Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

24 July 2016

Reflecting on Luke 11: 1-13

If we don’t read the last eight words of today’s gospel, we will, I’m convinced, either despair of God’s mercy, or, tragically, of our belief in God at all. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t asked God to heal, and then wept at our loved one’s deathbed. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t knocked, and felt the cold, locked door. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t sought, and yet never found. But the gospel insists that none of these things will happen for the prayerful person.

Here’s the way it makes sense: Our Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. That’s the profound and lasting truth. When we ask for the Spirit, we will receive. When we knock at the door of the Spirit, it will open. When we seek the Spirit, the Spirit shall be found. I have never known that prayer to fail. Ever.

So, now that you know the one prayer that works every time, try it. Ask for the Holy Spirit. Ask for the seven gifts. While you’re at it, ask for the fruits―love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Maybe it’s best to ask for just one at a time! That’s a lot of transformation over night.

Here’s my prayer these days: O God, give me more of your Holy Spirit. Give me a desire to pray. Help me see every human being through your eyes. Give me the courage to speak truth to power.

Hmm. That sounds like a description of Jesus. I get it now. When we receive the Spirit, we take on the very heart of Christ. No wonder God begs us to ask.

How does the Holy Spirit act in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

18 July 2016

Reflecting on Luke 10: 38-42

Don’t you just love Cycle C? Every three years we cycle around to Luke’s gospel―we hear Matthew (A) and Mark (B) the other two years―but it’s Luke gospel that tells us most of the great stories about the women in the New Testament.

It starts with the very first chapters. Only Luke knows that Mary walked all the way from Nazareth to Ein Karem―about ninety miles, in the earliest stage of her pregnancy―to tell her cousin Elizabeth her astonishing news and to help her with the birth of her own miraculous child.

Luke knows about the prophetess Anna in the Temple, about the healing of the woman bent double whom Jesus calls “daughter of Abraham.” Women star in some of the parables, like the woman who sweeps all night in search of a lost coin, or the widow who bangs on the door of the judge all night until he is so aggravated he actually gives her justice.

And now, today, this marvelous Lukan story about two of Jesus’ very closest friends, Martha and Mary. We see the ending coming before it gets there. Jesus, birthed of woman, taught the scriptures by his mother―note that Mary is quoting the great Old Testament woman Hannah (I Sm. 2: 1-10) when she sings her Magnificat to Elizabeth (1: 46-55,)― supported by women in his ministry (8: 2, 3,) and so beloved of Mary of Magdala that all four gospels name her as the first to testify to his resurrection, gets it. He’s seen the strictures that kept women in their place.

With just a few words he sets both women free. And wow, does Martha burst forth. This servant and disciple becomes, in the last gospel, the very first person to recognize Jesus as the Christ (John 11:27).

Which charism are you more drawn to, service or contemplation?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 July 2016

Reflecting on Dt. 30: 10-14

I’ll never forget the day I heard those words from the Deuteronomy reading today: No, the word is very near to you, on your lips and in your heart. You have only to carry it out (30:14). I was listening to our brilliant Biblical School teacher, Angeline Hubert, open up to us the beautiful book of Deuteronomy.

I could tell that this text was very personal to her. It has, over the years, become her “signature text,” the section that people most associate with her. I thought about the witness of her life, her simple and profound companioning of those who are elderly, sick, poor, or left out of the riches of our resources. I thought of the sacrifices―some of them jaw-dropping―she was willing to make in order to “carry out” the word that is so near.

What a straight shooter the author of this book is. He understands that we will offer any possible excuse for not doing what our hearts know is the right thing. Oh, the bible is just too mysterious and remote for me! Who can figure out the right way to behave in this ever-changing society? I’m just not holy enough (thank God) to volunteer/take that class/live a life worthy of my calling.

Phooey. The priest and the Levite knew all about holiness, but, bound by its legislations, they couldn’t stop to help the man wounded in the road. The despised Samaritan, however, considered outside the Law, was free to act on the holy urgings of his heart. Using common sense, not fancy theology degrees, we can be safe and yet still act when the word of God, planted in our hearts, compels us.

What “holy urgings” keep you doing the things your heart knows are right?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

6 July 2016

Reflecting on Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

What an interesting gospel.  Apparently, those 72 disciples were doing “advance work” in the towns Jesus planned to visit. Maybe they were sent to assure people that what they had heard about him was actually true.

Yes, they might have said, he truly did say that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies! And when they tried to push him over the cliff he just passed right through them! And yes, he told his friends to cast their nets back in the water after they had fished all night, and the catch was so great they couldn’t haul it in! And yes, he did raise the widow’s son from the dead!

