A few thoughts and questions around the Sunday Readings. May be useful for small group work or reflection time. The most recent Sunday we have prepared appears at the top of the list:

August 13th (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Whenever somebody is great or brilliant, people often say – jokingly – that they ‘walk on water.’ Lionel Messi, for instance! People don’t mean it literally. After all, nobody can really walk on water. Except for Jesus of course, who did. And Peter too. This week’s Gospel tells that story. Jesus comes towards the disciples who are on a boat. He’s walking on the water. Naturally. But that’s not really the focus of the story. We get that Jesus can do that. What’s remarkable is that Peter asks Jesus if he can join him on the water, and Jesus agrees. With Jesus’ help, pretty son Peter is walking on the water too! The point is simple: with Jesus in our lives, we can do things we never thought possible before. Maybe not walking on water, but there are probably things you can think of in your own lives that you wish you could do!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

IDEA: There is a great song called ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong based on this story. Why not have a listen as a group. There is a good version on Youtube here.

IDEA:  Why not talk about the things Jesus can give us the strength to do? Is there anything you want to pray to be given the strength for?

August 6th (The Transfiguration of the Lord) – Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. One of the most amazing things that happened during Jesus’ time on earth – yet one of the more confusing too. When you read the story of the transfiguration it’s a little confusing. There’s a lot of strange stuff happening, but here’s the key: Jesus knows that there is some tough stuff coming up (the cross isn’t far away by this point) and he wants to remind his disciples that he is the real thing. What awaits them is the glory of God, and it’s worth the slog. Jesus starts glowing with brilliant light and some key figures from the Old Testament appear beside him. The message is clear. Jesus is divine. He is also a legitimate part of the story of Israel’s history, and he is one with Israel’s God. In case there was any doubt!

No ‘Beyond Words’ Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: If Jesus appeared to you, what would you expect from him? What would you talk about?

IDEA:  Why not talk about anything tough that might be coming up in your own lives? How might God get you through it?

July 30th (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is trying to make a very simple, and very nice, point – the Kingdom of God is an amazing thing. Being a follower of Christ is an amazing thing. after all, why wouldn’t it be? We are connecting ourselves to the one who made us and the one who alone can satisfy us and bring us true joy! Jesus compares the Kingdom to precious things: treasure in a field, fine pearls, a huge haul of fish – all things the people listening would instantly have recognised as being pretty awesome. Jesus is making a simple point: We must never lose sight of how amazing it is to be a Christian!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: If Jesus were telling this parable today, what sort of things would he compare the Kingdom of Heaven to?

THOUGHT: Are we grateful enough for what we have in Christ? If not, we should pray for greater gratitde and a geater awareness of what we have.

July 23rd (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Once again this week, the Gospel goes in the direction of farming analogies. One difficulty for farmers has always been making sure there’s nothing growing near, or among, their crops. At least nothing that messes with those crops. A lot of the people Jesus was talking to would have been well aware of that difficulty, and so Jesus uses it to make a point about people – just as there are good crops surrounded by weeds, so there are good and bad people. And just as the farmer sorts it all out when harvest time comes, so God will sort us out at the end of time. It’s quite a tough message. Jesus is trying to remind us that what we do matters. We can choose to follow him, or we can choose to reject him. The choice is ours. The consequences will be too!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What are the hallmarks of those who are properly following Christ? How do they look different from the rest of the world?

IDEA:  Why not make a list of things we can do to become better disciples?

July 16th (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel reading is the Parable of the Sower. A well-known reading. There is a short version and a long version – the longer version explains the parable, which saves me the job! The point about the parable is that – once again – being a Christian is tough. There are all sort of things trying to stamp out our faith, just as there are all sorts of things that can stop seeds from growing. We need to stay strong, and we need to remember the things we have talked about the last few weeks – Jesus is with us, and he gives us the strength we need.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What sort of ‘thorns’ and ‘rocky ground’ are there today that try to stamp out our faith?

IDEA:  Why not read through the reading and talk about it?

July 9th (14th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – After the quite challenging, intense Gospel readings of the last few weeks, this week’s reading is a lot more chilled out! First, Jesus talks about the fact that we have to be ‘little children’ when we approach him. He rounds off by giving a bit of hope to those who are feeling a bit stressed: “ Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Most Christians would say that Jesus’ burden isn’t that light. As we saw last week, being a Christian is very challenging, but Jesus is trying to make a different point here. He’s reminding us that he will give us the strength we need to do the things he calls us to do.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What does it mean to come to Jesus like ‘little children?’ Children are trusting. They don’t over-think things. They don’t try to intellectualise everything. They just trust and love.

IDEA:  Why not read through the Gospel reading as a group and have a chat about it. It’s a very short passage.

July 2nd (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is another tough one. In fact, at first glance, it looks very tough indeed. Jesus says this: “‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus isn’t really asking us to turn away from our loved ones, and he’s not saying that it’s bad to enjoy life. The problem is though, that in explaining this sort of reading there is a temptation to go too far the other way and to convince ourselves that what Jesus is really saying is that we just need to be “a good person, deep down.” Jesus is talking about times when our relationships with others and the things in our lives come into conflict with him. Usually, they don’t, but sometimes they will. And when they do, we need to choose Jesus, no matter how tough it is.

No Beyond Words Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: Jesus never told us that following him would be easy, did he? A lot of people reinvent Jesus as a nice guy who just went around giving hugs. There’s no doubt that Jesus is loving, warm, tender, and friendly. All the things we want him to be. But he’s also challenging. If he wasn’t, why did the people in his day have him killed. As somebody once said, “you don’t get put to death for giving too many hugs!”

IDEA:  Why not talk about situations you’ve all been in that have challenged your faith? How did you respond? Would you do it differently if you were in the same situation again?

June 25th (12th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – One thing Bishop Richard has talked a lot about since coming to the Diocese is the importance of mission. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks to his disciples about their mission to proclaim his message “from the housetops”. He also warns them that it’s going to be tough. This isn’t a message everyone is going to like, and they’re going to get some pushback. When things get tough though, he tells them that there’s no need to be afraid. “Every hair on your head has been counted.” In other words, God’s got this!

No Beyond Words Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: As Christians we are called to stand up for the faith. We are asked to bring Jesus to others, and that’s not just an optional extra. It’s a key part of being Christians. It won’t always be easy, but God is with us!

IDEA:  Why not have a chat about situations where we are called to act decisively as Christians in the world?

June 11th (The Most Holy Trinity) – Trinity Sunday is that day in the Church where priests, youth minister, teachers and so many others all get together and ask the time-honoured question: “So how DO you explain the Trinity properly?” It’s so easy in trying to explain it to fall into some sort of heresy. Indeed, there was a book written a few years ago to help people in this situation. It was called: The Trinity: How not to be a Heretic! The good news – or bad news, maybe – is that nobody can fully explain the Trinity because it is not something that we fully understand. In fact, the church teaches that even in Heaven we won’t fully understand the Trinity, because to fully know God is beyond our grasp. Only God fully knows God. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give a few pointers. We believe that there is one God in three persons. Each person is distinct, yet there is only one God. People usually fall down when they try to find an analogy to explain this. You’ve probably heard people say that “The Trinity is like a three-leaf clover” or “It’s like a man who is a husband, a father, and a boss.” These are all wrong for various reasons. The husband/ daddy/ boss idea falls into the heresy of ‘modalism’, the belief that God wears different masks in different situations. And the three-leaf clover thing falls into the trap of ‘partialism’ – the idea that each of the persons are simply a small part of God. In fact, each person of the Trinity is fully God. Tricky, isn’t it? As I say, if you’re scratching your head right now, don’t worry. you’re meant to be. We struggle to expand on and explain that statement that there is one God in three distinct persons but in reality it’s about as close as we can get!!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: We don’t have to fully understand God to know that He loves us, that he is active in our world, and that he is guiding us. So, don’t get too distressed that you don’t understand the Trinity!

IDEA:  Why not do something to celebrate. Today is a great feast day, after all?

June 4th (Pentecost Sunday) – Have you ever been given a present, maybe at Christmas or on your birthday, only to be quickly annoyed to realise that it needs batteries and that it hasn’t come with any? There used to be a phrase on the packaging saying “Batteries Not Included” so that people didn’t make that mistake! The point is that some things need power. Without power, they’re pretty useless. It’s the same when you have a power cut at home. All of a sudden, your TV, your microwave, your internet router, and a whole load of other things are just things! Objects that take up space and have no real purpose. The Church is the same. It needs power. Without supernatural power, it is just another human organisation, no different from the scouts, from a TV channel, or a political party. The Church gets its power from God. Specifically, from the Holy Spirit. And that’s why we often pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into the things that we are doing so that more than just human! Today, we celebrate Pentecost. The Holy Spirit didn’t start its work at Pentecost. As part of the Trinity, the Spirit had always been there, and always active. But at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit became available to the entire Church in a new way. That’s why Pentecost is often called the birth of the Church – because the Church received divine power that day so that it could start to do the things that it’s there for.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: The Holy Spirit is available to each and every one of us. We just have to pray for it!

IDEA:  Why not do some sort of prayer or reflection involving the Holy Spirit? ask the Spirit to be part of your group and to work in the lives of you all!

May 28th (The Ascension of the Lord) – Tradition has it that forty days after the resurrection, Jesus ascended up to Heaven. It probably wasn’t forty days. Numbers in the bible are very vague and non-specific. But we do know that Jesus rose again and that not long afterwards, he returned to Heaven. With the Ascension, Jesus’ time on earth came to an end. He is still alive and still with us, but after that point he would be with his Church in a very different way. The relationship would change. The Ascension marks a sort of a handover. Jesus had spent three years building up and teaching his disciples and now he was leaving and handing a lot of the work over to them. As we will see next week, he sent the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us, and he too is still with us, but a lot of what we might call the on-the-ground work is now down to us.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How did Jesus’ disciples feel when they saw him disappear? He was leaving them for the second time in quick succession without much explanation?

IDEA:  Why not think about the things that the Church is responsible for, and what part we play in them?

May 21st (6th Sunday of Easter) – First of all, please note that there are a few different options for readings this Sunday. We’ve gone with the assumption that the Gospel will be John 17:1-11… So, this Gospel reading is a bit rambling and a bit hard to understand. Or at least, it come across that way! It’s about life. It’s about the fact that Jesus gives God to us and by knowing Jesus and the Father, we have life. Simple enough in the end, hopefully. The reading is taken from John’s (very long) account of the Last Supper. Jesus is about to be arrested and put to death and he starts by asking God to “glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you; and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him, let hi give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.” By dying for us, Jesus gave us life. By rising again, he defeated death. We’ve been celebrating these things over the last few months, but today’s Gospel reminds us of something central to it all: God is life. God created us and gave us our lives. Only by knowing God and exploring his purpose for our lives, do they really start to catch fire! So, as Easter starts to wind up, this Gospel reading is challenging us to think about how these things we have celebrated have changed our lives?

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: We were created by a God who loves us. We were each created with a special vocation. We were redeemed in Christ, and we are ministered to by his Church to bring us healing, teaching and so much more, throughout our lives. Is that a fact we just accept passively and then more on? Or does it really change us?

IDEA:  Why not have a chat about all the things we have celebrated since the start of Advent that have got us to this point. What do they all mean to us?

May 14th (5th Sunday of Easter) – This week’s Gospel is similar to the one we heard last week in a lot of ways. We’re sticking with John’s Gospel, and we’re hearing Jesus describe himself once again and the way in which he looks out for us. The Gospel reading talks about not worrying and about not letting our hearts be troubled. Among other things, Jesus tells us that “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.” Another well-known phrase from the Gospels. we live in a world that’s pretty confusing. Everyone wants to influence us and persuade us to follow them (especially during election campaigns!) and it’s not always clear which way is right and which is wrong. Jesus makes it simple. He isn’t “a way”, or “a truth” that we can choose from among others. He is the way, the truth, the life!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What are the advantages to following a God who claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life”? What problems does it solve and what sort of things does it help us with?

IDEA:  Why not talk about how many different things there are claiming to be ‘a way’ for people? Why do they all fail in the end?

May 7th (4th Sunday of Easter) – This week’s Gospel changes slightly from what we’ve had the past few Sundays. It goes back to some of Jesus teaching from before his crucifixion, and it does so to make an important point. In the reading, Jesus refers to himself as a shepherd and to his disciples (us) as his sheep. It’s a common image. He talks about how other people want to do the sheep harm, in contrast to the fact that he is there to protect and look out for us. The reading ends with a beautiful phrase that sums it all up perfectly: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!” (John 10:10).

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What does it mean to ‘have life t the full’ in Jesus? Why is that an important message for the Church to give us in the Easter Season?

IDEA:  Why not have some sort of celebration as a group?

