Easter – Cycle C

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

Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

9 April 2016

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

We watched a stupid movie the other night. The wife has been disfigured, but transformed through plastic surgery. Now, beautiful again, she is shocked that her husband doesn’t recognize her.

“Oh, brother,” said my husband, “I would know you if you were a foot taller and bald. The second you even took a breath to say a word, I would know it was you.”

And I would know it was Ben. That’s why it’s so intriguing that the disciples, who have been with Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry at the Sea of Galilee, don’t recognize him when he appears at that very sea after his resurrection.

All but one, that is. The Beloved Disciple realizes at once that it is Jesus.

Who is this mysterious “disciple whom Jesus loved”? This anonymous disciple reclines next to Jesus at the Last Supper, stands with Mary at the foot of the cross, races to the tomb with Peter on Easter morning, and, now, is the first to know that the stranger calling from the shore is Jesus himself.

My student of many years ago changed my understanding of the Beloved Disciple forever. He said, “Kathy, whenever I read about the disciple Jesus loved I just put my name there.  I say, ‘and then Jose, the disciple Jesus loved, put his head on Jesus’ breast.’ Or, at the cross, ‘Woman, behold Jose. Jose, behold your mother.’”

Now that’s the way to pray the gospels. Try it. Put your name there.  Imagine that is you racing to the tomb, and you seeing the angels. And, yes, it is you who is given the charge to “go and tell the others.”

Are you afraid to talk about the resurrection of Jesus in our increasingly secular culture?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

5 April 2016

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Like Thomas, I long to see miracles face to face. That’s why I loved the wonderful new movie Miracles from Heaven. The film, starring Jennifer Garner, tells of a miracle that took place in a young girl who was undergoing treatment for an inoperable abdominal obstruction at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The glorious miracle, of course, is the most heart-stopping part of the movie, but it’s the short montage towards the very end that inspires me every time I think of it. In this too-brief section, we see the hidden kindnesses of many people who left their comfort zones in order to extend mercy to the traumatized family in the months before the miracle occurred. They made what they did look unimportant, but we find out at the end that each of them sacrificed something ―a day off, a night off, a possible termination from their job― in order to give this struggling family every possible comfort.

Those hidden acts of mercy are miracles in themselves, and we have experienced them countless times in our lives. It doesn’t matter that, like Thomas, we were not in the room with the Risen One that Easter night.

We have seen him, and touched him, and received the Holy Spirit from him in a thousand ways. How? Through the gracious kindness of those who have sacrificed their time and energy in order to care for us in illness, or listen to us in sorrow, or even just call us by our name.

Blessed are they who have seen miracles. How much more blessed are they whose gracious kindness opens the doors to miracles for others. That, too, is the Divine Mercy we celebrate today.

Are you aware of some of the hidden kindnesses of others?

 

For Peg and John, who are accompanying their beloved ones through the hardest time in their lives.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle C

26 March 2016

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

Easter, 2016

Dearest Mary of Magdala,

Mary, did you know that he whom your heart loved would not be in the tomb when you went to minister to his body that sad spring morning?

Mary, did you know that he who’s dreadful death broke your heart in half would break open the graves of all believers?

Mary, did you know that when you bravely ran to tell the news to the Beloved Disciple and Peter, your wonder-filled race would mark the very first steps of the faith that would change the world?

Mary, did you know that when the angels in the tomb asked you why you were weeping, they were asking the same question to all of us who would follow you, too afraid to hope, too full of wonder not to believe?

Mary, did you know that once the men departed the empty tomb and you were left there, weeping, your Lord would appear and call you gently by your name? And that, yes, it was your name the gospels would record as the first name spoken by the Risen One?

Know this, dear sister of Magdala: On this Easter morning we race with you to the tomb, we stand in grateful wonder at the angels in our lives who have asked why we are weeping, and we turn our faces from the grave, knowing that the Voice we hear is Jesus, calling us by name.

What things do you know for sure about Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle C

2 June 2013

Reflecting on I Corinthians 11:23-26

Scripture is endlessly fascinating, and never more so than in today’s reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (11:23-26).  Some passages we hear on Sunday should be accompanied by a trumpet blast, alerting us that something of unique importance to our faith is about to be read.  This is one of them, because it is one of the earliest fragments of Christian liturgical tradition preserved in the New Testament.

So, consider this: here is Paul, NOT one of the Twelve, NOT present at the Last Supper, “handing over” to the infant church at Corinth what Jesus said the night before he died.  How would HE know?  He wasn’t there, yet he gives us the very earliest account of the institution of the Eucharist.  And here’s what’s really interesting: the gospel of Luke, written twenty years later, gives the exact same wording (22:19-20).

What’s the connection?  I think it’s found in an easily-missed sentence in the Acts of the Apostles (11:19), stating that the actual eyewitnesses of Jesus fled to Antioch soon after Pentecost.

At some point Paul moved to Antioch as well, and lived there, with those most devout Christians, for many years.  I think he learned the words that Jesus spoke over the Bread and Cup from the Christians at Antioch, who were already celebrating the Eucharist before Paul arrived.

St. Luke, a member of that faith-filled community a generation later, gives us the exact same words because they WERE the exact same words, faithfully remembered by those who were actually there.  Every once in a while, scripture takes us straight into the living rooms of the very earliest Christians.

What are your earliest memories of the Eucharist?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity – Cycle C

31 May 2013

Don’t you love a great party?  I experienced one recently, for my friend’s sixtieth birthday.  It was held at the cozy home of two friends who have been hosting parties for this group of friends for nearly forty years.  Everywhere I looked, I found the warm and beautiful face of someone I love.  Heaven.

We all glided through that room, hating to leave one conversation in order to join another.  Every single encounter was auto-filled with the ease and relief of being in the presence of friends who know us very well, and have chosen to love us anyway.

After dinner we gravitated to the living room, designed years ago to be utterly comfy for the hosts’ large family and even larger circle of friends.  Then, because we all just needed to so badly, we forced the guest of honor to sit and let each of us tell him the many reasons why we love him.  We could have gone on much longer, but teenagers were coming home and their parents didn’t want them to know they’d stayed out longer than they had.

A circle like that takes a lifetime, and it’s not always easy.  Forgiveness, like love, is a fruit in season at all times.  Those friendships are all very much alive because forgiveness has been alive.  I know that I have easily been forgiven seventy times seven.

That’s what today’s solemnity is all about.  Like the Three Persons, eternally in relationship and eternally bringing into unity the Body of Christ, we were created to be for each other, forgiving and radically loving each other until we are forever joined in the heart of God.

How are you helping to create friendships that get each other to heaven?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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