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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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

11 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 7: 36-50

When I read about the lavish care the “sinful woman” gives to Jesus I feel a lingering sense of anger. The Pharisees are shocked, of course, and I think we would be too. They are stunned that this “prophet” doesn’t realize that he is letting a woman of the streets touch him. We would be stunned at anyone in our world today who is capable of feeling great sorrow for sin.

I’m thinking, for example, of Dylann Roof. Just hours after he murdered nine people in prayer at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church one year ago, the survivors and the loved ones of the murdered gathered to announce that they had forgiven him. They forgave because they chose long ago to immerse their brains and hearts in Jesus and the scriptures. Hence, they knew that forgiveness was the only balm that could heal them.

Dylann appears to be unfazed by that astonishing love. At age 21, his brain was, of course, still not fully formed. He was, like so many of his mass-murderer cohort, “shy.” And he had easy access to vicious, ugly, white supremacist websites which no doubt filled in the gaps left by a culture that doesn’t require us to honestly and painfully reflect on our sins, in what we have done and what we have failed to do.

The scriptures show us how the rightly formed human heart responds to forgiveness. Think of the prodigal son, or the “sinful woman,” or St. Peter. Even the Roman centurion, filled with remorse after the crucifixion, cried, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39).

Where are the weeping gun dealers? Where are the horrified website managers? Where, for that matter, are we?

How are you showing your deep gratitude to those who have forgiven you?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

10 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 7: 11-17

There are three instances in the gospels of Jesus raising someone from the dead, and in each case, Jesus is moved by the grief of those left behind.  When Jairus comes to Jesus, pleading for the life of his little daughter (Luke 8: 41-56) Jesus is moved with pity. The weeping sisters of Lazarus touch him so deeply that he begins to cry too (John 11:1-44). And in today’s gospel―which we rarely hear because it often gets subsumed by post-Easter feast days― Jesus is moved to pity because the man who died was the only son of his widowed mother.

We can speculate, of course, that Jesus was particularly attuned to that kind of grief, since he was Mary’s only son―and we assume that St. Joseph was dead by this time since he disappears from the story early on―and he knew that his own widowed mother would soon know the terrible grief of losing her only son.

Can you remember times when the grief of strangers literally made you feel “with passion” so deeply that your gut hurt? I’ve experienced compassion many times in my life, and each time I was left wounded, stricken, and utterly aware that I had been ushered into the broken heart of God.

Why are not all brought forth from the grave? That’s the question, of course. But the three times that Jesus raised people from the dead, power came out from him because his heart was broken. If you want to know the healing power of Jesus, come to him with a broken and contrite heart. There he will be, right in the midst of you.

What memories do you have of God’s presence during a broken heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle C

1 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 11b-17

The hottest and hungriest I ever was was in the summer of 1993, during the walk to the “deserted place” where World Youth Day was held in Cherry Creek State Park. Millions of us were streaming into the park from dozens of trails. The walk was long, and it was the Feast of the Assumption, traditionally one of the hottest weeks in Denver.

The sight was staggering. Thousands of colorful tents were pegged into the dirt. Heat vapors plumed up from the airless, heat-baked grounds. Emergency aid stations were packed. You never saw such a mass of thirsty, exhausted people. You never saw such joy.

And no one was leaving. Not when the rains started, not when the lines for the port-a-potties snaked back to the entrances, not even when international pilgrims, not acclimated to the altitude and the desert-like conditions, collapsed and needed to be carried to the aid stations.

No one gave a thought to leaving. The pope was there.

I think of that experience as I imagine the crowd of five thousand in a desert place as day was ending. Everyone was exhausted. Everyone was hungry. But Jesus was there. He had already healed many in need, and who knew who was next? There was no way they were leaving.

Every year, the Knights of Malta give up a week of their lives to wheel dying pilgrims to the grotto of Lourdes. Those who are paralyzed, blind and crippled rely on them to get them in and out of the freezing water.

Year after year, the volunteers return. No one gives a thought to leaving.

Apparently, when the Spirit grabs your heart, your body doesn’t notice what else is going on.

Join Kathy’s husband Ben in Lourdes and Fatima this fall. Contact him at

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C

23 May 2016

Reflecting on Romans 5: 1-5

Okay, St. Paul, let’s just test this. You say, in today’s letter to the Romans, that affliction produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. Really?  It seems to me that affliction produces pain, and pain produces loss of hope, and loss of hope produces despair. But let’s take an example and see who’s right.

I’m amazed at the number of people I know who are walking around with migraines, most days of the week. How on earth do they do it? Well, they’ve learned how to tell when it’s coming on, for starters, and they get their medications on board right away. They’ve lived with migraines for years. They know what they need to do, and they do it. That’s endurance.

Then, after making adjustments in lighting and diet, they go out into the world. They show up for work. They show up for their families. They show up for themselves. If that’s not character, I don’t know what is.

When I observe them cheerfully working, conscientiously getting through the day without even mentioning the pain, I feel myself growing in confidence that I, too, can face the challenge of any pain that may be on my horizon. Their proven character gives me hope that I too can stand up to affliction when it comes my way.

And you know what? It’s worked. Observing people I love standing up to migraines so courageously has truly produced hope in me, and that hope has held up when I myself have been challenged.

