Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

4 July 2020

This will certainly be the most profound experience of Independence Day in my lifetime. I think I’ve learned more about the truths we hold to be self-evident these past several months, and especially these past few weeks, than in all the years I lived before them.

It started, for me, about a month into the coronavirus. I had asked everyone I talked with, as the weeks went by, if they knew anyone who was sick, or had died, from the virus. Except for one well-known man who died early on, no one knew anyone, and we were all so grateful.

This continued for weeks and weeks, and as we learned more about who was most vulnerable to this disease I became more and more embarrassed to ask the question. Why? Because it was painfully clear, as time went on, that it was the elderly, and those “essential workers” driving the buses and cleaning the nursing homes, who were dying at the greatest numbers. No wonder all the people who look like me didn’t know any of those people who don’t.

The other self-evident truth is now evident to the whole world: people who work in health care are just what they appeared to be when they applied to nursing school, pharmacy school, and medical school years ago. They are utterly devoted to caring for the sick, even at the risk of their health. Years of working in their field may have scarred them in some ways, but this virus has proven that they will lay down their own lives to save their patients.

Celebrate this Independence weekend. That we have so much to be proud of, and so much still to change, should be self-evident.

What things do you think our country needs to change first?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

2 July 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 10: 37-42

Here’s the problem: how do we love God more than any of our earthly loves—-parents, spouses, children—when God became flesh and dwelt among us? In other words, we’ve learned to love the God who “has flesh on.” Because of the Incarnation, we see Christ in other people, and in the working of the Holy Spirit in the world.

How, then, do we hold the love we have for God in a higher place than the love we have for the people in whom we find God? I might have a small idea, and it had to do with one of the shattering effects of the quarantining we have all experienced.

It turns out that too much togetherness for some unions has exposed the weaknesses that have existed from the beginning, but were put mightily to the test when there was no outside distraction. I read about these tensions because I have way too much time to waste on the internet.

It seems like the basic (and hardest) skills of daily forgiveness and forbearance, which the Church tries hard to provide not only in the sacraments but in the required Marriage Preparation, have never been truly exercised. Couples who have counted themselves as “happy” are now helpless against the stresses of confined living, because they’ve never practiced truly talking to each other.

I am grateful every day for the skills we learned as kids, growing up in daily Catholic life. We learned to share (when we REALLY didn’t want to). We learned not to roll our eyes and walk away when there was a disagreement, but to do the hard work of really listening.

By dying to ourselves we get that delicious abundant life that comes from loving God first.

In what ways has the quarantine called up in you some of the skills you’ve learned in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

20 June 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 10: 26-33

If you spend much time in the company of Jesuits who lived in Latin America in the eighties and nineties, it won’t be long before you hear the name Mev Puleo. I’ve noticed that she is the dearest friend, the most beloved companion of the Jesuits who were alive and living in Central and South America during those wrenching years of war and struggle.

She was, by all accounts, a radiantly joyful young American woman whose life changed on a bus ride, much like that world-changing train ride St. Teresa of Calcutta took in 1946. Both women looked out a window—Mev as a teenager on a family trip to Brazil in 1977, Mother Teresa traveling from Calcutta to Darjeeling —and observed the staggering distance between the world of the privileged and those who never had a chance.

Mev lived and worked as a photojournalist in El Salvador, Haiti and Brazil. She documented, from the eloquent silence of her camera, the daily courage and kindness of those who are poor, and the malevolent oppression of those who prey upon them.

She spoke in the light what she witnessed in the dark. She even, of all terrifying things, once witnessed a rape in progress. She drove her old Volkswagen up to the sidewalk and shone her headlights right onto the scene. The rapist hollered for her to leave, and when she held fast, he left instead.

Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed. She used her camera to announce far and wide the atrocities suffered by the “least” at the hands of the “greatest.” If this gospel passage (Matthew 10:26-33) brings to mind some times when you held your tongue when someone told a racist joke, take it as a nudge from the Holy Spirit to be more courageous next time.

How will you proclaim from the housetops what God has whispered in your heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle A

14 June 2020

Reflecting on John 6: 51-58

This will be the strangest celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ—more familiar to most of us as Corpus Christi—in my lifetime.

Separated from our communities of worship, most of us are connecting through the excellent virtual Masses our parishes are providing. A small percentage of us are venturing back to the churches that are open, wearing masks and keeping our distance.

