First Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

17 February 2018

Reflecting on Mark 1: 12-15

So, we had a baptism during Mass last Sunday. Baby boy twins Thomas and Owen shared the historic baptismal gown that has been used in their dad’s family since it was hand-sewn in 1882. Think about that. The Civil War was less than twenty years in the past. The owning of human beings had only been legally eradicated since 1865.

The tragic “re-settlement” of the native peoples in the west would not be complete until 1892. Two world wars would bracket a Great Depression. Periods of great prosperity followed the second war and have continued, for many, into our own time.

Cultural convulsions erupted and changed the world, creating entirely different boundaries, economic systems, new enemies, and leading to many wars around the world, which also continue in our time.

The world of 1882 is nearly unrecognizable to us today. Well, that’s not quite true. We’d recognize a baptismal gown anywhere. Thomas and Owen are the 108th and 109th babies in their family to be baptized in that gown, made so lovingly 134 years ago.

Go back and find those old scrapbooks in the attic. I’ll bet you’ll find glimmers of the long-ago faith of your forebears, passed on to you, one baptism at a time. And today we hear readings for the First Sunday of Lent which have been treasured and proclaimed by the Church since the fourth century.

Think about THAT. Think about all the changes in ritual just in our lifetimes. Reflect on the millions of believers who have come to Mass on this day and heard Jesus debate the Great Liar. In every age, the message has not changed.

Repent and believe in the Gospel.

Wouldn’t this Lent be a great time to finally frame your baptismal certificate?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

16 February 2018

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

I’ve had so many graced times in my life, but some of the most meaningful surround the hundreds of couples with whom I’ve worked to plan beautiful music for their weddings. The brides were all beautiful, it seems, but today’s gospel brings one straight back into my heart.

She was a blonde, blue-eyed southern beauty.  She worked out rigorously so as to wear that stunning size-two wedding dress. All of her friends sharing this day with her were equally gorgeous, equally starved, equally perfectly manicured and massaged and coiffed.

And on her wedding day this ebullient, lovely bride―in love with her groom and in love with Jesus― arrived with an oozing, raging fever blister on her upper lip. No make-up could hide it. No one could pretend it wasn’t there. Except, of course, this darling bride. She greeted each guest with the warmth and confidence of someone who knows she is loved totally, inside and out. She introduced her handsome groom around the room. He was as smitten and adoring as on any of their perfect, made-for-tv dates.

I’ll never forget her. She taught me, through her vulnerability, that our “leprosies” can challenge the perfection we think we’re presenting to the world. She seemed to understand this deep truth: we are loved― wildly, madly― anyway. The Bridegroom knows our deeper, hidden scars. The Healer wants to touch the raging cold sores in our souls. He wants to heal our resentments, our heartbreaks, our addictions.

Some leprosies erupt today and are gone tomorrow. But the real lesions are the ones we carry inside. So here’s the question: do we want to be healed? Oh yes, God, yes.  Would today be too soon?

Can you remember a time when a superficial disfigurement brought you to a deeper love of Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 February 2018

I wish you could see the banquet of brilliance I chow through every week as I ponder the Sunday readings. I go first to Words of Grace and read the fascinating insights there, squeezed into 130 scrupulously edited words. I love the diverse variety of spiritual writers in Give us this Day. This week, of course, they called on Kathleen Norris to address the ennui of Job. She’s Christianity’s expert on soul sadness.

I never miss the scripture reflections from St. Louis University. John Pilch addresses the different kinds of fevers Peter’s mother-in-law may have had. Reginald Fuller shows the ingenious connections between the readings, and how beautifully today’s psalm―he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds―speaks to despondent Job as well as that jubilant woman who, upon being healed, immediately rises and serves.

The great scholar Dennis Hamm, SJ, notes that Jesus is all about relationships. If there is sorrow or illness or demon possession in the life of anyone he loves―that would be YOU, by the way―he intends to be there, to lay hands and say, “Get up.”

I try to be completely open-minded about all of these insightful scholars, but once I click on John Kavanaugh, SJ I’m gone. He points his arrow of insight straight at my heart, and pierces me every time. This week’s clincher: The call of the wounded is not merely some problem to solve or avoid; it is an invitation to love’s redemptive power. I immediately flash on a dozen experiences in my life just this week that bear that out, and as I experience the delicious awareness of the Healer abiding with me I feel like 7-Up all over.

In what ways have you been aware of Christ “abiding” with you this week?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

30 January 2018

Reflecting on Mark 1: 21-28

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?

Somehow I really resonate with that unclean spirit. You can almost hear the fear, the grasping, the terror the spirit has that the status quo might be upended by The One who, truly, wants our deepest good.

Why is it that when someone new comes into a rehearsal, say, the tension is palpable? Is this new voice going to change the dynamic and sound of the group? (And why, by the way, would we be afraid of that?)

Oh gosh, I can think of so many little corners that I want to keep to myself, and I’m very uncomfortable when the gospel sends Jesus straight into them, challenging me to stop hoarding my time, wondering why I don’t have any friends who are disabled, or elderly and sick, or living on the street.

Have you come to destroy me? My little, much-afraid voice can barely squeak out the question as I hide behind my books. Make God go away. That’s what I’m praying, but to whom? To the very God who wants to wreak havoc with my comfortable life.

But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about YOU (please). Are you trying to protect a disordered relationship with alcohol, or food, or prescription drugs? Are you chasing after relationships with the very people from whom God’s grace is actively strengthening you to gain some distance?

Imagine how threatening it would be to have Jesus the Healer walk into a crack house, or a pornography shop, or a sex trafficking ring, and say to the demons that live there, “Quiet! Come out!”

Imagine, indeed.

What sinful habits are you afraid Jesus might come to destroy?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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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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