Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chriostai Study Notes for the Thirtieth Sunday of Kingdom Time

First Reading — Jeremiah 31:7-9

7 For thus says the Lord: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘The Lord has saved his people, the remnant of Israel.’ 8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her who is in travail, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.

  1. How do you feel these Israelites should respond to God?

  1. What can we learn from this passage?

  2. This reading is about God’s promise to console and deliver his people. They were a remnant in the land of the north, blind and lame, and they departed in tears. Pope Francis said new policies and new forms of social consensus are needed to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices. What does/can your parish or office or family do to fight the poverty?
How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty.
      4. Is there anyone in your life who just needs the road “leveled out” a little? If you help, how is this good for you as well as that person? Does self-giving help bring about the reign of God?

Second Reading — Hebrews 5:1-6

1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”; 6 as he says also in another place, “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

  1. Why do you think God has such intense concern for the poor and needy of the world?

  1. How does this passage in Hebrews describe a priest’s primary role?

  2. “He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness.” How would the experience of weakness help someone minister to others? Do you think Jesus’ human experience and suffering draws people to him? Why?

  3.  Baptism makes all of us ministers of the reign of God. Think about Moses, Peter, Paul, St. Augustine, St. Damien, St. Thomas Aquinas and others. Discuss how weaknesses can help make good ministers.

Gospel Reading — Mark 10:46-52

46 And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

  1. Besides physical blindness what signs of blindness do you see in society?

  1. How do you respond to other’s blindness?

  1. What steps would you recommend for assessing the degree of one’s own blindness?

  1. How can we cultivate our faith so that our petitions to Jesus are faith based?

  2. The disciples were trying to shut up Bartimaeus. But he kept calling out to Jesus anyway. What do you do when others tell you to keep quiet? In the history of the Church can you think of great scientists and theologians who were silenced?

  3. “Master, I want to see.” What is it that you want to “see” that will change your life as radically as Bartimaeus changed his? Do you recognize Christ in our midst today as Bartimaeus did? How open are you to the working of the Spirit in your life?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 29th Sunday of Kingdom Time

First Reading — Isaiah 53:10-11

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; 11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.

  1. How many aspects of salvation can you discover in this passage?

  1. Which aspect of salvation is most meaningful to you?

  2. Do you suffer with the loved one, who is suffering? Would you take the person’s place if you could? Does God act in this manner in the suffering of all human beings?

  3. “Do this in memory of me.” Is this an invitation to join Jesus’ suffering and participate in his redemption of the world? Can God use your actions or your suffering to accomplish God’s work in the world today?

Second Reading — Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  1. How should an understanding of Jesus intercession for us affect our lives?

  1. What does the writer of Hebrews mean by “hold fast our confession”?

  2. Christ is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” the Second Reading says. Does he completely understand your situation no matter how dense it is? Are you able to understand other people’s weaknesses? Jesus “was tested in every way.” Do you ever remember this when you are being tested and are in need of grace?

  3. “ … Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God … ” Since Jesus was an authentic human being, do you think he carries with him every member of the human race to the throne of God?

Gospel Reading — Mark 10:35-45

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  1. How would you respond if Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

  1. Why do you think the disciples were indignant? What was the root of their response?

  1. How did Jesus demonstrate being servant and “slave of all”?

  1. Redefine in light of Jesus’ discourse, what it means to “serve.”

  2. Jesus told the disciples that the way to rank first is by serving others. What does unselfish service look like in your parish, work, or home? On a larger scale could it change the world? How?
    The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

    Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it.”

  3. “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant …” In this quote from his U. N. address below, where does Pope Francis say the full meaning of individual and collective life is found? Why does Jesus attribute so much importance to the emptying of oneself?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Kingdom Time.

Amos 5: 6-7, 10-15 

6 Seek the LORD and live, Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, And devour it, With no one to quench it in Bethel- 7 You who turn justice to wormwood, And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!" 10 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly. 11 Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them. 12 For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time. 14 Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the LORD God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. 15 Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.  

