Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

23 January 2021

Reflecting on Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

I’m willing to be proved wrong about this. I’m willing to look naïve and unsophisticated. Here it is: I believe the guy who says that storming the Capitol on January 6th was the biggest mistake of his life, and the other guy who said he deeply regretted that his actions brought shame to him and to his family.

I believe them, even though, now arrested and having lost jobs and health insurance, contrition is the best lifeline available. I believe them because I have looked at my own past behaviors and been remorseful and embarrassed.  

That Assyrian capital city is the ultimate inspiration for taking stock of our sins and repenting of them. Nineveh was the Las Vegas of its day. Corruption and vile behavior oozed through its pores. And THIS was the city God instructed Jonah to lecture to and convert!

But here’s the jaw-dropping part: they listened to him. They honestly and objectively looked at their sins. They “believed God.” How on earth did a nation that had never heard of the One True God simply turn from their sins, proclaim a fast, cover themselves in sackcloth and ashes, and then experience the mercy of God?

What would it take for us, addicted to our online platforms, radio and tv news stations whose algorhythms are all primed to send us more of what we already believe, to step back and look at the sin in our own lives? I know, it’s way more delicious to marinate in the sins of others. But by doing that we lose the ability to humbly listen.

O Master, grant that ALL OF US may not so much seek to be understood, as to understand.

How will I dismantle my own assertions so that I can humbly listen?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B

16 January 2021

Reflecting on John 1: 35-42

How do parents finally decide what to name the baby? There are so many things to take into consideration: family names, honoring a beloved grandparent, favorite contemporary names, or unique names that will make a child stand out. Some parents name their children with strong names that mean things in the original language—like Sophia, which means wisdom.

Two of my friends just brought their babies home and looked at them for a few days. After hours and hours of gazing, they arrived on beautiful names which, today, we can’t imagine belonging to anyone else.

But the best way to choose a name is to have Jesus choose it for you. Simon had always been Simon until Jesus said, “From now on your name will be Cephas.” That translates as Peter, or Petra, which means rock. How must that new name have strengthened and inspired Peter? In time, the infant, shaky Church would be built on the rock of Peter’s faith. Names shape us.

If Jesus, who knows your inmost heart, had named you, what would you have been called throughout your life? I love thinking of my friends having the names which describe them well: Helpful One, Strong One, Gifted One, Gracious One.

What name do you want Jesus to call you when you see him face to face? How about Just One, or Compassionate One, or Reconciling One? I know what I dread hearing him call me: Greedy One, or Lazy One, or Wasteful One.

Maybe we should take a few weeks to decide what name we most want to be called by Jesus, and then ask for the grace to grow into it. I choose Forgiven One.

By what name do you want Jesus to call you?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Cycle B

10 January 2021

Reflecting on Mark 1:7-11

Sometimes I find a word that seems to follow me around until I pay attention to it.  For many years now that word for me has been “yield”.

Yield.  It’s a word so full of grace that we need to just lean into it, just rest with it and let its mysterious comfort seep into us.  What would it be like if we allowed ourselves to yield in our family relationships and, mercifully, allowed each of our flawed siblings and parents and children to just be themselves?  The truth is, in a thousand ways unknown to us they have yielded in their desire to change us over the years too.

Jesus began his public ministry not by teaching or healing, but by yielding.  He yielded to the chilly waters of the Jordan, though before the beginning of time he shaped the mountains whose snows would feed that river.  He yielded to time and place and asked John to baptize him, though John was astonished that the sinless One would allow such an irony.

John had to yield too.  He would have much preferred to be baptized by Jesus, but he “allowed” it, he yielded to it, because Jesus asked him to.  He immediately received the graces from yielding, because then he witnessed the heavens opening and the announcement of Jesus as the Beloved Son of God. 

Is there a chronic sadness or dis-ease in your life because you keep going over and over the mistakes you’ve made, or the injustices you’ve experienced, long ago?  Aren’t you tired yet? Try giving up the struggle.  Yield.  And then let peace flow like a river.

Have you experienced a recent grace from “yielding”?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Solemnity of the Epiphany

2 January 2021

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

I’ve been thinking about the Three Kings quite a bit lately. They represent all of us, of course. We are the ones who have searched the skies, and the scriptures, and the Tradition of the Church, and the wisdom of all of our friends. Like the Magi, we have traveled extensively in our spiritual lives, from the certitudes of childhood to the hard-won adult faiths we bring to the manger today.

