Monthly Archives: March 2012

Palm/Passion Sunday – Cycle B

31 March 2012

Reflecting on Mark 14: 1-15:47

As I stand with the 1.4 billion Christians who will hear Mark’s Passion today I remember again why I love Jesus so much.  I love him because he healed, and forgave, and brought forth the kingdom of God.  But most of all I love Jesus  because there is no suffering that I will ever have that he hasn’t already suffered,  no betrayal or terror or agonizing death that he hasn’t also experienced.  I love him for that.

I have friends who have been lied to by their family members, cheated out of pensions by their employers, betrayed by their spouses.   Just after Jesus agonized in the Garden about the suffering that would soon overtake him, his beloved friend Judas brought a crowd carrying swords and torches into Gethsemane and said, “The one I kiss is the one.  Arrest him.” Jesus has redeemed this.

I’ve read of mothers who have watched their children die painfully.  I’ve seen my sweet husband stand, weeping, in front of the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica,  crying with Mary as she held her crucified Son in her arms.  Jesus has redeemed this.

Last week my brave friend Margie dealt with the unending pain of her chronic illness. My gentle friend Karen stood grieving at the grave of her father.  My gracious friends Eileen and Mike suffered through the terrors of Mike’s surgery to remove a brain tumor.  My brave friends Mary Ellen and Dorothy and Eric  faced another day with a terminal illness.  Jesus knows their pain, their fear, their suffering.  By his cross he has redeemed all of our terrors, our agonies, our sleepless, anxious nights.  He doesn’t know of them. He knows them.

Oh, Jesus.  We love you for that.

What particular part of Jesus’ Passion can you most understand?

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 © 2013

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

26 March 2012

Reflecting on John 12:20-33

I’ve been thinking a lot about wheat lately.  I asked my friend Bob, a farmer and horticulturist, to talk to me about the mysteries of seeds and harvests.  In a conversation packed with fascinating insights connecting farming and faith he said, “The farmer knows what to expect in the future, because he (or she) has seen what God has done in the past.”

My friend Kathy offered this beautiful reflection on seeds, based on her years of teaching.  She said, “I’ve seen so many resurrections happen with my students through the years, and they’re never visible all at once.  The child who comes into your class in the fall is silently transformed through the months of the school year into the more confident and accomplished child who leaves your class in the spring.  Resurrections are silent things, sacred events begun in the dark earth and not visible to us until the green shoot rises out of the earth.”

Ah, beautiful.  No wonder Jesus used a farming image to explain what his death was about to accomplish.  When the Greeks coming for Passover—the premier agrarian festival!—asked to see him, Jesus took that opportunity to speak about the eternal life that was about to come from his death.

Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die it remains but a single grain with no life.

Like the husk of grain, we cling to this life because it’s all we know.  But there is a secret seed inside us, a soul that has been plotting resurrection quietly throughout our lives.  Jesus knew it, and promised it, even as the Cross beckoned.

What things have had to die in order for you to live more fully?

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 © 2013

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

17 March 2012

Reflecting on John 3: 14-21

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

A little background on this strange passage might help.  Way back in the time of the Israelite sojourn in the desert, the Hebrews suffered all the trials of desert life.  They were hungry and thirsty, and the daily manna was so monotonous that they cried out to God, saying We detest this miserable food! God then added to their misery by “sending” snakes to bite them!  Yikes.

They repented of their rebelliousness and asked God to forgive them and take the snakes away.  And here’s what’s fascinating: God’s cure for the “snake-bit Hebrews” was for Moses to mount a bronze serpent on a pole and have them gaze on it.  And those who had been bitten were cured (Numbers 21:4-9).  Wow.

We’re right in the middle of Lent now, and the struggle with our own hungers and thirsts is in full gear.  Might we take inspiration from Moses, and look straight into the heart of that which has wounded us so badly in our lives?  Can we ask for the grace to gaze on the piercings of our pasts? The jobs we’ve lost, the deaths we’ve grieved, the gifts we’ve squandered, the children who’ve struggled with addictions and loss of faith—Jesus asks us to look on them, and then look on Him, raised up on the cross.  Here, oh Israel, is your true healer.  Gaze on him.  Trust that he can take you the rest of the way, through this Lent and every wilderness ahead.

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 © 2013

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

11 March 2012

Reflecting on John 2:13-25

The Temple (Rembrandt)

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.

Ain’t that the truth?  How many times have we understood our lives only after the passing of years?  If only we had had the wisdom and poise we now possess way back when we really needed it, like at that high school dance, or when we were raising our kids, or caring for failing parents.

Today’s Gospel is a good example of this vexing reality.  When Jesus is asked on what authority he takes a whip to the moneychangers and the animals in the Temple, he says Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.

No one understands.  What could Jesus possibly mean?  Everyone knew the Temple had been under reconstruction for 46 years already (and in fact was not completed until 62 AD, only to be destroyed by the Romans eight years later.)  So what could Jesus mean?

Ah.  Perhaps the light dawned as Peter and the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene stood in the empty tomb that Easter morning and counted backwards.  Three days in the tomb.  In three days I shall raise the Temple up. Ah.  Jesus was the new Temple.  And he had to die in order to raise it up.

The Gospel says that after the resurrection Jesus’ disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

Even the disciples had to “understand backwards”.  That which was hidden in life became astonishingly clear through death. And after that, no threat of martyrdom could keep them from carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

What event in your life can you now understand more clearly than when it happened?

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 © 2013

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

5 March 2012

Reflecting on Genesis 22, 1-2,9a, 10-13,15-18

I wonder how many listeners of this terrifying story of the sacrifice of Isaac will say today, “I’d choose hell rather than slay my child in order to ‘do God’s will.’”

And those schizophrenic people who have killed their children because they “heard God’s voice” are now confined in mental institutions.

We search for a loving God here, and, truth be told, a loving Abraham too.  Because if we were Isaac, about to be strapped on the altar of sacrifice because our father was “obedient”, I think we’d say Who wants a father like that?

Of course, the story was written to address the horrific practice of child sacrifice in ancient Canaan, where the murder of male children was common in order to appease the indifferent gods of harvest.  The biblical story says to the minority Hebrews, “See? God never desires the murder of children.”

Second, it was easy for the earliest Christians to see Isaac as a “type” of Jesus himself, carrying the wood of the sacrifice (the Cross) up Mt. Moriah (later identified as Jerusalem).  God tells Abraham that God alone will provide the sacrifice, and we see in this story a prefigure of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Finally, this ancient story can touch us as we offer back to God what we have cherished and lost in our lives−−our parents, our loves, our health.  God asks, Can you trust me to restore them all to you?  Can you “reason that (I) am able to raise even from the dead” (Heb. 11:17)?

Easter awaits.

What loves have you entrusted to God?

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 © 2013