Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

10 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

In her fascinating new book on the American saints (When the Saints Came Marching In: Exploring the Frontiers of Grace in America; Liturgical Press 2015) author Kathy Coffey lingers lovingly on St. Marianne Cope, the Franciscan nun who, with six others sisters from her community in Syracuse, N.Y., warmly accepted the same invitation from the Hawaiian government which fifty other religious communities had turned down.

I am not afraid of any disease, she wrote in 1883. Hence it would be my greatest delight to minister even to the abandoned lepers of Molokai.

And so she did. She and her sisters cared for the dying St. Damien, assuring him that his work with those who had contracted the dread disease would continue after his death. She finally achieved real safety for the women and girls on the island by establishing schools and hospitals just for them. She brought games, and laughter, and fun.

The most compelling thing about her for me is how beautiful she was, and how celebrated she is in Hawaii. A visitor to Molokai is immediately greeted by a large, framed photograph of this smiling, radiant Franciscan sister.  Throughout the Hawaiian Islands (where her sisters still minister) her lovely face, shrouded in the white coif and wimple of the 19th century habit, is celebrated on key chains, tins of macadamia nuts, and even beer mugs. She and her sisters are beloved, and the Hawaiians want the world to know about them.

Jesus warned the man he cured of leprosy to tell no one.  Instead, he broadcast it far and wide. When the love of Christ overshadows you, even the remotest parts of the Hawaiian Islands shout for joy.

What ways have you found to reach out to modern-day lepers?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 29 -39

Everyone in looking for you, Jesus. And it didn’t take long. Immediately—a favorite word of Mark’s gospel, appearing over seventy times—after Jesus’ first miracle in Mark, when he cured Simon’s mother-in-law with his touch, crowds descended on him. “The whole town” appeared at his doorstep that evening, and he healed many of the sick, and drove out demons.

We can imagine. The mental and physical ailments that make all of us miserable at some point in our lives cause us to cry out every day to Jesus, the Healer. Mark’s gospel abounds with miracles, so much so that I once had a student leave the study of Mark because it was too painful to see all those people being healed, while her daughter suffered terribly every day.

I often think, as I read the accounts of Jesus’ miracles, that there is something about the encounter with the afflicted one that triggers his ability to heal. What was it about Simon’s mother-in-law that stirred so much compassion in Jesus that, when he reached for her, the fever left her immediately?

Throughout this Year of Mark we’ll see Jesus wage many battles with demons. Who knows what the ancients thought demons were? Today we assign the idea of demons to the many vagaries of mental illness—depression, bipolar disease—or brain diseases, like epilepsy.

But not so fast. I’ll always remember Sr. Macrina Scott, OSF, the innovative founder of the Denver Catholic Biblical, after she returned from teaching in Africa. She had always believed that the biblical demons were probably the mental illnesses of today. And then she witnessed exorcisms! And actual demons roaring out of their victims!

Everyone is looking for you, Jesus.

What healings have you experienced in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

28 January 2024

Reflecting on Deuteronomy 18:15-20

We’ve had so many nudgings lately to hear God’s call, to carefully discern where God is leading us, but always the question remains: how? The only answer I have to this is to lean in to what makes you truly happy. Chances are that God, who desires only our happiness, has put into our hearts the very desires for which we long.

For example, my friend Ann has the most unbelievable energy and passion for helping migrant families. It’s bitter cold these days, and she is out there, getting coats and gloves and warm winter clothes to migrants coming in from warm climates. She’s not alone, of course. I could name at least two dozen friends whose passion for this work takes up much of their time. They seem really happy to me.

In that first reading from Deuteronomy we hear that, in the desert, the Israelites begged God not to speak to them! They didn’t want the dreaded voice of God! They asked that God speak to them through a prophet like their friend Moses. Isn’t that so often the way we discern the direction of our lives? It’s through the inspiration and modeling of the people we know, and like, and with whom we come in contact.

So many  memoirs are filled with the authors’ experiences of being shaped and changed by the great people in their lives. The opposite is also true. I know great teachers and leaders who answered the call to service because they saw it done so poorly by others, and knew they could do it better.

So, if today you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your heart. Chances are God’s voice is very near to you.

What people have served as the voice of God in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

21 January 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1:14-20

It’s that first sentence in today’s gospel, our first entry from Mark in Ordinary Time this year, that give me chills: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.

Similar sentences have read, “After the four North American churchwomen were murdered in El Salvador, the next plane brought their replacements from Maryknoll.”

Or, “After the first wave of volunteers were taken away in exhaustion, a second wave of volunteers from around the world took their place, digging for the missing who were swept up in the tsunami.”

