First Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

26 November 2022

Reflecting on Isaiah 2: 1-5

When the war against Ukraine began on February 24th of this year, some friends asked if I would write a prayer for the Ukrainians, every day until the war ended. “Sure,” I said, “It looks like it’s only going to last a couple of weeks.” And so I wrote a prayer every day. I subscribed to an extra New York Times edition that gives daily updates on the war.

And by Pentecost (June 5th) I knew that I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t stare at that darkness one more day. I couldn’t make myself know about the war. I cried “Uncle,” and almost immediately the sadness began to lift.

I remembered that the other day, when a kind friend said, “Kathy, I want you to send LIGHT to Putin.” And I realized that the opposite had happened. The more light I tried to send, the darker my world became.

It’s Advent now, and the war is still raging. I let those Advent readings shine a flashlight into my heart, seeking out the darkness, and exhorting me to work towards the day when “nations shall not train for war again” (Is. 2:4).

The great scripture scholar John McKenzie, SJ, says this: “Paul advises the Romans to live now what they want forever.” That’s it exactly, isn’t it? Live right this minute what you want forever to look like. For Paul, that meant giving up the allure of darkness, of illicit sexual unions, of drunkenness. Live today how you want every day of eternity to be.

I want the war to end, today. I re-commit to daily prayer for this, because peace today is what I want for every day of eternity.

How are you living now what you want forever?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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The Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

19 November 2022

Reflecting on Luke 23: 35-43

Every year at this time I remember my great friend, Auxiliary Bishop George Evans. He died on the evening of the vigil of the Triumph of the Cross, September 13, 1985. It seemed an appropriate day for this gracious, prophetic man to go to God. Lift high the cross, we sang at his overflowing funeral at the Cathedral. It was that cross to which Bishop Evans clung every day of his priesthood.

When we come to the end of the Church year, with this Solemnity of Christ the King, the message is clear: Our King died a horrible death on a cross. There is no other story in human consciousness that asserts a God who is so vulnerable that he actually, truly died a vicious, horrible death.

And the hardest part, I think, of Luke’s account is that he was mocked even as he fought for every breath on the cross. Hey, I thought you were a king or something. Now’s the time to whistle for your army and have them deliver you (and us) from the monster Romans.

I am one of those who cling to the old rugged cross. I’m in a situation right now where I really can’t get control of pain. I thank God every day that we have a God who suffered horribly, and who died. I cling to the sufferings of Christ. Are you in pain? Jesus knows. Are you lonely? Have you been betrayed by those closest to you? He knows that pain too.

The message couldn’t be clearer: this is our God, utterly destroyed on the cross. Cling to his cross. The kingdom is at hand.

Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom.

In what areas of your life do you cling to the Cross?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 November 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 21: 5-19

There have been some horrible days in history, days for which we give thanks we weren’t alive to see. Most of those reading this were alive on 9/11, and a good many of us were around for Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. Fewer, but still many readers, were alive the day of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Fewer still, but some, witnessed the day the stock market crashed, October 29, 1929.

But no one alive today witnessed the horrifying invasion of Jerusalem by the general, and future emperor, Titus, at Passover of the year 70 of the Common Era (CE). Anyone could have seen this coming. The Jerusalem Temple had become an unwitting sanctuary for the Zealots, a terrorist group whose mission was to so demoralize the Romans that they would scatter and leave Jerusalem for good.

Think of the Resistance Movements all over Europe during the war. Those courageous citizens risked everything in order to free Europe of tyranny. Were the Zealots of the first century heroes too? Their usual method of terror was to ambush a group of Roman soldiers and murder them. The Romans were the Occupiers, of course, and despised and dreaded. But the Zealots also preyed upon Jews whom they deemed collaborators (like

Zacchaeus, the tax collector). Jesus invited himself into friendship with tax collectors. The Zealots murdered them.

It was the Zealots who so enraged the Romans that they marched into Jerusalem and destroyed it. This is the terrible event about which Jesus warns in the gospel today, when “not one stone” of the Temple would be left standing.

These end-of-the-world readings always precede the season of Advent. Ready the way.

How has the war in Ukraine made your prayer life more urgent?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

5 November 2022

Reflecting on 2Mc. 7:1-2, 9-14

We don’t pay attention to it, probably, because that gruesome story of the murder of the seven Maccabees and their steadfast mother takes our breath away, but there’s a great theological leap at the end of that passage. The fourth brother says he is dying, “with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.”

