Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

20 January 2018

Reflecting on Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

As Jonah glowered under the tree God graciously raised up for him―and then caused to wither, leaving him with no shelter from the blazing sun―we can imagine his soliloquy:

I know this isn’t very politically correct of me, but is anyone else rolling their eyes at this girly-girl of a God we have? Those Ninevites terrorized the whole nation of Samaria―our own kin! ―and now all they have to do is skip breakfast and roll around in sackcloth and ashes and all is forgiven? So what if they “believed God”? I believed God plenty, but I had to do my whole time in the belly of that beast. No special treatment for me.

I guess you have to be a murdering, marauding Assyrian to get God’s compassion. The rest of us have been faithful and righteous our whole lives―and we’re the Chosen People, no less! But these filthy, uncircumcised Ninevites get God’s whole focus and forgiveness.

I’m just going to say it: we need a God who doles out justice instead of all this cry-baby mercy. I wanted to crawl in a hole when I realized that, after just one day, those cowards started weeping and admitting that they were sinners. I had thirty-nine more sermons ready to go, and only got to give one.

Huh. I must be a great preacher. Just one fire-and-brimstone for me and the whole nation falls to its knees. Come to think of it, even the cattle are fasting! I have a great future as God’s right-hand man. The first thing I’ll demand is that God cease and desist with the forgiveness already. Make ‘em sweat. Speaking of which, what happened to that tree?

Can you think of a time when your resentment of God’s mercy created more misery for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

18 January 2018

Reflecting on 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19

How  are you sleeping these days? Do you nod off and sleep easily through the night? Or do you, like the child Samuel, often awake with the sense that you are being called, and then can’t get back to sleep until you finally acknowledge that it is God who is nudging you?

Maybe your dreams are where God is revealing a path for you. If you have a recurring dream―maybe the one where you forgot to go to class all semester and now it’s time to take the final, or ones as urgent as the dreams that alerted me to a ten-centimeter ovarian mass in 2004―it’s possible that God is using your subconscious to guide and heal you.

Then of course there is simply the tossing and turning that goes with finding night-time peace with day-time conflicts. How much longer can you bite your tongue at work? Will the new generation of graduates get the job you’ve excelled at for years? For that matter, will any of the older generation step aside so that your own kids can find meaningful work?

And speaking of the kids, do you lose sleep worrying that they aren’t happy, aren’t healthy, and will probably not carry on the faith that has sustained you your entire life? That’s a lot of sleep to lose over worries that have kept parents awake forever, including, most probably, your own.

But here’s the secret. In all your midnight wrestlings, God is there. It might be that God is aiding you in resolving problems.  Or, just possibly, God is calling you. In that case, the only thing to do is to rouse yourself and say, “Speak, Lord. I’m listening.”

In what ways does God use your sleep to heal you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle B

6 January 2018

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

Here’s that beautiful story again. You know the one. Three immigrants, following a Star, cross unnamed borders, have an interview with a Crazy King, joyfully reconnect with the Star in Bethlehem, and make their presence (presents) known to Mary and Joseph.

They could have succumbed to Herod’s flattery. They could have sent a message to the palace, saying, “Oh yes, great and wise king, your humble servants have been the first to locate the King of the Jews! We’ll return for our finder’s fee, and perhaps a place of honor in your cabinet.”

But they were too prayerful, too intuitive, too full of wonder to do anything so risky to The Child. They had, after all, seen his star rise a full two years earlier. They left all the comforts of language, food and citizenship in order to find the One whose star drew them away from what they knew into the endless depths of what can never be fully known.

And so they entered the house over which the Star hovered, and nothing has ever been the same. And when it came to them in a dream not to return to Herod, they paid attention to that dream and went home another way.

If even one of them had defected and said, “This is my time to get rich and famous and I’m selling this scoop to the tabloids,” he could have made a run for Jerusalem and made Herod a very happy man. The soldiers would have intercepted the Holy Family before they ever left Bethlehem.

But not one of the Magi desired anything but to find him for whom his heart longed. Very wise men, indeed.

In what ways has following the path of righteousness given you a deep joy?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Holy Family – Cycle B

2 January 2018

How did you and your relatives get along this Christmas? If you were a little relieved to get back to your own house and your own bed, it might be instructive to consider on this Feast of the Holy Family that no family in first-century Palestine lived on their own in a separate dwelling. For purposes of safety and resources and tribal connections, everyone lived in multi-generational family homes.