Jesus knew that his hidden life had come to an end. The great prophet John the Baptist, after speaking truth to power, was thrown into Herod’s dungeon. What fate would await him? Jesus didn’t wait to find out. He immediately stepped into John’s role, and began to proclaim the gospel.

“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The martyrdom of John was a shocking event for all who had been baptized by him, for John’s disciples, and for Jesus. Now it was clear: Jesus would also die at the hands of powerful men, who would misunderstand him, and what he wanted to give them. Jesus now knows how very dangerous these men are, and his response is to preach the gospel anyway.

I know people like that, many of them. I know courageous women and men who have risked, and lost, jobs they loved, in order to simply do the right thing. It shouldn’t be like this. We should ALL desire that the right thing prevail, even—especially—those with something to lose should that come to pass.

What examples of right overcoming might have you seen in your lifetime?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

14 January 2024

Reflecting on John 1:35-42

Every once in a while the gospels inadvertently let a bit of history seep into the narrative. Today we get that interesting background into the ministry of John the Baptist, that he had disciples himself before the public ministry of Jesus.

One of those disciples, who must have been in John’s inner circle in order to have been close enough to hear John say, about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” was no less than Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.

So, we know that Andrew was a seeker. He traveled with John the Baptist, and had certainly heard many fiery sermons from John. But at the very moment that John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew and the other (unnamed) disciple left John and followed Jesus.

In fact, Andrew went straight to his brother and announced that they had found the long-awaited Messiah. He brought Simon to Jesus, who then did what Rabbis did for their most prominent disciples. He changed his name to Cephas (Petra, which means “rock”).

The history of the Church can be written from what follows in this short account towards the beginning of John’s gospel. Andrew and the other disciple seem to understand that John is bidding them goodbye. Their time with him is over, because the “Lamb of God” has been identified, and it is their destiny to follow him.

Simon, too, comes with his brother to see where Jesus is staying. He, too, must have been a seeker. Upon meeting his Lord, he submits to having his very name changed, never realizing that it will be his faith that will be the “rock” upon which the Church will be founded.

What split-second decisions have you made that changed your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle B

7 January 2024

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

The more the years go by, the more this story calls to me. There’s something almost  hauntingly familiar about it: the beautiful, blazing STAR, the wise astrologers watching the skies. When I see the Christmas cards with the three large visitors on the camels, purposely headed for Bethlehem, bearing their iconic gifts, I get a shiver. I feel like I’m on one of the camels, leaving everything behind because my future has always been with the One lying in a bed of straw, somewhere very near.

Last week I asked the question, “Who are YOU in the story?” I received several fascinating replies. One friend said she is the sand under the feet of the shepherds as they hastened to Bethlehem, supporting them, bearing silent witness to their mission. Another friend said he is the donkey, carrying Mary and the Child, always willing to be of service in any way.

My friend Alice Camille, author and scripture scholar, said that she longs to be the Magi, taking four years off to seek for Jesus, to take whatever roads lead to him, to find him and offer her whole life and heart as her gift. She longs for that, yes, but she knows that, at this point in her life, she’s still the STAR, guiding others to Jesus while she longs to take a huge swathe of her life to seek him herself.

That’s what’s so compelling about the Epiphany. How could these wise foreigners, who had NEVER heard of Moses or of any promised Messiah, have left everything to follow that STAR for two years? They carried gifts, but the greatest gift was their lives. Yes, that’s it. That’s why this STORY calls to me.

In what ways does this STORY call to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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The Feast of the Holy Family

31 December 2023

Reflecting on Colossians 3:12-21

I looked and looked for something fun and festive to wear to the many beautiful Christmas services and parties this year. I finally decided to take my fashion advice from St. Paul, of all people! And, you know what? Everything fit perfectly, and I’ve never looked better.

Heartfelt compassion and kindness never go out of style. And they go with everything! They are the perfect accompaniment for those in need of the love of a friend, or the reminder that warmth and true care and affection are right here, through Christ Jesus.

Humility makes the perfect entrance. The person who is concerned for others, who doesn’t care about making a big splash, brings a beautiful glow to every party.

Gentleness and patience fit perfectly in every size. How inspiring it is, for example, on this Feast of the Holy Family, to see parents who treat their children with gentleness, even when the milk is spilled, and nap time is missed. Patience is a virtue that can only be honed through a thousand opportunities to exercise it. It’s so beautiful to see.

Bearing with one another and forgiving one another is just a classic style. Only the very best-dressed know how to pull this off, and it’s because they live lives of intentional goodness and Christ-like action every day.

