Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

15 June 2024

Reflecting on Mk. 4:26-34

It’s that time of year again, and it shocks me every time. The perennials on the side of our house have come up, with absolutely no effort or attention on our part, dancing in the breeze and saying, “Surprise! We’ve been here all along, just waiting for sunshine and rain!”

I can’t get over how KIND they are to keep popping up, riots of purple and pink, in spite of our profound neglect for the past nine months. Of its own accord the land yields fruit. God has created this brilliant memory in our gardens and fields. Of their own accord they come back, year after year.

Now, all you farmers are nodding, but also vehemently noting that EVERY harvest requires the back-breaking effort of sowing and tilling the grain, year after year.  But still, the wheat secretly grows beneath the winter snow. That’s God’s creative, utterly dependable work. And the rest of our lives are like that, too.

It took seventeen years, but I am finally in remission from my (easy) chronic leukemia. Around the same time, my veins healed from damage done during the original diagnosis all those years ago. And just last week I slipped into a cute pair of summer sandals, after clogging around in orthopedic shoes for a decade.

If given the blessing of time, we’ll see healing in many parts of our lives. Huh, we might say. When did I stop feeling resentful toward that person? Or,  Huh, I can see now why I got that poor job evaluation.  Or even, Huh. When did my cold go away? I didn’t even notice.

It’s God’s great secret, this healing. We know not how.

What healings have you noticed over time?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

8 June 2024

Reflecting on Mk. 3: 20-25

Oh, how those words of the scribes fall on our 21st-century ears.  In our time, the smartest among us are the ones who will NEVER be duped, NEVER send gift cards to phone scammers, because that was way back when we were naïve. We’re smarter than that now.

But let’s be clear: this kind of ‘savvy’ isn’t the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus discusses. It’s the intentional hardness of the heart, the stubborn crossed arms, and rolled eyes when the Gospel is proclaimed, the willful hostility and contempt for Jesus, which the scribes model today, that truly blasphemes the Holy Spirit.

The ”wise” can dissect every beautiful piece of scripture and pretend to understand why it has no value for us today. It does call to mind John Milton’s Paradise Lost, when Satan says, terrifyingly, Evil, be thou my good. In other words, hatred is Satan’s reality, and hating us is the fuel for his life. If we reject his hate, we starve him to death.

As always, C.S. Lewis gets it right: “What we see in Satan is the horrible co-existence of a subtle and incessant intellectual activity with an incapacity to understand anything.” We who know all, and compete with each other in cynicism,  are incapable of understanding anything at all.

And now…ahem. We need to talk about that disturbing ending, when his mother and brothers arrived and tried to get him away from the crowd. Here’s my take: it’s not that Jesus wasn’t ready for public ministry. His mother wasn’t ready. But it was too late. She had to watch him attract crowds, which would eventually attract the Romans, and then the cross. She wasn’t ready.

Are there parts of your spiritual life that have slipped into cynicism?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B

1 June 2024

A few months ago, my primary care doctor asked me why I never have my blood drawn at his office after my appointment, where there’s no line, but instead leave and drive all the way to the downtown clinic, where there’s always a long line.

“Well,” I hesitated, “I just prefer their clinic.” “Hmm,” he said, “is that really all there is to it?” And then I spilled the beans. “Okay, okay. They have a magical phlebotomist there. She somehow looks at my torn-up veins and knows exactly where and how to place the needle. I barely feel it at all! I’d drive anywhere to have her.” And his answer was just perfect: “That’s what I thought. That’s why we hired her here. She’ll be right in.”

Through the years, I’ve encountered a few genuinely gifted phlebotomists, and I always ask them how on earth they knew they’d be good at such a delicate profession. Every one of them has told me that they just knew. It came from some deep instinct about how to tap a vein. There is no greater gift to a patient who has to have frequent blood draws than a brilliant phlebotomist who just instinctively knows how to draw blood.

On this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I extend my blessings to all those who, like the magical phlebotomists, can painlessly get our blood flowing, and to all who selflessly donate their blood, the carrier of life. This mirrors the spiritual reality of our unity as humans. We are not just one Body but also one Blood.

Happy Feast Day, Church. This is the feast that tells us who we are.

What is your most cherished memory of this feast?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

25 May 2024

Reflecting on Matthew 28:16-20

I’ve always liked this feast. I love thinking of the ways that I am more than just one person in my life, that all of my different titles represent vital pieces of my identity. I am, for example, Ben’s wife, my parents’ daughter, my siblings’ sister, my cousins’ cousin, my nieces and nephews’ aunt. I am all of those titles, and I’m probably a little different with each of my beloved relatives.

