Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

22 August 2016

Reflecting on Hebrews 12: 1-4

The sidewalks in our neighborhood are terrible. I’ve tripped on the cracks so many times that every time I kneel I suspect I have some permanently broken bones from falling on them so many times.

That’s probably why that little sentence at the end of the letter to the Hebrews caught my attention: Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed. Oh, for a straight path down our street! Chastened by experience, I walk with my head down, watching out for the gaps that are waiting to send me flying.

There’s a metaphor here, I think. The author has been making a case for suffering, suggesting that pain is God’s gentle correction, a loving parent’s way of setting us back on the straight and narrow. That’s not a theology that necessarily stands the test of time, but his theme is that, wounded― but not fatally―we are now encouraged to make a new path in life, a new way of walking through doubt, boredom, chronic pain, and the many temptations that try to trip us up.

There are many sidewalks. Some of them are sparkling new, but you have to make the effort to find them. Their names are Release from bitterness. Gratitude. Acceptance. Embrace of Jesus. Others are easy to find, in fact you may have been walking them for years. Their names are Inertia. Cynicism. More interest in your iPad than in your children. (And, young readers, more interest in your phone than in your parents!)

Make a new path. Don’t let the old wounds fester. Step away from the habits that have carved the ruts in your life that keep tripping you and hurting you. Today’s a perfect day for a nice walk.

How are you working on a new way of walking?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

17 August 2016

Reflecting on Luke 12: 49-53

The school year is starting up again, and the kids in our neighborhood are buzzing.  If they’re lucky enough to have passionate and creative teachers, the kids will have a fruitful, exciting experience. But if the teachers are already dreading the year, we all know how the next nine months will go.

I am aware of one demographic that, given the right community, still finds the grace, year after year, to greet this new season with renewed energy and fascination. I hope that your parish is blessed with a vibrant community of parishioners who carry your Parish Mission into the world. And I pray you have a parish staff who are still on fire with love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’ve watched this in wonder for forty years. Get any group of parish staff, exhausted from the rigors of Lent or Holy Week, and set them down at the L.A. Religious Ed Congress for a few days.  It doesn’t take five minutes for the passion that led each person into this work years ago to ignite all over again.

I am part of a three-teacher team who gets to teach thirty weeks of New Testament, starting next month, at Most Precious Blood parish in Denver. Combined, we have 82 years of experience teaching scripture. And here’s our secret: we are literally shaking with excitement to begin again. We will never recover from the profound privilege of getting to open up the beautiful gospels to still another class of passionate students.

I have come to set the earth on fire. That’s the Holy Spirit. I pray that your parish is burning up.

How can you help to fan the flames of the Spirit in your parish?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

8 August 2016

Reflecting on Luke 12: 32-48

If you’re one of those people who love to be scared, who love ghost stories and haunted houses and movies about people waiting in corners with hatchets, have I got some great reading for you. It’s called the Business Section.

There you can read, until weak with terror, about the money you were supposed to have saved, the real estate you should have bought, about how you certainly should have several years of “liquidity” built up for the inevitable rainy day when all the bad decisions you’ve made come home to roost.

Recall Fagan, in the movie version of Oliver Twist, sneaking upstairs to his safe, oh-so-quietly taking out his treasures, and lovingly petting his stolen jewels from a lifetime of picking a pocket or two. He’s old now, and this is his security. This is all that stands between him and the beggar’s prison. Charles Dickens, magnificent Christian and the conscience of 19th century England, shone a light on the social injustice of his times.

And when he wrote a book for his children about Jesus he used the gospel of Luke―today’s gospel, in fact― as his template.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be. I know many wealthy people. They have amassed huge treasures, whose names are Care for those who have no one, Friendship with those most in need of God’s mercy, and Faithfulness to their spouses and their children, in good times and in bad.

This is what I observe about those who have built up “money bags that won’t wear out”: they are all surrounded by people who love them. That’s a treasure not even Fagan can steal.

How are you building an “inexhaustible treasure in heaven”?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

1 August 2016

Reflecting on Luke 12: 13-21

I want to be rich―scandalously, dazzlingly rich. But here’s what saves me: I long to be rich in the things that matter to God. I want to have friends who are friends with God. I crave friendships with people who pray, who pay close attention to the ways God works in the world, who help me see a bigger picture than my privileged corner of the world. I want to read the newspaper the way God reads it.

On the day―through God’s mercy― when I see Christ face to face, I know that he will be surrounded by his best friends. I want to recognize some of those people. Better yet, I want some of those people to recognize me.

