Monthly Archives: August 2019

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

31 August 2019

Reflecting on Luke 14: 1, 7-14

Ah, time. It sure gives you perspective. And if looking back at your past behavior doesn’t send you careening to the back of the room, hiding from the hosts who’ve invited you to say a few words at the reception, well, how blessed are you. The many roadblocks to authentic, holy living haven’t tripped you up.

I have somehow arrived at a place of deep gratitude for the insights into my own sins. I almost crave them, probably because they humble me and, sure enough, I’ve figured out that is exactly when God shows up.

A humble and contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise (Ps. 15: 17). I’ve experienced this a thousand times. For some reason this is the quickest (but certainly not the easiest!) entrée into the mercy of God.

Think back to a time when you were humbled. Maybe you were caught in a lie, or you made a costly mistake at work. Or maybe you’ve experienced deep humility by, after an expanse of time, reflecting on an issue about which you were vocal, and absolutely certain you were right, and realizing how very wrong you were. Gulp.

I am a recovering know-it-all. But I am most humbled when I remember the kindness and patience so many people extended to me in the midst of my stupidity, especially in my youth. Parents are the best at this. They love and forgive their kids, even when their kids are temporarily insane.

That’s why I love that feeling of being humbled. I know for sure that God sees me in that state, and no exalted seat at the party can compare to the grace of being under that Gaze.

What experience of being humbled has been transformed into a redemptive experience?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

24 August 2019

Reflecting on Luke 13: 22-30

We had our fiftieth high school class reunion last weekend. We had such a great class, and we’ve all stayed close. We even have a prayer chain to support the needs of all our classmates.

I’m sad, though, when I think of the wistfulness with which people I encountered in the days before the reunion said, “Oh, that sounds so neat.” I could hear the regret they carried for not keeping in touch, not having a community of old friends. I could tell that they long for the things they left behind.

In some ways, we have to leave things. We move. We have careers and families. We are taken up with the immediate demands of our lives. Over time, the old friends fade. We put those long-ago days in their proper perspective. We move on. And then one day, decades later, some silly woman is showing you her nails, decked out in her school colors, that she had done for her high school class reunion that weekend. And you sigh and say, “Oh, that sounds so neat.”

I think of that wistfulness when I read about the Master of the house coldly telling those who knock desperately on his door, “I don’t know where you’re from.” Our churches cry out for the millions who have left us, their absence an ache at every Mass. Their reasons are legion, the sexual abuse scandals probably topping the long list.

But in a world that offers fake internet friends, a glance at any parish bulletin shows the many enriching offerings of education, prayer and community that welcome anyone who is hungry, or wistful, for the things he or she may have left behind.

What part of the spiritual life are you longing to return to, or create yourself?

Kathy McGovern ©2019                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

17 August 2019

Reflecting on Jer. 38: 4-6, 8-10

Somehow we think the people we call “prophets” were immune to pain, loneliness, or terror. Not so. Jeremiah, whose miserable time in the cistern is related in today’s reading, wanted to be loved, not reviled. God duped him, he said, and he let himself be duped (Jer. 20:7).

Of all the prophets in the Old Testament, his life was the most similar to Jesus. Both were reviled by their enemies, and even their friends. Both so aggravated the religious authorities that they were watched, in hopes that, through carefully laid traps, they could be revealed as hypocrites and frauds. Both were thought to be worthy of death.

Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem to the kings and people of Judah. This was terrifying! Surely no army would ever breach the walls of the city that housed God’s own Temple!

The prophets who counseled calm were much beloved, and ate in the palace. Jeremiah? Him they tossed him in a cistern. And this is where we see the big difference between Jeremiah and Jesus. While he once spoke on behalf of his adversaries, when his own life was severely threatened Jeremiah began to pray for their demise.

In retrospect, we all wish we’d listened to the true prophets in our lives. We remember the guidance from parents and teachers, and wonder why we didn’t heed their advice more attentively. And now we stand before God on behalf of our own children, who aren’t listening all that carefully either. And so the world goes.

And Jesus? From the cross, he spoke on behalf of his murderers, asking that they be forgiven, for they knew not what they were doing.

What prophetic words have you heard, and ignored, and now wish you’d taken to heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

14 August 2019

Reflecting on Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19

I’ve been thinking a lot about human trafficking lately. It’s horrible to think that human beings are being held in bondage all around us. We don’t see them because they are hidden on farms, in factories, hotels, sweatshops, restaurants, mines, and, in some terrible circumstances, armies.

That’s why, in the letter to the Hebrews today, the part about Abram setting out in faith for an unknown land sent me back to the original story in the twelfth chapter of Genesis. And there it was, just as I remembered. Abram, in obedience to this unknown God, “took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot… and the persons they had acquired, and set out for the land of Canaan (12:5).

So, the original sin of our parents in the faith is that they, utterly in tune with their times and to the shock of no one, acquired human beings, and they brought those human beings (never named) across the border of Syria/Turkey into what is today Israel.

Another compelling story of human trafficking is also associated with these same two characters. Having sojourned into Egypt because of famine, they came home with an Egyptian “maid servant” named Hagar. It was this woman who was forced to become Abraham’s concubine and bear him a son. Both mother and child were dismissed, though, when Sarah bore a son of her own.

Is it fair to project modern sensibilities onto ancient biblical characters? Of course not. Who of us hasn’t grown in consciousness of cultural sins that were accepted just years ago? But oh, we can shine a light on those sins when we see them in our own towns, in our own times.

In what ways are you educating yourself about human trafficking in your city?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

3 August 2019

Reflecting on Luke 12: 13-21

I’m halfway through The Benedict Option, and I haven’t arrived at the controversial parts yet. So far it’s just a beautifully written synopsis of the different ways that Christianity throughout history has engaged, or not engaged, with the culture. Right now I’m at the part where a new breed of young Catholic men are actually restoring the ancient Benedictine monastery of Nursia, St. Benedict’s birth place.

Rod Dreher really hit a nerve with this one. I’ve never lived further than a mile from my childhood home, yet even I, while sitting in deadlocked summer traffic, am fantasizing about life up in Snowmass with the Trappists. I think his theme is going to be that conscious, communal retreat from the culture is the only way to survive what’s coming in our post-Christian era. Hmm…

It’s easy to see where St. Benedict (and his twin sister Scholastica) derived the inspiration for their radical embrace of the scriptures; it must have been the very texts we hear this weekend. Since we’re reading St. Luke all year, it’s no surprise to hear Jesus tell the crowd that “one’s life does not consist in possessions.” The first reading and the responsorial psalm are, of course, chosen to harmonize with the gospel, so we hear Qoheleth’s famous rebuke of wealth as the vanity of vanities, and Psalm 90’s beautiful prayer that God would “teach us to number our days that we may attain a heart of wisdom.”

But it’s the reading from Colossians that really indicts the Christian, then and now: Put to death….the greed that is idolatry.

I think I get it. But can I please still have my lovely, culture-saturated life? Hmm…

How are you learning to number your days so that you may attain wisdom?

Kathy McGovern ©2019                       

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015