Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

9 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 3:20-35

Oh, boy.  Here is that controversial section from Mark’s gospel that we almost never hear because the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time almost always gets bumped by Feast Days. Easter was so early this year, however, that this rare piece from Mark is getting a hearing. Let’s be brave and jump right in.

The relatives of Jesus hear that he is in town, and they go to “seize” him because they think he is “out of his mind.” Then, when His mother and brothers and sisters arrive, Jesus looks around the circle of disciples and says, “Whoever does the will of God is my mother and brother and sister.”

Who are these siblings of Jesus? The roots of the Church’s teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity go back all the way to the earliest Christians. An anonymous author wrote a wildly popular pamphlet called The Protoevangelium of James around 150 AD. This uncanonized booklet tells us the names of Mary’s parents (Joachim and Anna), and goes out of its way to explain that Mary took a vow of virginity as a young child.

Two centuries later another document, The History of Joseph the Carpenter, said that the “brothers and sisters” were actually the widower Joseph’s children from his earlier marriage. It needs to explain the presence of these siblings because the earliest Christians believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Curmudgeonly St. Jerome, of course, said “Phooey. Brothers and sisters means cousins.” End of conversation.

As to Mary coming to get Jesus, I totally get that. She knew the Cross was looming, and she was trying to buy time before that sword pierced her heart. You know your mom would do the same.

What controversial things did your mother do to keep you safe?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

5 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

Every once in a while I take inventory of my body, and on this great feast day I encourage you to do the same. I’ve decided to get over myself and stop ruing the inevitable ravages of age. As I survey what’s left of the body God gave me (after taking into account all the scars, which are considerable) I am astonished at how kind my body has been to me.

I still have all my limbs, two of every organ you’re supposed to have a spare for, a functioning heart and lungs, and if I lose my keys at least I know what the keys are for, so I’m good. I can ambulate from here to there and, best of all, grab my nieces and nephews and wrest hugs from them that feel better than any marathon run.

How about you? Can you muster up an attitude of gratitude for eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that love? That’s what this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is all about. After the Romans destroyed the body of Jesus, our God―whose very existence is about bringing life from death―raised it up, and ascended it to glory.

We who eat his body and drink his blood share in this transformation all throughout our lives. Yes, our hearing may dim with age. But the ears of our hearts will, over time, learn to discern the things that matter, the things that bring us good and not evil all the days of our lives.

In what ways is your body still serving you beautifully? No worries. Christ’s Body in you will do more than you can ask or imagine.

For what spiritual maturities are you thankful for today?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

26 May 2018

The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, and once again time to reflect on the Power of Three. I learned recently that the triangle is the most powerful geometric shape in the world. Any added force is evenly spread through all three sides. Bridges and buildings that must carry a lot of weight have structural elements built on triangles.

Doesn’t that remind you of the Trinity? The love of the Father, the grace and peace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are all strong in equal measure. Imagine living with only two of those, and not the third. We need every “side” of the Trinity to strengthen us every day.

Fiction writers know that the strongest stories involve three main characters to give an uneven, off-kilter tension. Gone with the Wind needs Scarlet, Rhett, and Ashley Wilkes to give it its Greek tragedy contour. What would Harry Potter be without Harry, Hermione, and Ron traveling together through Hogwarts?

And then there are music groups. Let’s see. There’s the Andrews Sisters, the Hansons, the Kingston Trio and the Supremes. I’ll bet you can think of many more. (I think we talked about the Three Tenors last year.)

The Olympics give medals in gold, silver and bronze. When we think of the future we say we are optimistic, pessimistic, or average. Our pain levels are high, medium, or low. The three primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The most basic harmony in music involves the third note in the scale.

The concept of the Holy Trinity speaks to us because it’s in our DNA (another three) here on planet earth, which is, of course, the third rock from the sun.

With what Person of the Trinity do you most identify?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Pentecost Sunday – Cycle B

22 May 2018

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

Come, Holy Spirit.

Like a mighty wind, hover over North Korea and the U.S.

Like tongues of fire, rain down

Wisdom, and Right Counsel,

Understanding, and Fortitude,

Piety, and, oh yes, Fear of the Lord.

 

Come, Holy Spirit.

As you did at creation,

Move upon the waters.

