Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

19 July 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 13: 1-23

Words, words, words. Unlike Eliza Doolittle, I never get sick of words.  I adore them―fat words, skinny words, funny words, and, my favorite, lovely words.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can always heal us. And, like the rain that falls and never returns to heaven without nourishing the earth, a timely and wise word spoken to a child in the last century is still bearing fruit in this one.

A kind word is like that fecund seed in Jesus’ parable. It just keeps producing harvest after harvest. Here in mid-summer, with crops growing like mad―and the ever-fertile weeds growing right along with them―it’s a holy thing to recall the good words planted in us through the years, and how they have never failed to give us protection and shade in the heat of uglier, unkinder words that have traveled next to them in our hearts throughout our lives.

Here are some words spoken to me at some point that are every bit as delicious to me today as they were decades ago when I first heard them:

Ha! You’re funny.

You’re my best friend.

Tell that story again.

I love you.

Will you marry me?

There are, of course, the painful words, the critical words, but those words that at first hurt like weeds can often behave like fruitful seeds. Such is the mystery of the grace of humility; if we are open to receive it, it can produce great fruit as well.

Are you still simmering over a hurtful word from long ago? Ask God to bring back to your memory the hundreds of fruitful words that have also shaped you. Love wins over weeds.

What are some of the favorite words spoken to you in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 July 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 11: 25-30

My measly six-block walk feels like six miles when I do it in the heat of the day, which somehow it always is. I always start out early in the morning, with a very light jacket and a water bottle. Three blocks in and I’ve got the jacket wrapped around my waist, and by the time I’m home the water bottle feels like a ten-pound barbell.

My fantasy is always the same, that my husband will come along on his bike and carry the jacket, the bottle, and, finally, me, over the finish line. Somehow I always make it―tiny workout that it is―but I’ve never once done it without wishing someone would come along and make it easier.

What a heavy load the Jews of Jesus’ day carried. They labored long and hard in the desert sun, and a good portion of what they earned went straight to the Romans. They were also loaded down with the burdens of the Mosaic Law, which, although received in joy centuries before at Mount Sinai, had become impossible to fulfill because of the hundreds of additions and legalities imposed as time went on.

What an enormous relief the gospel was for the disciples, and for all of us who are carrying around too much stuff.  In the heat of the summer it’s best to travel light, and there is nothing lighter than the yoke of forgiveness and unconditional love which Jesus wants to place on our shoulders, while removing the weights of regret and remorse.

Are you heavily burdened and praying for relief? I pray that the Body of Christ is on the way, right around the corner, ready to carry you, and all your stuff, across the finish line.

How do you help carry the burdens of those who are heavily laden?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

1 July 2017

Reflecting on 2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a

Can something be done for her? I love that. Elisha visits this family so often that the “woman of influence” (I love that too) sets up a little room for him up on the roof, with a bed and a table and, I’ll bet, some lovely fruit and bread for the morning.

Elisha, who is well known and, perhaps, a tad entitled to these niceties, sees this kind woman for who she is―gracious, thoughtful, industrious―and wonders if anything can be done for her.

Have you ever been surprised by the kindness of someone who really saw you, really understood the effort you make to keep others comfortable? So much of what we do in life is invisible to everyone but God. That extra attention the engineer gives to building a bridge that is not just adequate, but truly safe, comes to mind. No one sees that triple-checking, but life is better because of it.

I have an oncologist who is so meticulous, so loving in the care he gives his patients that I joke that after he saves my life maybe he could change the oil in my car too. Can something be done for him? I always wonder.

I love the people in this world who see the person struggling with mental illness and say, “Can something be done for her?” In many parishes, a staff position is dedicated to noticing the needs of the homebound, the immigrants, the young families juggling life with a new baby, and asking, “Can something be done for them?”

And what about you? Can something be done for you? God wants to know. We all do.

Have you ever noticed someone, and acted immediately on their behalf?

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, EVERYONE! MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

28 June 2017

Reflecting on Jeremiah 20: 10-13

Oh, Jeremiah. We really get you. You sound just like us when we were, say, fifteen. Back then we knew that our every word, every behavior was being scrutinized by our “friends” and used for conversation  at the slumber party to which we had received no invitation. How the memories still sting.