1. What has Israel done to deserve the Lord's judgment (5:7, 10, 11, 12)?

2. The Lord pleads with Israel in verses 4, 6, 14 and 15. In this context, what would it mean for Israel to seek the Lord?

3.  In their complacency and security, Israel failed to grieve over the ruin of their nation (5:6). What should grieve you today about your personal life?  What grieves you about your church and your nation? Take time to pray about those things that cause you to grieve. Ask the Lord to help you seek his will in these areas.

Second Reading — Hebrews 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

  1. What does “the Word of God is living and active” mean to you?

  1. Give an example of how God’s Word discerns our thought and intentions.
  2. This reading says that “the word of God … is able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” How do you feel about God knowing you better than you know yourself? Do you trust God with such personal things? And would you like to know yourself better?
  3. Do motives and attitudes color your decision-making? Are your motives and attitudes in good order, or could they use a re-alignment?

Gospel Reading — Mark 10:17-30

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” 21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

  1. Where do you see yourself in this story?
  1. How would you respond if Jesus issued the same invitation to you?
  1. What are some warning signals that would warn us that we are in danger of trusting in money?
  1. What motivations do you see for sacrificial living?
  2. Think of people you know who spend their time giving. What are they like? Do they receive the hundredfold Jesus promised to those who follow him? What happens to you when you give things up
  3. Are possessions themselves the difficulty, or is clinging to them? Or is it the inner drive to own and accumulate that is the problem? Can the unbridled desire to possess be a stumbling block to world peace or ecological sustainability? How?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 27th Sunday of Kingdom Time

First Reading — Genesis 2:18-24

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh..

  1. How does the Genesis passage help to define loneliness?
  1. What does “leaving” one’s parents and “cleaving” to one’s wife mean to you?

3 . In The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupèry has the fox say that “ … you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” God let Adam, one of us, give each creature its name, which is, in a way, like a taming process. Do we feel responsible for the planet and all the life on it? Do you see any areas in our environment where we are not acting responsibly? Discuss what you can do in your home or place of work to make changes for the better.

4. Do you think the culture from which this story comes values women the same as men? Why or why not? What would you say to a person who thinks the superiority of men over women is divinely revealed in this text? What will you do if the women and men in your work place are not treated as equals?

Second Reading — Hebrews 2:9-11

9 But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, …

  1. What can we learn about dealing with our mate’s imperfections from Jesus’ example?

2. What ideas do you get when you tie the first line of the First Reading, “The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’” with the first line from the Second Reading, “He ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels.’” (For the little while he was with us.)

3. Jesus consecrated himself to his Father and us along with him. He called us sisters and brothers. How does this influence our reverence toward our brothers and sisters? Do you treat the bag lady with the same respect that you treat the CEO?

Gospel Reading — Mark 10:2-16

2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

  1. What did Jesus mean when saying that divorce was allowed by Moses because of their hardness of heart?

  1. What are the positive reasons why people should avoid divorce?

  1. Describe what you feel should be the Christian’s attitude toward divorce. Toward marriage.

  1. How does the quality of our marriage either open the door for our children to come to Jesus, or hinder their coming to Him?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 26th Sunday of Kingdom Time

First Reading — Numbers 11:25-29

25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did so no more.
26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested upon them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, forbid them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

1. Joshua wanted Moses to stop Eldad and Medad's prophesying because they didn't follow the rules. Can you relate to this kind of problem? Is Moses' response in this reading related to Jesus' response in the Gospel? How?

2. Does the Spirit work in religions other than your own? Ever? Always? What might the Spirit be doing in them? Do gifts in other peoples help you to see what God might be doing through them? If the origin of a gift is not clearly from the Spirit, would “By their fruits you shall know them” be a good test?

3. Contrast the attitudes of Joshua and Moses

Second Reading — James 5:1-6

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.

