Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

6 July 2019

It’s been a beautiful summer holiday in Colorado.  Sometimes it takes two or three days to just wind down enough to notice you’re on vacation. We’ve spent every possible moment up in the mountains, or swimming at the neighborhood pool, or biking through any of Colorado’s refreshing bike paths.

America the Beautiful was written here.  I look to the west and see the purple mountain majesties that have brought me to prayer every morning of my life.

It’s hard to live in a constant state of gratitude and awe.  My sister is the best you’ve ever seen.  We’ll be driving along the San Diego harbor―she lives in that spectacular city―and she’ll stop the car to make sure we are all thanking God for the water, and the ships, and the seagulls.  And it turns out we are.

This land is our land, from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters.  How blessed we are.  How grateful we are.

Our back yard, blessedly taken over by Farmyard, CSA. several years ago, is already bursting with onions.  The tomatoes will be ready for spaghetti sauce in about five weeks.  I may have to escape sometime in September if the three rows of zucchini get organized enough to break down our back door.

I notice that the volunteers who garden the twenty yards that produce the food that feeds over one hundred people a week are growing older, slower, a bit more tired.  The harvest is astonishing, overwhelming, more than enough to feed the world.  The laborers are few.  I guess it’s time for me to go pull some weeds.

I hope everyone had a blessed Independence Day.

How did you celebrate the holiday?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

29 June 2019

Reflecting on Luke 9: 51-62

Sheesh. You teach this section of Luke’s gospel for years, and then you read a great commentary by Daniel Hamm, SJ and see everything differently. Scripture endlessly bubbles up with unexplored nuances and insights.

We should never let a difficult passage go until it blesses us.

The Samaritans in the north and the “Jews” in the south—a strange distinction, since the Samaritans were Jews too—had been estranged for centuries before Jesus, James and John attempted to pass through their land on the way to Jerusalem. The reason is that the Jerusalem Temple was a huge source of revenue for the south, since the book of Deuteronomy required all Jewish men to travel three times a year “to the place where God shall choose” (16:16).

But the Samaritans always read that passage as their own sacred location of Mount Gerizim, and they resented Jews traveling through to Jerusalem. The south benefited spiritually and economically from all those travelers, and the north felt left out of the promises of the Torah that were originally meant for them.

The Eastern Orthodox church in our neighborhood has a sign outside: Teaching the truth for two thousand years. That’s to remind Roman Catholics that they are the original descendants of the faith hijacked during the schism of 1054.

Hard feelings abound everywhere when it comes to who got there first. We only have to look at the street names in our cities—Huron, Cherokee, Osage—to remember the First Peoples. The devastation of that encounter is only now coming to the surface. During next years’ NBA championships you could bring up the Warriors to the fans in Oakland, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

What “rightful ownership” has been hijacked from you in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

25 June 2019

It’s our great feast day again. The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is meaningful for all Christians  who believe the consecrated Bread and Wine is the true body and blood of Jesus. In fact, more and more Christians are now saying out loud what they have come to believe: this is not a symbol. This is the actual Body and Blood of Christ.

You may have known this since the day of your First Communion. You may have only recently recognized its Truth. Or you may still be on the fence about the Real Presence. In any case, let me offer you a little test.

Think back on the Mass you attended today. Remember the stresses you brought with you—kids, jobs, money, texts to answer, aging parents who need care. How did you feel at the beginning of Mass?

Try to recall the hymns sung and the scriptures read. (This may trigger your memory: can you sing some of the responsorial psalm from today? It will have a theme that brings to mind the first reading, the gospel, or both.)

Think about the homily you heard. Think about the things we prayed for in the General Intercessions. Think about the procession up for the Eucharist. Think about how you felt when Mass was ended. I’ll bet you anything you went in peace.

That’s the Real Presence. There is a palpable difference in the way people behave before Mass and after. It’s as if a cool breeze blew through and made all things new. Huh. That’s pretty much what happened at Pentecost.

How did I feel today as we sang the recessional hymn?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C

25 June 2019

I’ve always liked this feast. I love thinking of the ways that I am more than just one person in my life, that all of my different titles represent vital pieces of my identity. I am, for example, Ben’s wife, my parents’ daughter, my siblings’ sister, my cousins’ cousin, my nieces and nephews’ aunt. I am all of those titles, and I’m probably a little different with each of my beloved relatives.