You were a young man, maybe even a teenager, when you wrote, “All those who were my friends are on the watch for some misstep of mine.” It turns out that you weren’t paranoid. Your friends WERE talking about you behind your back. They were talking about your prophetic warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem, and going back through the years to remember how you’d ALWAYS been addicted to drama, ALWAYS been a worry-wart, ALWAYS been  looking for attention.

Yes, you were right and they were wrong. And your prayer―so full of the hurt feelings of a young person―was answered. They died, and you lived. But I’ll bet that, seeing your friends tortured and killed, or taken into captivity, was not the satisfying moment you thought it would be. I’ll bet that you begged for their release before Nebuchadnezzar. But he wasn’t exactly the reasonable guy you hoped for, was he?

You probably hadn’t heard today’s responsorial psalm yet, since it wasn’t put in its final form until the grandchildren of those dragged away that day returned to Jerusalem. Let me remind you of it now: The Lord hears the poor, and those who are his own he spurns not (69:33).

It’s a blessing to be little. It’s a blessing to be humbled. That kind of poverty puts you directly in the center of God’s heart.  Lucky you.

What memories do you have of God’s great love during a time of being humbled?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle A

17 June 2017

Reflecting on John 6: 51-58

My friend John’s story about going to the football game with his dad comes back to me every year on this feast day.  “I’ll never give up my season tickets.  I go to every game. It’s the place where my dad and I have our best talks.”

Actually, his dad died nearly thirty years ago. Growing up, John and his dad enjoyed the entire Game Day ritual―Mass, breakfast, driving to the stadium, firing up the grill, hamburgers, and football. They talked, and ate, and shared in the triumphs and humiliations of the game. And the next week, if the team was in town, they did it all again.

John grieved horribly when his dad died in the spring of 1990. He was his best friend. They had built so many memories. He would never see him again.

Except, of course, on Sunday afternoons, in the sun and wind and cold, and the hot dogs and beer, and the cheering and the booing, and memories so real that John feels his dad next to him at every game.  He goes to see his dad, to really feel his presence.

There are many sensory triggers that can transport us. Think about pipe smoke.  Can you smell it? I can, and suddenly my grandpa is with me.  A Beach Boys song on a summer day can bring childhood friends right into the room. These cues make the past Really Present.

As Catholics, we get that. Every Sunday we place ourselves in the position to Re-Member the One who loved us to his death. In the Eucharist the Beloved Past becomes the Real Presence. This is the feast that tells us who we are.

What sensory experiences bring the past right back to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A

12 June 2017

Reflecting on 2 Cor. 13: 11-13

It was really just a teeny fender bender. I was pulling out onto the highway from the ramp, and then I wasn’t. (Right now you might be thinking how much you hate it when drivers give every indication that they are moving out and then don’t.)

So, yeah, he bumped into me. Furious, he jumped out of his truck and ran over to my car, screaming in frustration. A few expletives later and he was on his phone, calling the police.

Then I asked him who he thought would get the ticket. “I know,” he said. “I’m getting the ticket. I bumped into you.”  Since neither of our cars was damaged, I asked if he couldn’t just call back and say we settled things and were moving on, since we were blocking the ramp. “No,” he said, much calmer now, “it’s the law. I need to report this.”

While the officer collected our information I asked him―by now we were addressing each other by our first names―if I couldn’t just tell the officer that I didn’t want him to get a ticket since he was going SO SLOWLY when he hit me, neither of ours cars was damaged, and neither of us was hurt. “You would do that?” he asked.

It was so easy. The officer agreed that it was so minor no ticket needed to be given.  And the guy who had been screaming at me minutes earlier said, “Kathy, I’m sorry.” And two strangers hugged on the ramp and moved on to have, indeed, a very nice day.

Agree with one another. Live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

What opportunities did you take this week to bring peace to your world?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Pentecost Sequence, 2017 – Cycle A

5 June 2017

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

At first we understood them not at all.

What were these utterances―

This glossolalia pouring off their tongues

And into the street

And into the world?

In time, though, our clogged ears opened.

We saw enemies begin to speak to one another

And those who were estranged

Join hands in friendship.

We saw hospitals built, and the sick healed.

We saw Francis and Clare, Vincent and Louise,

Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal,

Benedict and Dominic and Ignatius, Catherine and Jeanne and Elizabeth,

The contemplative Johns and the powerful Teresas,

And ourselves―yes, ourselves! ―Radically forgiving

Radically listening

Radically understanding

Those who don’t see things the way we do.

