Solemnity of Christ the King

21 November 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 25: 31-46

Christ my King, these are the things I’ve seen lately that brought your parable of the Last Judgment to my mind:

I saw a neighborhood observe The Howl every night at 8pm for seven months. THANK YOU, healthcare workers and First Responders.

On Halloween I saw the grown-ups in that same neighborhood dancing in the street to The Monster Mash as the ghosts and goblins from our zip code, traumatized by a pandemic that’s kept them away from friends and teachers, delightedly raced up every sidewalk, picking up candy and treats, waving and saying THANK YOU.

At Starbucks the other day I saw a postal worker walk by, and those of us sitting outside standing and cheering for him. THANK YOU.

At the grocery store I saw one of the clerks step out from behind his register and call, “Somebody please help that man. He looks like he’s in pain.” And immediately an elderly man walking on crutches, trying to navigate a cart into the checkout lane, was surrounded by staff and customers, all reaching out to make life easier for him. THANK YOU.

Christ, my King, they didn’t know it, but they did each of these things for you. But this week I also saw the effects of greed and power and selfishness and “me first-ness” wreak heartbreak and devastation all over the globe. We did that to you, oh Jesus. You should have said something. You should have said, “Hey! That’s me you’re humiliating, me whose work you are denigrating, me whose life you are threatening.” You should have said something, Jesus. We just didn’t see you.

Where have you seen Christ in his “most distressing disguise” recently?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 November 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 25: 14-30

One of the interesting things about not having children of your own is that it frees you up to admire the parenting practices of all your friends. And here’s the most touching part. Watching the lucky children of my friends now parenting their own kids is like watching a home movie on fast forward. The next generation is getting all the love and warmth and ingenious parenting that they themselves received. They are giving back the five coins they received, and the yield is stunning.

My friend Zeenat grew up in the housing projects in Denver. She had a troubled home life, but the Catholic school system invested in her and gave her everything she needed to succeed. She took those two coins and is now a spokeswoman for several charities who serve at-risk children.

We’ve heard the inspiring stories of teenagers who sleep on the bus because they have no home. They show up at school, homework done and ready to participate in theater and sports after school. And yes, a few of them have actually landed at Harvard. That’s the one coin that got invested and made a fortune.

Think back on your own life. What investment was made in you? Did you have attentive parents? Conscientious teachers? A school system that supported your talents?

By far the greatest number of coins given us is our baptism. Having been welcomed into the communion of saints, living and dead, we are never alone a day of our lives. And, by building faith friendships—like this one, come to think of it—we participate in the building of the Kingdom of God. The perfect investment indeed.

What investment made in you as a child has borne abundant fruit?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

7 November 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 25: 1-13

Does it ever work to just avoid knowing stuff? A friend of mine, a history professor, wonders if future generations will look at the abortion procedures of this country in our lifetimes and say to us, “And you KNEW?” Certainly the generation has already been born that looks at the devastations of climate change and says, “And you KNEW? You had all those decades of warning, and THIS is what you’re leaving us?”

We can see it in our own aging relatives, or maybe ourselves. I’m thinking of the ones who would never deny themselves that cigarette, that alcohol, that all-you-can-eat buffet. We knew. Of course we knew. We’ve known since the early 1960s the devastations on the body that come from a lifetime of immediate gratification. Yet, like those foolish virgins, we couldn’t let ourselves imagine the day when we would need to have been extra vigilant in the past in order to greet the Bridegroom tonight.

We thought we had more time. We thought our lungs and our livers and our waistlines would somehow heal themselves. We thought that “all those smart kids” would come up with ways to heal our rivers and glaciers and wildlife. Maybe one of those smart kids never saw the light of day.

Certainly the most urgent warning is this: get to know Jesus Christ. Pick up the last few chapters of Matthew’s gospel, before Advent comes and we don’t come back to it for three years.

If we don’t exercise today we won’t have the flexibility to heal from the inevitable ravages of aging. If we don’t work on intimacy with Jesus today, how will we recognize him when he comes for us tomorrow?

What (or Who) are you avoiding knowing?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Solemnity of All Saints – Cycle A

31 October 2020

Growing up in Saint Vincent de Paul parish in the fifties and sixties, I recall exactly one lesson about him, and that was a shaky black and white movie that appeared to have been made in the same century he lived (16th).

But many years later, well after the end of Second Vatican Council, I dropped by the school and was immediately drawn to the beautiful painting in the entranceway. “That’s stunning,” I said. “Who is it?” The receptionist laughed. “Kathy, that’s St. Vincent de Paul!”

