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

18 June 2022

I got to be the Confirmation sponsor for my dear friend Sophia, age eight, last month. She made her First Communion at the same time. I don’t remember ever seeing anything as lovely as those beautiful young children, coming up to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. We all remember the thrill of that, don’t we? I’ve never forgotten it, and I still get a twinge of that same thrill every single time I line up to receive.

As a sponsor, I also got to attend, virtually, the STUNNINGLY beautiful preparation class. There was a point, while Kristen and Kate were explaining Real Presence, that I turned to my husband and said, “If they can just get this I believe they can have a happy life.” Understanding Real Presence is, in my own life experience, Ground Zero for understanding the whole rest of your life.

But the truth is that even the best prepared children, with the most creative and attentive parents, have had to face many scary obstacles to peace of heart that my generation did not. Pope Francis continues to beg older people to impart their humor and wisdom to younger generations, instead of all of their fears for the future.

As Sr. Genevieve Glen says, we invite Jesus into our bodies as a working guest. Work on us, Jesus. Strengthen us in the things that make us truly happy. Send your grace into the lives of every person who once believed in your Real Presence, and help them realize that, bidden or unbidden, you have been their Working Guest all these years.

Happy Feast Day, Church. Jesus is REALLY PRESENT with us.

How do you experience the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C

11 June 2022

I have a problem. For the first time in my wildly extroverted life, I find myself creating too much time alone. Why? Because I’m scrolling through the internet, reading every single soul-deadening news story. No wonder I’m on the verge of tears most of the time.

This temptation to overuse the internet ramped up considerably when I finally got a Smartphone. It’s such heaven to load up a bunch of books on my phone, and then sit out on the porch, reading ‘til my eyes fall out.

And now, the most addicting part of all: did you know you can watch movies on your phone? When did watching movies become the thing you do by yourself?

Driving alone, living alone, watching movies alone…it’s an increasingly seductive lifestyle. It’s killing our souls, and further degrading the environment, when everyone wants their own apartment, and the privacy of driving everywhere alone.

In the beginning, says John Kavanaugh, SJ, there was community. Community. You remember that. Sitting out on the porch on summer nights, drinking iced tea and enjoying conversation. You remember that. It’s when folks relax into the safe place of long friendships and share the highs and lows of the day.

I’m so glad I remember the deep joys of conversation, and so glad I have many touchpoints of community in my life. I can come back from the brink of isolation because I know that true redemption lies in community, not in knowing every single detail of every tragedy in the world.

In the beginning, there was the Trinity. Three Persons. It’s that eternal community, that eternal conversation, that created the world, and us in Their Image.

Are there places of isolation in  your life that are bad for your spirit?

Kathy McGovern ©2022.

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A Pentecost Sequence

4 June 2022

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

O Spirit,

We do not know how to pray as we should.

We pray, night after night,

Begging you to rouse your power

          And save.

Save Ukraine.

Save all refugees.

Save all who are caught fighting

In wars against their wills.

          Save us from ourselves.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

Summer is near, with its heat and its drought.

Send us good summer.

Let us revel in your flowers         

And your delicious summer fruits.

          Let long, starry nights find home in us.

You, of Comforters the best,

Give fire to those in need of a renewed love for you,

And refreshing coolness to those

Whose resentments are destroying them.

       You, Spirit, are our hearts’ most welcome Guest.

Heal, oh Spirit, touch and heal

The widows and orphans of this war.

Restore and rebuild the wasted places.

And change us, from the inside out.

So that war shall end this day

          And forevermore.

How did your Pentecost Novena these past days build peace and hope in your heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle C

28 May 2022

Reflecting on Acts 1: 12-14

We observe the Feast of the Ascension today, since the traditional date of nine days—novena—before Pentecost is no longer a Day of Obligation. Starting today, and including Pentecost, we have eight days to pray together. (And, for those reading this online a day or two ahead, you can do it the “right way” and begin on the day after Ascension Thursday.)

Here’s a suggestion for a novena for all impacted by the war in Ukraine. If you choose this novena, you’ll be praying with all the readers of this column through the great feast of Pentecost. But there are dozens of novenas online that are all beautiful too.

O God of peace, we remember your disciples, especially your mother Mary, who gathered in that upper room for nine days, praying and waiting for your Spirit. And oh, how your promise was fulfilled! The power of your Spirit filled them, and all in Jerusalem that day, and the light of the Gospel went out to the four corners of the earth.

