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Posts Tagged ‘sunday scripture readings’

Discussion Guide: What Does Love Look Like?

I talk a lot of love, this is what I'm talking about. Romance is a lovely thing, but just one very small way of loving:

Reflection Questions

• Peter entering the home of Cornelius (A Roman Centurion / Soldier) is an incredibly important moment in the early Church. It sets in motion the whole Christian mission to non-jews – to the untouchables, the pagans, the ‘greeks’. God wants to include everyone. Who do I consider an ‘outsider’ to the Church? Why? How could I be more inclusive? In my family? My church?

• Acts 10 reveals the early struggle to be open and welcoming. The Holy Spirit spoke in dreams and visions to inspire and move the Church and disciples. Consider the words of St Peter: ‘Get up, I myself am a human being’ and ‘God shows no partiality’. What has happened within Peter? What invitation and challenge do you notice for your own journey?

• Both Peter and Cornelius are spoken to in prayer. Thankfully they responded obediently. What have you heard in prayer and life lately? Have you been obedient in living the word? What are some obstacles you have encountered?

•John repeats the word love 9 times in his letter and 9 times in the Gospel. In John’s community, they were fighting with gnostics who didn’t think Christian behaviour was important. John reinforces the idea that love actually ‘looks like something’. Christian love is to love all others as God has loved us
in Christ. Consider how God has initiated the relationship of love with us. Dying as an expiation (offering) to show us the forgiveness of our sins and the extent of God’s love. Do you initiate love or merely respond to love? Does your love change depending on a response? How does your love-style
witness to Christian love?

• God wants disciples to ‘bear fruit’. Yet fruitfulness requires attachment to the vine/trunk. The fruitfulness of joy and peace and love develops from ‘friendship with’ the Father. Friendships grow and develop in responding to needs and requests. Hence Jesus invites us to ask so the Father can give and be glorified. Would you describe your relationship with God as a ‘friend’? What is your attitude toward intercessory prayer? Ask or text your friends what they need and pray specifically for them. Don’t be afraid to ask God for signs so that God may receive ‘glory’. He gives plenty in the Acts of the Apostles!

• When asked to describe the love to which believers are called, St Augustine replied: “It has the feet to
hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the signs and sorrow of others. That is what love looks like.”

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

web: www.livingtheword.org.nz e-mail: contact@livingtheword.org.nz. Livingtheword weekly resources were created by Fr Frank Bird sm, and are distributed by Marist Laity NZ, www.maristlaitynz.org based in the Diocese of Auckland, NZ.

 

Discussion Guide,Bear Much Fruit, 5th Sunday Easter

Acts 9:26-31, 1John 3:18-24, Gospel John 15:1-8

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Reflection Questions

• God is a God of surprises but the disciples were afraid of Saul. They could not imagine the greatest source of persecution could ʻturn-aroundʼ. The situation required someone courageous like Barnabas. He had the nickname ʻson of encouragementʼ. He had witnessed Saul in Damascus and stepped up to being a mentor. A link. Introduced Paul to the Apostles. Imagine the loss for the Church if Barnabas hadnʼt ʻtaken charge of himʼ? Who is on the ʻoutsideʼ of your group, community, workplace whom you could include?

• Barnabas and Paul show us the cost of the committed christian life. They are ʻradicalsʼ. They go a bit further. Without people like Barnabas and Paul the Church is stagnant. Paulʼs first preaching experiences to the Hellenists (Greeks) in Damascus and Jerusalem ended with attempts to ʻkill himʼ. And yet both Paul and Barnabas did not stop. Have you met resistance in preaching the message of life and peace of Jesus? Do you have a safe place like Paulʼs home in Tarsus to retreat to when necessary?

• LOVE is lived. It looks like something. Too easily love can stay in ʻword or speechʼ and not make it to ʻdeed and truthʼ. What love action could you commit to this week that you have struggled with for a while? What words or promises have you made but you have failed to back up with action?

• The image of the Gospel this Sunday is of life flowing through the vine into the branches. ʻRemain in meʼ repeats itself 6 times! Remain in me is different from remain close to me or read my book. How could you go 1 step further in praying with scripture, celebrating the sacraments, living christian community?

• The intimacy of the ʻvineʼ image for Johnʼs gospel is a description of the church and the individual disciple. In baptism we were truly joined to Jesusʼ mystical body the Church. In the eucharistic union of our lives with the body and blood of Jesus in ʻholy communionʼ we are called to bear the ʻfruitʼ of replicating the life of Jesus in the world. Pray with the idea of being ʻfruitfulʼ and bringing ʻgloryʼ to the
Father. What do you begin to think about?

• Jesus shares that the experience of praying with his Word is like being ʻprunedʼ. Have you experienced the scriptures ʻcuttingʼ and bringing you pain? Yet also directing you to what is life-giving? Talk to God about that.

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

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?