April 30th (3rd Sunday of Easter) – You’ve probably noticed that the readings are different now that it’s Easter. In the weeks after Easter Sunday, the Gospel readings focus on things that happened straight after the resurrection, and throughout Easter, the first reading at Mass is always from the Acts of the Apostles, rather than from the Old Testament, as it usually is. The Church is trying to remind us ho much energy Jesus’ resurrection generated in the early Church! This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the road to Emmaus, and it’s a story most people know well: Jesus has just risen, but two disciples – among many others – haven’t heard yet! They are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus discussing the fact that Jesus was put to death and trying to make sense of it all. As they did, Jesus himself draws alongside them and starts explaining it all to them. The fact that his death was predicted in the scriptures and that it had to happen to fulfil everything that had gone before. That evening, Jesus stays with them, breaks bread with them and at once they recognise him. Immediately, he vanishes from their sight. That’s what resurrection does. It gives meaning to things that were confused and fractured before. It brings a happy ending to confusing and difficult stories.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Is anything broken in our world at the minute? What about in your own lives? How does the resurrection speak into that?

IDEA:  Why not talk about films with happy endings or real life stories where everything seemed lost, only for it to all be turned around?

April 23rd (2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday) – Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. Traditionally the end of the ‘Octave of Easter’ which begins the Easter Season. For the last generation of so, it has also been Divine Mercy Sunday – a celebration of the love and forgiveness of God, centred around a series of apparitions received by a Polish nun called Sister Faustina. This Sunday, we get the ‘doubting Thomas’ reading – a story you’re probably familiar with. but there’s more happening in the reading than just that. Jesus appears before the disciples and gives them his peace. Then, he makes clear to them that they’ve got a job to do. His death and resurrection have started something, and it’s going to be their job to carry it on. “As te Father sent me,” he says, “so am I sending you.” Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, so is the Church sent by Jesus to carry on what he started – his work of bringing the world back to God, a God of peace, love, power, and mercy. A God of resurrection!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What does mercy mean? What is it all about?

IDEA:  Why not talk about some of the ideas that come across this week? Ideas like Mercy, peace, doubt, being sent..?

April 16th (Easter Sunday) – Depending on when you go to Mass this weekend, there are a few different Gospel reading that you might hear. They all have one thing in common though – that being that Jesus is risen and the story has finally reached its happy ending. If Jesus had never risen from the dead then we wouldn’t know the story of Jesus at all. People who attracted a bit of a following, made a bit of noise and then got killed by the state weren’t that unusual in the ancient world, and their stories didn’t travel much beyond their deaths. The deaths killed the story. For the story to carry on something special has to happen, and that’s why you’ve heard of Jesus. That’s why two thousand years later he has two billion followers, even though his followers had no political power, no money, and no military strength. They were a group of outcasts in a small, unfashionable corner of the roman empire. Groups like that don’t grow into something that large unless something special happens to them. And that special thing is what we celebrate today – the resurrection. Some people challenge this by claiming that Jesus’ resurrection was a ‘spiritual resurrection’ – in other words, that it didn’t really happen but instead was a sort of spirit in people’s hearts. Tom Wright, who is one of the best scripture scholars around at the minute, challenges this idea. He reminds us that the idea of physical, bodily resurrection was so intrinsic to the early Christian comunity that anything else just doesn’t fit. Anyway… Happy Easter.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What do you think the mood was like after Jesus died? How did it change? Bear in mind that, unlike you, the people back then didn’t really know what was coming.

THOUGHT: Believing in the resurrection changes things? What effect do you think it can/ should have on our world today?

IDEA:  Why not have some sort of celebration as a group? Easter is the biggest celebration of the year, after all.

April 9th (Palm Sunday) – Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week. Starting with today, the net eight days are the most important ones of the year. They bring into focus the central mysteries of our faith, and the Church through the major liturgies helps us to reflect on the events that won our salvation. It is often said that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the central point in human history. The whole history of humanity can be divided into two parts: before and after those events – events which we remember and celebrate this coming week. This week, we remember the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden, Jesus arrest, torture and trial, the way of the cross, his crucifixion, his death, finally the empty tomb. Palm Sunday gets us started by taking us through a large chunk of the story. Along with Good Friday, it’s both the longest Gospel reading of the year, and the most important. Palm Sunday starts the week because it marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The whole of his ministry was heading towards this final visit to Jerusalem, when everything would come to a head. Since timings in the bible (and numbers generally) aren’t really that precise, we don’t really know how long before his arrest Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, but we mark it as the start of Holy Week nonetheless. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was greeted as a hero. People waved Palm branches at him (hence the name). How quickly things turned against him.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Jesus knew what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem, but yet he went anyway. Have you ever had to do something that scared the life out of you? Did it give you more of a sense of duty and responsibility?

THOUGHT: Why did the crowds greet Jesus as a hero yet turn against him a short time later? People can be fickle and led by the current mood of society more than they realise. Can you think of an example of where that happens today?

THOUGHT: If we’ve been Catholic for a long time, it’s easy to let things that we know well – like the big liturgies at Christmas, Easter etc – just wash over us. We turn up at Church and think ‘Yep… this is the one where everyone gets their feet washed’ and we just switch off thinking we know it all. So, what are you going to do this year to make sure that Holy Week really hits you in the way that it’s meant to.

April 2nd (5th Sunday of Lent) – This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It’s a foretaste of what’s to come when Jesus beats death once and for all by rising again at Easter. Like the Easter story, it’s a story that reminds us that even when everything seems lost, there is always hope. When we are sad, Jesus can lift us up. When we think we’ve lost something valuable, Jesus can give us more than we ever dreamed of having. One of the things that Jesus says in this week’s Gospel is very telling, and is a great challenge to his followers in every age: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Why was Jesus’ resurrection necessary? Why wasn’t it enough to simply die for us?

THOUGHT: What is death? What does it mean that Jesus has beaten death?

IDEA:  Why not reflect on this Sunday’s psalm as a group? Like the Gospel, it’s a message full of hope.

March 26th (4th Sunday of Lent) – This week’s Gospel starts with a miracle and the describes the trouble that it causes! Jesus heals a blind man and the Pharisees freak out! They refuse to listen, and they refuse to accept that Jesus is really from God. What you have to understand about miracles is that they’re not parlour tricks. They are signs meant to build up the Kingdom. People are meant to see them, understand that God is really behind them, and give their lives to him. The only problem is that some people’s hearts are so hardened, that pretty much nothing will convince them.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Did you know that Jesus is still healing people through his disciples today? Damian Stayne, who is based in our Diocese, has an international ministry which includes praying for healing. Search for him on Youtube for some videos.

IDEA:  Why not read through the second reading as a group and have a chat about it. What does it mean? What is it challenging us to do?

March 19th (3rd Sunday of Lent) – The first Sunday of Lent gave us a call to change our ways. Last week, we were reminded that God loves us. This week, we are given a bit more information about what it looks like when God comes to help us. The first reading shows God helping Moses when things got tough in the desert, the second reading talks about grace once again, and the Gospel is the story of the Woman at the Well. In the Gospel reading, Jesus comes across a woman who is a serious sinner. He challenges her to change her ways and he lets her know that he is there for her. Jesus refers to himself as ‘living water’. He says that ‘the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside, welling up to eternal life.’ This is connected to the idea of grace that we heard St Paul talking about in the Second Reading (and last week too). Grace is God helping us through. It is God giving us inner strength to know that he is with is and to get through the tough stuff. It’s a reminder of who we are, and of who he is!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Why was it so important for God to remind people throughout the bible that he was with them, again and again?

THOUGHT: When do you most need to be reminded that God is with you?

IDEA:  Why not have a chat about what God has done for you all in your lives?

March 12th (2nd Sunday of Lent) – Whenever God challenges us to do something hard, he lets us know that he is with us looking after us. That comes across in today’s readings. Readings which, following the challenging ones last week, remind us that God loves us. Jesus is serious about wanting us to tackle our sins, but he also wants us to know that we are loved and that life with him is basically awesome! The Second Reading reminds us about grace – the free, undeserved help of God – and the Psalm reminds us of God’s love. The Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration. When you read the story of the transfiguration it’s a little confusing. There’s a lot of strange stuff happening, but here’s the key: Jesus knows that there is some tough stuff coming up, and he wants to remind his disciples that he is the real thing. What awaits them is the glory of God, and it’s worth the slog. Something to remember this Lent, when you struggle with your sins and your lack of chocolate!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: In the second reading, Paul talks about bearing hardships for the sake of the Good news. Why did he do that?

THOUGHT: What does it mean to be loved by God?

IDEA:  Why not talk again about what you are doing this Lent, and try to encourage one another?

March 5th (1st Sunday of Lent) – This Sunday’s readings are trying to give us the basics of Lent. A sort of ‘Lent 101.’ The Gospel gives us Matthew’s account of Jesus spending forty days in the desert; the Psalm verse is ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned’; the first reading is the account of ‘the fall’ when man first sinned; and the second reading is about how Sin is forgiven through Jesus. Lent is about preparing ourselves for Easter. Easter is such a great feast, and such a great joy, that we can’t just roll up at it without preparing ourselves properly. One of the best ways we can do that is by tackling sin in our lives. Sin isn’t about breaking a list of arbitrary rules set by ‘the man’ and it’s not about keeping the Church happy. Those things which Jesus and his Church tell us are sins are bad because they break our link with God, because they come between us and other, and because they hold us back from being who we were created to be. Sin gets in the way of happiness, and so the invitation this lent, is to come back to God, to come back to who we really are.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Which sins do you think do the most damage, and why?

THOUGHT: What are you hoping to get out of Lent?

IDEA:  Why not do some input on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then arrange a time when your group can go to confession?

February 26th (8th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel, again, has a challenging message to it. Jesus didn’t pull his punches. Luckily though, it does have quite a warm message to is as well. Jesus tells people that they can’t be the slave of two masters. Then, he tells them to chill out and to stop worrying about what they are going to eat, about where their clothes are coming from, and about pretty much everything else. God’s got it covered. God talks about birds and flowers. They’re not stressed about where the next meal is coming from or about what they look like, they just get on with doing what they were made to do. And that’s the message for us. We were made to serve God and to love God. That’s the thing to focus on!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What sort of things do you worry about? How can God help you with those things?

THOUGHT: There are some people in the Church who just pray and rely on God to provide everything that they need. Could you live as one of those people?

IDEA:  Why not read through the Gospel as a group and talk about it?

February 19th (7th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – We’re still in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus is still firing out some pretty challenging stuff. This week, he’s talking about forgiveness and about being nice to people who really aren’t nice to us. “Offer the wicked man no resistance,” he says. “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Jesus really did change everything. He took everything that the people thought they knew and turned it on its head.

THOUGHT: Why is it better to not seek revenge when people hurt us? What are the pros and cons of this approach?

IDEA:  Have a think about the things that are in the news at the moment. How many examples are there of people being vengeful? How many examples are there of people being loving and forgiving?

February 12th (6th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Once again, this week’s Gospel picks up where last week’s left off in the Sermon on the Mount, and once again it’s quite challenging. You have to remember, first of all, that the Jewish people Matthew was mostly talking to weren’t used to Jesus. They were used to their law. That was everything for them. The law governed pretty much every part of their life, even though most of them, it seems, weren’t so great at following it. Matthew (and Jesus, of course) were trying to tell people that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish law, prophecy, expectations and so on. Naturally, there were questions about what the law meant now that Jesus had come. Despite what he says in the opening paragraph about nothing disappearing from the law (which has to be properly understood) Jesus did abolish a lot of the rules that the Jewish people had to live under. With Jesus, it was about things like your heart, your intentions and how much love you showed. That seems easier, right? But yet that’s what Jesus is trying to say in this reading. Now you have to think about how much love you show people, you have to think about your intentions, you have to see others as being loved by God every bit as much as you are. And that’s much, much harder than hiding behind a list of boxes to tick – even if it’s a massive, long list!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: One of the things Jesus says in this week’s reading is that thinking about doing something wrong is as bad as actually doing it. He doesn’t mean that literally, of course, but he is trying to make a point. What do you think that point might be?

IDEA:  Have a discussion about rules and laws. What are the most important rules that we live under, and why?

February 5th (5th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – ‘You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world.’ This week, we get another chunk from the Sermon on the mount. In fact, the passages immediately after the ones we got last week. Jesus tells us that we should be like salt and light. As salt, we mustn’t become tasteless, and as light we can’t be hidden. We need to shine out for all to see. The light analogy is a bit more obvious. Jesus explains that when people see out good works, they see our light. That one is easy. The salt one is harder though. Back in Jesus’ day salt was used to make food taste a little nicer, as it is today, but it also had another use. Before the days of fridges and freezers, salt was used to preserve food. Once people figured out that salt could do that, it changed everything, and even saved lives! That’s how we’re meant to be like salt. We are called to preserve what’s good in the world around us, and not let it go off!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How can you look after what’s good in the world around you?

THOUGHT: When people look at you do they see your good works shining? All of us can probably shine a little more than we do!

IDEA: Look at the people you come across in the days ahead. Don’t be judgmental, but ask yourself if what comes out of them is really light? What does it tell you about your own actions and choices?

