Monthly Archives: December 2018

Christmas Day – Cycle C

30 December 2018

Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year? Because I’m sure I saw some more presents for you, hidden under the tree and tucked away in secret places where you can find them at just the perfect time.

Here’s one addressed to you from “Heartfelt Compassion.” This present will open itself for you. You’ll feel your heart break open as you feel “with passion” the daily struggle of a relative whose addiction has already strained the bonds of love in your family. It’s okay. Feel that tenderness and love for your broken relative once again. It’s Christmas for them too, with all its promises of “God with us.”

This next gift goes with it, so open up “Kindness” too. This is SUCH a perfect gift for you because it will keep surprising you all year long. Watch for that thoughtful stranger who says, “I can see that you’re in a hurry and have just a few things to buy. Jump ahead of me.”  It will show up in the surprise letter of gratitude from an old friend, or the sweet gift of taking out the trash which your spouse does every single day without saying a word.

Or maybe it will be your adult child someday, who calls and says, “Remember how hard I fought to get you to let me hang out with my friends when I was fourteen? I’ve never thanked you for holding your ground and keeping me safe.”

There are lots more presents, and they all have your name on them. They are from Emanuel, who promises to be with you in every struggle and every joy in the coming year.

What is your favorite memory of knowing God’s presence with you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

22 December 2018

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-45

I received one of those lovely BELIEVE mantel plaques from a friend the other day. It looks so beautiful up there, surrounded by Christmas cards, our Advent wreath ablaze now with all four candles glowing. It’s not a suggestion anymore, I don’t think. BELIEVE is a mandate, an absolute demand of our whole self. To BELIEVE puts us right there with Mary herself, who BELIEVED that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled.

On the First Sunday of Advent we all resolved to pray for an unknown reader of this column, recognizing that another unknown reader was praying for us. If you happened to miss that week’s reflection, it’s not too late. Right now, imagine someone out there who is reading this. That person needs your prayers. That person may have been praying for you these past Advent weeks.

BELIEVE that your prayers for an unknown reader are reaching heaven this very minute.

But getting back to Mary, her immediate departure from Nazareth to walk ninety miles to Elizabeth’s home is just fascinating.  She must have been very close to her cousin. Don’t you get the feeling that she was as thrilled to hear of her aging cousin’s pregnancy as she was amazed to announce her own?

I wonder if she rehearsed how she was going to explain to her cousin this most astonishing (and history-changing) news. Was she nervous when she walked into the house? Any apprehension she might have had flew out the window the second she arrived, because the pre-born John recognized the pre-born Jesus and leaped for joy.

Oh, and by the way, we don’t ever have to ask again when life begins.

In what ways do you feel the prayers of the unseen reader who is praying for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

15 December 2018

Reflecting on Phil.4: 4-7

My Olympic sport is worrying. I’m the best who ever played the game. What makes me particularly versatile is that, the very second one worry is resolved, I can leap immediately to the next one, and the next one. It’s an arrogant way to live, if you think about it.

I never stop to give thanks when the first worry turns up solved. I call up the next one in the queue and begin massaging it, marinating it, simmering it over an endlessly warm burner. I look at every possible way things can go fatally awry. I’m pretty sure it’s up to me to keep the planets in their fixed orbits. When turbulence bounces the plane around I think I need to get up there and take over.

Have no anxiety about anything, says Paul. Easy for him to say? Well, let’s see. Prior to his imprisonment in Rome (the location of this letter, probably around the year 62), Paul had been shipwrecked, snake-bit, stoned with rocks, and left to languish in prisons in Caesarea and Ephesus. Then, the grossly unstable Emperor Nero of Rome started his persecution of the early church two years after Paul was imprisoned there.

One day—or was it night?—the Roman guards took Paul from his cell, and led him to the beheading block. Had he trembled in fear of this moment? Had he worried it to death all the years before it happened?

We know this: while in chains in Rome, St. Paul exhorted us to pray, and offer thanks, and tell God what we need. And then, he promised, the peace of Christ will guard us. I’ll bet it guarded him.

How is anxiety stealing my peace?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

11 December 2018

Reflecting on Bar. 5: 1-9

That’s quite a migrant caravan, those tens of millions of people who, rejoicing that they have been “remembered by God,” will return to Jerusalem “borne aloft in glory.” Let’s see. There would be the thousands deported out of Israel by the Assyrians (722 BC). Following them would be the hundreds of thousands “led on foot by their enemies “out of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (597- 587 BC.).  Next, the millions expelled from, and denied access to, Jerusalem by the Romans (132 AD).

And that’s just the Hebrew people, in the short window of time between the Assyrian invasion and the final deportation by the Romans. Can we begin to imagine the numbers of human beings who have been driven off their land, robbed and naked, and forced to begin again in a foreign land among foreign peoples?

Such has been the way of the world throughout history. Misery begets misery. The Palestinian Christians, who have lived in the land of Jesus’ birth for two thousand years, have been bullied and harassed  by both of the larger ethnic groups—themselves the victims of unparalleled suffering― so much that, today, they make up less than 2% of the population.

All those refugees shall return one day, says the prophet Baruch. That’s a lot of mountains that need lowering, a lot of ancient gorges that need to be lifted up. That’s a huge workload for every believer, the gigantic and prophetic task of building lasting peace in the world. Come, Lord Jesus.

What losses of your own will be restored when Jesus comes again in glory?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

First Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

1 December 2018

Reflecting on Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Today’s world has a lot of advantages over that of years ago. Take waiting, for example. Before huge cineplexes in every neighborhood we used to actually have to buy tickets in advance, or wait in long lines for seats to movie openings. Remember Star Wars, anyone? Or, in more recent memory, the long wait for the next Harry Potter book?

On the other hand, it’s good to muster the discipline for some kind of delayed gratification in life. Painful as it was, waiting for the bus, or for a favorite tv show to return after the long summer break, formed a certain character in us. I call on that character all the time, when I’m waiting for a medication to work, maybe, or waiting for test results from the doctor.

I’ll bet you have daily challenges to that essential character trait too. Are you waiting for those painful pounds to come off―they will, I promise―or for news from a loved one who is deployed, or hospitalized, or just missing from your life? That kind of waiting is just agonizing.

Or maybe your long wait is to overcome a resentment that’s had you in its grasp for decades. More likely, your wait is for healing for a child who is in the grip of depression, or an addiction, or has problems at school.

That’s the most agonizing wait of all.

I have an idea. How about if, this Advent, every reader of this column around the country prayed for someone who is reading these words right now? Talk about waiting. We won’t know until we see Jesus who we were praying for, and who was praying for us. Ready? I can’t wait.

How would you like your unknown prayer partner to pray for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015