1. Wages withheld from the harvesters cry aloud to the Lord of hosts, James says. How does this message apply today to arguments for a federal minimum wage hike or buying Fair Trade coffee? Or beefing up laws that would end human trafficking?

2. James says that the rich in this reading got their wealth at the expense of the poor. How would the harvesters in the reading feel this? How would humane treatment from the rich relate to a living wage? To profound respect?
  1. How should we relate to the spiritual success of other Christians?

  1. What is the root cause of jealousy, selfishness and greed?

Gospel Reading — Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. …
45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. … 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

1. What was Jesus’ response to the idea that no one outside the inner circle was to minister in his name? Can anyone lay exclusive claim to the reign of God as Jesus revealed it?

2. The good that every person does should be accepted, Pope Francis says below. How far does he go in accepting good works from others?
“If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do well.” The disciples were a little intolerant, closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” This was wrong. ... Jesus broadens the horizon, reminding us that the Lord created us in His image and likeness and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. The objection is swift: “But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.” Yes, he can. ... The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.
  1. Why were the disciples opposed to the man who was casting out demons?

  1. Compare the disciples’ attitude toward this other person who was casting out demons, with the Pharisees attitude toward Jesus’ casting out demons.

  1. What does Jesus teach regarding our attitude toward others who serve him?

Chriostai Notes 25th Sunday of Kingdom Time

Proverbs 2: 1-9

 2 making
 3 indeed, 
 4 if
 5 then 
 God—6 for
 7 He
 8 so 
9 Then
justice and 

1. The game show, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" draws a large audience. Would a show called, "Who wants to be wise?" or "Who wants to be godly?" be as popular? Why or why not?

2. Is it enough to listen to and heed wise instruction? Why or why not? If there is more, what more is there?

3. How does this passage attempt to instill a desire to learn wisdom? In what way can you try to instill desire in yourself? In someone else?

4. How does the "fear of Yahweh" affect how you pursue wisdom?

5. What does the image of the "path" communicate to you? Do you usually think of your decisions in terms of choosing a path? Why? or why not?

6. What is the advantage of thinking of your decisions as choosing a "path?"

James 3:16-4:3
16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
4:1 What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? 2 You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

1. Where does ambition for power and greatness lead? What does it do to a country? to a business? to a Church? Is there a way to cultivate peace?

2. St. James asks, “… where do the conflicts among you come from?” In today’s Gospel the disciples had been arguing and “discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” Do you think their discussion could have ended in anything but conflict? Why?
  1. What characteristics of wisdom would you most like to see increased in your life?

  1. Why are our prayers sometimes not answered as we would like?

Gospel Reading — Mark 9:30-37
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.
35 And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

1. Jesus tells the disciples that in order to rank first they should be the servants of all. Who would you serve if you could? Anyone close to you? Where do you think your parish ranks in taking care of people in need? Where would you rank yourself?

2. According to Pope Francis, how does the person benefit by receiving a child in Jesus’ name? What does he say it does for the child or the one received?
We see how faith brings light and hope in situations of grave hardship; we observe how faith is rekindled in hearts touched by the Spirit of Jesus who said, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.’ ” …

Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God, who is the Supreme Good. It helps us to think like him, to see our lives in the light of his plan of love for each one of us, and enables us to delight in life’s daily joys, helping us in difficulties and in trials.
  1. Why would the disciples be ashamed or afraid to tell Jesus what they were discussing?

  1. In light of this passage complete the following statement, “Greatness is …

  1. What point about greatness is Jesus making with the child?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 24th Sunday of Kingdom Time

Questions From Last Week:

-  Should we expect peace, rest and an entrance into the promised land, both spiritually and physically?

- In a society where our beliefs are interpreted as hate, how we can be seen as merciful more than judgmental?

- How will we respond to getting muddy like the OT prophets?

- Like God wanted the Israelites to recognize that He should be their focus, we should see Him as our place of rest.

- How can God's sacred areas and be a place of rest for the sick, weary and needy, not of condemnation?