Still volcanoes and earthquakes,

Hurricanes and tornadoes,

Violent rains

And deadly droughts.

 

Come, Holy Spirit.

Heal the wounded in mind and in body.

Change our hearts.

Change our laws.

Change our lives.

Renew us, Spirit, into your servants.

Then uphold us as we renew the face of the earth.

How are you working to serve the Holy Spirit?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B

12 May 2018

Reflecting on Acts 1: 1-11

Okay, Church. It’s time for our annual Pentecost novena. You may have already started yours last Thursday (on the official Ascension, which most of us now celebrate on the Sunday before Pentecost). Either way, now is the time for all of us to engage in a full-court press to pray for the needs of our families, our cities, our country and our world. Let’s start by praying for all of our mothers, living and dead.

Speaking of mothers, recall that Mary and the disciples kept the first Pentecost novena. They stayed in Jerusalem for the eight days between the Ascension and the day of Pentecost, praying for the descent of the Spirit. After that event, the strength to persevere in prayer was given to all of us. Each year provides more and more opportunities for us to partner with the Holy Spirit in renewing the face of the earth.

What are you storming heaven for during this novena? I had a pretty good list made up, all around our domestic problems of gun violence, advocacy for those with mental illness, and cures for all the diseases which break our hearts. I’ve recently become aware of a family of young girls who are fighting Batten Disease. Google that and count your blessings.  I was moving on to list the other diseases for which I’m praying for cures when I thought to google “world’s worst diseases.”  That’s a grim google search, but I recommend it on the off chance that your list is too short.

There are human rights abuses around the world that cry out for justice and relief. This is just a starter list. Grab a prayer partner and pound on heaven’s door. Pray for God’s kingdom, and for the grace to work toward making that kingdom come.

What will be the top three prayers in your Pentecost novena?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

7 May 2018

Reflecting on I John 4: 7-10

Do you sometimes have to dig deep in order to love some of the “unlovables” in your life? It’s probably more the case that, at certain times, on certain days, any of us is pretty unlovable. That letter of John today gives us all the energy we need, though, to have graciousness and patience in situations that can be trying. It’s so easy.

Just reflect for the tiniest moment on all the ways God has loved you. When you are tempted to say something unkind, just think of the thousands of times when people were kinder to you than you deserved. When you want to avoid eye contact with that compulsively needy talker, remember the endless patience of those who loved you through your annoying adolescence.

Sometimes the very quickest touch-point for the love of God is to simply look out the window. Oh my gosh! Look what happened on your street overnight. Trees that were barren yesterday are suddenly bursting with green. Apple blossoms are painting the trees pink and white. Spring flowers are starting to pull up out of the earth, and all creation is groaning with the delight of new birth. Oh, yeah. God’s love for us is impossible to miss.

So, as John’s letter says, it’s not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us! St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, advises us to pay attention. Look around! Remember! Breathe in the love of God which is all around you, in your sleeping spouse, your healthy kids, your restored health, your meaningful work. Find your particular gratitude, and that will be the strength that flows to help you love others. It’s easy.

What immediately comes to your mind when you remember God’s love for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

28 April 2018

Reflecting on Acts 9: 26-31

My friend Joni used to have this plaque hanging over her fireplace: Lord, thank you for everything I know today. And forgive me for everything I thought I knew yesterday. I think of that wonderful message when I consider Saul, he of the inherited Roman citizenship and perfect Jewish pedigree, the Pharisee who was the son of a Pharisee, breathing fire as he self-righteously marched to Damascus in order to arrest any Christians living there.

Here’s a guy who knew who was right and who was wrong, who was in and who was out. No one was a fiercer persecutor of the infant Church than he. And yet, when a light flashed around him and struck him to the ground, he had the grace to ask, “Who are you?” He heard, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

And that was that. All of history tilted at the moment when Saul, the tri-lingual Jewish defender of Orthodoxy, the one person who was as comfortable in the big cities as in the backwater, unincorporated, lawless badlands of the far-flung Roman empire, asked Jesus for his identity. He spent the rest of his life, in synagogues and law courts, in Gentile marketplaces and desolate prisons, telling everyone he met about that identity. There are no records of the event, but we can feel sure that he was still preaching Jesus to his executioners as they leveled the sword against his head.