So, let’s see. If the gospels are an indication of WHAT Jesus loves, we know that he loves to eat! You can eat your way through Luke’s gospel as Jesus sits down to dinner, sometimes with the wealthy, sometimes with his closest friends, sometimes with the most loathsome people in the town. I get the feeling that, for Jesus, a dinner party is never about the food.

Something that apparently DOESN’T matter to God is personal comfort. Jesus sends his disciples out to tell the world that the kingdom of God has broken through. That message is so urgent that its messengers must go NOW, taking nothing with them but that heart-shaping good news. Jesus travels the length and breadth of Israel in order to comfort, heal, and draw all people to himself.

An open heart.  A warm embrace of all people. And a hearty appetite. I’ve got the last one covered.

How are you filling your life with the things that matter to God?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

24 July 2016

Reflecting on Luke 11: 1-13

If we don’t read the last eight words of today’s gospel, we will, I’m convinced, either despair of God’s mercy, or, tragically, of our belief in God at all. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t asked God to heal, and then wept at our loved one’s deathbed. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t knocked, and felt the cold, locked door. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t sought, and yet never found. But the gospel insists that none of these things will happen for the prayerful person.

Here’s the way it makes sense: Our Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. That’s the profound and lasting truth. When we ask for the Spirit, we will receive. When we knock at the door of the Spirit, it will open. When we seek the Spirit, the Spirit shall be found. I have never known that prayer to fail. Ever.

So, now that you know the one prayer that works every time, try it. Ask for the Holy Spirit. Ask for the seven gifts. While you’re at it, ask for the fruits―love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Maybe it’s best to ask for just one at a time! That’s a lot of transformation over night.

Here’s my prayer these days: O God, give me more of your Holy Spirit. Give me a desire to pray. Help me see every human being through your eyes. Give me the courage to speak truth to power.

Hmm. That sounds like a description of Jesus. I get it now. When we receive the Spirit, we take on the very heart of Christ. No wonder God begs us to ask.

How does the Holy Spirit act in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

18 July 2016

Reflecting on Luke 10: 38-42

Don’t you just love Cycle C? Every three years we cycle around to Luke’s gospel―we hear Matthew (A) and Mark (B) the other two years―but it’s Luke gospel that tells us most of the great stories about the women in the New Testament.

It starts with the very first chapters. Only Luke knows that Mary walked all the way from Nazareth to Ein Karem―about ninety miles, in the earliest stage of her pregnancy―to tell her cousin Elizabeth her astonishing news and to help her with the birth of her own miraculous child.

Luke knows about the prophetess Anna in the Temple, about the healing of the woman bent double whom Jesus calls “daughter of Abraham.” Women star in some of the parables, like the woman who sweeps all night in search of a lost coin, or the widow who bangs on the door of the judge all night until he is so aggravated he actually gives her justice.

And now, today, this marvelous Lukan story about two of Jesus’ very closest friends, Martha and Mary. We see the ending coming before it gets there. Jesus, birthed of woman, taught the scriptures by his mother―note that Mary is quoting the great Old Testament woman Hannah (I Sm. 2: 1-10) when she sings her Magnificat to Elizabeth (1: 46-55,)― supported by women in his ministry (8: 2, 3,) and so beloved of Mary of Magdala that all four gospels name her as the first to testify to his resurrection, gets it. He’s seen the strictures that kept women in their place.

With just a few words he sets both women free. And wow, does Martha burst forth. This servant and disciple becomes, in the last gospel, the very first person to recognize Jesus as the Christ (John 11:27).

Which charism are you more drawn to, service or contemplation?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 July 2016

Reflecting on Dt. 30: 10-14

I’ll never forget the day I heard those words from the Deuteronomy reading today: No, the word is very near to you, on your lips and in your heart. You have only to carry it out (30:14). I was listening to our brilliant Biblical School teacher, Angeline Hubert, open up to us the beautiful book of Deuteronomy.

I could tell that this text was very personal to her. It has, over the years, become her “signature text,” the section that people most associate with her. I thought about the witness of her life, her simple and profound companioning of those who are elderly, sick, poor, or left out of the riches of our resources. I thought of the sacrifices―some of them jaw-dropping―she was willing to make in order to “carry out” the word that is so near.

What a straight shooter the author of this book is. He understands that we will offer any possible excuse for not doing what our hearts know is the right thing. Oh, the bible is just too mysterious and remote for me! Who can figure out the right way to behave in this ever-changing society? I’m just not holy enough (thank God) to volunteer/take that class/live a life worthy of my calling.

