Advent – Cycle C

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

22 December 2018

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-45

I received one of those lovely BELIEVE mantel plaques from a friend the other day. It looks so beautiful up there, surrounded by Christmas cards, our Advent wreath ablaze now with all four candles glowing. It’s not a suggestion anymore, I don’t think. BELIEVE is a mandate, an absolute demand of our whole self. To BELIEVE puts us right there with Mary herself, who BELIEVED that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled.

On the First Sunday of Advent we all resolved to pray for an unknown reader of this column, recognizing that another unknown reader was praying for us. If you happened to miss that week’s reflection, it’s not too late. Right now, imagine someone out there who is reading this. That person needs your prayers. That person may have been praying for you these past Advent weeks.

BELIEVE that your prayers for an unknown reader are reaching heaven this very minute.

But getting back to Mary, her immediate departure from Nazareth to walk ninety miles to Elizabeth’s home is just fascinating.  She must have been very close to her cousin. Don’t you get the feeling that she was as thrilled to hear of her aging cousin’s pregnancy as she was amazed to announce her own?

I wonder if she rehearsed how she was going to explain to her cousin this most astonishing (and history-changing) news. Was she nervous when she walked into the house? Any apprehension she might have had flew out the window the second she arrived, because the pre-born John recognized the pre-born Jesus and leaped for joy.

Oh, and by the way, we don’t ever have to ask again when life begins.

In what ways do you feel the prayers of the unseen reader who is praying for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

15 December 2018

Reflecting on Phil.4: 4-7

My Olympic sport is worrying. I’m the best who ever played the game. What makes me particularly versatile is that, the very second one worry is resolved, I can leap immediately to the next one, and the next one. It’s an arrogant way to live, if you think about it.

I never stop to give thanks when the first worry turns up solved. I call up the next one in the queue and begin massaging it, marinating it, simmering it over an endlessly warm burner. I look at every possible way things can go fatally awry. I’m pretty sure it’s up to me to keep the planets in their fixed orbits. When turbulence bounces the plane around I think I need to get up there and take over.

Have no anxiety about anything, says Paul. Easy for him to say? Well, let’s see. Prior to his imprisonment in Rome (the location of this letter, probably around the year 62), Paul had been shipwrecked, snake-bit, stoned with rocks, and left to languish in prisons in Caesarea and Ephesus. Then, the grossly unstable Emperor Nero of Rome started his persecution of the early church two years after Paul was imprisoned there.

One day—or was it night?—the Roman guards took Paul from his cell, and led him to the beheading block. Had he trembled in fear of this moment? Had he worried it to death all the years before it happened?

We know this: while in chains in Rome, St. Paul exhorted us to pray, and offer thanks, and tell God what we need. And then, he promised, the peace of Christ will guard us. I’ll bet it guarded him.

How is anxiety stealing my peace?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

11 December 2018

Reflecting on Bar. 5: 1-9

That’s quite a migrant caravan, those tens of millions of people who, rejoicing that they have been “remembered by God,” will return to Jerusalem “borne aloft in glory.” Let’s see. There would be the thousands deported out of Israel by the Assyrians (722 BC). Following them would be the hundreds of thousands “led on foot by their enemies “out of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (597- 587 BC.).  Next, the millions expelled from, and denied access to, Jerusalem by the Romans (132 AD).

And that’s just the Hebrew people, in the short window of time between the Assyrian invasion and the final deportation by the Romans. Can we begin to imagine the numbers of human beings who have been driven off their land, robbed and naked, and forced to begin again in a foreign land among foreign peoples?

Such has been the way of the world throughout history. Misery begets misery. The Palestinian Christians, who have lived in the land of Jesus’ birth for two thousand years, have been bullied and harassed  by both of the larger ethnic groups—themselves the victims of unparalleled suffering― so much that, today, they make up less than 2% of the population.

All those refugees shall return one day, says the prophet Baruch. That’s a lot of mountains that need lowering, a lot of ancient gorges that need to be lifted up. That’s a huge workload for every believer, the gigantic and prophetic task of building lasting peace in the world. Come, Lord Jesus.

