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Posts Tagged ‘sunday scripture readings’

Discussion Guide: Turning Toward God

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Gn 9:8-15/1 Pt 3:18-22/Mk 1:12-15 

Reflection Questions

• The season of Lent begins with the receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you were not able to attend Ash Wednesday ask your priest if he could mark the ashes on your forehead with a prayer on Sunday. Or you may consider placing your thumb in soil and marking yourself with the sign of the cross. It takes a physical experience to remind us of something beginning. Consider Ash Wednesday like arriving at the starting line of a race. We need to be present and committed – when the starting gun goes
off we need ‘begin’ the journey to the finish line of Easter. Are you psychologically ‘ready’? What will the
spiritual practices of ‘Prayer’ ‘Fasting’ and ‘Alms-Giving’ involve for your daily / weekly routine?
• In the season of Lent, the First and Gospel readings are not specifically linked, but independently teach us a truth about God and ourselves. The word describing the ‘Ark’ built by Noah, is also used for the ark carrying baby moses tosafety, the ark holding the special tablets of the commandments and symbolic of the Ark of the Church. God has made a covenant / promise to protect and be with those who belong to him. Have you ever had an experience or sign showing God’s protection for you? Can you see the Church as an ‘Ark’ today? How?

•The Second readings of Lent teach us the meaning of Baptism. The cleansing of Baptism waters is not
washing away physical dirt, but literally a ‘putting away of filth’ as one now living in Christ. Lent becomes a time of renewed effort in living our christian identity. What do you recognise needs to be ‘put away’ from your life? What is the first step on this journey?
• Jesus responded to the Spirits inspiration into the Desert. To help create a prayer-full lent, what place
and time each day can you identify that will work for you? How could you symbolise beginning this journey?
• Being in the desert for 40 days links to Israel being in the desert for 40 years. A time of testing, proving loyalty, closer union with God. As Adults, Lent is not a season for child-like practices of giving up lollies. It is a journey facing struggle and sin, being ʻtestedʼ, proving my loyalty to God. Is my Lenten commitment serious enough? Do I consider it will bring me closer to God?
• “The angels ministered to him.” God does not leave us alone. Angels are provided. Literally, Angels mean ʻgood message bearersʼ. In my Lenten journey and wilderness experience who are some ʻangelsʼ that God may have already placed in my life to support me but I have not responded to. Is there someone you could ask to accompany you on your journey of Lent? It could be just the help you need!
• Repent and believe the gospel. This is Jesusʼ first public words ever spoken. The Greek word is metanoia – change, physically turn your life around. What do I know needs to change to find wholeness in my life?
• How will you ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: Come and See 

Reflection Questions

• Samuel is a young boy who eventually becomes one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. It is possible he was given the job of ensuring the ‘sacred flame’ in the Temple did not burn out and for that
reason is ‘sleeping in the temple’. Today God calls him. He is confused, and even his mentor ‘Eli’ takes a while to recognise it is God speaking in prayer to Samuel. Isyour lifestyle allowing for time in prayer
and silence? Have you ever sincerely presented yourself before God and stated ‘Here I am…. Speak…. I am listening’?
• Samuel needed Eli to mentor him in the ways of listening to God and prayerful obedience. Who has been an ‘Eli’ figure for you in your journey with God? Has there been any word or inspiration from
God or an Eli-Mentor that you have heard but not been obedient to? What happened?
• Samuel was blessed. The Lord helped him to not let any word spoken ‘fall to the ground’. He both caught the Lord’s word and Spoke the Lord’s word. How could you be more effective in ‘catching’ every
word of the Lord spoken to you? Consider starting a spiritual journal of your prayer time and finding a spiritual director (Eli). Check out www.livingtheword.org.nz/resources and click on spiritual director
and keeping a journal.

• There was a problem among some of the community at Corinth. Some separated the body and the  spirit believing that it did not matter what one did with their ‘bodies’. Paul teaches them about the dignity of their bodies. Joined with Christ, filled with the Spirit, our bodies are true ‘Temples’ of God. What we do in and with the dwelling place of God should bring God Glory. Do you respect and protect the dignity of your body? How could you give God greater glory? Whose ‘bodies’ are being broken or
abused today in society. Do you care?
• John the Baptist points his disciples toward Jesus and they begin the journey of discipleship. The first
question Jesus asks of a disciple points deeply to their heart: What are you looking for? Imaginatively  enter the scene. What is your response to this very first question of Jesus?
• ‘Come and see’ is an invitation by Jesus to ‘abide’ and ‘stay’ with him. Like Samuel, could you find a frequent way of drawing close to Jesus, spending time beside the tabernacle in Church? It means leaving friends, normal routine, unknown conversation. Where does the adventure of ‘come and see’ ask of you?
• While Peter is well known, it was his brother Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus. The time spent with Jesus impacted Andrew so much he had to find someone to share this good news with. Have you experienced the joy of Jesus and the desire to lead others to share this faith experience? Is your lack of courage stopping a future Church leader? Saint?
• What is one action that you will do to‘ livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide is Here: Advent 2nd Sunday Year B

