Monthly Archives: December 2019

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – Cycle A

29 December 2019

Don’t you wish we knew more about the Holy Family? We’d love to know about Joseph, the silent protector of Mary and Jesus. He utters not a word in scripture, yet his humility in accepting God’s miraculous work, and his divine role in that unfolding, makes him the perfect model for all fathers who strive to protect and defend their children.

The earliest artistic rendering of Mary is a fresco, c. 150 A.D., in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. It’s so touching to see her, protectively cradling Jesus, on this ancient wall upon which the martyrs of Rome carved their faith. About this time a book appeared, The First Gospel of James, which was immediately beloved by the Christian communities in Rome. Though never accepted as part of the canon of the New Testament, it contrived to give background stories of Mary and Joseph that we crave to know even today.

It’s in this popular second-century book, for example, that we discover the names of Mary’s parents. Can you name them? If you are—ahem—of a certain age, you can jump up with, “Yes! They are Anna and Joachim!”

And HOW do you know that? Well, it’s nowhere in scripture, but it IS in this First Gospel (or Protoevangelium) of James, which practically no one has read, but it was so important to the tradition of the Church that their names are even preserved in the Catechism.

We have so many questions about them. When we see them in heaven we can get all the answers.

What would you most like to ask Joseph or Mary?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Cycle A

24 December 2019

When you think of Christmases past, do you have some that you treasure more than all others? Here are some of mine:

  1.  Every single Christmas Day of my childhood, after hearing from my dad for at least eleven months that we were going to the poorhouse, my four siblings and I walked into our magical living room to see every toy our hearts could desire. There were games, and dolls, and baseballs, and gloves, and dresses, and bikes, and all manner of ecstasy. I think we felt an overwhelming sense of how deeply we were loved, especially since, with the shadow of debtor’s prison hanging over them and all, our parents still broke the bank for us. It took adulthood to finally figure out that things might not have been as desperate as portrayed.
  2. I remember singing ” O Holy Night” for Midnight Mass, and walking out into the beautiful, snowy night, the lights twinkling, the carols wafting, all my friends there with their families, and being held in the stunning, wondrous beauty of it all.
  3. Certainly the most dramatic Christmas of my life was attempting to get myself and seventy pilgrims to Midnight Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem in 1996. Every single descendant of Abraham—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—was crammed into that square. It was frightening, hilarious, and a piece of my heart is still in the nave of St. Catherine’s Church.
  4. So, Christmas will always be the surety of wondrous, unconditional love, the joy of making music with beloved friends, the little town of Bethlehem, and my rock-solid belief that the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Him that night.

What are your favorite Christmas memories?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

21 December 2019

Reflecting on Matthew 1:18-24

Well, we are full-tilt back in Matthew’s gospel, and we’ll stay here, except for three Sundays of the Christmas season, three Sundays in Lent, and most of the Sundays of Easter, right up to the Feast of Christ the King next November. That’s thirty-eight weeks of the gospel that begins with Advent and Christmas stories painted in charcoal and grey, and written in the gloomy key of B-flat minor.

That’s a dramatic change from the gospel we just completed, which begins with Luke’s Advent and Christmas stories using a palette of bright primary colors of reds, yellows and blues, and sung, I imagine, in A major. Luke loves to tell stories about Mary, and he knows far more about her than any of the other gospel writers. But it’s only Matthew who tells us about St. Joseph. He’s the only one, for example, who knows what Joseph was thinking when his betrothed “was found with child,” a child certainly not his.

He was going to divorce her quietly, even though Moses had said that when a man had relations with another man’s wife—which is how “betrothed” was understood—both the woman and man should be stoned (Lev. 20:10). But Joseph wasn’t going to do that, and this was BEFORE the angel came to him and announced that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit! He was willing to go against Moses himself in order to do the merciful thing.

And there it is. That’s the glorious aria of Matthew’s gospel. Over and over, we will learn that mercy outbids justice every time. Go and learn the meaning of mercy, says Jesus.

Maybe he learned that at home, from Joseph.

How will you show mercy to someone in your life this Advent?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

14 December 2019

Reflecting on Matthew 11:2-11

Let’s talk about that most taboo subject in Christendom: miraculous healing. We avert our eyes when someone announces that he or she has been cured of an ailment that the doctors couldn’t fix. We’re embarrassed because, perhaps, we remember our own premature declarations of healing, only to have the affliction return right on schedule.

But here is the truth: when John wanted to know if Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus didn’t say, Go back and tell John that the armies are vanquished, and our God has roared down from the heavens to slay the unbelievers. When Jesus wanted to console John, locked up in Herod’s prison and facing an uncertain death, he told his ambassadors to assure him that the surest sign of the kingdom was bursting out all over the Galilee.

The blind were seeing, the deaf were hearing, the lame were walking, and the poor were included in all of it.

Healing, as portrayed in the gospels and the book that gives us the closest understanding of the lives of the earliest Christians, the Acts of the Apostles, is considered a normal component of Church life. Certainly the rigorous investigation into miracles by the Church assumes that miracles still happen.

But, then, why aren’t all healed? Because miraculous healings (this side of heaven, anyway) are really just a side effect of a life lived in Christ. Think of the great miracles of your life. Some of them might be physical healings, but I’ll bet the miracles that most quickly come to mind are the ones that involve human connections, the restoration of love, the peace of forgiveness.

So go and tell someone what you’ve seen and heard.

How will you be a sign of the kingdom during this blessed season?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

8 December 2019

Reflecting on Isaiah 11:1-10

That blissful scene of the Peaceable Kingdom ( Isaiah11:1-11) often brings to mind that question from James (4:1): Where do the wars and conflicts among you originate?

Scrolling the multiple advice columns crowding the internet these days, I’m astounded at the indulgence of so many family members just dropping out of the lives of their parents and siblings because they can’t take the “toxic presence” of somebody. Even more vicious is the ever-increasing use of beloved grandchildren to get back at grandparents with whom one or the other parent has a feud.

That’s it, says the powerful adult child, you’ll never see your grandchild again. And away they go, off to solitary holiday meals, marinating in the bitter juices of sweet revenge.

I hope it goes without saying that some estrangements are crucial for the mental health and safety of family members. Addictions can certainly take their toll as well. That said, I have friends who have followed their estranged siblings into the jaws of hell in order to bring them back from their sadness and isolation. Even more inspiring, I know people who have actually searched their souls and discovered that the problems were, indeed, their fault. They admitted them to their children, and asked forgiveness.

Sometimes that’s not enough. It’s delicious to obsess over past hurts, and a humble and heartfelt apology spoils the fun. Many parents suffering estrangement simply can’t get their kids to answer the phone (or, okay, a text). Maybe there is a long history of distrust.  But the lamb has a lot of reasons to distrust the wolf, and Isaiah says it’s a sign of the presence of the Kingdom that even that can be healed.

How are you acting to be reconciled with someone?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015