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Posts Tagged ‘small groups’

Discussion Guide for 3rd Sunday Advent: Sorrow and Mourning will Flee

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Reflection Questions

• The 3rd Sunday of Advent is known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’ because a joyful first reading always points to the joy of Christmas about to arrive. The Prophet Isaiah has images of people being returned ‘home’. Isaiah 35 paints a picture of exiles being returned back to Jerusalem. But they were a little scared of all the hard work ahead of rebuilding homes, growing crops. Do you look into the future feeling afraid? Have you been able to see ‘parched land’ this year change to ‘abundant flowers’?

• God ‘saving’ his people is prophesied to take place with wonderful ‘signs’. The blind see, deaf hear, lame leap, mutes sing. Can you imagine these are the most life changing events that could take place for someone. What would need to happen to cause you to ‘leap’ and ‘shout’ for joy? Does Jesus bring this experience into your life? How? Why not? Share this conversation with God for an advent prayer. There are many tragedies in our world today. How do you live in the hope and joy of Christs return in glory, while sharing care & solidarity for the suffering?

• Patience is needed when you wait for someone or something that does not come at the expected time. You quickly realise you need to hold on to a positive attitude or frustration even anger will creep in. Trusting in the faithfulness of a friend, or remembering their strong relationship with you, allows you to endure the hardship and maintain hope that they will arrive. Can you remember an experience of waiting for a friend to arrive? What happened? In your life what gives you confidence and trust in God? What does God’s future coming
mean for you?

• John the Baptist has a special friendship with Jesus. Yet, John is confused. Jesus is not fighting the military powers of Rome. And certainly not breaking John out of his imprisonment. He asks painfully: “Are you really the one we are waiting for”? Jesus refers to the prophesy above of Isaiah. Special signs are being shown but they are different from what people wanted or expected. Do you sit back “waiting” for God or get involved in completing the work of God… helping people regain their life, sight, walk, cleanse peoples lives of a leprous state? Stand by or Stand in for God?

• When people were normally expected to go to the Temple, many walked in another direction out to the ‘desert’ to hear a different message. How could you prepare for Jesus at Christmas differently than you have ever done before? Reconciliation? Shopping? Fasting? Slowing down? Sharing with your children?…

• 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 and Scripture: How On Fire Are You For God?

Image result for Trinity Holy Spirit FireReflection Questions

The 2nd Sunday of Advent points to a promised leader (Christ) with the ‘spirit of the Lord’ resting on him. Again we are reminded of a difference between Advent and Christmas. Advent is preparing for a second coming ‘presence’, Christmas is celebrating the first coming with ‘presents’. As we seek to prepare our lives, what would it mean for you to ‘judge the poor with justice’? Do you recognise your brother / sister? Is there any charity or need you could donate to or get involved with this advent?

• A wolf living with a lamb, a panther and a goat lying down together, a calf and lion feeding together, a cow friends with a bear symbolise a reconciled and repaired world. This vision sees the country Israel full with the knowledge of God. It will be like a light for all nations. Replacing Israel with your local parish family, your own home, how can you seek healing of broken friendships? Reconciliation with an enemy? How could you make your home be a light this Christmas?

• As the end of the year approaches we are encouraged to give Glory to God by welcoming each other as Christ has embraced us. Consider someone who you ‘refuse to give up on’. What is an attitude and action you will continue to show them?

• To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to cry out and proclaim the arrival. This is the role of John the Baptist. Significantly, John does this at the Jordan river (at the same crossing point Israel left the desert and entered the Promised Land). The scriptures are trying to teach us ‘a new rescuing’ by God is taking place. A ‘washing’ and ‘confessing of sins’ began a process of returning to God. People left Jerusalem and walked over a days journey to meet and listen to John. What journey will you undertake to draw closer to God this advent? Would you like to celebrate the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How could you celebrate this personally and deeply?

• The preparation of a straight road or a royal highway was known to happen in ancient times when a very special person was to visit. Physically, valleys were filled and hills were lowered to make the way smooth and easy. And it was done at great expense! As Advent invites us to make a clear pathway for the Lord, what roadblocks, ditches, hills require the earthmoving equipment of prayer, spiritual direction, reconciliation?

