God has actually spoken

The scripture readings for Sunday are a great starting point to start listening

more

It's more enjoyable with others

There are some simple and effective ways to share scripture in homes, cafes, parishes

more

Let's walk the talk

Prayer becomes lived out when we make decisions and lifestyle commitments

more

Sign up for email notifications

Or follow us via Twitter, facebook, RSS and more

more

Posts Tagged ‘small groups’

Discussion Guide: Feast of Christ the King

Dan.7:13-14, Rev. 1:5-8, John 18:33-37

See the source image

Reflection Questions

  • As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, there is an urgency in the readings to ‘prepare’ and ‘be ready’ for the end of time. Fr Anthony De Mello, a famous preacher and teacher once began a retreat by asking: Hands up if you want to go to heaven. All eagerly put their hands up. He responded. Hands up if you want to go to heaven now. No hands went up. He suggested they think about why they were ‘not ready’ and he walked out of the room! If Jesus’ birth at Christmas was also the ‘second coming’ what would you be inspired to do so that you were ‘ready’ for Christ?
  • The Book of Daniel is written to encourage Jewish people during a time of great persecution. Mighty armies, Kings, powerful empires would cease and be
    silenced by the ‘Son of Man’. This is an enthronement vision of Jesus before God the Father. In the midst of super-powers and battles for resources and status do you view the world and history with ‘hope’ that the way of Jesus will be victorious? When you look at the cross of Jesus do you see only pain? Or victory?
  • Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning ‘revelation’ or ‘unveiling’. Apocalyptic writing seeks to give hope to those suffering. It will end. Jesus will triumph.
    This truth has been ‘unveiled’ in visions which make up the Book of Revelation. 666 (the Beast) was the spelling of Nero Caesar in the Semitic alphabet who blamed Christians for the devastating fires of Rome around 90 AD. Domitian who persecuted Christians in the East around 95 AD was thought to be Nero come back to life. What form of persecution do you experience as a Christian? How may the words of Revelation encourage you: Jesus (was) is faithful. Was raised from death. Rules over all kings. Loves, frees and forgives our sins by his blood. Made  us priests – called to bring the world to God and God to the world. How could your persecution become an opportunity for witness? For God?
  • In Year B readings on the Feast of Christ the King, Mark readings are left aside in favour of the Gospel of John and a curious debate about the meaning of ʻKingʼ. Jesus is face-to-face with Pilate symbolising secular and political power. Pilate asks: Is Jesus a ʻworldly kingʼ or the mysterious Jewish figure spoken of as Messiah? Jesus teaches ʻkingʼ and ʻkingdomʼ need a new definition to cope with Godʼs viewpoint. Such a king and kingdom has not existed in ʻthe worldʼ. The Kingdom of God involves not being served, but serving. Non violence. The true ʻKingʼ is one who gives his life ʻfor othersʼ not seeking wealth comfort and personal security. Jesus ʻcame into the worldʼ to bring this reality and truth into existence. What ʻkingdomʼ do you ʻbelongʼ to? Domination, Power, Prestige or Love, Justice, Service? Pilate or Jesus? Is the kingdom better expressed in words or actions?
  • Pilate will soon wash his hands in water and pretend not to be involved in the brutality and bloodshed soon to happen to Jesus. How do you pretend not to be involved in the injustices of the world in the newspaper, television news? Consider the phrase: early christians followed before they worshipped, Christians today worship and refuse to follow.
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Livingtheword weekly download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

 

Discussion Guide for Winning the World, Heart by Heart.