Reflection Questions

• Isaiah chapters 40-55 are known as the ‘Book of Comfort’. The prophet is speaking encouraging words to the exiles as they return home and seek to rebuild their lives and the Temple in
Jerusalem. Isaiah is also known as the ‘carrier of the hope of the Messiah’. Foretelling a time when God will come among his people. Can you see the prediction of John the Baptist and Jesus in the reading from Isaiah? What image speaks personally to you on your advent journey?

• 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. 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?

• The 2nd Letter of Peter is regarded as possibly the latest of the New Testament Letters. Obviously they are concerned with the delay of Jesus. Peter teaches God’s final judgement is not based upon human calendars. While Peter uses the popular belief of the time of a final ‘fire’ at the end of
time, he also emphasises the need for good behaviour and ‘righteousness’ (whereas gnostics did
not consider there would be a future judgment and therefore immorality was irrelevant). Would Christ’s coming find you ‘eager to be found without spot’? At peace? What is the source of your ‘dis-ease’?

• Today we hear the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel we will listen to for the rest of the Year. Mark immediately shares the ‘secret’ in the first line. We are about to hear ‘gospel’ (good news about a victory battle over evil) done by Jesus Christ. He is the one who reveals by words, actions of power, that he has all the attributes of God = Son of God. Is your interest raised? Consider spending a few hours to read Mark (the shortest gospel) for Advent.

• To announce a figure of such great importance requires a voice to ‘proclaim’ the imminent 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). A new rescuing by God is taking place. John is painted to be like the great prophet Elijah who was to return to prepare for the ‘great
day of the Lord’. Who has been a holy witness and ‘prophet’ like John the Baptist for your journey? Who could you be a holy witness for this advent calling them back to God?

• 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. Administered by Bev McDonald, Marist Laity NZ Facilitator. web: www.livingtheword.org.nz        www.maristlaitynz.org     e-mail: contact@livingtheword.

 

Reflection Guide

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Discusssion Questions

• The prophet Malachi was writing to his community. They had been allowed to return home from exile. They had even received financial help to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem. And yet religious practice and faithfulness was at an ‘all-time-low’. He turns his attention to the Priests. They were
responsible for the spiritual leadership of the community and were not ‘listening’ or keeping the laws ‘in their heart’, ‘not instructing people properly in ‘the way’. In the final verse Malachi also turns to those who ‘intermarried’. He interpreted this as weakening God’s family and introducing other God’s into the family – a breaking of the ‘covenant’. What would you suggest today is the source of decline in ‘religious practice’?
• St Paul, while traveling far and wide as a missionary, continued his trade as a ‘Tent maker’. He worked ‘night and day’ so as not to burden anyone. While they missed him, Paul pointed to the true source of their growth ‘the word of God at work in you’. How could you spend more time with the ‘Word of God’. Who could help you?                                                                                                                                                •The word ‘Pharisee’ means ‘set apart’ or ‘separate’. They were lay men (not priests who worked in the
Temple or scribes who were ‘scripture scholars’ and experts in the law). In Jesus’ time the Pharisees believed the ‘laws’ were not being lived perfectly and the temple priests and Religious Leaders were too comfortable with Roman authorities. When Matthew’s Gospel was written, the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed. Pharisees were now more public in their leadership – even being referred to as ‘Rabbi’ – teacher. Jesus continues his critique of religious leaders being ‘hypocritical’. Literally ‘two faces – actor’. Preaching and practice must go together. Are there any areas of your life where you are ‘acting’-Wearing ‘two faces’?
• Jesus reminds his disciples and the Church today to not follow the Pharisees or scribes. Be an example
to follow. Interpret laws sensitively so as not to load heavy burdens. Be alongside to shoulder the weight of discipleship. Do not seek glory or status. Point toward God (not self) as the true teacher. What aspect of Jesus’ leadership challenge speaks personally to you?
• ‘Father’ was a term of special respect given to ‘elders’ and special deceased persons. To call no one on earth your ‘Father’ or ‘Master’ is Jesus telling the community – and its leaders – not to ‘chase’ titles and public recognition. Service and humility are to be the trademarks of the Christian community. Is there an attitude of ‘seeking’ rather than ‘service’ in your ministry? How could you show respect to leaders and also develop a culture of equality and expectation of ‘leading by example’ in your community? Is a
humble word of correction to a leader friend needed?
• 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

