Lent – Cycle C

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle C

13 April 2019

Reflecting on Luke 22:14-23:56

How does Jesus begin his entrance into the city of his death? He’s been journeying toward Jerusalem for the last ten chapters of Luke’s gospel. This journey must have taken several weeks. Or was it years? Or was it his entire lifetime? Or did the journey begin with the creation of the world, and culminate on Calvary, and find its fullest meaning very close to Golgotha, in a new tomb that would only be inhabited for a moment?

Having made the journey for which he was born, for which he came into the world, Jesus stood outside the city and gave two disciples directions to a colt─-a peacetime animal—and instructed them to just untie it and bring it to him for his entrance into Jerusalem.

Imagine that. The owner of the tethered colt sees two people untying it, and leading it away. He asks, “Why are you taking my property?” They answer, as if this solves everything, “The Master has need of it.” And that’s that. The creature that will carry Jesus into the city that will murder him goes off with the disciples. The owner, apparently, understands perfectly. We can imagine him kneeling as he gives his colt to those in service of the Master.

In our lives, death and suffering, resurrection and life are always hovering. Jesus is always making his way to us, giving instructions of where to find what we “own” so that it can be given to him in order to bring life out of our deaths.

The warmth and rock-hard faith you’ve been withholding because others might see who you really are? You’ll need to give all that up. The Master has need of it.

In what ways is your life a heart-felt Hosanna?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

11 April 2019

Reflecting on Isaiah 43:16-21

Let’s gaze on the first reading (Isaiah 43: 16-21) for a moment. Every day we read of suicides of tormented young people who need this scripture so desperately.

Years ago I was stricken with a sudden staph infection.  At noon I was going to lunch with a friend. At 3pm I was in the emergency room, screaming. Months later, after five hospitalizations, the infection was cleared. But the shock of the experience left me badly shaken.

A psychologist-friend approached me with a new treatment for PTSD. Over the course of three months she worked with me, placing small electrodes in each palm. She invited me to remember the frightening experience of being helpless and in pain. The electrode in one hand pulsed mildly.

Then she invited me to think of my safe places, my loved places, and she gave the electrode in the other hand a stronger pulse. Over time the pulse of the electrode in that palm was increased to the point that it overrode the strength of the pulse in the other palm. She forged a path in my brain―a way through the Sea, Isaiah would say―that diminished the memory of the terror and increased my peaceful spirit.

Remember not the former things, we pray for those who have witnessed school shootings and other horrors. Behold, God is doing something new. Watch, and it will spring forth.

Isaiah knew about PTSD. He was speaking to the traumatized Jews who had witnessed the burning of Jerusalem and had been taken into exile. He begged them to let God’s liberating power override their terrible memories.

The God of “something new” can heal our memories. Hold fast to this powerful scripture.

What approach have you used to stop “pondering the things of the past”?

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

30 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

This is NOT sitting easy with the neighbors as that half-starved kid makes his way home. They hear he is at the gate, and they prepare a nice gauntlet of taunts, spittle, and even belts to welcome him as he passes through them on his way to the house.

But look! Here comes the shameful father, with his robe lifted up and running like a girl right through the gauntlet! He throws his arms around this disgraceful son and even kisses him! And now he’s calling for a beautiful robe and putting it on this rotten son.

Is this what we can all expect now? Are we supposed to just hand over their inheritance when our greedy sons say, “Drop dead. I want my money”?

And to think of how he spent it! He’s probably filled with infection after consorting with the Gentile dancing girls. And look how skinny he is! Rumor has it he worked as a PIG FEEDER. A Jewish boy, feeding the swine.  How disgraceful. He is dead to us.

At least they didn’t give him any of that nauseating gruel they give the pigs. He’d have diarrhea for a month after eating those bitter berries.

He and his father are embracing. He is weeping, and his father is dancing and laughing and ―hold up―is that a ring he’s putting on his finger? And shoes on his feet? This son who ran away is being treated like nothing ever happened, like he’s a regular member of the family!

Oh, boy. Is that the fattened calf on the spit? That’s enough to feed the whole village. And we’re all invited! And just the smell is making us hungry!

Well, sure we’re going to the party. Let’s at least hear what he has to say.

How have you been lured into forgiveness through God’s artful powers of persuasion?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

27 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 13:1-9

So, for three years the owner comes to the fig tree for fruit and is disappointed not to find any. Hmm. The owner must not be Jewish, because every good Jew knows that the Book of Leviticus prohibits anyone from eating the fruit of any fruit tree for the first three years of its life (19:23-25).

The gardener is obviously an observant Jew, because he sneaks around this non-Jewish landowner and plucks off the early fruits― the unripened fruits―so he won’t find any when he comes.