WAIT, WHAT? A Hebrew man, one hundred and seventy years before Christ, expressing belief in the resurrection? It was not in his tradition, but somehow he knew. God, says Ecclesiastes 3:11, has given us wisdom for the day, yet has set eternity in our hearts.

We’re marching forward to Advent, each week’s readings taking us closer to what the ancients thought the end of the world might look like. That’s why we start all over again every Advent, because no one yet, even Jesus, has let the world know exactly what happens to us after our last breath. So we keep repeating the Story, waiting in joyful hope for the day when we see Jesus face to face, a day when, apparently, no words will ever be enough.

But still, Advent carols looming on the horizon, I’m thinking about last year’s Easter Vigil. That dark church, that flickering fire, that Easter Candle, and then, one by one, the candles of every believer in the church lighting up. And here’s what we heard, although no one said a word: Pass this on, what was passed on to you, and what will be passed on until the end of time: Christ is risen. And he is taking you with him. ALLELUA.

So pass it on. The world has changed. You may be the only person to tell someone about the resurrection. ALLELUIA.

In what ways do you sense that eternity is set in your heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

29 October 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 19:1-10

It’s that gorgeous time of year again, and our street is the most jaw-dropping parade of golds and reds in town. This morning, without thinking, I just stopped walking and looked up into this shimmer of yellow. I don’t know how long I stood under that tree. It’s as if I were hypnotized by color. I sang to myself the beginning of Psalm 19: The skies declare the glory of the Lord, and the earth proclaims God’s handiwork. Day by day they pour forth speech to declare the knowledge of the Lord.

I  don’t suppose they had the kind of autumns in Jericho that we have, given that it’s not only the oldest city on earth, but, at an elevation of 864 feet below sea level, also the lowest. But the sycamore-fig tree that Zaccheus climbed was probably rich in fruit, which made it a popular destination for the whole city. But it wasn’t the fruit that caught Jesus’ eye, but the tenderness of someone so broken, and so longing, that he had shimmied up a tree to see him whom his heart already loved.

There’s a connection here, I think. In gazing at our silver maple trees this time of year we are gazing at death, in its stunning disguise of cherry-red leaves. Zaccheus, his pockets lined with gold, was dying too. But some lifesaving instinct made him climb that tree. He turned his eyes upon Jesus, and when Jesus invited himself for dinner, he immediately changed his life. Yes, he was watching for Jesus up in that tree. But  you get the sense that Jesus was on the lookout for him from the start, maybe from the beginning of the world.

Was there a moment when Jesus “saw” you that changed your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

22 October 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 18: 9-14

What if today’s gospel story had ended this way?

It turned out that there was construction going on in the Temple that day, and the spot where the Pharisee always prayed was full of stones. Well, he had to move all the way into the center of the Temple, and had barely begun to thank God for the many ways he was righteous, when a tax collector, of all unclean people, moved right next to him. He, too, had been pushed out of his humble prayer place by the construction, and was mortified to find himself right next to the Pharisee.

O God, said the Pharisee, I can’t pray properly with this obscene tax collector next to me. Look at him, bowing and weeping and beating his breast! And the tax collector, glancing at the Pharisee, wondered what it would be like to approach God with such confidence, with such assurance that God was pleased with his behavior out in the world.

Now, it happened that there was a Teacher in the Temple that day, a man named Jesus. Both men had heard of him, of course, and drew even closer to each other so they could hear him better. And what astonishing words he spoke! He looked at both of them with such love, such deep understanding of the detours their spiritual lives had taken that caused them to pray in such different ways.

And when it came time for the two men to leave, they embraced as dear friends. They had encountered the Healer. The first had been healed of his arrogance, the second of his shame. And from that day forward they always prayed TOGETHER, since praying apart had caused them so much sadness.

How does your parish help people of different pieties pray TOGETHER?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

15 October 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 18: 1-8

Was St. Luke raised by a widow? You have to wonder. The other three gospels barely mention widows, but Luke gives us nine stories of widows, and his companion volume, the Acts of the Apostles, gives us another three.

It’s Luke who points out that when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, it was the widow Anna who stepped forward to bear witness to the special status of the Child. Today we have another Lukan widow, so strong and savvy that she squared off against a judge, and WON.

It shouldn’t be surprising, since  Luke’s gospel is shot through, on every page, with compassion for those who are poor, and widows were the poorest of the poor. I remember my great friend, Sr. Macrina Scott, telling of her experience of a widow in Zambia. Immediately after the husband’s death, his father and brother came to her house and stripped it of everything of value. Then they threw her out of the house. The men-folk owned it now.

