Ordinary Time – Cycle C

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

6 July 2019

It’s been a beautiful summer holiday in Colorado.  Sometimes it takes two or three days to just wind down enough to notice you’re on vacation. We’ve spent every possible moment up in the mountains, or swimming at the neighborhood pool, or biking through any of Colorado’s refreshing bike paths.

America the Beautiful was written here.  I look to the west and see the purple mountain majesties that have brought me to prayer every morning of my life.

It’s hard to live in a constant state of gratitude and awe.  My sister is the best you’ve ever seen.  We’ll be driving along the San Diego harbor―she lives in that spectacular city―and she’ll stop the car to make sure we are all thanking God for the water, and the ships, and the seagulls.  And it turns out we are.

This land is our land, from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters.  How blessed we are.  How grateful we are.

Our back yard, blessedly taken over by Farmyard, CSA. several years ago, is already bursting with onions.  The tomatoes will be ready for spaghetti sauce in about five weeks.  I may have to escape sometime in September if the three rows of zucchini get organized enough to break down our back door.

I notice that the volunteers who garden the twenty yards that produce the food that feeds over one hundred people a week are growing older, slower, a bit more tired.  The harvest is astonishing, overwhelming, more than enough to feed the world.  The laborers are few.  I guess it’s time for me to go pull some weeds.

I hope everyone had a blessed Independence Day.

How did you celebrate the holiday?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

29 June 2019

Reflecting on Luke 9: 51-62

Sheesh. You teach this section of Luke’s gospel for years, and then you read a great commentary by Daniel Hamm, SJ and see everything differently. Scripture endlessly bubbles up with unexplored nuances and insights.

We should never let a difficult passage go until it blesses us.

The Samaritans in the north and the “Jews” in the south—a strange distinction, since the Samaritans were Jews too—had been estranged for centuries before Jesus, James and John attempted to pass through their land on the way to Jerusalem. The reason is that the Jerusalem Temple was a huge source of revenue for the south, since the book of Deuteronomy required all Jewish men to travel three times a year “to the place where God shall choose” (16:16).

But the Samaritans always read that passage as their own sacred location of Mount Gerizim, and they resented Jews traveling through to Jerusalem. The south benefited spiritually and economically from all those travelers, and the north felt left out of the promises of the Torah that were originally meant for them.

The Eastern Orthodox church in our neighborhood has a sign outside: Teaching the truth for two thousand years. That’s to remind Roman Catholics that they are the original descendants of the faith hijacked during the schism of 1054.

Hard feelings abound everywhere when it comes to who got there first. We only have to look at the street names in our cities—Huron, Cherokee, Osage—to remember the First Peoples. The devastation of that encounter is only now coming to the surface. During next years’ NBA championships you could bring up the Warriors to the fans in Oakland, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

What “rightful ownership” has been hijacked from you in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

25 June 2019

It’s our great feast day again. The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is meaningful for all Christians  who believe the consecrated Bread and Wine is the true body and blood of Jesus. In fact, more and more Christians are now saying out loud what they have come to believe: this is not a symbol. This is the actual Body and Blood of Christ.

You may have known this since the day of your First Communion. You may have only recently recognized its Truth. Or you may still be on the fence about the Real Presence. In any case, let me offer you a little test.

Think back on the Mass you attended today. Remember the stresses you brought with you—kids, jobs, money, texts to answer, aging parents who need care. How did you feel at the beginning of Mass?

Try to recall the hymns sung and the scriptures read. (This may trigger your memory: can you sing some of the responsorial psalm from today? It will have a theme that brings to mind the first reading, the gospel, or both.)

Think about the homily you heard. Think about the things we prayed for in the General Intercessions. Think about the procession up for the Eucharist. Think about how you felt when Mass was ended. I’ll bet you anything you went in peace.

That’s the Real Presence. There is a palpable difference in the way people behave before Mass and after. It’s as if a cool breeze blew through and made all things new. Huh. That’s pretty much what happened at Pentecost.

How did I feel today as we sang the recessional hymn?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C

25 June 2019

I’ve always liked this feast. I love thinking of the ways that I am more than just one person in my life, that all of my different titles represent vital pieces of my identity. I am, for example, Ben’s wife, my parents’ daughter, my siblings’ sister, my cousins’ cousin, my nieces and nephews’ aunt. I am all of those titles, and I’m probably a little different with each of my beloved relatives.

I am also a friend, a student, a teacher, a reader, a writer, and a parishioner. I love being all those things. I can’t imagine a happy life without any one of them.

