Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

21 September 2019

Reflecting on Luke 16:1-13

For many years in the last decade it was my privilege to accompany a young lady through her childhood, high school and college years. Zeenat is the ultimate, inspiring example of the child who, in the words of my brother Marty, “will be president someday if someone will just pay attention to her.”

I think of her today as I read about that savvy steward who knew how to use money and resources (especially those belonging not to him but to his Master!) in order to save himself from ruin. Watching those who love Zeenat use the system stacked against her in order to get her an education, a safe home life, good nutrition, and support and growth for her deep religious faith was a Master Class in ingenuity.

I learned, during those years, a valuable lesson in the right use of wealth. Those who are poor need the resources of those who are prosperous, and they who use their lives and expertise in getting help to those who need it are the heroes of this world.

A whole army of teachers, social workers, and Catholic support groups made Zeenat’s success their #1 project. Using their minimal financial resources (but savvy connections with those in better positions to help), these First Responders acquired for her, while her brothers floundered and dropped out, a great education all the way through college. They found her safe homes to live in, and watched in awe as her own genius led her up and out of poverty.

Today she works in the financial district of Los Angeles. And her brothers? She paid it all forward, and pulled them up and out of poverty too.

What creative ways have you found to help bring justice and help to yourself and others?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C

14 September 2019

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-32

Even though we live in a religious country with a strong religious heritage, the very core of religious faith―that a loving God actually exists and actually longs for communion with us―seems to elude us.  

And so we’ve come around again to the great Lukan parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son.  (This only happens in Year C, where we heard the story on the Fourth Sunday of Lent and again today.)  What will it take for us to really hear that the Hound of Heaven will chase us through the alleyways of our lives in order to catch us and look us in the eye and say, as the father says to his pouting, elder son, but didn’t you know that everything I have is yours?

So let’s let Francis Thompson, tortured opium addict and believer in God’s mercy, remind us once again:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him….

I wonder.  Do you suppose that Lost Sheep was watching in the canyons to see if the shepherd would really leave everything to find her?  How delicious that must have felt, to hear him calling for her, and hear the relief in his voice when she stepped from her hiding place and he wrapped her up in his arms and carried her home.

Hey, do you know someone who’s ready to be found?  It’s not easy to step out of the dark canyon.  It takes a lot of humility to admit that we are loved that much.

Do you recall a time of being “found”?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

7 September 2019

Reflecting on Philemon 9-10, 12-17

We just passed a devastating anniversary. On August 20, 1619, the first African slave ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia. Four hundred years ago, the ancient commerce of slavery brought its demonic practices of brutal abduction, starvation, and torture to our shores. Human beings were purchased in exchange for food, and 250 years of slavery commenced.

I think of those terrified human beings as I read Philemon today. By now we all know what a masterpiece of persuasion was Paul’s letter to this first-century slave master. Onesimus, the runaway slave who had become a Christian and a beloved helper to Paul, was, by law, owned by Philemon and was effectively stealing from him by staying away. Paul knew that, if Onesimus complied with the law and returned, he could have a leg cut off in order to discourage him from further flight. Paul understood that Philemon would need to be “managed.” He would not give up his right to revenge easily.

So Paul wrote his charming letter to the “owner” of Onesimus, reminding him that, in Christ, there is no slave nor free. We assume that Onesimus returned to his Christian master with no loss of limbs. And yet, in other places of the New Testament, slaves were told to obey their masters, and masters how to manage slaves (Eph. 6:5-11; Col. 3:22-4:1). Just when we thought the scriptures could be wrestled free of their cultural conditions, they shape-shift again.

The practice of slavery is as old as the human race. As long as there is work to be done, humans have been enslaved to do it. Most horrific is to remember—and we must—what devout Christians so many of the slave-holders were.

In what ways is the sin of slavery still abounding in the world?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

31 August 2019

Reflecting on Luke 14: 1, 7-14

Ah, time. It sure gives you perspective. And if looking back at your past behavior doesn’t send you careening to the back of the room, hiding from the hosts who’ve invited you to say a few words at the reception, well, how blessed are you. The many roadblocks to authentic, holy living haven’t tripped you up.

I have somehow arrived at a place of deep gratitude for the insights into my own sins. I almost crave them, probably because they humble me and, sure enough, I’ve figured out that is exactly when God shows up.

A humble and contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise (Ps. 15: 17). I’ve experienced this a thousand times. For some reason this is the quickest (but certainly not the easiest!) entrée into the mercy of God.

