple. It reminded them of their identity and how God ‘saved’ them. Bringing the tithe (tenth) of the harvest to the temple acknowledged God’s care and provision. How could you express this religious practice of thankfulness – ‘tithing’ (giving a 10th)? Dt 26: 12-15 invites giving to the levite (priest), the foreigner (refugee), the orphan and the widow (those without family and financial support). This is at the heart of the Lenten practice of ‘almsgiving’. How generous will you be in giving of your time, talent, money, compassion… this Lent as a way of ‘thanksgiving’ for what God has given you?

• Paul’s letter to the Romans is a careful explanation of how we are made right with God. Justification by keeping the ‘law’ was deeply ingrained in Jewish consciousness and history. Paul reminds us that it is faith in God’s covenantal relationship with us in Jesus that saves us. In a relationship, what is the difference between ‘law’ and ‘love’?  Do you ‘enjoy-love’ your relationship with God? Does a ‘love’ relationship need to respect any ‘law’? What word or image would describe your relationship with God ‘now’ as the journey of Lent begins?

• Jesus in the desert provides us with the starting point of Lent. Consider how you can create some ‘desert’ space in your life, away from distractions and noise, to be with God and discover your ‘true’ self? What is 1 decision you can make to enter the Lenten ‘desert’?

• Careful reflection on Jesus’ temptations leads us to see a mirror conflict within ourselves between good and evil. Get bread for ‘self’. Seek power and reputation. Demand support from others. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are practices during Lent to deconstruct our false self and reconstruct our true self. Almsgiving enables the hungry at our door and beyond to be fed and healed. Fasting turns us from worldly consumerism to clarity of purpose and compassion for others. Prayer tunes us into God’s vision and voice. From Jesus’ temptations, which core temptation do you notice strongly at work in your life? Which Lenten practice do you need?

• Repent literally means ‘change your mind’. It could be understood as ‘turn your value system around completely – 180 degrees’. As Lent begins, Jesus guides us: there is more to life than satisfying our ‘bread-belly’ and physical or material cravings. What creative fasting experience could you create to nourish your spirit and soul journey?

• Returning from the great baptism event in the Jordan, Jesus would have faced pressure to get active and do things. Interestingly his choice was to listen to where the Holy Spirit deep inside was calling. Are you faced with a temptation to ‘perform’ and be a certain type of person in public? Whose voice is the Spirit and what is the Desert for you?

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

Discussion Guide:  2nd Sunday Advent Yr. C – Prepare Your Hearts to Welcome the King!

 

 

Luke 3:6 NIV

Reflection Questions:

• The Prophet Baruch shares a beautiful image for Advent. Have you noticed when you take off ʻold clothesʼ and put on ʻnew clothesʼ there is a sense of joy and a new ʻattitudeʼ. In ancient times, when a significant transformation happened a ʻnew nameʼ was also given. Like last week, Jerusalem – which is us in the Church today – is invited to prepare by shaking off the old and putting on ʻthe cloak of justiceʼ. And, our new name is to be ʻPeace of Justiceʼ. What old ways of mourning and misery would you like to leave behind this advent season? How could your life reflect God’s hope for you of ʻpeaceʼ and ʻjusticeʼ, ʻgloryʼ and ʻworshipʼ?

• The city of Jerusalem is on a hill. The view from the top of the Temple could see all peoples coming from every direction. Can you glimpse Godʼs hope wanting us to stand up and invite everyone ʻhomeʼ to Church this Christmas? Through us, mountains and gorges – difficult pathways – will be made ‘level ground’ so people can return easily. Mercy and justice will be our story and song. Do you know anyone who is experiencing an obstacle to returning to God? The Church? What earthmoving help could you offer personally to them?

• Paul had a special place in his heart for the Community at Philippi. Paul wrote this letter to them while in prison, facing a death sentence. They had provided financial assistance for his missionary journeys and now supported him in prison. He invites them to discern what is of value in their lives. At the end of the year consider evaluating your life positively: what has helped you in purity? What areas of your life are blameless? How have you shown righteousness? How could you develop these experiences and practices more?

