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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Gospel Readings Year A’

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 for “Is He Your King?” Feast of Christ the King 2017, 

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Reflection Questions

.The Feast of Christ the King was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 responding to the ills of the time: The
Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, spread of facism, Church’s loss of political power, decadence of 1920’s. Instead of simply writing a Church document which are read by only a few, Pius XIrecognised a ‘Feast’ of  the Church would be celebrated by the whole Church every year and speak not only to the mind but also to the heart. At first it was celebrated at the end of October but it now rests at the very end of the Liturgical year to enhance the experience of meeting Christ at the ‘end of time’.

• In a farming culture, the image of a Shepherd and Sheep was extremely special. Israel saw it as an image of God looking after them. Ezekiel uses this image and creates a picture of what God ‘will’ do (11 times!). Tend. Rescue. Pasture. Rest. Seek out. Bring back. Bind up. Heal. Destroy. Judge. What word  speaks more to your life at the moment? Have you experienced a call to shepherd others?

•St Paul provides an image of the vital role the Church plays in history today. The ‘absence’ of Christ after his resurrection and our waiting for his final ‘return’ actually involves Christ working through the witness and works of the Church. Through our following ‘the way of Christ’ various powers and authorities are
‘overcome’ so that everything will eventually fall ‘under his feet’. What powers and sovereignties do you see at work in the world today which require christians to do ‘battle’?

• The Gospel of Matthew this year finishes with the scene of the Final Judgement. Interestingly, the final
scene refers to something going on ‘now’. It is a judgement according to ‘works’ and ‘care of the poor’ (not faith and attendance at Mass). If you knew life’s final exam question for entry to heaven and it required showing ‘practical experience of care of the poor’ what would you do? Are you doing it ‘now’? Does the final question of life shock or surprise you? Matthew is pointing, finally, to Jesus’ command
to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Is your love truly extending to your neighbour in need?

• Separating sheep (honorable) from goats (shameful) was a daily ‘end of the day’ task for shepherds. Goats were not as strong and did not manage the cold. Goats allowed male goats to access other female goats which was also considered a shameful behaviour. An honorable life is a ‘righteous’ life – where we show by our actions a care for those in need.  Interestingly, the title ‘righteous’ was a title given by the poor to those who helped them. At the end of time wouldany of the ‘poor’ stand in your defence and give you the title ‘righteous’?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week and serve your servant King?

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz

 

Reflection Guide is here: Creative risk or Fear: who is God for you?

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Discussion Questions:

  • The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings for daily living. Today a woman (not necessarily exceptional or beautiful as modern media might portray), does routine daily chores filled with wisdom and purpose. Her love extends beyond her family to the poor and needy. Her life and good works is spoken of ‘at the city gates’. Have you experienced ‘charm’ as deceptive and ‘beauty’ fleeting? Two
    quite different life-styles are presented as a ‘mirror’ to expose the reader. Where do you ‘see’ yourself?
  • Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament Letter. They were concerned that ‘the Day of the Lord’ (Jesus’ return) had not happened. St Paul shares with them and us that the exact date of the ‘day of the Lord’ is not known. But we are all to be ‘living in the light’ following the way of Jesus. What image speaks more to you: not sleeping, staying alert, being sober? How could you apply this ‘image’ to an application in your life?
  • The end of the Church’s Year is coming! Next week is the end: Christ the King. The Judgement Parable of the Talents is given to us today as a way of helping us to reflect seriouslyon the end of the world and the Lord’s second coming. A careful reading of the Parable reveals some disturbingrealities.
  • One ‘talent’ is a large weight of metal equivalent to 15 years of an average wage ($750,000!). Is the Master generous or mean? What image of God do you ‘read into thetext’?
  • Two different ‘images’ and perceptions of the Master are found. Servants 1 and 2 are spurred into creativity, Servant 3 is filled with fear. He will take no risks, avoid any wrongoing, and will give back to God in ‘strict justice’ what was given. Is Servant 3 ‘self-ish’? His fear of judgement tends to paralyse him. He is not filled with a freedom and love for creative risk taking in works of mercy. Could this be an image of the Jewish community for Matthew? The Christian Community today?
  • Very large amounts of money are being traded. Is this supporting capitalist greed and risk taking or is it reduced to a ‘small matter’ in comparison to the new ‘great responsibilities’ of the Kingdom of God?
  • Reflect personally and name your ‘talents’. From this parable what do you think God asks of you? If you were to be judged on your current use of your talents what might be the conclusion?
  • What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Reflection Guide is here.