January 29th (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel reading is a classic – the beatitudes. The beatitudes are a collection of sayings at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount – a huge chunk of Jesus’ teaching recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. Each of them talks about being happy in different situations. It may not be easy immediately to understand why the situation in question brings happiness, but Jesus is quick to explain. Happy are the poor in Spirit, he says, for instance, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. The point Jesus is trying to make is that the way to happiness isn’t the obvious way. It’s not the way that you read about on websites or see on TV. It’s not about money, fame, beauty etc. Rather, it’s about having a pure heart, truly loving others, and following God. If we can manage that, we will find happiness that far exceeds anything we can find in the modern world.

No Beyond Words Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: Look at all of the things that Jesus says make you happy. Being poor in spirit, being gentle, mourning. Read through the rest. Why do you think these things are a path to happiness?

THOUGHT: Think about the last time you were persecuted, poor in spirit, mourning etc. Did it make you happy? Did any happiness eventually come out of it?

IDEA:  Why not read through the second reading together as a group and have a think about how it might unlock the Gospel?

January 22nd (3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – There are really two parts to this week’s Gospel. If you get the shortened ‘alternative’ version at Mass, the second part will largely disappear, which is a pity because it shows us a lot about how Jesus’ public ministry began. The first part of the Gospel relates directly to the first reading. The reading is a prophecy from Isaiah, and the Gospel reading begins with Matthew telling us that Jesus has fulfilled this prophecy. Remember that one of Matthew’s main purposes in writing his Gospel was to convince Jewish readers that Jesus fulfilled their scriptures and was the true Messiah. In the second part of the reading we hear a little bit about Jesus message and a little bit about the people who would help him to proclaim that message. His message was stark and clear: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” The final line reminds is that this is Good News. Good news that is backed up by miracles. The Gospel reading also recalls the calling of the first four disciples.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Jesus used miracles to prove that the kingdom he was preaching was both real and special. There are still people who are seeing miracles today. When the name of Jesus is used to heal, it can have a dramatic and powerful effect.

THOUGHT: When you KNOW who Jesus is and know that he’s for real, it must be hard not to follow him. Maybe that’s why the disciples he called just got up and followed.

IDEA: Think about how ready you are to put everything aside and follow Jesus?

January 15th (2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – After the fun of Advent and Easter, we are now back in what the Church calls ‘Ordinary Time.’ After everything we’ve seen in the last few weeks though we know there’s nothing ordinary about our lives. Jesus changes everything. Nothing can be ordinary after him. In this week’s Gospel, we get to hear a little bit about John the Baptist, somebody whose life was radically affected by Jesus. John sees Jesus for the first time and calls him “the Lamb of God who takes away the Sins of the World.” Words you’ll be familiar with from Mass. He then talks about the fact that Jesus is going to baptise us with the Holy Spirit. Amazing, or what?

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Some Christians talk about being baptised in the Spirit. What does this mean? How do you think it changes us when and if it happens?

THOUGHT: John was totally sure that Jesus was for real and he loved and respected him. How can we do that more in our lives?

IDEA: Why not pray to the Holy Spirit, asking the Spirit to come in to your life and to play a bigger part?

January 8th (The Epiphany of the Lord) – The Epiphany is a story most people know – or at least know bits of – even if they don’t identify as Christian, or know much else about the Christian faith. Probably because pretty much everyone was forced to take part in a school nativity play at one time or another! What’s interesting about the accounts of Jesus’ birth is that Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel (the only Gospels that record the birth) focus on different things. They focus on how different people reacted. Luke’s Gospel focuses on the Shepherds in the nearby fields, while Matthew’s Gospel (the one we get this week) focuses on “some wise men… from the East.” Both make the same point in a different way. That point being that Jesus came for absolutely everyone, not just the privileged few. Luke’s Shepherds represent the poor, and Matthew’s wise men represent those from far away, from outside of the Jewish world. For Matthew, this was important. One of the main tasks Matthew is trying to accomplish in writing a Gospel is to convince Jews that Jesus is the fulfillment of their covenant and their prophecies. In other words, that he is everything that their scriptures (the Old Testament) had been leading up to. But he needed to tell them more than that. He needed to tell them that Jesus hadn’t come just for them. This thing was about to get a lot bigger!

NO Beyond Words Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: The wise men brought gifts. We all know what they were!! What gifts do we bring to God? And what gifts does he give us?

THOUGHT: Jesus still wants everyone to know that he has come for them and loves them, but his mission is having trouble today in some places. Why do you think this is?

IDEA: Now that Christmas is over, talk about what gifts you got. What makes a good gift? What makes a bad one? What gifts really matter?

January 1st (Mary, Mother of God) – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God happens every January 1st. When it falls on a Sunday, it’s so important that it knocks out the regular Sunday and the whole Church celebrates it at Sunday Mass. In fact, in some countries, January 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation – one of those days when you have to go to Church – even when it’s not on a Sunday. Catholics are quite big on Mary and so it’s nice that we start off the New Year with her. Mary trusted in God and she was obedient to Him. That was one of her many important contributions. Perhaps we can resolve to do that this year: to trust in God and to obey him more and more.

NO Beyond Words Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: Mary was probably 14 or 15 years old when she gave birth to Jesus, the same age as many people in our youth groups.

THOUGHT: What is stopping us from obeying God completely?

IDEA: Why not think about new Year’s resolutions and why not try to add in a few Catholic ones?

December 25th (Christmas Day) – This year’s Christmas Mass gives us as a Gospel reading, the first part of the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In technical terms, John’s Gospel has a “high Christology” rather than a “low Christology.” In other words, it looks at Jesus not in terms of his human activities, but in terms of his status as God. The reading tells us that “In the beginning was the Word.” In other words, the Word was around when the world was created. Indeed, it took part in that creation, so much so that “through him all things came to be.” The reading goes on to tell us that the same Word came to live in the world among us; the world He had created. Pretty cool. In other words, Jesus wasn’t just a smart guy, a great teacher, a wise philosopher, or a person who had some good ideas. He was the one who created the world coming to his own creation to show it how to find real happiness and fulfillment. This means something to each and every one of us: Jesus created us, and only he can really fulfill us. Remember that this Christmas.

NO Beyond Words Video for this Sunday

THOUGHT: Why was it important for Jesus to come in to the world that He, as God, had created?

THOUGHT: The reading goes on to say “The Word was made flesh, and lived among us, and we saw his glory.” What does it mean that we saw his glory?

IDEA: Enjoy Christmas! And don’t forget God!

December 18th (4th Sunday of Advent) – Advent is all about waiting. Waiting for the celebration of Christmas, but also in two other important senses: firstly it’s about reminding ourselves about the people waiting for Jesus to be born the first time round, and secondly it’s about waiting for the Second Coming, when Jesus will return to earth at the end of time. This Sunday’s Gospel focuses on Mary and Joseph. Mary falls pregnant and Joseph struggles at first to believe that the pregnancy was really the work of the Holy Spirit! Happily though, God had it covered, and an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him what was going on. The reading shows us how much Joseph stood by Mary and also tells us another name for Jesus. That name was Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ And that’s the point of Christmas. In fact, that’s the thing that separates our faith from every other faith and every other belief: the idea that our God came to live among us. How should we respond? Well, maybe the same way Joseph responded – by loving Jesus as much as we can and by looking after those close to us.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Who do you look after and care for?

THOUGHT: Have you ever felt that God was speaking to you in some way?

IDEA: Talk about what you are doing to prepare for Christmas.

November 20th (Solemnity of Christ the King) – The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius X. It’s not just about reminding us how awesome Jesus is, but rather about challenging a view in the world which says that we don’t need God anymore. In the early part of the twentieth century, Pius was becoming concerned at the rise of modernism – the idea that modern man can survive by himself without the need for God. Pius’ response was to come up with a feast day which reminded people that Christ was still the King. In other words, that we still need him and always will. He created us, and only he can bring us to true joy and tell us what are lives are really about. This week’s Gospel reading comes from Luke’s Gospel, and has Jesus on the cross next to the two thieves. One thief starts mocking him (a reminder of those people in the world who think we don’t need Jesus) while the ther throws hmself on God’s mercy. Jesus responds by saying “I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise!” And that’s the point – if we forget that we need Christ, we get in to trouble. He died to bring us back to God, and he rose again to conquer death. It’s a strange way to be a King, at least by the world’s standards, but it did the job!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Today is also National Youth Sunday. Your parish was sent a resource pack in the pastoral mailing in September.

THOUGHT: How was Jesus a King? What did he do that was Kingly?

IDEA: Why not work through the activities in the National Youth Sunday pack?

November 13th (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – As we get towards the end of the Church’s year, the readings always change their tone slightly. We get a lot more stuff about the “end times” and about our own death and judgment. These aren’t the most comfortable of topics, but they’re quite important. They’re also a tiny bit confusing because scripture scholars tell us that these prophetic-looking readings often fuse two different things. Sometimes, they’re about the end of the world when Jesus returns to us; other times, they’re about political issues in first century Judea. Sometimes, a bit of both. It’s worth explaining the latter a little bit: You see, Judea was under Roman occupation, and a revolution was brewing. Some people wanted to openly fight the Romans, but Jesus was trying to warn against this. The Romans would crush them, and Jesus knew it. The reading starts off by mentioning the temple, which is an interesting theme throughout the Bible and throughout Jewish life. King David first had the idea of building a temple because the Ark of the Covenant was still in the tent that had been constructed when the people of God were constantly on the move during the Exodus (see Exodus 25-27). David didn’t think it was right that he should be in a palace while the Ark of the Covenant should just be in a tent. God told David not to build a temple though, but allowed his son, Solomon to build one a generation later. That first temple was eventually destroyed by the Babylonians just before they took the Jewish people into slavery. After they returned from the exile, a second (slightly less grand) temple was build to replace it. Sadly, Jesus’ warnings to the people of first century Judea weren’t heeded and they did take up arms against the Romans. after a long siege, the Romans crushed them and, in retaliation, they destroyed that second temple in AD 70. You’ve probably heard of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. That’s all that remains of that second temple now.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What can we do to prepare ourselves for difficult times?

THOUGHT: Are there some fights that just aren’t worth having? Are there some that we need to have no matter what the cost?

IDEA: Why not have a discussion about what you are going to do to make the best of Advent? it starts in a few weeks!

November 6th (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is all about the Sadducees nd a tricky question they put to Jesus. Back in Jesus’ time, the Jews didn’t have a clear unified view about life after death. Some groups thought that when people died, they just died. Others had a more hopeful view, but were a bit sketchy on the details. It was one of many things that Jesus had to clear up for them, and that’s what’s happening in this week’s reading. The Sadducees were one of the groups who thought that when you died you basically just disappeared. Hence the old joke that they’re “Sad, you see!” (ba-dum-tish!) Anyway… To catch Jesus out, they ask him about a hypothecical case of a woman who was married seven times, having seen six husbands die on her. When they all get to heaven, they ask, who is she married to? Jesus’ answer is that heaven isn’t like this world. The things that define and punctuate our lives in this life aren’t all there in heaven, and marriage is one of those things. One thing that marks out heaven is that we have a more perfect communion (closeness) with God and with one another. What marriage does, is it draws too people closer, but in heaven we are already closer to everyone than we could possibly be to anybody in this life – even the love of our life! Hence, marriage isn’t really needed.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What are your thoughts about marriage? Is it something you want for your future?

THOUGHT: What are your thoughts about heaven?

IDEA: Why not make a list of the things that we have in this world that we might not need in heaven, together with some reasons as to why?

October 30th (31st Sunday in Ordinary Time) – The story of Zacchaeus is one of the nicest in the Gospels. Zacchaeus wants to catch sight of Jesus as he passes by, but he’s too short, so he climbs a sycamore tree to get a better view. Jesus spots Zacchaeus and invited himself to stay at Zacchaeus’s house. People are pretty miffed about this because Zacchaeus is a tax collector, and not a particularly honest one. Jesus goes ahead with it regardless, and Zacchaeus changes his ways. It’s a great example of Jesus reaching out to people nobody else would touch, and getting a positive result. It’s also a nice story about being determined to see Jesus!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What can you do to see Jesus more clearly?

THOUGHT: Who are the people in our world today that nobody wants to touch?

IDEA: Why not have a chat about what Jesus would say to use about our lives if he came to stay for the night?

October 23rd (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is beautifully simple. It’s about humility. It’s about realising that we’re not perfect and that we’ve still got some growing to do. Even the best of us. In the parable we hear this week, two men go into the temple. One thanks God for the fact that he’s so awesome; the other just says “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” It’s about leaving room for God to work in our lives. If we think that we’re perfect, God has no room to work and our relationship with him starts to dry up. We need to constantly keep talking to God and we need to constantly let him shape us, even if we think we’re doing pretty well. It’s about having the humility to say that we still need God. And always will.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What do you need God for in your life?

THOUGHT: What does it mean to be humble? What advantages can it have?

IDEA: Why not get some pieces of paper and write down what we’d say if we went into that temple and stoof before God? It has to be more detailed than what the two guys in the story said.