• Have you ever thought in a relationship with a friend or family member that ‘actions speak louder than words’? The Gospel shares with us that we cannot presume to rely on Abraham / Baptism (words alone for salvation). If you fail to produce good fruit you will be cut down and thrown on the fire. How could your life show the good fruit of ‘justice’?

  •   List the attributes of fire? What does ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire’ mean? How on fire are you for God? Pray for God’s renewing fire this week.

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

livingtheword weekly resources by Fr Frank Bird, SM & Bev McDonald ACSD. Distributed by Marist Laity NZ. www.maristlaitynz.orgweb: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: nzlivingtheword@gmail.com

Discussion Guide with Scriptures for 1st Sunday of Advent Year A is HERE

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Reflection Questions

• The 1st Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new ‘season’ – and a new Year (the Gospel of Matthew). Advent prepares and challenges us to be ready to welcome the second coming of Jesus while also turning us to celebrate and remember with joy the first coming of Jesus. How will you celebrate both Advent and Christmas? What do you do to prepare to welcome someone special? How could you apply those ideas to the 4 Advent weeks of preparing & waiting?

• Isaiah was written during war and injustice. It reveals that the relationship with God impacts all humanity and the environment, not simply our hearts. Swords & spears becoming farming implements suggests the in-breaking of radical peace and love itself; our true hope of trans-formation. Isaiah reminds us that God makes the movement toward us as the Lords house is established and raised up for us. What connections can you see with the hope we have in Jesus’ birth? What does it mean to walk in the paths and the light of the Lord?

•   What does it mean for you to ‘awake from sleep’, ‘put on the armour of light’ and ‘put on the  Lord Jesus Christ’?
•   Jesus uses 3 short parables to wake his hearers. To survive a sudden flood needs preparation. Society encourages overeating, drinking,
and spending on ‘stuff’ at Christmas. What impact does this have on families, communities and the environment? How  does it feel to be a Noah when the world doesn’t appreciate your faith perspective?
•   Imagine discovering that someone you see everyday is different than you believed. Parables  shock to provoke change. Do you want to deepen your relationship with God or go with the crowd and be left alone. God sees us differently.  What deep longings and hopes would divine perception see in you?
•    To stop a thief entering your house you have put in place certain practices or habits (locking doors and windows, turning lights on, having mail collected by a friend…) so that you are ‘always ready’ ‘awake’. What spiritual practices could you commit to help you to constantly keep
‘spiritually awake’? Have you ever been ‘broken into’? What did you change after the theft? What is the wisdom Jesus wants us to apply to daily Christian life?
•    A famous retreat leader had hundreds of excited people waiting for very wise words and deep insights into their problems. He arrived at the microphone and asked: ‘Hands up who wants to go to Heaven?’ Everyone put their hand up. ‘Hands up those who are ready to go now’? No-one put their hand up. He said: you may consider asking yourself why you are not ready… Are you ready?
•    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: What Does the Kingship of Christ Mean For Me?

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Reflection Questions

• The Feast of Christ the King was initially assigned to the last Sunday in October. In 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the Year to highlight the eschatological (end times) importance of Christʼs ʻKingshipʼ. Would you consider yourself ʻreadyʼ today to meet Christ the King?

• David was anointed and made ʻKingʼ of Israel. But many people in Israel did not want to be like other nations and have a ʻKingʼ. They wanted to have only ʻGodʼ as their ʻrulerʼ. They were cautious of taxes, abuse of power, wealth and excess that often went with earthly ʻkingdomsʼ. David is invited by God to be first a ʻshepherdʼ of people before being a ʻcommander of Israelʼ. What does this show us about God and leadership?

• Paulʼs letter to the Colossians today is an ancient baptismal prayer. Imagine the baptismal scene. Thankful. Being given an inheritance. Transferred from living in darkness to light. Redeemed (returning back to your true family, purchased back from slavery). Forgiven. All of this has happened through Jesus – who makes the ʻinvisible Godʼ visible – the ʻikonʼ / image of God. What word in this baptismal prayer teaches you about your baptism?