Dn 12:1-3, Heb. 10:11-14, 18, Gospel Mk 13:24-32

Image result for Salvador Dali Christ in Perspective

Reflection Questions

  • In the context of the Church’s liturgy, the 33rd Sunday is only one week away from the end of the year. Next week is Christ The King. Liturgically we enter an atmosphere of reaching the ‘end of time’. Because of this pattern todays readings have an apocalyptic atmosphere of end time struggle and judgement.
  • Daniel means ‘My judge is God’. The Book of Daniel is written during a time of great persecution when Antiochus Epiphanes is forcing Jews to convert to
    pagan gods. Here is the first time in Hebrew scriptures that a resurrection of the faithful is mentioned. God is the master of history. All those ‘in the book’
    who ‘shine brightly’ and lead people on the way to ‘justice’ will be like stars living forever. Examine your own life. How would the statement ‘my judge is God’ shape your life? Antiochus may not be forcing you to eat pigs flesh (abhorent and unclean to Jews) but what idols or practices are you subtly invited to ‘eat’?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews concludes. We are taught about the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilling and finishing the Old Testament sacrifices. Notice the image of the Old Testament Priest ‘standing’ and working each day. Jesus, after the sacrifice of the cross, now being ‘seated’ and waiting for the time of gathering. Consider the victory and offer of forgiveness that has taken place on the cross. Imagine a winning sports team lifting the captain high onto their shoulders with winning trophy held high! This sacrifice of the cross – like a trophy – is held by the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine into the sacrifice and body and blood of Jesus. We stand together rejoicing. And we receive this sacrifice as a sacred forgiveness and communion meal
    bringing us into a total physical and spiritual union with God and each other. Do you see the depth and great celebration taking place at Mass? What
    would you like to learn more about? Who could you ask?
  • The Book of Daniel and The Book of Revelation are apocalyptic writings ʻunveilingʼ a vision of what will take place at the end of time. Each Gospel inserts
    some apocalyptic passages pointing toward that final day. The images of the sun darkened, stars falling, heavenly struggle, share a cosmic event affecting
    all of creation. Have you noticed that at the crucifixion of Jesus these images appear. Could this mean that the final ʻeventʼ and ʻstruggleʼ and ʻvictoryʼ has taken place on the cross? Could this be why the early disciples were so expectant of Jesusʼ return before ʻthis generation passed awayʼ?
  • Why the delay in the second coming is a question asked by Christians. Why is Jesus sitting ʻwaitingʼ in heaven as portrayed in Hebrews? The Gospel points to a ʻgathering of the elect from the four corners of the earthʼ. Will this require all the earth to ʻhear the message of Jesusʼ? Is Jesus lazy on a heavenly chair or waiting urgently to work in the Church, in the sacraments, in each disciple, winning the world ʻheart by heartʼ? How do you understand christian ʻwaitingʼ for the second coming?
  • ʻThat day or hourʼ is unknown. That it will happen is certain, when it will happen is uncertain. Consider a spiritual practice of imagination prayer. Present yourself to Jesus at the end of time. What does he say? What do you say?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz Livingtheword weekly download and
resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity
Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for Abandon Yourself in Trust to God

1 Kgs 17:10-16, Heb. 9:24-28, Gospel Mk 12:38-44

Image result for elijah widow oil

Reflection Questions

  • Behind the scenes of the first reading is a show of strength by God (Yahweh) over the worshippers of Baal (the god of fertility, rain, nature). Ahaz, the King of Israel, married Jezebel, allowed her to import her Baal priests and eventually she attempted to convert everyone to Baal worship. Elijah showed Gods strength by killing the priests of Baal and then proclaiming a drought as punishment on the land and teaching them that Yahweh is more powerful than Baal. Elijah himself has become hungry and thirsty. God tells him to go to Zarephath. This town was ‘enemy’ territory as it was the home of Jezebel’s Father! He would be met by a woman who would help him. A widow is on her last meal and desperate for survival. Open to God and showing hospitality she responds to Elijah. Her response is blessed by God…. ‘she was able to eat for a year…..’ Imagine this scene. Reflect on the obedience and trust of both Elijah and the Widow. Do you trust God? How could you show it?
  • The Letter to the Hebrews paints a picture of the special Feast of Atonement described in Lev 16. The Priest would take blood into the Tent (Holy of Holies) and cover the mercy seat with blood to represent forgiveness of sins. The Priest would then appear at the entrance to the tent and announce forgiveness. Jesus has not just entered a ʻtentʼ but ʻheavenʼ and his own blood has been offered as a ʻsacrifice to take away sinʼ. He will return – not to take away sin – butto welcome all those who eagerly await him. Do you look forward to Jesusʼ second coming? Does Sunday Mass give you an experience of ʻsalvationʼ ʻat-one-mentʼ where the Priest is holding up the gift of our reconciliation and communion with God?
  • Scribes were experts at knowing and interpreting the religious laws of the Jewish People. When a Husband died, a widow was vulnerable and often without support if a ʻbrother in lawʼ did not choose to marry her. With few legal rights, scribes at times became care-takers of widows property. They were supposed to protect the vulnerable but often ʻdevouredʼ the house and property of widows charging a commission for their services. At the same time they pretended to be ʻholyʼ and continued to wear their temple garb into the streets to attract attention. Jesus does not condemn the role of someone interpreting the laws but invites authenticity. Who today is a modern ʻwidowʼ – vulnerable and in need of care? In what ways would Jesusʼ words challenge the Church, Priests, Theologians, Lawyers, Politicians?
  • The ʻtreasuryʼ was 13 trumpet shaped containers that collected the coins, tithes and contributions of people at the Temple. A poor widow places all she has, in contrast to rich people giving to God something of their surplus. Love of God and Love of Neighbour will actually look like something. Is God honored by laws, lengthy prayers, long robes, large sums…. or the complete total trust and surrender of the poor widow with her 2 cents?
  • Jesus now leaves the Temple and walks toward the event of his total and complete self-giving to the Father for the salvation of the world. Like the widows in the readings today he will ʻhold nothing backʼ from God. How could you make a further step to give all that you are and have to God?
  • What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide 31st Sunday Year B: Hear-Listen-Love! Live the Word