October 16th (29th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel story, rather helpfully, explains itself right at the start “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart”. It’s rather helpful when he does that, as it saves us the job of trying to figure out where he’s coming from! in the parable there is a judge who is constantly nagged by a widow. She is trying to get justice for something or other (we’re not told exactly what) but the judge doesn’t care that much. Because she keeps nagging though, the judge finally gives in. Jesus’ point makes a clear link to prayer: if even an uncaring person gives in to badgering, how much more will God, who loves us more than anything, listen to those who pray to him. God sometimes doesn’t grant our prayers straight away because he wants to draw us closer to him or teahc us something, but he never ignores a prayer. If it’s right, he will eventually grant it, so it’s important to keep praying.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What sort of prayers might God not answer?

THOUGHT: What does ‘justice’ mean to you?

IDEA: Why not have a chat about intercessory prayer? i.e. prayers where you ask for something. How do you do it? Does it work?

October 9th (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – A lot of people misunderstand the purpose of miracles in the Gospels, and it seems that in this week’s Gospel story, even the people on the end of one of the miracles don’t quite get it. You see, there is no doubt that Jesus had compassion for people and saw healing people, casting out demons, calming storms etc. to be good things in their own right, but that’s not why he worked miracles. No, miracles were meant to be a sign of the Kingdom. They were Jesus’ calling card, telling people that he is alive and that he is powerful beyond measure. It’s his way of showing people that his teaching was coming from someone who really was connected to God. Because of that, when people get healed by Jesus, they are meant to give glory to God. The healing is supposed to bring the person who is healed and the people who see it closer to God. In this week’s Gospel, ten lepers are healed. One turns back to Jesus to thank him while the other nine just carry on on their merry way without showing any appreciation whatsoever!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What has God done for you in your life? Are you grateful?

THOUGHT: Have you ever seen a miracle? Or a dramatic answer to a prayer? How did it make you feel?

IDEA: Why not watch a video on YouTube of a person being healed by prayer? Go to YouTube and search for ‘Damian Stayne’. Damian is based in our Diocese and has a powerful ministry praying for healings.

October 2nd (27th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is about faith. Christians are expected to have faith, and to use it wisely. We are expected to trust in God and to expect our faith to produce results! We are expected to pray to God when we are in need and to trust him to deliver; we are expected to let God be in charge of our lives. This is quite hard to do, but the other readings this week give us little pointers about how to let go and let God take control. The second reading reminds us that we have received the Holy Spirit, and that it’s a powerful gift. The Psalm tells us to ‘harden not your hearts’. We need to remember that God loves us and we need to open our hearts. In the same way that little children simply trust in their parents.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Why are some people’s hearts seemingly permanently hardened?

THOUGHT: What can you do to increase your faith and to trust more in God?

IDEA: Why not, the next time you pray as a group, invite the Holy Spirit to descend on you and to incease your faith?

September 25th (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is both simple and shocking. It’s the story of the Rich man and Lazarus. A story you probably know. There was a rich man who used to dress himself rather splendidly and ate pretty well too. In other words, he lived the good life. Every day he passed by a beggar named Lazarus, who he pretty much ignored and gave nothing to whatsoever. When they both died, Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to, well… the other place! The rich man asked for his pain to be relieved but he was denied. He then asked for his brothers to be warned, so that they wouldn’t repeat his mistake, but that was denied too. Luke’s Gospel is very big on the Christian duty to look out for the poor. The view that comes across in Luke is that it’s not just an option for Christians – it’s the only option. The poor are our responsibility, and we can’t ignore them. Our whole relationship with God rests on how we treat those who don’t have what we have.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Who are the Lazaruses around you?

THOUGHT: Why is God so harsh to the Rich man in the story?

IDEA: Why not have a chat about what you can actively do as a group to help the people around you? Then, make a plan for putting it into practice.

September 18th (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s reading isn’t the easiest to understand. It’s a parable involving a steward. A steward who does something pretty dodgy looking, but who Jesus is actually trying to use as an example! In the story, the steward gets laid off by his master and told to settle the accounts before he clears his desk. While he’s clearing the accounts, he calls in a few people who owe his master money, and he reduces their debts rather dramatically. His plan is that once he’s out of a job, he’ll have a few friends around who owe him a favour. Jesus’ point isn’t that we should be dishonest, but that we should use money – and indeed everything else that we have – to score points for what really matters: our life with God. Therefore, we shouldn’t hoard it or try to grow rich ourselves, but to help the poor and build the Kingdom of God. Money isn’t evil in itself. It’s what makes the world go round. But we are called to be honest in how we earn our money and in how we spend it. We must prefer nothing to God.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What is the best thing you have ever spent money on?

THOUGHT: If you won a huge sum of money, but were told that you couldn’t spend any of it on yourself, what would you spend it on?

IDEA: Why not have a discussion about the things that can get in the way of your relationship with God and what you can do to make sure those things are kept undr control?

August 7th (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – There’s a lot going on in this week’s Gospel, but the message is a fairly simple one: Don’t let anything get in the way of God in your life, or you might be caught out! Riches and distractions can get in the way, and so can make other things.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What is there in your life that comes between you and God?

THOUGHT: What does it mean to be ready for God? “Dressed for action”, as the Gospel says!

IDEA: Why not pray together that there isn’t anything coming between you and God in your life?

July 31st (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is about treasure, and about how it’s actually not that much use. Not in terms of anything that actually matters anyway! We all want to get rich, but it’s not where true happiness lies. If we want to know where true happiness lies, the Psalm gives us a clue. The refrain this week is “O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts.” If our hearts are hardened against God and against others, then we won’t be truly happy no matter what we have. On the other hand, if we open our hearts, the possibilities are endless!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How can we make our hearts more open to God and to others?

THOUGHT: Are there any possessions of yours that you cling on to at the expense of opening your heart?

IDEA: Why not read the Gospel as a group and talk about it?

July 24th (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – There’s a strong theme running through this week’s readings: the idea of God listening to people’s please. In other words, it’s about prayer. In the first reading, we get the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where God where God dialogued with Abraham beforehand. The Psalm tells us that “On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord”, and the Gospel reading gives us the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus was asked how we should pray, and he left us the prayer that we use constantly in the Church. Prayer can be hard to get used to, but it’s worth making the effort, and it’s worth sticking with it through any rough patches. It’s a key part of our relationship with God. We’re also told again and again and again that God doesn’t ignore prayer. He listens, and he answers.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How many different ways to pray have you tried? Which do you prefer?

THOUGHT: Have you ever had a prayer answered by God in a way that really surprised you?

IDEA: Why not do something with your group to look at different ways of praying?

July 17th (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – The story of Martha and Mary is a great one. The story of the two sisters and their different reactions when Jesus comes round to visit. Martha gets busy fixing dinner while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Martha naturally gets a bit ticked off with Mary, but Jesus tells her to calm down – Mary is don’t something important too! In life, we need a bit of both. We need to work and be busy, but we also need to spend time with God through prayer, the Sacraments, and learning about our faith.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How well balanced is your life? Do you spend too much time working? Do you spend enough time praying? Or, are you a bit lazy?

THOUGHT: What can you do to invite Jesus into your hime and your life?

IDEA: Why not think about the balance of your lives as a group?

July 10th (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Everyone knows about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Or, at least, they know bits of the story. Problem is, almost nobody knows what it’s really about. You see, it’s got nothing to do with how well we look after people in need. Elsewhere the Gospel makes clear that looking after others is a really important thing, but Jesus didn’t use parables to teach social lessons. He taught parables to tell people about himself and his kingdom. The story of the Good Samaritan is about what we call ‘Salvation History.’ It’s about how God saves us. The man in the story beaten up by robbers represents fallen humanity. The priest and the lawyer who pass by represent the failure of the Jewish laws to save us, but yet the man who nobody thought much of gets the job done. The Samaritan doesn’t represent us, you see. He represents Jesus. Samaritans weren’t popular in Judea and neither was Jesus. Yet, the one nobody thought much of, healed humanity and brought us back to God!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: There is a really simple message in the first reading: obey God’s rules. It’s not difficult, and it’s not beyond you!

THOUGHT: Who is your neighbour? The parable isn’t actually about looking after other people, but that’s still a worthwhile thing to focus on!

IDEA: Why not think this week, as a group, about your relationship with Jesus and about how well you follow him?

July 3rd (14th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Last week’s Gospel reminded us that following Jesus is serious business. It’s not a part-time thing. In this week’s Gospel, that gets a bit more practical. This week’s Gospel is from Luke once again. It’s a passage known as the sending of the seventy-two. Jesus sends them ahead of him to tell people he is coming and prepare the way for him. He gives them a pretty precise briefing: what to say, what to take with them, and what to do in certain situations. Jesus is trying to do what he has been trying to do in the Gospel readings for the last few weeks: he is trying to keep his disciples focused on what matters and to stop them from being distracted.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What sort of things distract you?

THOUGHT: What is your mission?

IDEA: Why not do something about our missions as people and what we need for them? Everyone can write down what their mission is, what they need for it, and what they don’t need!

June 26th (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – In last week’s Gospel, we heard Jesus asking us to renounce ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. That was never meant to be an easy thing. In this week’s Gospel, we head Jesus ‘calling out’ (to use a modern phrase) a few people who think that it is! Jesus calls a few people to follow him and they each come up with excuses to delay. It is possible that they are not literal examples, as they do seem a little harsh (sometimes, things recorded in the Gospels are taken to an extreme so that the point sticks in the mind) but nevertheless they make a clear point: following Jesus isn’t a part-time thing! In the first example, the man Jesus calls says “Let me go and bury my Father first.” If this is a literal report of what happened, then it needs to be properly understood. In Jewish culture, one of the chief responsibilities of an oldest son was to see to it that his Father was properly buried when he died. Asking to bury his Father, therefore, probably wasn’t an immediate concern. Rather, he was asking “Let me stick around until he dies.” Either way though, the point is clear: When Jesus asks us to follow him, he means it. we can’t be half-hearted.

No ‘Beyond Words’ video for this week.

THOUGHT: What is there in your life that you’re holding back from Jesus?

THOUGHT: Can you imagine how much good we could do for the world if every single Christian followed Jesus as well as they could?

IDEA: Why not do an exercise involving the cross. Get the group to pin their sins and worries to the cross, maybe using sheets of paper?

June 19th (12th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel reading is Luke’s version of something we’re far more familiar with in Matthew’s Gospel. This (Year C in the cycle) is Luke’s year though, so that’s what we get! This is the “Who do you say I am?” reading that Catholics know so well! In Matthew’s Gospel, it culminates with Peter being given “the Keys to the Kingdom.” In other words, being commissioned as the first Pope. Luke skips that part (as Mark does) but gives us the first part where he asks the disciples who people say that he is. After a few fumbling attempts by the others, Peter gets it spot on: “The Christ of God.” Straight after that, in Luke’s version, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that he is destined to suffer and then that anyone who wants to be a follower of his must “renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me!” For Jesus these three things follow on naturally from one another: Jesus is the Christ, Jesus must suffer, we must follow him. Each of those things has something important to say to us.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?

THOUGHT: When the God who created the world came into the world he created, the people he created killed him. Does that seem odd to you?

IDEA: Why not do an exercise based around the”Who do you say I am?” question. Give everyone a sheet and ask them to write down as many descriptions for Jesus as they can.

June 12th (11th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is yet another example of Jesus’ mercy and love combined with an example of the Pharisees really missing the point. One of the Pharisees asks Jesus to dinner. As he sits down, a woman turns up who has “a bad name in town.” Make of that what you will! She shows Jesus a lot of affection and the Pharisees don’t like this at all. jesus gives his usual message of mercy though. It’s those who have done the most wrong, he reminds them, who need his love more. He came to save sinners, not to network with the powerful and famous! This message – like so many others – is a great Year of Mercy message. It’s also a great challenge to us to reach out to everybody and to make sure we don’t look down on anybody. If we look down on others, we’re not doing what Jesus called us to do.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Who are the people around you who the rest of society doesn’t pay much attention to or give much time to?

THOUGHT: How grateful are you personally to Jesus for the grace and forgiveness you have received during your life?

IDEA: Why not pray for the marginalised?

June 5th (10th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – After Lent, Easter and a few weeks of special Solemnities, we are finally back in to Ordinary Time. The first time you’ll have seen green vestments at Mass since earlier this year when it was cold outside! This week’s Gospel tells us the story of the Widow of Nain. Jesus came into town as a funeral was taking place. The man being buried was the son of a woman who had lost her husband and now also her only son. Taking pity on the woman, Jesus raises her son from the dead. The Gospel concludes by telling us the effect that the miracle had on the people who saw it: “Everyone was filled with awe and, praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited hie people.’” The point of miracles was to draw out exactly that response. They were calling cards to let people know that Jesus was for real and to build up the Kingdom. I really like to think that they were also about the love Jesus had for the individual people too. in this story, he takes pity on a woman who had lost those around her and who was probably very lonely and afraid. Jesus doesn’t want that for anyone. He wants us to know his love, and he wants us to know the love of one another.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How can we tackle loneliness in our world?

THOUGHT: Have you ever seen something you thought of as a miracle? What impact did it have on you?

IDEA:  Why not have a look at some of the accounts on youtube of miracle healings? You might want to look up the work of people like Damian Stayne or Randy Clark.