First Reading — Isaiah 50:5-9

5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. 6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7 For the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

1. The words of this reading are those of the famous “Suffering Servant,” in the writings of Isaiah centuries before Christ. How do you think God upheld the rights of this Suffering Servant? Of Jesus?

2. Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself.” How does this relate to the words we find in today’s First Reading, “I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame”?

3. In what way does Isaiah’s prophesy inspire you?

4. How was God’s help manifested to Isaiah?

Second Reading — James 2:14-18

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith

1. The letter of James tells us to serve our neighbor. Do you ever respond to such call? If so, how? With your entire life?  In some of your actions? With a few words?

2. Why does Pope Francis say we must have a faith that “engages us”?
[T]he Gospels also contain stories of “people who don't know doctrine but have a lot of faith,” such as the Samaritan woman at the well who opened her heart to the Lord because she “met not abstract truth,” but the person of Jesus Christ.
This encounter in faith always leads a Christian to move outward toward others.

Faith always leads to witness. Faith is a meeting with Jesus Christ, with God, and it is born from that and leads you to witness.
Without such fruit, faith is lifeless. A faith without works, a faith that doesn't engage you, that doesn't lead you to witness, isn't faith. It is words, and nothing more than words.

3. What is the relationship between faith and works?

Gospel Reading — Mark 8:27-35

27 And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

1. Do you want people you love to know you well? Do you think Christ wants you to know him well and personally? He asks the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” What if he asked that question of you? Do you answer it differently at different times in your life?

2. “The Son of Man must suffer greatly … ” In these words Jesus is telling the apostles what discipleship is all about. How does Peter handle this message? How do you? Can “losing your life” be a means to gaining life? Can you desire to follow him in such a way?
3. What is encompassed in the statement, “You are the Christ”?
4. Why did Jesus say that Peter’s rebuke represented the side of men rather than the side of God

5. When has it cost you to follow Christ?

6. How do you respond to Jesus’ challenge in verses 34-35?

Chriostai Notes for the 23rd Sunday of Kingdom Time

First Reading — Isaiah 35:4-7

4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

1. Will healing abound, and will God also transform all nature? What lines in the reading indicate this? It is an ancient promise, but of a new age. Is this age the coming of Christ? How can you prepare?

2. Isaiah writes about the hope of deliverance from exile. Do you need to be liberated from suffering sometimes? Does this message of hope speak to you?

3. How do you respond to Isaiah’s prophesy?

Second Reading — James 2:1-5

1 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?

1. Do you give the same respect to people who have money and prestige as you do those who do not? “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith?”

2. The disabled receive the blessings in the First Reading and the poor are chosen heirs in the Second. How do these readings make you feel about the poverty in your life?

3. Define partiality.

4. What is your conviction regarding partiality when you are the one getting the special treatment?

Gospel Reading — Mark 7:31-37

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

1. In the Gospel the people relate Jesus’ curing the deaf man to the prophet’s promise in the First Reading, (then will the ears of the deaf be cleared … tongue of the mute will sing … ) What does this miracle of the deaf man say to you about when the reign of God started?

2. How do Pope Francis' two tweets below relate to this Gospel? Discuss possible actions they might inspire.
Lord, teach us to step outside ourselves. Teach us to go out into the streets and manifest your love.
True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty, so as to help those in need.

3. How does this passage correspond with Isaiah’s prediction in the first reading?

4. How have you or someone you know experienced a unique healing touch from Jesus?
5. What areas of hearing and speaking would you like the Lord to touch and heal in your life?
6. How do you feel about the presence or absence of the miraculous in your life?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 16th Sunday of Kingdom Time

First Reading — Jeremiah 23:1-6

1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the LORD. 5 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ ”

1. In this reading the Lord speaks to the bad shepherds, i.e., leaders of his people. What are the priorities or values of a shepherd whose sheep tremble and fear? What are the priorities and values of “The Lord our justice?”