We’ve come a long way since the Council’s call to learn more about the saints whose names grace our schools, our streets, our cities. These days we can read about the Saint of the Day in multiple devotionals, online and in print. Have you learned about your patron saint, or your Confirmation saint? They travel with us throughout our lives, weaving blessings for us in ways we won’t see until heaven. It’s good to get to know them.

Just yesterday my friend Camille wrote to wish me a Happy Feast of St. Luke. St. Paul describes him as a physician (Colossians 4:14), so he is the patron of all who need healing. She also noted that the following day, October 19th, is the Feast of the North American Martyrs, another recent obsession of mine. In fact, as I was writing this another friend called to remind me of their Feast today.

We have friends in high places; wonderful, curmudgeonly, gracious, eccentric, passionate friends whose lives in some way intersected with the sacred heart of Jesus. Sick? Sad? Anxious? Grateful? Converted of heart? The Church has a Saint for that.

In what ways do you feel a strong connection with your favorite saint?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

24 October 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 22:34-40

My husband Ben directs the music in a low-income parish. Recently, one of the terrific tenors in the choir has been sitting out because his macular degeneration makes it difficult to see the lyrics.

Ben overheard another of the tenors say to him after Mass last week, “What do you mean you can’t see the words? You KNOW the words. The words of God are very near to you, on your lips and in your heart. You have only to sing them out.”

Tears came immediately to my eyes. Here is a guy who grew up in the neighborhood, went to the Catholic high school, and lives today in an apartment subsidized by Archdiocesan Housing, Inc. He sat in the back of church, dressed to the nines, every Sunday for decades before he mentioned that he “sings a little.”

He came up and sang one Sunday, and, well, the earth moved, and it moves every time he steps up to the microphone.

But, singing aside, he has paid attention to the readings. In a lifetime of sitting in the back of church, reading his missal before Mass, he has absorbed and placed the word of God in his mind and in his heart, so that Deuteronomy 30:14 popped up right when he needed it.

Ben just returned from a long-distance car trip. How did he pass the time? “Oh, I sang all the hymns I’ve memorized, and worked on memorizing more.”

That’s one of a thousand ways to love God with one’s “whole heart, and soul, and mind.” Try memorizing a few favorite hymns. Once embedded in your heart, they’ll take over your soul and mind as well

What spiritual discipline do you practice in order to love God with everything you are?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

19 October 2020

Reflecting on Isaiah 45:1, 4-6

We need to talk about Cyrus. Right now, two weeks before the election. That he is mentioned in the first reading this weekend is one of the many things I love about the lectionary. When we really need to hear something, the Holy Spirit has already placed it in the readings for the day.

Here’s a guy who could teach us something about wise leadership. He ruled the Persian Empire for thirty years (559-530 BC), and expanded it into the largest empire ever to rule up to that time.

After conquering Babylon and observing the Jewish community there he said, “Here’s all the treasure King Nebuchadnezzar stole from you when he burned your Temple sixty years ago. Go home, rebuild your Temple, and pray for the Royal Family and me.”

Ah. Doesn’t that language just soothe your battered soul? Here is what I am confident we all want to hear from whomever wins this election: Let’s begin again. Let’s find again the values we all cherish: civility, kindness, understanding. If we can’t search our hearts and see that we have, in the name of love of our country, lashed out and deeply hurt others, we can’t heal. And let’s discipline ourselves to not say, “Yeah, but what about THEM?” Let’s just use this moment to examine ourselves.

By using understanding and compassion, King Cyrus was able to see the pain that others had experienced. That’s why he is the only Gentile in the Hebrew scriptures to be called God’s “anointed.” At our baptisms, each of us was anointed “priest, prophet, and King.” May we activate that anointing immediately, in imitation of King Cyrus the Great.

How will I be an instrument of peace after the election?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

12 October 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 22: 1-14

We went to the most beautiful wedding reception recently. Alex and Danielle chose their sacrament over a big party during COVID. They were married in July in a very sparsely attended ceremony, then re-enacted their vows in an outdoor, socially-distanced party last week with their families and friends.

They dressed up in their stunning wedding clothes so we could all re-live the original wedding. The bridesmaids and groomsmen were all dressed in their wedding finery too, and so were all the attendees. We were there to bear witness to a sacrament celebrated earlier, but being lived out with great joy today.

During the toasts, the smitten bridegroom remarked that, in choosing sacrament over party, they got both. They got to marry each other, which is all they want in this world, and then got to celebrate their marriage two months later with everyone who formed them in the faith, and formed them to be the people who had so joyfully entered into this bond.

