Monthly Archives: August 2017

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

29 August 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 16: 13-20

It’s a good thing Jesus didn’t give me the keys to the kingdom. Lord knows where they would show up. In fact, if you happen to come across a little keychain with a red heart that is engraved The Story and You could you shoot me an e-mail? I’ve looked everywhere.

Although he wasn’t speaking literally when he handed the keys to Peter, Jesus was using the language of the household, the family.  Here’s the keys to the house, he said to Peter. Keep it safe from thieves and marauders. Keep it open for all who seek me. Keep it clean, and let plenty of fresh air and sunshine circulate. And keep the lights on, please. Don’t ever let my Church be a place of darkness.

We live in a time when the lights are, literally, going out in churches all over the world. In places of persecution, like Iraq and Syria, Christians have fled in historic numbers. In 1999, I was with a group of pilgrims who visited a Christian family in Bethlehem whose stone mason business had been operating since―imagine this―the time of Jesus. They had lived in the same neighborhood since the time of Christ. Five years later we returned to visit them. They were gone.

On the other hand, in the prosperous communities of the west, the gospel seems to be losing its power to draw people into church buildings. But here’s the thing: the buildings are not the church. The Church is the building—the living stones. And we need to be with each other―to sing, and pray, and hear the scriptures, and be restored by the Eucharist―in order to build the kingdom whose keys will never be lost.

In what ways are you helping to “keep the lights on” in your parish?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

20 August 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 15:21-28

She’s a Mama Bear, this woman.  She doesn’t know a thing about Moses or the prophets. But she does know that her daughter is tormented by a demon, and that Jesus has the ability to heal her. Do you think hell or heaven is going to stand in her way? Would they stand in your way, if your daughter was desperately ill and Jesus was passing by? I didn’t think so.

The funny thing, though, is that Jesus is a Mama Bear too. As ferociously as she loves her daughter, Jesus loves her more. Do you think hell or heaven is going to stop him from curing her? Not in a million years.

Sometimes, though, he uses a situation to teach the onlookers―say, for example, those disciples who are urging him to get rid of this tiresome mother―a thing or two about faith.  It’s so amazing that his closest friends, those who have been with him through so much, still don’t get that his power and grace are for EVERYONE who believes. Somehow, after all this time, they still want salvation to be just about the Jews.

So Jesus grabs this teaching moment and allows this faith-filled woman, this outsider, to take center stage and engage him in a dialog whose true target is not him at all, but the disciples. He knows a thing about a mother’s love. Look who his mother is! He allows her to “teach” him―and those who are listening in― about God’s merciful love to ALL people.

I love imagining the godstruck disciples. But mostly I love imagining the mother and Jesus, and the bear hug they must have shared as the demon left her daughter.

In what ways have you been a “mama bear” in praying to Jesus for your loved ones?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

20 August 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 14: 22-33

Here’s a thought. What if the real reason Peter jumped into the water and into the arms of Jesus was not that he was courageous enough to go, but because he was too terrified to stay? He must have gotten a lot of applause when he landed back in the boat, the storm calmed, Jesus finally with them after fending for themselves all night.

Whew! Peter, that was brave! I wish I had your faith! True, you faltered there for a second, but how courageous of you to leave the boat and head towards Jesus!

Now, Peter may have been squelching a guffaw at this point, and thinking to himself, Seriously? You thought that was brave? I was just trying to save my neck.

I know I’ve received a lot of credit in my life for “being brave” about things I’d change in a second if I could.  The things I actually might be able to do something about remain undone, because those would require actual courage.

But we have to give Peter this: when he had the choice to reach back for the safety of the boat or to reach out for Jesus, he reached with all his might. That is the rock-hard (Petra, or Peter) faith upon which our Church is built. When Peter, scaredy cat that he often was, had the choice between the boat behind him and Jesus ahead of him, he made the right choice.

That was the real grace of that night on the sea. Peter showed us which direction to go when the waves surround us. Next time you’re in a storm, try it. I promise you’ll find strength in the stretch.

In what ways have you “stretched out” for Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – Cycle A

5 August 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 17: 1-9

“Once, when I was in the service in Iraq, a bird I had never seen before flew right in front of me and stared at me.  From that moment on I knew I was going to make it home okay.”

“Once, when my mom was dying, I got a call from a friend I hadn’t seen from high school. I can still remember the goosebumps I had, realizing that God was near me.”

Oh, the things we remember. These are actual “moments of encounter with God” that students have shared with me through the years. They have two things in common.  First, the comforting experience occurred during a time of great stress in the person’s life. Second, even though it only happened once, they never forgot it, not even a lifetime later.

Were they “God sightings”? Well, they certainly weren’t visions of a transfigured Jesus on a mountain. But their effects were the same. We enshrine those moments in that sacred place where we store wonder. We “build tents” around our memories of encounters with the Divine so as to recover them throughout our lives.

The three disciples up on Tabor knew something about stress. They had left their lives behind in order to follow the Rabbi. The hostile Jewish authorities, and the Romans, waited in the wings. The next time they would be alone with Jesus would be in Gethsemane. No wonder they longed to stay on the mountain.

But what of those who honestly report that they have never once felt the nearness of God? No worries. Scripture has lots of people who saw actual miracles, and then forgot and despaired of God’s goodness.

In the end, it’s the waiting in joyful hope that gets you to the finish line.

How will you watch for God’s comforting presence in your life today?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015