Readings: Dt 6:2-6, Heb. 7:23-28, Gospel Mk 12:28B-34

Image result for Greatest commandment

Reflection Questions

• The Book of Deuteronomy (second law) is a summary of God’s teachings to help guide God’s people as they leave the desert and enter their new and promised home-land Israel). Moses reminds them they have been looked after and loved so beautifully that the only proper response to God is to return love. ‘Love your God with all your heart’. Have you ‘taken into your heart’ God’s love and care for you?
• Jewish people still treasure this ‘command’ to hear and remember. Devout Jews wear this prayer in little prayer containers (phylacteries) on their wrist
and forehead, pray it morning and evening, and have a container at the doorway of their home which they touch to remind them to love God who loved
them. How could you be reminded of God’s love each day? Where could you put a crucifix so that it is a daily visible and touchable reminder as you ‘come and
go’ in and out of your home?
• The Letter to the Hebrews is written for Jewish christians who are struggling and tempted to return to the practices of the temple, the laws, the sacrifices. Jesus is shown to be the true and perfect high- priest who will never die and whose sacrifice on the cross forgives ‘once and for all’. Do you ever think something else needs to be done to forgive you? make you acceptable? Do you find yourself holding God’s love at arms length until you become perfect by your own actions? What practices or traditions do you long for that used to make you feel well?
• Jesus is now in Jerusalem. He has chased out money changers from the Temple, had arguments with Pharisees and Scribes. Today a frequent faith question is discussed. Jews believed that 613 laws were developed from the 10 commandments. Living all these laws put one in right relationship with God. Scribes
who were teachers of the laws especially to the younger generation were often asked: Make it simple? Which is the greatest? Jesus quotes from Dt 6, 4 (1st
Reading) but also adds Lev 19,18 – care of the poor (check out Lev 19.9-17). 613 becomes 2. How do you move from love of God on Sunday to love of God on
Monday? Do you find it easy to separate love of God from love of neighbour? How do you see this in your life? In the Church?
• The Prophets of the Old Testament constantly pointed out the ease at which people worshipped in the temple with ʻburnt offerings and sacrificesʼ but did not
love their ʻneighbourʼ shown by helping others in need. Love of God draws me into a relationship with all whom God loves. God painfully wishes our love to be
extended to lift up the lowest and forgotten in society. Imagine entering a home for dinner and saying nice words at the table. Upon leaving the house kicking
the children and scratching the hosts car. What is going on?
• The scribe agrees with Jesus. But Jesus says things are still incomplete: ʻyou are not far from the Kingdom of Godʼ. Close but not there yet! Your head is ʻon boardʼ but is your life going to truly show direct ʻactionʼ linking God AND Neighbour? The crowd stayed silent. Why? What would it involve to actually live and love neighbour as your own flesh and blood?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 30th Sunday Year B: Jesus is Calling You.