• Righteousness is an interesting word. In the Old Testament it was a title that was given by the poor to those who ʻlifted up the poorʼ. A rich person could not give this title to themselves. Reflecting upon the year, would the ʻpoorʼ give you the title ʻrighteousʼ? In what ways have you lifted them up? Was it charity or justice?

• Luke, like St Paul, is aware of a claim by courts and rulers that these christian disciples are ʻmadʼ. Making up strange stories! Luke insists the evidence and life of Jesus is historical. Christianity started in a particular place and time in history. In the 15th year… etc. With a great twist Luke lines up the different rulers of the time. Traditionally when rulers returned victorious from battle, people would line the streets and shout triumphantly: ʻLord, Saviour!ʼ Luke is turning attention to the true Saviour – Jesus – whose preparation victory voice is John the Baptist. How would you personally describe Jesus as ʻsaviourʼ?

• Celebrating the advent practice of reconciliation (confession) encourages us to ʻprepare our heartsʼ. When a great King visited a city, workers were sent to straighten pathways, cut into mountains, level valleys. Consider the effort involved to welcome the King! Reflect on this image and the famous words of John. What needs to be straightened out and filled in? How much effort will you put into Advent?

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

Discussion Guide:    1st Sunday Advent Yr. C – Your Redemption is at Hand

 

luke 21: 34-36 – Page 2 – till Christ is formed

Reflection Questions:    • Advent begins today. The color purple has an interesting background for us to ponder. Purple dye historically originated from a tiny shell-fish. It took 12,000 shell-fish to make 1.5 grams of pure dye. The expense meant it was used only by the wealthy and became a symbol of royalty. Advent purple indicates we are waiting for the coming of the King of Kings. We are ‘preparing’ for the birth of Jesus but also spiritually for the second ‘coming’. Ponder for a few minutes what you would do if in 4 weeks time you were truly going to stand before Jesus Christ the King.

• Jeremiah was a prophet in a very difficult time. Jewish King after Jewish King had failed to bring peace. God’s people were now in exile in Babylon. In the midst of foreign people and their gods Jewish people began to lose hope. Jeremiah reminds them of a promise made by God to believe in: I will raise up a ‘just shoot’ from the line of David. So beautiful will this event be, the great city of Jerusalem will be renamed – Justice! In the midst of life’s difficulties what brings you hope? Frequently we think of God’s love, but do we recognise what God really wants is ‘justice’. Do you hope for this as a future event or do you give your life to its fulfillment ‘today’?

• Thessalonica was one of the earliest christian communities. A port city bringing trade and culture, hot springs bringing tourists. It was prime real estate in a Roman provincial town. With many cultures came many gods, Greek, Egyptian, Roman Emperor worship. Paul had been chased out of this town quickly but had established a small group of christian followers. He writes to encourage them to be blameless in holiness, living lives pleasing to God. Ready ʻfor the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy onesʼ. Picture your own town instead of Thessalonica. What is the purpose of ʻconducting yourselves to please Godʼ? Is it only for heaven or a sign for people ʻtodayʼ of heaven?

• Year C begins with our move from the Gospel of Mark to the Gospel of Luke. Lukeʼs community is tired of waiting on a promise of Christʼs return. Luke gives instruction on how christians are to live while ʻwaitingʼ. What does the image: ʻstand erect and raise your headʼ mean to you. What would make you do this? What does living in readiness ʻnowʼ actually look like for you?

• Luke contrasts people of the ʻworldʼ with hearts drowsy or hardened with excessive sensual pleasure, drunkenness, worries, with christian disciples watchful and vigilant, praying and ready to stand before the Son of Man. Where are you in this picture? What advent practices could you begin to be ʻvigilantʼ ʻprayerfulʼ ʻreadyʼ? What would you like to bring to God in the Advent practice of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation?

• We all know what December will involve: shopping, cooking, socialising, end of year celebrations. Will you be satisfied? How could you ʻslow downʼ and set aside time to soak up the christian focus of Christmas – is there a church near or on the journey from work you could visit for 5 minutes daily?