The widows in the New Testament were almost in similar straits. Think of the widow of Nain, who had no husband, and her only son had died (Lk. 7: 11-17). Jesus’ heart went out to her. He raised her son and “gave him to his mother.”

Actually, come to think of it, given that St. Joseph disappears so early in the gospels, the better question is, “Was JESUS raised by a widow?” I think he was. And might it be that Jesus’ deep compassion for the widow whose only son had died is a foreshadowing of the grief he knew his Mother would bear? And, of course, God raised that Son too.

In what ways are you of service to those who have lost a spouse?

Kathy McGovern ©2022 This column was inspired by Madelon Maupin, 5/16, NT. Bible Study

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Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

8 October 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 17: 1-11

Nine of those people who suffered from leprosy went straightaway to show themselves to the priests. They must have been overjoyed to see, on the way, that they had been healed. Showing themselves to the priests meant that they could then be declared clean, and thus reunited with their families, able to be employed again, and able to worship in the Temple.

But one, the Samaritan—the outcast, the one who may not have had a family, or a job, or able to worship in the Temple— turned around immediately and returned to find Jesus, so as to give glory to God.

I resonate with that Samaritan, and I’ll bet you do too. Has there ever been a time in your life when someone in authority noticed you, and gave you, say, a spot on the team, or a job you really needed, or a shout-out of recognition in front of a crowd? That person took a chance on you, and did so at a cost. And the gratitude we feel towards those people in our past has no language. We simply try, for the rest of our lives, to earn that privilege, to make it worth the cost of giving us a chance.

I think that’s why the Samaritan came back. I’ll bet no one had ever taken a chance on him before, and here was this Jesus, sending the Power of God into him, when many would say that that Power should not have been wasted on him, but on a righteous Israelite. He came back because he wanted to glorify the God who took a chance on him. That’s why we come back too, Sunday after Sunday.

How do you glorify God for taking a chance on you?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

1 October 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 17:5-10

For me, the miracle of the mustard seed is realized in what might seem like SMALL STUFF, but is actually the things that are huge in our lives. I will never forget a trip to the Holy Land many years ago. It was my privilege to assign readers from our group of sixty for every Mass and prayer service we would attend during our two weeks there.

Imagine the thrill of getting to read the gospel account of the Last Supper in the VERY ROOM where that meal took place. Imagine reading about the birth of Jesus IN THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITIY. But when we reached our last destination, the place of the tomb of Lazarus in Bethany, my heart sank. I had saved the reading of the resurrection of Lazarus for the best reader in our group, the person who had recently experienced a great loss, the person whose life best witnessed Jesus’ power to lift us from the tomb.

And when we arrived, I realized that I had accidentally given that reading to two people! Does this seem like SMALL stuff to you? I could have died, right there in the tomb once laid out for Lazarus. I was beside myself. Being careful with the small details of ritual is a sacred responsibility, and I had made a terrible mistake.

But, not to worry. The second person was, somehow, totally unaware that he was set to read. Rita stepped forward, and I have never heard that gospel proclaimed with such power.

Afterward, the guide gave us little packets of mustard seeds. Even today, the memory lingers. Answered prayer shows up in the small stuff.

What “little” moments of grace have you experienced in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

24 September 2022

Reflecting on Luke 16:19-31

That poor rich man. Not only could he, in his torment,  not get a drop of water from “the other side,” but he couldn’t order Lazarus—now an eternity away from his malicious neglect—to get a warning to his brothers. The same goes for those complacent ones in Amos’ day, eating their rich foods, whiling away the hours on their beds, but not “made ill by the collapse of Joseph.”

The two stories are really telling the same story. Amos was well aware that the gradual weakening of the kingdom of Israel occurred in concert with its attempts to cooperate with Assyria, their terrifying neighbor. Exactly as he prophesied, a full fifty percent of the inhabitants of Israel were either killed, or taken into exile, by the Assyrians in 722BC.

In Jesus’ parable seven centuries later,  every day that the rich man ignored Lazarus, dying at his gate, only brought him (and his brothers) closer to their day of reckoning, and the great chasm that would forever keep them from ever knowing happiness again.

It’s all about warnings. We appreciate the Amber Alerts, and even the apps that let us know there are police scanners ahead. But it’s the warnings that we hear again and again that lose their ability to motivate us, as did the words of Amos to the Israelites, who, as he was writing, were within thirty years of never seeing their homeland again.

Next week closes the 2022 Season of Creation, the annual ecumenical season of prayer and action for our common home. As the Feast of St. Francis draws near, we pray for the grace to act on the alarms our endangered planet is sounding.

How are you taking care of our common home?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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