May 29th (Corpus Christi) – Having celebrated the Ascension, Pentecost and the Holy Trinity on the last three Sundays, we now turn our attention to another central Catholic belief. Today is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, where we think about the Body and Blood of Christ which we receive in the Eucharist each time we go to Mass. When we receive Christ in Holy Communion we are strengthened by him. We receive his power and strength and draw closer to him. It’s one of the most amazing gifts there is.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: In what other ways do we come into contact with God?

THOUGHT: Do we always receive the Eucharist as gratefully and humbly as we should?

IDEA:  Why not do something with your group to help them to better understand the Mass?

May 22nd (Trinity Sunday) – Trinity Sunday is that day in the year when traditionally youth leaders – and many others in the Church – ask each other how to explain the Trinity without lapsing into heresy! If you’re up for some reading, I’d recommend an excellent book by Stephen Bullivant. In the book, he draws on Augustine (and others) and tells us that there are three statements to keep in mind: FIRST: There is one God. SECOND: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is each God. THIRD: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not the same. If you can get your head around those three statements, you understand the Trinity, at least at a basic level. All too often, we come unstuck because we try to come up with analogies. For instance, we’ve all heard “The Trinity is like a shamrock” or “Steam, water and ice”. There isn’t really an analogy that completely works. Most of them drift into heresy sooner or later. The problem is that we like trying to put complicated things into formulas we understand but we can’t do that with God. He is too complicated to be put into a neat box, understandable to humans! If you really want to find an analogy though, the best one is to say that the Holy Spirit is like the intellect, will and memory within the same mind. It works better than most! Perhaps the most important thing about the Trinity though is that we are people who believe in God. Even if we can’t get our heads around the nature of God (which we’re not meant to anyway!) the fact that we have a God who loves us is such an important thing in our lives.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: One key thing about the Trinity is unity in love. How united are we to those in our family, our community our parish?

THOUGHT: How do you personally relate to each person in the Trinity?

IDEA:  Why not do some artwork based on the persons of the trinity?

May 15th (Pentecost Sunday) – What you have to understand about Pentecost is that Jesus never expected us to do all the things he is asking us to do without giving us some help. God expects a lot of us, but he gives us his power too! When Jesus ascended, his plan was never to leave us all alone. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost transformed a group of scared disciples into a group who achieved remarkable things. Just think about it: that small group of people with no money, influence, military power or anything else, managed to spread the faith throughout the whole world. So successfully, in fact, that two thousand years later, there are more than two billion of us on every continent on earth! Now, that’s power! The sort that only comes from God.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Catholics often have a good understanding of God the Father and God the Son but struggle to really ‘get’ the Holy Spirit. How can we get closer to that Spirit and really make it a part of our lives?

THOUGHT: Where does the power comes from in your life? Where should it come from?

IDEA: Why not have a time of prayer to the Holy Spirit? Ask the Spirit to come to you and to help you

May 8th (Ascension Sunday) – This week, as we celebrate the Ascension, we get some fascinating readings. The Gospel reading comes from Luke. Usually the First Reading in Mass comes from the Old Testament, but in the Easter Season (which we’re still in) it comes from the Acts of the Apostles. Acts was also written by Luke, and in many ways it picks up where his Gospel leaves off. The Gospel ends with the Ascension and Acts begins with it. The Gospel touches on it briefly and Acts gives us a little more detail. The Ascension is the end of Jesus physical time on earth. We still have his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, of course, but he’s no longer walking around down here talking to people. That doesn’t mean that he has abandoned us. There are two reasons why not: Firstly, because he sent the Holy Spirit, and secondly because he has entrusted his mission on earth to his Church.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: There is a huge ‘Over to you! theme about the Ascension. The power to carry out the mission, of course, came at Pentecost, but for now it’s enough to remember that the mission has been handed on to us. What is that mission? How do we carry it out?

THOUGHT: Acts talks about us being Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world. How can we do that?

IDEA: Why not Look at the things Jesus says in today’s readings and ask yourselves what they say about him and about the job he is giving us?

May 1st (6th Sunday of Easter) – As the Easter Season nears its end, the Church gives us a reading this week from John’s Gospel. Specifically, an extract from the long prayer Jesus made during the Last Supper. In this part of the prayer Jesus is asking the Father to keep his followers united, so that they will be better able to draw others to him. The point is simple: our unity with God and with one another is absolutely vital if we are going to be any good at spreading the faith. If we aren’t properly united with Christ and with each other, it just won’t work. Jesus asks God “Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.” That’s pretty powerful. Jesus is asking God for us to be as united to God and to each other as the Father is to the Son. That’s a pretty big challenge to us!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: As Christians, it’s pretty obvious that we need to be united to God. But yet, so often we try to work in our own power and leave him to on side. We need to pray meaningfully very day. Then, we need to make a conscious choice to put God at the centre of our lives.

THOUGHT: In the Gospel, this is connected to unity with other people.We can’t be truly united to God and then not care about unity with others. People who are united with God will naturally unite with others. People who are united to God will try to unite others to God through themselves. The challenges to us here are obvious.

IDEA: Why not do some team building activities as a group? Why not work on your prayer life as individuals?

April 24th (5th Sunday of Easter) – So far this Easter, we have been reminded that Jesus rose from the dead, reminded that we have a mission, reminded to be merciful, and reminded that Jesus is looking our for us. This week, we get a reminder of a key part of our mission: to love one another. In the Gospel reading (again, from John), we hear Jesus giving us “a new commandment”. In the Old Testament – in the times before Jesus came to earth – the amount of commands were huge. The book of Leviticus stretches to 27 chapters, virtually all of which is commands, and it’s not the only place by any means! In the Gospel, things get more streamlined. This “new commandment” isn’t the only rule, but it sums all the others up. What is it? We must “love one another, just as I have loved you.”

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How loving are you? When you stop and think, is there more you could be doing to be a loving person?

THOUGHT: Jesus tells us to love one another  “as I have loved you.” In other words, he sets the example we are to follow. How has Jesus loved you?

IDEA: Why not do an affirmation exercise? If you haven’t done one for a while, it might be a good way to remind each other how much you are all loved!

April 17th (4th Sunday of Easter) – This week, we get another reading from John’s Gospel. It’s a short reading that reminds us of a familiar metaphor in the Gospels: Jesus is the shepherd, and we are his sheep. The point of the reading is that Jesus is looking out for us. He gives us eternal life; nobody can steal us from him. This is a comforting reading that reminds us how amazing it is being children of God. During Easter, we celebrate the power and truth of the resurrection. Today, we celebrate the fact that the same God who did all that, is looking after his children!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What does it mean to you to be a Child of God?

THOUGHT: How often do you take your problems to God, rather than trying to deal with them all by yourself?

IDEA: Why not do something to show the group what they mean to the Church?

April 10th (3rd Sunday of Easter) – Last week, we thought a little bit about mercy – something we’re thinking a lot about in this Jubilee Year. This week, we see Jesus showing mercy to Peter. Firstly, he shows him mercy and then he ells him that things won’t be easy going ahead. There is a mission to be had! Before Jesus died, Peter denied knowing him three times. It’s fair to say that this incident put Peter in the doghouse! What we see this week is the first time that the two of them met up after the resurrection. It could have been very awkward, but Jesus forgave Peter. He asked him three times if he loved him. Peter replied that he did. Jesus’ response: ‘Feed my sheep!’ in other words, don’t worry – you’re still part of this!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: We all make mistakes in our lives. From time to time, we even make huge ones. When we do, there is forgiveness. The Sacrament of Penance is the best way to do that. It’s a beautiful way to experience God’s love and forgiveness. When was the last time you went to Confession?

THOUGHT: Have you ever had to face somebody after letting them down? What was it like?

IDEA: Why not get a priest along to the group to hear confessions?

April 3rd (Divine Mercy Sunday/ Second Sunday of Easter) – This Sunday (exactly a week after Easter) ends what we call ‘the octave of Easter.’ Since the days of Pope John Paul II, it has also been called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’ It’s a celebration of God’s Mercy, following on from the work of a Polish nun called Sister Faustina. In the Year of Mercy, then, this Sunday takes on a special importance. As Christians we are called to show God’s mercy to others and we are also called to accept that mercy ourselves. This week’s Gospel reading comes from the final chapters of John’s Gospel. It takes us through the ‘doubting Thomas’ story and also shows us Jesus sending out his disciple at the start of their mission. At Pentecost, they would receive the power to carry out their mission, but that didn’t stop Jesus issuing the instructions. Today’s feast – and this Jubilee year – remind us of a particular part of that mission: Mercy!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How merciful are you? How forgiving are you? How much do you reach out to those in need?

THOUGHT: If you had been one of the people who saw Jesus after his resurrection, what would you have said to him, or asked him?

IDEA: Why not do something to reflect on how we can be more merciful as people?

March 27th (Easter Sunday) – Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Depending on what time you go to Mass this weekend you’ll get one of a few different Gospel readings, but they all make the same point: Jesus really did rise from the dead. After all, if he hadn’t risen from the dead we wouldn’t be talking about him two thousand years later. When Jesus died he left behind a scattered scared group of followers who were afraid and confused. They had no power, money, influence or connections. Nothing to help them whatsoever. If Jess hadn’t risen from the dead, that group – and their faith in Jesus – would have gone nowhere. We wouldn’t have even heard of Jesus today. But yet, we have, because the resurrection was very real. On Good Friday Jesus died to take away our sins. He rose again to conquer death. Every great story has a happy ending. A point in the story where the hero pulls it out of the bag and brings victory from what looked like certain defeat. For us, this is that moment. This is the victory. Happy Easter. Alleluia.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How do you think Jesus’ followers reacted when they realised he had really risen?

THOUGHT: What are you going to do to celebrate Easter?

IDEA: Easter is the biggest celebration of the year. Why not do something to mark it. Why not have a big group party?

March 20th (Palm Sunday) – Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week. The time we begin today is one of the most powerful and solemn of the year. To prepare us for the week, the Church gives us the Gospel reading of the passion and death of Christ. We get it again on Friday in a slightly different form, but nevertheless you might well wonder why the Church is giving you what is essentially the same story twice in six days. The reason is because it’s seriously, seriously important. Today on Palm Sunday, we recall Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. He was greeted as a hero. People cheered him in, but things soon turned against him. As the week went on, Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tortured, put on trial and killed. He also rose again, but we’ll get to that next week. Mixed in with all that, of course, is the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, Peter denying Jesus, and so much more. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins; to give us away back to the Father we had walked away from.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: We are starting the most powerful time of the year. Make sure this week has an impact on you. It’s not something you can just drift though.

THOUGHT: Things turned against Jesus pretty sharply during Holy Week. What do you think the mood was like?

IDEA: Why not spend some time talking about the week ahead and about what’s coming up?

March 13th (5th Sunday of Lent) – You’ve probably heard the phrase “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s one of those phrases from the bible that’s entered popular culture. This week, we get to hear the story it came from. It’s a story about forgiveness and about not judging others. The scribes and the Pharisees (read: guys who regularly missed the point) brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught committing adultery. Their plan was to stone her to death. That’s what it said in the law, and they wanted to test Jesus to see what he would do. After saying that famous line, Jesus bent down on the ground and wrote something in the dust in front of each person standing there. One by one they all left until only Jesus and the woman were standing there. Jesus told the woman to go, but to make sure she changed her ways. Nobody knows what Jesus wrote in the ground in front of those people. Naturally there are a load of theories. One theory is that in front of each person he wrongs something which reminded them of something they themselves had done wrong in the past. The point being, none of us are spotless, so we shouldn’t condemn others.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: The idea of not judging others is a well known one but it’s also misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t respond to injustice and it doesn’t mean that we can’t disagree with things or voice that disagreement. It means that we shouldn’t condemn others because of those things. It’s not okay to stone people for adultery. It’s okay to disagree with adultery!

THOUGHT: Have you ever been unexpectedly forgiven for something? How did it make you feel?

THOUGHT: Are you forgiving enough of others? Do you hold grudges?

IDEA: Why not have a chat about how we handle things we disagree with?

March 6th (4th Sunday of Lent) – This week, we hear one of the most beautiful and famous stories in the bible – the Parable of the Forgiving Father, also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The story is about a rich man and his two sons. The younger son asks for his share of the inheritance early and he takes the money and wastes it on a wild, destructive lifestyle. Soon enough the money runs out and he goes back home and throws himself on his father’s mercy. He expects his father to be pretty angry and to put him to work as a hired servant, but instead his father rejoices. The father is delighted to have his son back, and he throws a huge feast. The story is about forgiveness and about coming back to God. The father in the story represents God and the younger son represents all of us, because we have all sinned. Indeed, many of us have wondered completely away from God at one time or another in our lives. The message of the parable is that God wants us to return to him. He rejoices when we do, because he loves us. We, after all, are his children who he made in his own image. And so, the message is a simple one. We need t look at our lives and ask ourselves if there is anything that needs fixing. It’s one of the most fruitful ways we can use Lent.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Is there anything in your life that needs fixing at the moment?

THOUGHT: How can we help people who are a long way from God to get closer?


