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Posts Tagged ‘small groups’

Discussion & Scriptures for 25th Sun. Year A:The Parable of the Generosity of God-HERE

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Reflection Questions

• Many feel displaced from church and Sacraments due to the pandemic. God feeling ‘distant’ is a common spiritual experience. The words of Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been
demolished so they cannot go back to Jerusalem or the Temple. Isaiah invites us to look inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. How can you allow more time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God in daily life?

• Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He has choices; he could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle or he could be passive and let  God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? What was the outcome for you? An earthquake and conversion of the jailer provides the way forward for Paul. Talk to God about what you need to be able to trust God’s providence and guidance for your life.

• Workers would stand in the middle of town as a labour pool waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, not having been given a job, many would walk home downcast. What do you think those labourers felt? In desperation some continue to stay until after 4pm! What strikes you most about the landowners (God) behaviour?

• This Labourers in the Vineyard parable could be the parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew. That Christian community was Jewish but gradually swelled with Gentile converts. Jews who had served long in faithful obedience to the Law now saw Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God seems almost ludicrously generous. Who do you identify with in the parable? What is your emotional response to the parable and why? Consider both the practical aspects of it for today as well as its eternal life message?

• The landowner’s (God’s) generosity creates a problem then and for us. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money. Fewer hours worked = less money. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’? How would you describe the difference between equality and equity?

• God’s ways are different from worldly ways. As someone building the ‘kingdom of God’, how are you called to be like the landowner? How can you establish true justice and equity within your sphere of influence? Why is it easier to maintain unjust structures/policies and simply give charity?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com Livingtheword weekly  resources by Fr Frank Bird sm & Bev McDonald – distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ. www.maristlaitynz.org

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: Holy Thursday – Wash, Serve, Heal. Restore is HERE

Reflection Questions

Holy Thursday is a celebration of the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and a reminder of the last command of Jesus for disciples to love and serve each other. There are some dramatic images of blood being painted on doorways and a humble servant washing dirty feet. Both are heavy with meaning as we enter the celebration of the sacred 3 days of Easter.

• A lamb being sacrificed and the blood placed on the doorways of the house caused the angel of death to ʻpass-overʼ the house. All the houses not marked with blood were affected by death (see Ex 12,23). Symbolically blood represented life. It also had the power to overcome sin and death. It cleansed. It forgave sin. Can you make the link between the Passover lamb and Jesus being the ʻlamb of God that takes away the sins of the worldʼ? What is the significance of Christ’s blood?

• In a typical Jewish celebration of the Passover meal the Father would take some unleavened bread and remind the family of having to leave Egypt in great haste. Imagine the surprise of the disciples when Jesus speaks not of the Exodus or unleavened bread but states his own body will bring about a new Exodus / Passover. Jesus is replacing the Jewish Passover with new sacramental words and signs. Can you see the link between unleavened bread and the gift of Jesus’ body?

• To understand the Eucharist we need first to understand the Passover (which the Eucharist fulfills and replaces). In the Jewish Passover there were four cups of wine. The second cup was the most important. It remembered the blood of the lambs sprinkled on the doorposts. Jesus in the words of institution at the last supper did not make reference to the blood of the lamb, but instead states he is beginning a new and everlasting covenant with his own blood. Can you see how Jesus is fulfilling and replacing the Jewish Passover?

• St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest passages of scripture in the New Testament. Paul states very clearly that what was handed on to him about the celebration of the Eucharist was connected with Jesus’ own words and command at the last supper. If the Eucharist is proclaiming the death of the Lord what does this mean for you? For the world?

• St John does not have the last supper scene like the other gospels. Instead John teaches Christian disciples that to celebrate the Eucharist is by implication to participate in the life of Jesus who
emptied himself, washed, served. Foot washing was considered such a lowly task that even Jewish slaves were not expected or asked to perform it! John teaches us not to disconnect the Eucharist with service to repair and heal the world.  What does self emptying work, washing the dirty parts of humanity, look like in our society today? Who are the ones no-one wants to touch or reach out to, let alone wash their feet? How does Jesus’ last example and the ʻtools of the tradeʼ of a basin and towel challenge you today?

• Much of the world is living in some degree of isolation and social distancing due to Covid 19. What opportunities are in your reduced contact circle to live foot washing love and service?

. How will you  ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide: 4th Sunday of Lent – Arise…from the darkness!

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Reflection Questions:

• Anointing with oil and ‘eyes being opened’ are part of the special journey in Lent for candidates asking for baptism at Easter. For those already baptized, these readings teach us about the deep meaning of our own baptism.

• Samuel was the young boy who sat in the temple and was taught how to listen to God’s voice. He became one of the greatest prophets because ‘he never let a word spoken to him by God fall to the ground’. Today he is told by God to do a very dangerous action – high treason! While King Saul was still alive, Samuel was to go to Bethlehem and anoint another King. Are you open to being shocked by what God plans for you? Samuel was told to fill his horn with oil and go… what do you think God is asking of you?