I am also a friend, a student, a teacher, a reader, a writer, and a parishioner. I love being all those things. I can’t imagine a happy life without any one of them.

The earliest Christians—as early as Paul himself, whose profound transformation took place sometime in the mid-40s—were just praying and acting on instinct. There was no catechism, no papal decree to instruct them in what to believe. Paul, Silas, and Barnabas traveled thousands of miles, sailing dangerous waters in rickety boats, walking over treacherous terrain (complete with snakes, as Paul found out at Malta) in order to preach one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and raised, and living in us through the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t a hard leap for the New Testament writers to move towards the understanding of God as Three. They intimately knew the Father through their lives steeped in the stories of the Old Testament. They were dedicated to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they depended every day on the comfort and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It just makes sense that the God in whose image we are created would be more than one Person. We all are.

Which Person of the Trinity do you feel closest to at this point in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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A Pentecost Sequence – Cycle B

18 May 2024

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

Lord, send out your Spirit.

How else can we pray?

There is so much pain abroad,

And in our hearts today.

Lord, send our Your Spirit.

Enlarge our tents and hearts.

Nudge us to more clearly see

The Body’s many parts.

Lord, send our Your Spirit.

Bring peace where there’s despair.

Heal us, Spirit, hold us tight.

Help us see You there.

There where doctors heal the sick,

There where those estranged

Join hands in friendship and resolve

To form a world that’s changed.

Changed in hearts, and set on fire.

Changed in wisdom too.

Changed to lead, and to inspire.

To make the world anew.

Lord, send out your Spirit.

Bring health and hope to birth.

Indwell in us, empower us.

Renew the face of the earth.

What prayers for the world do you entrust to the Holy Spirit today?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B

11 May 2024

Reflecting on Ephesians 1: 17-23

I want that Ephesians reading plastered on the dashboard of my car, and taped to my computer screen. Yes, yes, yes, I beg for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.

I apologize for this sad story on the happy event of Mother’s Day. Many of us recently suffered the terrible loss of the 8-year-old granddaughter of a beloved friend as a result of a terrible car crash. We prayed so hard for her, that she would come out of the medically-induced coma they placed her in after she and her mom were hit by a motorcyclist going 100 mph.

After her death I cried out to the Wisdom figures in my life (I have many of them, thank God). I didn’t care how inappropriate it was for me to call each of them at home, at dinner time. I was in deep despair. I needed the wisdom of the people I know who have spent their lives in prayerful reflection, and face-to-face relationship with those who are suffering.

Their answers were comforting, and powerful. Mostly they were silent, pondering the terrible sadness, waiting to experience God’s mysterious presence during God’s seeming absence.

I hope you have some Wisdom figures in your life. I hope you have some people who witness to the fruit of a lifetime of prayerful listening. I hope you have a priest who could be brave enough to, at a distance of 1500 miles,  stay on the phone and pray with the grieving parents as they walked to the surgical room, where their daughter’s organs were harvested in order to greatly enhance the lives of many, many children.

Our Pentecost novena begins today. Let all the readers around the country pray together for the knowledge of God. O Jesus, we need you. Oh, how we need you.

Please pray for my friend Lori as she lives this terrible tragedy.

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

4 May 2024

Reflecting on Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48

If you’ve attended a First Communin Mass in certain (but not all) dioceses in the past several years, you may have been surprised to see the young children, after receiving First Eucharist, also receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.

At first, this seems totally out of place. Isn’t Confirmation a sacrament for older kids, say, 7th or 8th graders? Isn’t it the sacrament that seals the promises the parents made for their child at Baptism? Isn’t it the opportunity for older children to make a more mature declaration of their own faith?

Well, it evolved that way, but the first reading today gives us the scriptural evidence that Baptism and Confirmation were never meant to be separated. Here in Acts 10 (it’s good to read the whole chapter to get a better sense of the way the story unfolds) we read of Peter’s MOST unorthodox visit to the Gentile Cornelius.

Jews did not associate or visit with Gentiles, yet here is Simon Peter walking into Cornelius’ home and cordially greeting him and all his Gentile friends. Most shocking of all, as Peter is speaking to them of Jesus, they begin singing and speaking in tongues! In the infant days of the Church, from Pentecost on, a sure sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit was glossolalia.