Imagine yourself on that mission. You don’t have anything to comfort you on the dusty road. No cell phone to stay in touch with family. No band aids for blisters. No extra jacket for the cold nights. It sounds, to my wimpy ears, like a miserable experience.

And yet, imagine being the first person to announce the kingdom of God to a city longing for that message. What joy. What grace. Oh yeah. I’d sign up for that.

Speaking of signing, those who bravely signed the Declaration of Independence agreed with Thomas Jefferson that “all men are created equal.” Some of them believed that so deeply that, if they owned slaves, they set them free. Jefferson himself, however, hypocritically owned 175 slaves on the day of his death, the Fourth of July, 1826.

The kingdom is at hand, Jesus said. As we celebrate freedom this weekend, let’s consider the ways in which we are building the kingdom, and declaring our independence from the hypocrisies which dilute our witness to Christ.

What inconsistencies in your life keep you from truly experiencing freedom?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

28 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 51-62

I’ve got good news.  Those dusty archaeologists (bless them) who spend their lives digging in the scorching Mediterranean sun have given us a very comforting explanation of that MOST unsettling command in today’s Gospel: let the dead bury their dead.

It’s simply this: the burial time for the dead in Jesus’ day was an entire year!  As we saw in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial, the dead were buried before sundown. Recall that, in Genesis 50:1-14, Joseph “mourned his father” for seven days. Following that tradition, the disciple who asked to bury his father before following Jesus would already have observed seven days of mourning―”sitting shiva”― at home for seven days.

After the burial the corpse was left in the tomb for eleven months, after which the relatives re-buried the decomposed body by taking the bones and placing them in a burial box, an ossuary, and placing it back in the tomb, along with all the other family dead who were in various stages of burial.  The tomb continued to fill with the other dead from the family, buried for the first time and then again a year later.

So…what a great relief to consider that Jesus was thinking of all those dead, buried with the other dead, whose death demands kept the sons in endless burial cycles. Let the dead bury their dead.  Your heavenly Father knows where all the bodies are buried.  In just a short time you will see for yourselves what God has planned for my tomb, and yours, and theirs too.  So be at peace.

What are the burial customs in your family?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

21 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 18-24

I was reading a Time magazine cover article on marriage in the beauty salon the other day. It’s no surprise that marriage is under fire in every corner these days, but it turns out that 100% of those who have sustained a long and successful marriage say that their marriage is the greatest satisfaction of their lives.

A slew of marriage counselors weighed in, noting what a drudgery commitment can be, that a happy marriage is mostly just the luck of the draw, and that couples who are determined to stick it out do so by finding every imaginable thing that they like to do together.

While I was reading this, an elderly woman came over to me and said, “I was so disgusted with that article that I stopped reading it. I’ve been married for 46 years. Listen to what my husband did.” She then recounted for everyone within earshot her rage at something he had done that day.

It sounded like a sitcom. Insert laugh track here. But she was truly enraged over something that a simple conversation could have put right. Clearly, a long marriage isn’t always a master class in great communication. That’s sad.

Meanwhile, it must be out of vogue, at least for the Time’s psychologists, to suggest the real key to a happy marriage: both people putting the other person first.  We’ve all seen, I hope, what a marriage like that looks like. It’s a little glimpse of heaven itself.

Lose your life to find it, Jesus said.  Hold on to your life and you’ll lose it, he said again. That was Jesus, the Bridegroom, giving us the best advice on marriage, and our life with him in glory.

What do you observe about the great marriages you know?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

11 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 7: 36-50

When I read about the lavish care the “sinful woman” gives to Jesus I feel a lingering sense of anger. The Pharisees are shocked, of course, and I think we would be too. They are stunned that this “prophet” doesn’t realize that he is letting a woman of the streets touch him. We would be stunned at anyone in our world today who is capable of feeling great sorrow for sin.

I’m thinking, for example, of Dylann Roof. Just hours after he murdered nine people in prayer at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church one year ago, the survivors and the loved ones of the murdered gathered to announce that they had forgiven him. They forgave because they chose long ago to immerse their brains and hearts in Jesus and the scriptures. Hence, they knew that forgiveness was the only balm that could heal them.

Dylann appears to be unfazed by that astonishing love. At age 21, his brain was, of course, still not fully formed. He was, like so many of his mass-murderer cohort, “shy.” And he had easy access to vicious, ugly, white supremacist websites which no doubt filled in the gaps left by a culture that doesn’t require us to honestly and painfully reflect on our sins, in what we have done and what we have failed to do.

