Monthly Archives: August 2020

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

29 August 2020

Reflecting on Jeremiah 20: 7-9

Every day of my life—and especially in these waning days of summer—I breathe in the blessedness of being alive. I try to keep my eyes wide open to the glorious goodness of every normal day.

During these bonus years I’ve seen how true it is that nobody escapes the tragedies of life. Those who were on top were laid low, either through their own sins or just the changing trends in their fields. Witness the life and death of Blockbuster.

We’ve all had our hearts ripped open by the loss of dear ones, or the deaths of those who were dear to the people we love. You duped me, we might say to God. I’ve loved you, and this is how you repay me. It doesn’t work that way, of course. Loving God with our whole hearts and minds and strength (Deut. 6:5) is simply the way our DNA is set up. Point yourself in the direction of God and you will inevitably fall in love forever. Great joy, and devastating sorrow, will follow.

“If you want a happy ending,” said Orson Welles, “it depends on where you end the story.” If the story had ended with the resurrection of Jesus, we would look at the present terrors of our lives and feel utterly betrayed. But the Acts of the Apostles and the accounts of early historians lay it out clearly: every one of the Twelve met with martyrdom. Did they feel duped? The ancient accounts say they felt held by God.

So hold fast. Read the scriptures of the day in your missals. Attend Mass, virtually or in person. You have not been duped. You’ve been eternally embraced by God.

How have you reconciled the seeming paradox of the sufferings of life and the promises of Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

22 August 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 16:13-20

I love how Peter had his great moment of faith, and the accompanying praise from Jesus. He got it right! Had he been coming to this world-changing insight for weeks, maybe years? Or, like so many things that the Holy Spirit reveals, did it just impulsively pour out of his heart? You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! he cried. And right away he knew that he was right.

Jesus brought him front and center, and announced to all the disciples that Peter was BLESSED, and it was upon his very faith the whole Church would be built. And then Peter, God bless him, brand-new in possession of the keys to the kingdom, opened his mouth again, and, well, that was a mistake.

Exactly two verses later (Matthew 16:23), when Jesus predicted his murder to his horrified friends, Peter, his new BFF, took him aside to correct him. You’ve got it all wrong! Nothing like that will ever happen to you!

And, just like that, Peter went from first place to last. How could he have gotten it so wrong, so fast? Peter, who just minutes before had possessed a great supernatural truth, was now a SATAN, a tempter who was trying to give Jesus a way out. And Jesus, through a lifetime of prayer, must have steeled himself from any ways out from the cross he knew awaited him.

Get behind me, Jesus said. Don’t lead my disciples into magical thinking. The cross, he knew, would await every one of The Twelve. Peter himself got behind Jesus and met his own crucifixion in Rome. The faith of the earliest Christians is the Rock (Petra) of our faith too.

In what ways was Peter’s impetuousness a help and a hindrance to Jesus’ mission?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

15 August 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 15: 21-28

I was reading a piece written by an Orthodox Jewish woman recently, and I had to laugh. It was just last year that she realized that the Canaanites had been living in the Promised Land for hundreds of years before the Hebrews came in from the desert and “took possession” of it.  Nobody told us that people were already living there! she shouted. That changes everything!

It’s kind of like the first time we figured out Columbus didn’t exactly “discover” America. Indigenous people had been fishing, hunting, and living here for at least ten thousand years before the Europeans arrived. That changes everything.

That all races through my mind as I envision that brave Canaanite woman, descendant of one of the early inhabitants of that land, reaching out to Jesus, begging him to heal her daughter who was being tormented by a demon (perhaps an unknown mental illness).

At first he rebukes her, and then becomes delighted at her courageous retort. This is the kind of faith he’s been longing for! And it comes from a woman (an outsider in that male-dominated world) and a Canaanite. It brings to mind Sacagawea, who spoke dual languages, leading the way for Lewis and Clark in 1800. A woman, and a Shoshone, led them to the Pacific. Two thousand years earlier, the Syro-Phoenician woman led the way to a radical new understanding of who is beloved by God.

But somehow, even though Jesus praised her faith, it didn’t change everything. We still have systemic sinfulness in our dealings with the “other,” and, somehow, those who speak two languages are still made to feel inferior to those of us (like me) who only speak one.

What about the courage of this Syro-Phoenician woman touches you?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

13 August 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 14: 22-23

I just noticed something. In the two accounts of big storms at sea, Jesus is either sleeping through it—Mt. 8: 23-27— or he’s not in the boat at all—Mt. 14: 2-33. That feels about right. I have a beloved friend who lived her life in prayer. And the only time she absolutely lost her connection to Jesus was when she was desperately ill in the hospital. Her sense was that he was either sound asleep or not in her presence at all.

She recovered, and over time her deep sense of the presence of Jesus was restored. But those two gospel accounts of the disciples terrorized at sea are a perfect metaphor for our own experiences of trauma. When we call to Jesus in our trials, do we feel him with us? The gospel suggests that he is there, but so totally confident in God’s power over the sea (and illness, and death) that he is serene during our thrashings about.

O you of little faith, he says to wave-tossed Peter. Why did you doubt? Well, let’s see. Why do we doubt? We are still in the absolute middle of the storm. We’ve closed down, we’ve reopened, we’ve closed down again. We are those disciples, terrorized in the boat. But we need to be Peter.

Reach, says the gospel. Be courageous and reach. But a lot of times, we are too weak, too far gone, to reach. Are you like that today? Are you just too weak to reach? No worries. The Body of Christ has your back. We reach for you. And look! Here comes Jesus, calling your name, reaching out to catch you.

What need do you have that the Body of Christ can fill? Reach out.

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

1 August 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 14: 13-21

Abundance. I think about it a lot these days. Our friend Fred gave us a tomato plant last month. “What does it need?” I asked. “Oh, you know. Water.”

KAPOW. Seven weeks later, the plump yellow fruits are climbing out of their enclosure. They’re taking over the porch. They’re multiplying faster than the rabbits we find in our yard every morning. And they are so, so delicious. (The tomatoes, that is.) And all it took was sun, and water.

Abundance is what we have all seen in parents during these past several months. Faced with the stressful challenges of having kids at home while parents are working, either inside or outside the home, the abundant love that parents have for their kids has poured out, week after exhausting week, as they engage their kids, and play with their kids, and cook and clean, and cook and clean, forever and ever, AMEN.

The love of Christ is in such astonishing abundance that NOTHING can take us from it. Think on that. No violence, no virus, no economic collapse can take us from the love of Christ. His love is more abundant than all of that.

Feeding thousands with a few loaves and fish? That’s the abundant bounty of God. I wish I knew how it happened, but I know that if I had been out in that deserted place that day, filled to overflowing with the Presence of Jesus, I too would have eaten my fill and yet watched the contents of the basket grow.

Think of the love you have for just one family member, or just one friend. Is there anything that could stop you from loving them? That’s abundance. That’s God’s very life in you.

What is one sign this season that speaks to you of God’s abundant love?

Kathy McGovern ©2020