Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

26 May 2019

Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29

Decisions. I hate them. I run from them, and put up every kind of smokescreen to keep from making them. That’s hugely frustrating for the people who have to work and live with me, and the truth is I would never decide at all if I weren’t eventually shamed into it.

The earliest Christians engaged in a history-changing discernment in 50 AD. This momentous decision regarded who would be admitted into the emerging Christian community. That was the decision for the ages.

How did they discern what restrictions to lay on those Gentiles who were asking to be admitted to their community? Certainly the Jewish Christians (like Mary, the mother of Jesus!) still considered themselves Jews, observed the kosher laws, and worshipped in the synagogue. But what to do about the burgeoning number of Gentiles who were hearing the Word through the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas? Shouldn’t they observe everything the Jews observe, including, for men, circumcision?

St. Paul said, “No!” The more conservative Jews in Jerusalem said, “Yes!” You can imagine the televised debates and internet sniping that would go on today. But the Holy Spirit filled this infant Church with an open heart.

A Council was called. The problem was set out. Then experience was called upon. Paul talked about the huge response to the gospel in the Gentile lands. Peter told the remarkable story of the conversion of the family of Cornelius, the Gentile centurion (Acts 10) that changed his mind about who’s in and who’s out.

Experience and compassion ruled the day. The Church spread like wild fire. Imagine a Church without Gentiles like St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. And you.

What experience have you had that changed a conviction you used to have?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

18 May 2019

Reflecting on John 13: 31-33a, 34-35

I hope you feel that you are abiding in love. If you don’t, it’s time to check the baptismal certificates of those around you. That’s right. Jesus could not have been clearer. By THIS the world will know we are his own, by the enormous amount of LOVE we pour out into the world.

Maybe we can’t define love, but we sure know it when we feel it, don’t we? I’m surrounded by disciples. Because of that I’m practically drowning in love.

How do you measure the way love sustains your life? Let’s take Sunday, for example. When you attempt the Daytona 500—otherwise known as the church parking lot—do your fellow worshipers smile and wave you ahead, while they take the next spot down? (And—ahem—do you make this same kind gesture for others occasionally?)

When you come into church, are you warmly welcomed? My husband Ben and I happened to be in Miami on Holy Thursday and visited a church there. Two people rushed to open the doors for us, and others scrambled to smile at us, greet us, and take us up to the front section. After Mass people couldn’t stop smiling at us. We were visitors, and they were just so happy to have us. How perfect to feel that much love with a community that has just celebrated the washing of feet.

Here’s the thing: love is what changes us for good. Other experiences teach us, and make us better at what we do. But love is what Christ gives us, and so it’s what we must give. Love for the life of the world. And no, not just for some…but for everyone.

How are you giving what the world needs now so much?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

11 May 2019

Reflecting on Acts 13: 14, 43-52

He did it again. Every week I read several commentaries to help me reflect on the Sunday readings, and once again the great John Kavanaugh, SJ has opened the most beautiful and insightful window into today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

What does it mean that “all who were destined for eternal life” (13: 48) came to believe? What did Barnabas and Paul know about eternal life? How could they know anything, since they were still alive, in bodies that were directed by brains that would die, which would then signal the death of their bodies? In other words, if you are brain dead, how do you experience any life?

Father Kavanaugh puts it this way:  “How can an ‘after’ life have any continuity with this life when all our experience is so brain-based? Our memories, our joys, the delights of every sense, the faces of our loved ones all seem so inseparable from this world and our bodies.”

Even though Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, what kind of bodies will they be, once they are separated by time and space? Kavanaugh offers this delicious question: imagine that all the babies born today could talk to all the babies still in the womb and give them this good news: life is even better outside the womb! I know it seems like only death outside, but “the new world beyond your womb is connected to what you are right now, but it is wondrously different! All the gifts you have are only glimmers of what they will become!”

You successfully made it through your birth. Trust God that this life is only a shadow of what awaits.

What insights into eternity have you gained this Easter?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

10 May 2019

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

Even though it’s nowhere in scripture, tradition says that Peter, when an old man, was dragged away and crucified. Because he did not feel worthy to receive the same death as his Lord, Peter asked to be crucified upside down. Scripture never tells us where or when this took place, but the author of John’s gospel certainly knows about it, because he says that Jesus’s words to Peter ­­­­the day will come when you will be led where you do not want to go­­­ signified by what kind of death Peter would glorify God.

Peter was probably martyred by Emperor Nero in Rome in the mid-60s, AD. The origin of the tradition of him being crucified upside down is unknown. But his death HAS glorified God, hasn’t it, all these centuries? Hasn’t the image of Peter begging to endure a more humiliating death than even Jesus endured been a source of inspiration and strength to you from the day you first heard it?