What losses of your own will be restored when Jesus comes again in glory?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

First Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

1 December 2018

Reflecting on Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Today’s world has a lot of advantages over that of years ago. Take waiting, for example. Before huge cineplexes in every neighborhood we used to actually have to buy tickets in advance, or wait in long lines for seats to movie openings. Remember Star Wars, anyone? Or, in more recent memory, the long wait for the next Harry Potter book?

On the other hand, it’s good to muster the discipline for some kind of delayed gratification in life. Painful as it was, waiting for the bus, or for a favorite tv show to return after the long summer break, formed a certain character in us. I call on that character all the time, when I’m waiting for a medication to work, maybe, or waiting for test results from the doctor.

I’ll bet you have daily challenges to that essential character trait too. Are you waiting for those painful pounds to come off―they will, I promise―or for news from a loved one who is deployed, or hospitalized, or just missing from your life? That kind of waiting is just agonizing.

Or maybe your long wait is to overcome a resentment that’s had you in its grasp for decades. More likely, your wait is for healing for a child who is in the grip of depression, or an addiction, or has problems at school.

That’s the most agonizing wait of all.

I have an idea. How about if, this Advent, every reader of this column around the country prayed for someone who is reading these words right now? Talk about waiting. We won’t know until we see Jesus who we were praying for, and who was praying for us. Ready? I can’t wait.

How would you like your unknown prayer partner to pray for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

19 December 2015

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-45

Sometimes we just have to live between memory and hope. When Mary asked, “How can this be? the angel Gabriel appealed to her memory. Certainly Mary remembered the great miracle stories in the scriptures, didn’t she? Just thinking about them would have stirred her faith in what was happening right that minute. But Gabriel had another surprise. “Look!” said Gabriel. “You know your elderly, childless cousin Elizabeth? She’s pregnant! See? And God who is mighty is doing something even greater right now. Are you in?”

“I’m all in,” said Mary. Then―and don’t miss this―the angel left her. There is no evidence that the angel ever visited Mary again. Not when she was an unmarried, pregnant girl about to give birth in an over-booked Bethlehem. Not when the prophet Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart. Not even, oh God, at the foot of the cross. Not even then.

Have you chosen to remember, even in the dreadest times, God’s nearness to you in the past? Elizabeth’s words to Mary are for you too: “Blessed are you who BELIEVE that the promise of the Lord will be fulfilled.”

In what ways do you live between memory and hope?

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 Advent – Cycle C

13 December 2015

Reflecting on Luke 3: 10-18

“What should we do?” asked the crowd that followed John into the wilderness. He looked at each one and told them what particular thing was keeping them from the fulfilling the Law in their own lives.  “Stop cheating.”  “Stop extorting.” “Stop hoarding what you’ve got.”

Hmm.  I wonder what he would say to us.  Imagine the Baptizer encountering us, leveling his refiner’s fire at us.  I suspect we would hear things like, “Stop being anxious.  Your heavenly Father knows what you need.” Or, “Stop working so hard to provide things.  Your family needs YOU more than things.”

Or maybe, “Stop secretly harboring grudges.  Your resentments have grown tiresome. Others have overcome far worse injustices than you have. Forgive, and move on. Or is it possible that being wounded makes you happier than being healed?”

Here’s an Advent assignment: imagine John the Baptist looking into your heart. What would he tell YOU to do? And here’s the hard part: could you do it? Today’s third candle (pink for hope) promises that you could.

What changes are you making for the Year of Mercy?

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 Advent – Cycle C

10 December 2015

I had a “moment” in the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. Although I had been shopping for a week, there was still a significant list of last-minute items to pick up at 4pm Wednesday afternoon. It was bitter cold outside, but the store was bumper-to-bumper buggies and their harried operators. We squeezed past each other. We smiled tight, stressed smiles while reaching over each other for rolls and marshmallows.

I snagged the last bouquet out of the cooler.  On my victorious journey to the checkout lane several people congratulated me. They laughed. I laughed. And then the realization of how ridiculous it all was came over me, and somehow I think we all felt it at the same time.