O God, we beg you to send forth your Spirit upon all who struggle in Ukraine. Change the heart of Vladimir Putin, and all who have been enlisted in this evil aggression. Reveal a Third Way, a way through the Sea, for all who are trapped, and wounded, and starving, and thirsty, and terrified by the endless bombings.

O God, let this war mark the end of aggressions. Bring peace to Ukraine. Preserve Europe and the Middle East from famine. Allow planting to commence. Allow refugees to return. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth. This we ask, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

For what do you need prayer? Let’s pray for every person joining in this novena.

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

21 May 2022

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

It’s unimaginable how brave those early evangelists were. Paul and Barnabas were so positive of what the Spirit was doing to advance the early Church that they took it upon themselves to free the Gentiles, clamoring for baptism, from the requirements of male circumcision, and most of the Mosaic Law.

It was their experience of encounter with those Gentiles in Syria in the mid-fifties that convinced them that this was, indeed, what the Spirit was saying to the Church. But what a huge and shocking departure it was from everything their Jewish backgrounds had taught them about God’s will.

Their convictions, and courageous actions, created such a conflict with the “Judaizers”—-Orthodox Jews who had been baptized into Christ, and yet believed that Gentiles could only access salvation through adherence to strict Mosaic Law—that the first conference ever convened among Christians took place just to settle it.

The Council of Jerusalem ended up siding with Paul and Barnabas. There were a few dust-ups along the way (see Galatians 2, just for fun), but in a decade or two the matter was ancient history, and by the end of the first century it became obvious that the worldwide growth of Christianity would be among the Gentiles.

They listened to the Spirit, those earliest Jewish-Christians, and oh what grace followed. What impediments to the growth of a vibrant Church need to be set aside so that grace may follow? In our wildest dreams we couldn’t find an impediment more “central to the faith” than the Mosaic Law was to Judaism, yet they set it aside in order to save the souls of the billions of Gentiles who would come to Christ throughout history.

What, if anything, is standing in the way of the Spirit’s work?

Kathy McGovern©2022

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

14 May 2022

Reflecting on Rev. 21: 1-5a

A new heaven and a new earth. Oh, how we long for it. This long winter was made nearly unendurable by the terrible war that goes on and on, misery on top of misery. We look at the ruined cities, and the  millions living far away from home and loved ones. This war is too much with us, and yet it seems that turning our eyes away is the coward’s way out. We force ourselves to see, to know, to pray.

But springtime, and Easter, were made especially joyful this year due to our parish’s delightful experience of helping re-settle a young, hopeful Afghan family, already learning English, and the bus lines, and the funny way we Americans do things. They will thrive, and succeed, and live happy lives here. And yet, we must force ourselves to know about, and to pray for, those left in Afghanistan, who are the victims of the Taliban, and of the last forty years of war.

When John wrote his Revelation, he was writing to seven communities of the infant Church. His great insight into what constituted the new heaven and earth was this: when the kingdom of God comes, God will bring heaven to earth, and God will reign.  And where God is, there is no war,  nor, as in Afghanistan, starvation left in its wake.

We long for a new earth, with millions of species finding their way back to life, and clean rivers, and oceans without plastic. All that and more was envisioned by John: winter replaced with eternal spring, and every tear we ever cried wiped away by God.

Does this vision have its time? The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”

What is your own prayer for a new heaven and earth?

Kathy McGovern©2022

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

7 May 2022

Reflecting on Acts 13: 14, 43-52

What is the actual birthday of the Church? I’ve heard several theories. Some hold firmly to March 25th, the feast day of the Annunciation to Mary. Yes, they say. The day Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb is the birthday of the Church.

Others say the Church was born that terrible day on Calvary, when Jesus gave his mother to the Disciple Whom he Loved, and that Disciple to his Mother. In other words, Jesus gave his Mother to us, the Church. Happy birthday, Church.

Others say it was the moment, after his death, when the Roman soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and blood (the Eucharist), and water (Baptism) flowed out. The Sacraments flowing from his side—that was the day the Church was born.

The most common choice, of course, is Pentecost. The day the Holy Spirit swept over the believers assembled in Jerusalem, filling them with inspiration and joy, was surely the birth of the Church.

But listen carefully, in these post-Resurrection weeks, to the accounts from Acts of what was going on in the lives of the eyewitnesses in the immediate weeks, months and years after the Resurrection. They had seen the Lord. And nothing—not even the cruelest of tortures and deaths, which all but one of the Twelve endured —would stop them from proclaiming the Risen One.