He risked it all so that we might know Jesus. Thank you, St. Paul. You’ve shown us how to admit that we sometimes get it wrong.

What example can you give of having the humility to admit that you were wrong?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

21 April 2018

Reflecting on John 10:11-18

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  Don’t those magnificent words of Jesus sit well with your soul? I remember the anguished nights of my youth, praying for all those around the world who would die that night and go to hell because no one had ever told them about Jesus. Even as a ten-year-old I knew, in that deep, warm place where grace and truth hover in the heart, that God was greater than all that.

The Vatican II pastoral document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) gives words to our intuitions about who the sheep in Christ’s pasture might be:

We ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to everyone the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. (22)

In the sixth book of C.S. Lewis’ classic Christian allegory, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawntreader—such a beautiful book, my favorite of the seven―the odious, insufferable cousin Eustace has a terrifying encounter with a dragon, and is saved by a Lion. He immediately feels terrible about his past behavior, and asks his cousins Lucy and Edmond to forgive him, and to tell him more about this Lion (the Christ). Do you know him? asks Eustace.

Yes, says Edmond. I know him. But he knows me better. Ah. Beautiful. God is near to us, and knows us better than we can know God. There is, unfortunately, one caveat: God looks upon the lowly and supplies them. But the proud God knows from afar (Ps. 138:6).

What are you doing to make sure God doesn’t know you from afar?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

14 April 2018

Reflecting on Luke 24: 35-48

How did I never notice before that the first two gospel accounts that we hear in the Sunday liturgies in Easter Season—Divine Mercy Sunday and today’s Third Sunday of Easter―both give an account of Jesus asking the disciples to touch his wounds? Last week’s section from John recounted that Thomas needed to touch the wounds of Jesus in order to truly believe that he was risen from the dead.  This week’s section from Luke tells of the appearance of Jesus to the Eleven, and how they, astonished, were invited by Jesus to touch his wounds.

“Touch me and see,” he said, “and then he showed them his hands and feet.”  Reading them together now, I feel such tenderness toward Jesus, the Crucified One.  Even now, risen and glorified, his humanness is apparent.  Is it possible that Jesus the Risen One is still so in love with our human nature that he wants his dear friends to share in the awfulness of his experience? Is it possible that he, like every human who has ever lived, needs his loved ones to touch his pain and truly understand what he suffered?

Like everything about Jesus, he stands our understanding of suffering on its head. Maybe it’s NOT a holy thing to keep our wounds covered so we don’t disturb people. Maybe the holier thing is to say, when we are beside ourselves, “Help me. I’m hurting. I just broke my arm.” And, of course, the much less socially correct cry, “Help me. I’m hurting. Someone just broke my heart.”

And the other thing Jesus taught that day? Our friends trust us even more when we are willing to show them our wounds.

What wounds that you’ve kept hidden need to be brought into the light of day?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle B

10 April 2018

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

If you struggle with the actual truth of the resurrection, consider two things. First, after the resurrection every one of the Twelve (excluding Judas) went out into the farthest corners of the known world, filled with the utter conviction that he had seen the Risen Lord. Every one knew exactly what would befall him, and every one chose to go anyway. Such was the faith of those who had watched Jesus die, and seen the empty tomb, and experienced the Divine Mercy. Resurrection faith changes us.

The second may be just as compelling. In the earliest Christian communities, those who owned property or houses would sell them, and the proceeds were distributed to each according to need. Think of that. These early Christians SO BELIEVED in the resurrection that they sold their belongings and shared all things in common, carefully taking care of those in need. Resurrection faith seeks nothing but to love.

If you observe women and men in religious communities you see this first-century faith. Imagine doing your job all week, and then putting your paycheck in a communal kitty. Each one takes from the kitty only what she needs, but of course some members need more than others do, and this is how you survive, every day for the rest of your life. Resurrection faith is stronger than death.

Maybe that’s why Thomas needed to place his hands in the wounds of Christ. He could already sense, in the joy and strength of those who had seen Him, that his life would be forever transformed if he believed. His very act of touching His wounds was his first-class ticket into the community of the martyred. Resurrection faith doesn’t care.

What experience of Divine Mercy have you had this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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