But keeping our distance from the Eucharist is an oxymoron. Draw near to me, says Jesus. Remain in me. But how does one draw close to the Body and Blood of Christ when one is home, worshiping from the bedroom?

I’ve been thinking a lot about hummingbirds during this quarantine. Think of the effort it takes for the hummingbird to extract nectar from a flower. It must hover in mid-air, flapping its wings at rates up to 80 flaps a second. And it remains in that posture, using every ounce of its strength, until it has all the sugars it needs to fuel its rapid flight.

Are you hovering near Jesus as you watch the thousands of young people who are peacefully begging for real change? Drink from the life-giving nectar of their thundering calls for conversion of heart.

Are you using this sacred time at home to draw near to spiritual reading you may have neglected in the past? There is an explosion of magnificent Catholic writing all over the ‘net, and I’ll bet your own library at home has some great books—maybe something of St. Augustine, or C.S. Lewis—you haven’t discovered yet.

We aren’t together in our churches quite yet, but we remain in the Body. Hover close, and drink.

How are you enriching your spiritual life during this quarantine?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A

6 June 2020

Reflecting on 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13

One of the many touching things I’ve learned through the years of writing this weekly column is how seriously Christians take the gift of their faith. It’s different these days, I think. Catholics who have withstood the many horrible sexual abuse scandals, and financial scandals, that have staggered faith and hardened hearts through the past decades are not just holding on because their parents baptized them as babies.

They hold on because they read, and pray, and are constantly learning about the faith they love. When we arrive at the Solemnity of the Trinity, for example, I’m always inspired by the deep and intuitive reflection in which today’s Catholics have invested in order to come to their own understanding of what it all means.

For example, if you asked any adult Christian what the first part of that closing blessing St. Paul offers in today’s second reading—“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”—means to them, you’ll get a rich reflection on the ways grace has directed their lives.

The second half of the blessing—“the love of God”—is probably the easiest, because all Christians can tell you how the love of God is living and active in their lives.

The third part of the Trinitarian formula—”and the fellowship of the Spirit”—will be easy too, especially since we are smack in the post-Pentecost octave. I can’t imagine active Christians who can’t relate the ways in which the Holy Spirit lives in their hearts and spirits.

We don’t need theological explanations for what we’ve experienced through lifetimes of prayer and attentiveness to the liturgy and scripture. Grace, and love, and intimacy. That’s the meaning of the Trinity.

Why do you think one of the Persons of the Trinity might attract you more than the Others?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Pentecost 2020 – Cycle A

30 May 2020

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

Come, oh Holy Spirit, come!

We feel You ever more, our own.

It’s You who’ve sent the personnel

Who’ve risked their lives to get us well.

It’s on You scientists alight

To give them wisdom in this fight.

And You, oh Spirit, whose cool breath

Companioned those we won’t forget.

Those loved ones, left alone, it seemed.

But You, sweet Spirit, who redeemed

Those last sad moments, with Your grace,

When they met Jesus, face to face.

It’s You, Oh Spirit, we received

On that day we first believed.

Please dwell in us, Spirit, once again.

We ask, in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

In what ways can you sense the Holy Spirit working in the events of these past months?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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The Ascension of the Lord/ Seventh Sunday – Cycle A

24 May 2020

Reflecting on John 17: 1-11A

I almost never get to talk about today’s gospel reading. I’m so glad I finally have the chance to tell you the greatest news you’ve ever heard. Here it is: YOU ARE ALREADY IN HEAVEN.

Now, at this moment in history that may seem like very bad news indeed, as in Seriously? Heaven is being stuck in the house all day and night, terrified of a horrible virus? If this is heaven, what’s hell?

Well, you make a point. It doesn’t seem like heaven, except for the most important fact about your life: you know Jesus. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ (Jn. 17:3).

If you were an infant on the day of your baptism, your Godparents answered those all-important questions for you: Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his Son? They answered YES for you, and your life’s task has been, with all your heart, to answer YES on your own.

It’s in that YES that eternal life begins right here on earth. That YES lifts the believers up into that realm that holds them, through sickness, and loss, and grief, and even pandemics. I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13),says the one whose YES has taken him or her into eternal life right here on earth.