But the landowner has another surprise coming, because next year, when the tree FINALLY bears its mature, delicious fruit, its produce belongs to God and not to him. It’s only when this long-awaited fig tree is five years old that its fruit may rightfully be eaten by the one who owns the land on which it’s planted.

This might be a Jewish joke on the Roman occupiers. Look how savvy the hired hand is! He tricks the Romans into observing the laws of Moses! Wouldn’t they be surprised if they knew they were behaving like Jews? Maybe they’ll give up and go home already.

Or maybe it’s a parable about delayed gratification. God gave us rules about trying to get to food―or anything, really― too early. We should exercise the discipline of patience in all things. The best fruits come to those who don’t squander their lives on the easy things, but work hard for that which is worth the wait.

But these are the secondary fruits. The first fruit is this: we are all on borrowed time. Take advantage of every grace offered yesterday, and make your life a delicious offering today.

How is your life a sweet fruit?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

16 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 9: 28b-36

Don’t you wonder what Peter, James, and John were thinking that day up on Mount Tabor? Just one chapter earlier in Luke they were the ones Jesus selected to go with him into the room of a young girl who had died. Everyone was wailing and crying, and Jesus beckoned those three to go into the house with him.

How terrifying! True, that very day they had seen him cure the hemorrhaging woman. They had witnessed several miracles, but this was different. This was a dead child.

But they took courage and entered the house, and because of that grace they witnessed the raising of a child from death. Even that, though, couldn’t prepare them for what was coming next. Up on that mountain, while he was praying (and they were, as usual, sleeping) their Teacher was suddenly changed.

Their traveling clothes were dusty and dirty; his were dazzling white. They were talking with each other; Jesus was talking with the Law and the Prophets. And that conversation wasn’t just idle chatter.  Moses and

Elijah were talking with Jesus about his exodus. What a thoroughly Jewish way of saying they were talking about his death.

I would have begged to build some tents too. Having heard the heavens talking about the terrible events that lay ahead, I would have begged to stay put on the mountain.

And, wouldn’t you know, it was those three who were called away one last time, to pray with Jesus in Gethsemane the night of his arrest. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have three stunning Sundays to go before we come together for that terrible Passion.

Stay tuned. The greatest stories ever told await.

Have you ever been the one called upon to do something brave?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

13 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 4: 1-13

Standing in the reception line of a friend’s funeral recently, an acquaintance and I struck up a conversation, during which she reminded me that I sang at the funeral of her first husband, who died tragically in a river during a honeymoon rafting trip forty years ago.

“Wait,” I said, “that was YOU? I’ve told the story of singing ‘Be not Afraid’ at the funeral of a bridegroom who drowned on his honeymoon so many times. When I sang the words Though you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown I knew that if someone didn’t explain what those words meant I simply couldn’t continue being believing in either the Old or New Testament.”

A year later I saw the notice about a Biblical School starting. I knew immediately that I had found the people who could explain the seeming discrepancies between the promises in the scriptures and what we experience in life.

Satan knew the struggle that the People of the Book were having, trying to reconcile the comfort of their scriptures with the terrors of their real lives. The very Jews whose scriptures promised the restoration of their land were living under the thumb of the violent Roman occupiers. Hunger was the daily crucible for those whose prophets promised long lives in the land, and streets filled with happy children.

Go ahead, said Satan, give those famous scriptures of yours a try. Throw yourself off those rocks. Let’s see what happens.

If, this Lent, when you watch the news, and then read the Lenten scriptures, you begin to despair that those scriptures aren’t really true, take heart. Jesus overcame Satan when he whispered the same questions.

And Jesus has overcome the world.

What actions will I take this Lent to learn how to read the scriptures more fully?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle C

19 March 2016

Reflecting on Luke 22: 14-23:56

It’s weird, the things you remember. I’m sure I’ve been thirstier, or hotter, or in more pain than that sweltering hot Good Friday many years ago. But carrying four bags of groceries up several flights of stairs at three in the afternoon that particular day imprinted on me an awareness of just a fraction of the pain of Calvary, and that’s the day I realized how central to our faith is the Suffering Servant.

It’s not that the Father requires it. It’s that we require a God who knows thirst, who knows pain, who knows terror, who knows us. I can’t think of an experience of sorrow that Jesus didn’t know, and I take much comfort in that.

He knew the little stuff―like arms burning from carrying a few bags up a few flights of stairs―because he endured the big stuff, like carrying the crossbeam of his cross up the hill of Calvary.

He knew the pain we suffer when our friends don’t love us, because the night before he died, Peter, withering under the scrutiny of a maid in Caiaphas’s courtyard, denied that he had ever known him.

Do you have asthma? Jesus knows what it is to struggle for breath. It was the particular torture of crucifixion that the victim eventually asphyxiated from pulling up to get air, then collapsing down again.

