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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Gospel Readings Year A’

Discussion Guide:  Palm Sunday – The Lord’s Passion

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Reflection Questions:

• On Palm Sunday we wave ʻpalmsʼ in remembrance of Jesusʼ procession into Jerusalem. We cry ʻHosannaʼ (in Hebrew meaning ʻSave Us Now). What is your expectation of God ʻsaving usʼ? Are you willing to let go of a strong powerful military figure and allow a ʻsuffering servantʼ? On a donkey? What do you think happened in the minds and hearts of the crowd gathered to eventually cry ʻcrucify him!ʼ?

• Palm Sunday is also called ʻPassionʼ Sunday as we listen to the whole story of Jesusʼ personal betrayal by his disciples, his court appearance before religious and political rulers, his rejection by previously welcoming crowds, his cruel whipping and torture by soldiers. Watch, listen, feel the violence. Where does such cruelty originate from in the world? Why does the world seek a ʻvictimʼ?

• ‘He made no answer’. The silence of Jesus as Pontius Pilate questions and interrogates him is striking. Have you ever been tempted to argue your way out of a difficult situation to ‘save yourself.’ Jesus’ silence is a deep act of trust in God. How would you have behaved in this situation?

• It may be a surprise to learn that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as a bunch of revolutionaries from Galilee, hanging out in parks, carrying swords, wanted and hunted by police. How would such a group be considered today? In the Church?

• Jesusʼ sufferings ʻunmasksʼ and reveals the worldʼs violence and cruelty. Jesus responds peacefully in interrogation. Heals a soldier’s ear. Asks the Father to forgive. Welcomes criminals to heaven. Commits his spirit into the hands of the Father. Is Jesus a ʻdoor-matʼ or a ʻsaviourʼ? How?

• Soldiers make a game of teasing Jesus. He is stripped, humiliated, hit, played with as a ‘game’. Consider in the world today soldiers abusing innocent people. Can you feel their pain. Pray for them and soldiers in places of terror and oppression today.

• Simon from Cyrene did not want to lift the heavy wooden cross of Jesus. Have you ever felt you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a heavy job? Has someone in great need crossed your path recently? Do you run away from people suffering?

• The veil of the sanctuary was a large thick curtain that separated the ‘holy of holies’ from the rest of the temple. It was the sacred place where God’s presence was known to dwell sitting on the mercy seat’ (that held the 10 commandments). The gospel of Matthew paints with words the truth that here on the cross is the new ‘mercy seat’ where God dwells. Spend time with a crucifix this week and ponder what you see.

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

Discussion Guide: Believe and You Will See the Glory of God

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Reflection Questions:

• Ezekiel is an interesting person. He was both a prophet and a priest. He was also taken away with the first group of Israelites into exile. He shares a positive and hopeful message to his people. God will turn this situation around. Name a difficult struggle you experience in your life. Can you see a slow transformation and wisdom in the midst of your suffering? What does the deep voice of the spirit invite you to do so you can ‘rise from your grave’?

• St Paul uses the word ‘flesh’ (sarx) to mean people who have a self-centred orientation towards the world. Frequently those who live this way make themselves, their senses and pleasure, their ‘idol’ / god. Those who live directed by the spirit of Christ are turned outward in love and ‘self-lessness’. Ponder the powerful bodily image of arms wrapped around yourself tightly, or arms open and outstretched in embrace of the world. How do you live your life? How is your almsgiving this lent?

• In the Gospel of John Jesus performs 7 signs. Each sign is a fulfillment of a Messianic hope from the Old Testament. Each sign reveals the presence of God in Jesus. Today is the 7th and most important sign. Jesus overcomes death. And only God can overcome death! Place yourself in this gospel story. If you were really there in this scene what questions would you ask? What would you believe from this experience?

• Martha’s questions reveal a growing knowledge of who Jesus really is. She begins with Jesus as someone close to God – “whatever you ask, God will give to you.” Jesus responds to Mary’s belief in the resurrection on the last day with a powerful statement: Mary, the one who is in charge of the resurrection is looking at you! I AM the resurrection and the life. And to prove it, Jesus raises Lazarus. What does Jesus wish to reveal to Mary? Do you see the ‘sign’ and believe what it is pointing to?

• The Rabbis believed and taught that the spirit and breath of life hovered around a dead body for three days. Waiting for 4 days can be understood as Jesus ensuring everyone knew Lazarus had truly died. Twice Jesus is ‘perturbed’ or angry that someone he loves has been tied hand and foot and buried.(A symbol of what sin and death can do to us.) Untie him and let him go becomes a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s promise (1st reading) and an image of what Jesus can do personally for each disciple. What tomb am I in?What cloths bind me up? Who might God be using to ‘take away the stone’ blocking me from joy and life?

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

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

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Reflection Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide: Thirsting for God?

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Reflection Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide: Listen to Him 

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Reflection Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide: Turn Away From Sin

Reflection Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion GuideLove Your Neighbour 

 

Reflection Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide: Fulfilling the Law

 

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Reflection Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Guide 3rd Sunday Year A Follow Me

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Reflection Questions

• The Prophet Isaiah remarks that the land called ‘District of the Gentiles’ (the area around the sea of Galilee) will see ‘a great light’. Imagine a small narrow road linking one part of the world with the other. This is the ‘Holy Land’ (Israel). It was a very busy trading route. Consequently there were many ‘foreigners’. For Jewish people it sometimes felt like a curse. However in God’s plan the light shines brighter in the darkness. Have you ever experienced being lost in darkness and then helped by a light? What happened. What is Isaiah trying to teach us about God?

