Christmas – Cycle C

Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle C

1 January 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 2: 1-2

Wouldn’t you love to know more about those mysterious Magi, who left everything to follow a Star from the day of its rising? They fascinate me. There are innumerable legends about them, including their names Balthazar (of Arabia), Melchior (of Persia),  and Caspar (of India). One of the more charming legends is that in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (in present-day Punjab, Pakistan), one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.

Later Christian writings identified them as kings, certainly because the Old Testament scriptures bear many prophecies of royalty. Today’s first reading from Isaiah 60:1-6 refers to “kings coming to the brightness of your dawn,” and the Responsorial Psalm sings of “all kings falling down before him” (72:11).  It made perfect sense to imagine that these very wise men must have been the royalty the Old Testament writers were awaiting. Maybe they were.

Here’s what fascinates me. These Gentiles saw a bright star rising, and they left everything to follow it. When it hovered over Jerusalem they stopped and announced themselves as ones who had come to give homage to the newborn King of the Jews. Isn’t that astounding? They were willing to leave their pre-Christian worldviews in search of a Jewish King. Why?

I think it’s because that’s how God touches all of us. God recruits all of nature to tell the glory of God. The winter chill, the spring rains, the abundant summer fruits, the stunning autumns, all speak to a God who is with us. I think the Magi were just fascinated, as we are, by the heavens touching down to earth, and saying, “Here. Here. Come and worship.”

What was your greatest “Epiphany” of the nearness of God this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Christmas Day and Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle C

26 December 2021

Reflecting on Luke 2: 41-52

Ah, the shepherds. What a perfect group to experience this huge “GOD EVENT.” Abraham was a shepherd (Gen. 13),  Moses was a shepherd (Ex. 3;1), David was a shepherd (I Sm. 17), and God, of course, is a shepherd, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). How perfect that it was shepherds who were the first to receive the tidings of great joy. They raced to Bethlehem to greet the Child who would be the Great Shepherd, the one who would leave heaven itself to come in search of us.

I have a theory about those angels. I don’t think they came from heaven just for that one blessed night. I think that God posted them there, right there in Shepherd’s Field, at the beginning of time. I think they were there when God created the heavens and the earth. And, since heaven is not confined by time and space, it may have been just a blink of an eye before the time came for them to reveal themselves.

I hear those angels sometimes, because I know they’re hanging out in my neighborhood too. I hear them bursting into Glorias whenever anyone does anything to help bring peace on earth. When, as the Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation says so beautifully, “enemies begin to speak to one another, and those who were estranged join hands in friendship,” I think I hear them, shouting Glorias in the highest.

Here’s an easy way to hear them, and this is the perfect season. Lay down your estrangements, and your righteous certitudes. Let peace flow like a river. Now that your heart is wide open, unstop your ears and listen. Ah, yes. Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Dear readers, I pray for every blessing, every healing in your life. You are always in my heart.

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle C

8 January 2019

It’s the gorgeous Feast of the Epiphany. Time to trip a little light fantastic. That’s right…you! You are the lamplighter of your family, your class, your parish, your office, your work place.

But look who I’m telling. You already know this! You’ve probably known all your life, or at least since your Confirmation, that you are the Light-Bearer, the one whose gracious and kind disposition is making this pilgrim path much easier for others.

Mother Teresa begged us to “be the living expression of God’s kindness.” That’s you. Think of the charities that are able to continue their work because of your generosity. Think of the kind direction you’ve given to help educate children in the faith. Think of the ways you have comforted the grieving, and visited the sick, and given food to the hungry.

Think of your presence at Mass, and what confidence that builds in your parish community. Think of the ways you have prayed for the sick and dying. Think of the ways you have personally accompanied loved ones through their own transition from life to eternity.

You can’t see it, but you’re your own constellation out there. You have no idea the people who have seen your Star―your warmth, your kind invitation to friendship, your help in times of need—and been intimately drawn to the One who is Light from Light.

Isn’t it a great blessing to be part of the constellation of Christ? Every darkness that comes your way you transform into light. You are a luminous comet of forgiveness, joy, friendship, and expectant hope.

And the day when you and Jesus see each other face to face? Step back. Nova, meet Super Nova.

What is the greatest light that you cast in this world?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle C

8 January 2019

This is a painful feast for so many Catholics, I think. How many of us have the kind of “holy” family we imagined existed a few decades ago (but never really did, in some ways)?

That “holy” family included mom, dad, at least a few kids, and, oh yes, everyone was happily in church on Sunday. The kids went on to marry other Catholics, and those families bore children who were contentedly growing up in the faith.