I feel sorry for the famous women of history who never had the chance to hear this story. I think of Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II. Every day of her life as Queen of Egypt she was lavishly waited on by her Hebrew slaves. Think of her, 1300 years later, having the chance to see the Star of Bethlehem, and leaving everything behind to find Him.

And the beautiful Queen Esther! She saved the life of every Jewish person in the entire Persian kingdom when she stood up to her husband King Ahasuerus as he was preparing the gallows for his Jewish subjects. Yes! You KNOW she would have the courage and the wisdom to find that Star in the heavens hundreds of years later, and travel from the East in search of Him.

And, oh yes, Cleopatra! She was a fierce military strategist, and probably spoke ten languages. She was certainly brilliant enough to follow if the Star beckoned her too. If she had had the chance, I’ll bet she would have led the barge.

Hmm. Maybe we should sing We Three Queens some Epiphany, because as blessed as those kings were, the great queens of antiquity would have searched for him too.

From where has Jesus called you?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle B

27 December 2020

Reflecting on Colossians 3: 12-17

Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year? Because I’m sure I saw some more presents for you, hidden under the tree and tucked away in secret places where you can find them at just the perfect time.

Here’s one addressed to you from “Heartfelt Compassion.” This present will open itself for you. You’ll feel your heart break open as you feel “with passion” the daily struggle of a relative whose addiction has already strained the bonds of love in your family. It’s okay. Feel that tenderness and love for your broken relative once again. It’s Christmas for them too, with all its promises of “God with us.”

This next gift goes with it, so open up “Kindness” too. This is SUCH a perfect gift for you because it will keep surprising you all year long. Watch for that thoughtful stranger who says, “I can see that you’re in a hurry and have just a few things to buy. Jump ahead of me.”  It will show up in the surprise letter of gratitude from an old friend, or the sweet gift of taking out the trash which your spouse does every single day without saying a word. 

Or maybe it will be your adult child someday, who calls and says, “Remember how hard I fought to get you to let me hang out with my friends when I was fourteen? I’ve never thanked you for holding your ground and keeping me safe.”

There are lots more presents, and they all have your name on them. They are from Emanuel, who promises to be with you in every struggle and every joy in the coming year.

What is your favorite memory of knowing God’s presence with you?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Christmas

25 December 2020

CHRISTMAS IN THE TIME OF COVID

At this point, we all know the drill.

Stay away. Keep your distance. Wait this out.

But God knows our tensions, our anxieties,

Our weakened immune systems.

God did not stay away

Nor keep a safe distance

Nor wait for a more receptive world to greet Him.

He came in the time of Occupation

And disease

And famine

And war.

“God with Us”

Even in our isolation

And masks

And worrisome coughs.

MARANATHA, Come Lord Jesus

And pitch Your tent with every grieving child

Every feverish grandparent

Every lonely person looking for Your face.

Comfort, give Comfort

To Your people, oh God.

And speak tenderly to us

That this year of misery has ended,

And we are found in your grace.

AMEN.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

19 December 2020

Reflecting on Luke 1: 26-38

I have a very nerdy obsession. I love figuring out how the Gospel and the First Reading are related. I came to this fairly late, I think. The new lectionary, a direct child of Vatican II, debuted on the First Sunday of Advent, 1969. I’ll bet it was a full year later when, after listening to the Gospel, I turned to my dad and said, “Wait a minute. Did anybody ever notice that the First Reading and the Gospel are kind of connected?”

Probably because I discovered this all on my own (and it only took me a year!) I’ve always liked looking at the two readings and coming to my own conclusions about how they are connected. It’s like that time we were in the movie theater watching “Music Man” and my mom started giggling. Marian the Librarian was singing, slowly and thoughtfully, “Goodnight, My Someone,” while Harold Hill was singing, fast and fortissimo, “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

“What’s funny?” I asked. “Listen,” she said. “They’re the same song.” Did you ever notice that? I loved discovering that. One was fast, one slow, one soft, one loud, but the same song. The connection between those two readings—with the responsorial psalm as the light illuminating the theme of both readings—is similar. They aren’t the same, obviously, but they match. Or, as Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

So don’t miss the great, profound rhyme in the readings today. King David wants to build a house for the Ark that traveled with the Hebrews those forty desert years. And the Holy Spirit wants to make Mary the Ark for the One who travels with us. Get it? It’s the same song.