• St Paul continues his writing to the people of Corinth. He is upset that their witness and service to Christ has turned towards arguments
rather than charity. Have you ever felt a group of people wanting you to ‘belong’ to ‘their idea’? Have you had an experience of ‘division’ in the community or workplace or parish, people claiming the same purpose but not united in ‘mind’? Did you seek to understand ‘both sides’ and seek unity, or, did you grow division?

• Today in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus leaves his home town of Nazareth and arrives in Galilee. Fulfilling the 1st Reading prophecy of Isaiah,
Jesus spends most of his 3 years of public ministry between 3 towns in Galilee. As the new year begins do you feel it is time to leave your
‘Nazareth’, your place of comfort, and enter ‘Galilee’ to undertake a new challenge? How could you be a light to ‘people who sit in darkness? Those overshadowed by death, sickness, sadnees?

• In the time of Jesus, the phrase Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God were special. Everyone was waiting for the time when God
would finally overcome the power of evil. Essentially Jesus begins preaching a ‘wake up’ call: ‘change your mind (repent), take notice, God is now showing victory over evil! This is the good news. Have you ever noticed Jesus both preaches and heals. Words and actions go together. How does your life bring the kingdom of heaven and contribute to the overcoming of evil? Is your faith words and actions?

• Fishing was the main industry around the sea of Galilee. Peter, Andrew, James and John were probably not ‘poor’. Boats, nets,
family, work colleagues, commitments and bank accounts are significant for them (and us!). Yet they are placed second to Jesus’ invitation to follow. Is the presence of your life curing and comforting (disease and illness?) or comfortable and callous? If you had to write a sentence of what you thought God would personally like you to do / be, what would you write?

• What is one action that you will do to live the word this week?

Discussion Guide for Year A – 2nd Sunday. Be a Light to the Nations

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Reflection Questions

1] This Sunday marks the beginning of ‘Ordinary’ Time. The season of Christmas has ended. Isaiah is among the group of Jewish exiles who return to Jerusalem (Zion). Yet there is continuity with last Sunday’s Baptism of the Lord through the themes of holiness, servanthood and John the Baptist. Isaiah prophesies a relationship of more than a servant. There is deep tenderness in his wording that Jacob and Israel be ‘gathered to him’. “It is too little for you to be a servant” he says. The vision presented is far beyond Israel’s understanding and stretches us all to serve and reveal God’s mercy to all nations, all peoples! Israel, Christand the Church are called to be ‘a light to the nations’ that ‘salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. As you look at Yourself, the Church and the World, what do you ‘see’? What do you think is God’s vision for disciples, the Church, the World? What would it mean for parish and family life if we more actively embraced this vision of being ‘a light’ in our geographical locations and spheres of influence?

2] Paul and Isaiah call us to relationship with God and remind us that God makes us holy; we are called to see ourselves as being sanctified (made holy) in Christ. An object, place or person who has been blessed (sanctified) can be described as ‘holy’. Our holiness comes from Baptism and anointing in Christ. How do you feel about God seeing you as ‘holy’? Are there some ideas about holiness you need to challenge to accept how God sees you? Self-condemning thoughts and feeling as if ‘its all up to me’ are common. How does this Scripture challenge such views about ourselves and about Christian holiness?

3] The Gospel is from John in a year of Matthew. This suggests we be attentive. John’s account of Jesus’ Baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is to reveal Jesus to Israel. John portrays events to excite personal testimony about Jesus. Instead of narrating the baptism; he shows its meaning through John the Baptist’s testimony; “The reason why I came…was that he [Jesus] might be made known.” What are we asked to learn from John the Baptist?

4] We are created by God, for God. Living from this truth may take a life-time. John the Baptist’s, first insight was in the womb: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb” (Lk 1:41). His first encounter with the Son of God, was unconscious and mediated by his mother. How did John’s life reflect that experience? For many of us, our first encounters with God were unconscious and mediated by parents. Ask; ‘How does my life reflect the gift of God’s anointing?’ Then talk to God in prayer.

5] The voice from heaven instructs the Baptizer that the one on whom the Spirit descends is the Chosen One; he baptizes with the Holy Spirit. The last sentence of today’s Gospel expresses the conviction we are all invited to experience after hearing John the Baptist’s “evidence.” Are you able to say, “I have seen for myself…’This is God’s chosen One!’ (v 34)” It is that conviction, born not from our own efforts but from embracing the Holy Spirit’s ongoing grace in our lives, that enables us to recognize ourselves as ‘holy’ and to be ‘lumen gentium:’ light to the nations. Is that conviction rooted firmly in your heart? How does it make you feel? What do you need from God to embrace it more fully?

6] In v 29 John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The “lamb of God” is central in the Mass. Christ, as the sacrifice who reveals God’s love for us, is often symbolized by a lamb; a young ram up to a year old. The title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Exodus 12); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10). What image means most to you and why?

7] How will you 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