Um-hmm. So, there was no happy waving from the car as families took their leave until getting together again during summer vacation.  After festive dinners everyone retreated―well, nowhere. There was no place to go, and those who had the least private space were considered the most blessed, because that meant they had the most family members.

It seems to me that kids today grow up supporting and encouraging each other instead of competing for mom and dad’s limited attention. The teenagers I know are proud of their siblings and consider them their best friends. A friend of mine says she can’t figure out why her kids love spending so much time together. At their ages, she and her sister had stopped speaking, and all the years haven’t changed that.

I was recently with a 23-year-old brother whose 25-year-old sister had just had her first baby. He couldn’t stop showing me pictures on his phone. At least half of the pictures are of the new baby with her adoring young uncles and aunts, who have loved their sister passionately all their lives, and now are thrilled to love their new niece within an inch of her life.

There are holy families all around us. It’s never too late to have one yourself.

How will you consciously act to forge stronger bonds with your family?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Nativity of the Lord – Cycle B

24 December 2017

Reflecting on Luke 1 and 2

There are so many things I long for each of you this Christmas. Here are a few:

I want you to be visited by an angel. I want you to know that you have found favor with God. I want you to feel so strengthened and empowered by God’s nearness that you could walk the same ninety miles that Mary walked, just to tell someone you love that God has broken through.

I want you, like the shepherds keeping watch that night, to have moments of wonder. I hope that you are astonished by God’s power to heal, to console, to bring life from death, and yes, to set hosts of angels in the sky who have probably been standing watch there from the beginning of time, waiting for you to notice their song.

I want you, like Mary, to hold closely in your heart every moment when God did something astonishing and bewildering and soul-soaring. And especially when those moments come to you through encounters with people who don’t look or live like you, remember how smelly and rough those shepherds must have seemed to the Holy Family. I want you, like St. Joseph, to love the people you love so faithfully and fiercely that they know one thing for sure, that you are their safe place to land even when everything and everyone is against them.

I want you, like the Child Jesus, to be brave if you are placed in unfamiliar and frightening situations this year. In the beginning was the Light. It shines in the darkness. And that darkness shall never overcome you.

How will you, like Mary, let God astonish you?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

23 December 2017

Reflecting on Luke 1 and 2

There are so many things I long for each of you this Christmas. Here are a few:

I want you to be visited by an angel. I want you to know that you have found favor with God. I want you to feel so strengthened and empowered by God’s nearness that you could walk the same ninety miles that Mary walked, just to tell someone you love that God has broken through.

I want you, like the shepherds keeping watch that night, to have moments of wonder. I hope that you are astonished by God’s power to heal, to console, to bring life from death, and yes, to set hosts of angels in the sky who have probably been standing watch there from the beginning of time, waiting for you to notice their song.

I want you, like Mary, to hold closely in your heart every moment when God did something astonishing and bewildering and soul-soaring. And especially when those moments come to you through encounters with people who don’t look or live like you, remember how smelly and rough those shepherds must have seemed to the Holy Family. I want you, like St. Joseph, to love the people you love so faithfully and fiercely that they know one thing for sure, that you are their safe place to land even when everything and everyone is against them.

I want you, like the Child Jesus, to be brave if you are placed in unfamiliar and frightening situations this year. In the beginning was the Light. It shines in the darkness. And that darkness shall never overcome you.

How will you, like Mary, let God astonish you?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

16 December 2017

Reflecting on Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11

I get the best ideas from my friends. Last year my wonderful friend Julie shared with me how nice Thanksgiving was at their house because she laid out bags, water bottles, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and McDonald’s gift certificates on the dessert table. After everyone had enjoyed the pumpkin pie, they carefully filled their bags with goodies to hand out to the people standing on the street corners.

What a great idea. I tried it with my family and they loved it, so we did it again this year and will do it for Christmas too. That little holiday discipline reminds me of Isaiah’s “anointed one” who is sent to do all the hard things: heal the brokenhearted, release prisoners, and bring glad tidings to those who are poor.

It’s the little things, really, that advance the kingdom. The person who knows no brokenhearted people is the person who is living a deeply isolated life. I’ll bet each person reading this could name at least a dozen people struggling with a broken heart right this minute. And guess what? We’re the ones God has anointed to heal them.