The scriptures show us how the rightly formed human heart responds to forgiveness. Think of the prodigal son, or the “sinful woman,” or St. Peter. Even the Roman centurion, filled with remorse after the crucifixion, cried, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39).

Where are the weeping gun dealers? Where are the horrified website managers? Where, for that matter, are we?

How are you showing your deep gratitude to those who have forgiven you?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

10 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 7: 11-17

There are three instances in the gospels of Jesus raising someone from the dead, and in each case, Jesus is moved by the grief of those left behind.  When Jairus comes to Jesus, pleading for the life of his little daughter (Luke 8: 41-56) Jesus is moved with pity. The weeping sisters of Lazarus touch him so deeply that he begins to cry too (John 11:1-44). And in today’s gospel―which we rarely hear because it often gets subsumed by post-Easter feast days― Jesus is moved to pity because the man who died was the only son of his widowed mother.

We can speculate, of course, that Jesus was particularly attuned to that kind of grief, since he was Mary’s only son―and we assume that St. Joseph was dead by this time since he disappears from the story early on―and he knew that his own widowed mother would soon know the terrible grief of losing her only son.

Can you remember times when the grief of strangers literally made you feel “with passion” so deeply that your gut hurt? I’ve experienced compassion many times in my life, and each time I was left wounded, stricken, and utterly aware that I had been ushered into the broken heart of God.

Why are not all brought forth from the grave? That’s the question, of course. But the three times that Jesus raised people from the dead, power came out from him because his heart was broken. If you want to know the healing power of Jesus, come to him with a broken and contrite heart. There he will be, right in the midst of you.

What memories do you have of God’s presence during a broken heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

1 June 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 11b-17

The hottest and hungriest I ever was was in the summer of 1993, during the walk to the “deserted place” where World Youth Day was held in Cherry Creek State Park. Millions of us were streaming into the park from dozens of trails. The walk was long, and it was the Feast of the Assumption, traditionally one of the hottest weeks in Denver.

The sight was staggering. Thousands of colorful tents were pegged into the dirt. Heat vapors plumed up from the airless, heat-baked grounds. Emergency aid stations were packed. You never saw such a mass of thirsty, exhausted people. You never saw such joy.

And no one was leaving. Not when the rains started, not when the lines for the port-a-potties snaked back to the entrances, not even when international pilgrims, not acclimated to the altitude and the desert-like conditions, collapsed and needed to be carried to the aid stations.

No one gave a thought to leaving. The pope was there.

I think of that experience as I imagine the crowd of five thousand in a desert place as day was ending. Everyone was exhausted. Everyone was hungry. But Jesus was there. He had already healed many in need, and who knew who was next? There was no way they were leaving.

Every year, the Knights of Malta give up a week of their lives to wheel dying pilgrims to the grotto of Lourdes. Those who are paralyzed, blind and crippled rely on them to get them in and out of the freezing water.

Year after year, the volunteers return. No one gives a thought to leaving.

Apparently, when the Spirit grabs your heart, your body doesn’t notice what else is going on.

Join Kathy’s husband Ben in Lourdes and Fatima this fall. Contact him at Ben.lager@q.com

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C

23 May 2016

Reflecting on Romans 5: 1-5

Okay, St. Paul, let’s just test this. You say, in today’s letter to the Romans, that affliction produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. Really?  It seems to me that affliction produces pain, and pain produces loss of hope, and loss of hope produces despair. But let’s take an example and see who’s right.

I’m amazed at the number of people I know who are walking around with migraines, most days of the week. How on earth do they do it? Well, they’ve learned how to tell when it’s coming on, for starters, and they get their medications on board right away. They’ve lived with migraines for years. They know what they need to do, and they do it. That’s endurance.

Then, after making adjustments in lighting and diet, they go out into the world. They show up for work. They show up for their families. They show up for themselves. If that’s not character, I don’t know what is.

When I observe them cheerfully working, conscientiously getting through the day without even mentioning the pain, I feel myself growing in confidence that I, too, can face the challenge of any pain that may be on my horizon. Their proven character gives me hope that I too can stand up to affliction when it comes my way.

And you know what? It’s worked. Observing people I love standing up to migraines so courageously has truly produced hope in me, and that hope has held up when I myself have been challenged.

Afflicted with migraines, they learned endurance, which produced character so inspiring that it created hope in me, which has never disappointed. Okay, St. Paul, you get this one.

Test St. Paul’s theory in your own life. Is it true?

Kathy McGovern ©2016                                                    For Cindy and Karen and Patrick and Maddie and Marty

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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