• Christians view the end of the world differently: ʻWhat the caterpillar calls end of the world, the Master calls a butterflyʼ

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

Discussion Guide:    1st Sunday Lent Yr. B – Turn towards God

 

Image result for turn to God roadsign

Reflection Questions:    • The season of Lent begins with the receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you were not able to attend Ash Wednesday ask your priest if he could mark the ashes on your forehead with a prayer on Sunday. Or you may consider placing your thumb in soil and marking yourself with the sign of the cross. It takes a physical experience to remind us of something beginning. Consider Ash Wednesday like arriving at the starting line of a race. We need to be present and committed – when the starting gun goes off we need to ‘begin’ the journey to the finish line of Easter. Are you psychologically ‘ready’? What will the spiritual practices of ‘Prayer’ ‘Fasting’ and ‘Alms-Giving’ involve for your daily /weekly routine?

• In the season of Lent, the First and Gospel readings are not specifically linked, but independently teach us a truth about God and ourselves. The word describing the ‘Ark’ built by Noah, is also used for the ark carrying baby Moses to safety, the ark holding the special tablets of the commandments and symbolic of the Ark of the Church. God has made a covenant / promise to protect and be with those who belong to him. Have you ever had an experience or sign showing God’s protection for you? Can you see the Church as an ‘Ark’ today? How?

•The Second readings of Lent teach us the meaning of Baptism. The cleansing of Baptism waters is not washing away physical dirt, but literally a ‘putting away of filth’ as one now living in Christ. Lent becomes a time of renewed effort in living our christian identity. What do you recognise needs to be ‘put away’ from your life? What is the first step on this journey?

• Jesus responded to the Spirit’s inspiration into the Desert. To help create a prayer-full lent, what place and time each day can you identify that will work for you? How could you symbolise beginning this journey?

• Being in the desert for 40 days links to Israel being in the desert for 40 years. A time of testing, proving loyalty, closer union with God. As adults, Lent is not a season for child-like practices of giving up lollies. It is a journey facing struggle and sin, being ʻtestedʼ, proving my loyalty to God. Is my Lenten commitment serious enough? Do I consider it will bring me closer to God?

• “The angels ministered to him.” God does not leave us alone. Angels are provided. Literally, Angels mean ʻgood message bearersʼ. In my Lenten journey and wilderness experience who are some ʻangelsʼ that God may have already placed in my life to support me but I have not responded to. Is there someone you could ask to accompany you on your journey of Lent? It could be just the help you need!

• Repent and believe the gospel. This is Jesusʼ first public words ever spoken. The greek word is metanoia – change, physically turn your life around. What do I know needs to change to find wholeness in my life?

• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

Material produced by Fr Frank Bird SM and Bev McDonald, Lay Marist NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz, nzlivingtheowrd@gmail.com, www.maristlaitynz.org. You are welcome to share this resource or use it with reference to the Living the Word website.

Reflection Guide: Good Friday Readings are HERE

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Ponder the Good Friday Scripture and Liturgy