Someday the little pains of our lives will magnify. The diminishments of old age will bring us to our knees, and we will pray one last time, Jesus, remember me.

And then he who was obedient unto death, even death on a cross, will say to us, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”

What particular affliction in your life did Jesus also suffer?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

14 March 2016

Reflecting on John 8: 1-11

Don’t miss the underlying theme of the three wondrous readings today. The Church has chosen them carefully. That poor woman dragged out for Jesus to condemn―the Pharisees knew she couldn’t be put to death, of course, but they wanted to get Jesus on record defying the scriptures that said she should be―surely thought there was no way out for her. She had the stone-bearing Pharisees ahead of her, and her difficult past behind her. And there, writing in the sand, was the Rabbi. She would soon understand that he, whose other name is MERCY, was the way out.

Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus was writing? I suggest that he went straight to the scriptures and wrote the verse we hear today from Isaiah: Remember not the events of the past; the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Do you not perceive it?

Or maybe he wrote what his great apostle, St. Paul, would later say to the Philippians: Forget what lies behind; strain forward to what lies ahead.

Jesus had us in mind as he wrote, I’m sure of it. He begs us to remember God’s mercy in the past, and to remember not the injustices and losses and sorrows that may have us pinned to the ground, unable to move forward.

We don’t know what happened next to that “woman caught in adultery.” Did she spend the rest of her life bitterly remembering that humiliating experience? Or did she bravely step out into a new life, filled with grace as she remembered her encounter with Jesus?

God is always doing something new in your life. Do you not perceive it?

How are you open to the grace to “remember not the events of the past”?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

7 March 2016

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

For over twenty years the diocese of Saginaw, Michigan was led by the brilliant and insightful Bishop Ken Untener. He was known as a great reconciler. Wounds didn’t fester in his diocese. You’ll see why in this beautiful piece, The Forgiving Father―With a Mother’s Twist, gratefully reprinted with permission for one-time use here:

While the father and elder son are arguing in the back-yard, the mother comes out and says, “Now I have had just about enough.”

To her husband: “You’ve always favored our youngest and you know it. Our elder son works hard every day and you take him for granted. I hardly ever hear you say ‘thank you’ except to the hired hands. It’s about time you started noticing your family for a change.”

Then to the elder son: “And you … always the martyr. You act as if you’re the only one who has to go the extra mile. Well, I have to do it and so does everybody else. It’s time you learned to swallow hard and rise above the things in life that are unfair. Stop your silly pouting.”

She then goes and gets the younger son. “And you, the spoiled little prince — in there celebrating and you never even thought to ask about your brother and apologize for leaving him to do all the work. It’s about time you realized that the whole world doesn’t revolve around you.”

Then to the three of them: “Work out your differences some other time. We’ve got company, so get in there and start acting like family instead of three-year-olds.”

Reconciliation can be complicated. But that’s no reason not to reconcile.

Does your ongoing feud with family members need a mom who’ll deliver some tough love?

 

Thank you, dear Rita Albright, for bringing this great piece to my attention just in time! It’s reprinted from The Little Black Book, based on the writing of Bishop Ken Untener. Learn more at www.littlebooks.us  (989) 797-6653

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

29 February 2016

Reflecting on Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15

My nephew, raised in a Catholic home and surrounded by practicing Catholic family and friends, loved his twelve years of Catholic schools. After high school he went to the state university with several of his childhood friends. I visited him on campus for his April birthday, and, while touring the grounds, asked, “Where is the Catholic Church on campus?”

I could have been speaking Swahili. After eight months on campus, spent in the company of his Catholic friends, it hadn’t occurred to one of them to inquire about  a parish where they could stay connected with the faith that had been so carefully and lovingly nourished in them.

There were many bushes burning all around them―fascinating classes that could have ignited their intellects and longing to seek the Master Designer, and kids their age of all different religious backgrounds who could have stimulated great conversations about faith. Surely there were SOME interesting people on campus―Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons who could have caused them to draw near and say, “What is your background? Is faith in God part of what makes you so compelling? Tell me more.”

But no one fascinated them enough to come closer, to investigate, to take off their shoes and stand humbly before the Mystery. That’s what makes holy ground―when the Divine Spark finally connects with our own longing, and we can’t stop ourselves from drawing near. It was the cultural imperative of college life that they simply walk away from all religious impulses.

I think about that bush in the desert, utterly consumed with God. I suspect that it had been burning from the beginning of time, waiting for someone to catch its light and be ineluctably drawn towards it.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God, wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ah, yes. But grace upon grace is still burning in the desert, waiting for us to be chilly enough, lonely enough, “not enough” enough, to take off our shoes and listen.

Where are the places of holy ground―of engagement with God―for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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