• Samuel had previously anointed King Saul who was tall and handsome ‘head and shoulder above the rest’. He may have been tempted, or had truly learnt a lesson not to judge a person by their ‘appearance’. God sees beyond appearance into a person’s heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.

• St Paul writes about the difference in a person’s life before knowing Jesus. Imagine you are in an unfamiliar house and need to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not knowing where the light switch is you knock into chairs and hard edged furniture. You walk slowly and carefully. Now, turn the light switch on and you walk differently. Peacefully. Confidently. ‘Arise…from death and darkness, Christ will give you light’. Imagine the experience of  see. This was the experience the early church said happened through Baptism preparation for each adult.

• Around the year 85-90 Jewish Christians were excluded from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The man born blind became a very special story and symbol of life being changed by Jesus. The blind man considers Jesus a ‘man’. Then recognizes him as a ‘prophet’. Finally he believes Jesus to be truly the Son of Man – the promised Messiah (anointed one). He calls him Lord (the name of God) and worships him. As a result the blind man becomes rejected by the Pharisees, his family and the community’. They threw him out…. How has your faith journey grown in understanding of Jesus? Would you be willing to endure rejection or persecution for your belief? What do you think happened to the blind man? Can you identify with any of his Christian experience?

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

Discussion Guide: Thirsting for God?

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Reflection Questions:

• ‘A goal without a plan is still a dream’. Reflect on your experience of Lent so far. How would you evaluate your Lenten journey and commitment? What has worked well and could be practised more?

• People ‘grumbled’. Moses, heavy with the experience of leading God’s people is frightened he will get stones thrown at him! Wisdom is shared with Moses. Go ahead of the people with some wise people. Get away from the grumbling voices. Do grumbling or criticizing voices pull you down and make you feel sad? How could you walk away from complaining voices this Lent, select some ‘wisdom voices’ (elders), and get on with the job of providing water for people to drink and survive?

• St Paul paints a picture for our imagination. Have you ever had someone love you and show continued kindness even when you were rebelling against them? Imagine if this person was willing to ‘die’ to ‘win you over’? Have you ever considered just how precious and ‘loveable’ you are that God would be willing to die for you? This historical event is located at the cross. Consider visiting a catholic church and spending time with the ‘stations of the cross’.

• Samaritans were considered unclean and unworthy because they were historically Jewish people that had inter-married with non believers in the area of Samaria. Jews would normally avoid close contact and speech with Samaritans and refused to allow them into the temple in Jerusalem. A conversation begins around ‘water’ a symbol of the life giving relationship with God. In the
‘heat of the day’ where do you go to find rest and water? What is your ‘Jacobs well’?

• It is possible that the Samaritan woman has chosen to collect water at the most inconvenient time under the midday sun to avoid the company of other women. Has she had experiences of ejection or  gossip? Life has been hard for her. She wants to ‘never be thirsty or have to keep coming here’. This Lent ask yourself the two deep questions of spiritual direction: What do you want? Where do you hurt? Consider writing in a special journal your answers to these two special questions.

• Some scripture scholars suggest that the 5 husbands the woman has already had, is actually the 5 different ‘gods’ which have influenced the Samaritans by their inter-marriage with ‘outsiders’ and their ‘gods’. Jesus says He is ‘I AM’ which is the Divine Name given by God to Moses. What do you think this means?

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

Discussion Guide: Listen to Him 

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Reflection Questions

Abram (later to be given a new name Abraham) experiences the first ‘call’. It becomes the ‘pattern’ of each person God continues to ‘call’, move, inspire. God seems to want each of us to ‘move’ from our current place which could be psychologically, spiritually, geographically. In the season of Lent what would it mean for you to ‘Go forth from the land of your family, your home’? What attachments may be stopping you hearing God’s ‘call’?

• God promises a response to those who respond to the mystery of divine inspiration – blessing! The word is mentioned 5 times. How could your life become more of a ‘blessing’ so that others might remember your life as a beautiful legacy. Have you considered how the name ‘christian’ is honored or dishonored through your life and example. How could those who bear the name of ‘Christ’ (Christian) make a huge impact on the world during Lent? Traditionally the practices of prayer, fasting and giving are meant to do this. What would you suggest?

• ‘Bear your share of hardship for the gospel’. Do you know anyone or any project that is experiencing ‘hardship’ in trying to bring God’s love to the world? It often requires great sacrifice and walking in faith like Abram into unclear territory’. In this season of lent how could you learn about, give generously, ‘bear the burden’ so as to bring God’s blessing upon the world? If you made a decision to give are you willing to give so that you share in a little insecurity and discomfort so as to bring others into security and comfort?