I am also a friend, a student, a teacher, a reader, a writer, and a parishioner. I love being all those things. I can’t imagine a happy life without any one of them.

The earliest Christians—as early as Paul himself, whose profound transformation took place sometime in the mid-40s—were just praying and acting on instinct. There was no catechism, no papal decree to instruct them in what to believe. Paul, Silas, and Barnabas traveled thousands of miles, sailing dangerous waters in rickety boats, walking over treacherous terrain (complete with snakes, as Paul found out at Malta) in order to preach one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and raised, and living in us through the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t a hard leap for these Jewish men  to move towards the understanding of God as Three. They intimately knew the Father through their lives steeped in the stories of the Old Testament. They had personally experienced the Son (albeit through Saul’s post-resurrection vision on the road to Damascus), and they depended every day on the comfort and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It just makes sense that the God in whose image we are created would be more than one Person. We all are.

Which Person of the Trinity do you feel closest to at this point in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Pentecost Sequence, 2019 – Cycle C

13 June 2019

It’s Pentecost, see, with its reds and its fire.

It’s hearing the story of yearning desire

To reach to the ends of the earth with the news.

And joy set them free to dispense with the Rules.

 

They left all they knew for THE STORY so glorious

But some of their number became quite notorious.

Saul became Paul, the great Gentile ally.

His letters gave Christians this peace to abide by:

 

Not Gentile, not Jew, not servant, not free.

God’s grace is abiding in you and in me.

Now all these years later it’s hard to recall

That unity was the Spirit’s great gift to us all.

 

So, come, Holy Spirit, let’s try this again.

Renew us. Imbue us, in His NAME. AMEN.

For when Spirit dwells there’s this one huge advantage:

When it comes to God’s grace, we all speak the same language.

 

How do you “speak the same language” with friends of other faith traditions?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Ascension/ Seventh Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

1 June 2019

Reflecting on John 17: 20-26

Warmest thanks to Steve Padilla, President of the Board of Directors of One World Singers, and all the choirs who performed so beautifully at 

One World, Many Songs: A Denver Cultural Festival

 

We went to the most beautiful concert the other day. I’m still meditating on the many ways it touched and expanded my heart. It began with two songs sung beautifully by a “traditional” choir. Then a larger choir stepped up and joined them, and WOW. The sound and richness of their voices seemed to multiply ten times the sound of the original choir.

Applause. They disappear, and the sanctuary fills with the sublime colors of the Korean Choir, a combination of choirs from the Korean churches in the area. Oh, how this choir watches the director. Every note is perfect, every movement choreographed meticulously.

Applause. The colors swirl away, and now the church fills with the delightful dancers from India. The drums gently beat as these gorgeous dancers get everyone up on their feet and we all pretend we’re in the closing dance sequence of some charming movie from “Bollywood.”

Applause. Ha! Here come the Jews. All it takes is a clarinet, violin, two singers playing some kind of fascinating but unidentifiable string instruments, and we are transported to a pre-Holocaust Eastern European shtetl. The sound is haunting, dissonant, challenging, utterly stunning. I release my heart once again. The Jews own it.

And so it goes. One choir after the other commands the room, and then they all come together for the last piece, “Make the circle wider.” I notice, for the first time, that there are four Caucasians mixed in with the Mexicans, and three African-Americans dancing with the Indians. And the words of today’s gospel seem to sound all through the church, the city, the world: Father, may they all be one.

And they were. And we are.

In what ways are you using your life experience to make the circle wider?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

26 May 2019

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

Decisions. I hate them. I run from them, and put up every kind of smokescreen to keep from making them. That’s hugely frustrating for the people who have to work and live with me, and the truth is I would never decide at all if I weren’t eventually shamed into it.

The earliest Christians engaged in a history-changing discernment in 50 AD. This momentous decision regarded who would be admitted into the emerging Christian community. That was the decision for the ages.

How did they discern what restrictions to lay on those Gentiles who were asking to be admitted to their community? Certainly the Jewish Christians (like Mary, the mother of Jesus!) still considered themselves Jews, observed the kosher laws, and worshipped in the synagogue. But what to do about the burgeoning number of Gentiles who were hearing the Word through the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas? Shouldn’t they observe everything the Jews observe, including, for men, circumcision?

St. Paul said, “No!” The more conservative Jews in Jerusalem said, “Yes!” You can imagine the televised debates and internet sniping that would go on today. But the Holy Spirit filled this infant Church with an open heart.

