Monthly Archives: December 2022

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Cycle A

31 December 2022

Reflecting on Luke 2:16-21

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  I’ve thought about that word a thousand times. It appears that Mary was as shocked at the words the angels sang to the shepherds as they were.

When the shepherds joyously ran the five miles from what is now called Shepherd’s Field to “see this thing which has come to pass,” they found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Then, apparently, they ran into the neighborhoods, shouting the Good News which the angels had proclaimed.

And what did the young Mary do? She kept these things. She treasured these things. She pondered these things. We’ll see that word again twenty verses later when Jesus, now a young man of twelve, Is “found” in the Temple by his frantic parents.

At some unconscious level, they must have known the day would come when their Child would announce the mission of his life. The three returned to Nazareth, and Mary pondered all this in her heart.

To “ponder” means to “throw together.” I think this means that Mary held together the entire Mystery–the Angel Gabriel’s shocking announcement, the surprise pregnancy of her older cousin Elizabeth, the angels filling the skies and singing about the birth of her Son, the visit of the shepherds, the joy with which Anna and Simeon greeted the Child in the Temple, and yes, the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart.

She held all these things together. Throughout history, the human race has begged her to hold our prayers close to her, now, and at the hour of our death.

Do you think Mary was shocked at the appearance of the angels, and the shepherds?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Christmas – Cycle A

24 December 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 1:1-25

There must be thirty distinct characters in the Christmas story, but I find myself drawn to St. Joseph more and more. Does it seem to you that he is everywhere?

More Christian shrines are dedicated to him than any man besides Jesus. I wonder why. He doesn’t speak a single word in scripture. He doesn’t have to. He is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in his dreams, and, like that young Joseph in Egypt 1600 years earlier, he trusts that God is speaking to him through them. That trust saves the Child, and you and me, and will, in the fullness of time, save the world.

St. Joseph the Worker. That’s the image that most of us know. Jesus is called “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55,) and that image has made its way into art of all ages. We see him working with wood, but “carpenter”—tekton—-may also have been someone who works with stone. There weren’t a lot of trees in Nazareth, but there was a large rock quarry just three miles away. Joseph and Jesus may, in fact, have worked on the large Roman city, Sepphoris, very close to Nazareth, a city largely constructed of stone, as were most of the homes in the region.

Interesting, but not at all why we love St. Joseph. We love him because of his quiet strength, his protection of Mary and the Child, his wisdom in discerning how God is acting in his life. We love that, BEFORE Gabriel told him of the virginal conception of Jesus, he had already decided to divorce her quietly, lest she fall prey to the Orthodox readers of Deuteronomy 22: 13-17, and be killed. Love him.

St. Joseph, we need you. Please dream a new world for us this year.

What would you like to ask St. Joseph this Christmas?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

17 December 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 1: 18-24

I’m confused. Is the child’s name to be Jesus—Yeshua, which means “God saves”— or is it to be Emmanuel, which means God with us? How can this Child have two distinct names? That’s a question that bothers the careful reader of today’s Gospel.

First, though, a fun distinction between how Luke and Matthew handle the Name. Luke, that great lover of Mary, says that SHE is going to name her Son. (1:31). HA! A woman naming her own child? Unheard of.

Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, remembers this scene differently. His narrative of the birth of Jesus is told through the eyes of Joseph. That’s wonderful, since without Matthew’s account we’d know nothing about Joseph at all. And, of course, it is Joseph who shall name the Son. The father names the child, and Joseph will take on the role of the father of this miraculously conceived Child.

And how rich it is, in Matthew, that Jesus will have two names. He will come to save us. But he will also come to be with us. By giving him these two names, Matthew starts healing us right away. We need a savior. We need help in illness and death. We need help with our aging parents. We need a savior for our troubled children. But we need a God who is with us as we face these agonizing trials.

From the start, we know that Jesus will be with us. And at the very end, as Jesus is ascending to heaven, he says, “And lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age (28:20).

A savior? Yes. Who is with us? Oh, yes. O come, O come, Emmanuel.

How do you sense that God is with you?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

10 December 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 11: 2-11

I wonder why Jesus asked the crowd what they were expecting when they went out to the desert to meet John. It sounds like there must have been a lot of murmuring about him. Curious Jews had made the long trek out to the Jordan valley, just north of the Dead Sea, to see this famous preacher. It sounds like they might have been surprised, and disappointed, by the person they encountered.

It’s hard to imagine they might have been expecting “someone dressed in fine clothing.” Surely word had spread about the austere clothing and diet of this fiery preacher. More important, the desert territory where he made his home was long associated with the life of the great prophet Elijah, whose ascetical dress made him easily recognizable (2 Kings 1:8). His memory was still powerful in Israel, and certainly was invoked when people met the Baptist, whose dress, and diet, and locale was identical to him who had lived nearly a thousand years earlier.

He was also certainly not a “reed shaken by the wind.” This guy? He stood up to the Pharisees, and anyone who hoped that rigorous observance of the Law was more important than giving a cloak to the one was cold, and food to the one who was hungry (Luke 3:11). No, this Baptist stood up to Herod Antipas himself, and didn’t back down, even when in chains in Herod’s dungeon. And I’ll bet that when the soldiers came for him the night of Herod’s drunken birthday, his last words were his earlier words with Jesus, “that I may decrease, and he may increase” (John 3: 30).

That’s the man they encountered. That’s the man we encounter today.

Which prophets in your life would you go out to the desert to see?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

3 December 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 3: 1-12

Boy, that John the Baptist could turn a phrase. Can you imagine being some of the Religious Elite of Jerusalem, making the long trip out to the desert to receive a baptism of repentance from the famous Elijah figure, and being greeted with, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

They might have heard of his austere diet, and his painful clothing of camel’s hair, but why was he choosing to single THEM out for verbal abuse? True, they’d been a little nervous lately about his warnings about good fruit as evidence of redemption, but they never dreamed, until this moment, that their perfect pedigree wasn’t enough to get the Baptist to show some respect.

I think of those Pharisees and Sadducees a lot. I can just see myself, lording it over the worshipers in the synagogue, because I had the good sense to be born in the right part of the world, from the right family, and at the right time in history.

And oh, what a shock to hear the Baptist say, “You! What are you doing out here? Did you finally realize that someone else might have something to teach the world about the One who is to come?’

The answer, gratefully, is YES. There is someone in every house, on every corner, who has life-changing things to teach me about Jesus. And I bless and thank, every day in prayer, those who came before me, radiating the Good News.

The Baptist has come to each of us, through parents, teachers, religious figures, and friends. Blessed be they forever. And blessed be we who recognize that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Who are the people who have drawn you closer to Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2022