Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

31 July 2021

Reflecting on Eph. 4:17, 20-24

I feel confused when I hear that reading from Ephesians, about putting on a “new self,” as opposed to the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires.

Doesn’t it seem like our “old selves” are what we want to re-capture? Don’t we all long to find again the child who was more interested in playing than eating, more thrilled with a bike ride than a game on the internet, more delighted with the company of actual friends than with the solitude of “friending” on Facebook?

That kind of solitude is not, as the author of Ephesians says, how we learn Christ. Think back. Where did you learn Christ? Was it at school, or in Religious Education class? Was it at home? Many people I know learned Christ on the weekends, when they spent the night with a Catholic friend whose family took him or her with them when they went to Mass on Sundays.

Many of us had every possible opportunity to learn Christ, growing up in “Catholic ghettos” where all the kids celebrated their sacraments together. We had Catholic books and Catholic sacramentals in our homes.  We learned to pray for each other, and have kept up that discipline all our lives.

But many generations of those who “learned Christ” have found themselves, over time, marooned in a world that has somehow un-learned him. How do we help those who long to know him again? Well, keep acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). By exercising that behavior every day, our own “new selves” grow stronger, and the radiance from that witness can be Class 101 in Jesus University.

What does it mean to you to “learn Christ”?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

24 July 2021

Reflecting on John 6:1-15

The Catholic Church has a “tell. That’s a gambling term that means a soft spot, a giveaway. No matter how much of a “poker face” the player maintains, there will be something—a lowering of the eyes, a slight smirk, a twitch of an eyebrow—that telegraphs oh boy, have I got a great hand.

The Catholic Church has a “tell,” and we don’t even try to hide it. We will talk about the Eucharist every single chance we get. We love it, we need it, we celebrate it every single day of the year. (Well, we were SUPPOSED to fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday, but that didn’t last too long before the rites included bringing the reserved Eucharist from Holy Thursday to believers for reception.)

Catholics simply will not be without the Eucharist, even when there is no Mass, as on Good Friday. I love the way Fr. Terrance Klein  explained the reception of Communion on that day. When speaking of the ONE DAY that is the GREAT THREE DAYS of the Easter Triduum, he said: We pause in time. Christ does not. Christ carries all of time within himself.

Enter Mark’s gospel. At sixteen chapters, it’s by far the shortest of the four gospels. Sure, there could have been enough to lovingly linger over through the 34 weeks of Ordinary Time, but hey! Here’s an idea! When we cycle into Mark’s (short) gospel every three years, let’s break in for a five-week reflection on the EUCHARIST in the summer!

What a good idea! So we now segue over to John’s gorgeous Bread of Life discourse for the next five weeks. Why? Because boy have we got a good hand.

Do you know where your First Communion picture is? This is a good month to display it.

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

17 July 2021

Reflecting on Jeremiah 23: 1-6

The assault of Nebuchadnezzar’s army on the citizens of Jerusalem in 597 BC was, until the Holocaust, certainly the greatest horror ever afflicted upon the Jewish people. A third of the population died by fire, a third by the sword, and a third were taken away in chains, to be marched 1700 miles to Babylon.

Jeremiah, who had the terrible burden of witnessing this siege, must certainly have thought, “how did this happen?’ and “who didn’t do their job along the way, that this could happen to us now?” His answer was bitter: it was the religious and civil leadership of Jerusalem that failed us, for years and years. Woe to those shepherds.

Watching the videos of the collapse of the condominium complex in Florida, and trying to imagine how this could possibly have happened, we feel like Jeremiah.

Whose fault is this? How did an event like this happen in our own rich country? We’ve heard the answers, but no matter how we try to distance ourselves, a deep disturbance is rising within us. Something is very wrong.

Every city in our wealthy country is now faced with encampments on the street and in neighborhoods. How did we lose our way? How can we recover the bright hope of decades past?

Jesus gets this. He’s trying to help his travel-weary disciples get some rest from the crowds surging around them, but the people simply run ahead to meet them.

Jesus understands that something has gone terribly wrong. The basic needs of the people have not been met.

Understanding that HE is their most basic need, he takes the time to teach them many things. Finally, something has gone terribly right.

What do you long to have Jesus teach you?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

10 July 2021

Reflecting on Mark 6: 7-13

This gospel always transports me to that memorable summer when I did the obligatory ten weeks’ European vacation with some friends. That was the Age of Aquarius, right, when twenty-somethings took off for Europe in droves, wearing Birkenstocks, and carrying enormous backpacks that we cluelessly unloaded on the seats next to us on the train.