Image result for Psalm 96 Belonging to God

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 25th Sunday Year A

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Reflection Questions

• If you ever experience God being ‘distant’ the words of Prophet Isaiah may help. He speaks and writes to God’s people feeling distant and away from home. Yet they cannot go back to Jerusalem and the Temple. They are refugees in Babylon and their Jerusalem Temple has been demolished. Isaiah invites you to turn inward, seek the Lord where he may be found – in your heart. Does your lifestyle allow for quiet time to stop and listen to your spirit and to God?

• Paul is writing from Prison. He may be put to death. He could argue with Roman authorities that he has been unjustly treated and begin the legal battle. He could be passive and let God’s plan unfold. He is torn in two directions. Have you experienced being torn between two good options? An earthquake and conversion of the jailor provides the way forward. Could you trust God’s design of providence                  and guiding your life like Paul?

• Laborers would often stand in the middle of town waiting to be selected for jobs. At the heat of midday, and not having been selected for a job, many would walk home downcast. What do the laborers feel? In desperation some continue to stay until 4pm! What is strange about the landowners (God) behaviour?

• The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is also called the Parable of the Generous Landowner. It is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Christian community was Jewish but gradually became filled with more Gentile converts. Jews who had served long and hard in faithful obedience to the Laws of God now witnessed Gentiles coming in at the last ‘hour’ and receiving the same ‘reward’. They were upset. God is unmasked in this parable as one who is generous. Were you upset or delighted in this parable? Why?

• The landowner’s (God’s) generosity in the parable creates a problem. The world’s expectation is strict justice. More hours worked = more money earned. Few hours worked = little money earned. Does this build a ‘just society’? Why is justice easier to manage than mercy? Why is it easier to be legal than loving? Does it mean that we give up control of destiny and judgment? Why should everyone receive a ‘just wage’?

• The ways of God are different from worldly ways. As a member of the community building the ‘kingdom of God’, what would it look like to be generous with your money like the landowner? Does your giving establish true justice or maintain charity with unjust structures and policies? check out www.caritas.org.nz

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

 

The Discussion guide for Hear the Word, Live the Word is here.

Questions for individual or group Reflection.

  1. The final chapters of Isaiah are called the ‘Book of Consolations’, written to comfort and encourage the Israelites in exile. God’s people are invited to trust deeply in the power and promises of God. They will return home. The power of God’s word to do and bring about what is spoken points also to the Gospel reading and the power of the ‘seed’ that is sown to be extremely fruitful. The Hebrew ‘dabar’ is translated as both ‘word’ and ‘deed’. Consider your own word. Do you ‘do’ as you ‘say’? Is your word powerful? Effective? Can people rely on your ‘word’ and ‘what you say you will do’?
  2. St Paul uses striking imagery to describe our spiritual journey. We groan within ourselves as we ‘wait for adoption’ and the ultimate redemption of our bodies. What life experience at present is causing you to ‘groan inwardly’? Do you accept or resent your human frailty and weakness? St Paul’s words suggest he talked with God about this. What is the experience of ‘waiting for adoption’? Can you link this with your discipleship and suffering?
  3. Matthew chapter 13 has a series of parables. Today we listen to the first about the ‘Sower and the Seed’. The seed is the focus of the parable. It is symbolic of Jesus’ ‘word’ being sown by his preaching. A concern of Jesus’ disciples and the early Christian community was why Jesus was apparently so ‘unsuccessful’. Many people listened, were healed, but did not believe and ‘follow’. This parable may be an attempt by the community of Matthew to explain why this happened.
  4. Two points would have astounded the listeners of this parable. The generosity – or foolishness of the sower – putting seed in places where it will not grow. And the extreme fruitfulness of the seed planted in rich soil. A good crop would have been a yeild of 30% of the seed, but this seed brings also 60% and 100% fruitfulness! What does this show about God and the power of His Word? Consider the fruitfulness of the scriptures in your life. Can you identify a time when you responded to the Word asking you to do something incredibly challenging? Life-changing? What passage did this for you?
  5. The reader is invited to reflect upon what type of ‘soil’ is present in their life and if there are any obstacles to the Word (seed)? Things closing my eyes, ears, heart? A question or topic of faith that I have not pursued enough and been satisfied with ‘not understanding’? Some trial or tribulation that I have let dominate my life, whose voice I have let be louder than God’s voice? Concern and ‘anxiety’ for money, job, clothing, posessions, relationships that have led me to choose the world over God?
  6. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

An easy to print guide to Being Yoked with Christ: Year A, 14th Sunday is here

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Reflection and discussion questions.

