Easter – Cycle C

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

18 May 2019

Reflecting on John 13: 31-33a, 34-35

I hope you feel that you are abiding in love. If you don’t, it’s time to check the baptismal certificates of those around you. That’s right. Jesus could not have been clearer. By THIS the world will know we are his own, by the enormous amount of LOVE we pour out into the world.

Maybe we can’t define love, but we sure know it when we feel it, don’t we? I’m surrounded by disciples. Because of that I’m practically drowning in love.

How do you measure the way love sustains your life? Let’s take Sunday, for example. When you attempt the Daytona 500—otherwise known as the church parking lot—do your fellow worshipers smile and wave you ahead, while they take the next spot down? (And—ahem—do you make this same kind gesture for others occasionally?)

When you come into church, are you warmly welcomed? My husband Ben and I happened to be in Miami on Holy Thursday and visited a church there. Two people rushed to open the doors for us, and others scrambled to smile at us, greet us, and take us up to the front section. After Mass people couldn’t stop smiling at us. We were visitors, and they were just so happy to have us. How perfect to feel that much love with a community that has just celebrated the washing of feet.

Here’s the thing: love is what changes us for good. Other experiences teach us, and make us better at what we do. But love is what Christ gives us, and so it’s what we must give. Love for the life of the world. And no, not just for some…but for everyone.

How are you giving what the world needs now so much?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

11 May 2019

Reflecting on Acts 13: 14, 43-52

He did it again. Every week I read several commentaries to help me reflect on the Sunday readings, and once again the great John Kavanaugh, SJ has opened the most beautiful and insightful window into today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

What does it mean that “all who were destined for eternal life” (13: 48) came to believe? What did Barnabas and Paul know about eternal life? How could they know anything, since they were still alive, in bodies that were directed by brains that would die, which would then signal the death of their bodies? In other words, if you are brain dead, how do you experience any life?

Father Kavanaugh puts it this way:  “How can an ‘after’ life have any continuity with this life when all our experience is so brain-based? Our memories, our joys, the delights of every sense, the faces of our loved ones all seem so inseparable from this world and our bodies.”

Even though Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, what kind of bodies will they be, once they are separated by time and space? Kavanaugh offers this delicious question: imagine that all the babies born today could talk to all the babies still in the womb and give them this good news: life is even better outside the womb! I know it seems like only death outside, but “the new world beyond your womb is connected to what you are right now, but it is wondrously different! All the gifts you have are only glimmers of what they will become!”

You successfully made it through your birth. Trust God that this life is only a shadow of what awaits.

What insights into eternity have you gained this Easter?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

10 May 2019

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

Even though it’s nowhere in scripture, tradition says that Peter, when an old man, was dragged away and crucified. Because he did not feel worthy to receive the same death as his Lord, Peter asked to be crucified upside down. Scripture never tells us where or when this took place, but the author of John’s gospel certainly knows about it, because he says that Jesus’s words to Peter ­­­­the day will come when you will be led where you do not want to go­­­ signified by what kind of death Peter would glorify God.

Peter was probably martyred by Emperor Nero in Rome in the mid-60s, AD. The origin of the tradition of him being crucified upside down is unknown. But his death HAS glorified God, hasn’t it, all these centuries? Hasn’t the image of Peter begging to endure a more humiliating death than even Jesus endured been a source of inspiration and strength to you from the day you first heard it?

We don’t have to dance around the facts of the resurrection. The eyewitnesses to the empty tomb, and to the Risen One, didn’t say things like, “Well, he’s risen in our hearts,” or “We feel his Spirit and are strengthened.” That would never be enough to ask your executioners to nail you to a cross upside down.

Peter and all the martyred ones went to their deaths utterly positive that the grave that held Jesus was empty, and that Christ would raise them up with him. The witness­­­that’s another word for “martyr”—of those first believers rings out throughout the ages: He is Risen, and our lives and deaths are meant to give glory to that Name.

What deaths have you witnessed that give glory to God?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

10 May 2019

Reflecting on Jn. 20: 19-31

This is the Sunday when I most like to recall the mercies of God throughout this past year. Let me invite you into a similar meditation.

Remembering back, what victories did you have in holding your temper, in holding your tongue, in holding back a savvy “shade” on someone? That’s mercy.

Blessed are those who have not had unkind words spoken to them; more blessed indeed are those who have not spoken unkind words themselves.