Readings: Jer. 31:7-9, Heb. 5:1-6, Gospel Mk 10:46-52

Image result for Take Courage Jesus is calling you

Reflection Questions

• Jeremiah is a prophet during one of the most difficult times. Reluctantly, God allows his chosen people to be led off to exile as a consequence of their
unfaithfulness. Jeremiah makes a prophecy that God will always be truly a Father and will ensure a safe return for all – even the blind and lame. Have you ever
had to let someone ‘learn a lesson’ the hard way? Does pain and suffering mean that God does not care? As a parent, what is special about a ‘first-born’?
• Although Jesus did not wear the special vestments and serve in the Temple as a Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches that Jesus is qualified and actually fulfills the role of the High Priest in the Old Testament: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is understood as completing all sacrifices. How do you relate to your ‘priest’? Have you ever asked for help to draw closer to God? Has he been able to ‘deal patiently’ with his people? Has he been beset by weakness himself? Have you prayed for him lately?
• To teach Jewish people the identity of Jesus the text links Jesus to the mysterious figure of Melchizedek – King of Peace, of unknown origin, who served
Abraham as a Priest. Jewish scholars understood Melchizedek not to have died and to be eternally a priest of God – What would it mean that Jesus is eternally your personal priest standing in the presence of God the Father in Heaven for you?
• “Sight” is a special theme in todays readings. It was a prophecy that the Messiah would ʻrestore sight to the blindʼ. As Jesus began his journey to Jersualem
he gave sight to the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8,22) and now gives sight to Bartimaeus (Mark 10,46). Like two slices of bread between these two
episodes the disciples are told three times about the Messiah who will suffer and they do not ʻseeʼ and understand. How has your understanding of Jesus grown lately? Is the deep root of your prayer requests ʻto sit at your right handʼ(glory) or ʻhave pity on meʼ (mercy) or ʻmaster I want to seeʼ (discipleship)?
• The name Bartimaeus means ʻson of the uncleanʼ. Sitting at the gate of the great city of Jericho he is labelled as unclean, unworthy. In his loneliness and need he cries out to Jesus. He gets rebuked from the crowd and told to be silent. He cries even louder. When called he throws away his begging cloak, the only source of his warmth and money collection. ʻI want to seeʼ – I want to truly live and enter life fully. The experience of living in darkness and then seeing is the most transforming experience a human person can receive. It became a symbol of baptism. Can you identify with Bartimaeus? What label do you wear? What is the security cloak that you may need to ʻthrow asideʼ? What is your response deep down when Jesus asks ʻwhat do you want me to do for you?ʼ
• Unlike the rich young man recently who walked away sad (Mark 10,22), Bartimaeus is instructed ʻgo your wayʼ. He chooses to follow Jesus ʻon the wayʼ (to Jerusalem). In what ʻwayʼ am I walking the journey of my life. Going my own way? Walking with a sad heart unable to let go of experiences or false sources of
security? Am I searching and responsive to Godʼs will and following that even if it means a great sacrifice? Will I join Jesus ʻon the wayʼ to Jerusalem?
• What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Marriage-Partnership with God 

Image result for Jesus blesses marriage and children

Reflection Questions

• Genesis describes a truth, in a story, about our human condition. Man and Woman are different from the rest of creation. God’s invitation and partnership
with creation invites Man to ‘name’ the animals and exercise authority over them. It seems God’s most beautiful act of creation is woman. In Genesis we learn,
‘male and female he created them’ … ‘in God’s image and likeness he created them.’ Have you considered that the intimacy of Man and Woman becoming ‘one flesh’ together points to the image and reality of what God is like? One Flesh is the Old Testament and Jewish phrase describing the deep and total union of mind, body, emotion, and spirit that is lived in the marriage covenant. The sacrament of marriage is therefore pointing toward and making God’s love present for the other. If you were to explain Christian marriage to someone what would you share?

• The Letter to the Hebrews seeks to show Jesus as the replacement of the Jewish Temple Priesthood and sacrifices. The Temple in Jerusalem was like an ‘earthly shadow’ of the reality of ‘Heaven’. God ‘came down’ in Jesus, and completed the task of salvation and continues to link Heaven and Earth. Do you see the link between Heaven and Earth in the Church, liturgy, priesthood, sacraments?

• Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem and is questioned by Pharisees. Frequently they seek to trap him with difficult questions and arguments. This would
embarrass him in front of the crowds and disciples. Jewish custom and practice had allowed a Husband to divorce his wife for anything ʻobjectionableʼ. A Jewish woman was not allowed to divorce. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Rather than talk about legal arguments of divorce, Jesus chose to talk about what marriage is: two becoming one flesh and joined together by God. Jesus states man and woman are equal. He reintroduces womanʼs equality and states this injustice of easy divorce is not Godʼs plan. Why do you think the scriptures continue to use the phrase ʻtwo become one fleshʼ? What does this mean for you? What would you like to ask Jesus if you were involved in this conversation?

• Leaving ʻfather and mother and be joined togetherʼ holds an incredible challenge. Family traditions, customs, expectations, money, support misunder-standing, frustration, resentment can easily creep in. Forgiveness will be required. Cracks and fractures left unacknowledged or repaired can become un-repairable. How good are you at ʻforgivingʼ? Talking and sharing in a way that ʻrepairsʼ hurt feelings and unmet needs? Have you shared your availability and willingness to help married couples in times of stress and need? Consider whose marriage you were at most recently. Were you there for the ʻcelebrationʼ AND to show your support for their life-long journey? Have you shown support? How could you support those whose marriage dream has been broken?

• Jesus sought to include and show the equality of women. He also insists that children be included and not prevented from the Kingdom of God (2nd week in a row!) The openness and receptivity of a child is emphasised. What does it mean to ʻacceptʼ the Kingdom of God? Like a child?

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for 26th Sunday is here.

Nm 11:25-29, Jas 5:1-6Gospel Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Image result for St Mark

Reflection Questions

  1. Like the Book of Exodus, the Book of Numbers is filled with God’s people complaining of life in the desert. Moses finds the experience of leadership so
    heavy he wishes God would allow him to die rather than carry such a heavy burden. In prayer Moses is invited to share leadership with 70 others. Have you had an experience of feeling ‘heavy’ and ‘tired’ with responsibilities and complaints? What happened? Do you have the freedom to ‘let go’, ‘share responsibilities’? Admit you are in need of help?
  2. Joshua, the ‘leader in training’ was jealous and protective of power and authority. Moses shares a new vision with him – wouldn’t it be great if everyone was attentive to God and spoke of God’s will and lived out their responsibilities and leadership gifts. Do you see people as problems needing correction, or, people gifted needing motivation?
  3. James warns of the storing up of wealth. St Basil gives a colorful reflection: If everyone kept only what is necessary for ordinary needs and left the surplus to the poor, wealth and poverty would be abolished…. Are you not a thief? The bread you store belongs to the hungry. The cloak kept in your closet belongs to those who lack clothing. The money you keep hidden away belongs to the needy. Thus you oppress as many people as you are in a position to help. Have you ever reflected upon what your ordinary needs are, and how much “surplus” you have? Do you give to the needs of the poor?
  4. John is jealous that an outsider of the disciples group is obviously sharing in the power and authority of Jesus. “He does not follow us”. He is not in our group. John’s comments reveal their misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. They still think of it as a power structure of a political kingdom with favours granted to a small group. Have you prevented or excluded someone from service, ministry, a job, because they did not follow you?
  5. Jesus uses striking imagery to warn about being a scandal – obstacle to someone believing in Jesus. Cut off or out anything that could stop people following Jesus. What do you consider are obstacles for people coming to faith in Jesus and participating in the life of the Church? Does your life display a desire for wealth or the poor? Comfort or compassion? Arrogance or understanding? What do you need to cut off from your life?
  6. Gehenna is a place just outside of Jerusalem. Historically it was where shameful sacrifices of children were offered to the Canaanite god ʻMolechʼ. It was then regarded as an unclean and sinful place. It became a rubbish tip with constantly burning fires. Jesus uses it as a symbol of “Hell”. Uncomfortably, the issue of a final judgment and consequences of our life-style and actions is raised. Do I give a good or bad example of Christian living? Have I caused anyone to “stumble” in their relationship with God? How do I understand God as merciful yet also having a day of judgement?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz   Livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity Auckland, NZ.www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide for Discipleship=A Radical “No” to Power