Phooey. The priest and the Levite knew all about holiness, but, bound by its legislations, they couldn’t stop to help the man wounded in the road. The despised Samaritan, however, considered outside the Law, was free to act on the holy urgings of his heart. Using common sense, not fancy theology degrees, we can be safe and yet still act when the word of God, planted in our hearts, compels us.

What “holy urgings” keep you doing the things your heart knows are right?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

6 July 2016

Reflecting on Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

What an interesting gospel.  Apparently, those 72 disciples were doing “advance work” in the towns Jesus planned to visit. Maybe they were sent to assure people that what they had heard about him was actually true.

Yes, they might have said, he truly did say that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies! And when they tried to push him over the cliff he just passed right through them! And yes, he told his friends to cast their nets back in the water after they had fished all night, and the catch was so great they couldn’t haul it in! And yes, he did raise the widow’s son from the dead!

Imagine yourself on that mission. You don’t have anything to comfort you on the dusty road. No cell phone to stay in touch with family. No band aids for blisters. No extra jacket for the cold nights. It sounds, to my wimpy ears, like a miserable experience.

And yet, imagine being the first person to announce the kingdom of God to a city longing for that message. What joy. What grace. Oh yeah. I’d sign up for that.

Speaking of signing, those who bravely signed the Declaration of Independence agreed with Thomas Jefferson that “all men are created equal.” Some of them believed that so deeply that, if they owned slaves, they set them free. Jefferson himself, however, hypocritically owned 175 slaves on the day of his death, the Fourth of July, 1826.

The kingdom is at hand, Jesus said. As we celebrate freedom this weekend, let’s consider the ways in which we are building the kingdom, and declaring our independence from the hypocrisies which dilute our witness to Christ.

What inconsistencies in your life keep you from truly experiencing freedom?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

28 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 51-62

I’ve got good news.  Those dusty archaeologists (bless them) who spend their lives digging in the scorching Mediterranean sun have given us a very comforting explanation of that MOST unsettling command in today’s Gospel: let the dead bury their dead.

It’s simply this: the burial time for the dead in Jesus’ day was an entire year!  As we saw in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial, the dead were buried before sundown. Recall that, in Genesis 50:1-14, Joseph “mourned his father” for seven days. Following that tradition, the disciple who asked to bury his father before following Jesus would already have observed seven days of mourning―”sitting shiva”― at home for seven days.

After the burial the corpse was left in the tomb for eleven months, after which the relatives re-buried the decomposed body by taking the bones and placing them in a burial box, an ossuary, and placing it back in the tomb, along with all the other family dead who were in various stages of burial.  The tomb continued to fill with the other dead from the family, buried for the first time and then again a year later.

So…what a great relief to consider that Jesus was thinking of all those dead, buried with the other dead, whose death demands kept the sons in endless burial cycles. Let the dead bury their dead.  Your heavenly Father knows where all the bodies are buried.  In just a short time you will see for yourselves what God has planned for my tomb, and yours, and theirs too.  So be at peace.

What are the burial customs in your family?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

21 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 18-24

I was reading a Time magazine cover article on marriage in the beauty salon the other day. It’s no surprise that marriage is under fire in every corner these days, but it turns out that 100% of those who have sustained a long and successful marriage say that their marriage is the greatest satisfaction of their lives.

A slew of marriage counselors weighed in, noting what a drudgery commitment can be, that a happy marriage is mostly just the luck of the draw, and that couples who are determined to stick it out do so by finding every imaginable thing that they like to do together.

While I was reading this, an elderly woman came over to me and said, “I was so disgusted with that article that I stopped reading it. I’ve been married for 46 years. Listen to what my husband did.” She then recounted for everyone within earshot her rage at something he had done that day.

It sounded like a sitcom. Insert laugh track here. But she was truly enraged over something that a simple conversation could have put right. Clearly, a long marriage isn’t always a master class in great communication. That’s sad.

Meanwhile, it must be out of vogue, at least for the Time’s psychologists, to suggest the real key to a happy marriage: both people putting the other person first.  We’ve all seen, I hope, what a marriage like that looks like. It’s a little glimpse of heaven itself.

Lose your life to find it, Jesus said.  Hold on to your life and you’ll lose it, he said again. That was Jesus, the Bridegroom, giving us the best advice on marriage, and our life with him in glory.

What do you observe about the great marriages you know?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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