What physical challenges have you overcome this year? Did you fall prey to the horrible flu, or the bad colds of this season, or even pneumonia? How blessed are you who were sick and are now well. Even more blessed are those who stayed with you, cared for you, nursed and doctored you back to health. They have shown mercy, and mercy will be shown to them.

How about your prayer life? Did you experience the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit as you navigated the depths of Christ’s life in you? Maybe a faith community has welcomed and loved you. For that mercy, in the winter and spring of your days this year, be grateful. Even more blessed are those who have extended that friendship and grace.

I know a little bit about mercy, because I am the endless recipient of it. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I offer this suggestion. Find the image of Divine Mercy. Stand in front of it. Imagine the healing rays coming from the heart of Jesus pouring straight into whatever part of your body or soul is hurting. Let those rays in. The mercy of the Risen One longs to pour into you.

Jesus, we trust in you.

How can the Divine Mercy of Jesus transform you this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle C

20 April 2019

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

It’s Easter, finally! Breathe it in. Smell it. Taste it. Touch it. It’s glorious, gracious Easter, arriving once again in spite of our imperfect attempts to prepare for it.

Ah, flowers. Take in that delicious Easter smell of last night’s orgy of joy­—the chrism, the Candle, the cries of joy from the Elect as we dunked them with the waters of the parted Red Sea and the blessed Jordan River.

It’s Easter, people! Get out your gorgeous Easter colors, your Easter hats and your white gloves, your Easter baskets and your Easter hearts, broken open by Good Friday, overflowing with joy at the news of the empty tomb.

Do you have timeless and beautiful Easter memories? If so, call them up. Thank you, Aunt Margaret, for those heavenly chocolate Easter eggs, with each of our names in gorgeous pink script.

Thank you, Sister Genevieve, for teaching us the music for Holy Week. Our eighth grade class led all the music for the entire Triduum. As always in my life, I was in the right place at the right time.

Thank you, kind parish of my youth. You opened the choir loft to children, and the indelible mark of mission and music has never left me.

Thank you, Egeria, you intrepid fourth-century nun. You traveled from Spain to the Holy Lands to see how the Christians in Jerusalem celebrated Easter. Your fascinating diary, discovered in 1884, is the reason our Holy Weeks are so stunningly beautiful.

Thank you, St. Mary Magdalene, disciple to the disciples. Your witness rings out to the farthest reaches of the earth: the grave is empty!

Death couldn’t hold the Author of Life. And it won’t hold you either.

What are your favorite Easter memories?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Pentecost Sequence – Cycle C

18 May 2016

Come, Holy Spirit. That’s what we say.

But could you help us actually mean it someday?

Do we know what we’re asking for? Should we retreat?

Can we absorb all that fire? Can we take the heat?

                                                                           

First, give us grace to prepare for your power.

Give us hearts to give up what you long to devour.

Our greed, our guilt, our closing our eyes,

Take it all Spirit, lay bare our disguise.

 

Help us want to want you, that’s really our prayer.

Enlarge our hearts so there’s room for you there.

This Pentecost, Spirit, bring us a new birth.

Then watch as we join in renewing the earth.

How will you work to bring the earth back to health this year?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

A Mother’s Day Memory

9 May 2016

The rain started out fast, and before I knew it my doll and I were drenched!   I raced down the alley with my doll carriage, but Susie fell out and into the muddy alley.

I was hysterical, of course. My beautiful mother went out into the rain to look for her. I was stunned to realize that my mother was not completely magical. Even she, with all her wondrous powers, couldn’t find my beloved doll.

Ah, but two days later she came into the house carrying Susie! It turns out that the Doll Hospital had taken care of her and then called to say Susie was ready to come home.

Susie must have been very sick. Her skin wasn’t as cuddly, her eyes weren’t the same color, and her red hair was now brown.  I missed her red plaid dress, but the blue dress they gave her in the hospital was pretty too. We went out to play. Twenty-five years came and went.

On a Wednesday morning in January, 1981, a cloud lifted from my memory, and I started to giggle. I called my Magic Mother. That wasn’t really Susie you brought home that day. Without missing a beat, she said, I’ve got the dumbest kids in America.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night was going to keep her from consoling her little girl.  She was going to find Susie, whether she had to swim to her, or dig her out of the mud, or enlist the “doll hospital” to do it.  And you know what?  She’s still rescuing me, still consoling me, still loving me, thirty years after her death. That’s the strongest magic of all.

