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FAITH SHARINGRCIA
SOURCE: Larry Broding at Word-Sunday.com.
Directions: On this page you will find questions on the Sunday Readings that can be used in RCIA or Faith Sharing groups. Clicking on the PDF icons will give participants additional commentary and resources.

Small Group Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin
FIRST READING NOTES

FIRST READING — The story of Noah and the great flood begins in Genesis 6:5. As we join the story in this reading, the flood is over and Noah, his family and all the animals are back on dry land.

God enters into a covenant not only with Noah but also with all his descendants and with all living creatures. Note the universal character of the covenant. The idea of covenant is central to Scripture, both Old and New Testament. In fact, the words covenant and testament are the same. A covenant commits one to remain faithful when even the other party is unfaithful. God will remain faithful to us even if we are unfaithful to him. Today’s reading also emphasizes the permanence of the covenant. God tells Noah that never again shall water cover the earth.

The rainbow in the sky is intended to be a visible sign of the covenant between God and humanity. It is also a sign of God’s presence and serves as a reminder to the people of their responsibilities before God.

SOURCE ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission. Table of Contents
SECOND READING NOTES

SECOND READING — This reading may have been part of an instruction on baptism in the Early Church. The key point of the instruction reminds us of the efficacy of Christ’s suffering and death. Through his death and Resurrection, all have access to God. The reference to Christ preaching to the “spirits in prison” has baffled biblical scholars for years. Concerning this verse, Scripture scholar Margaret Nutting Ralph writes: “Jesus’ redemptive power extends to the spirit world and over all times. Salvation is offered not just to those who lived after Jesus’ life and death on earth, but to all who ever lived.”

The author then goes on to contrast the waters of the Flood to the waters of baptism. (Both the New Testament writers and the Early Church Fathers looked to the Old Testament for hidden signs and symbols that foreshadowed and prepared the way for events and teachings in the life of Christ and his Church.) Just as Noah saved others from the devastating waters of the Flood, so Christ saves us from the ultimate destruction of separation from God. Peter then insists that baptism is not just some external cleansing. Rather, it brings about an inner transformation making us like Christ. Remember the old definition of a sacrament? It is an outward sign (in Baptism, this is water) signifying an inner reality (in Baptism, it is cleansing the soul of sin and filling it with the grace or the life of Christ)..

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.
GOSPEL NOTES

GOSPEL — Today’s Gospel reading begins with Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Unlike Matthew’s or Luke’s accounts, both of which detail the specific temptations that Jesus experienced, Mark tells us only that the “Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

The reference to “wild beasts” is intended to communicate the savage nature of the temptations. “Angels ministering” to Jesus is a reminder of how the angel has visited Elijah in his time of trial, bringing him bread and water. It is possible that Mark is seeking to convey to his community that in times of trial and testing, Jesus will also be present to sustain them.

After his time in the desert is completed, Jesus begins his public ministry. His first words are: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus’ pronouncement of “the time of fulfillment” signifies that Israel’s long time of waiting for a decisive entrance by God on their behalf has come. Many people believe that the Messiah will be another Davidlike warrior who will drive out the Romans. But as they will find out soon, Jesus will be a peaceful Messiah. Not only that, but for one to avail of all that he brings, one will need to repent and embrace the Gospel that he preaches.

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

DISCUSS:

1. Share with the group or person next to you what spoke to you most in the Gospel. With this first question, try to refrain from commenting on what others said. Just share what spoke to you and then move on to the next person.

2. In the Great Flood, God cleanses creation polluted by sin.

      • How do we pollute creation today?
      • How aware are you of environmental issues?
      • Do you recycle?
      • Do you conserve water and use reusable items?

3. In the second reading, Peter speaks of baptism.

      • What does being a baptized Catholic mean to you?
      • Do you know the date of your Baptism? If not, consider finding it out.

4. Some, if not many people find it hard to believe that Jesus was really tempted to go against his Father’s will for his life.

      • Any comments on this?
      • Does the reality of Jesus’ temptations make it easier to believe that Jesus was like us in all things except sin?

5. Jesus’ temptations reminds us that the spiritual life is indeed spiritual warfare.

      • Our nobler or Christ self is engaged in a fierce battle with the world the flesh and the devil. How does this play out in your life? If possible be concrete. For example, a part of us may not want to forgive a hurt or share our blessings with others.

6. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Discussion Questions

by Fr. Clement Thibodeau
FIRST READING NOTES

FIRST READING — The Book of Genesis has many levels of authorship and tradition. One of the oldest strands of its content has to do with the flood and the first covenant made by God. Other Near Eastern cultures have similar flood stories, but in Genesis, the theological focus is clearly set on God’s promise to honor human life forever, never again to punish humanity in this way. The point of the story is that God is still faithful to that promise. The story of the flood and of its meaning have little to do with actual history. We waste our time trying to find the Ark on Mount Ararat in modern-day Turkey. This is a religious narrative, not ancient history..

