Lent – Cycle C

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

22 February 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 28b-36

I wonder what they thought when Jesus led them up Mount Tabor to pray.

“Seriously, Rabbi?” James and John might have thundered, “Can’t we just pray down here?”

“Listen, Master,” Peter may have cajoled, “we’ve got a long road ahead. If you insist on going down to Jerusalem, which as you know I do not advise, we can pray our tefillah down here and rest.”

They couldn’t have been surprised when Jesus kept walking. After all, didn’t Moses climb the mountain of Sinai twice? And speaking of Mt. Sinai, wasn’t it there that Elijah heard God speak in the tiny breeze?

So of course they went up the mountain. Jesus was climbing, and, having been invited into that intimacy, they could never have stayed away.

I climbed that mountain once myself. It remains the most terrifying experience of my life. Trapped in the mud and the cold, with an arthritic hip and a heart Much Afraid, I would never have made it to the high places without my husband and several friends.

Was it worth it? Ask Peter, James, and John. Because of their willingness to climb with Jesus, they saw him transfigured, his divinity fully revealed, and they heard the Father speak. And yes, Moses and Elijah appeared too, comforting Jesus about what was to take place in Jerusalem. Oh yeah. It was worth it.

It was worth it for me too. Everyone should have such a memory, of loved ones pulling her out of the depths, and Habakkuk 3:19 being fulfilled in her life: “The Lord God is my strength, and will give me hinds’ feet, and will make me to walk upon the high places.”

Have you read the classic Christian allegory, “Hinds’ Feet in High Places”? It will give you strength.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

In loving memory of wonderful Ted Schwarz, who, having arrived at Tabor and not finding me there, came back to get me.

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

14 February 2016

Reflecting on Luke 4: 1-13

It’s Lent again, thank God.  In a culture of excess and prosperity, I don’t have the discipline to impose a fast of any kind any other time of year. And the thing is, I want Easter to really mean something. During these cold days I find myself longing for sun, and flowers, and the crocus pulling up. But here in bleak mid-winter it’s good to remember that the seeds of Easter are planted firmly in Lent, and so, once again, I turn my face towards Jerusalem, and the cross.

The other problem is that I’m not really clear about what temptation is any more. (And I know that that itself is the port of entry for its endlessly entertaining disguises.)  But this I know: every time I hear Satan telling Jesus that all the kingdoms of the world―think about that for a moment―have been given to him, I get a chill. And my fuzzy vision clears up right away.

Why? Because I know that the gap between who I am, and who I desire to be, closes a little bit every time I deny the Author of Lies any power, any glory. How dare he tell the Author of Love that the kingdoms of the world are his, to be won over by the deadly sins of hate, and envy, and greed, and violence?

Not the kingdom of my heart. Not the kingdom of my life. The Word of God is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart. You have only to carry it out.

I may not be able to define temptation, but I know it when I see it. And I stand with Jesus.

In what ways will you challenge the Author of Lies this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Palm/Passion Sunday – Cycle C

25 March 2013

Reflecting on Luke 22:14-23:56

Peter denies Christ by Rembrandt. Canvas, 1660. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Come with me for a moment.  I want to show you something.  Stand here with me in the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest.  The temple guards have just arrested Jesus.  Did you hear all that commotion when they marched him up from the Mount of Olives?  Now they’ve got him in the house.  See that man over there, the one with the thick accent?  He was one of the followers of Jesus.  But he keeps denying it.  Let’s ask him for a third time: Surely you were with him, for you too are a Galilean, right?  No, he says, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Can you hear it?  The rooster crowing?  And now look!  There is Jesus, looking out the window, staring at his friend. What is that message that passes between them?  Jesus has pure love in his eyes.  But his friend’s eyes are starting to turn red, and he runs far away from the fire, far away from Jesus, weeping so loudly we can still hear him.

Listen.  The sound of his crying melts into the sounds of Jesus’ prayers―is that Psalm 88?― as he stands chained in the dungeon in the caves just beneath us.

Two thousand years later, millions of believers still come to this place.  Roosters still crow in the courtyard.  Pilgrims still climb down, down into the pit where Jesus was chained the night before he died.  And the sound of Peter’s weeping meets our own.

Why does the Church remember Peter as her first leader after his terrible betrayal?

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

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

18 March 2013

Reflecting on John 8: 1-11

No way out.  That’s what she must be thinking.  The woman standing in the middle of the Temple area must be sure that there is no way out for her.  The Pharisees have her penned in, a human sacrifice to their need to catch Jesus violating the Law.

Jesus, who knows the meaning of the words mercy, not sacrifice, is her way out.  He seems utterly uninterested in the details.  He simply issues this challenge: okay, you who have never sinned may now step up and throw the first stone. They all walk away, of course, and when he looks up he seems surprised to see her still standing there.  He couldn’t be less interested in condemning her.

His soul calls out to her soul, and the way out is clear.  Mercy.

Another  way out, of course, occurred  twelve hundred years before, when God divided the Sea and the children of Abraham marched through it dry-shod, with the water like a wall on their right and on their left.  If they stayed on land they’d be killed by Pharaoh.  If they went into the water they would drown. So God created a new way, a third way, by opening a way in the sea for them to “pass over”.

Do you think that there is no way out for you, no forgiveness, no chance to move on from your bad behaviors, bad choices, and bad priorities that now have you trapped?  Here’s God’s special love letter to you today:  Remember not the former things.  Don’t ponder the things of the past.  Behold, I’m doing something new.  Watch.

And we will all watch and pray with you.

How have you given someone a way out?