Tell your mom, whether she is here or with God, a favorite memory of her.

Kathy McGovern ©2015. Originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom!

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

4 May 2016

Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29

Some burdens are carried for no good reason, and some things are borne because we have a deep intuition that the kingdom of God is built on the muscles acquired from carrying them.

Take fasting, for example. Please. Some fasts―like cutting calories in half for an extended period of time―are excruciating, and may or may not bring us closer to those who are hungry in this world. But other fasts―like cutting gossip at the quick, or disallowing ourselves the luxury of ignorance about the needs of others―build character, and are, in fact, the very character of God.

In the earliest days of the infant Church, some of the Orthodox Jewish-Christians living in Jerusalem were happy to allow Gentiles to join in the Jesus Movement. Certainly! All are welcome! There are just a few requirements, of course. Naturally, the men will all need to be circumcised. Yes, it’s an extremely painful and dangerous procedure, but God demands it. Now, if they had had the good sense to be born Jewish, they would have been circumcised at eight days old and would have no memory of it.

The Holy Spirit was so evident in those early years.  As the good news of the Risen One advanced throughout the Gentile provinces, it became beautifully obvious that the burdens of kosher dietary laws and circumcision no longer applied. Come to the feast! Partake of the table of mercy. And every day, hundreds were added to their number.

It’s nearly Pentecost again, that festival of inclusion that strengthened the disciples to preach Jesus to the ends of the earth. They traveled light, and, thank God, left the heaviest burdens behind.

In what ways are you joyfully lifting burdens from those who long to draw near to Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

25 April 2016

Reflecting on John 13: 31-33A, 34-35

I break all the rules in the weight room of my inner-city Parks and Recs gym. I don’t keep the code of silence that demands that tattooed strangers grunt their way through agonizing routines while keeping their eyes straight ahead, never acknowledging anyone else.

AARGH! I say to the guy who can lift himself up and do about a thousand crunches on the ab machine. How do you DO that? I’ve been coming here half my life and I can’t do one. And just like that, Scary Guy becomes Kind Guy. Oh, sure you can, he says. Let me see what you’re doing wrong.

I love that moment of encounter, when two people from different backgrounds find a common place where gentleness and graciousness so easily spring forth. And it almost always happens when I ask strangers for help.

Yesterday I smiled at a Scary Guy who was sitting on the bench, waiting for space on the basketball court. Could you help me, please? I don’t have the extension in this leg to tie my shoes. Like that, he was smiling and saying, No worries! Is this tight enough? Do you need me to tie the left one too? And then his adorable daughter came running over to show me her shoes that light up, and how she can tie them herself.

Love one another as I have loved you, Jesus says. My daily exercise―and I’m not talking about leg curls―is to find opportunities to break the weird silences between us in traffic, on elevators, in the gym. As it happens, I do need help sometimes. It’s in asking “strangers” for help that lovely moments of warmth and friendship break open.

This week, ask a stranger for an easy favor. Watch how grateful they are that you aren’t asking for money!

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

21 April 2016

Reflecting on John 10:14

I like to think about all the great shepherds I’ve had in my life. My grade school music teacher, Sr. Genevieve, comes to mind. “Kathy,” she said to me when I was twelve, “here’s the key to the back door of the church. Let yourself in, go up to the choir loft, turn on the organ, give yourself the first note and sing the Mass.”

I remember, shortly after my Confirmation, being picked up after school and taken to an inner-city parish to help with a Religious Education class. “Kathy,” said the wonderfully kind director there, “Here’s the book. Here’s the kids. Sing to them. Tell them stories. Teach them to love Jesus”

I remember Father Frank Syrianey, he of blessed memory, who was the pastor of my parish when I was in college. I had no idea then the great blessing of having such a wise, warm priest at the helm a few years after the Council. I rang the doorbell of the rectory one afternoon, and he answered.

“Hi, Father,” I said, “you don’t know me, but my name is Kathy.” And he said these unforgettable words to me: “Of course I know you.”

That’s a good shepherd. The one who calls forth gifts, who inspires young people to lead, who knows us by name―that’s the Good Shepherd so desperately needed today.

A few weeks ago, as they were working on the music for Holy Week, about a dozen of the stunningly talented teenagers in my parish had to be shooed out of church by their brilliant choir director because it was time to lock up.

You know what? one said. Church is my favorite place to be.

Who are the good shepherds who are helping to build the next generation of believers?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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