Has Mary ever served as the conduit – or Ark of encounter with Jesus for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

12 December 2020

Reflecting on John 1: 6-8, 19-28

Are you a voice crying in the desert? It’s frustrating to have a message you’d love the world to hear, and you try to shout that message into the world. But all you hear in reply are crude jokes and snide remarks.

Are we just too sophisticated for the gospel, even here in 2020, when the gospel has never been more desperately needed? Or is it just that people don’t read more than the headlines, and they decide from there what their position is? It must be so heartbreaking to be a great journalist, to labor for a year on a piece that sees the light of day for one news cycle, and to hear the deafening silence of your audience, clicking past your work for the next cat video.

I think about John the Baptist. I wonder if his diet of locusts and wild honey, and his scratchy garment of camel’s hair, was really just to draw people’s attention from whatever diversions they were enjoying and to draw them out to the desert.

I know for sure that the desert, with its stunning landscapes and fascinating insect life, wouldn’t hold my attention if I could somehow get WIFI and cellphone reception. I’m sure I’d find some flashy desert video to watch instead of actually tasting and breathing the real thing.

John had a message, a truth that he had found, and he was willing to make himself look ridiculous in order to get the attention of those who needed to hear it so badly. He went to Herod’s dungeon because of that Truth. He died for that Truth.

And if you listen very carefully, you can hear him preaching still.

What would you love to shout out to the world?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

5 December 2020

Reflecting on Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11

It turns out everything I’ve ever taught about chapter forty of the prophet Isaiah was wrong. It’s written for an exiled people living 25 centuries ago! Wrong. It’s meant to give hope to the disconsolate Jews living in Babylon! Wrong. It’s shoring them up to be brave as they decide whether to trust God and go back to Israel, or to stay put! Wrong.

No, no, no. If ever we can appropriate an ancient sacred text and know that it was written for our time, it’s Isaiah’s words of consolation. I’ll bet they jumped right off the page when you heard (or read) them this weekend.

Comfort, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Proclaim that her service is at an end. Imagine being an exhausted and sick health care worker, hearing for the first time in a year (please God, let this be done in a year!) that the pandemic is over. You can now go home and sleep for a week.

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! We know about deserts now. We know about grandparents, desperate to squeeze their far-away grandbabies, desperate to not miss a minute more of their precious babyhood. We know about children, longing for friends and teachers, and parents, longing for them even more! That’s a desert too.

But fear not, dear friends. God is near. Like a shepherd God feeds us (through the strength and goodness of all who run food pantries, or work in grocery stores, or drive delivery trucks). God carries us, yea, even though we walk through the dark valley of death.

Take comfort, people. It turns out, Isaiah’s words were written for us.

How do these words touch you differently this Advent?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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First Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

28 November 2020

Reflecting on Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 64: 1, 3b-8

So much of our lives—the vast majority, really—is lived interiorly. The dreams that speak to us at night, and the thoughts that play in our heads during the day, are all stored inside of us. We don’t talk about them, usually. In many ways, except for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our every breath, we live our lives alone.

For me, my interior conversation is with my sweet mom, now too long deceased. I wonder what she thinks of me these days. Is she proud of me? Is she noticing how much better I am with writing thank-you notes? Is she amazed that I actually know how to plant flowers?

Would that she might meet me doing right. That’s been my prayer since her death 35 years ago. The hundreds of things we do in a day—the returned phone call, the made bed, the faithfulness in prayer—all speak to the discipline we cultivate in silence through the years. If my mom walked into my home right now, would she meet me doing right?

Fortunately, my mother has always been my stand-in for Jesus. She’s “God with skin on.” It’s Jesus, of course, whom I am really serving when I am conscientious, faithful, a contributing member of society, and unwavering in my defense of the voiceless.

It’s finally Advent. It took forever to get here, especially since it’s felt like Advent these nine months, prayerfully waiting for the end of the pandemic. We’ve got a few months to go. My Advent promise is that I will strive every day to ready my heart for Jesus. I intend for him to meet me doing right.

How will you use these last months of restrictions to do good?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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