• The mystery of Christianity is revealed as it worships itʼs Lord and King today. Instead of a scene of a throne indicating power and authority and judgment, we have Jesus crucified on a cross giving forgiveness. The way Jesus reveals Godʼs ʻkingshipʼ is radically different from the worldʼs power, wealth and honor. Imagine being in the crowd contemplating Jesus (or pray in front of a crucifix!). What questions are stirred up within you? What answers does God reveal to you about leadership. Salvation. Sin. Your life?

• Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! The promised ʻChristʼ (Messiah /Saviour) was supposed to be a strong military leader. Instead Jesus is tortured and dies at the hands of Roman soldiers. Yet mysteriously the soldiers refer to him as ʻthe chosen oneʼ, the ʻChrist of Godʼ, the ʻKing of the Jewsʼ. The scene is gruesome, but with the eyes of faith the reality taking place is ʻgloriousʼ. How would you explain Christʼs death as ʻgloriousʼ?

• Our human nature demands visible signs. We want to know with our own eyes that God has ʻsavedʼ us, forgives us, loves us. How does this crucifixion scene reveal the powerfully hidden way that God is able to work out (y)our redemption? Is God afraid of the mess of our ʻhumanityʼ? Are you?

• The Church places before us the paradox of Christ the KING. Instead of a royal procession, Jesus rode a donkey. Instead of a sceptre of power, Jesus held a towel. Instead of a throne, Jesus was lifted up on a cross. Disciples replaced an army. Thorns replaced a golden crown. Mercy was his judgment. Humble homes his palace. Meals with sinners his preference. Humble sacrifice of life instead of the military sword. We, the Church, are called to exercise this style of ʻleadershipʼ and reflect his ʻimageʼ in the world today? How does this challenge you in your lifestyle? Leadership?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ 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

Discussion Guide and Scriptures for 32nd Sunday Year C is HERE.

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Reflection Questions

  • The stories of the Mother and 7 Brothers in the book of Maccabees aims to share Jewish Hero stories. While under persecution from Roman Emperors it was helpful to look to examples of great courage and faithfulness to Jewish teaching and tradition. It is best understood not primarily as exact history, but faith lessons taught via story. It was the Maccabean family that stirred up a revolt against Syrian authorities and drove them out of Israel. These young brothers along with their Mum defiantly proclaim their belief in the resurrection. If in the midst of a violent persecution, where would your heart and thoughts turn to?
  • St Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are not to sit idle, waiting for the end of time. They are to do all they can so that the Word of the Lord may speed forward… and keep on ʻdoingʼ what they have been instructed to do by Paul. This requires the endurance of Christʼ. How would you rate your discipleship journey at present. Idle? Speeding forward? What do you require endurance in?
  • Sadducees were the elite priestly class that served in the Temple. They only believed in the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and did not consider other writings or oral traditions as binding. Consequently they did not believe in the Resurrection. They sought to involve Jesus in a conversation that would cause others to ridicule him. Their view of marriage was a Levirate view. Marriage continued the
    family line and stopped a family dying out. Jesus challenges the Sadducees not to think so narrowly. In death we are changed, not ʻdeadʼ. And there is more to marriage than maintaining children. Have you ever considered that Marriage is to symbolise the union we will have with God in heaven? Marriage is a sign pointing to a heavenly reality. When you are in the ʻrealityʼ of the restaurant you no
    longer need the ʻsignʼ for the restaurant.What does this teach you about Christian Marriage?
    • Celibacy and Chastity are connected with Marriage as they seek to live the ʻrealityʼ of union with God in heaven instead of living the ʻsignʼ of God in marriage. Can you see how married people, priests, sisters, brothers, consecrated lay people, are all ʻpointingʼ to the same reality? Have you ever had difficulty understanding the vow of ʻchastityʼ that religious people make? Do you understand a little more now?
    • In celebrating the recent All Souls Day (November 2nd), did it stir up within you thoughts of resurrection and your belief in the after-life. How would you say the Resurrection affects your life ʻnowʼ?
    • What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

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

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• 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

 

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

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Discussion Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide 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