It’s one particular week in Greece that I especially remember. We had no money, naturally, for a hostel or hotel room, so we slept on the couches of the lobby of an ancient hotel that didn’t bother to lock the doors at night.

Every hot, sticky morning, we awoke with the cats of the neighborhood sleeping on our stomachs or backs. We all languidly stretched, licked our lips, and the cats went out in search of milk while the humans searched for coffee. Ah, the sixties (which actually extended well into the seventies).

I’ll bet those disciples, sent out with no food, no backpack, and no money, slept in far worse conditions than those. They probably didn’t have to, since they could have taken money for lodging, but it was the very fact that they had no provision that prompted those they visited to care for them.

There must have been deep conversations as they all fell asleep together. Can you imagine having one of the actual eyewitnesses to Jesus staying at your house? If they had had their own food, their own extra clothes, their own money for lodging, they wouldn’t have needed their gracious hosts. And the gospel might have never moved out of the Galilee.

The Sisters who taught us back in those Sixties carried nothing. I think I get it now.

How can you get back to a more simple lifestyle?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 July 2021

Reflecting on 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

This is the eighth Sunday in a row in which we’ve read from 2 Corinthians, and I’m so glad we conclude today with my favorite phrase from that entire letter: My grace is sufficient for you (12:9). I must remind myself of that promise a few times every day, and it’s true every single time.

Now, there were times where I experienced grace in droves—tons and tons of it. And there were a few times—getting further and further in the rearview mirror, thank God—when the only grace I could cling to was that exact scripture, hanging under a photograph on my bedroom wall. It became my mantra, and, over time, the grace I begged for visited me again.

I suppose it depends on what the word “sufficient” means. Today, healthy and strong, sufficient grace means the grace to meet the world with competence, preparation, and prayer. Many, many years ago, sufficient grace meant enough strength to breathe. I need more grace, I told God. My grace is sufficient for you, the poster on the wall replied. Just barely, I returned. Just barely.

It’s possible that some dear reader out there today is hanging on by the barest thread of grace. Maybe it’s a terrible physical illness. Maybe it’s a terrible loss. Maybe it’s despair. It’s possible that some reader has already begged God for more grace already today. Okay, Church, let’s do this:

Imagine that person. God knows who it is, so we don’t have to. Pray for sufficient grace for him or her. As Elizabeth said to Mary at the Visitation, “Happy are you who believed that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45).

Do you need more grace today? Expect that you are included in this prayer.

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

26 June 2021

Reflecting on Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11,12,13

Every time that refrain for the Responsorial Psalm comes up in the lectionary—I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me—I find myself singing it all week. I hope you do, too. I hope you feel rescued.

Just in case you don’t, practice this for a week. Several times a day, notice how you were rescued. Maybe you delayed changing lanes for a second, and then saw that speeding car come tearing down the lane into which you nearly drove.

Maybe you were out for your walk and happened to notice the crack in the sidewalk that wasn’t there yesterday, just before you went careening into it. Maybe you had something gossip-y and mean on the tip of your tongue, and you stopped just before spitting it out into the world. Good for you. You grabbed God’s grace, and you were rescued.

Sometimes the very thing that looks like failure ends up being rescue. Aren’t you glad you DIDN’T end up with your junior-high girlfriend/boyfriend? (But apologies to those who did. Congratulations!)

It causes me to tremble when I think of all the things, terrible or just inconvenient, from which God has rescued me. (Someday I’ll regale you with my medical history.) And you know what? All of those Rescues have built up a history of faith in me, so that when the day comes when, for any reason, I am beyond rescue, I’ll remember that the same God who was faithful to me in the past will be faithful to me as I pass into the valley of the shadow of death.

That’s where the greatest rescue of all is waiting for each of us.

What is your best story about being rescued? Tell someone today. It builds a reservoir of faith.

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

19 June 2021

Reflecting on Job 38: 1,8-11

We get just a smidgen of JOB this week, but it’s enough to give us a glimpse into what is surely the most beautiful hymn to nature in all literature. If you haven’t read the last chapters of JOB, do yourself a huge favor. Take your bible to the beach, or the mountains, or your favorite place to bird-watch, or, YES, the ZOO this summer, or just keep it handy as you watch any of the stunning David Attenborough nature films. Read chapters 38-42 under the stars, with a flashlight, while camping this summer.

If you don’t burst into a few verses of “How Great Thou Art” as you read about how God takes care of each star in the heavens, and every tiny sea creature, stop and read it again, slowly. It will slow your pulse, and relax your breathing.

This is the section where God finally shows up to answer JOB’S challenge. And, by the way, where do we possibly get the phrase The patience of JOB? He’s roaringly impatient through the entire book, and who can blame him? If you think you’ve had a bad day—and if you did, please accept my heartfelt condolences—remember that JOB lost his crops, his workers, and all his children on the same day.

