Monthly Archives: March 2019

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

30 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

This is NOT sitting easy with the neighbors as that half-starved kid makes his way home. They hear he is at the gate, and they prepare a nice gauntlet of taunts, spittle, and even belts to welcome him as he passes through them on his way to the house.

But look! Here comes the shameful father, with his robe lifted up and running like a girl right through the gauntlet! He throws his arms around this disgraceful son and even kisses him! And now he’s calling for a beautiful robe and putting it on this rotten son.

Is this what we can all expect now? Are we supposed to just hand over their inheritance when our greedy sons say, “Drop dead. I want my money”?

And to think of how he spent it! He’s probably filled with infection after consorting with the Gentile dancing girls. And look how skinny he is! Rumor has it he worked as a PIG FEEDER. A Jewish boy, feeding the swine.  How disgraceful. He is dead to us.

At least they didn’t give him any of that nauseating gruel they give the pigs. He’d have diarrhea for a month after eating those bitter berries.

He and his father are embracing. He is weeping, and his father is dancing and laughing and ―hold up―is that a ring he’s putting on his finger? And shoes on his feet? This son who ran away is being treated like nothing ever happened, like he’s a regular member of the family!

Oh, boy. Is that the fattened calf on the spit? That’s enough to feed the whole village. And we’re all invited! And just the smell is making us hungry!

Well, sure we’re going to the party. Let’s at least hear what he has to say.

How have you been lured into forgiveness through God’s artful powers of persuasion?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

27 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 13:1-9

So, for three years the owner comes to the fig tree for fruit and is disappointed not to find any. Hmm. The owner must not be Jewish, because every good Jew knows that the Book of Leviticus prohibits anyone from eating the fruit of any fruit tree for the first three years of its life (19:23-25).

The gardener is obviously an observant Jew, because he sneaks around this non-Jewish landowner and plucks off the early fruits― the unripened fruits―so he won’t find any when he comes.

But the landowner has another surprise coming, because next year, when the tree FINALLY bears its mature, delicious fruit, its produce belongs to God and not to him. It’s only when this long-awaited fig tree is five years old that its fruit may rightfully be eaten by the one who owns the land on which it’s planted.

This might be a Jewish joke on the Roman occupiers. Look how savvy the hired hand is! He tricks the Romans into observing the laws of Moses! Wouldn’t they be surprised if they knew they were behaving like Jews? Maybe they’ll give up and go home already.

Or maybe it’s a parable about delayed gratification. God gave us rules about trying to get to food―or anything, really― too early. We should exercise the discipline of patience in all things. The best fruits come to those who don’t squander their lives on the easy things, but work hard for that which is worth the wait.

But these are the secondary fruits. The first fruit is this: we are all on borrowed time. Take advantage of every grace offered yesterday, and make your life a delicious offering today.

How is your life a sweet fruit?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

16 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 9: 28b-36

Don’t you wonder what Peter, James, and John were thinking that day up on Mount Tabor? Just one chapter earlier in Luke they were the ones Jesus selected to go with him into the room of a young girl who had died. Everyone was wailing and crying, and Jesus beckoned those three to go into the house with him.

How terrifying! True, that very day they had seen him cure the hemorrhaging woman. They had witnessed several miracles, but this was different. This was a dead child.

But they took courage and entered the house, and because of that grace they witnessed the raising of a child from death. Even that, though, couldn’t prepare them for what was coming next. Up on that mountain, while he was praying (and they were, as usual, sleeping) their Teacher was suddenly changed.

Their traveling clothes were dusty and dirty; his were dazzling white. They were talking with each other; Jesus was talking with the Law and the Prophets. And that conversation wasn’t just idle chatter.  Moses and

Elijah were talking with Jesus about his exodus. What a thoroughly Jewish way of saying they were talking about his death.

I would have begged to build some tents too. Having heard the heavens talking about the terrible events that lay ahead, I would have begged to stay put on the mountain.

And, wouldn’t you know, it was those three who were called away one last time, to pray with Jesus in Gethsemane the night of his arrest. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have three stunning Sundays to go before we come together for that terrible Passion.

Stay tuned. The greatest stories ever told await.