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Discussion Questions

.The month of November begins by celebrating All Saints (Nov 1st) and All Souls (Nov 2nd). Be invited to visit a Church to pray in thanks for all those who have brightened our journey with their lives.
• The Book of Wisdom was written to share the beauty of Jewish ‘wisdom’ different from Greek ‘wisdom’. For Greeks, wisdom was the result of hard human study and work. Jewish people understood wisdom as a feminine aspect of God and a gift ‘received’. At dawn was the favoured time for prayer. During the day ‘the gate’ was a place of gathering for elders making legal decisions and where city trade
took place. Do you love, seek, watch, pray into the night for… wisdom? v17 continues: wisdom begins with the sincere desire for instruction. What would you like ‘instruction’ in? Who could you ask for help?
• Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is one of the earliest letters in the New Testament. In contrast to the belief that death was the very end, our christian faith rests on a certain hope. Use your imagination to enter Paul’s picture of the final day. Why do you think scripture refers to this as a ‘great and terrible’ day?
• In the ancient Middle – East, the complete wedding celebration would take up several days. The first stage involved the fathers of the couple discussing and arranging the contract and legal matters between the two families. The Groom would then arriveto the Brides house to take her home. It was not known how long the various discussions would take. Guests at the Groom’s house were frequently ‘waiting’ as a  result of delays. You can imagine the surprise with the Groom and Bride arriving at midnight! Jesus
uses this image for his ‘return’. The Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King (November 20) as if it was the ‘return’. What would you do if Jesus returned in 2 weeks?
• The Bridesmaids and ‘oil for their lamps’ is symbolic of being ‘ready’. ‘Oil’ equals readiness. It cannot be ‘shared’. Spiritual preparation cannot be done by someone else. There is the striking image of a ‘locked door’. Cries to ‘open the door’. A negative response. The parable draws us in. We are left with self accusation: will I be ‘ready’? In what way does this parable challenge you?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

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

Reflection Guide

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Discussion Questions

  1. A special relationship between God and his people was created with Abraham and Moses. This relationship was two-way. God would look after and guide his people. God’s people would listen to and obey certain ‘laws’. The first 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
    Numbers, Deuteronomy) express what is required by both parties to live this ‘Covenant’. Todays reading explores the ‘covenant code’ and what social behaviours are required by God. Aliens (foreigners), widows and orphans have no protection of family or friends. But God loves them. We are to love, include and provide for them. Who are the equivalent of aliens, widows and orphans today? Are you living in ‘covenant-love’ with them?
  2. Jewish people were not to demand interest. They developed the practice of a ‘pledge’ to ensure repayment. As a safe-guard God stated a poor person was not to go cold at night without his ‘cloak’. Certain measures were in place to protect the dignity of the poor. How could you relate this to today?
  3. Paul continues his praise of the community of Thessalonika. Despite Paul and the other teachers being forced to leave them because of persecution, their ‘imitation of them’ and ‘the word of the Lord sounding forth’ from them to other communities showed such courage and faith. Have you ever had someone inspirational leave you and yet you decided to ‘continue their example’? Who has done this for your faith journey? What happened?
  4. Jesus is again forced into an argument with religious leaders. Pharisees decide to attack Jesus’ knowledge of the ‘Laws’. Jewish people had summarised all the laws of the first 5 books of the Old Testament into 613 laws. All were to be observed. Some were interpreted as ‘heavy -very important’ and some were thought of as ‘light – not as important’. Surprisingly, Jesus took a heavy law and and a light law and said they were intimately linked. Love God AND Neighbour. Jewish people interpreted ‘neighbour’ as fellow Israelites. Jesus’ teaching pushed ‘neighbour’ to include everyone. Everyone is to be treated as belonging to ‘yourself’ – as family! How does your love get ‘limited’? Why? Who gets excluded? Can you glimpse the heart of the gospel in this brief statement?
  5. A common criticism of the prophets in the Old Testament was that love of God was celebrated in the temple with sacrifices and gifts – Sunday worship. But it stopped there! They cried: what God wants is ‘mercy, not sacrifices’. Christianity is not lived on Sunday alone. How could you show more clearly a Sunday AND Monday discipleship?
  6. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide 29th Sunday:Belonging Completely to God