  • Considering the times we are living through, ponder Gods mercy, plan and protection by reflecting on the 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.
  • Even if you cannot attend the Good Friday Liturgy, you can enter into it in silence at home. The Liturgy begins in SILENCE.  It needs no “gathering rite” – it is a continuation of the Eucharist from the night before. It is as though we were “gathered” at Holy Thursday and live the experiences of the apostles and disciples through the watches of the night, we come together for Good Friday at  the foot of the Cross with Mary and the others, then live the silence of Holy Saturday before the joy of the Easter Vigil.  These three Easter services actually form one great Liturgy: the Triduum, highlighting that Easter is to the year what Sunday is to the week. The first act of the liturgy is for the Presider and ministers to lay face down before the cross, in silence. How can you prepare for and live this total surrender of your life to God?
  • Perhaps 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, vulnerability all at once. In my silent moment at the beginning of the service, when the Presider lays face down, perhaps I will want to simply open my hands and say “I know this is for me; thank you.”
  • Intercessions for the world take on a powerful poignancy this year as we gather the needs of all before God’s mercy. Prepare for these ancient intercessions by reflection on each of the groups and the great needs of the world. 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 adore the cross upon which our Saviour gained salvation of the world. We do that concretely by venerating a representation of the cross, Christs instrument of divine love. When we love someone deeply we treasure the items that meant the most to them and which they shared with us and in like manner we venerate the cross Jesus shared with us. 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 important. We could pray by making the Stations of the Cross, an Online version is at: http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/stations.html We want our gesture to ritualize our acceptance of the love, forgiveness and everlasting life that flows from that cross. Perfect love produces a response of love. We want to feel Jesus’ death on the cross as being “for me,” and then express our gratitude as reverence.
  • Many of us are unable to receive Communion during the Covid19 pandemic. We are experiencing an extended Fast which has the potential to increase our longing for Christ in the Eucharist and lead us to deeper communion and acceptance of our mission as disciples. We are fasting from receiving the Eucharist but we are gathered by the Spirit to re-connect with our celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday even if we could only partake of it through spiritual communion. We do not want to forget what Eucharist means for us. This is the bread of life. This is his self-giving love for us. This is our nourishment for 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.
  •  Silence, Again.
    With closing prayer and a blessing, we depart in silence. We are people of faith, who continue to wait for the fullness of salvation. Our conclusion in silence links this celebration to the Easter Vigil, just as our beginning in silence connected us with Holy Thursday. Much of the world is currently experiencing an unusual silence due to the pandemic. In the silence of human activity, the natural world seems to be reawakening. How can silence bring a reawakening in you to the mercy and intimacy God longs to have with you.  How can my silence support the world around me?
  • Good Friday Closing Prayer:
    May abundant blessings, O Lord, we pray, descend upon your people, who have honoured 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. Perhaps you may wish to have a special place for a cross and enter into the deepened silence within your home through Easter Saturday as a way of uniting in prayer with Christ in the silence of the tomb for those who are living with enforced silence, through illness, isolation, injustice, poverty or loneliness. 
  • How will you ‘livetheword’ today?

This is an edited version of the Good Friday reflection from Creighton University. It can be found in PDF here

 

Discussion Guide: Turn Away From Sin

Reflection Questions:

• The journey of Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Have you recognised the significance of wearing a cross of ‘ashes’? Ashes symbolise a connection with the earth and being ‘humble’. The cross points to a life of sacrificial love with wide open arms embracing the world. What does living humbly mean for you? Is your life lived tightly closed up or with arms wide open?

• A goal without a plan is still a dream. Many people line up at the beginning of the lent ‘race’ but do not make much progress from the start line. What is your plan for Lent? Will this lead you into a ‘deep transformation’ or a mere ‘shallow show’?

• Genesis shares a truth about sin using a story. Have you ever noticed that the best the serpent can do is talk and try to make people doubt God? “Did God really tell you…..” The serpent actually as no power other than suggestion. What voices and fears do you need to turn off this Lent? How will you listen to God?

• For St Paul, Life and Death represent two different directions. Toward God (righteousness) and away from God (sin). Jesus has actually destroyed death by becoming human and offering his life in forgiveness. There is no more distance. Jesus rising from the dead reveals death actually has no power at all. Lent is an opportunity for intensive spiritual living towards what is life-giving. What relationships in your life are not right? Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you know what to bring to the sacrament of reconciliation this Lent.

• In the original Greek, the word is ‘tested’ rather than ‘tempted’. A ‘test’ or trial can reveal what decisions and choices are made. We become aware of whether we are ‘ready’ for a challenge or responsibility to be given to us. Is being ‘led by the spirit into the desert’ of your heart positive or negative for you? Have you tried a daily practice of silence to listen to the voices of your heart? What happens for you in silence?

• ‘Command these stones to become loaves’. Fasting is a remedy for being controlled by food and satisfying our ‘body’. Our bodies are good but we are not to become slaves to every sensual pleasure. Rather than a focus on diet or weight loss, how could you ‘stop’ some activities to ‘start’ some more positive activities?

• ‘Throw yourself down’ is pretending that everything is ok and God will look after me no matter what I do. Am I responsible? You are where you are because you have chosen it. What do you need to take responsibility for this Lent?

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

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