2. Imagine that you are a caretaker of people like a shepherd is for sheep. What can you do about the fear people experience all over the world due to injustice? Are you able to do anything to remedy any of the injustices? Is there anything you can do about unfair situations in your own living area?

3. Contrast the results of the two kinds of shepherds

Second Reading - Ephesians 2:13-18 13 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 

1. Paul, a Jew preaching to Gentiles, was now a Christian preaching to Jews. There were a lot of barriers or dividing walls as Paul calls them. Discuss dividing walls present today among peoples of different beliefs, races or cultures.

2. Which dividing walls seem most impenetrable to you? Using this reading as a guide, what might people do who would like to resolve their differences or in other words break down walls that divide them? For instance, on June 17th a white man in Charleston, SC, killed nine black people in a Bible study group. The families of the victims forgave the killer. Is this the kind of action that will break down a dividing wall?

2. How did God bring about reconciliation between the Gentiles and Jews? 

3. Define reconciliation from this passage.

Gospel Reading — Mark 6:30-34 

30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 

1. Pope Francis addressed the priests of Rome on the topic of mercy by calling to mind the scene in which Jesus is moved with pity for the vast crowd for they were tired and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. How does his statement illustrate the line from the Gospel?   

2. Pope Francis said that the Gospel “must be proclaimed in poverty,” and that Jesus wanted the disciples to have a “no frills attached” attitude—“no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” How does this kind of detachment help disciples heal the “wounded and oppressed” mentioned below?

[Many] are wounded by material problems, by scandals, even in the Church, [and] the illusions of the world. We priests must be there, close to these people. …
Mercy means, above all, taking care of wounds. When a person is injured, this is the immediate help they need, not analysis; the special care can follow, but first we need to tend to the open wounds. Pastoral suffering [is] suffering with the people, like a father and a mother suffer for their children, and I would say also with anxiety.

4. How do you respond when you are thrown into a hectic situation? 

5. Do you think people appreciate being shepherded? Why, or why not? 

6. Explain Jesus’ comment that they were “like sheep without a shepherd.” 

7. What have you discovered personally about Jesus’ care?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the Fifteenth Sunday of Kingdom Time

Questions from last week:

What does it mean to be under authority?

First Reading — Amos 7:12-15 

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” 

1. Explain the difference between being a prophet and being a witness. 

2. How do you feel about rejection? Can you think of any prophet who didn’t experience rejection? They chased Amos out of Bethel. What do you do when you think something needs to be done that makes everyone uncomfortable? What are some situations today that need prophets? Are you willing to take on the job?

3. Amos points out to Amaziah that he was a shepherd and it wasn’t his idea to be a prophet anyway. Are education, occupation, eloquence, talent or intelligence prerequisites for a prophet? Then what is necessary? If you were called to be a prophet, would you be as reluctant as Amos was?

Second Reading — Ephesians 1:3-14 

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 5 He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 which he lavished upon us. 9 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, 12we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

1. Can you accept St. Paul’s statement that you have been in the mind of God from all eternity before the creation of the world? What is your response?

2. “In him you also … were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit …” Think of ways the Holy Spirit is active in your life, guiding, fixing, enlightening, giving courage. Has God lavished his grace on you, through the Holy Spirit, this year? This week? Today?

3. In the Second Reading mark the things that have already been done for us regarding salvation. What new aspect of salvation have you discovered? 

4. What is man’s responsibility in salvation according to this passage? 

5. What are the purposes of salvation revealed here?

Gospel Reading — Mark 6:7-13 

7 And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them 

1. “Evangelizing” means to bring the Good News to all humanity, and through its influence to make humanity new, transform it from within. How can you transform humanity around you in your daily life?   

2. Pope Francis said that the Gospel “must be proclaimed in poverty,” and that Jesus wanted the disciples to have a “no frills attached” attitude—“no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” How does this kind of detachment help disciples heal the “wounded and oppressed” mentioned below?