Afflicted with migraines, they learned endurance, which produced character so inspiring that it created hope in me, which has never disappointed. Okay, St. Paul, you get this one.

Test St. Paul’s theory in your own life. Is it true?

Kathy McGovern ©2016                                                    For Cindy and Karen and Patrick and Maddie and Marty

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Pentecost Sequence – Cycle C

18 May 2016

Come, Holy Spirit. That’s what we say.

But could you help us actually mean it someday?

Do we know what we’re asking for? Should we retreat?

Can we absorb all that fire? Can we take the heat?


First, give us grace to prepare for your power.

Give us hearts to give up what you long to devour.

Our greed, our guilt, our closing our eyes,

Take it all Spirit, lay bare our disguise.


Help us want to want you, that’s really our prayer.

Enlarge our hearts so there’s room for you there.

This Pentecost, Spirit, bring us a new birth.

Then watch as we join in renewing the earth.

How will you work to bring the earth back to health this year?


Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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A Mother’s Day Memory

9 May 2016

The rain started out fast, and before I knew it my doll and I were drenched!   I raced down the alley with my doll carriage, but Susie fell out and into the muddy alley.

I was hysterical, of course. My beautiful mother went out into the rain to look for her. I was stunned to realize that my mother was not completely magical. Even she, with all her wondrous powers, couldn’t find my beloved doll.

Ah, but two days later she came into the house carrying Susie! It turns out that the Doll Hospital had taken care of her and then called to say Susie was ready to come home.

Susie must have been very sick. Her skin wasn’t as cuddly, her eyes weren’t the same color, and her red hair was now brown.  I missed her red plaid dress, but the blue dress they gave her in the hospital was pretty too. We went out to play. Twenty-five years came and went.

On a Wednesday morning in January, 1981, a cloud lifted from my memory, and I started to giggle. I called my Magic Mother. That wasn’t really Susie you brought home that day. Without missing a beat, she said, I’ve got the dumbest kids in America.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night was going to keep her from consoling her little girl.  She was going to find Susie, whether she had to swim to her, or dig her out of the mud, or enlist the “doll hospital” to do it.  And you know what?  She’s still rescuing me, still consoling me, still loving me, thirty years after her death. That’s the strongest magic of all.

Tell your mom, whether she is here or with God, a favorite memory of her.

Kathy McGovern ©2015. Originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom!

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

4 May 2016

Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29

Some burdens are carried for no good reason, and some things are borne because we have a deep intuition that the kingdom of God is built on the muscles acquired from carrying them.

Take fasting, for example. Please. Some fasts―like cutting calories in half for an extended period of time―are excruciating, and may or may not bring us closer to those who are hungry in this world. But other fasts―like cutting gossip at the quick, or disallowing ourselves the luxury of ignorance about the needs of others―build character, and are, in fact, the very character of God.

In the earliest days of the infant Church, some of the Orthodox Jewish-Christians living in Jerusalem were happy to allow Gentiles to join in the Jesus Movement. Certainly! All are welcome! There are just a few requirements, of course. Naturally, the men will all need to be circumcised. Yes, it’s an extremely painful and dangerous procedure, but God demands it. Now, if they had had the good sense to be born Jewish, they would have been circumcised at eight days old and would have no memory of it.

The Holy Spirit was so evident in those early years.  As the good news of the Risen One advanced throughout the Gentile provinces, it became beautifully obvious that the burdens of kosher dietary laws and circumcision no longer applied. Come to the feast! Partake of the table of mercy. And every day, hundreds were added to their number.

It’s nearly Pentecost again, that festival of inclusion that strengthened the disciples to preach Jesus to the ends of the earth. They traveled light, and, thank God, left the heaviest burdens behind.

In what ways are you joyfully lifting burdens from those who long to draw near to Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

25 April 2016

Reflecting on John 13: 31-33A, 34-35

I break all the rules in the weight room of my inner-city Parks and Recs gym. I don’t keep the code of silence that demands that tattooed strangers grunt their way through agonizing routines while keeping their eyes straight ahead, never acknowledging anyone else.

AARGH! I say to the guy who can lift himself up and do about a thousand crunches on the ab machine. How do you DO that? I’ve been coming here half my life and I can’t do one. And just like that, Scary Guy becomes Kind Guy. Oh, sure you can, he says. Let me see what you’re doing wrong.

I love that moment of encounter, when two people from different backgrounds find a common place where gentleness and graciousness so easily spring forth. And it almost always happens when I ask strangers for help.

Yesterday I smiled at a Scary Guy who was sitting on the bench, waiting for space on the basketball court. Could you help me, please? I don’t have the extension in this leg to tie my shoes. Like that, he was smiling and saying, No worries! Is this tight enough? Do you need me to tie the left one too? And then his adorable daughter came running over to show me her shoes that light up, and how she can tie them herself.

Love one another as I have loved you, Jesus says. My daily exercise―and I’m not talking about leg curls―is to find opportunities to break the weird silences between us in traffic, on elevators, in the gym. As it happens, I do need help sometimes. It’s in asking “strangers” for help that lovely moments of warmth and friendship break open.

This week, ask a stranger for an easy favor. Watch how grateful they are that you aren’t asking for money!

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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