Monthly Archives: July 2020

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

28 July 2020

Reflecting on I Kings 3: 5, 7-12

That King Solomon. What a smooth operator. He somehow knew that to ask the Creator of the Universe for some material thing was not the right response to the invitation to ask God for something. Besides, what more could he possibly want? He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He had a huge palace, loaded with servants. He had legendary horse stables, and the gold he amassed through taxation would be worth 2 trillion in today’s money.

But still. This obviously mercenary man had the wisdom to ask God for a listening heart. That’s pretty good, since greed begets greed, and is never satisfied. He had the wisdom to ask for wisdom, and so was given more wisdom.

And you know what? He was on to something. At this moment in history, the pearl of greatest price is the person who can help us all discern whether to open schools in the fall, whether the first vaccine to come to market will be the cure for the virus, whether the stock market is going to plunge before (or after?) the election. And then there’s the election.

What would you ask of God, if given the same offer? I’ll bet it wouldn’t be material things at all. I’ll bet it would be for health, and healing, for all your loved ones. I’ll bet it would be for wise leaders to guide our country through its present seismic upheavals. I’ll bet it would be for the wisdom to see things as God sees, and the grace to then act accordingly.

St. Benedict urged his followers to listen with the ear of their hearts. Lovely. Okay God. I’ll take a listening heart too, thank you.

With whom in your life do you activate your listening heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

18 July 2020

Reflecting on Matt. 13: 24-43

The Gospel this week is certainly one of the most profound sections in all literature, and it’s taken me my whole life to figure out a smidge of what it means to say. I’ve just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Talking to Strangers, and it seems perfectly matched with this parable about the weeds growing up with the wheat.

It’s shattering to hear—I’m listening to the audio book—-the fatal repercussions of strangers thinking that they are communicating, but their genders and their ethnic backgrounds are screaming a different message into their heads. Men and women process experiences differently (especially when alcohol is involved). What seems a consensual sexual encounter to him is processed as rape by her.

When Bernie Madoff took millions from his wife’s parents, they looked at his wise, authoritative demeanor and thought, “Aren’t we lucky to have such a smart mensch in the family?” We can only imagine what he was thinking. Was it something like, “I hope they die before they figure out that this is a huge Ponzi scheme”? I guess a true sociopath is more like pesticide than weed.

Wheat and weeds grow alongside each other in every part of life, and in every corner of our own hearts. We try hard to do right by others, but our efforts are often thwarted by the inability to truly see our own behaviors that stand in the way. Add to that the problems of communication between people of different genders and backgrounds, as well as the weeds of self-deception that clog our ability to see our own part in disputes.

Hmm. What weeds are choking away at my good intentions? I’m got some pruning to do.

What weeding will I do in order to improve my vision of my part in problems that arise?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

15 July 2020

Reflecting on Matt. 13:1-23

Our neighbors are the Master Gardeners behind the Urban Garden movement that has transformed long-neglected back yards like ours into fecund, flourishing farms. This is the eighth year they have labored in the spring chill and the summer heat to bring delicious food out of what was once our prickly lawn. Each week they load up the produce and take it to food banks around town. One hundred people eat out of our back yard every summer and fall.

The mortifying truth is that, ten years ago, I had no idea where food came from. I’d never planted a garden, and so had never had the grace that comes from digging in dirt, planting, watering, and—ugh—weeding a little plot of ground, “giving seed to the one who sows, and bread to the one who eats” (Is. 55:10). That, come to think of it, is exactly the method given to us throughout our lives—a little love, a little sun, a little careful pruning and planting of the Word in our hearts—that has brought us safe to this day, where we take the time to read commentaries like this on the scriptures that are such food for our souls.

What kind of seeds were planted in your heart that have borne fruit in you? I love asking people I admire—people who do generous, hard work in order to relieve suffering, or bring kindness, to anyone who asks—just exactly how they became who they are.

The seed, scattered and sown that was planted in you, or maybe was never directly planted but blew your way, will be producing fruit long after you have gone to God. Keep weeding.

How have you grown in wonder at the abundant goodness of God?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

4 July 2020

This will certainly be the most profound experience of Independence Day in my lifetime. I think I’ve learned more about the truths we hold to be self-evident these past several months, and especially these past few weeks, than in all the years I lived before them.

It started, for me, about a month into the coronavirus. I had asked everyone I talked with, as the weeks went by, if they knew anyone who was sick, or had died, from the virus. Except for one well-known man who died early on, no one knew anyone, and we were all so grateful.

This continued for weeks and weeks, and as we learned more about who was most vulnerable to this disease I became more and more embarrassed to ask the question. Why? Because it was painfully clear, as time went on, that it was the elderly, and those “essential workers” driving the buses and cleaning the nursing homes, who were dying at the greatest numbers. No wonder all the people who look like me didn’t know any of those people who don’t.

The other self-evident truth is now evident to the whole world: people who work in health care are just what they appeared to be when they applied to nursing school, pharmacy school, and medical school years ago. They are utterly devoted to caring for the sick, even at the risk of their health. Years of working in their field may have scarred them in some ways, but this virus has proven that they will lay down their own lives to save their patients.

Celebrate this Independence weekend. That we have so much to be proud of, and so much still to change, should be self-evident.

What things do you think our country needs to change first?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

2 July 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 10: 37-42

Here’s the problem: how do we love God more than any of our earthly loves—-parents, spouses, children—when God became flesh and dwelt among us? In other words, we’ve learned to love the God who “has flesh on.” Because of the Incarnation, we see Christ in other people, and in the working of the Holy Spirit in the world.

How, then, do we hold the love we have for God in a higher place than the love we have for the people in whom we find God? I might have a small idea, and it had to do with one of the shattering effects of the quarantining we have all experienced.

It turns out that too much togetherness for some unions has exposed the weaknesses that have existed from the beginning, but were put mightily to the test when there was no outside distraction. I read about these tensions because I have way too much time to waste on the internet.

It seems like the basic (and hardest) skills of daily forgiveness and forbearance, which the Church tries hard to provide not only in the sacraments but in the required Marriage Preparation, have never been truly exercised. Couples who have counted themselves as “happy” are now helpless against the stresses of confined living, because they’ve never practiced truly talking to each other.

I am grateful every day for the skills we learned as kids, growing up in daily Catholic life. We learned to share (when we REALLY didn’t want to). We learned not to roll our eyes and walk away when there was a disagreement, but to do the hard work of really listening.

By dying to ourselves we get that delicious abundant life that comes from loving God first.

In what ways has the quarantine called up in you some of the skills you’ve learned in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2020