Somehow we thought that model―whether it was actually working or not—would weather all the cultural upheavals of our lifetimes. It didn’t, of course. Is there a reader today who can say that his/her family has followed this path perfectly?

It turns out, of course, that the world didn’t end when the kids stopped going to church. The Church itself is to blame—its most prominent ambassadors at least—for much of the massive exodus. Poor leadership, mediocre preaching, and a malaise so deep that it took decades  for them to notice that two generations of baptized Catholics were permanently AWOL, has finally created the crisis we face today. And that doesn’t even take into account the heinous and ongoing sexual abuse crimes.

But that’s not the whole story. I know a parish that can break your heart. The scattering of adults who make up the early morning Sunday congregation are as devout and educated as any community you could find. The choir has sung together, consistently, since the sixties.

They are wonderful lectors and religious educators. They’ve graduated from the Catholic Biblical School and Catechetical School. They’ve maintained prayerful and loving, lifelong marriages. And yet there isn’t a family that doesn’t have an adult child on the street, lost amid the homeless population, due to the scourge of drugs and alcohol.

Suicide is at least a monthly event there. Grandparents weep for their grandchildren, whom they are raising because their own children are lost.

These are extreme examples of the pain that some Catholic families experience, of course. The challenge for the “average” Catholic family is to trust that God is living and active in the lives of all their loved ones, who are doing generous and vital things in the world, whether or not they go to church.

What are the most holy and happy aspects of your family?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Christmas Day – Cycle C

30 December 2018

Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year? Because I’m sure I saw some more presents for you, hidden under the tree and tucked away in secret places where you can find them at just the perfect time.

Here’s one addressed to you from “Heartfelt Compassion.” This present will open itself for you. You’ll feel your heart break open as you feel “with passion” the daily struggle of a relative whose addiction has already strained the bonds of love in your family. It’s okay. Feel that tenderness and love for your broken relative once again. It’s Christmas for them too, with all its promises of “God with us.”

This next gift goes with it, so open up “Kindness” too. This is SUCH a perfect gift for you because it will keep surprising you all year long. Watch for that thoughtful stranger who says, “I can see that you’re in a hurry and have just a few things to buy. Jump ahead of me.”  It will show up in the surprise letter of gratitude from an old friend, or the sweet gift of taking out the trash which your spouse does every single day without saying a word.

Or maybe it will be your adult child someday, who calls and says, “Remember how hard I fought to get you to let me hang out with my friends when I was fourteen? I’ve never thanked you for holding your ground and keeping me safe.”

There are lots more presents, and they all have your name on them. They are from Emanuel, who promises to be with you in every struggle and every joy in the coming year.

What is your favorite memory of knowing God’s presence with you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

The Baptism of the Lord

9 January 2016

My friends Mary Ann and David have the most fabulous Epiphany party every year. It’s a tradition that goes back decades now. None of us can remember a Christmas season that wasn’t marked by this annual gathering of hundreds of friends gathered ‘round the grand piano, singing four-part harmonies, enjoying delicious drinks and sampling the dozens and dozens of cookies for which, along with many other amazing talents, Mary Ann is famous.

But it wasn’t the two fantastic Christmas trees, or the thousands of lights throughout the house and out into the driveway, or even the warmth of the many beloved friends there that I will most remember this year. It was a conversation with her oldest friend, who reminded me that she wasn’t at the party last year. Why? Because she had endured nine hours of surgery the day before to excise lung cancer.

I was stunned. I hadn’t heard about this. “But you look so healthy!” I said. “Oh,” she said, “I feel great. Mary Ann and David put me in their guest room (where they cared for Mary Ann’s mother for the last several years of her life) and they just bathed me in love. They fed me and cared for me, and I recovered beautifully. I had a wonderful year.”

She had lung cancer, and she had a wonderful year. Just think about that. Each of us has the power to bring so much mercy into someone’s life that, a year after their struggle, they can say, “I had a wonderful year.” Imagine being baptized into that mercy every day. Imagine extending that mercy.

It’s going to be a wonderful year.

In what ways have you already experienced mercy this year?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord – Cycle C

2 January 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 2: 1-12

Star dust. It turns out we are all made of it. Almost every element on Earth was formed at the heart of a star. How? When a massive star explodes, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen are released into the universe, providing the building blocks for planets, and plants, and human life. Everything in us is formed from residual stardust, and here’s the best part: you have stuff in you as old as the universe.

So consider this: when those passionate astrologers saw that Star, might it have been the stardust in them, routed into them through eons, from the day God spoke the world into being, that shouted out, “We recognize You! We are made from You! We have literally longed for You, in every cell of our being, from the beginning of time!”

