Monthly Archives: October 2021

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

30 October 2021

Reflecting on Mark 12: 28b-34

The wonderful daily devotional Words of Grace offers a really great insight into loving our neighbor “as” ourselves. Cynthia Bourgeault writes in today’s entry that it’s not that we love others as much as we love ourselves, but that there is so much in the other person that IS ourselves, too. The “other” is really part of us too. We love our neighbor “as ourselves” because we are all connected, and making that connection is what makes being human so challenging, and so rich.

Think of your favorite books. What is it about them that touches you? We treasure our books, carrying them around with us from move to move, from childhood to the nursing home. I think it’s the friends we met there, both protagonists and antagonists, who strike a chord with our own, perhaps unconscious, connection with our deepest selves.

It gets complicated, of course, when the “neighbor” is someone abhorrent to us. How can we see any connection between ourselves and the mass murderer, the pedophile, the conniving co-worker, or even the porch pirate caught on our doorbell camera grabbing packages minutes after they arrive?

I don’t know. I’ve heard respected theologians teach that “there but for the grace of God” go any of us. Jesus, as always, understood it best when, from the cross, he asked his Father to forgive his murderers because they didn’t know what they were doing.

There have been countless times when others loved us, even when we didn’t know what we were doing. Remember them now. Pray for them now.  They loved us “as” themselves, as “part of” themselves. Oh, what a gift to be part of the human family.

Who am I presently working on loving “as myself”?

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

23 October 2021

Reflecting on Mark 10: 46-52

Don’t you wonder what Blind Bartimaeus saw when Jesus opened his eyes? I remember my own experiences of having those eye drops that dilate the pupils during exams. It’s always a very weird hour or so while the eyes that have served me so well my whole lifetime shift back into shape.

As far as we know, Bartimaeus didn’t have a lifetime of seeing, of making sense of images. It takes quite a while for a newly-sighted person to learn how to interpret all the visual data flooding the brain. But—and I love this—it appears that the first image he saw was the face of Jesus! And that, friends, took no trial and error, no unscrambling of visual cues at all. He saw Jesus, and left everything to follow him on the Way.

It’s that moment of clarity that touches me. I’ve had several of  those moments in my life, where I’ve seen Jesus more clearly. I always, always see him in the sacraments, of course. As I reflect back, I’ve also seen him in conversation. Sometimes I’ll have a stunning moment of clarity while talking with a beloved friend or family member.

All of a sudden, I sense the unmistakable presence of Jesus, healing and giving grace to my friend, and to me. Other times, I glimpse him in the challenges so many people meet every day as they embrace difficult children, difficult work situations, difficult health failings. Look!, I think, take courage! The Master is calling you! Tell him what you want him to do for you.

In fact, I’ll bet he’s calling you right now. Open your eyes and tell him what you need.

Readers, please take this moment to pray for all who are telling Jesus their needs.

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

16 October 2021

Reflecting on Mark 10: 35-45

Oh, James. Oh, John. You were the eyewitnesses. You were called by Jesus himself, straight off your father’s boat. You were with him from the beginning of his public life. You witnessed heart-stopping things, like crippling unclean spirits expelled, and blind eyes opened, and a paralyzed man dropped down the roof so that Jesus could heal him, body and soul.

You alone, with Peter, were part of the privileged triad Jesus allowed to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5:37), and the blinding light of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). How is it that, after your nearness to him, you didn’t grasp that to drink the cup that he would drink meant you would join him in suffering?

Remember when Peter tried to remove Jesus from that suffering, assuring him that he would never die a violent death? Jesus was looking RIGHT AT YOU when he said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mk. 8:33)!

That’s okay. We would have thought the same thing. After all, look at all the miracles! But surely you realized, that terrible night in Gethsemane, when you were once again singled out, with Peter, to stay awake and pray with him (Mark 14: 32-36), that when he prayed the cup be taken away from him, that cup must be terrible? And did you remember, then, how you had once begged for that cup?

We don’t know how you died, John. Tradition believes you lived a long life and died in Ephesus. But you, James, were stoned by order of Herod Agrippa I. According to Spanish tradition, your body was taken to Santiago de Compostela, where your shrine attracts Christian pilgrims from all over the world. And the cup of suffering continues for martyrs even today.

What cup of suffering do you accept every day?

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

9 October 2021

Reflecting on Mark 10: 17-30

Imagining a camel small enough to fit through the eye of a needle can make you stop and rub your eyes and say, “WHAAAT?” This hyperbole for things we could never possibly do was a common example in the world of Jesus, and he certainly meant the image to be taken seriously when he taught about what it takes to enter the kingdom of God.

I have been blessed in my life to be almost constantly in the presence of deeply wise people, people for whom the pursuit of and submission to wisdom has been far more important than any other crown. So when my lifelong friend Mary Frances Jaster answered the phone today I said, without preamble, “Talk to me about the rich young man.” Without missing a beat, she referred me to lyrics from a song I didn’t know, lyrics that tell of being touched by seeing a man with no clothes, no money, no plate.

There are blessed moments in life that shrink us. Seeing the Afghan refugees arriving with no clothes, no money, no plate is one of them. Standing in a dark field on a dark night and seeing the galaxy twinkling above is another. That same galaxy certainly inspired the psalmist to ask “Who are we, God, that you are mindful of us (8:4)?

There are other moments that shrink us too, like when we realize how wrong we’ve been, and how much God has forgiven our arrogance. I love finally seeing the world from God’s perspective. Like John the Baptist, I want to decrease, so that Jesus in me may increase. Somehow, the more space he takes up, the less space I need.

In what ways have you felt yourself shrink as Jesus makes more room in you?

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

2 October 2021

Reflecting on Genesis 2: 18-24

My friend Eileen Love died recently. I hoped to write about her sometime in the next three years, when an appropriate scripture text revealed itself, but it happened already, just a month after her death, with today’s scriptures about marriage. I’m glad. I’ve been wanting to remember her to you.

Eileen and Mike loved each other, and for that reason they left their fathers and mothers, and, clinging to each other, left Long Island for upstart, 1970s Denver. They brought four kind, smart Love sons into the world there. Things got even better when these sons married their warm and brilliant wives. But, of course, Eileen’s Love Life went into its highest gear when the adorable, enchanting grandkids started coming (the seventh of whom will no doubt have been born by the time you read this).

Her funny, heartbroken siblings spoke at her services, their New York accents bringing the Irish ancestors right into the room. Eileen had a deeply intuitive connection with these ancestors, the great-grandparents who taught their children the faith, which was then passed to their children’s children. Before she ever knew she was sick, she published her stunning memoir, In the Shadow of the Cedar, about her mother’s family.

Like olive plants around the table, she could imagine all the children of all the people in her family, going back several generations.

I commend her to you now as we consider these readings. Whether married, single, or a vowed Religious, we all had a mother and a father. Pray for them today. And pray for whomever it was who brought you to the faith. And may the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

How can we honor all our families who came before us?

Kathy McGovern ©2021