You know, I think we have cultural dress codes for a reason. The guy who showed up to the Marriage Feast in the wrong attire was signifying that he didn’t really think his manner of dress mattered. It did matter, apparently as much as the rude inattention to the wedding mattered to the King, whose servants were murdered in the process of delivering the invitation!

It’s not enough to SAY we believe in the gospel. We need to show up as we did on the day of our baptism, our garb signifying the strength of our Promises. Clothed in wisdom and strength, every day we renew again, in front of the world, the promises made long ago.

What virtues do you put on as you wake up every morning?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

3 October 2020

Reflecting on Phil. 2:1-11

There is a compelling documentary on Netflix right now. It’s called The Social Dilemma, I assume to stand in contrast to the 2010 movie The Social Network, which tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook.

This docu-drama features some of the main architects of the most addicting features of Facebook, Google, Twitter and others. These creators admit their horror at what their creations have wrought: sky-high rates of depression and suicide, disinterest in everything one loved before, lethargy and sadness. These are all the markers of addiction, and it has to do with the dopamine delivery to the brain (and, so tragically often, the young brain) that sets up a higher and higher need to click, click, click.

I think of what is probably a global pandemic of internet addiction as I read St. Paul’s brilliant advice to the infant church at Philippi. If every person googling through their favorite internet sites would use Paul’s checklist before clicking deeper in, or, God forbid, sharing the link, the increasing anxiety of our society could be healed.

So, here’s the checklist. Is it true? There are ways to check before you head out to free the trafficked children held in the basement of the pizza parlor. Answer: untrue. Is it honorable? Any call to arms you read on the internet is certainly dishonorable. Is it just? Sometimes social media educates us on justice issues, especially if they come from the Vatican or Catholic Charities. Is it pure? Lovely? Gracious? Ah, just thinking on those things raises endorphins and brings us to that peace which passes the understanding of those who troll the ‘net, hoping to devour our souls.

What rules do you have in your house about screen time?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

26 September 2020

Reflecting on Psalm 119

The fires all over the west have been awful, and those of us who live far from them are still eating ashes with our corn when we dare to have dinner outside. Our eyes burn and our throats hurt. And the flames are hundreds of miles away. Remember your mercies, Lord.

We’re parched for water, but hurricanes are dumping massive, unmanageable tons of it on the already flooded U.S. Gulf Coast. Huge glaciers are melting on both sides of the globe. The oceans are rising, with no end in sight. Remember your mercies, Lord.

Wasn’t it HOT all summer? Record, scorching heat made our house an oven. It’s hard for me to manage the stairs down to our deliciously cool basement, so my sweet husband Ben stayed upstairs with me and rigged up fans and ice packs and all kinds of low-tech schemes to get the temperature down. Remember your mercies, Lord.

My nephew Bryan, after working every short-order cook job in his town on the Western Slope, finally got a prestigious job as a chef at a high-end restaurant. One month later he was exposed to COVID, and is now home for the duration, with a low-grade fever and high-grade anxiety about making the mortgage. Eight million other U.S. restaurant workers know the feeling. Remember your mercies, Lord.

In spite of it all, I still believed that all things would be well. And then the birds started falling from the sky. And now I cling to Psalm 25 like the life raft it has always been. In every age, through every drought and famine and disease, we pray with all who have gone before us: Remember your mercies, Lord.

How are you managing your anxiety during these unsettling times?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

19 September 2020

Reflecting on Isaiah 55: 6-9

For your thoughts are not my thoughts, says the Lord. Boy, you got that straight. The difference between the way humans would behave if they could order the Universe, and the way the actual Master of the Universe behaves, is as vast as, well, the Universe.

For example, if I were God, and had the power to heal and wound, no child would ever suffer from illness. Gladness and joy would overtake them, and sadness and sorrow would flee away.

No enraged husband, or young person suffering from mental illness, would have access to an assault rifle that they then use to murder their wife and kids, or to shoot up a kindergarten class. Instead, they would beat their swords into ploughshares, destroy their weapons, and find help for their extreme rage.

I would send COVID to the gates of hell, and restore all who have been felled by it. I’d restore rivers and oceans to their original pristine beauty. And the new heavens and the new earth would remain before us forever.

Wars, and those who start them, would be gone forever. Good health, and the peace that brings the opportunity for people to grow old, would reign. Old men and old women would inhabit the streets, and children would play in the cities there.

Yes, If I were God, kindness and truth would meet. Justice and peace would kiss.

But hey, that’s just me. Oh, wait. That’s not me at all. That’s God, whose voice is so beautiful that we can hear it today as clearly as the day it was written down.

The task, it turns out, is to make God’s thoughts our thoughts.

During this Season of Creation, how are you working to build a new heaven and earth?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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