• Peter, James and John are three disciples Jesus chooses to give a special experience of who he truly is. A ‘mountain’ or ‘high place’ was symbolic of a place where one can ‘be in touch with God’. Where is a ‘place’ where you feel close to God and helps you ‘listen’ to yourself and God?

• Jewish people remembered living in tents in the 40 years of wandering in the desert. They believed God would come among them and look after them again with the coming of the Messiah. They thought Moses or Elijah would come again. Peter acknowledges Jesus’ true identity. White symbolizes divinity and Jesus being truly God among us. What are you waiting for God to ‘do’ for you? Can you identify ways God is showing himself present and active now in your life?

• The disciples were ‘afraid’. Have you ever been ‘afraid’ of breaking a love relationship with someone close to you? This is called ‘holy fear’. How could you live a ‘holy fear’ this lent?

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

Discussion GuideLove Your Neighbour 

 

Reflection Questions:

Image result for love your neighbour• The Book of Leviticus is a special collection of ‘laws’. This book was special for the ‘Levites – Priests’. Amazingly, Jewish people developed the 10 commandments of Exodus into 613 laws to guide their life. Today we receive the essential teaching: be holy and love your neighbour as yourself. Have you ever re-imagined the invitation ‘love your neighbour as your own flesh’? What would it actually look like for you to live this invitation this week? This year?

• ‘Do you not know that you are…..?’ is a question about identity. Knowing your identity shapes your behaviour and life-style. Imagine if you were actually a Prince or Princess? Paul invites us into a profound reflection: ‘Do you not know that you are a temple of God’? If God’s spirit is in you what does this do to your ‘identity’? Use your imagination to ponder the consequences…..

• Gandhi famously quoted this saying of Jesus when he concluded: ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’ Jesus today is taking some basic and well known ‘laws’ and challenging his followers to be very different – revolutionaries of a radical love! Examine your upbringing and cultural expectations about life: ‘you have heard it said…..’ Are there any attitudes and values that you accept as normal from your parents and upbringing but in fact they are opposite to values you see lived by Jesus? Is there anything you are doing in your life that Jesus wouldn’t do?

• In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is teaching the heart of a Christian life-style. Some people have called Matthew Chapters 5-8 the ‘Be-Attitudes’. Why offer no resistance to the one who is evil?Hand over your tunic and cloak? Give to anyone who asks? Love your enemy? Pray for your persecutors? Is this silliness or a wisdom that can change the world? Does Jesus ‘uncover’ the violence of society and invite his followers to not be part of it?

• Many people feel distressed that they are not ‘perfect’. We all know our failings. However, Saints are not perfect, they are people who have sinned but keep on getting up! Christian spirituality encourages us to know that love practiced, grows, and overcomes darkness. Do you only love those who love you? Why? Can you glimpse God’s unconditional loving watering the earth… on good and bad alike. Would you like to abandon your life to this type of loving?

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

Discussion Guide: Fulfilling the Law

 

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Reflection Questions

• The book of Sirach was a collection of wisdom sayings, attempting to show the beauty and depth of Jewish wisdom. Personally imagine the scene of water and fire before you. What do these symbols represent in your personal life? In what ways do you stretch out your hand toward water? Toward fire? What joy have you found in reaching toward water? What wisdom have you found in being ‘burnt’ by fire?

• ‘If you choose’ you can keep the commandments is pointing to human free will and capacity of each of us to follow the ways of God. The meaning of the word ‘commandment’ actually means something placed into your hand. Do you see the guidance of ‘laws’ and teachings of Jesus and the Church as a ‘stick’ or a ‘message of love placed into your hands’ by someone who loves you? What is the consequence of viewing ‘laws’ as ‘a stick’?

• St Paul had many people in the Corinthian community turn against him. A particular group in the Corinthian community claimed to be more spiritual and knowledgeable. St Paul humbly points out that academic and worldly debate is not the sign of true wisdom from God. Knowledge and wisdom are different. Wisdom is found in love and often through suffering. And the spirit is present especially in those who love God. Who is a wisdom figure for you? How do you see love present in their life?

• The Gospel of Matthew is unique in that the community began with Jewish Christians, and then was increasingly joined by Greek converts to Christianity. Jewish Christians had grown up keeping all 613 laws of the Old Testament. Scribes (scripture scholars) and Pharisees (lay men determined to keep all the Jewish laws exactly) prided themselves on being ‘righteous’ and yet Jesus says their living is ‘shallow’. Jesus invites followers to live far more deeply. Murder is healed when people resolve their ‘anger’. Adultery is healed when people can live and look upon each other without ‘lust’. Easy divorce is not a positive option. Let your word be always true in Yes and No. Anger. Lust. Relationships. Lies. What area do you need to work to transform so your life is living in right relationship with God and others?

• Recall if any brother or sister has anything against you. What would the invitation ‘go first and be reconciled’ before coming to Sunday Mass personally mean for you?

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