A Council was called. The problem was set out. Then experience was called upon. Paul talked about the huge response to the gospel in the Gentile lands. Peter told the remarkable story of the conversion of the family of Cornelius, the Gentile centurion (Acts 10) that changed his mind about who’s in and who’s out.

Experience and compassion ruled the day. The Church spread like wild fire. Imagine a Church without Gentiles like St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. And you.

What experience have you had that changed a conviction you used to have?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

18 May 2019

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

I hope you feel that you are abiding in love. If you don’t, it’s time to check the baptismal certificates of those around you. That’s right. Jesus could not have been clearer. By THIS the world will know we are his own, by the enormous amount of LOVE we pour out into the world.

Maybe we can’t define love, but we sure know it when we feel it, don’t we? I’m surrounded by disciples. Because of that I’m practically drowning in love.

How do you measure the way love sustains your life? Let’s take Sunday, for example. When you attempt the Daytona 500—otherwise known as the church parking lot—do your fellow worshipers smile and wave you ahead, while they take the next spot down? (And—ahem—do you make this same kind gesture for others occasionally?)

When you come into church, are you warmly welcomed? My husband Ben and I happened to be in Miami on Holy Thursday and visited a church there. Two people rushed to open the doors for us, and others scrambled to smile at us, greet us, and take us up to the front section. After Mass people couldn’t stop smiling at us. We were visitors, and they were just so happy to have us. How perfect to feel that much love with a community that has just celebrated the washing of feet.

Here’s the thing: love is what changes us for good. Other experiences teach us, and make us better at what we do. But love is what Christ gives us, and so it’s what we must give. Love for the life of the world. And no, not just for some…but for everyone.

How are you giving what the world needs now so much?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

11 May 2019

Reflecting on Acts 13: 14, 43-52

He did it again. Every week I read several commentaries to help me reflect on the Sunday readings, and once again the great John Kavanaugh, SJ has opened the most beautiful and insightful window into today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

What does it mean that “all who were destined for eternal life” (13: 48) came to believe? What did Barnabas and Paul know about eternal life? How could they know anything, since they were still alive, in bodies that were directed by brains that would die, which would then signal the death of their bodies? In other words, if you are brain dead, how do you experience any life?

Father Kavanaugh puts it this way:  “How can an ‘after’ life have any continuity with this life when all our experience is so brain-based? Our memories, our joys, the delights of every sense, the faces of our loved ones all seem so inseparable from this world and our bodies.”

Even though Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, what kind of bodies will they be, once they are separated by time and space? Kavanaugh offers this delicious question: imagine that all the babies born today could talk to all the babies still in the womb and give them this good news: life is even better outside the womb! I know it seems like only death outside, but “the new world beyond your womb is connected to what you are right now, but it is wondrously different! All the gifts you have are only glimmers of what they will become!”

You successfully made it through your birth. Trust God that this life is only a shadow of what awaits.

What insights into eternity have you gained this Easter?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

10 May 2019

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

Even though it’s nowhere in scripture, tradition says that Peter, when an old man, was dragged away and crucified. Because he did not feel worthy to receive the same death as his Lord, Peter asked to be crucified upside down. Scripture never tells us where or when this took place, but the author of John’s gospel certainly knows about it, because he says that Jesus’s words to Peter ­­­­the day will come when you will be led where you do not want to go­­­ signified by what kind of death Peter would glorify God.

Peter was probably martyred by Emperor Nero in Rome in the mid-60s, AD. The origin of the tradition of him being crucified upside down is unknown. But his death HAS glorified God, hasn’t it, all these centuries? Hasn’t the image of Peter begging to endure a more humiliating death than even Jesus endured been a source of inspiration and strength to you from the day you first heard it?

We don’t have to dance around the facts of the resurrection. The eyewitnesses to the empty tomb, and to the Risen One, didn’t say things like, “Well, he’s risen in our hearts,” or “We feel his Spirit and are strengthened.” That would never be enough to ask your executioners to nail you to a cross upside down.

Peter and all the martyred ones went to their deaths utterly positive that the grave that held Jesus was empty, and that Christ would raise them up with him. The witness­­­that’s another word for “martyr”—of those first believers rings out throughout the ages: He is Risen, and our lives and deaths are meant to give glory to that Name.

What deaths have you witnessed that give glory to God?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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