Accountability and Support

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
– Matthew 18:20

Monthly Focus on Piety

With what spiritual aids have I nourished my vital union with Christ during the past 30 days?
M1.   Morning offering
M2.  Personal Prayer Period
M3.  Mass and Communion
M4.  Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
M5.  Rosary / Devotion to Mary
M6.  Examination of Conscience
M7.  Spiritual Direction

Discussion Questions for December 4, 2016 Sunday Mass
Second Sunday of Advent

First Reading

Isaiah 11: 1-10
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

First Reading Discussion Questions
F1. “The earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord,” Von Balthazar says this is “the drenching of the entire being with the inner understanding of what God is.” Discuss this idea.  How does this relate to peace in the reading?

F2. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in this reading, are received in baptism: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and wonder and awe in the presence of God. Can you relate these to peace in your heart?

Second Reading

Romans 15: 4-9
Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, 
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another, 
in keeping with Christ Jesus, 
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, 
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness, 
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, 
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.

Second Reading Discussion Questions
S1.  John O’Malley, SJ: “Pope Francis is continuously pushing us beyond the comforts of our religious boundaries to encounter the one human family.” Relate this to our reading. Would St. Paul be giving the same advice to the Church today that we read in this letter: “I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised … so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”

S2. There are people with whom you disagree. How easy is it to “think in harmony” with them? Why would you think this way instead of just going along with such people, or being nice, or acting like you agree with them?

Gospel

Matthew 3: 1-12
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves, 
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you, 
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, 
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn, 
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Gospel Discussion Questions
G1. Judging by John’s appearance, would you guess his cry was lukewarm or a cry from the heart calling for life-altering change? How would you respond to him? Is the fire within you a conflagration or does it look more like a pilot light? How can you gather some kindling for your fire during Advent?

G2. Pope Francis summed up John the Baptists’ vocation in three key words: “Prepare, discern and diminish.” Why does he say we also need to diminish ourselves?

John was a man who prepared the way for Jesus without taking any of the glory for himself. … When asked if he was the Messiah, John replied that he was just ‘a voice’ who had come ‘to prepare the way of the Lord.’

The second vocation of John the Baptist was to discern, among so many good people, who was the true Messiah. When John saw Jesus passing by, he said to the disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The third vocation of John the Baptist is to diminish himself so that the Lord may grow in the hearts of others.

… As Christians we too must prepare the way of the Lord, we must discern the truth and we must diminish ourselves so that the Lord can grow in our hearts and in the souls of others. 
Homily, Santa Marta Chapel June 24, 2014

**From Saint Louis University & Anne Osdieck

Suggested Strategies for Managing the Clock

  • For those with smaller groups or those who have the luxury of enough allotted time, it is suggested that the group cover each question from the monthly focus through the Gospel discussion questions
  • For those with larger groups or don't have the luxury of operating on God's Time, it is suggested that the group cover the monthly focus question and then feel free to skip around and attempt to answer only a few questions - whether that’s just the gospel, or the second reading and gospel, etc.