Lent – Cycle C

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

9 April 2022

Reflecting on Luke 22:14-23;56

It’s only in Luke’s gospel that Jesus lifts his heart up to the Lord In the Garden, and is in such agony that that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground (22:44).

I notice that Jesus keeps going back to his sleeping friends, begging them to pray that they would not be put to the test.

I never thought of it before this year, but I think the reason they could sleep while their Rabbi was in agony was that they didn’t realize what was soon going to happen. They may have had some intuition about something happening at Passover, but even as late as this event they still didn’t realize what his “kingdom” meant. They were waiting for him to bring the kingdom of God, which, in spite of all the ways he tried to dissuade them, they still thought meant finally calling down fire from heaven and bringing the Romans to their knees.

He knew, of course, that it was not for this that he came into the world. Earthly kingdoms come and go. He was establishing the kingdom in our hearts, and thus in all history. But our dear Jesus begged God that the cup of suffering would pass over him. He was so terrified—and who wouldn’t be?—that his sweat became blood. Oh, Jesus, we weep with you.

The Ukrainians are in the hearts of all of us on this Palm/Passion Sunday. We wept with them as we watched them saying goodbye at train stations. We’ve prayed fervently, begging God to take the cup of war away from them.

How will it all end? We lift our hearts up to the Lord

At what times in  your life have you begged God to take the cup away from you?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

2 April 2022

Reflecting on John 8:1-11

Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus was writing in the sand while the Pharisees were trying to get him all worked up? I love that he was so detached from their hysteria, so utterly uninterested in the drama they were fomenting. If I were to guess, I’d vote for the very scripture from Isaiah 43 that is the first reading today. 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?

I’ll bet that’s what Jesus wanted to say to that poor woman: Try to forget this trauma and humiliation. These Pharisees are just using you to get at me. God is doing something new in your life! Do you not perceive it?

Those are timely words for us today, traumatized as we are by this terrible war, the photos of millions of desperate people fleeing from war zones around the world, and our own horrors of school shootings, grocery store shootings, and fires that wipe out a thousand residential homes. We pray to “remember not” every single dreadful thing.

We don’t know what happened next to that “woman caught in adultery.”  I’ll bet she never forgot the moment when she met the Mercy of God. We just have to feel so sad for the guy she was with. Had he somehow found a way to become invisible in the crowd, and then joined in getting the stones ready? Either way, his “privilege” as the man in this episode kept him from the only real privilege there is, which is a one-on-one encounter with Jesus. I hope he found his way to Jesus too.

How have you found peace in letting go of some of the events of the past?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

26 March 2022

Reflecting on Lk. 15:1-3, 11-32

Grr. You have to feel for that elder son. He’d been working the family farm— ranch?—pretty much by himself because his worthless brat of a little brother staged a big scene and got the old man to give him his inheritance and then ran off to squander it.

Now, truth be told, it wasn’t that much of an inheritance, since, according to Moses, the first-born son got twice as much as the younger brother: But he shall acknowledge the first-born…by giving a double portion of all he has; for he is the first-fruits of his strength, the right of the first-born is his (Dt. 21:17).

So, yeah, there’s that. But he had to work twice as hard for that twice-as-large inheritance! The little brother was supposed to stay and work, and the older brother was supposed to reap the benefits of that set-up. That’s how God wants it.

Here’s a thought: maybe that runaway son was taking a stand against a system that worked two sons the same, but one benefitted twice as much.

Greg Boyle, SJ admits that he won the race, zip code, parents, and siblings lottery when he was born. Me too. I wonder if I make assumptions about the life I get to live, in contrast to the way the family sleeping in their van in the empty parking lot is living theirs right now.

The younger son looked at “the way God wants it” and said, “I don’t think so.” I hope the van-family doesn’t think God set things up so I get to be warm and they have to be cold. Come to think of it, I hope I don’t think that too.

Are there inequities in the economic system that are making you feel like running away?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

19 March 2022

Reflecting on Luke 13:1-9

Second chances. What a gift they are. I’m thinking of that kind teacher who said, halfway through the quarter on Algebra II so many years ago, “You know, Kathy, your talents could be used elsewhere. Let’s transfer you out of this class before too much times goes by.”