February 28th (3rd Sunday of Lent) – This week, we hear the Parable of the Fig Tree. It’s all about the fact that Jesus’ disciples are meant to bear fruit. If a fig tree fails to produce fruit, it’s pretty useless to its owner. In the same way, the measure of how serious we are about Jesus is in the fruit that we produce. In other words, how much love we show, how well we keep the commandments, and how well we bring Jesus to others.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: If Jesus gave you a report on how well you’re doing as a Christian, what would it say? What areas for improvement would there be?

THOUGHT: What sort of ‘fruits’ should disciples of Christ (i.e., us) be producing?

IDEA: Why not talk about prayer this week?

February 21st (2nd Sunday of Lent) – This week’s Gospel reading is the story of the transfiguration. At first glance, it’s a strange story, but it’s significance is actually quite beautiful. Jesus takes Peter, John and James to the top of a mountain and Jesus starts glowing a brilliant white. Just then, Mosts and Elijah appear next to Jesus and they started chatting – particularly about the things which were about to happen in Jerusalem: Jesus death! There are a few things to note about this. This all happened much further on in the story then we have been looking at up to now. Jesus and his disciples had been teaching and preaching for a while, they were much better known and hints were starting to be dropped by Jesus that he was destined to suffer and die. The disciples neither understood this fact nor liked it. You might remember us saying a few weeks back that miracles were meant to be signs of the kingdom; proofs that Jesus really was something special. This miracle was no different. It was Jesus way of showing his inner core of disciples that he really was from God – something they would really need to cling on to when things got tough in Jerusalem! By having Moses and Elijah turn up, Jesus is also showing that he is a real, authentic part of the Jewish tradition.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What gives you strength when things get tough?

THOUGHT: Is there anything you’re trying hard to figure out in your life at the moment?

IDEA: Why not have a chat about the things that the Church will be celebrating at Holy Week and Easter? How does Lent help us to prepare for them?

February 14th (1st Sunday of Lent) – Every year on the First Sunday of Lent, we hear about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. This year, we hear about it from Luke. Before Jesus began his public ministry (before Lent we looked a lot at how that kicked off) he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. He stayed there for forty days fasting and praying and he was tempted by the devil. The devil put all sorts of temptations in front of Jesus. Each time, Jesus knocked them out of the park. This episode tells us a lot. For one thing, it tells us why Lent is forty days. Remember that numbers are very inexact in the bible. “Forty days” was the standard way of marking out a moderate period of time. More than a few days, but not months and months. It crops up a lot. In shaping Lent though, the Church has been more literal with it! The reading also reminds us that we are going to be tempted in life. It’s important to resist. God will be with us in the fight.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Don’t forget to have a plan for Lent. If you haven’t decided what to give up and how to make sure you pray more, it’s not too late.

THOUGHT: What temptations do you face? How do you handle them?

THOUGHT: Jesus took the time to fast and pray to prepare him for what lay ahead. Do you always prepae yourself spiritually for important things?

February 7th (5th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Since the end of the Christmas season, the Gospel readings have come from the early accounts of Jesus’ ministry and have introduced us to some of the key themes. This week, that continues as we hear about Jesus calling his first disciples. The first people who would follow him and share in his work. The reading tells us about Simon Peter and also about the brothers James and John. we know from the other Gospels that Simon Peter’s brother Andrew was also picked up at that point, although Luke doesn’t mention him. Once again, Jesus uses a miracle to demonstrate who he is. He asks Peter to “put out into deep water” and to drop the nets ready for a catch. Peter, who had been at it all night and caught nothing, protests, but jesus insists. They catch so many fish that the nets nearly break. Two whole boat loads. Jesus tells them that “from now on, it is men that you will catch.” This is quite an interesting thing to say: right from the start, following Jesus was not abut the individual disciples but about other people. Their main job was to catch others for Christ.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How much do you do to tell others about Jesus?

THOUGHT: How do you think those four fishermen felt when they left everything to follow Jesus?

IDEA: This week, on Ash Wednesday, we start Lent. This might be a good time to think ahead and plan out how you’re going to make the most of Lent. Remember Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer.

January 31st (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Last week, we saw Jesus get started with his public ministry and things seemed to be going smoothly. This week, we are introduced to another key theme of Jesus ministry, and one which would get bigger and bigger as time went on: the fact that he wasn’t always accepted and wasn’t always popular. This week’s Gospel is quite hard to understand in some ways. Jesus seems to be speaking in riddles, talking about things that happened “in Elijah’s day” and throwing around all sorts of bits and pieces from Jewish history. Eventually, the people in the synagogue become enraged and chase Jesus out of town. He narrowly escaped being chucked off a cliff! The reason he enraged them so much was because he introduced something that would also become a key feature of the Gospels – the fact that Jesus hadn’t just come for the Jewish people. This wasn’t easy for the Jews – God’s chosen people – to hear. In other Gospels, this universality of Jesus is only gradually revealed and hinted at. Luke seems to want to front-load it! The fact is, Jesus came for the whole world. He is the “Saviour to all”. His teachings and miracles were as much for the gentiles as for the Jews. As much for you and me as for people two thousand years ago!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: What sort of people in today’s world think that they are better/ more special than others?

THOUGHT: What sort of messages provoke anger when they are communicated today?

THOUGHT: Have you ever said something that has made people turn against you? What did it feel like? Were you right to say it, or wrong?

IDEA: Why not pray for people others usually ignore?

January 24th (3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – As we mentioned a few weeks back, “Year C” (that’s this year in the Church’s 3 year cycle of readings) focusses mainly on the Gospel of Luke. There are times when other Gospels get a look in – like John’s, which doesn’t actually get its own year – but for the most part, it’s Luke. This week, we get a reading which throws together two chunks of Luke’s Gospel: the first few verses of the whole Gospel and then (skipping over Jesus childhood, baptism and temptation in the wilderness) the first few verses describing his public ministry. In other words, this week’s reading is showing us how it all kicked off. The first few verses show us that Luke’s Gospel (like the Acts of the Apostles, which Luke also wrote) was written for a particular person “Theophilus… your excellency“. Nobody really knows who Theophilus was. There are several theories, but we don’t really know. Interestingly though, the name Theophilus means ‘Friend of God.’ The second part of the reading tells us how Jesus started off his ministry (presumably among other things) by teaching in synagogues. On one occasion – in his home town – he taught them by looking back to something Isaiah had said and telling them that the text was “being fulfilled today even as you listen“. In other words, by Jesus himself. The text in question was one which talked about bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, giving sight to the blind, setting the downtrodden free and so on. This is a huge theme of Luke’s Gospel and one to which he returns again and again: Jesus came to help those who need it most and who the rest of society often overlooks. And you can bet that he’s calling us to do the same.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How much do you do to help the poor and those who need it most?

THOUGHT: Why was it so important to Luke to convince Theophilus (whoever he was) that Jesus was the real thing?

IDEA: Why not have a discussion about how you can do more for those in need, both as a group and as individuals?

January 17th (2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – After Advent and Christmas, we’re now back in what the Church calls ‘Ordinary Time.’ With such an early Easter this year, it won’t last long though. Ash Wednesday is only three and a half weeks away! Now that Christmas is all over, the Church has picked readings to get us thinking about the start of Jesus’ ministry. In this week’s Gospel, we hear about the wedding at Cana, which was Jesus’ first public miracle. As John’s Gospel says (we’re leaving Luke this week!) it was “the first of the signs given by Jesus.” During the wedding feast (what we might call ‘the reception’!) disaster struck as they ran out of wine. Jesus’ mother asked him to help out and, after a bit of initial hesitation, he asked the servants to fill some jars full of water and he turned the water into wine. When we’re dealing with Jesus’ miracles, it’s important to remember that they weren’t just neat tricks! Jesus had no real interest in catering and booze, just as he wasn’t really healing people to replace doctors or calming storms for the sake of making people’s lives easier. He would have been happy to help people, that’s for sure, but the reason he performed miracles was as a sign of the kingdom. He makes that clear in Chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel. Miracles were supposed to help people to believe in him so that they would listen to his teachings and build their lives around them.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Have you ever seen something you thought was a miracle? Have you ever prayed for something and seen that prayer answered?

THOUGHT: What makes you want to listen to Jesus teachings and put them in to practice?

THOUGHT: Why do you think so many people in the world think that Jesus isn’t worth listening to?

IDEA: Like last week’s reading, this Gospel revolves around a Sacrament. There are plenty of quizzes online on the sacraments. Why not google one and do it with your group this week?

January 10th (The Baptism of the Lord) – This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and we also close out the Christmas season. A lot of people ask why Jesus had to be baptised if he was without sin? The answer is that by being baptised, Jesus accepted his mission from the Father. It marked the start of his ministry and his acceptance of what lay ahead. Some people also point to the fact that, by being baptised, Jesus blessed the waters of baptism for everyone who would come after him. This year, we get the account from Luke’s Gospel (now that we are in ‘Year C’ it’s mostly Luke!) which is shorter than Matthew’s version. All of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell the story of Jesus’ baptism and all of them focus quite heavily on three elements: Jesus being baptised, John the Baptist pointing to the fact that Jesus was far greater than himself, and the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father coming from heaven. After Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit comes down in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father says “You are my Son, the beloved; my favour rests on you.” It’s a fantastic account. We have the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we have the Sacraments, we have people pointing out how amazing Jesus is and we have a Father expressing his love for his son.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Do you let the people in your life know how much you love them?

THOUGHT: Being baptised, for you, wasn’t just a day in the past with a nice party. It was a commission to live your life in a certain way.

THOUGHT: Why do you think John was so keen to point out to everybody that Jesus was so much greater than he was?

IDEA: Why not do something as a group to mark the end of Christmas?

November 8th (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – There are some things that are just crystal clear from the Gospels. We don’t have to interpret them or figure them out. They’re just plain to see, and they come up again and again and again. One of those things is that Jesus doesn’t like arrogant people who think it’s all about them. He also doesn’t have much time for people who are being arrogant and self-centred under the guise of being holy, nice, or kind. In this week’s Gospel Jesus is sitting watching people donate money to the poor. He isn’t impressed by the people in fine robes who put money in to get respect and to be liked, but he is impressed with a widow who puts in two small coins. For the widow, that money is all she’s got, and she isn’t doing it for show!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Do we really give everything we have to God?

THOUGHT: Do we do good things for show or for their own sake?

THOUGHT: The next time you do something good, try to do it anonymously. Try not to get noticed. See how it feels!

IDEA: Why not think about something you can do as a group to serve those in need?

November 1st (Solemnity of All Saints) – This Sunday is one of the great feasts in the Church’s calendar – the Solemnity of All Saints. Quite possibly the coolest part of our faith is that we the reward of being a faithful disciple of Christ is Heaven! Eternity spent in the presence of God in peace and joy. It is literally the best thing imaginable and today let’s us focus on it. Indeed, it is something we should focus on a lot, and it’s amazing that we don’t focus on it more than we do, day to day. Specifically today, we are focusing not just on the Canonised saints – those people we call Saint – but rather everyone who has made it to heaven. Indeed, it’s a day perhaps to focus especially on those who haven’t been formally canonised by the Church – a group which undoubtedly makes up only a tiny percentage of the population of heaven. The people in heaven, of course, are constantly praying for those on earth. The Gospel reading this week is ‘the beatitudes’ from Matthew’s Gospel. The start of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes give us eight statements in two parts. The first part of each reminds us of something we are called to do – or to be – as Christians and the second part reminds us of the reward that awaits us. It’s a beautiful challenge.

There is no ‘Beyond Words’ video for this week

THOUGHT: What do the beatitudes say to you about your own life? How do they challenge you?

THOUGHT: Do you often think about the reality of heaven, or is it something that’s not always in your mind?

IDEA: Why not do something to think about saints? Especially local saints? And especially, perhaps, uncanonised saints?

October 25th (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – this week’s Gospel reading is a short and simple story: Jesus is on his travels and a blind beggar asks Jesus to restore his sight. People tell the beggar to shut up, but he refuses. Jesus calls the beggar to him and heals him with the words, “Go, your faith has saved you”. There are three important things to note here. First, is that Jesus’ miracles were never just for show, or to perform a service. They were there to be a sign that would build up his Kingdom. People were meant to notice and believe! Second, we are reminded once again that Jesus came for the downtrodden and the lowly. The folks the rest of society usually ignores. This is a clear challenge to all of us. Thirdly, Jesus tells the man that he was saved by his faith and this is important for a few reasons. It’s important because it reminds us that prayer works. When we are worried about something, we should pray, and we should do so expecting something to happen! It also reminds us about how important faith is Jesus is something worth believing in because he is real, he is divine and because what he teaches is true!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Do you pray enough? When you pray, do you expect something to happen?

THOUGHT: What would your reaction be if Jesus passed by you? What would you ask him? How do you think he would respond?

IDEA: Why not do an interactive prayer exercise. Have an image of Jesus walking by and get everyone to put an intention on a post-it note or something like that?

