Monthly Archives: April 2011

Easter Sunday – Cycle A

23 April 2011

Reflecting on John 20:1-9

There is, in the city of Jerusalem, a most peaceful garden.  It has a water cistern that dates back to the time of Christ, and in fact a first-century tomb is there too.  This “garden tomb” is close to a rock quarry, with a particular rock that resembles a skull.  This quarry would have been “just outside the city gates” in Jesus’ day.  Might it have been “the skull place”—Golgotha—where Jesus was crucified, and might the garden “nearby” have been the very one that was offered by Joseph of Arimathea as the burial place for Jesus?

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

It’s so peaceful to pray there.  The flowers are always in bloom.  The birds sing.  It’s exactly how you’ve pictured it all your life.  You want so badly for this to be the place.

But of course it’s not the place.  The actual site of the empty tomb is the huge, cavernous, ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Constantine’s mother St. Helena built this  iconic memorial over the very rock of Golgotha and the very ground in which Jesus was buried, and from which he rose.

Today, millions of people swarm in and around the church every day of the year. It’s loud, and it’s dirty, and it’s so, so old.  And it’s exactly the place.  They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him. We want him to be in the quiet, lovely garden.  But he is, always, just where we are.  He is risen, and he is with us, in the ages, in the suffering, in the clamor.  The tomb is empty, because he lives now with us. ALLELUIA.

Do you have a special place where you sense the risen Lord?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Palm/Passion Sunday – Cycle A

17 April 2011

Reflecting on Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

Okay, can we please talk about something?  It’s that responsorial psalm today, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? We sing it over and over after the first reading, and then we have to hear it again in the reading of Matthew’s Passion, when Jesus quotes from that very psalm (22) in his last agonizing breaths on the cross.

I hate that.  It hurts me every time I hear it, and have to contemplate that Jesus, in his last moments, experienced the betrayal of the Father.  But finally, after years of uneasiness with that portrayal of Jesus’ death, I learned something that healed that hurt immediately, and I wished someone had told me decades earlier what I now pass on to you:

In his agony, Jesus the Jew calls out the beginning verse of that well-known psalm of lament:  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? There are some women “standing at a distance” who have followed him since he set out from Galilee to Jerusalem.  They surely know this psalm, and in synagogue style they respond to his introduction by reciting the rest of it, all 31 verses, including the triumphant end, when the suffering one proclaims that all will proclaim the Lord to generations still to come, his righteousness to a people yet unborn.  AMEN.

Jesus the Faithful One knows that he has not been betrayed, that the Father’s great love will be proclaimed to all generations forever.  He calls out the first verse Psalm 22 with his last breaths, knowing that “those standing at a distance’—and that’s us, too, isn’t it?―will respond by praying the rest of the psalm for him.  Jesus knows how it ends, and how it all will end.  Forever and ever.  AMEN.

Is there a psalm, a song, a Scripture or a prayer that will be on your lips as you die?

 What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

10 April 2011

Reflecting on John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

Through the years I have had the great privilege to visit the Holy Land many times, but the only souvenir I have ever kept from my pilgrimages hangs on my wall, directly over my parent’s wedding picture of October 31, 1938.  They smile out at me, these two young, beautiful, hopeful newlyweds, in the everyday clothes common to Depression-era weddings of the day.

Could they have imagined what the future would hold?  The war in Europe was just getting going.  They and everyone they knew would be changed by it.  In ten years their children would finally arrive, and eventually their robust youth would give way to middle age.  They would lose their parents and their siblings.  They would raise their children in the faith, and that faith would sustain them when their own son went off to war.

The beautiful bride and groom are gone now.  But their children live on, remembering them, loving them, knowing that at our own deaths we will see them again.  When Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus call him out of the cave he climbed, climbed up from his dark tomb.  I’ve seen that tomb.  I have taken a torch and climbed down into its belly, and imagined the sound of Jesus, calling into its depths Lazarus!  Come out! And the dead man came out.

So it was from here that I carried home my sole souvenir, a small mosaic that says “Bethany”.  It keeps watch over the young newlyweds on the wall, and all their children and grandchildren, whose pictures surround them now.  When our earthly bodies lie in death we’ll find an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

What do you think it must have been like for Lazarus to come out of that tomb?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

2 April 2011

Reflecting on John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

It’s the last line of today’s Gospel that’s the real zinger.  Jesus, you’re not suggesting that we are the ones who are blind, are you?  Because we know how God has set up the world.  Good things happen to good people, and bad people are blind from birth.  Okay, maybe this guy isn’t directly responsible for his blindness, but his parents must have been sinners, right?  And we know for sure that YOU are a sinner because you brazenly heal on the Sabbath!

Isn’t their response a little similar to ours when we hear about something terrible that has happened to someone we know?  Yes, it’s terrible that she has lung cancer, but she probably smoked, and I don’t smoke, so I’ll never get lung cancer. Yes, it’s horrible about the car accident, but I’ll bet he wasn’t wearing his seat belt, and I always wear my seat belt, so I’ll never be in a car accident.

There is something in us that needs to find a reason why bad things happen to very good people, because it’s too terrifying to admit that they could happen to us too. And if we can admit that, perhaps we are also ready to acknowledge that God can shake us from our cynicism, peel away our layers of bravado, and actually heal us too.  It’s not a trick.  It’s not a plot hatched years ago to make us think the man was blind when he really could see all this time.  His parents weren’t in on it, and he wasn’t in on it.  That man they call Jesus touched him, and now he can see.

And if we can’t believe that, we are more blind than the man who was born blind and now sees.

In what ways have you felt the healing touch of Jesus in your life?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015