There are a number of ministries in the Church that address the spiritual needs of those in prison, and those ministries depend on us―God’s anointed ones―to do the corporal work of mercy of visiting those in prison.

I have friends who easily engage those who stand on the sidewalk carrying a sign. They offer a warm smile, and always ask the person’s name. They never give money, but they thoughtfully keep a small bag of helpful items for them. For some, a toothbrush can bring glad tidings better than a ten-dollar bill.

What special work do you feel “anointed” to carry out?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

12 December 2017

Reflecting on Mark 1: 1-8

When I hear about John the Baptizer dunking Israelites in the Jordan I remember a tender moment with my friend Charles Onofrio, the great lion of God who went home to heaven last year. No one loved Jesus and the Church more than Chuck, and no one was more receptive to and educated about the reforms of Vatican II than this eloquent Catholic lawyer.

But the first time Chuck observed the catechumens preparing for baptism being led from the church after the homily he was outraged. “Well, I’m not standing for this. If they can’t stay for Communion then neither can I.  I’m a greater sinner than any of them. How dare I stay when they are being asked to leave?”

It took a few words of kind explanation from the great Bishop George Evans to help Chuck understand that this was the new rite of initiation for converts to the faith. Their dismissal is not―good heavens! ― because they are sinners and we aren’t. They are dismissed in front of us so they can go for catechesis together, and so we can pray for them every step of the way.

Chuck became the lead catechist in the parish, and must have prayed hundreds of new Catholics to the baptismal font over the next thirty-five years. But I think he secretly liked the style of that wild, locust-eating Baptist, who dragged his own people―not those converting to Judaism, but lifelong, faithful Jews― out into the desert and got them to admit that THEY were sinners and that THEY needed a baptism of repentance.

Advent is such a quiet, reflective season. Listen carefully. A voice is crying out in the wilderness.

What is the voice of John the Baptist saying to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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First Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

12 December 2017

We Catholics are just weird. Here we are, twelve weeks into the school year, five months into the fiscal year, and eleven months into the calendar year, and yet, for us, the new year starts today. The First Sunday of Advent is where it all begins again. New hymnals. New colors (violets and pinks). New evangelist (St. Mark). New songs, in the minor keys of Advent longing. We live in chronological dissonance. And we love it.

From the earliest years of the Church, Christians marked time differently. Sunday―the day of the resurrection― became the primary day of worship, even though it was a work day in the Roman world. The early Christians felt that Christ should change the way they lived.

One of the bitterest indictments of our Catholic school system came from a friend of mine years ago. Observing that the kids in the high school graduating class all aspired to be movie stars and sports heroes, he said, “And aren’t we proud? Nobody will ever guess that our kids spent twelve years immersed in the gospel of Jesus.”

If we don’t hold to a consistent ethic of life, if we don’t have a special interest in serving those who are poor, if our agenda isn’t radically different from the agendas of either political party, then we are pretending that the Lord of time didn’t break into human history and make all things new, with Himself as the Alpha and Omega.

Yes, we weird Catholics start our year with Advent. We hold to a different time frame. It’s a “faith frame,” and everything in our lives should be set to that clock.

How are you living a counter-cultural life in Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of Christ the King – Cycle A

25 November 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 25: 31-46

Christ my King, these are the things I’ve seen lately, things that brought your parable of the Last Judgment to my mind:

  1. I saw an exhausted mom clean up her toddler’s spilled milk with a laugh and a kiss.
  2. I saw hundreds of parishes donating gift cards so under-served families could shop for the foods they eat at Thanksgiving.
  3. I saw my husband graciously forego a beer and the game in order to help a friend.
  4. I saw an elderly ex-convict walk off the streets and into a warm counseling center.
  5. I saw a new apartment complex open that provides permanent shelter for those who were once living on the street.
  6. I saw extraordinary young people accompanying Syrian refugees to safety.
  7. I saw sweet kids from around the country organizing fundraisers for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Christ, my King, they didn’t know it, but they did each of these beautiful things for you.

But this week I also saw the effects of greed and power and selfishness and “me first-ness” wreak heartbreak and devastation all over the globe.

We did that to you, oh Jesus. You should have said something.

You should have said, “Hey! That’s me you’re leaving out in the cold, me you’re neglecting, me you’re forcing into three minimum-wage jobs a day.”

You should have said something, Jesus. We just didn’t see you.

Where have you seen Christ in his “most distressing disguise” recently?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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