Think back to a time when you were humbled. Maybe you were caught in a lie, or you made a costly mistake at work. Or maybe you’ve experienced deep humility by, after an expanse of time, reflecting on an issue about which you were vocal, and absolutely certain you were right, and realizing how very wrong you were. Gulp.

I am a recovering know-it-all. But I am most humbled when I remember the kindness and patience so many people extended to me in the midst of my stupidity, especially in my youth. Parents are the best at this. They love and forgive their kids, even when their kids are temporarily insane.

That’s why I love that feeling of being humbled. I know for sure that God sees me in that state, and no exalted seat at the party can compare to the grace of being under that Gaze.

What experience of being humbled has been transformed into a redemptive experience?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

24 August 2019

Reflecting on Luke 13: 22-30

We had our fiftieth high school class reunion last weekend. We had such a great class, and we’ve all stayed close. We even have a prayer chain to support the needs of all our classmates.

I’m sad, though, when I think of the wistfulness with which people I encountered in the days before the reunion said, “Oh, that sounds so neat.” I could hear the regret they carried for not keeping in touch, not having a community of old friends. I could tell that they long for the things they left behind.

In some ways, we have to leave things. We move. We have careers and families. We are taken up with the immediate demands of our lives. Over time, the old friends fade. We put those long-ago days in their proper perspective. We move on. And then one day, decades later, some silly woman is showing you her nails, decked out in her school colors, that she had done for her high school class reunion that weekend. And you sigh and say, “Oh, that sounds so neat.”

I think of that wistfulness when I read about the Master of the house coldly telling those who knock desperately on his door, “I don’t know where you’re from.” Our churches cry out for the millions who have left us, their absence an ache at every Mass. Their reasons are legion, the sexual abuse scandals probably topping the long list.

But in a world that offers fake internet friends, a glance at any parish bulletin shows the many enriching offerings of education, prayer and community that welcome anyone who is hungry, or wistful, for the things he or she may have left behind.

What part of the spiritual life are you longing to return to, or create yourself?

Kathy McGovern ©2019                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

17 August 2019

Reflecting on Jer. 38: 4-6, 8-10

Somehow we think the people we call “prophets” were immune to pain, loneliness, or terror. Not so. Jeremiah, whose miserable time in the cistern is related in today’s reading, wanted to be loved, not reviled. God duped him, he said, and he let himself be duped (Jer. 20:7).

Of all the prophets in the Old Testament, his life was the most similar to Jesus. Both were reviled by their enemies, and even their friends. Both so aggravated the religious authorities that they were watched, in hopes that, through carefully laid traps, they could be revealed as hypocrites and frauds. Both were thought to be worthy of death.

Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem to the kings and people of Judah. This was terrifying! Surely no army would ever breach the walls of the city that housed God’s own Temple!

The prophets who counseled calm were much beloved, and ate in the palace. Jeremiah? Him they tossed him in a cistern. And this is where we see the big difference between Jeremiah and Jesus. While he once spoke on behalf of his adversaries, when his own life was severely threatened Jeremiah began to pray for their demise.

In retrospect, we all wish we’d listened to the true prophets in our lives. We remember the guidance from parents and teachers, and wonder why we didn’t heed their advice more attentively. And now we stand before God on behalf of our own children, who aren’t listening all that carefully either. And so the world goes.

And Jesus? From the cross, he spoke on behalf of his murderers, asking that they be forgiven, for they knew not what they were doing.

What prophetic words have you heard, and ignored, and now wish you’d taken to heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

14 August 2019

Reflecting on Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19

I’ve been thinking a lot about human trafficking lately. It’s horrible to think that human beings are being held in bondage all around us. We don’t see them because they are hidden on farms, in factories, hotels, sweatshops, restaurants, mines, and, in some terrible circumstances, armies.

That’s why, in the letter to the Hebrews today, the part about Abram setting out in faith for an unknown land sent me back to the original story in the twelfth chapter of Genesis. And there it was, just as I remembered. Abram, in obedience to this unknown God, “took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot… and the persons they had acquired, and set out for the land of Canaan (12:5).

So, the original sin of our parents in the faith is that they, utterly in tune with their times and to the shock of no one, acquired human beings, and they brought those human beings (never named) across the border of Syria/Turkey into what is today Israel.

Another compelling story of human trafficking is also associated with these same two characters. Having sojourned into Egypt because of famine, they came home with an Egyptian “maid servant” named Hagar. It was this woman who was forced to become Abraham’s concubine and bear him a son. Both mother and child were dismissed, though, when Sarah bore a son of her own.

