Parish Scripture Meditation Groups
Sharing In A Vision
Every parish is part of a diocese: the Church planted by Yeshua HaMashiach — Jesus our Messiah in our place — our country! We are the Church in this part of God’s world. Our Messiah has ordained that, in this place, we will represent Him and His teaching, His ministry, His outreach to all humanity: to the people in this location first — yes! — but also to all humanity! And to do this faithfully, until He returns in glory to perfect the establishment of His Kingdom at the end of time.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
The Hebrew Catholic Apostolate is an integral part of the life of the Church. Its members value the opportunity to serve in the Church, and beyond. In its various pursuits it aims to help highlight, restore and make more accessible the Jewish heritage throughout the Body of Christ and in this way give robust support to the Church’s teachings and venerable traditions. Thus it is focussed on strengthening commitment to the mission of our Lord within the Church and to mobilising every effort to share His love and teaching with all who wish to receive it wherever they are.
Purpose of Scripture Meditation Groups
1. Learning to listen to Jesus Messiah
The name “Scripture Meditation” groups indicates exactly what they offer. We call them “Shema Groups” for short: “shema” meaning, in Hebrew, “Listen”. This was God’s only command in the New Testament: “This is My Beloved Son — LISTEN to Him!”
(See picture on front of website — www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz )
And listening is the key word in the whole of our approach to meditation. Our small group gatherings enable anyone in a locality to join in the learning as well as the fellowship: family, visitors, neighbours and invited guests! They are a God-given opportunity for Christian hospitality.
2. Preparing to Celebrate the Lord’s Day
The dignity conferred by our Messiah Jesus — Yeshua — on members of His Body, the Church, is like no other. All are called to participate in the joint offering of the Holy Eucharist on the day of His Resurrection. The Lord’s Day, Sunday, is therefore a foretaste of the life to which He calls us to share in Heaven. Our “Shema” groups provide an opportunity for us to reflect on the coming Sunday Scriptures — especially the Gospel — and to help one another understand our Lord’s teaching about fullness of life and spiritual growth. This is the core material of the Liturgy — the Great Thanksgiving Service. The readings set the theme for the whole Mass, and help us to participate more fully in what we call the Sacrificial Banquet of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which the Divine Word is made Flesh for us.
3. To Celebrate BELONGING
These are very lofty and wonderful reasons for joining a “Shema” group and reflecting together on the Sacred Scriptures. Among all the other reasons one could list for doing this, there is a very special one: to celebrate in a homely way our belonging to the Household of God — to celebrate the living presence of God in our hearts and homes. And to do it in one’s own household manner and custom. Showing one another warmth and hospitality is very Biblical in every way.
Our various sets of notes provide a fairly wide range of ideas to help a network of groups in an area to thrive. Local circumstances will indicate the optimal size of groups. This will vary a lot. We have seen excellent outcomes with groups of three or four up to fifteen or sixteen. It depends on several factors and there is no need to be too assertive about it.
We recommend weekly meetings of up to one hour if Scriptural Reflection (Phase 1) is combined with a period of silent meditation (Phase 2). Otherwise, time can be adjusted to suit the group.
A Calendar of Events
We recommend a few “fixed events” on the annual calendar.
1. Annual Dedication — Blessing Groups and Leaders
This could be at the start of the Church Year — Advent Sunday. It would help the scheme make a “footprint” among the parish’s various apostolate and ministries.
2. Preparation Seminar (Led by clergy or lay leaders)
Prior to the beginning of the new Liturgical cycle in Advent a brief seminar could highlight key understandings of the main Gospel for the forthcoming Church year, and the festivals up to Pentecost. Some may prefer to have a second seminar in Lent to cover the seasons up to Pentecost.
3. Follow-up Seminar (Led by clergy or other co-ordinator)
This would provide some key ideas and themes associated with the six month period of “Ordinary Time” / Trinity to Christ the King or end of Sundays After Pentecost if the traditional 12 month Church Lectionary is used.
4. Parish Socials
Once or twice a year gatherings can be held to celebrate the achievements of the group(s). They also show an aspect of hospitality which may not otherwise be associated with this apostolate. Besides that — it’s always good and holy to have genuine fun!
5. A Final Thought
Most people who would take the trouble to read a leaflet such as this, will tend to be busy people, with many responsibilities. Amidst all our enthusiasm, we do try to present ideas in a realistic and practical manner. Our hope is that there is enough material for a courageous person to volunteer to be a group leader, and then to start selecting ideas, which are suitable in a particular setting. It is natural for a person to be apprehensive about making decisions to get underway, and so it may be helpful to work with one or two companions. As long as you are open to reviewing your methods and adapting them if appropriate, then you should proceed confidently.
Scripture Meditation Groups are, in fact, a mission activity within the parish. Their influence however cannot possibly be contained within parish boundaries. The power of prayer and spiritual formation will translate into a Christian presence in the wider community. They will be truly evangelistic and very much at the service of the Church —
and of Jesus Christ its Head.
To Him be praise and glory forever. Amen.