See the source image

Reflection Questions

  1. The Book of Wisdom continues the suffering servant theme of Isaiah last week and points to the suffering that Jesus will experience. Many Jewish
    people were searching for meaning and guidance outside Judaism while living in Alexandria (a large Greek city). Have you experienced a time when you went searching for other belief systems because the society you lived in made fun of your religious beliefs? Where did you turn? What happened?
  2. The Book of Wisdom reveals worldly people oppose Godly people. They pretend righteous motivations…. ‘let us see whether his words be true’…. ‘let him prove his gentleness and patience’. Has this experience of persecution and trial been part of your Christian witness? Have you been able to live in trust that ‘God will take care of you’? Can you see and believe evil actions ultimately get found out and goodness is vindicated?
  3. Living in peace with each other in Christian community is our calling. A desire for glory and power and possessions needs to be brought out into the open. What peace-full virtue from James could you practice more of: be pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant? What object or honour are you wanting to possess? Name a ‘selfish ambition’.
  4. Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark has 3 predictions of the passion. Each time Jesus talks about his suffering the disciples completely misunderstand what
    he is talking about. Today is the second prediction. Jesus talks about Death. Disciples talk about Glory. Jesus’ teaching about accepting suffering is contrasted with his disciples argument about seniority. 2 lifestyles are revealed. What style of living describes you: living upward (glory and honouSayingr and violence) or living downward (service and humility and nonviolence)?
  5. Jesus chooses to expose the disciples lust for power in a quieter moment inside the house. He challenges them. They were really just concerned about power and glory… who was the greatest? Jesus does a very revealing action. While they wanted to know who was at the top, Jesus takes a child representing someone at the bottom. He collapses the social and power structure. Receive and welcome and show hospitality and inclusion to the bottom in society. Can you see how living this invitation will inevitably enter a disciple into upsetting the status quo. Upsetting the power structure of society. Jesus calls this a disciple “picking up the cross”. In your world, community family, workplace, who is at the bottom (equivalent of a child in Jesus’ time). How could you receive them? Jesus identifies with them. Will you stand up for them?
  6. In Jesus’ time, a child was at the bottom of society because in a shame / honor culture, it would be highly unlikely that an act toward a child would be  rewarded by the child talking to the community about the hospitality received. As a result, a kind action does not get rewarded with honour in the eyes of the community. Therefore it is not worth doing. Can you recognise how subversive Jesus’ placing the child “in their midst” is to the culture of the disciples. Who is the equivalent of a “child” today?
  7. What is one action that you will do to be ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity, Auckland, NZ. www.livingtheword.org.nz   www.maristlaitynz.org

Discussion Guide: Holiness Comes from the Inside Out. 

Image result for Mark 7 :1-23

Reflection Questions:

• Deuteronomy literally means ‘second book of law’. The 10 commandments given to Moses when applied to daily life became a large set of 613 guidelines to
live a holy life. These are explored in the Book of Deuteronomy and added to by the ‘teaching of the elders’. Jewish people treasured their ‘laws’ as a national
treasure. Truth. Wisdom. Justice. Is a relationship helped or hindered by ‘laws’? What religious guidelines do you ‘observe carefully’? What practices have you found help you feel ‘close’ to God?

• The Letter of James is regarded as a ‘Catholic’ or ‘general’ letter as it was not written for a particular community. James insists liturgy and life-style are linked
together. He paints a beautiful picture: a disciple is like a new birth, a new creation of ‘truth’ made from the WORD. Like the first-fruit of a plant, the seed of the word is planted in us and should show itself outwardly. Eventually the aim of the plant is to ‘look like something’ – actions of caring for orphans and widows (the lowest in society) and an ‘unworldly’ character. Planting takes some preparation and nurturing. How could you allow the word to be more fully ‘planted in you’? It is easy for religion to be ‘skin deep’. Who are ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’ in your life? What would it look like for you to be ‘unstained by the world’ – less worldly?

• Returning back to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is in Galilee but ʻspiesʼ from Jerusalem come to watch him. Pharisees and scribes seek to shame him in public
telling Jesus and his disciples they are not keeping the ʻtraditions of the eldersʼ (613 laws) and obeying the ʻpurity codesʼ. Eating food is an intimate practice as it involves what goes into our bodies. Washing and cleansing rules were to apply. These rules gradually developed into such a complex list that poor and
working people of the land could not satisfy all the conditions. This experience turned religion into oppression and made people feel distant from God. Jesus
challenged this dynamic of oppression and exclusion under the guise of holiness. How might Jesus challenge us today?