Is it fair to project modern sensibilities onto ancient biblical characters? Of course not. Who of us hasn’t grown in consciousness of cultural sins that were accepted just years ago? But oh, we can shine a light on those sins when we see them in our own towns, in our own times.

In what ways are you educating yourself about human trafficking in your city?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

3 August 2019

Reflecting on Luke 12: 13-21

I’m halfway through The Benedict Option, and I haven’t arrived at the controversial parts yet. So far it’s just a beautifully written synopsis of the different ways that Christianity throughout history has engaged, or not engaged, with the culture. Right now I’m at the part where a new breed of young Catholic men are actually restoring the ancient Benedictine monastery of Nursia, St. Benedict’s birth place.

Rod Dreher really hit a nerve with this one. I’ve never lived further than a mile from my childhood home, yet even I, while sitting in deadlocked summer traffic, am fantasizing about life up in Snowmass with the Trappists. I think his theme is going to be that conscious, communal retreat from the culture is the only way to survive what’s coming in our post-Christian era. Hmm…

It’s easy to see where St. Benedict (and his twin sister Scholastica) derived the inspiration for their radical embrace of the scriptures; it must have been the very texts we hear this weekend. Since we’re reading St. Luke all year, it’s no surprise to hear Jesus tell the crowd that “one’s life does not consist in possessions.” The first reading and the responsorial psalm are, of course, chosen to harmonize with the gospel, so we hear Qoheleth’s famous rebuke of wealth as the vanity of vanities, and Psalm 90’s beautiful prayer that God would “teach us to number our days that we may attain a heart of wisdom.”

But it’s the reading from Colossians that really indicts the Christian, then and now: Put to death….the greed that is idolatry.

I think I get it. But can I please still have my lovely, culture-saturated life? Hmm…

How are you learning to number your days so that you may attain wisdom?

Kathy McGovern ©2019                       

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

28 July 2019

Reflecting on Lk. 12: 13-21

All I need to know in life I learned in catechism class in the fifties. Take prayer, for example. I’m positive that the strong building blocks of a prayerful life were placed for us in fifth grade, when Sister Genevieve taught us the four easy-to-remember steps of prayer.

“Just think of what happens at Mass,” she said, writing on the board in that gorgeous nun-cursive that must have been a requirement for admission to the Sisters of Loretto:

Confess Your Failings During the Week (Confiteor)

Glorify God for all the Beauty in the World (Gloria)

Ask God  for What you Need (Petitions)

Give Thanks to God  in all Things (Eucharist)

That’s it. Every night, look back on the day and do an examination of conscience. It doesn’t take long; the ways we’ve fallen short during the day tend to sit on our hearts until we bring them to light anyway.

Next, give glory to God for all the ways God’s goodness abounds. I usually start with remembering something beautiful in nature. Petition is the easy one, and the one that probably gets done before the first two most days. If you’ve ever landed on your parish prayer list you know the power of petition.

Thanksgiving is easy too, and of course that’s what “Eucharist” means. Always be thankful, and you’ll always be filled.

Which of the four steps comes the most naturally to you?

Kathy McGovern © 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

21 July 2019

Reflecting on Lk. 10: 38-42

Don’t you feel sorry for Martha? I wish we knew what she did after Jesus advised her that she was “anxious and worried about many things.” Wouldn’t it be great to know that she turned off the burners on the stove and sat right down?

That, of course, begs the question, “Well, if Mary and the other disciples have chosen the better part, and if Martha should abandon dinner and sit and learn from the Teacher too, who IS going to make dinner?”

I’ve sort of harrumphed at this story, noting how hungry everyone would be in a few hours if no one was fixing dinner. But Jesus fixes his gaze on me and says, “Stop. Pay attention to what really happened here. Martha was fussing and fuming because Mary wasn’t doing what a woman is supposed to do. She was too devoted to me, too in love with the kingdom of God. She was sitting at my feet because that’s exactly where I desired her and Martha to be. Remember the scriptures. If you seek me you’ll find me if you seek me with all of your heart I will be found by you (Dt. 4:29).

But that’s not all that Jesus wants us to learn. St. Luke loves stories about women and about meals. During these long weeks of Ordinary Time we’ll hear many stories about both, since we’re reading Luke all year. Don’t miss this one. It’s about the discipleship of equals, of course. Mary and Martha have as much right to the Kingdom as do the male disciples. But looking deeper we can glimpse Luke’s greatest theme of all: Jesus is the MEAL. Take and eat.

How is the Eucharist drawing  you closer to the most important things in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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