Monthly Archives: June 2018

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Cycle B

23 June 2018

Reflecting on Luke 1: 57-66, 80

How can John the Baptist be a saint? Thanks to Herod Antipas’s drunken promise at his birthday party to give his step-daughter Salome whatever she wished, John was beheaded in the dungeons of Machaerus long before the crucifixion of Jesus. That means he wasn’t around for the resurrection either, or for Pentecost. The Baptizer was never baptized into the body of Christ. Technically, then, he wasn’t even a Christian.

I’ll do you one better. Did you know that there were three people in history born without original sin? Let’s see. There’s Mary―and I confess I was 25 before I realized that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was about HER, not Jesus―and then Jesus, of course. I count two.

Give up? It’s John the Baptist. Here’s why. Catholic doctrine and tradition hold that, because he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary entered the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, he was cleansed of original sin and became filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. Since sin and the Spirit can’t exist together, the Church extrapolates that he was born without original sin. At his birth, then, he was as sinless as babies are after their baptisms. But, like all of us (except Jesus and Mary, who were conceived without original sin), he was subject to sin and death after his birth.

John is the transitional saint between the Old and New Testament. Everything about him, from his birth, to his challenging presence in the desert, to his pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God, to his horrific death for speaking truth to power, is prophetic. On this day, two billion people commemorate his birthday. Herod Antipas? Not so much.

What is your favorite story about John the Baptist?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

23 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 4:26-34

This section from Mark may be my favorite part of the entire New Testament. I’ve never seen the unfolding of our lives expressed more beautifully than when Jesus offers his brilliant analogy of the secret seed (4: 26-29).

This is how the kingdom of God is built: with daily kindness and graciousness, with the unrecognized nurture of parents and teachers, with ethical decisions that others take note of but never mention. Evening comes, and morning follows, year after year. And one day a person you don’t remember takes you aside in an airport and says, “I’ll never forget what you said to me that day. It changed my life.”

Or maybe one day, after years of struggle, you sit down and play a Mozart sonata with beauty and ease. Or maybe your daily Spanish tutorial finally pays off when you can converse with—or at least understand a conversation with—those nice people in the parish whom you’ve been smiling at for ages.

Or maybe your skinny jeans FINALLY fit. Or maybe you finally throw them away and stop measuring your right to live by whether you can wear them or not. Now THAT’S the kingdom of God, for sure.

My favorite line occurs after the farmer scatters seed on the land, and sleeps and rises, day after day, and the seed, without him doing anything else, sprouts and grows. How? He does not know.

Take fathers, for example. No child consciously decides which of his traits she’ll carry into the world. But studies show that his day-to-day presence and strength will help form her into a confident woman. How? She does not know. But such is the kingdom of God.

In what ways has your father most influenced your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

9 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 3:20-35

Oh, boy.  Here is that controversial section from Mark’s gospel that we almost never hear because the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time almost always gets bumped by Feast Days. Easter was so early this year, however, that this rare piece from Mark is getting a hearing. Let’s be brave and jump right in.

The relatives of Jesus hear that he is in town, and they go to “seize” him because they think he is “out of his mind.” Then, when His mother and brothers and sisters arrive, Jesus looks around the circle of disciples and says, “Whoever does the will of God is my mother and brother and sister.”

Who are these siblings of Jesus? The roots of the Church’s teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity go back all the way to the earliest Christians. An anonymous author wrote a wildly popular pamphlet called The Protoevangelium of James around 150 AD. This uncanonized booklet tells us the names of Mary’s parents (Joachim and Anna), and goes out of its way to explain that Mary took a vow of virginity as a young child.

Two centuries later another document, The History of Joseph the Carpenter, said that the “brothers and sisters” were actually the widower Joseph’s children from his earlier marriage. It needs to explain the presence of these siblings because the earliest Christians believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Curmudgeonly St. Jerome, of course, said “Phooey. Brothers and sisters means cousins.” End of conversation.

As to Mary coming to get Jesus, I totally get that. She knew the Cross was looming, and she was trying to buy time before that sword pierced her heart. You know your mom would do the same.

What controversial things did your mother do to keep you safe?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

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

5 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

Every once in a while I take inventory of my body, and on this great feast day I encourage you to do the same. I’ve decided to get over myself and stop ruing the inevitable ravages of age. As I survey what’s left of the body God gave me (after taking into account all the scars, which are considerable) I am astonished at how kind my body has been to me.

I still have all my limbs, two of every organ you’re supposed to have a spare for, a functioning heart and lungs, and if I lose my keys at least I know what the keys are for, so I’m good. I can ambulate from here to there and, best of all, grab my nieces and nephews and wrest hugs from them that feel better than any marathon run.

How about you? Can you muster up an attitude of gratitude for eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that love? That’s what this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is all about. After the Romans destroyed the body of Jesus, our God―whose very existence is about bringing life from death―raised it up, and ascended it to glory.

We who eat his body and drink his blood share in this transformation all throughout our lives. Yes, our hearing may dim with age. But the ears of our hearts will, over time, learn to discern the things that matter, the things that bring us good and not evil all the days of our lives.

In what ways is your body still serving you beautifully? No worries. Christ’s Body in you will do more than you can ask or imagine.

For what spiritual maturities are you thankful for today?

Kathy McGovern ©2018