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.
SECOND READING NOTES

SECOND READING — The First Letter of Peter represents a Christian author, perhaps one generation after the Prince of the Apostles, who reflects on the role of baptism in the life of the new disciple of Christ. The waters of baptism are symbolic of the waters of the flood: destructive of sin and life giving in grace. New life in God springs forth now from the waters of baptism. The rainbow of God’s promise now reminds us of the risen life of Christ given to us in baptism.

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.
GOSPEL NOTES

GOSPEL — Mark has a rather succinct version of the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert. In two verses, we are told that:

    • The Spirit of God is at work here.
    • The environment is a desert.
    • The duration is 40 days.
    • Satan opposes the intentions of God.
    • Wild animals are Jesus’ companions.
    • Angels care for him.

Such is the context for the life of the Lord’s disciples. We need to remember that Mark’s Gospel is always addressed to the disciples of Jesus in the days when the Gospel was written and in our day also. Just as Jesus was defined in his person and in his mission, so the Church of today takes its definition and its purposes from what happened to Jesus, in the desert and throughout his life.

The Spirit of God brought all reality into existence at the beginning of creation. The whole environment was a “waste” (desert) before living things were brought into being. Forty years in the desert made the Hebrews into God’s people. Moses spent 40 days on the mountain to receive the Law. Elijah walked a journey of 40 days to bring the gift of life. Jesus came face to face with the choice that faces every human being: opposing God or cooperating with God. Living peacefully with wild beasts is sign of the imminent reconciliation of all things in the universe. God will take care of those who belong to God.

Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee, a land despised by the official religious establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem. The population is of mixed origins here: Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Syrians, etc., a mixed, corrupt breed. It is Mark’s way of saying what Matthew and Luke say by having the Good News first announced to shepherds from the hills and to Magi from the East, a mixed breed to say the least!

We are called Christians because we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are named after the One who is our Master. We take our directions from the One who has called us into fellowship with God through his dying and rising. The disciples of Jesus are formed by him into a community of love and service. Discipleship is nothing if it is not a call to reconciliation and love with one another, a call to community. In community, disciples overcome their selfishness and pride. In community, we find acceptance, affirmation and trust, the foundations of love and peace. In community, we come through our desert experience and are ministered to by “angels,” God’s servants in the Church.

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

DISCUSS:

1. Discuss the experiences that for you have been times when you had to confront the dimensions of your life that were not yet fully surrendered to God.

      • Has there been for you a time of testing where you know now that God was refining you so that you would more completely give yourself over to God’s love?
      • Identify the persons who were like angels comforting you during these trials.

2. Tell stories from your experience that illustrate how God works to support us through the love and comfort that comes from our family, friends, and parish community, as we exercise our discipleship.

      • Who are the people who represent God’s angels to you today whenever you need assurance and comfort?

3. Imagine out loud what Jesus’ initial preaching would be like today if he began his public ministry in Gardiner or Grand Isle, Maine, at the beginning of Lent [2021].

      • What does the Church need to hear from the Lord at this particular time in its journey of faith?
      • Spell out some of the elements of the message which Mark would have us hear today.
SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

Bible Study Questions

by Vince Contreras

1. In the 2nd reading, what inference does St. Peter draw about baptism from the story of Noah? By what power does he say this is accomplished?

2. What is the significance of the number “forty” in Mark 1:13? What other great events in salvation history revolve around this number (Genesis 7:11-12; Exodus 25:15-18; Numbers 15:26-35; 1 Kings 19:1-8)?

3. What is the common preaching theme of John the Baptist (Mark 1:2-4), Jesus (verse 15), and the first disciples (Acts 2:37-38)? What does it mean to “repent”?

4. Why do you think it is important for us to hear about Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness? What benefit is it for us to undergo our own temptations (Hebrews 12:3-11; James 1:2-4)?

5. Besides Satan, where do temptations come from (1 John 2:15-17; Romans 7:15-25a)?

6. After his temptation, Jesus was ministered to by angels (verse 13). When we have successfully resisted temptation, are we able to see how God sustains and rewards us? How?

7. Both John the Baptist (Mark 1:6) and Jesus followed practices of self-discipline for religious reasons. What self-disciplining practices do you use for religious reasons? How have they influenced your own “change of heart” (repentance)?

SOURCE: © 2014 Sunday Scripture Study for Catholics by Vince Contreras. Used with permission.
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