Monthly Archives: August 2021

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

28 August 2021

Reflecting on Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Whenever I hear this challenging gospel I think of the 2001 movie, A Beautiful Mind. It tells the shocking story of John Nash, Nobel Laureate in Economics, whose life is filled with interesting, companionable, sometimes frightening, but always utterly imagined friends. He is deeply schizophrenic, and we don’t realize that until certain revelations throughout the movie cause us to question who in his life actually exists.

He finally has victory over his illness by training his mind to ignore his hallucinations. Whenever he encounters his “friends,” he forces himself to ignore them. This is how I feel about Jesus’ admonition that those who harbor evil thoughts, as well as a number of deadly sins, are defiled. It’s what we’re thinking about on the inside that corrupts us and makes us sad. I try to train my brain to forgive the irritating behaviors of people around me, as they forgive my own.

Think about gossip. Isn’t it delicious to hear something unsavory or scandalous about someone? It’s especially precious if it’s about someone we know, and even better if it’s about someone who has, in the tiniest ways, hurt our feelings at some point in the past. Then—yippee!—we hear something uncharitable about them, and we start marinating that news over and over in our hearts. We ruminate and luxuriate in it, and, soon enough, we are defiled with the spiciness of sweet revenge.

And it is sweet, for a minute. But in the end it makes us less. I want what’s going on in my brain to match the person I present to the world, especially since that’s the brain that asks for Jesus’ mercy every day.

What uncharitable thoughts are you training your brain to ignore?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

21 August 2021

Reflecting on John 6: 60-69

Don’t you wonder about those disciples who “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied” Jesus? They had heard about Jesus, had followed him even. But when he said that his Body was Real Food, and his Blood was Real Drink, that’s when they decided they were out.

They couldn’t understand it, and they certainly couldn’t believe it, so they had to leave the company of Jesus and the Twelve. I suspect that they must have been quite sad, maybe even devastated, that the man they had followed and loved had turned out to be a lunatic, just another shyster in an occupied territory where Messiahs were a dime a dozen.

I suspect they followed the rest of his life from afar. They may have heard about that business with the woman caught in adultery and nodded sadly.

Yes, that mercy is what drew us to him. And when he cured the man born blind, and then raised Lazarus from the dead, their hearts may have stirred within them. Yes! That’s the Jesus we love! That’s the Jesus for whom we were willing to give our lives!

On that terrible Friday, they may have stayed far away, thankful they got out when they could, before the Romans could connect them with Jesus. But on that glorious Easter morning, with Mary Magdalene’s shouts of “I have seen the Lord!” ringing in the air, they must have asked themselves again:

Why did we lose heart? Oh, right. It was that crazy business about him being the Bread of Life. That’s craziness, right? Right?

Wrong. In fact, it was so true that Jesus was willing to let them walk away rather than soften it.

What truths about the faith have you held close, even as others walked away?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Cycle B

14 August 2021

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-56

Today’s Gospel, the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, tells us that Mary, a woman alone and with child, made a fifty-mile journey from Galilee to Ein Karem, in the hill country of Judea.  Today a Catholic church stands at that site. Its many paintings depict  Elizabeth and Mary, and other women of their time, as they went about the sacred business of keeping alive their religious traditions.  I don’t think there is another church like it in the world.

When  Mary, now the ark of the covenant, the carrier of the Savior, arrives at her cousin’s home, she sings her Magnificat.  This suggests that what seems to be most on her mind, curiously, is not the news of her astonishing pregnancy, or even that of her aging cousin.  Instead, she wants to talk about God’s power to lift up the lowly and to fill the hungry with good things.

It makes you wonder what she saw on that road as she traveled.  Did she see widows and orphans crying for food, cast far away from the safety nets of husbands and fathers?  Did she see the executed Jews, whom the Romans crucified along well-traveled paths as reminders of the “Pax Romana”?    

When she arrived at her cousin’s, the unborn John sensed the presence of the true and only Prince of Peace.  That six-month-old fetus was the first to recognize the Incarnation, traveling in the womb of his mother Mary.  That should end any question of when life begins.

As the lovely Medical Missionaries’ hymn, The Visit, sings, There leaped a little child in the ancient womb.  And there leaped a little hope in every ancient tomb. So beautiful.

What do you think the young Mary was thinking about  as she traveled to see her cousin?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

7 August 2021

Reflecting on Ephesians 4:30-5:2

I really like our Next Door Digest, a neighborly check-in that alerts adjacent zip codes about lost pets, stolen catalytic converters, and the most HEAVENLY peach pie recipes.

The thing I like best are the comments. Unlike the vicious comments attached to so many online stories, our neighbors always have something uplifting and gracious to add: So glad you found your dog! This kindergarten sounds perfect for our child—thanks for posting!

I am so used to being around people who are “kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving,” that the “fury, anger, shouting, and reviling” that goes on in just about every publication still shocks me.

Most shocking of all is that this vitriol exists in Catholic online stories. This is such a terrible witness to Christ that I’m shocked all over again that, after being subjected to it,  there is a single believer standing. One wonders what the Church Father Tertullian would think, since he so famously wrote, “these Christians, see how they love one another.”

From whence does this ugly rhetoric spring? I have my own suspects, but certainly the rudeness and mean-spiritedness of those who take the time to respond to stories about politicians, those who set public policy, and just about any story about the Church, reflects the increasing coarseness of our society.

But maybe it’s not “increasing” at all. (Tertullian himself was no shrinking violet when it came to speaking his mind.) Every age has its violence. But we who believe should be a beacon of light, a warm sauna of love and kindness, like that angel who brought food and drink to Elijah in the desert. That’s a living, radical faith.

How are you living a counter-cultural, radical faith?

Kathy McGovern ©2021