At this, Peter realizes that if they’ve already received the Holy Spirit, they should be baptized as well. Two chapters earlier, in 8:14-18, there is a huge conversion to Christ in Samaria. Since so many have been baptized, Peter and John must come up to lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit immediately. Since the earliest Christians (up to 90AD) didn’t give Eucharist to children (that we know of), we can assume that, up to the 13th century, children received all three initiation sacraments at their baptism.

Pray for all children receiving these two sacraments this spring

Looking back, how did you experience your own Confirmation?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

27 April 2024

Reflecting on John 15:1-8

Can you imagine what you would look like if everything in your life that wasn’t bearing fruit got pruned away? I’d be a scarecrow. I’ve got the most well-meaning projects—scrapbooks, video memories, letters I’m going to answer—that sit in mute witness against me every time I open the drawer.

But today I think you should take inventory of all the things that ARE bearing fruit in your life. You’ve stayed faithful to your communities. You’ve read, and studied, and stayed apprised of the readings for Mass. You somehow keep your families together, when the world does everything to separate them. You stay close with, and available to, your kids and grandkids, your siblings and parents, and all that takes a lot of energy and work. And love.

Think of the people you know who bear much fruit—literally. I’m thinking of the people who stock the produce section of the grocery store. I always compliment them on how fresh and delicious the fruits and vegetables look. I’m always touched at how much pride they take in their work. Being close to the vine every day produces a holy person, I think.

A lifetime of conscious participation in the life of the Church keeps us bearing fruit too. I know so many people whose good works seem to grow with each passing year. As I write this, my dear friend Mary Frances, whom I met in high school, is in Colombia, presiding over representatives from 13 countries, all of whom have dedicated their lives to serving those who are poor. And in Spanish, no less! How did she get THERE? Through bearing fruit, a little each day. And love, as St. Teresa of Calcutta reminded us, is a fruit in season at all times.

How is God glorified through the fruit of your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

20 April 2024

Reflecting on John 10: 11-18

Here’s the problem: The GOOD shepherd, the one who loves to the ends of the earth, often meets a terrible and violent death. Jesus knows this. He knows that wolves run in packs, and if the good shepherd tries to protect the sheep from the wolves, the shepherd may well be killed.

Jesus met the death that awaited many good shepherds throughout history. Hunted down by packs of ravenous humans, hungry for revenge, bribed by corporations, fueled by ignorance, caught in the cancers of culture and contempt, the history of the Church is the history of martyrs. Jesus tells us, early in John’s gospel (10:11-18), that he will be martyred for us.

But good shepherds don’t need to be martyred to be inspirations. I recently met a young violinist from Montreal. Asked if he knew the story of the famous St. André Bessette, a monk who devoted his entire vocation to answering the door at the monastery in Montreal, he said, “No, in Montreal we have huge devotions to St. Joseph.”

“Aha!” I said. “Then you do know St. André! He’s the one who spread the devotion to St. Joseph all through Canada.” That’s a good shepherd. St. André was so beloved in Montreal that over one million people processed by his casket, kissing it and touching it, and sharing stories about the love with which he answered the door.

GOOD shepherds lay down their lives in little and large ways. Take you, for instance. I’ll bet you lay down your life many times a day. You don’t realize it, but through the humble witness of your life, like St. André, you are spreading devotion to Christ everywhere you go.

Who have been the good shepherds in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

13 April 2024

Reflecting on Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19

What torment the Jewish audience must have felt when Peter, shaking with the joy of the Risen Christ, addressed them in the Temple. He and John had JUST raised up a crippled man in the name of Jesus Christ, and he was now in the Temple, “walking and  jumping and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

Now those astonished Israelites listened as Peter upbraided them for their complicity in the passion and death of the very NAME who had just healed that crippled man, whom they had seen begging at the Temple gate for years.

How it must have stung to hear Peter say, “Now I know that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did” (vs. 17).

That’s the sentence that should land, like an arrow, in our own hearts. Is there any one of us who has not narrowly escaped a life-altering experience which we created out of ignorance, or arrogance, or just dumb youth?

I remember one day from my twenties. Not accustomed to alcohol, I’d been out for “happy hour” with some friends from work. After only one drink I was definitely impaired, but didn’t realize it until I was driving home. I very nearly escaped hitting the car in front of me. Terrified, I pulled into a parking lot and stayed there for at least an hour. Only a few blocks from home, I crept up side streets to my house. I fell on my knees in thanksgiving.

O merciful God, thank you that you have rescued us from our ignorant behaviors. We ask for your merciful Presence in the lives of those whose ignorance has ruined their lives, and the lives of those they’ve hurt.

When did you act out of ignorance, only to fall on your knees in repentance?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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