• Pharisees saw themselves as lay people stirring up the faithful toward a ʻsuper- pietyʼ. Israel was called to Holiness – Lets be holy! Two characteristics mark the pharisee spirituality. (1) religion becomes a set of rules to be lived rather than a relationship of love to be lived. (2) Judgement is made of others who do not follow ʻrulesʼ consequently separating those who are ʻin – cleanʼ and ʻout – uncleanʼ. How can you see this dynamic within yourself? In others? What does
authentic holiness look like for you?

• Jesus over-turns the entire Jewish system of ritual purity which focussed on set external actions making one acceptable God. It is revolutionary as these
purity laws were proud identity markers for Jews of their ʻholinessʼ. He points deeply into the heart adding three ideas not normally listed

• blasphemy – literally ʻsaying what is wrong is actually rightʼ
• arrogance – literally ʻtrying to make a thing shinyʼ
• folly – foolish – literally ʻwithout a deeper perspectiveʼ

Do you consider these inner characteristics harmful? What virtues could you practice as their ʻantidoteʼ?
• What is one action that you will do to be
this week?

livingtheword weekly download and resources are created by Fr Frank Bird sm, a Priest of the Society of Mary and distributed by Marist Laity NZ

Discussion Guide: Sealed and Fed to Thrive

1 Kgs 19:4-8, Eph. 4:30-5:2, Gospel Jn 6:41-51

See the source image
Reflection Questions

• The continuing theme of being ‘fed by God’ is developed in the readings this week. Elijah sits exhausted under a tree in the desert. He is being hunted down by Princess Jezebel who was married to the King of Israel. She tried to replace all prophets and temples of Yahweh by importing 450 prophets and followers of
B’aal from her homeland in Sidon. Elijah has just killed them all and is now on the RUN! (see 1Kings 18, 19-46). Have you ever got into difficulty as a result of
obedience to God? Have you ever said to God: ‘this is enough’? Is there any painful purifying of the Church that you find particularly difficult to participate in and endure?

• God encourages Elijah not to focus upon his own pain and fear. God wants to offer food and strength for the “40 day” journey ahead. Do you tend to focus on your own pain and mumble and groan? How could you develop a habit of being open to help and ‘being fed’? God wishes us to move from simply ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’. If you were to ask God or someone for help, what would be your question in one sentence? How could you grow your hunger so you experience being ‘fed’ with scripture and the eucharist?

• St Paul teaches that we were ‘sealed’ at our Baptism. A ‘seal’ was a special jewel or stone or metal cylinder marked with a ʻsignʼ and pressed upon clay or wax or object. The ʻmark – sealʼ indicated the owners signature, ownership, authority on a legal document or object. The link between the person and / or object was now displayed to the world. As ʻsealedʼ people we are to witness to whom we belong. Paul inserts attributes displaying God; kindness, compassion, forgiveness. Are you conscious of being ʻsealedʼ? Is there any anger or bitterness the spirit would like you to let go of so as not to ʻgrieve the spiritʼ dwelling in you?

• Jewish people often referred to their ʻlawsʼ as ʻbread from heavenʼ. Their laws and teachings from Moses gave them life and revealed God to them. They grumble and ‘murmurʼ at Jesusʼ claim: I am the bread that comes down from Heaven. Hidden within this phrase Jesus is claiming the Divine Name ʻI AMʼ and to replace the ʻlawʼ. He teaches further that he is true life-giving ʻbreadʼ but that ʻbreadʼ will now be replaced with ʻfleshʼ. John presents clearly the levels of meaning: Bread. Jesus. Flesh. Can you see in this text of John 6 the threads of our belief that in the Eucharist / Mass it is truly the ʻfleshʼ of Jesus we receive? Do you recognise the invitation following reception of Jesus to now become ʻlife-for-the-worldʼ?

• The only way God can be truly revealed is someone must come from God and live among us. This is indeed the great religious hope of the Jewish people.
However they become satisfied with the laws of God and were not ready to accept the ʻpersonʼ of God. Jesus claims he is this person truly ʻfromʼ God, has ʻseenʼ God. This is the claim of Christianity that sets us apart from other world religions. Because Jesus is divine – God – among – us what he promises to give us – his flesh and blood – he can and will do. As we approach the end of 5 weeks of teaching on the Eucharist consider prayerfully reading John 6. How would you explain the Eucharist now in your own words?

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