October 18th (29th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – In this week’s Gospel, we get a phrase that comes up in one form or another quite a lot in the Gospels. Jesus tells his followers that ‘anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all‘. Jesus had an idea of what it really meant to be great, and it’s an idea that was (and still is) completely different to the idea that the rest of the world had. He had to battle with the Pharisees who were trying desperately to hold on to their importance and authority and, as we see in this week’s Gospel, he even had to deal with his own disciples getting a bit too big-headed from time to time too! This week, we hear the story of James and John and their bizarre request. When Jesus comes in glory, they want to sit either side of him. Presumably, so that everyone can see them looking rather cool and important. Jesus tells them that if they want to be with him ‘in glory’ then they have to go through everything that he is about to go through. Unlike the rich man in last week’s Gospel, they are happy to follow Jesus, but even despite this, he says that places of honour in heaven aren’t for him to grant! Summing this all up with the whole group of disciples, Jesus then talks about service and humility. Being great means being a servant to all. Even Jesus himself, he reminds us, came to serve and give his life. What we have here is a stark contrast. For James and John, greatness is about being in a high-profile position. For Jesus, it’s about humility, service, sacrifice.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Why does serving others make you great? What’s so great about it?

THOUGHT: Why do people so often want to be seen as great? It causes so many conflicts and even wars. Many of the wars of the past were about kings and emperors wanting more power and prestige for themselves. The battle for greatness has caused so much trouble. You have to wonder what the world would be like if everyone wanted to love and serve others?

IDEA: Why not have a discussion about how well we serve those around us, and what more we can do? Both as individuals, and maybe as a group?

October 11th (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel is about making sure that we don’t put anything before our relationship with God. God comes first, and if we’re serious about being Christians there shouldn’t be anything we’re not willing to give up for it. The reading kicks off with the story of ‘the rich young man’. He asks Jesus what he has to do to inherit eternal life, and shows Jesus that he knows the commandments well. Jesus asks more of him though: the man has to sell everything he owns and give the proceeds to the poor. Being a rich man, he goes away pretty miffed! Jesus then turns to his disciples and says something pretty striking. One of the better-known phrases from the bible: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God‘. Finally, Peter asks ‘What about us?’ Jesus, at last, gives a positive answer! They have left everything to follow him, and nobody who has done that will go unrewarded. It’s important to understand a few things about this reading. In Jesus’ day, people used camels to transport their luggage. Camels could often be pretty loaded up! When people came into Jerusalem, they had to pass through the walls of the city, and one of the main entrances was a portway called ‘the eye of the needle‘. This entrance was pretty tight, and to get their camels in they often had to unload them first. His point would have been clear to his listeners: You can’t do as much or get in to as many places if you’re too loaded up. You need to shed a bit if you want to get places.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Jesus isn’t calling us to sell everything we have and to give away all the money. Don’t worry. You can still be a good Christian and have something to wear tomorrow and somewhere to live! But Jesus’ challenge is still an unsettling one. He is asking us if there is anything in our lives that’s more important than him. Is there anything stopping us from doing what we need to do for him, from going where we need to go, and from being the sort of people we need to be?

THOUGHT: Think about the things you own. What do your possessions say about you?

IDEA: Why not challenge your group to try spending a day without something important to them: A phone? A laptop? A favourite coat or bag?

October 4th (27th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – In this week’s Gospel, Jesus has some pretty harsh and straight-forward things to say about divorce. With the Synod on the Family just around the corner in Rome, this is a topic likely to be hitting the headlines fairly soon. Jesus is questioned about whether divorce is allowed and he is very clear – it’s not! ‘What God has united,’ he says, ‘man must not divide.’ Almost everybody knows somebody who has been through a divorce and that’s why this is always a sensitive and difficult area. How do we show people love and compassion without compromising the truths of what we believe? It’s a difficult question, and one which the Church rightly is putting a lot of thought into at present. These were the questions of Jesus’ day just as they are the questions of today. But this issue was about more than just divorce. It was about the ongoing battle between Jesus and the Pharisees. They were constantly trying to catch Jesus out; to make him say something they could use against him. I like to imagine that he didn’t much care about their traps. Sometimes he had clever ways of side-stepping them, but he knew where he as heading. He knew it would all end at the cross, and he also knew that ultimately, he had come to teach the truth.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Are we people of the truth? Do we put the truth across no matter what the cost might be?

THOUGHT: Do we know anybody who has been affected by divorce? What can we do to better care for them and let them know that we love them?

IDEA: Why not spend some time praying for people who have been affected by these issues..?

September 27th (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – The message of this week’s Gospel is simple: it’s about getting the job done! Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about people who are ‘not one of us‘ working miracles in jesus name. He tells them that if anyone gives them a cup of water because they belong to him, then that person will be rewarded. He then goes on to talk about the harsh consequences for thigs that stand in the way of the Gospel.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Why is spreading the Gospel so important? What good does it do? Why have people down the centuries died for it?

THOUGHT: What do you do in your life that puts obstacles in the way of the Gospel?

IDEA: Why not get everyone to make two lists on a piece of paper: one list of the things we do to help the Gospel being spread, and one list of the things we do that hinder it..?

September 20th (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Last week’s Gospel focused on who Jesus is and how people responded to that. This week, the Gospel reading focuses on some of the same ideas, but with a few new twists. Once again, there is a warning from Jesus that a lot of suffering was coming his way, and once again there was doubt and confusion from his disciples, who couldn’t really accept the fact. After that, the theme changes slightly and Jesus weighs in on an argument the disciples are having about who is the greatest among them. Jesus’ answer is a simple, and famous, one: If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Jesus has a strange idea of greatness. At least by modern standards.His route to greatness was suffering and dying. His disciples route to greatness is by serving others and being ‘the last of all.’ What do you think that’s all about?

THOUGHT: Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve tried to make yourself look good and it’s horrendously backfired?

IDEA: Why not challenge members of the group to quietly, anonymously serve others in the coming week?

September 13th (24th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel reading is about the different ideas people had about who Jesus was. Jesus asks the question Who do people say I am? and after a few bad guesses, Peter gets it right: You are the Christ! What we get this week, from Mark’s Gospel is a stripped down version of the famous passages in Matthew’s Gospel. In that account, we hear that Jesus responded by giving Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, in other words by making him the first Pope. Here though, Mark is concerned more with people getting a correct understanding of who Jesus is, and with how they respond to that. Jesus goes on to explain that he was destined to suffer grievously, and when Peter shows how much he hates this idea, Jesus tells him that the way he thinks is not God’s way, but man’s. The reading ends with a challenge from Jesus: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. The message of the Gospel is a simple one: we cannot think about Jesus in human terms, and we cannot respond to him in a human way. He is everything, and he asks for everything from us in response. He is something amazing, and he wants something amazing from us. He wants us to understand who he is, and he wants us to give our whole lives in response.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How much of your life is really given to Christ? What do you hold back?

THOUGHT: Do you ever have trouble with who/ what Jesus really is? How do you prefer to think of Jesus?

THOUGHT: What do you think it would have been like having one of these challenging encounters with Jesus?

IDEA: Why not read through the Second Reading and then have a discussion about our ‘good works’? What d we do that proves we are followers of Christ? What more could we do?

September 6th (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – In this week’s Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf man and then has a huge struggle keeping the fact secret. To understand why jesus often asked people to keep quiet about things, you have to understand the ‘messianic secret’ – Jesus didn’t want to be fully ‘out there’ as the Messiah until the time was right, and that point hadn’t come just yet. So, he often told people to keep certain teachings or events under wraps. The problem was, he often failed to be quite as low key as he wanted to be. The Gospel this week tells us that ‘the more he insisted, the more widely they published it…’ That’s the problem with Good News. People want to pass it on.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Jesus is really good news. That’s what the word Gospel means, as you know. What do we do by our words and out actions to pass the good news of Jesus on to others?

THOUGHT: As Christians, we believe in praying for healing, and we believe in dramatic results. Is there any healing you want to pray for? Either in your own life or in the lives of others?

IDEA: Why not spend some time reflecting on the things God is doing in your life? The things that make you grateful; the things you see as Good News.

August 30th (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) – We’re back with Mark’s Gospel this week, and with a brilliant reading in which Jesus talks about things that matter and things that really don’t. As you may know, the Jews had a tonne of rules around hygiene and ritual. As the reading explains, they were told to: ‘never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves.’ The list goes on and on. Some of the scribes and the pharisees noticed that Jesus’ followers were eating without following these rules, and they asked Jesus why? Jesus answered them by calling them hypocrites! They were following all of the rituals but on the things that really mattered, they were falling down. It’s not what goes into a person from outside, Jesus said, but what comes out. In other words, we are defined by what we do.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Are you ever guilty of doing a token thing to cover up something you’ve done wrong?

THOUGHT: When you look at your life, your choices, your actions, what comes out of you? Do good things come out of you? Or things like those listed at the end of the Gospel reading: theft, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander etc?

IDEA: Why not think about how you we can change what ‘comes out of us’ for the better?

August 23rd (21st Sunday in Ordinary Time) – After the break for the Assumption last week, we’re back with John’s Gospel this week, and specifically with one of the most inspiring lines in scripture. Peter was famous for getting things wrong, but when he did get things right, he got them very right. The Gospel reading this week, follow’s Jesus teaching about ‘eating his flesh and drinking his blood.’ The people listening were astonished by this and they asked ‘really?’ Jesus responded with ‘Yes, really!’ Okay, that’s the short version, but you get the idea: this was difficult teaching. In this week’s Gospel, a lot of people stop following him and he turned to the others asking why they were still with him? Peter answered, ‘Who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life!’ In other words, if you turn away from Jesus, you turn away from life itself. You turn away from who you really are as well as from the one who made you.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Following Jesus means accepting some challenging things, but the alternative is turning away from ‘the Holy one of God.’ That’s worth remembering next time we’re tempted to compromise our faith!

THOUGHT: Have you ever fallen out with somebody because of something that they, or you, just couldn’t accept?

IDEA: Why not pray for people who find some of the Church’s teachings difficult? Or talk about parts of the faith you have all struggled with in the past.

August 16th (The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) – This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It usually falls on August 15th, but when that’s near to a Sunday, it gets transferred to that Sunday. As Catholics, we don’t believe that Mary is divine. She’s not God, but she is quite special. In fact, she is first among the saints. Among all people born totally human (i.e. excluding Christ himself) she is the most special and most Blessed. Why? Because she gave birth to the Son of God. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was given a huge place of respect because it held the tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments. It literally held God’s covenant with his people. Mary is special for exactly the same reason: because through her, the new and everlasting covenant, Jesus Christ, came into the world. Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin. In other words, she was protected from sin by God because of the special job that she would do. We also believe that at the end of her life she was taken up to heaven, body and soul, and that’s what we’re celebrating today. The Church has never taught one way or the other on whether or not Mary died, but we hold the fact of her Assumption to be infallible. We celebrate it because in being taken up to heaven, Mary got the reward of her faithfulness.

No ‘Beyond Words’ Video for this Sunday. Busted Halo have a good video on Mary though, here, which is Teen-friendly. Scott Hahn has one which is a bit more intellectual.

THOUGHT: It’s easy to forget about Heaven sometimes, but it’s a wonderful belief. As Christians, we believe that at the end of our lives we will be united with God and with one another in perfect joy for all eternity. Cool or what?

THOUGHT: The main thing Mary did in her life was saying yes to God. She simply allowed God to work through her, and the results were amazing.

IDEA: The Assumption is meant to be a great feast, so why not have some sort of party or celebration?

August 9th (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This reading really follows on from last week’s, so take a look at what was written there. It’s still very relevant. This week’s focus is still on Jesus being the ‘living bread’ or the ‘Bread of Life,’ but it focuses on the part of the Chapter where people really start to question the teaching. It’s a tough thing to take in, and a lot of the people listening just can’t handle it. Indeed, the Gospel goes on to show us that it was such a tough teaching that a lot of people stopped following Jesus that day. This all gets us thinking about how serious we are as followers of Jesus. The Gospel isn’t a safe, fluffy message about being nice to each other. It has some really challenging stuff in there. Some stuff that will turn our lives upside down and maybe even put us at odds with other people.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Do we engage with the challenging things in Jesus teaching as easily as we engage with the more user-friendly bits?

THOUGHT: How has your faith in Jesus challenged you lately?

IDEA: Why not have a look through today’s second reading as a group. Ask yourselves how well you live up to the things it challenges you to do?

August 2nd (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel reading comes from Chapter six of John’s Gospel. It’s one of the more controversial chapters in the Gospels because Jesus describes himself as the ‘Bread of Life’ and talks about ‘the true bread which comes down from heaven.’ After this week’s reading leaves off, the people listening ask him if he is literally talking about being bread for them to eat. He tells them that he is, and a lot of them can’t handle it and promptly stop following him. As Catholics, we believe that this passage is pointing to the Eucharist. Jesus makes the point that people often chase after the wrong sort of food! Being physically fed isn’t a bad thing, but being spiritually fed by Jesus is a much, much more important thing.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: We need to eat because our bodies are designed that way, but we often forget that our souls are made to need food as well. We need Jesus in order to bring us to life as the people we really are. How do you get fed by Jesus in your life?