We don’t have to dance around the facts of the resurrection. The eyewitnesses to the empty tomb, and to the Risen One, didn’t say things like, “Well, he’s risen in our hearts,” or “We feel his Spirit and are strengthened.” That would never be enough to ask your executioners to nail you to a cross upside down.

Peter and all the martyred ones went to their deaths utterly positive that the grave that held Jesus was empty, and that Christ would raise them up with him. The witness­­­that’s another word for “martyr”—of those first believers rings out throughout the ages: He is Risen, and our lives and deaths are meant to give glory to that Name.

What deaths have you witnessed that give glory to God?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

10 May 2019

Reflecting on Jn. 20: 19-31

This is the Sunday when I most like to recall the mercies of God throughout this past year. Let me invite you into a similar meditation.

Remembering back, what victories did you have in holding your temper, in holding your tongue, in holding back a savvy “shade” on someone? That’s mercy.

Blessed are those who have not had unkind words spoken to them; more blessed indeed are those who have not spoken unkind words themselves.

What physical challenges have you overcome this year? Did you fall prey to the horrible flu, or the bad colds of this season, or even pneumonia? How blessed are you who were sick and are now well. Even more blessed are those who stayed with you, cared for you, nursed and doctored you back to health. They have shown mercy, and mercy will be shown to them.

How about your prayer life? Did you experience the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit as you navigated the depths of Christ’s life in you? Maybe a faith community has welcomed and loved you. For that mercy, in the winter and spring of your days this year, be grateful. Even more blessed are those who have extended that friendship and grace.

I know a little bit about mercy, because I am the endless recipient of it. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I offer this suggestion. Find the image of Divine Mercy. Stand in front of it. Imagine the healing rays coming from the heart of Jesus pouring straight into whatever part of your body or soul is hurting. Let those rays in. The mercy of the Risen One longs to pour into you.

Jesus, we trust in you.

How can the Divine Mercy of Jesus transform you this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle C

20 April 2019

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

It’s Easter, finally! Breathe it in. Smell it. Taste it. Touch it. It’s glorious, gracious Easter, arriving once again in spite of our imperfect attempts to prepare for it.

Ah, flowers. Take in that delicious Easter smell of last night’s orgy of joy­—the chrism, the Candle, the cries of joy from the Elect as we dunked them with the waters of the parted Red Sea and the blessed Jordan River.

It’s Easter, people! Get out your gorgeous Easter colors, your Easter hats and your white gloves, your Easter baskets and your Easter hearts, broken open by Good Friday, overflowing with joy at the news of the empty tomb.

Do you have timeless and beautiful Easter memories? If so, call them up. Thank you, Aunt Margaret, for those heavenly chocolate Easter eggs, with each of our names in gorgeous pink script.

Thank you, Sister Genevieve, for teaching us the music for Holy Week. Our eighth grade class led all the music for the entire Triduum. As always in my life, I was in the right place at the right time.

Thank you, kind parish of my youth. You opened the choir loft to children, and the indelible mark of mission and music has never left me.

Thank you, Egeria, you intrepid fourth-century nun. You traveled from Spain to the Holy Lands to see how the Christians in Jerusalem celebrated Easter. Your fascinating diary, discovered in 1884, is the reason our Holy Weeks are so stunningly beautiful.

Thank you, St. Mary Magdalene, disciple to the disciples. Your witness rings out to the farthest reaches of the earth: the grave is empty!

Death couldn’t hold the Author of Life. And it won’t hold you either.

What are your favorite Easter memories?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle C

13 April 2019

Reflecting on Luke 22:14-23:56

How does Jesus begin his entrance into the city of his death? He’s been journeying toward Jerusalem for the last ten chapters of Luke’s gospel. This journey must have taken several weeks. Or was it years? Or was it his entire lifetime? Or did the journey begin with the creation of the world, and culminate on Calvary, and find its fullest meaning very close to Golgotha, in a new tomb that would only be inhabited for a moment?

Having made the journey for which he was born, for which he came into the world, Jesus stood outside the city and gave two disciples directions to a colt─-a peacetime animal—and instructed them to just untie it and bring it to him for his entrance into Jerusalem.

Imagine that. The owner of the tethered colt sees two people untying it, and leading it away. He asks, “Why are you taking my property?” They answer, as if this solves everything, “The Master has need of it.” And that’s that. The creature that will carry Jesus into the city that will murder him goes off with the disciples. The owner, apparently, understands perfectly. We can imagine him kneeling as he gives his colt to those in service of the Master.