Have you ever been the one called upon to do something brave?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

13 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 4: 1-13

Standing in the reception line of a friend’s funeral recently, an acquaintance and I struck up a conversation, during which she reminded me that I sang at the funeral of her first husband, who died tragically in a river during a honeymoon rafting trip forty years ago.

“Wait,” I said, “that was YOU? I’ve told the story of singing ‘Be not Afraid’ at the funeral of a bridegroom who drowned on his honeymoon so many times. When I sang the words Though you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown I knew that if someone didn’t explain what those words meant I simply couldn’t continue being believing in either the Old or New Testament.”

A year later I saw the notice about a Biblical School starting. I knew immediately that I had found the people who could explain the seeming discrepancies between the promises in the scriptures and what we experience in life.

Satan knew the struggle that the People of the Book were having, trying to reconcile the comfort of their scriptures with the terrors of their real lives. The very Jews whose scriptures promised the restoration of their land were living under the thumb of the violent Roman occupiers. Hunger was the daily crucible for those whose prophets promised long lives in the land, and streets filled with happy children.

Go ahead, said Satan, give those famous scriptures of yours a try. Throw yourself off those rocks. Let’s see what happens.

If, this Lent, when you watch the news, and then read the Lenten scriptures, you begin to despair that those scriptures aren’t really true, take heart. Jesus overcame Satan when he whispered the same questions.

And Jesus has overcome the world.

What actions will I take this Lent to learn how to read the scriptures more fully?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

3 March 2019

Reflecting on Sirach 27: 4-7

What beautiful readings this week, and they couldn’t be timelier. Both the gospel and that funny section from Sirach uncover the deep truth about human nature: that which we spend time ruminating on will find its way out of our brains, into our hearts, and out of our mouths.

And then comes the backpedaling, the “I was on Ambien and don’t remember a thing” excuses, the endless attempts to retrieve words that, as St. Philip Neri demonstrated so effectively, are like feathers shaken from a pillow.

If that Sirach reading seems strange to you, you’re right. It’s only in the years where Lent is late that we get as far as the eighth or ninth Sundays in Ordinary Time. Since we switch from reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke over a three-year cycle, and that Sirach reading is chosen to harmonize with today’s reading from Luke, in order to hear that reading we have to be in Cycle C (so every three years) and have a late Lent.

But this gives me a chance to extol the book’s humor, its insight into human nature, its beautiful treatises on friendship, its savvy money advice, and, sadly, to warn about its dreadful comments about women.

You’ll enjoy it and wince at it, but you won’t be bored. We have the first-century Christians to thank for rescuing it from oblivion, and the Catholic Church for continuing to use it and copy it. By the way, the lectionary is the brilliant brainchild of Vatican II, and has been adapted by so many other Christian traditions that on most Sundays, all Christians who share the liturgical calendar hear the same readings. Don’t you love that?

How does your speech disclose the bent of your mind?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

2 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 6: 27-38

One of the great experiences in my life as a classroom teacher was the afternoon teacher’s lounge. That’s where, at the end of the day, teachers told the adorable stories of their funny first-graders, or teachers in the upper grades shared their challenges of making history interesting to junior-high boys who were more interested in pulling desks out from under each other.

But the most challenging (and, in hindsight, valuable) part of that time was learning from the more experienced teachers. One day I was congratulating myself on standing up to a fourth-grader who had been talking back to me. She got my most humiliating stare, and then, in her silence, a long homework assignment.

“Well,” said a revered and much beloved faculty member, “I think you embarrassed her because you’re bigger and have the authority. I try never to ridicule or demean a student, no matter how obnoxious, just because I can. There are other ways to discipline without humiliating a child.”

Ach! Her correction went straight to my heart, and straight to that place where behavior changes. I hope I have never since that day used any authority I might have to demean anyone, especially one who is powerless.

Notice how St. Luke gets straight to the point, early in his gospel, to make sure we remember how deeply Jesus wants us to understand this.  Pray for those who mistreat you, says Jesus. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you.

It’s exactly the opposite of what we want to do. It’s totally counterintuitive. So, come to think of it, was the Cross. But by such wondrous love the world is being saved.

What grace have you found in praying for those who have hurt you?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015