Monthly Archives: December 2013

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph – Cycle A

31 December 2013

Reflecting on Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Rest on the Flight into Egypt Olivier-Merson 1869

Something very interesting is hidden inside that gospel story today of the return the Holy Family to “the land of Israel”.  We are more familiar with Luke’s Christmas stories, bracketed by the census that took them to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in a cave because “there was no room for them in the inn”, and their return back home to Nazareth.

But a close reading of the first two chapters of Matthew’s gospel betrays a significant difference in the two accounts.  Here, there is no journey down to Bethlehem at all.  Joseph lives there, and has taken Mary into his home.  When the Magi find them, the Star is hovering over the “house” where they live.  They flee from Herod into Egypt, and when they return they intend to settle back in Bethlehem.  It’s only because they are afraid of Archelaus that they travel north into the Galilee.  They choose to settle in a tiny village called Nazareth.

But there is no mention of this village anywhere in the Old Testament.  The word “Nazareth”, or “nazar”, means “consecrated” or “separated”.  Might it be that the Jews who settled there in the decades before the birth of Jesus purposely named the town “Nazareth” because they believed that the Messiah would come from their ranks, that they were consecrated and separate from the others?  Consequently, might Mary and Joseph have chosen that village because they knew that, indeed, they carried the Messiah in their arms?

Luke and Matthew have different memories of when the Holy Family reached Nazareth, but the theology is the same: the Long Awaited One is here.

What family stories seem to “conflict” at your Christmas table?

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 Advent – Cycle A

21 December 2013

Reflecting on Mt. 1: 18-24

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

When my friend Emily was a freshman in high school, she was reading Matthew’s gospel in Theology class.  When she came across the section where the angel told Joseph to name the child “Jesus” she was stumped.  Huh?  Why does the angel tell Joseph to name the Baby “Jesus” when, just one sentence later, we read that all this is to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah said, which was that the Child would be called  “Emmanuel”?

I nodded wisely and assured her that once she was older she would understand the many hidden complexities of Matthew’s gospel. Then I went home and scrambled to find a decent answer to give her.  It’s only taken me twelve years, Emily, but here’s my attempt.

The author of Matthew’s gospel (which we are now reading for an entire year) desperately wants us to know that Christ will never leave us.  The historical Jesus, the actual person who was born in Bethlehem, smuggled out into Egypt by his wise father, baptized by John in the Jordan, began his public ministry in the Galilee at thirty, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, suffered, died, and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea―that historical person, our Savior, was named Jesus (or “Yeshua”—God saves).

After his resurrection, on the day he ascended to heaven, he said these very last words to his disciples, and to us: Behold, I am WITH YOU always, even to the end of time. So, Matthew’s 28 chapters begin and end with that promise.  He is with us.  Emmanuel. In sickness and health and sorrow and joy, and yes, for all eternity.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

In what ways do you sense that Christ is “with you”?

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

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

14 December 2013

Reflecting on Mt. 11: 2-11

© Jesus Film Media

Waiting.  It’s excruciating.  I’m not thinking about the usual waitings: in line, in traffic, at the doctor’s office.  Those are character-building, and give us daily opportunities to pray for all the people who got to the post office ahead of us, who were daydreaming when the light changed, who were getting serious news from the doctor while we were reading magazines in the waiting room.

I’m thinking about the kind of waiting that’s truly painful.  Like waiting for the nausea medication to work when you have the stomach flu.  Or waiting for the sound of the garage door opener when your teenagers are two hours past curfew.  Or waiting for the biopsy results on that asymmetrical mole with the irregular borders.

It seems that all creation quivers in a constant state of waiting.  Chipmunks are good waiters. They store seeds and nuts under their nests in late summer, then rouse themselves from sleep during the winter to eat what they have wisely stored. Bears are expert waiters.  They store fat before winter, and then hibernate in a sleep so deep that they don’t wake until spring.  And then, get out of their way.  They are ravenous from their months of waiting.

And don’t even mention the word “waiting” to butterflies.  They are creation’s superstars of waiting.

John the Baptist, shut up in Herod’s prison, knew he was coming to the end of his earthly waiting.  He sent his disciples to see and hear the One of whom the prophets foretold.

Go and tell John what you see.  The blind see, the lame walk, the poor have the Good News preached to them.

Dark night is done.  Bright morning dawns at last.

What are you waiting for?

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

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

8 December 2013

Reflecting on Isaiah 11: 1-10

Imagine that Someone was offering you the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Isaiah mentions in today’s reading.  Here are your choices:

Wisdom:   Those who possess wisdom will save the world.  Let this gift work in you, helping you to order your life around the things that endure.  Let the words of your mouth, and the meditations of your heart, be touched by wisdom this year.

Understanding:    What a comfort it is to have a friend who truly understands you.  We make quick judgments of people these days.  Those with the gift of understanding are never quick to judge, always quick to listen.

Counsel:    This supernatural gift works with your intuition to help you discern God’s work in your life.  God is healing and saving every day.  Use your voice and your life to be God’s co-agent.

Strength:    Strength is standing with a friend when she is losing the positive regard of your other friends.  Strength is the day-to-day showing up, at work, at home, at prayer.  As the poster of the tree, battered but standing, in my oncologist’s office says, Do not pray for an easy life.  Pray to be a strong person.

Knowledge:    There’s nothing as peaceful as knowing your own truth.  But don’t confuse this with what the culture wants you to know.  There is a Spirit-voice that will lead you in deeper peace and knowledge of how you want to be in the world.

Fear of the Lord:    When was the last time you stopped the car in mid-errand and just looked at Creation all around you?  Breathe in the crisp winter air.  Revel in the profound changes that this season brings.  Don’t go a single day without the awareness of the AWESOMENESS of God.

Which gift do you need the most right now?

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

First Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

2 December 2013

Reflecting on Matthew 24: 37-44

Here’s a thought.  What if the Second Coming of Christ isn’t being held off by God, but held off by us?  What if, as St. Charles Borromeo suggests, “Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again”, and we’re the ones who are delaying his coming?

Here are a few of the ways I’ve experienced the “drawing near” of Christ in my life:

  1. When, outside of “sacred surroundings”, people share about the ways in which Christ is working in their lives.  Or, just because they want to, people sing psalms and hymns together.  Or they talk about the homily in the car on the way home.  Or they pray together, just because they saw each other in church and know that Jesus is their connection.
  2. When people who were estranged join hands in friendship.  There is nothing more powerful than forgiveness, no quicker way to enter the kingdom of God than to watch enemies begin to speak to one another.  Especially if we are the ones estranged, and we are the ones to make the first move toward reconciliation.    Test this out this holiday season, and let the Prince of Peace overwhelm you with his immediate presence.
  3. When we are forced out of our comfort zones and find ourselves making friends with people of every race, language, and way of life.  People, after all, are the crowning glory of God’s creation.  Find ways to enjoy the company of people different from you, and guess what?  There is Jesus, right in your midst.

The advent of the kingdom is only this: Draw near to him, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8).

In what ways will you help the kingdom draw near this year?

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