Over all this, I put on love. Oh, how good that felt. I went out into the cold, wrapped up in the warmth of love, utterly centered on others, seeing each person as Christ, sometimes in the distressing disguise of those who are poor.

I was the best-dressed person in every room, and I intend to wear my new clothes from now on.

Imagine yourself clothed this way. How do you feel?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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The Feast of the Nativity

25 December 2023

Reflecting on Luke 2:15-20

Ah, the shepherds. What a perfect group to experience this huge “GOD EVENT.” Abraham was a shepherd (Gen. 13),  Moses was a shepherd (Ex. 3;1), David was a shepherd (I Sm. 17), and God, of course, is a shepherd, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). How perfect that it was shepherds who were the first to receive the tidings of great joy. They raced to Bethlehem to greet the Child who would be the Great Shepherd, the one who would leave heaven itself to come in search of us.

I have a theory about those angels. I don’t think they came from heaven just for that one blessed night. I think that God posted them there, right there in Shepherd’s Field, at the beginning of time. I think they were there when God created the heavens and the earth. And, since heaven is not confined by time and space, it may have been just a blink of an eye before the time came for them to reveal themselves.

I hear those angels sometimes, because I know they’re hanging out in my neighborhood too. I hear them bursting into Glorias whenever anyone does anything to help bring peace on earth. When, as the Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation says so beautifully, “enemies begin to speak to one another, and those who were estranged join hands in friendship,” I think I hear them, shouting Glorias in the highest.

Here’s an easy way to hear them, and this is the perfect season. Lay down your estrangements, and your righteous certitudes. Let peace flow like a river. Now that your heart is wide open, unstop your ears and listen. Ah, yes. Glora in excelsis Deo!

Dear readers, I pray for every blessing, every healing in your life. You are always in my heart.

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

23 December 2023

Reflecting on Luke 1: 26-38

This Advent I’ve been inviting students to think about this question: With which one of the Advent and Christmas saints do you most resonate? For some, the answer is quick, almost before I can ask the question. ZECHARIAH! said my friend. “What? How can you know so fast? I didn’t even ask the question yet!” “I just know,” she said.

It’s a wonderful meditation. Are you like Joseph, quietly and kindly protecting and providing for your family? Are you like the shepherds, who, after seeing the angels and hearing their tidings of great joy, raced the five miles to Bethlehem to see for themselves the things which had come to pass?

As I read this familiar (and yet still so shocking) gospel account of the Annunciation, I think of my niece, Lauren. St. Luke says that Mary, immediately after her encounter with the Angel Gabriel, set out alone from Galilee to travel ninety dangerous miles to the hill country of Judea in order to be with her aged cousin, Elizabeth, now six months into her pregnancy.

She came to serve her, and stayed three months with her and Zechariah in order to assist her aged cousin with the birth.

I have a niece like this. If I called Lauren at 6am on Christmas Eve and said, “Lauren, I’m having ten people for dinner in twelve hours, and I just can’t do it,” her response would be, “Aunt Kathy, I’m getting in the car right now. It’s ninety miles. I’ll bring breakfast.”

That’s how I picture Mary. Young, beautiful, full of love for her family. I hope you have a “Mary” in  your life. Or is that you?

Meditate on the Advent/Christmas saints. Is there one who especially speaks to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

16 December 2023

Reflecting on John 1: 6-8, 19-28

Are you a voice crying in the desert? It’s frustrating to have a message you’d love the world to hear, and you try to shout that message into the world. But all you hear in reply are crude jokes and snide remarks.

Are we just too sophisticated for the gospel, even here in 2023, when the gospel has never been more desperately needed? Or is it just that people don’t read more than the headlines, and they decide from there what their position is?

It must be so heartbreaking to be a great journalist, to labor for a year on a piece that sees the light of day for one news cycle, and to hear the deafening silence of your audience, clicking past your work for the next cat video.

I think about John the Baptist. I wonder if his diet of locusts and wild honey, and his scratchy garment of camel’s hair, was really just to draw people’s attention from whatever diversions they were enjoying and to draw them out to the desert.

I know for sure that the desert, with its stunning landscapes and fascinating insect life, wouldn’t hold my attention if I could somehow get WIFI and cellphone reception.

I’m sure I’d find some flashy desert video to watch instead of actually tasting and breathing the real thing.

John had a message, a truth that he had found, and he was willing to make himself look ridiculous in order to get the attention of those who needed to hear it so badly. He went to Herod’s dungeon because of that Truth. He died for that Truth.

And if you listen very carefully, you can hear him preaching still.

What would you love to shout out to the world?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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