Monthly Archives: February 2021

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

27 February 2021

Reflecting on Genesis 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18

If ever there were an example of why NOT to take some parts of scripture literally, it’s that first reading today. The story of the Sacrifice of Abraham (or the Binding of Isaac) has been out there for 2600 years, listened to around the campfire and proclaimed in synagogues and churches. I can’t find a single case of a mentally competent father ever murdering his beloved first-born son because he wanted to show God how obedient he was.

There is in us a certain filter that activates when we read a story like this. We say, “This is horrible, “ or “How can this be in scripture?” or even “Who wants a father like that?” But there is something in us that gets, right away, that this is a story told to instruct, not to be imitated.

There are other scripture texts that bring the filter down immediately too. I’ve known thousands of devout Christians in my life, people whose entire worlds are about bringing the Good News to the poor, and not one of them has, to my knowledge, ever cut out their eye or hand or foot because it offended them (Mt. 18:9).

I have heard of some Pentecostal churches that have encouraged believers to pick up snakes or drink deadly poisons in order to show the power of God’s word to save them (Mk. 16:18), but as people around the world become better educated in scripture those stories have begun to die out.

So, what IS the point of that terrifying Genesis story we read today? Maybe it’s that our relationship with God is the treasure we want to protect above everything else.

What would your life be like without the intimacy of Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

20 February 2021

Reflecting on Genesis 9: 8-15

Many years ago I was hospitalized several times over the course of five months. Probably the most visceral memory I have of that terrible time is of a recurring dream. The Greeks had it right when they named “Morpheus” (morphine) the god of dreams. If you’ve ever spent a length of time on morphine I’ll bet you’ve had some awful dreams too.

In this dream I was on an escalator, going down, down. There was no escape, no hope. I remember thinking how odd it was that everyone was on the escalator, everyone was doomed to an eternity of going down without any glimpse of sky or light, and yet we all kept pretending that we didn’t realize this.

Through the grace of God and the strength of the prayers of hundreds of people, I recovered. And over time the dream lost its power, so much so that, nearly fourteen years later, I have to work to remember it at all.

But when I think of the Great Flood, the terrible waters covering the earth and all that dwelt upon it, I remember that feeling of going down, down. A catastrophic flood is related in several ancient texts. There seems to be, lodged in our universal collective unconscious, a sense that we are traveling down, down, without hope of rescue.

But, stronger than death, Rescue did arrive, and even the torments of Satan couldn’t keep him from us. Such is the fierce love of Jesus. The early Christians imaged the Church as a boat on high seas, keeping us up, up. Jesus commands that boat, of course. Grab on to that boat. Grab on to Jesus. He will raise you up.

How will you cling to Jesus this Lent as you exercise a new discipline?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

13 February 2021

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

Sometimes a different translation of a text comes closer to the way we think of Jesus. For example, according to the NAB (New American Bible), when the leper professes his faith that, if Jesus wills it, he could cure him of leprosy, Jesus is “moved with pity” and says, “I do will it.”

That’s nice. But I LOVE the NIV (New International Version) translation of the same scene. This time, after the leper professes his faith that if Jesus wills it he could be cured, Mark 1: 41 says, “Jesus was indignant.” Don’t you like that Jesus so much better?

Imagine if your child, miserable with an earache, said, “Mom, if you wanted to you could make me feel better!” You’d be moved with pity, sure, but I’ll bet you’d also be indignant, wondering how your child could possibly think you wouldn’t want him to feel better immediately.

Heck, the CEB (Common English Bible) even says Jesus was incensed at the question! I like that the best of all. I love the image of Jesus as the One whose love for us is so deep—and his presence in our lives so intimate and near—that he is incensed that we would wonder whether he wants to heal us.

In still another translations Jesus says, “Of course I will it.” The God of heaven chose earth so that he could be one with us in our illnesses, our sufferings, and our deaths. He wants to heal us so desperately that, like the Hound of Heaven, he seeks us in out-of-the-way roads, and busy urban thoroughfares, just so we can find him. Why aren’t all healed? We don’t know. But it’s not because Jesus doesn’t will it.

What healing do you need? How can the Body of Christ help you?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

6 February 2021

Reflecting on Mark 1: 29-39

Dizzy yet? Four short weeks ago Jesus appeared for baptism by John at the Jordan, only to have the heavens tear open, the Spirit descend, and a Voice from heaven announce that this is, indeed, God’s own and beloved Son.

Hello, Gospel of Mark. You don’t waste any time, do you? Right off the bat you tell us who Jesus is, and woe to those who hoped for a leisurely recounting of his life. With Mark we are in for a hair-raising race through the adult life of Jesus, always with that unseen narrator asking us, “And so? Now that you know, how will you change your life?”

Two weeks ago we witnessed his call to the two sets of brothers, which went something like this: Cephas, Andrew, James, John, let’s go. And that was that. They left their livelihoods that very day. Such is the urgency of the gospel.

Last week Jesus made very fast work of the demons tormenting the man in the synagogue. Recall that they tried to buy time and chat him up when they saw him come in. What have you to do with us? they asked, pretending they didn’t know. Jesus put a stop to that right fast. Quiet! Come out of him! And that was that.

And today we see Jesus, in ten short verses, doing all three hallmarks of his ministry: healing, praying, and preaching. Simon’s mother-in-law is restored to service, which connects her back to her family. That night, demons are cast out and illnesses cured. Afterwards, Jesus retreats for quiet prayer, and, finally, goes about preaching.

All this, and we are only 39 verses into Mark. Fasten your seat belts.

How does the breakneck pace of Mark’s gospel inspire me?

Kathy McGovern ©2021