In other years the 22nd October is the feast of St Pope John Paul II

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Reflection Questions 

• Cyrus was the King of Persia. He conquered Babylon and decreed that all exiles could return home and
practice their religion. God’s people saw God’s power at work in this amazing event. God can use even a
powerful Pagan King to deliver his chosen people. Is there some area of your life, a difficulty at work, an
obstacle in your family which you think of as ‘impossible’ to change. Be invited to pray for a ‘Cyrus’ event!
• In ancient times a belief existed of different countries having different gods and the power of these ‘gods’ was territorial. Hence, the gods of Babylon would operate in Babylon. The God of Israel would operate in Israel? This event of liberation from Babylon marked a turning point in understanding. God is all powerful. Over all countries. Over all Kings. ‘There is no other’! Does your life reveal a trust and relationship with God who can make all Kings ‘run in his service… opening doors before him?                  • When Paul began his preaching in Thessalonika he met resistance from the Jews. He turned to the Greeks in this important Roman City. Upset, the Jewish leaders chased him and others out of town. He sent Timothy back to learn how the church of God was coping with the persecution. He congratulates them on their endurance. Is there a particular persecution you face in following Christ? Are you working on your faith, laboring in love, enduring in hope? If Timothy was to arrive at your door what would you share with him?
• A suprising partnership of Pharisees (who resist Roman authority) and Herodians (who partner with ‘Herod’ and the Roman authorities) attack Jesus. It is a carefully staged question about paying the poll or census tax. Everyone aged between 12-65 was required to pay 1 days wages to Rome. If Jesus said Yes to tax he would be disloyal to the Jews and lose favour with the people. If he said No he would be seen as opposing Rome and be arrested as a revolutionary. Many Jews even refused to carry Roman coins as a sign of resistance. In a dramatic twist Jesus invites them to show the coin – which reveals they do carry it – and ‘accept the system’. What is your view on paying tax? Civil obedience? Making a personal
contribution to the ‘common good’ and public services? What is your reaction to Jesus’ strikingly fresh detachment from money?
• Bearing the imprint of Ceasar on the coin meant ‘it’ belonged to Ceasar. Jesus invites a more profound
reflection. We bear the imprint of our creator in our very being. We belong completely to God. Consider the depths of this truth. Do you repay and give your whole being to God grudgingly or gratefully?
• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide for 27th Sunday Year A

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Reflection Questions for Groups or Individuals

• The prophet Isaiah becomes increasingly upset that King Ahaz (King of Judah – southern part of Holy
Land including Jerusalem) is willing to enter a partnership with a foreign Kingdom (Assyria) to fight Israel – northern part of Holy Land). Isaiah shares God’s anguish in the form of a ‘love story’: what more could I have done for my vineyard? Instead of the fruit of peace and justice there is bloodshed and war! Imagine a relationship where you have done everything you could to show your love. Yet the only fruit of the relationship is pain. What would you do? Is ‘taking away its hedge, giving it to grazing’ abandonment, or is it ‘starting all over again’?