Ha! From this long distance I can still hear her voice, but of course today I can hear what she was really saying: “You are NEVER going to get this! You are EXASPERATING your teacher and everyone else in the class. We’re transferring you out before EVERYONE DESPAIRS.”

Even now I remember the relief of that undeserved kindness, that grace. That moment became a turning point in my life. Those of us who had kind parents can trace grace in a thousand ways. I pray for those who did not receive that grace, who have had to find kindness from other sources than their families of origin. I pray that grace has found them, and strengthened them throughout their lives.

That barren fig tree got a second chance, because the kind Gardener resolved to give it extra attention, extra effort. Do you have some fig trees hanging around in your life, maybe some bad habits that could be transformed with some discipline and pruning? Are you spinning your wheels on the same old vices, recognizing that they do not satisfy, but too invested in them to step away?

Let this be the Lent you submit to the grace of second chances. Let the Gardener show you the dead branches in your life, the secrets that aren’t keeping you safe, the fruit that’s been waiting to grow from your freshly repaired life.

What dead growth are you resolved to attack and master this season?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

12 March 2022

Reflecting on Luke 9: 28b-36

My favorite thing to do is to sit, in good light, with a friend whose love has suffused my life with laughter, and insight, and warmth, and kindness, and, as is often (but not always) the case, beautiful music. I hope you have a few of these friends.

It nearly always happens that, as we talk, I see these friends more clearly. Their goodness seems to shimmer around them. I get a deeper vision of the weight of their lives, their joyful embrace of the health and strength of youth, the intense discipline of study and work, the joy and struggle of being faithful to the children, or the mission, they have brought into the world. Sometimes I can see, almost in a single flash, the faith in the goodness of God that has shaped them into who they are.

A lot of nights, I just lean over and watch my sweet husband sleep. In his soft breathing I can hear the challenges and triumphs of the day. By the soft moonlight I can see the dear contours of his face. His goodness shimmers.

I wonder. Did Peter, James, and John have the same experience of intimacy I often have with those who are dear to me? Up on that high mountain, with the terrors of Jerusalem beckoning below, did they finally see him as he truly was? Did the mysteries they had witnessed—the blind healed, the demons expelled, the five thousand fed—suddenly click into place?

Whenever the truth of a life, whether with a friend or with Jesus in prayer, becomes radiant before us, our response is always the same. It is good for us to be here.

What experience of “transfiguration” have you had while in the presence of a loved one?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

5 March 2022

Reflecting on Psalm 91: 1-2, 10-11. 12-13, 14-15

We’re living through some significant dis-ease these days, and It’s during these seasons of stress and fear that we want to remind Jesus, as Satan did, of Psalm 91, which we sing today and throughout Lent. Doesn’t it clearly say that God’s angels will surround us, lest we dash our foot against a stone? That tact didn’t work with Jesus, who repelled Satan’s volleying of sacred scripture by returning Satan’s challenge with the ultimate reproof: Thou shalt not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

But still we sing it, not just in Lent, but “On Eagle’s Wings,” the beautiful musical setting of Psalm 91, is now a hymn beloved by people of many faiths throughout the Western world. We sing it, I think, not only because we love the strong and comforting assurance that God will be with us when we are in trouble, but because there are so many times in our lives when we knew, deep in our bones, that it was true.

I admit that I remind Jesus on a daily basis of the promises in this psalm, but my motive is far removed—I hope—from the menace and predation of Satan. I pray these powerful words in gratitude, because they have been true every day of my life. But I also pray for strength and obedience, to surrender to the mystery of suffering and death.

This whole losing battle for Satan was in the desert, of course. Who knows? Deserts were once gardens, millions of years ago. On the cross, Jesus waged his final battle against Satan, who hangs out in deserts, and restored to us the Garden of eternal life.

Cling to him. He will deliver you.

In what ways has “On Eagle’s Wings” been a comfort to you throughout your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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

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”?

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

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

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