Each of us carries those Wise Men in our own DNA. We too are made of the stuff that sees the Star and says, “Yes, I was made to seek You and find You. Nothing in my life will ever satisfy me until I do.”

And so I ask you, Star gazers: where do you feel the most completely yourself, the most utterly at home? Allow yourself this epiphany: only by knowing what you know for sure will you ever truly find the peace that comes from God, who formed the world from the beginning of the beginning. If you are breathing, then you are stardust, and you won’t feel at home until you find the Star.

Joni Mitchell had it right: We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.

In what ways do you sense that you belong to God?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Cycle C

24 December 2015

Here’s a question. Which of the people in the Christmas story are you?  I promise that you are somewhere in this inspired narrative. That’s how the world’s great stories are meant to work, and the story of the birth of Jesus Christ is surely tied with the narrative of his resurrection as the greatest story ever told.

I realized years ago that I am without a doubt the shepherds. Like them, I had the good news announced to me, and I have spent the rest of my life in haste, rushing to verify it for myself (which I have), and then “making it known” to anyone who will listen.

Are you a maverick, someone who speaks the truth and doesn’t care about the consequences? Hello, John the Baptist. Do you delight in being the bearer of comfort and very good news? Welcome, angels! Are you someone who seeks the Truth, even if it’s outside your comfort zone, and is willing to go to any length to find it? Step into the manger scene, Magi.

Or maybe you find yourself in one of the darker characters this Christmas. Are you paranoid about losing your power and status these days? Do you worry that a younger or more charismatic employee wants your job? Hmm. I’m sorry to tell you that King Herod had the same suspicions.

Here’s a good one. Are you a Christ-bearer, someone who brings goodness and Light to everyone around you? Brace yourself. You are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who carried Christ into the world.

Gaze at the manger scene and find yourself there.  In your heart, recognition. And on earth, peace.

Share with a dear one who you are in the Christmas story.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

The Baptism of the Lord – Cycle C

13 January 2013

Reflecting on Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

Happy New Year, everyone!

The other day my husband and I were walking our dog Gracie home from the park.  We passed several houses in the neighborhood, then for some reason I remembered that our friends live in the one we had just passed.  Looking back, I said to Ben, “there’s the Denny’s house”.  And there, waving frantically in the window, mouthing “Happy New Year,” were their darling grandchildren.

We waved and smiled and walked on, and wondered at the unusual coincidence that, without seeing them in the window and without hearing them calling to us, we turned in their direction in time to see their warm greeting.

At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens opened, the voice of the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit actually appeared in bodily form as a dove.  But Luke doesn’t tell us who saw the dove, or who heard the voice. It happened, we know.  But who besides Jesus (and the evangelist, who is Spirit-inspired) had eyes to see or ears to hear?

If we could train our eyes and ears, I’ll bet we too would see the heavens open, and hear the voice from heaven speak.  This appearance of the Trinity—the Son coming out of the water, the Spirit resting as a dove, the Father speaking from heaven—was not a one-time event.  Christ is always with us in our dyings and risings, the Spirit is always pointing us to the ways of peace, and the Father is always speaking to us.

Or, to put it another way, love and comfort and wisdom are constantly being waved at us through soundless windows.  Take a moment to look back and notice.

What “God moment” have you had this week?

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).

Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle C

5 January 2013

Reflecting on Is. 60: 1-6

On this gorgeous Christmas-tide feast day that remembers the manifestation of Christ to all the nations, I wonder if we could take a minute to let our imaginations wander in a direction which we may not have allowed ourselves for many years.  Let your heart indulge itself in this direction:

What would it be like if the United States of America were like the Star of Bethlehem?  What if our country radiated so much light, so much warmth, so much justice, so much compassion, so much strength of character that the glory of the Lord shone upon us?

What if all the nations walked by our light?  What if all the people of the world, who share the same sun and moon, (and I’m even imagining the wretched, starving masses in North Korea, who have no access to the outside world) observed such radiant wisdom in us that it literally lit up the sky and pointed all peoples in the direction of peace?

What if we, the city set on the hill, the world’s model of all possible ethnic groups living together, would be so changed by the horrors of violence against children in this country that we all put every other agenda aside until every child (and yes, the parents and siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends of every child) was safe tonight?

The divine wisdom it would require is staggering, but we are the nation that mightily helped save the world just 70 years ago.  We saved the world from the Nazis.  Can we can save ourselves too?

Of course we can. Oh Star of Wonder, guide us to thy Perfect Light.

In what ways are you resolved to radiate only Light 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).

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