In our lives, death and suffering, resurrection and life are always hovering. Jesus is always making his way to us, giving instructions of where to find what we “own” so that it can be given to him in order to bring life out of our deaths.

The warmth and rock-hard faith you’ve been withholding because others might see who you really are? You’ll need to give all that up. The Master has need of it.

In what ways is your life a heart-felt Hosanna?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

11 April 2019

Reflecting on Isaiah 43:16-21

Let’s gaze on the first reading (Isaiah 43: 16-21) for a moment. Every day we read of suicides of tormented young people who need this scripture so desperately.

Years ago I was stricken with a sudden staph infection.  At noon I was going to lunch with a friend. At 3pm I was in the emergency room, screaming. Months later, after five hospitalizations, the infection was cleared. But the shock of the experience left me badly shaken.

A psychologist-friend approached me with a new treatment for PTSD. Over the course of three months she worked with me, placing small electrodes in each palm. She invited me to remember the frightening experience of being helpless and in pain. The electrode in one hand pulsed mildly.

Then she invited me to think of my safe places, my loved places, and she gave the electrode in the other hand a stronger pulse. Over time the pulse of the electrode in that palm was increased to the point that it overrode the strength of the pulse in the other palm. She forged a path in my brain―a way through the Sea, Isaiah would say―that diminished the memory of the terror and increased my peaceful spirit.

Remember not the former things, we pray for those who have witnessed school shootings and other horrors. Behold, God is doing something new. Watch, and it will spring forth.

Isaiah knew about PTSD. He was speaking to the traumatized Jews who had witnessed the burning of Jerusalem and had been taken into exile. He begged them to let God’s liberating power override their terrible memories.

The God of “something new” can heal our memories. Hold fast to this powerful scripture.

What approach have you used to stop “pondering the things of the past”?

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

30 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

This is NOT sitting easy with the neighbors as that half-starved kid makes his way home. They hear he is at the gate, and they prepare a nice gauntlet of taunts, spittle, and even belts to welcome him as he passes through them on his way to the house.

But look! Here comes the shameful father, with his robe lifted up and running like a girl right through the gauntlet! He throws his arms around this disgraceful son and even kisses him! And now he’s calling for a beautiful robe and putting it on this rotten son.

Is this what we can all expect now? Are we supposed to just hand over their inheritance when our greedy sons say, “Drop dead. I want my money”?

And to think of how he spent it! He’s probably filled with infection after consorting with the Gentile dancing girls. And look how skinny he is! Rumor has it he worked as a PIG FEEDER. A Jewish boy, feeding the swine.  How disgraceful. He is dead to us.

At least they didn’t give him any of that nauseating gruel they give the pigs. He’d have diarrhea for a month after eating those bitter berries.

He and his father are embracing. He is weeping, and his father is dancing and laughing and ―hold up―is that a ring he’s putting on his finger? And shoes on his feet? This son who ran away is being treated like nothing ever happened, like he’s a regular member of the family!

Oh, boy. Is that the fattened calf on the spit? That’s enough to feed the whole village. And we’re all invited! And just the smell is making us hungry!

Well, sure we’re going to the party. Let’s at least hear what he has to say.

How have you been lured into forgiveness through God’s artful powers of persuasion?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

27 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 13:1-9

So, for three years the owner comes to the fig tree for fruit and is disappointed not to find any. Hmm. The owner must not be Jewish, because every good Jew knows that the Book of Leviticus prohibits anyone from eating the fruit of any fruit tree for the first three years of its life (19:23-25).

The gardener is obviously an observant Jew, because he sneaks around this non-Jewish landowner and plucks off the early fruits― the unripened fruits―so he won’t find any when he comes.

But the landowner has another surprise coming, because next year, when the tree FINALLY bears its mature, delicious fruit, its produce belongs to God and not to him. It’s only when this long-awaited fig tree is five years old that its fruit may rightfully be eaten by the one who owns the land on which it’s planted.

This might be a Jewish joke on the Roman occupiers. Look how savvy the hired hand is! He tricks the Romans into observing the laws of Moses! Wouldn’t they be surprised if they knew they were behaving like Jews? Maybe they’ll give up and go home already.

Or maybe it’s a parable about delayed gratification. God gave us rules about trying to get to food―or anything, really― too early. We should exercise the discipline of patience in all things. The best fruits come to those who don’t squander their lives on the easy things, but work hard for that which is worth the wait.

But these are the secondary fruits. The first fruit is this: we are all on borrowed time. Take advantage of every grace offered yesterday, and make your life a delicious offering today.

How is your life a sweet fruit?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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