THOUGHT: Again, this reading reminds us how important the Eucharist is. Do you really value Mass as much as you should?

IDEA: Why not do something to focus on the ways in which Jesus feeds us?

July 26th (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel Reading is the Feeding of the Five Thousand from John’s Gospel. It’s a story we all know very well: A huge crowd turns up and immediately there are catering issues. They find a small boy with five loads and two fishes and Jesus somehow makes it feed five thousand people, with leftovers afterwards. This was one of Jesus’ miracles. Those things that defy nature, and prove that Jesus was God. Jesus never performed a miracle to show off or even to solve an immediate problem. It was about building the Kingdom and demonstrating that he really was God.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: How does Jesus provide for you in your life? What does he give you that really feeds you? (in one way or other)

THOUGHT: What sort of effect do you think Jesus’ miracles had on the people who saw them?

IDEA: Why not share a meal together this week?

July 19th (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Last week, we saw Jesus giving his followers something to do. It was a reminder to them that they had a mission. This week, they are reminded of something very important about having a mission: the fact that you often don’t get to pick and choose when you are needed! After all their hard work, Jesus decides that he and his disciples need to retire to a quiet place where they can be alone and rest for a while, but there are people who need them. Those people figure out where they are going, and basically swamp them. Their rest is interrupted, and they’re suddenly back in business!

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Part of being needed is that you’re often needed at times when you don’t want to be. It’s much better than not being needed though!

THOUGHT: Although we don’t get to choose when we rest a lot of the time, rest is important. When, and how do you rest?

IDEA: Take some time to do what Jesus’ followers couldn’t do – enjoy each other’s company!

July 12th (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – Being a Christian isn’t a set of beliefs or a community. it is so much more than that. It is a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, and Jesus has work for us to do. In this week’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus sending to his apostles out. In short, he gives them a mission. More than that, he gives them some very specific instructions about their mission: Don’t take a spare tunic… don’t take anything except a staff. Jesus isn’t too concerned about what they have with them. Rather, he is trying to make the point that they mustn’t be distracted from their mission. Nothing should get in the way of the job they have to do. And, it’s the same for us. We all have a mission from Christ. We are called to try and discern what that mission is, and we are called to try and figure out what might get in its way.

Beyond Words Video for this Sunday (Ignore the date – it’s the right place in the lectionary cycle)

THOUGHT: Do you have an idea of what Jesus is asking you to do in life? If not, what might help you to figure it out?

THOUGHT: What sort of things get in the way of you doing the things you are meant to do? How can you avoid these distractions in life?

THOUGHT: Do you find it easy to be a Christian in the world? i.e., when you’re around people who aren’t Christian. 

IDEA: This week’s Second Reading is particularly powerful. Why not read it slowly as part of a reflection or prayer.

June 28th (Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul) – This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Other than Jesus, they were probably the two most influential figures in the early Church. The Gospel reading, from Matthew’s Gospel, tells us about when Jesus gave Peter the job of leading his Church. Peter and Paul are two interesting figures. Two unlikely leaders in some ways: Peter was the guy who kept putting his foot in it all the time, and Paul was a reformed zealot who went around persecuting Christians until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. So, they were odd choices! More than that was the fact that they didn’t always get on. They are recorded in the New Testament as falling out at least once! But yet, despite all this, the two of them (with the help of many others) laid a foundation for the Church which has lasted to this very day. Christ now has two billion followers, living on every single continent – At least in part, thanks to the work of Peter and Paul.

[There is no ‘Beyond Words’ video for this week]

THOUGHT: Do you always get on with the people you have to work with? If not, how do you handle it?

THOUGHT: Do you ever regret things you’ve got wrong in the past? How does this regret affect you? What can you do with it?

IDEA: Since today is about celebrating, why not have some sort of party or celebration after Mass? Or, maybe do something to celebrate how well you all work together, like an affirmation exercise.

June 21st (12th Sunday in Ordinary Time) – This week’s Gospel reading tells us about one of Jesus’ miracles. In Mark’s Gospel (which we get a lot of this year) there are basically three types of miracles: exorcisms, nature miracles and healing miracles. This is one of the second variety – the story of Jesus calming a storm. Jesus and a group of his followers are on a boat when all of a sudden it gets pretty choppy. Jesus, who is asleep, is soon woken up by some very scared people and responds by simply telling the wind and the rain to ‘Be calm!’ And, of course, it does. Jesus didn’t perform miracles as a party trick. He didn’t even perform them to get things done and sole problems. Miracles were signs of the Kingdom of God, as they still are today. They are meant to show people that Jesus is the real thing so that they follow him and start living the sort of lives he is calling them to. In other words, miracles aren’t an end in themselves. They’re there so that the person witnessing them listens to Jesus.

[There is no ‘Beyond Words’ video for this week]

THOUGHT: What was it that made you want to listen to Jesus? Is there anything stopping you from listening to him more and following him more seriously?

THOUGHT: Have you ever seen something you thought was a miracle? What sort of things do you see that you think show you something about God?

IDEA: Since this Gospel is all about nature, why not go for a walk as a group?

June 7th (Corpus Christi) – This is the Sunday where we get to focus on one of the most amazing things about being Catholic: The Body and Blood of Christ. The Gospel reading gives us Mark’s account of the last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. He took the bread and the wine, he told us that it was really, truly his Body and Blood, and he told us to keep on doing exactly the same thing. In Luke’s version, Jesus says ‘Do this in memory of me.’ It’s so easy for Catholics to take the Eucharist for granted. Mohandas Ghandi, the great Indian Independence leader once said of Catholics that if you truly believed what you say you believe about the Eucharist, you would approach it on your hands and knees. And, he’s right. This is the second person of the Trinity, the God who created the universe, giving us his very self. It’s given to us to strengthen us and to bring us closer to Him. It’s one of the most amazing things we could ever possibly receive, and this Sunday we get to celebrate it and focus on it even more than we do every other Sunday.

‘Beyond Words’ reflection for this Sunday (ignore the date on the video. This is the right Sunday!)

THOUGHT: Do you always make receiving communion as special as it should be? Do you enter fully into Mass? Do you receive humbly and full of love? Do you give thanks afterwards and pray that God’s grace will grow in you?

THOUGHT: The Body and Blood of Christ is probably he most amazing individual thing in the world. Do you value it as much as you should? What sort of things do people value? And what does that say about them?

IDEA: Since today is about celebrating, why not have some sort of party or celebration after Mass?

May 31st (The Most Holy Trinity) – Getting your head around the idea of the Trinity can be tough. If you don’t feel like you understand it fully, then don’t worry. You’re not alone. We don’t have three different God, but rather one God with three distinct persons. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in perfect unity with each other. There is no competition, power struggle or disagreement, because they are the same being. But yet, that being has more than one nature. More than one part. Analogies are sometime helpful, so try these… Some say that the Trinity is like one candle with three wicks. Others use the analogy of ice, water and steam: they’re basically the same stuff, just working in a different way in different situations. No analogy is perfect, because it’s quite hard to put the nature of the eternal God in to human words. Hopefully they move you in the right direction though!

‘Beyond Words’ reflection for this Sunday (ignore the date on the video. This is the right Sunday!)

THOUGHT: Some see the Trinity as a great example of teamwork. Others see it as a great example of family love. The Father, Son and the Spirit are always in perfect unity. How can we make our relationships more perfect?

THOUGHT: Don’t worry if you find parts of the faith hard to understand at times. Maybe the most beautiful and important things in the world shouldn’t be that easy to understand all of the time! The important thing is that you have a relationship with God that’s fed by love and prayer.

IDEA: This might be a good opportunity to do a bit of art work. Christians have quite often tried to represent the Trinity in art, so why not give it a go with your group?

May 24th (Pentecost Sunday) – Today is Pentecost Sunday when we remember Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Pentecost is referred to as the Birthday of the Church, because the Holy Spirit gave the Church the power to carry out its mission. There are a few different options for Gospel readings this week, but each of them give us a little sneak preview of the Holy Spirit – why it is being sent or perhaps what it can do. The reading from John 20 shows us the important role that the Holy Spirit has in the forgiveness of sins – something we see clearly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The reading from John 15 talks about the Spirit of Truth who will lead us to truth, and the reading from John 7 (for the vigil) talks about the Spirit as something flowing from Jesus, and it tells us that the Spirit hasn’t yet put in an appearance because Jesus has not yet (at that point in the Gospel) been glorified.

‘Beyond Words’ reflection for this Sunday (ignore the date on the video. This is the right Sunday!)

THOUGHT: The Holy Spirit is the thing which animates our faith and brings it to life. Faith is a little bit like a car. It can be beautifully well designed and have all the right pieces in place, but if there isn’t any fuel in the tank, then it’s not going to go anywhere. The Holy Spirit is the fuel in the tank!

THOUGHT: Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit strongly in your life? If not, ask God to send you his Spirit. Keep asking, and see what happens!

THOUGHT: It’s not difficult to see why the young Church needed the Holy Spirit, and it’s no hard to see the good that it did. Back then, the Church was a handful of scared, uneducated guys, with no power or wealth or status behind them. Today, Christians make up a third of the world’s population and are in every country in the world. Something powerful had to happen between those two points!

IDEA: Since Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church, why not do something to celebrate?

May 17th (The Ascension of the Lord) – This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension, and we hear Mark’s account of the Ascension of Jesus from the very end of his Gospel. The Ascension, of course, is all bout Jesus being taken up to heaven at the end of his time on earth. He came to earth, he died, he rose again and he appeared to a lot of people. He was never meant to hang around on earth for ever though. At least, not physically. So, the Ascension was necessary. It must have been scary for his disciples though. Just think about it: They followed him for three years and never really knew what was happening. Then they lost him at the Cross and went through so much turmoil. But then he rose again, and suddenly pieces of the picture started to fall in to place. Not long after though, Jesus was leaving them all over again. Pretty soon, the Holy Spirit would come at Pentecost and would complete their understanding. But, at the point when Jesus ascended, and for the next few days, it must have felt like a second loss. A second round of turmoil and questions.

THOUGHT: The Ascension completed Jesus ministry on earth and handed things over to us, his disciples. There is a huge sense that Jesus is turning to us and saying ‘Okay, over to you!’ How are we doing Jesus’ work on earth?

THOUGHT: Why do you think Jesus had to ascend? Why not just hang around on earth for ever?

THOUGHT: Some of the things Jesus says about believers at the start of the Gospel reading are pretty extreme. What point do you think he is trying to make?

IDEA: Why not do something to reflect on our mission as individuals, or on what we can do for Jesus in the world?

May 10th (Sixth Sunday of Easter) – This week’s Gospel reading lets us in on a little bit of Jesus’ prayer life. Jesus is asking God to look out for his disciples and to keep them close to him. In other words, Jesus is praying for us. Jesus recognises that his followers will find life difficult. The world will hate them because of what they believe. The language is deliberately stark to make the point stick in the mind. Christians may not always be outright hated, but life is certainly difficult at times because of who we are and what we believe. Indeed, sometimes, there may be outright hatred – Just think about the Christians being killed by ISIS in the Middle East right now, for instance. In his prayer, Jesus says something interesting. He says that he’s not asking God to remove us from the world, but to protect us. And how does Jesus ask his Father to protect us? He asks him to consecrate them in the truth. In other word, God’s truth and God’s message are a powerful shield!

‘Beyond Words’ reflection for this Sunday (ignore the date on the video. This is the right Sunday!)

THOUGHT: How do you think being a Christian makes your life more difficult?

THOUGHT: Has your faith ever turned anybody against you? How did you respond?

THOUGHT: This Gospel reading tells us how important truth is. Truth is so often compromised by simple, quick lies. What can you do to be more honest?

IDEA: If Jesus needed to pray, you can bet that we do too! Why not get the group thinking about what they want to ask God to do for his followers in the world.

May 3rd (Fifth Sunday of Easter) – The message of this week’s Gospel is simple: we need God. If we stay connected to him, we can do great things. If we don’t, we can’t. It’s that simple! Jesus says I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Jesus talks about vines and about fruit. Vines exist to produce fruit, but they don’t work unless they stay connected. They need to be fed. If you cut a vine off, it soon stops producing anything. But what fruit does Jesus want us to produce? He wants us to be good loving people. People who live for him and for others, rather than for ourselves. He wants us to be faithful, honest, decent. He wants us to make good decisions, and to make a positive impact on those around us. Only he can help us to do this in the truest way. There are many ways to stay connected to Jesus: prayer, love, the Sacraments, and many more. In the Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that we are able to bear fruit because of the word that he has spoken to us. That’s why it’s important to listen to what Jesus teaches, through his Church and through the readings we hear each week at Mass.

‘Beyond Words’ reflection for this Sunday (ignore the date on the video. This is the right Sunday!)

THOUGHT: Do you always feel connected to God? What helps? What doesn’t help?

THOUGHT: Relationships need work. How do you put work in to your relationship with God? What sort of things do you do?

THOUGHT: Why does bearing fruit look like in your life? What good things do you do?

IDEA: Why not make a vine on a piece of card and stick it on the wall. Invite the group to write on the vine things that they can do for God and for others.