The earliest Christians—as early as Paul himself, whose profound transformation took place sometime in the mid-40s—were just praying and acting on instinct. There was no catechism, no papal decree to instruct them in what to believe. Paul, Silas, and Barnabas traveled thousands of miles, sailing dangerous waters in rickety boats, walking over treacherous terrain (complete with snakes, as Paul found out at Malta) in order to preach one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and raised, and living in us through the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t a hard leap for these Jewish men  to move towards the understanding of God as Three. They intimately knew the Father through their lives steeped in the stories of the Old Testament. They had personally experienced the Son (albeit through Saul’s post-resurrection vision on the road to Damascus), and they depended every day on the comfort and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It just makes sense that the God in whose image we are created would be more than one Person. We all are.

Which Person of the Trinity do you feel closest to at this point in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

3 March 2019

Reflecting on Sirach 27: 4-7

What beautiful readings this week, and they couldn’t be timelier. Both the gospel and that funny section from Sirach uncover the deep truth about human nature: that which we spend time ruminating on will find its way out of our brains, into our hearts, and out of our mouths.

And then comes the backpedaling, the “I was on Ambien and don’t remember a thing” excuses, the endless attempts to retrieve words that, as St. Philip Neri demonstrated so effectively, are like feathers shaken from a pillow.

If that Sirach reading seems strange to you, you’re right. It’s only in the years where Lent is late that we get as far as the eighth or ninth Sundays in Ordinary Time. Since we switch from reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke over a three-year cycle, and that Sirach reading is chosen to harmonize with today’s reading from Luke, in order to hear that reading we have to be in Cycle C (so every three years) and have a late Lent.

But this gives me a chance to extol the book’s humor, its insight into human nature, its beautiful treatises on friendship, its savvy money advice, and, sadly, to warn about its dreadful comments about women.

You’ll enjoy it and wince at it, but you won’t be bored. We have the first-century Christians to thank for rescuing it from oblivion, and the Catholic Church for continuing to use it and copy it. By the way, the lectionary is the brilliant brainchild of Vatican II, and has been adapted by so many other Christian traditions that on most Sundays, all Christians who share the liturgical calendar hear the same readings. Don’t you love that?

How does your speech disclose the bent of your mind?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

2 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 6: 27-38

One of the great experiences in my life as a classroom teacher was the afternoon teacher’s lounge. That’s where, at the end of the day, teachers told the adorable stories of their funny first-graders, or teachers in the upper grades shared their challenges of making history interesting to junior-high boys who were more interested in pulling desks out from under each other.

But the most challenging (and, in hindsight, valuable) part of that time was learning from the more experienced teachers. One day I was congratulating myself on standing up to a fourth-grader who had been talking back to me. She got my most humiliating stare, and then, in her silence, a long homework assignment.

“Well,” said a revered and much beloved faculty member, “I think you embarrassed her because you’re bigger and have the authority. I try never to ridicule or demean a student, no matter how obnoxious, just because I can. There are other ways to discipline without humiliating a child.”

Ach! Her correction went straight to my heart, and straight to that place where behavior changes. I hope I have never since that day used any authority I might have to demean anyone, especially one who is powerless.

Notice how St. Luke gets straight to the point, early in his gospel, to make sure we remember how deeply Jesus wants us to understand this.  Pray for those who mistreat you, says Jesus. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you.

It’s exactly the opposite of what we want to do. It’s totally counterintuitive. So, come to think of it, was the Cross. But by such wondrous love the world is being saved.

What grace have you found in praying for those who have hurt you?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

16 February 2019

Reflecting on Luke 5: 1-11

Blessed are they who need help.

I’m on two crutches these days. I’m confident I’ll recover from my latest orthopedic challenge, but at this moment our house looks a bit like Lourdes, with crutches and walkers everywhere.

Accomplishing a trip to the grocery store is huge right now, with snow and ice covering the parking lot. Last week I was oh-so-gingerly tapping my way through the icy obstacle course. “Here,” said a sweet, Spanish-accented voice behind me, “let us help you.” Immediately a mom and her two kids came to my side, holding me on both sides until we reached the door.

“Isn’t your mom nice?” I asked. “Yes,” her son said proudly. “She’s really nice.” How blest I am.

But how to get back to the car? I hadn’t thought about that when I set out. I was two feet from the store when a kind man, with whom I’d struck up a conversation in the check-out line about our mutual disabilities, came up to me. “Oh, Miss Lady, let me help you.”