The one who knows Jesus already has a taste of heaven. That does not mean that we are immune from the terrors of this life. It means that holding fast to Jesus anchors us to Him whose comfort and healing is a foretaste of the next.

How has knowing Jesus throughout your life lifted you up?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

16 May 2020

Reflecting on 1 Peter 3: 15-18

How often do you cry these days? I admit that I cry nearly every day, always in response to some heroic act I see featured on tv. When I hear the first responders–the ambulance drivers and EMTs, especially–describe desperately trying to get a patient to the hospital before they die, I can barely watch.

But when they interview the exhausted nurses and doctors, and hear their answers to the inevitable questions about how they are getting through their shifts without breaking down, I long to hear just one of them reference that scripture text we have today from I Peter: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

In Catholic New York, I Iong to hear at least one baptized and confirmed health care hero say, “Well, I’m Catholic. That means I’m never alone. I bring the whole Body of Christ with me when I put on my protective equipment and enter the ward. And, of course, I have all the angels and saints holding me through my shift every day.”

In my daily prayer I picture those angels and saints holding parents tight, giving them patience and strength as they face another ALL KIDS ALL DAY marathon. I picture angels guiding and holding every kind of First Responder .

The reason for our hope, right in the middle of this terror, is that the Holy Spirit is guiding the researchers and every person placing their precious lives on the line. Where is God in all of this? Right there in the ambulance, right there in the ventilator. God did not make death. That is the reason for our hope.

Do you ever share with anyone the reason for your hope?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

9 May 2020

Reflecting on Acts 6:1-7

Every time I read that account from Acts that admits that the Greek-speaking widows were being left out of the daily distribution of food by the Hebrew-speaking men, I remember that horrible scene from Titanic. You know the one, where, in the panic for the lifeboats, those in third-class steerage were locked out of the gate that led to the boats so that as many of the wealthier passengers as possible could board.

It turns out that wasn’t actually the case. They weren’t “locked out,” but, in fact, a far higher percentage of those in steerage died that night than those on the upper decks. One explanation posited was that many of them were immigrants who didn’t speak English, and therefore didn’t understand the instructions that came over the loudspeaker.

It’s not hard to imagine that those earliest Christians, forming those communities of believers who “shared all things in common,” simply didn’t see the Greek-speaking widows. They were foreigners, and they didn’t speak the language of the dominant culture. The fact that the leadership assigned Greek-speaking deacons to make sure their widows were being fed betrays a huge crack in the Church from the get-go. If those in the minority were going to be fed, they had to find people who actually saw them so they could feed them.

This quarantine period has exposed the fissures in our own culture, hasn’t it? Today I saw a heartbreaking and inspiring story of an African-American mother who drives her two honor-roll students to the bus stop every morning and sits in the car with them all day so they can keep up with their school work. Why? Because they can get an internet connection there. I see her now.

Whom do you see more clearly now that the isolation period is winding down?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

7 May 2020

Reflecting on John 10: 1-10

It’s so funny, isn’t it, watching the videos of lions sunbathing in the streets, and goats cavorting through towns as if they owned the joint? The delicious irony is that the humans are locked up, and the animals are running free.

I suspect that they are just as curious as we are about what’s going on these days. It must be surreal for them to have cities all to themselves. Where are all the humans? Is this a thing now, or will they be back tomorrow, shouting at us to get back to our designated habitats?

While they’re looking for us, we’re looking at them, and laughing. We can see firsthand what life was like before humans invaded, and dominated, the spaces once ruled by wildlife.

That will all change, of course, and humans will tame their plazas and streets soon enough. But for this one moment, writing as I am on this cleanest Earth Day ever, we can observe our beautiful planet from the magnificent views of pristine Los Angeles air, clear Venetian rivers, and the gorgeous snow-capped Himalayas.

Oh Jesus, Shepherd of our souls, take loving care of us during this most upsetting time. As we ask You, with every breath, to wipe the scourge of this virus from the earth forever, we also ask You for the wisdom and the will to change our hearts this time.

Good Shepherd, hold us carefully as you guide us through the months and years to come. Our planet cries out for You. Give us wise guidance and global solidarity. In these weeks before Pentecost, give us the wisdom to partner with your Holy Spirit in  renewing the face of the earth.

What will you ask the Good Shepherd for today?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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