Monthly Archives: January 2019

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

30 January 2019

Reflecting on Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room as Ezra reads that foundational scripture to the men, women, and children old enough to understand. What none of them is admitting is that, after returning to the land from the Babylonian Exile, things haven’t worked out as well as they had hoped.

Their new Temple is puny compared to the majestic Temple that Solomon built (and Nebuchadnezzar burned). The returnees are dwelling in a desolate, undefended city, tilling a few ravaged fields, easy prey for marauding bandits.

When Ezra reads this document (now called the Torah), their response is to hang their heads and weep. And what does Governor Nehemiah do? He interrupts to declare a holiday, and to exhort them to eat and drink and rejoice. Why? Because he knows what they have forgotten: the joy of the Lord is their strength. Nothing less will ever be enough.

In today’s synagogue services there is a stirring moment. After the sacred readings, the homily, and the singing of the psalms, a spotlight is shone on the tabernacle. Those with the priestly last name of Cohen (or Kohen) come forward. This group, with the rabbi, takes the five dazzling Torah scrolls and begins to dance with them.

And then all heaven breaks out. The children leap up to dance with their parents. Joyous groups jump out of their pew to greet the Torah as it passes by. For a raucous few minutes the sedate assembly exults in the joy of Torah. Another week of hard work looms for all, but on the Sabbath they draw deeply from their greatest strength, which is the joy that only comes from intimacy with God.

In what ways is the joy of the Lord your greatest strength?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

23 January 2019

Reflecting on I Cor. 12:4-11

There are different kinds of talents, thank God, and the Holy Spirit breathes in each of them. The brilliance it takes to put together parish websites, for example, blesses the visitor who goes there, perhaps to connect with the Church for the first time.

To one is given the skill to create parish databases, to another the savvy to create the easiest way for us to contribute financially to the parish. These are some pretty technical skills, but it’s the same God who gives the energy and passion it takes to make these things happen.

To some are given so much love of children that our religious education classes and schools abound in joy and love. There are even some―God bless these unique people―who give their lives for the formation of adolescents. A thousand blessings on their heads.

Some have the expertise to serve as administrators and pastoral associates, carefully watching over to assure the sacramental and spiritual needs of the parish are met. Some oversee the many outreaches to shelters, sandwich lines, and safe houses, and some work with people one-on-one through the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Some devote their time to praying for each of us. Yes, there are parishioners who do this, every day, their whole lives. They take the lists of the sick and dying, and pray. There is one dear couple, in a parish where I served years ago, who have prayed for me at breakfast every day for fifteen years.

This is the tip of the iceberg, of course. We haven’t even talked about music, and scripture, and liturgy, or even priesthood, for heaven’s sake. Church, do we know how rich we are?

How will I use my energy and talents to work for the Kingdom of God this year?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord – Cycle C

12 January 2019

Reflecting on Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

We saw the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” last fall. The ending is very uplifting, but throughout the show the audience grieves for Evan, whose social anxiety is so terrible that he imagines himself forever waving through a window, with no hearing, no one seeing.

It reminded me of an odd incident several years ago. While walking our dog in the neighborhood, for some reason I turned back to the house I had just passed. There, waving frantically in the window, mouthing “Happy New Year,” were the darling kids who lived in the house.

I waved and smiled and walked on, wondering at the unusual coincidence that, without seeing them in the window and without hearing them calling to me, I turned in their direction in time to see their warm greeting.

At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens opened, the voice of the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit actually appeared in bodily form as a dove.  But Luke doesn’t tell us who saw the dove, or who heard the voice. It happened, we know.  But who besides Jesus (and the evangelist, who is Spirit-inspired) had eyes to see or ears to hear?

If we could train our eyes and ears, I’ll bet we too would see the heavens open, and hear the voice from heaven speak.  This appearance of the Trinity—the Son coming out of the water, the Spirit resting as a dove, the Father speaking from heaven—was not a one-time event.  Christ is always with us in our dyings and risings, the Spirit is always pointing us to the ways of peace, and the Father is always speaking to us.

Or, to put it another way, love and comfort and wisdom are constantly waving at us through Divine windows.  Take a moment to look back and notice.

How has God’s loving presence made itself known to you recently?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle C

8 January 2019

It’s the gorgeous Feast of the Epiphany. Time to trip a little light fantastic. That’s right…you! You are the lamplighter of your family, your class, your parish, your office, your work place.

But look who I’m telling. You already know this! You’ve probably known all your life, or at least since your Confirmation, that you are the Light-Bearer, the one whose gracious and kind disposition is making this pilgrim path much easier for others.

Mother Teresa begged us to “be the living expression of God’s kindness.” That’s you. Think of the charities that are able to continue their work because of your generosity. Think of the kind direction you’ve given to help educate children in the faith. Think of the ways you have comforted the grieving, and visited the sick, and given food to the hungry.

Think of your presence at Mass, and what confidence that builds in your parish community. Think of the ways you have prayed for the sick and dying. Think of the ways you have personally accompanied loved ones through their own transition from life to eternity.

You can’t see it, but you’re your own constellation out there. You have no idea the people who have seen your Star―your warmth, your kind invitation to friendship, your help in times of need—and been intimately drawn to the One who is Light from Light.

Isn’t it a great blessing to be part of the constellation of Christ? Every darkness that comes your way you transform into light. You are a luminous comet of forgiveness, joy, friendship, and expectant hope.

And the day when you and Jesus see each other face to face? Step back. Nova, meet Super Nova.

What is the greatest light that you cast in this world?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle C

8 January 2019

This is a painful feast for so many Catholics, I think. How many of us have the kind of “holy” family we imagined existed a few decades ago (but never really did, in some ways)?

That “holy” family included mom, dad, at least a few kids, and, oh yes, everyone was happily in church on Sunday. The kids went on to marry other Catholics, and those families bore children who were contentedly growing up in the faith.

Somehow we thought that model―whether it was actually working or not—would weather all the cultural upheavals of our lifetimes. It didn’t, of course. Is there a reader today who can say that his/her family has followed this path perfectly?

It turns out, of course, that the world didn’t end when the kids stopped going to church. The Church itself is to blame—its most prominent ambassadors at least—for much of the massive exodus. Poor leadership, mediocre preaching, and a malaise so deep that it took decades  for them to notice that two generations of baptized Catholics were permanently AWOL, has finally created the crisis we face today. And that doesn’t even take into account the heinous and ongoing sexual abuse crimes.

But that’s not the whole story. I know a parish that can break your heart. The scattering of adults who make up the early morning Sunday congregation are as devout and educated as any community you could find. The choir has sung together, consistently, since the sixties.

They are wonderful lectors and religious educators. They’ve graduated from the Catholic Biblical School and Catechetical School. They’ve maintained prayerful and loving, lifelong marriages. And yet there isn’t a family that doesn’t have an adult child on the street, lost amid the homeless population, due to the scourge of drugs and alcohol.

Suicide is at least a monthly event there. Grandparents weep for their grandchildren, whom they are raising because their own children are lost.

These are extreme examples of the pain that some Catholic families experience, of course. The challenge for the “average” Catholic family is to trust that God is living and active in the lives of all their loved ones, who are doing generous and vital things in the world, whether or not they go to church.

What are the most holy and happy aspects of your family?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015