Seriously? I was stressing over a table decoration? Where am I, Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? Mali? Paris? Colorado Springs? San Bernadino?

I don’t think I imagined this. I think a moment of what we used to call “actual grace” was released in the store, at least in the area where I was shopping.  People relaxed.  They smiled and wished a Happy Thanksgiving to strangers―those abundantly blessed buggy drivers, none of whom would be jockeying for a place at the overcrowded shelters that night, or standing on the frozen street with signs asking for spare change.

It was a Thanksgiving Miracle. An ease, a peace, an immense swelling of true gratitude seemed to waft through the store. Or maybe it was just in my heart. That’s where most of the really awesome miracles begin.

And now it is Advent, and the long-awaited Year of Mercy. Having felt the breath of the Spirit, I intend to spend this year gorging on gratitude, and handing others the last bouquet.

How will you celebrate the Year of Mercy?

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 Advent – Cycle C

28 November 2015

The season we wait for all year long is finally here. The purples and pinks, the smell of evergreen, the minor-key Advent carols, the darkness, the beautiful readings, and the entire sensory delight that is Advent is finally here. Let’s enjoy every delicious minute of this short and profound season.

But before that first candle burns down too far, let’s take a minute to consider the countless ways that the Long-Awaited One, for whom we longed LAST Advent, has been manifest in our lives these past 52 weeks.

December:         Advent, and Christmas, and looking ahead

January:             The Epiphany of Christ our Light.

February:            Lent began, again.

March:                Holy Week, with its endless grace.

April:                   Easter, and baptisms and First Communions and Confirmations.

May:                    Spring! Remember how beautiful it was?

June:                   Summer!

July:                    Picnics!

August:               Bike rides, and feast days, and back-to-school

September:        Glorious Indian Summer. Thank you, God

October:              The mystery of death

November:         The saints, and giving thanks

And here are the Advent candles again. Come, Lord, Jesus, and give us eyes to see your presence always.

Take ten minutes to review your year since last Advent. Can you see Christ there?

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 Advent – Cycle C

26 December 2012

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-45

Last year at this time I told you of the beautiful song The Visit, which recounts Mary’s encounter with her cousin Elizabeth (and her pre-born child John the Baptist).  I received more comments on the website which accompanies this column about that song than any column in three years.  I gratefully offer it again, reprinted with permission from Sr. Miriam Therese Winter of the Medical Missionary Sisters. And may you each, like Elizabeth, experience the joy of the presence of Christ, this Christmas and always.

THE VISIT

She walked in the summer, through the heat on the hill. She hurried as one who went with a will.

She danced in the sunlight when the day was done. Her heart knew no evening.  She carried the Sun.

Fresh as a flower at the first ray of dawn, she came to her cousin, whose morning had gone.

There leaped a little child in the ancient womb, and there leaped a little hope in every ancient tomb.

Hail, little sister you herald the spring. Hail, brave mother, you carried our King.

Hail to the Moment beneath your breast. May all generations call you blessed.

When you walk in the summer through the heat on the hill, when you’re one with the wind, and one with God’s will,

Be glad with the burden you are blessed to bear. For it’s Christ who you carry everywhere, everywhere… everywhere.

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 Advent – Cycle C

17 December 2012

Reflecting on Luke 3: 10-18

I like to imagine what John the Baptist would say to us if he saw us standing in line at the Jordan. “What should we do?” asked the crowd that had followed him into the wilderness.

He looked at each one and told them what particular thing was keeping them from the fulfilling the Law in their own lives.  “Stop cheating.”  “Stop extorting.” “Stop hoarding what you’ve got.”

Hmm.  So what would he say to us?  Imagine the Baptizer encountering us, leveling his refiner’s fire at us.  I suspect we would hear things like, “Stop being anxious.  Your heavenly Father knows what you need.”

Or, “Stop working so hard to provide things.  Your family needs YOU more than things.”  Or maybe, “Stop secretly harboring grudges.  Accept the grace to be healed of ancient wounds.”

Here’s an Advent assignment: imagine being face to face with the Baptist.  What would he require of you before plunging you in the water?

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

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