This is the mission of the Church: the Church that heals, that cares [for people]. I sometimes describe the Church as a field hospital. True, there are many wounded, how many wounded! How many people who need their wounds to be healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounded hearts, to open doors, to free [people], to say that God is good, God forgives all, that God is our Father, God is tender, that God is always waiting for us.
Mass at Santa Marta, May 2, 2015

3. What principles for sharing the Good News do you discover from this passage? 

4. What are some advantages of two people partnering in the process of sharing the Good News? 

5. Why do you think that Jesus didn’t send more “stuff” with them? How is that applicable to us?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 14th Sunday of Kingdom Time

Questions from Last Week:

What are exercises that we can do to help us be desperate for God, willing to submit us to Him like we saw from Jairus and the woman with the flow of blood.

Spiritual Disciplines (Exercises) are designed to bring us to repentance and healthy spiritual life:

  • Prayer
    • The Sacrament of Sacred Confession
    • Saying (reciting) prayers
      • The Jesus Prayer
      • Kyrie Eleison
      • Daily Offices of Prayer
      • Canons
      • Hymns
    • Prayers of the Heart
      • Free Thought Prayer
      • Wordless Prayer (Listening)
    • Reading/Listening
      • The Bible
      • Spiritual writings
      • Spiritual meditation

  • Fasting (Voluntarily limiting and focusing ourselves and our actions, not an exercise of self-will)
    • Food
    • Needless Speaking
    • Coarse Jesting
    • Time-Wasting
    • Certain Entertainments
    • Limiting Comfort in garments or positions

  • Almsgiving
    • Tithing
    • Charitable Giving
    • Hospitality
    • Volunteering
    • Tutoring
    • Encouraging
    • Cooking
    • Cleaning
This is of course an incomplete list.  For a more thorough explanation read this:

Also, Listen to this AMAZING SERMON SERIES by Father Anthony Messeh:

really, any of his sermon series are amazing. Try the Body Shop. It's SOO goooood.

First Reading — Ezekiel 2:2-5 

2 And when he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels, who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The people also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them; and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there has been a prophet among them. 

1. Different temperaments would respond to this assignment in different ways. How would you have responded? 

2. What provision did God make for Ezekiel to fulfill this assignment? 

3. Are there prophets in your life? Are you sometimes stubborn and closed about listening to their messages? Why? Why would you reject the person or the message?

4. Do you think the ordinary prophet has great success or runs into opposition most of the time? Have you and/or your ideas ever been rejected when you tried to change something for the better? How do you handle rejection?

Second Reading — 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7 and to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

1. If you went out shopping for weaknesses or crosses to bear would you pick the ones you already have or would you pick different ones? Why? Do you find God in your weakness? Can it be a constant source of grace?

2. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Do you rely on these words? How often do you bring them out and use them? 

3. How have you seen God glorified through someone’s problems and difficulties? 

4. What attitude or belief is at the heart of Paul’s contentment?

Gospel Reading — Mark 6:1-6 

1 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. 

1. Can you think of theologians, saints, or scientists who were rejected for their ideas? Do you know any prophets today? Where can you find them? What besides immigration and care for the environment might they be trying to change for the better? For what cause could you be a prophet?

2. Do you agree with Pope Francis' description of prophets below: that they are people who keep the promise of God alive, see the suffering of their people, and bring us the strength to look ahead?
A prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future. …

In the Gospel, for example, the priests ask Jesus: “With what authority do you do these things? We are the masters of the Temple!” They didn't understand the prophecy … they had forgotten the promise. They didn't know how to read the spirit of the times, they didn't listen to the words of God, they had only their authority. …

Lord, let us not lack prophets amongst your people! All those who are baptized are prophets: let us not forget God's promise, let us not tire of moving forward.
Mass at Casa Santa Marta, December 16, 2015

5. How do you view the miracles and power of Christ? 

6. Why do you think people take offense at Jesus’ words and works? 

7. Define skepticism and unbelief. 

8. How can we avoid responding to Jesus’ words and works with skepticism and unbelief?