Monthly Archives: October 2018

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

20 October 2018

Reflecting on Hebrews 4: 14-16

The 1983 movie Without a Trace is a terrifying tale of a missing child. Reporters gather around the hysterical mother, saying, “We know how you feel, but try to be coherent.” Her reply is perfect: “If you felt what I feel you’d be screaming right now.”

I think of that moment when this section of the  letter to the Hebrews comes around: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way” (4:15).

We have a God who knows everything we experience. Imagine the terror Jesus felt when the Romans came to lay hold of him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Imagine being betrayed with a kiss. (That’s not hard, I’ll bet, for people whose spouses have had affairs.)

Imagine being held, in chains, by those who seek your harm. (Again, this is an easy step for those who serve in militaries, or those captured by terrorist groups like ISIS.)

Imagine being unable to get away from someone who is hurting you. (The huge numbers of women and men whose stories are surfacing at this moment in the culture is enough proof that there are millions who can identify.)

Imagine being thirsty (as they surely are today in the Florida Panhandle).

Imagine watching your mother weep as you die (as must surely happen everywhere prisoners are executed).

The crucifixion was a scandal to the Greco-Roman world, whose untouchable gods reigned forever over the skies and seas, and even Hades. That these odd Jews worshiped a God who had been mercilessly nailed to a tree was incomprehensible.

Who needs a God like that?

We do.

What suffering in your life is similar to the suffering of Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

15 October 2018

Reflecting on Mark 10: 17-30

What is it that causes a tiny baby to finally cease clinging to the womb and surrender? Well, it has to do with immune cells which, after doing their work of cleaning out the lungs, migrate to the uterine wall, where a chemical is released that stimulates an inflammatory response that starts labor.

The baby, after 40 weeks of nurture from mom, must now surrender to the momentum of the uterus contracting. Soon, the baby will be flushed out of the womb and into the joyous arms of parents, who vow to continue that nurture all the days of their lives.

The baby doesn’t know that at the time, of course. The baby must do the heroic thing of being born, trustful or not. And death is the same way.

Each of us somehow mustered the courage to be born, and each of us will find the courage to die, ready or not. We will be swept away from what we know into the Great Unknowable.  God will be there to guide us.

The rich young man did everything right. He followed the Law, and he gave generously to the poor. But he wasn’t ready to die yet, and so he couldn’t live. Like the baby in the womb, everything he knew and trusted was right there.  But when the contractions began―those pesky questions he needed to ask Jesus so that he could have some peace about his eternal future―he resisted the answer he heard.

He thought, “No! Don’t tell me to let go of everything I know and love!” And so he went sad away. Jesus was sad too. It’s so hard to help people be born.

What are you clinging to that you sense is actually keeping you in bondage?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

6 October 2018

Reflecting on Genesis 2: 18-24

Wouldn’t it be awesome if men had one fewer rib than women? We could think of that every time we got stuck reading scripture, wondering what to take literally or not. Whew! We can trust the bible, because Genesis says God took a rib from Adam and used it to form Eve!

Alas, except in the case of disease, men and women each have twelve pairs of ribs, so there goes that theory. The sacred writer, of course, wasn’t teaching anatomy, but a Masters class in God’s wisdom in creating men and women from each other, connecting them just under the heart. Lovely.

Now, there are some fascinating moments in Genesis that make us shake our heads in wonder. How, for example, did the ancient writer know that snakes used to have legs? It’s true. Over a hundred million years ago snakes used to be able to walk AND slither.  They lost their legs at some point, but that was surely several million years before the author of Genesis (writing a mere 3,000 years ago) recalled God telling the duplicitous serpent, “Because you have done this….on your belly you shall crawl” (3:14).

The ancients were far, far more in tune with the natural world than we are. It’s possible that dead snakes made for riveting investigations. Perhaps the tiny vestiges of legs (called spurs) led them to rightly surmise that, in the Garden of Eden, snakes had legs.  Fascinating.  And icky.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis give us the Garden, the Fall, and the Great Flood.  From the very beginning, God was luring us with stories that are more eternal than any science.

What is your favorite Genesis story?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

2 October 2018

Reflecting on Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

I’ve been thinking lately about the kind of radical surgery I might need in order to be a happier person. It’s possible I might need to finally admit that I am powerless over potato chips. They have caused me to sin too many times. Why don’t I just throw them all in the fires of Gehenna and be done with them?

There are many character flaws I would be much happier without. Instead of just working around them, why don’t I just starve them all until they wither and, mercifully, die? Imagine being free of any of the deadly sins that make us miserable. Imagine just cutting them out of our lives. My offenses, surely I know them, says the psalmist. Well, that’s half the battle right there.

I suspect that if we live long enough we’ll have the chance to review every selfish act, every gossipy conversation, every thoughtless lifestyle. That’s a gift, to live long enough to truly know our sins, and then to see how much everyone around us has been forgiving us all these years, without our even realizing it.

It would be helpful if sin came with a pain, like a bee sting. We’d swat that sin away from ourselves immediately, and apply a healing salve. But sin usually comforts in the beginning, and stings in the end. Lies are uncovered, embezzlements come to light. As we’re seeing in this excruciating moment in the Church, what may have seemed like a lesser evil―keeping sin hidden so as not to give scandal―has become the sin itself.

Maybe there’s no such thing as moderation. Maybe we just need to excise the sins that are killing us anyway.

What character flaw are you willing to jettison in order to be happier?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015