“But you’re on a cane! I don’t want you to slip.” “That’s okay,” he said, “we’ll hold each other up.” So a line of cars waited patiently as a crippled African-American helped an aging white lady across the slush.

His name is Mario. He’s had two toes amputated as a result of diabetes. He also has kidney disease and coronary heart disease. I learned this because, watching him limping toward the street, I asked if I could drive him the six blocks to his apartment.

“Be safe, Mario,” I called, as he got out of the car. “Miss Kathy, the Lord is my strength and my shield.”

Blessed are they who need help. They shall be filled.

What blessings have come to you because you were in need?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 February 2019

Reflecting on Luke 5: 1-11

What does it take to make an adult cry? For me, it’s always the experience of the nearness of God. Take those guys on the shore of the Galilee, for example. They fished that sea all night and came back with nothing. Just a word from Jesus, though, and the fish came racing into the nets, begging to be caught up in the great Mystery.

When Simon Peter saw this he broke down. Get away from me, Rabbi. You don’t know me, and once you do you won’t want anything to do with me. That’s usually everyone’s response when they have a God-sighting, a moment of such grace that, along with tears, comes the sense that someone else should have received this, someone better, someone worthier, someone who is…well…not us.

Don’t worry, says Jesus. This was just a practice catch. From now on you and I are going to be hauling in people, billions and billions of them. So don’t stress about your insufficiencies. My grace is sufficient.

You see, Jesus knows where all the fish are. He knows where to place the boats, way out in the deep. He knows where your wounds are, your losses, and your doubts. It’s never in the shallows, but in the deep memories, that sadness festers.

Do you feel like you’ve fished all night long for a job, for friends, for love, for healing? Jesus sees you. He knows where you are in the big Sea.  He wants to comfort you, to reel you into his net of communion and compassion. It’s never about being worthy. It’s about being welcomed.

Let Jesus catch you in his net. It’s the safest place in the sea.

In what ways have you experienced the nearness of God?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

2 February 2019

Reflecting on I Cor. 12: 31-13:13

If I wear all the right hats, or hate those who do, but don’t have love, it’s better I just not show up at all.

If I am so confident of my authority on a subject that no one can teach me anything, it’s better I sit this one out lest I end up stomping on love.

If I have the coolest insights into scripture, but don’t let people know how deeply I love them, they’ll despair that God is actually able to be found there.

If I love Jesus so much and people so little, I need to ask a loving person to convert me, because I’ve mistaken religion for something else entirely.

Love writes a note of thanks to the person who extends a thoughtful gesture, even if that person isn’t “important.” He or she is important to God.

Love listens, and remembers, and laughs at other people’s jokes.

Love doesn’t sneak tiny criticisms of others into the conversation, then stand back and enjoy the fallout.

Love really does rejoice when something wonderful happens to someone else. Love promotes other people.

Love is expansive, and forgiving, and gracious. Love doesn’t make people feel insecure or “less than.”

The sun may burn out, and the universe may expand into the Deep Chill. Heaven and earth may pass away; but love will remain forever.

How is the presence of love tangible in your parish?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

30 January 2019

Reflecting on Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room as Ezra reads that foundational scripture to the men, women, and children old enough to understand. What none of them is admitting is that, after returning to the land from the Babylonian Exile, things haven’t worked out as well as they had hoped.

Their new Temple is puny compared to the majestic Temple that Solomon built (and Nebuchadnezzar burned). The returnees are dwelling in a desolate, undefended city, tilling a few ravaged fields, easy prey for marauding bandits.

When Ezra reads this document (now called the Torah), their response is to hang their heads and weep. And what does Governor Nehemiah do? He interrupts to declare a holiday, and to exhort them to eat and drink and rejoice. Why? Because he knows what they have forgotten: the joy of the Lord is their strength. Nothing less will ever be enough.

In today’s synagogue services there is a stirring moment. After the sacred readings, the homily, and the singing of the psalms, a spotlight is shone on the tabernacle. Those with the priestly last name of Cohen (or Kohen) come forward. This group, with the rabbi, takes the five dazzling Torah scrolls and begins to dance with them.

And then all heaven breaks out. The children leap up to dance with their parents. Joyous groups jump out of their pew to greet the Torah as it passes by. For a raucous few minutes the sedate assembly exults in the joy of Torah. Another week of hard work looms for all, but on the Sabbath they draw deeply from their greatest strength, which is the joy that only comes from intimacy with God.

In what ways is the joy of the Lord your greatest strength?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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