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Discussion Questions for Reading 1

What are some of the rules that are observed in your family? How do these rules make a difference in your relationships with family members? Why do you think God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments? What might have happened to them in the Promised Land if they did not have the Commandments?

Why does Moses instruct the people not to "add or subtract" from God's law? What would you say to a friend who told you that he or she did not accept one or more of the Ten Commandments?

Reading 1 Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

Reading 1 Reflection

Some people cringe when they see words like "laws" and "commandments." They see regulations of any kind as a burden. However, as Moses prepares to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, he reminds them of the true purpose of God's commandments. By obeying God's law, the people will live in harmony with him and with each other. Other nations will marvel at their wisdom and envy their close relationship with God.

The Commandments and God's law of love are to be cherished and obeyed by all believers. We do not pick and choose which commands are easy for us to follow. Out of love, we observe the whole law that God has given us.

Discussion Questions for Reading 2

What advice would you give to a friend who said, "As soon as I leave after Mass, I forget what the readings and the homily were all about"? Why do you think some people rarely act on the word of God that they have heard proclaimed at Mass? How can lectors and homilists help people to become doers of the word?

Name one way you will act on the word of God communicated in Saint James' letter today.

Reading 2 James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Reading 2 Reflection

At every Mass we hear the word of the Lord proclaimed. But if the word we hear does not get translated into action, it is like a seed that gets blown away rather than planted in good soil. Saint James reminds us in his letter that we are to be doers of the word, not just hearers. Those who take the word of God to heart and act on it will care for orphans and widows, the poor and the homeless, the hungry and the sick.

True worship is not a matter of simply going to Mass or saying prayers. It is a matter of acting on the word that has been planted in us by God.

How does your parish help you to keep your heart close to God?

Discussion Questions for Gospel

What character in a comic strip, a TV show, or a movie can you think of who acted like a hypocrite in some way? Tell how he or she acted. Why does Jesus call the religious leaders in today's story hypocrites? Find one statement that summarizes his complaint against them.

How would you explain why having a good heart is more important than giving God "lip service"? What are some of the things Jesus says comes from within people? What sacrament can help us to know the difference between just following the rules and following Jesus?

Gospel Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Gospel Reflection

The word "hypocrite" comes from an ancient Greek term meaning "actor." In today's gospel story, Jesus accuses the religious leaders of being hypocrites. They act as though they are speaking for God but they are really speaking about what matters to them. Jesus points out that they are more concerned about pious practices than they are about God's commandments. They criticized Jesus' disciples for not washing their hands before eating. But they showed no interest in the goodness of the disciples' hearts.

Jesus teaches that religious rules and regulations should never become more important than God's people. He wants us to understand that our outward behavior should reflect what is in our hearts. A good heart will not produce evil actions. Nor will washing our hands make us clean inside where it really counts.

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