Monthly Archives: September 2021

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

25 September 2021

Reflecting on James 5: 1-6

I’ve just finished Kristen Hannah’s The Four Winds, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get the dust out of my mouth. I love a novel that is so compelling that you live in it, and see the world through it, every day that you’re reading it, and for weeks afterward.

The Dust Bowl endured for nine long years, with the unrelenting series of misery caused by drought, dust storms, and poor farming practices overlapping with the ten years of the Great Depression.  Millions descended upon the California fields, begging for work planting and harvesting.

The book follows its characters from the plains of Texas up to the San Joachim Valley. Just when we think they are finally going to have enough to eat and drink, we encounter the merciless owners of the fields, who, recognizing that there are millions willing to work for less, begin withholding wages from the starved migrant workers.

That’s where today’s shocking reading from the Letter of James intersects. But this ugly business of employing workers for the fields, and then cheating them of their wages, goes back much earlier than that first century letter.

The book of Deuteronomy may be at least seven hundred years earlier. Look at 24: 15: “You shall give him his wages on this day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it.”

How terrible to work hard, on an empty stomach, and receive no pay at the end of the day. The author of the letter of James railed against this malevolent practice. O God of the harvest, protect all laborers who work to bring food to our tables.

How can we follow the biblical mandate to ensure that workers receive just wages?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

18 September 2021

The new checker at our grocery store is WAY too cool for school. He works the night shift. The first (and last) time I went through his stand, he was chatting up the cute young lady ahead of me, and brazenly watching something on his phone while checking out customers.

Almost immediately he started adding up the groceries on the conveyor belt of the VERY NICE, twenty-something guy just behind me along with mine. We both stopped him at the same time.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought she was your grandma or something.” I glared at him. “You thought I was old enough to be HIS grandmother?” And the super nice guy jumped in and said, “I would LOVE for you to be my grandma.” But even that undeserved kindness didn’t stop me from stomping out. No matter. Super Cool Guy was back on his phone, my anger just a funny footnote to his boring night at work.

Now, here’s the really stupid part. OF COURSE I’m old enough to be his grandmother. EASILY. But I’m sensitive about this because, up until a severe illness several years ago, I looked a bit younger than my age. And how ungrateful am I to be angry about looking my age, when I’m so, so lucky to be alive?

Where do the conflicts and divisions among you originate? Right there, in our unexamined and knee-jerk responses to perfectly normal conversation. By the time I got to my car I recognized where my VERY UNCHARACTERISTIC anger had come from, and I was ready to make peace.

Honest reflection, and repentance, can end conveyor belt conflicts, and wars, before they start.

What experience of unchecked anger have you been surprised by in yourself?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

11 September 2021

Reflecting on Mark 8: 27-35

I take such strength from Peter. He got it right about half the time. But he REALLY got it right at the beginning of today’s gospel, when he confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. And then, just a few verses later, he admonished Jesus that OF COURSE he wouldn’t suffer and die. That’s not how Messiahs work!

And just like that he was back at the end of the line, “getting behind” Jesus instead of walking with him in the front. Like so many who encountered Jesus in Mark’s gospel, Peter took his place with those who were following Jesus on the Way.

When Jesus announced that those who followed him would have crosses as well, I would have headed for the hills. Nobody told me that the price of admission to the kingdom involves suffering! Where is the escape clause in this contract?

Way back when we were baptized, we (or our parents and Godparents), renounced Satan and all his empty promises. And one of those empty promises, probably the most seductive of all, is that there are ways to get through life without suffering.

Turn these stones to bread! Satan tempted a hungry Jesus. Throw yourself down from the Temple parapet and let the angels catch you! a mocking Satan invited Jesus to break the laws of nature.

God bless St. Peter. He was confused, and afraid. But still he followed Jesus. Years later, utterly joyous to meet his Risen Lord, he invited his executioners to crucify him upside down. He felt unworthy to die in the same posture as his Christ. And he knew that the gates of heaven were reaching down to receive him.

What crosses in your life do you take up every day?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

4 September 2021

Reflecting on Mark 7: 31-37

What must it have been like for that hearing-and-speech-impaired man, isolated by the profound challenges of his disability, to be drawn away from the crowd by The Healer? Trembling, he felt Jesus’ fingers in his ears. He knew Jesus was expelling the Evil One when he spat, and then his fingers were on his tongue! Immediately, the beauty of language was opened to him, and the first words he heard were Be Opened.

Be Opened. What a perfect introduction to the hearing life. Be Opened, said our first-grade teachers, who were opening our eyes to the magic of letters that formed words, that formed sentences, that formed the books that opened our eyes to the world.

Be Opened, said our blessed teachers who introduced us to Jesus all those years ago, and the life-giving Good News came pouring into our hearts. Be Opened, said our parents, trying to lead us in the way that we should go. Be Opened, we say to someone who just won’t hear our point of view. Be Opened, they say right back to us.

Imagine that the very first words you heard in your life were Be Opened. And, of course, you would never forget The Man who spoke those words to you. How blest was he whose ears were opened by Jesus.

His speaking came next, and oh, what words he had to tell! And shouldn’t that be every one of us, so in love with Jesus that our tongues are opened? Hearing and speaking, of course, go hand in hand. As Dennis Hamm, SJ, reminds us, the more attentively we hear the Gospel, the better we can speak it.

How are you “speaking the Gospel” in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2021