And then, like a mighty wind, a new heaven and earth began to take shape.

And from then on there were no “foreign” languages.

From then on we all spoke just one language

The Holy Spirit’s language

The first language, the only language

The language of Love.

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Ascension – Cycle A

28 May 2017

Reflecting on Acts 1: 12-14

A bold thought occurred to me the other day. What if the Holy Spirit can do utterly wonderful, breathtaking things in our lives, without our even praying for them? Sometimes I wonder if the strong Catholic instinct to work for justice and peace keeps us in a state of 24/7 alert. I know that I forget that the Holy Spirit is still working miracles that have nothing to do with my efforts. Duh.

You know, it’s not like we did so many good works that God decided to give us this wonderful world as a reward. Before any human came to life, the Spirit was hovering over the waters. The Spirit was there at the beginning of the beginning, working the miracle of life, and rivers, and mountains, and sun and moon, and, of course, us. And it was God’s glorious initiative to work in intimate concert with Mary to bring the Savior into the world.

The Holy Spirit came upon her, and it had nothing to do with any good works anyone did. It was God’s mighty power, and Blessed Mother’s “yes,” that saved us.

I think about that in this week before Pentecost. What if God is working a miracle in your life right now? What if the Holy Spirit is curing an addiction of a loved one, or healing a marriage, or luring an adult child back to the comfort of faith? What if God is answering long-abandoned prayers that you gave up on because you decided God’s answer was “no”? The word “Spirit” means “breath.” I challenge you to take note of what God is doing in your life. It will take your breath away.

Think about this past year. What has the Spirit worked in you that you may not even have noticed?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

22 May 2017

Reflecting on Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17

Dearest New Christian,

I saw you last week at Mass. Who could miss you? You had that look of joy and deep peace that comes from Jesus. One month ago, at the Easter Vigil, you walked, tears streaming down your face, right into the baptismal font, making your baptismal promises, receiving water, oil, and light, your face showing the deep serenity that comes from seeking and finding the One who loves you beyond all telling.

This process of receiving the Holy Spirit is intense! And you are intense too. We all see the way you listen to the scriptures―especially these Easter scriptures, which are all about YOU and the love that the earliest disciples had for those who were first hearing about Jesus, and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), and him risen (Matt. 28:6), and him radiantly alive in those who believe (Acts 8:17).

I just had to ask, because the world simply does not give the peace that I see on your face: “How has your life been since your baptism a month ago?”

“Wonderful. We are so happy. We were all baptized together, our whole family. And now we all go up to Communion together. We feel so blessed.”

For those of us whose parents brought us to the font as infants, and who were raised up in the Church, this is the season of gratitude. We didn’t have to fight for what our newest Christians have finally received.

Are we matching the joy of the newly baptized? The verse from today’s first letter of Peter must be ours: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (3:15).

How are you cooperating with grace to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

15 May 2017

Reflecting on John 14: 1-12

If you saw me driving around these days you’d probably worry about my mental health. That’s because I’m listening to Charles Dickens’ third and funniest novel, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Parts of this book are so hilarious I’m laughing out loud, all alone in the car.

There are, of course, terrible, cruel adults oppressing innocent, orphaned children. But, oh, how luminous are the adults in the book who model Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”

In a world of greedy, greasy sociopaths stalking the streets of London, we meet the Cheeryble brothers, a pair of middle-aged, millionaire businessmen who inhabit every gift of the Holy Spirit, and spend their lives cheerfully (note their onomatopoeic surname) carrying out the corporal works of mercy.

It’s so healing to observe their kindness and thoughtfulness toward each other. These two brothers cherish each other. They abound in gratitude for their business acumen, which has brought them a fortune that they delight in sharing with everyone who comes their way.

Somehow they are still shocked and outraged that any child would ever be hurt in their beloved city. No hungry person is ever met with anything but the warmest friendship. Jobs are found, apartments are found, food and fireplaces and new clothes are found.

Dickens allows us to imagine a world where everyone behaves with outrageous, passionate love, doing the works that Jesus did. The two brothers prefigure, I suspect, his later immortal character Ebenezer Scrooge, who wakes up just in time to learn that humankind was supposed to be his business.  That’s our business too, of course.  So, how’s business?

In this Easter season, how are you doing the works that Jesus did?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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