  1. Zechariah makes a prophesy that the Saviour will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Horse and Chariot were symbols of power and war. A donkey was a symbol of humble work and peace. Horse and Donkey. Power and Humility. Violence and Service. Why does the world favor a horse, God a donkey?
  2. “Meek” is a word mentioned twice in todays readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. Like a person feeling anger and yet staying in full control, able to turn it to justice rather than violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek character?
  3. ‘Flesh’ is St Paul’s expression talkingabout a life that is lived without God, like an animal following only its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is a life open to God and turned outward in love. How do you experience the disciples tension of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? Which life do you feed and nourish?
  4. In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Jesus is greater than the Torah (Law given by Moses) and all the Prophets. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ is a knowledge claim by Jesus. What does this statement mean for you?
  5. Jesus remarks how great learned religious figures (Pharisees and Scribes) cannot accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, those without learning, workers of the land) accept him. It is not necessarily learning that has proven an obstacle but pride and position. Within those who are ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’ grows an inability to be ‘open’. Are you satisfied? Have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus do you find hardest to be ‘open’ to?
  6. The Torah (OT Law) handed down by Moses required knowing and being obedient to 613 laws. This was a ‘heavy burden’. People felt oppressed by the rules and those enforcing them (Saducees, Scribes, Pharisees). Jewish people referred to this as the ‘yoke of the law’. Jesus invites a radical change. ‘Come to me’ all who are feeling heavily burdened. ‘I will give you rest’. Put on my yoke. ‘Learn from me’. The Torah is being replaced by the person of Jesus. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made to avoid painful imbalance. In your disciples journey, how are you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to do and carry more than is required?
  7. What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Download Reflection Document 4th Sunday Yr A

Reflection Questions

  1. The prophecies of Zephaniah are thought to have been for a very short period of time – possibly only weeks or months. In the midst of the possibility that Assyria were going to destroy Israel, Zephaniah quietly reminds us that a people who are humble and seek justice will always find shelter and protection by God. Do you sometimes feel part of a very small ʻremnantʼ of people trying to be faithful to God? What encourages you to remain faithful? What is attractive to you about ʻhumbleʼ people and those who ʻseek justiceʼ? How could you show these virtues in your weekly life-style?
  2. St Paulʼs letters to the people living in Corinth reveal a number of arguments were occurring. One of the causes of division was gnosticism. Some believers thought they had special spiritual wisdom and knowledge which others did not have. This made them ʻsuperiorʼ to others. They knew more, had been taught better, had more spiritual wisdom and gifts. Paul writes it is inconceivable that a true christian could look down on ʻothersʼ. How does pride and ʻboastingʼ find its way into your life? What is an opposite virtue you could practice?
  3. In Matthew Jesus goes up the Mountain and gives a new law in contrast to Moses going up Mt Sinai and giving the Law of the Old Testament contained in the 10 commandments. Jesus is the New Moses. The Beatitudes are understood as a profound insight into the core teachings of Christianity and what it will mean to follow Jesus. Some people have called the Beatitudes the ʻBeʼ – Attitudes. Jesus wants disciples to ʻbeʼ like him.
  4. Consider the Beatitudes as 4 qualities and 3 practices of a disciple:
  • Blessed are the Poor in spirit. Be a person focussed on the poor (not status or riches). Am I willing to be ʻpoorerʼ so that through my giving others may have enough of the basics to live in dignity?
  • Blessed are those who Mourn. Be a person who grieves over the injustice in the world. • Am I aware and shocked at the injustices taking place in my community?
  • Blessed are the Meek. Be a person who gets angry but not aggressive. • Am I able to show self restraint in moments of conflict and possible violence?
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Be a person who seeks justice (not vengeance). • Am I able to live as if doing the ʻrightʼ think was as important for me as having daily ʻbread and waterʼ?
  • Blessed are the Merciful. • Do I consciously practice and show in all my relationships the love and compassion found in Jesus? • Blessed are the clean of heart. • Do I practice integrity and wholeheartedness in doing right?
  • Blessed are the peacemakers. • Do I practice making peace, saying sorry, healing conflict with my friends / family / relationships?
  • What is one action that you will do to be  ʻlivingthewordʼ this week?