And it wasn’t just those who had known Jesus while he was on earth who were on fire for him. Paul “saw the Lord,” and his fellow-martyr Barnabas “saw” Jesus through faith.

The Church came to birth, in my opinion, with the martyrs, who were willing to die rather than say they had not seen the Lord.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, how do you “see” and “hear’ Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

30 April 2022

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

It’s all about extravagant love. Abundant, embarrassingly lavish love. We are the dumbstruck recipients. No wonder we feel like jumping out of the boat, fully clad, and rushing to the shore, because somehow we sense that we’ll find Jesus there.

This beautiful love song from the last chapter of John’s gospel—the epilogue, as it is called—is just packed with stories of Jesus’ tender love for us, but it’s that ginormous catch of fish that gets me every time.

Here’s what my life was like, right up until the day of my mom’s death, and then in all the years since, while she has been with God, interceding for me.

When I was holding the empty package of gum, and I SO wanted a piece of gum, she somehow had gum, and there it was. An unexpected catch of fish.

As I was leaving my parents’ home, loaded up with gifts after a warm Christmas dinner, my mom stopped me at the door. “Oh, wait, “ she said, “I think I forgot one of your presents.” She opened up the cloak closet and brought out a beautiful winter coat, waiting there for me all along. A HUGE and shockingly unexpected catch of fish.

When she was dying, out of the blue arrived this wonderful, kind, talented guy to be my beloved spouse. How do you say thank-you for that? You spend your life in awe of the wondrous love of your mom, who is, of course, your in-the-flesh encounter with Jesus, who knows where all the fish are, and greets you, ravishingly hungry at dawn, with warm and delicious food.

Watch for God’s abundance. And get your nets ready.

In what ways do you experience the abundant love of Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

23 April 2022

Reflecting on John 20:19-31

Three years ago, I found a new favorite author and a new book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans. In some ways it made me sad, because this formerly evangelical young woman was just now discovering Catholic approaches to reading scripture.

It’s understandable that it took  her awhile, growing up as she did in Dayton, Tennessee, made famous by the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. The trial, which drew famous prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, and defense attorney Clarence Darrow, publicized the tension between science (evolution) and the fundamentalist reading of the book of Genesis which was so popular in the south.

Rachel was courageous in her own growth as a Christian. As she famously said in Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions: “Doubt…requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it.”

What astounding joy Thomas must have felt when the Divine Mercy greeted him that night. I don’t think he ever doubted God. He doubted what he believed about God, that there could be no intersection between his lived experience—he had, after all, seen his Lord, crucified and buried that terrible Friday—and his faith. Touch my wounds, said Jesus.

One week after I discovered her, Rachel died of the flu at age 38. She left an infant, a toddler, and a devastated husband. Where is God in the tragedy of her death? Touch my wounds, says Jesus. I am here.

Jesus, I trust in you.

How does your faith inform your experiences every day?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Easter Sunday: the Resurrection of the Lord

16 April 2022

Reflecting on John 20:1-9

It’s so interesting to be up early in the morning and see the difference that light makes in a dark sky. At first it’s not so certain that the dim light coming up will actually overcome the darkness. This might be the first day in the history of the world—that dreaded day—-when dawn will never break, and the sun will never appear on the horizon. But, in the next breath, violets and pinks and blues splash across the skies, the heralds of the moment when light will overtake the darkness once again.

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb that Easter morning it was so dark that all she saw was the stone removed from the tomb. She raced back to tell the others. By the time Peter and the other disciple got to the tomb, more light was in the sky.

We know this because the faster runner, the “disciple Jesus loved,” got there first, bent down, and looked into the tomb, and saw the burial cloths. Mary would not have seen them inside the tomb because she arrived “while it was still dark.”

By the time Peter arrived there was enough light for him to see, from inside the open tomb, the burial cloths, and the head cloth, rolled up in a separate place.

But keep reading. In the verses immediately following today’s passage, in the full Easter light, Mary Magdalene, weeping outside the tomb, saw two angels, and the Gardener, whom she soon realized was Jesus himself.

A stone rolled way. Burial cloths. The head covering. Two angels. A Gardener. Jesus.

We come to faith in stages, given our access to the Light. And the darkness shall never overcome it.

What truths about Jesus do you see more clearly today than in years past?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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