Monthly Archives: September 2018

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

22 September 2018

Reflecting on Mark 9: 36-37

It was even more dangerous to be a child in the ancient world than it is today. The infant mortality rate was huge, and if you made it to your first birthday you still had to survive the many calamities that still plague children today. Think back on your own childhood. What accidents or illnesses might have proved fatal without modern medicine?

In times of food scarcity children were the last to be fed―first the boys, and, finally, the girls. In some Middle Eastern cultures, children were sacrificed to the gods in order to ensure good harvests, and rain. That little child whom Jesus called over had already beaten the odds a million times.

It was the very low economic and social status of children that Jesus was pointing out to his disciples. Here’s this child, he seems to say. Take a good look. When you serve a child, you serve me. That must have been incomprehensible to those who had followed Jesus for hundreds of miles, in deserts and on lakes, because of his great charisma and warmth. He had much higher status than a child, didn’t he?

If you’re like me, I’ll bet your friends are popular, attractive, accomplished.  As I survey my own “contacts,” I have to honestly admit that I don’t have any friends who have severe mental challenges. I don’t have any friends who are in prison, or who live on the street.

It’s not that I haven’t had the time to make these friends. I somehow found the time, after all, to cultivate the friends I have. Notice the ones you never notice, says Jesus. There I am, in the midst of them.

Who is the person you’ve been trying not to notice?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

17 September 2018

Reflecting on Mark 8:35

Many years ago I was blessed to come under the nurturing mentorship of the most well-known liturgical musician in our region. Kathy Faulkner was a legend in the years after the Council. It was she who brought the quality music of the renewal into our archdiocese, she who taught at the liturgical conferences, she who never lost energy or passion for training up prayerful and educated musicians for worship in the Church.

Through many decades I watched her tirelessly bring in new music, and we all delighted in her intuitive ability to find the perfect hymns for the scripture readings, year after year after year.

She and her husband Tom, also a musician, held late-night rehearsals in their big old house on an historic, leafy street.  The vibrant sounds of instruments and voices, thrilling to the beautiful new liturgical music of the 80s and 90s, wafted out into the neighborhood.

The big house is gone now, as are the young musicians singing around her piano. Kathy, long a widow, now lives in a small room in a nursing home. Her walls are empty, save a framed papal blessing, and a single scripture quote: Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

The stroke hasn’t affected her memory of a thousand hymns. Church choirs that visit the nursing home wonder at the woman in the first row, singing her heart out, who needs no music with which to follow along. She has hidden the words in her heart.

It might look like she lost everything by giving her life to Jesus. But one minute in her joyful presence reminds visitors that it was in losing her life that she found it.

What invitation from Jesus calls you to a more joyful life?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

8 September 2018

Reflecting on Mark 8: 27-35

Did you ever notice that so many of the people who are healed in the gospels have someone who loves them who brings them to the Healer? We don’t know the names of those who brought the deaf man to Jesus, but let’s look at them for a moment. Imagine they have heard that Jesus is in the vicinity. Urgently, they find this man whom they love and they travel―we don’t know how far or how long―to find him. Once they are within shouting distance they hustle their friend to the front of the crowd. They have done their part. They have loved someone so much that they have done whatever it takes to get him to Jesus.

The gospels are rich with these anonymous friends. Just one chapter earlier in Mark we read about people “scurrying about the surrounding country, bringing in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was” (6:55). Doesn’t that remind you of those gracious people who use their summers to travel to Lourdes in order to accompany those in wheelchairs to the grotto?

Mark’s most famous account of these passionate friends is of the ones who carried their loved one on a mat to get to the house where Jesus was staying, and then took the roof off and lowered him down (2:1-12). Ah! I hope you have friends who love you that much. I know I do.

We don’t need to read the gospels to see this love at work. Over 40 million Americans―many of them in less than stellar health themselves―are taking care of loved ones.

Oh Jesus, find them in the crowd. They need your healing touch today.

What friend in your life needs your tender care?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

2 September 2018

Reflecting on Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The other night I had a rare few hours of fairly intense pain. I was meditating and praying my way through it. It comforted me, somehow, to bow my head every time I prayed the word “Jesus.” I learned to do that as a child of the Catholic fifties, and probably haven’t done it since. But that night the tradition came back to me, just when I needed it most. It felt like Jesus was right there with me―he was, of course―and I felt a certain warmth through my body that stayed with me until the pain resolved.

Several weeks ago, when our priest-friends from Juarez were here, I noticed that they retained some of the pieties of my youth. They make the sign of the cross when an ambulance passes by, or when they pass a hospital. I haven’t seen that in many decades. It was really quite lovely.

I’m grateful to have these sacred gestures in my DNA. I love when we cross our foreheads, lips and hearts before the reading of the gospel. Yes, I want those words in my head, on my lips, and in my heart, and the gesture helps me pray for that.

In Jesus’ day there was a great burden upon the faithful Jews to observe meticulous ritual washings, and to purify themselves and all their dishes before eating. Jesus warns against public signs of piety that are meant to disguise the greed or bitterness within. It’s not the gestures themselves that trouble Jesus, but that they have taken the place of true fidelity to God.

I like being Catholic. The entire body is recruited in worship, which of course recruits the heart as well.

What “sacred gestures” in the Mass do you like the most?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

2 September 2018

Reflecting on Joshua 24: 1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Choose today whom you will serve, Joshua said to that diverse crowd gathered inside the border of the Promised Land. Apparently that warning, sounding all the way from the 13th century BC, was ignored by ex-Cardinal Ted McCarrick, who certainly had multiple opportunities to reflect on that text, coming as it does every three years on the 21st Sunday.

It was most certainly cynically ignored by the hundreds of priests whom we now know assaulted over 1,000 minors in the period between 1940 and 2003 in six dioceses in Pennsylvania.

But it also eluded the consciences of every cleric who covered up those abuses so malevolently that the Grand Jury called their response “a playbook for concealing the truth.”

I ask myself how I, a laywoman and scripture teacher, have contributed to the culture of cover-up in this Church that I love. Would I have defended a priest, even at the expense of a child, just to keep a job?  I have never even remotely been in that position.

Still, I feel the need to do penance. This is my Church. Many of the atrocities of clergy abuse occurred in my lifetime—but, thankfully, almost none since the new mandatory reporting laws came into effect in 2003. At least at this writing, the worst may be behind us.

Every August I receive the annual subscription fees from the parishes that so kindly subscribe to this column. This year I will send the full amount to a group that works with survivors of clergy abuse.  With this gesture I’ll join the universal Church in sacrifice and penance for the evils done by those pretending to be servants of Christ.

Even though you aren’t personally responsible, will you join in a year of prayer for the victims?

Kathy McGovern ©2018