• Paul is writing from prison to his much loved community in the town of Philippi. It is a Roman town occupied by many ex roman soldiers. There is a Jewish community that is uneasy with the Christian community. There is the ‘Roman – Gentile’ community cautious of christians who are perceived as ‘against Rome’ and setting up another ‘kingdom’. Into this mix are ultra conservative Jewish Christians (Judaizers) who seek to influence Gentile converts to Christianity that they must first become initiated into Judaism with circumcision and food purity laws before converting to Christianity. Added to this two prominent women in the christian community are in dispute taking each to court! What would you
write in a letter to help this community? Do you think Paul’s words would help? Paul humbly holds
himself up as an example of unity and reconciliation to follow. What do you think people ‘learn, receive, hear and see in you’?

• The Gospel of Matthew is leading closer to the end of the year with ‘judgement parables’. The Parable of the Vineyard spoke to the present but pointed to the future. Those entrusted with care (Chief Priests and Elders) of God’s people (vineyard) have been found resistant to the prophets and even ‘throwing the son out of the vineyard and killing him’ reference to Jesus being killed outside the city of Jerusalem. The Parable however is chaotic and does not reach a real conclusion. What will happen now? Who will control the vineyard? How would this be done? If the Christian Church becomes the New Israel (Vineyard) it is still required to produce the ‘appropriate fruit’. What do you think the appropriate fruit is of being a member of ‘God’s family’?

• The parable ends with a challenge: membership of the church does not guarantee membership of the
Kingdom of God. Imagine joining a club by payment of a members fee. What else is required?

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

Discussion Guide 26th Sunday Year A

Two Sons

Reflection Questions for Groups or Individuals

• Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet with his people in exile in Babylon. Jewish people had a deep sense that sins of their ancestors had caused their current situation (in exile away from Home and their sacred Temple in Jerusalem). It was easy for them to ‘blame’ others for their current situation. They ‘blamed’ God that this exile was ‘unfair’. Ezekiel invites them to take personal responsibility for ‘sin’. Turn to virtue, do what is right and just. This is the way forward. God will teach us and lead us home. Is there an attitude in your life of ‘blame’ rather than taking ‘responsibility’? Blame leads to death. Responsibility leads to life. What change do you need to make?

• St Paul invites disciples to have the one essential attitude that will maintain unity: humility. Giving up an attitude of having special rights. Power. Influence. Can you think of a situation in which being ‘humble’ would have saved a meeting, argument, relationship. How could you become more ‘humble’?

•Jesus has now arrived in Jerusalem. Angry at his emptying of the Temple, the religious leaders challenge his actions and authority to teach. Jesus responds. Pious words and lip-service is easy. To be true children of God requires actions of doing the will of the Father. In your own self assessment,
how large is the gap between your profession of faith and the practice of your faith? In what area of your life is more ‘action’ required? What would motivate you to action?

• Anyone can talk holiness, but it is quite another thing to live it. Consider someone in your life who ‘talks the talk and walks the walk’ of their christian belief. How do they inspire your journey? How could you follow their example?

• Both sons responses hurt the Father. No-one here is perfect. Jesus understands a priority for Jewish
people is to show ‘honor’. The son who said ‘Yes, sir’ was honorable in front of the Father but it was soon
revealed as empty and meaningless. Honor is shown ultimately in real obedience. What will it mean for you to ‘walk the talk’ in obedience this week? Consider writing it down.

• A requirement for ‘tax collectors’ to be truly repentant and ‘right with God’ was to repay money to those who had been ‘over-taxed’. However it was impossible for them to know and remember all the people they had wrongly taxed. Tax collectors felt helpless and stuck in a situation of
never feeling they could be forgiven by God. Jesus reveals this is not the case. God welcomes those who turn to him. Do you know someone who needs help to hope and believe in God’s forgiveness? Consider praying a special prayer for them.

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