It’s an ancient folktale, of course, but the very best parts are at the end, when God lets JOB know that God’s been with him all along. And here’s the comforting part: God shows up in the whirlwind, in the chaos, in the unknowing, in the storm at sea. Are you feeling tossed and thrown out of the boat? Lucky you. That’s where God lives.

Can you sense God’s presence in your own challenges?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

12 June 2021

Reflecting on Ezekiel 17:22-24

This weekend, as I read about the shoot taken from the mighty cedar and planted on the mountain heights of Israel, I find myself thinking about the historic north Denver church where my husband Ben leads the choir on Sundays.

If you were baptized in Denver between 1907 and 1940, there’s a thirty percent chance you were baptized at Annunciation Parish. The Irish, Italians, and Germans built the church, and filled its grade school and high school. Those were the glory years, when the immigrant Church packed the pews, and the mighty shoot of deep religious faith was planted in Denver, 5280 feet up above sea level.

Later, devout African Americans put down roots in the parish, and today a robust Hispanic community fills the Church. The neighborhood is changing again, and the young, upwardly mobile Anglos walking by the church are starting to be lured into stepping inside. Thank you, Capuchin priests!

Imagine this: there is one singer in this tiny eight-person choir who has sung in the choir since the late seventies. For over forty years, Ron Vigil has set his alarm, dressed, and arrived to sing for Mass.

For many years, under the leadership of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, the choir was massive, and music soared to the heights of the Gothic ceiling. In the late eighties, in fact, Hollywood came calling, and filmed many episodes of The Father Dowling Mysteries there. Ron can pull up the episodes that featured the choir and play it for you, if you’d like.

Faith can take root from the mightiest tree, or the tiniest mustard seed. The task, though, is to stay faithful. How else can later generations find shade beneath your branches?

From which shoot has your own faith been nourished?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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The Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B

6 June 2021

I love to read advice columns, mostly for the letters. It’s eye-opening to read the situations in which so many people live. The saddest thing for me is that I have the answer to every problem I’ve read, and it’s so easy: Christ, and the Eucharist.

I wonder if those who write in to advice columns have been on too many dating sites, with their romantic images of togetherness. Foot massages. Date nights. Long walks on the beach. Those of us who have been married forever—the greatest blessing on earth, by the way—howl at these superficial offerings.

A foot rub? Every night my husband lovingly straps my nerve-damaged foot in a big ugly tool he pulled out of the garage. He’s rigged it so the heavy part drops as an anchor over the bed, while the cord wraps around my ankle and pulls it away from the nerve that is screaming. The relief is tremendous. Romantic? More than words can say.

He does this, day after day, because as a child he trained his brain to recognize Christ, really present in the consecrated Bread and Wine. Then he trained his brain to recognize Christ in every person God brings into his life.,

You know that plaque that says Get you somebody who looks at you the way your dog looks at you? Here’s my best marriage advice, or just best advice in general:

Get you somebody who sees Christ in you. That’s where heaven and earth meet. That’s the answer to every problem.

St. Teresa of Calcutta challenged us to see Christ in his most distressing disguise. You don’t want to miss him. Happy Feast Day, Church.

How will you work to see Christ in the person you most dislike?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

29 May 2021

Reflecting on Rom. 8:14-17

I’m always sad when the Easter Season ends. It’s crazy, but it seems like with the close of Easter we may as well just get the Advent candles out. That’s crazy, right? We have a full twenty-four of Ordinary Time ahead. That’s weeks and weeks of lazy summer days, and then the delightful months of October and November. By that time we will all be ready for the new liturgical year to begin, but not until.

This Sunday and next are odd. They are major feasts of the Church—Solemnities, even—but they are also the first Sundays in Ordinary Time since we left Ordinary Time a full fourteen weeks ago. Have you ever considered that the forty days of fasting (Lent) and the fifty days of feasting (Easter) comprise a full one-quarter of the Church year? We spend 25% of the year in specific seasons that reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the rest of the year celebrating this Paschal Mystery:

We proclaim your death, oh Lord. There is something in us that understands that death is not the end, and having a Savior who died a terrible death brings us close to him in our own dyings.

And profess your resurrection. We are now in the season of risings. The flowers, the fields, and our own spirits feel lifted up to the sun. We draw close to Jesus, who knew the way out of the tomb, and leads us out of our tombs too.

Until you come again! We wait in joyful hope for that trinity of Christian belief: You died, You rose, You will come again. We cherish every Ordinary Day that brings us closer to You.

What are the three blessings of this past year for which you are the most grateful?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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