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

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

11 March 2013

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

One of the things I enjoy about this forum is that I get to talk about books.  It’s also unfair, because I get to share what I’m reading while the reader doesn’t.  But this website  is open for readers from around the country to jump on and talk with each other about spiritual (or other) books they are reading.  Thanks so much for joining the online conversation!

Right now the book that captures me is Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, S.J.  It’s his memoir of the ministry that the Jesuits set up in South Central L.A. for the ten thousand gang members within the boundaries of the parish where he serves.

At the center of each of the stories is one theme: forgiveness is the only thing that can heal us, ever.  Fr. Boyle has presided over hundreds of funerals of children he loved who were killed by children he loved.  (And then those children were killed by the “families” of the murdered, and the miserable vortex of violence just spiraled higher and wider.)

The Paschal (Easter) Mystery, which is the center of our faith, says this: Your dad beat you? You will never, never beat your own children.  Your brother was killed by a gang member?  You will not avenge his death, but will pray for his murderers.  Your son has shamed you and squandered his inheritance on dissolute living?  You will wait for him at the city gate and run to greet him when he, half-starved and humiliated, returns.

That iconic story of forgiveness is the one we all need to tattoo on our hearts.  Or maybe you have your own story, your own memory of being let off the hook that resonates even more deeply for you.  We’d love to hear it.  We’re listening.

Have you experienced a reconciliation this year?

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

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

4 March 2013

Reflecting on Luke 13: 1-9

It’s the third Sunday of Lent, and forgiveness is afoot.  The next three weeks  give us those great stories of radical love that are the hallmark of the Lenten season in Cycle C−−−the gracious second chance given  to the Barren Fig Tree, the Prodigal Son, and the Woman Caught in Adultery.  The first two stories are parables from Luke’s gospel, and the third is an event recorded in John’s gospel that scholars suspect was originally told by Luke.  Its wonderful compassion for a woman trapped in a sinful culture is so much like St. Luke that it fits perfectly in Cycle C.

I really resonate with today’s unproductive fig tree.  There are many areas of my life that continue to exhaust everyone around me, while bearing no fruit whatsoever.  (Let’s not fuss with the details, okay?)  But year after year I resolve to eat less, be less sloppy, be on time, depend on the kindness of others less and on my own discipline more.  (Okay, those are the details.)

I can hear that unfruitful fig tree crying out, in the secret language of trees, “Stop!  Please!  I’ll work harder.  I’ll take less and give more.  Please give me a second chance.  I don’t want to die.”  And we breathe a huge sigh of relief with the tree when the Gardener−−−yes, the very One who tended the original Garden−−−promises to sacrifice his own efforts in order to save the life of the tree.  A second (millionth) chance is given.

But watch! The crocus pulls up. The trumpet sounds.  It’s the third Sunday of Lent, and because forgiveness has outmatched justice, Easter is afoot.

What radical love have you experienced this Lent?

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

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

25 February 2013

Reflecting on Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18

We’ve had so many beautiful, clear nights this winter that I’ve taken to stopping just before going in the door at home and looking up at the skies.  The stars hang in the sky like diamonds, and it always shocks me a bit that this immense galaxy holds such beauty just above my little house.

Of course, my friends in Africa, and Israel, and Norway tonight will look on the very stars that light the doorway of my house.  As musical composer Chris Tomlin wrote so gracefully, “God of wonder, beyond our galaxy, you are holy, holy.”

I like to imagine the stars in that desert sky when God told Abram to count them, if he could.  Now, this is even more amazing when we consider that it was daylight when God issued this challenge!  (We surmise this because later, in verse 17, it says, “When the sun had set and it was dark”.  No wonder he couldn’t count them!)

Anyway, the current estimate is that there are three thousand million billion stars in our galaxy alone. That’s how many descendants Abram was to have. Well, if you count every Jew, Christian, and Muslim who has ever lived (and apparently no one ever has counted them, but I’ll keep googling), certainly they comprise the tiniest fraction of the number of stars. So, apparently the children of Abraham still have a long time to live on the earth.  If my visits to the Muslim and Jewish quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem are any indication, Abraham’s descendants continue to multiply at a great rate.

It’s the beauty of the image of this great promise that catches my heart when I gaze upwards at night.  Count the stars?  Of course we can’t.  But God, the Intelligent Designer, used the astounding stars to capture our imagination: all creation is in an eternal covenant with the merciful and awesome God of Wonder.

Do you like to star-gaze?

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

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

17 February 2013

Reflecting on Luke 4: 1-13

I always get a little chill when I think about that single instant in which Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.  It’s fascinating to consider what the evangelist thought Jesus saw.  Luke knew about ancient Egypt and Greece, but he had no idea that there were civilizations unknown to him (but not to Satan, apparently) far to the east that had been flourishing for over two millennia.

I don’t imagine that Jesus, who was present at the creation of the world, was  surprised when Satan showed him North China, or the Indus Valley, or Africa, or even the kingdoms of the Americas, the existence of which would not even be known by people in the Middle East for another 1400 years.  Those histories, which are still unfolding through the work of archaeologists and nature’s own ingenious way of revealing the past, were certainly in the mind of God before the beginning of time.  The spooky part is that they are in Satan’s mind too.

And what did Jesus see, in that instant, of the kingdoms to come?  The fall of the Roman Empire, the vast reach of Islam, the “New World” and its diverse indigenous peoples, the bloody revolutions, the abundant harvests, the great cities and the thousands of agrarian communities were revealed in an instant.  He saw the “little man” of Assisi.  He also saw Auschwitz.

Three years later, after Satan had returned to enter Judas and to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22), Jesus saw it all again, this time from the hill of Calvary.  And all creation, from the beginning until the end, whispered with the Good Thief, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

How do you feel when you think about Jesus seeing you from the cross?

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

« Previous Page