Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

13 February 2021

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

Sometimes a different translation of a text comes closer to the way we think of Jesus. For example, according to the NAB (New American Bible), when the leper professes his faith that, if Jesus wills it, he could cure him of leprosy, Jesus is “moved with pity” and says, “I do will it.”

That’s nice. But I LOVE the NIV (New International Version) translation of the same scene. This time, after the leper professes his faith that if Jesus wills it he could be cured, Mark 1: 41 says, “Jesus was indignant.” Don’t you like that Jesus so much better?

Imagine if your child, miserable with an earache, said, “Mom, if you wanted to you could make me feel better!” You’d be moved with pity, sure, but I’ll bet you’d also be indignant, wondering how your child could possibly think you wouldn’t want him to feel better immediately.

Heck, the CEB (Common English Bible) even says Jesus was incensed at the question! I like that the best of all. I love the image of Jesus as the One whose love for us is so deep—and his presence in our lives so intimate and near—that he is incensed that we would wonder whether he wants to heal us.

In still another translations Jesus says, “Of course I will it.” The God of heaven chose earth so that he could be one with us in our illnesses, our sufferings, and our deaths. He wants to heal us so desperately that, like the Hound of Heaven, he seeks us in out-of-the-way roads, and busy urban thoroughfares, just so we can find him. Why aren’t all healed? We don’t know. But it’s not because Jesus doesn’t will it.

What healing do you need? How can the Body of Christ help you?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

6 February 2021

Reflecting on Mark 1: 29-39

Dizzy yet? Four short weeks ago Jesus appeared for baptism by John at the Jordan, only to have the heavens tear open, the Spirit descend, and a Voice from heaven announce that this is, indeed, God’s own and beloved Son.

Hello, Gospel of Mark. You don’t waste any time, do you? Right off the bat you tell us who Jesus is, and woe to those who hoped for a leisurely recounting of his life. With Mark we are in for a hair-raising race through the adult life of Jesus, always with that unseen narrator asking us, “And so? Now that you know, how will you change your life?”

Two weeks ago we witnessed his call to the two sets of brothers, which went something like this: Cephas, Andrew, James, John, let’s go. And that was that. They left their livelihoods that very day. Such is the urgency of the gospel.

Last week Jesus made very fast work of the demons tormenting the man in the synagogue. Recall that they tried to buy time and chat him up when they saw him come in. What have you to do with us? they asked, pretending they didn’t know. Jesus put a stop to that right fast. Quiet! Come out of him! And that was that.

And today we see Jesus, in ten short verses, doing all three hallmarks of his ministry: healing, praying, and preaching. Simon’s mother-in-law is restored to service, which connects her back to her family. That night, demons are cast out and illnesses cured. Afterwards, Jesus retreats for quiet prayer, and, finally, goes about preaching.

All this, and we are only 39 verses into Mark. Fasten your seat belts.

How does the breakneck pace of Mark’s gospel inspire me?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

30 January 2021

Reflecting on Mark 1: 21-28

I am a very well-connected person. I’m connected to many of my friends from grade school, and a lot of the friends I’ve made since then. I’m connected through unbreakable threads to my parents, and their parents, all the way back to our First Parents. I’m connected to all of my family members with bonds so dear that, I’ve learned recently, when one of those members goes home to God it makes the remaining members cling to those bonds even more tightly.

Jesus understands about connections. He’s the Vine, and we’re the branches. Everything he did on earth, and what he does every minute in heaven, is to strengthen those connections between himself and us.

Through the sacraments, through scripture, through his position in the Trinity as the One in whose Name all prayer is addressed, Jesus is our connection. And sin is the destroyer of connection.

That’s why when the unclean spirits—so feverishly at work breaking the connections between their victim and God— saw him coming, they were terrified, and cried out Have you come to destroy us? The answer to that is YES. Always, YES. Thank God.

Most of the time, the “unclean spirits” of pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth go unchecked in our lives until at least one of these seven deadly sins becomes our undoing. That’s the thing about sin. It finds its mark every time, and its target is our happiness, our peace, our serenity, our connections.

That’s not the last word, of course. Jesus wants to restore us completely. It turns out that, as much as we long to be connected to him, he longs to be connected with us infinitely more.

Are you ready for Jesus to call out your demons?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

23 January 2021

Reflecting on Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

I’m willing to be proved wrong about this. I’m willing to look naïve and unsophisticated. Here it is: I believe the guy who says that storming the Capitol on January 6th was the biggest mistake of his life, and the other guy who said he deeply regretted that his actions brought shame to him and to his family.

I believe them, even though, now arrested and having lost jobs and health insurance, contrition is the best lifeline available. I believe them because I have looked at my own past behaviors and been remorseful and embarrassed.  

That Assyrian capital city is the ultimate inspiration for taking stock of our sins and repenting of them. Nineveh was the Las Vegas of its day. Corruption and vile behavior oozed through its pores. And THIS was the city God instructed Jonah to lecture to and convert!

But here’s the jaw-dropping part: they listened to him. They honestly and objectively looked at their sins. They “believed God.” How on earth did a nation that had never heard of the One True God simply turn from their sins, proclaim a fast, cover themselves in sackcloth and ashes, and then experience the mercy of God?

What would it take for us, addicted to our online platforms, radio and tv news stations whose algorhythms are all primed to send us more of what we already believe, to step back and look at the sin in our own lives? I know, it’s way more delicious to marinate in the sins of others. But by doing that we lose the ability to humbly listen.

O Master, grant that ALL OF US may not so much seek to be understood, as to understand.

How will I dismantle my own assertions so that I can humbly listen?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B

16 January 2021

Reflecting on John 1: 35-42

How do parents finally decide what to name the baby? There are so many things to take into consideration: family names, honoring a beloved grandparent, favorite contemporary names, or unique names that will make a child stand out. Some parents name their children with strong names that mean things in the original language—like Sophia, which means wisdom.

Two of my friends just brought their babies home and looked at them for a few days. After hours and hours of gazing, they arrived on beautiful names which, today, we can’t imagine belonging to anyone else.

But the best way to choose a name is to have Jesus choose it for you. Simon had always been Simon until Jesus said, “From now on your name will be Cephas.” That translates as Peter, or Petra, which means rock. How must that new name have strengthened and inspired Peter? In time, the infant, shaky Church would be built on the rock of Peter’s faith. Names shape us.

If Jesus, who knows your inmost heart, had named you, what would you have been called throughout your life? I love thinking of my friends having the names which describe them well: Helpful One, Strong One, Gifted One, Gracious One.

What name do you want Jesus to call you when you see him face to face? How about Just One, or Compassionate One, or Reconciling One? I know what I dread hearing him call me: Greedy One, or Lazy One, or Wasteful One.

Maybe we should take a few weeks to decide what name we most want to be called by Jesus, and then ask for the grace to grow into it. I choose Forgiven One.

By what name do you want Jesus to call you?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Solemnity of Christ the King – Cycle B

27 November 2018

Reflecting on John 18: 33b-37

There are moments, or maybe places, or probably memories, which, when summoned, can bring us to a place of deep truth. Pilate had one of those moments. He had this interesting, serene Jew in front of him. He had the power to crucify him, yet this Jew did not plead for his life. Nor would he engage in any defense.

Aren’t you the king of the Jews? roared Pilate. Jesus looked around, and then stated the obvious: My kingdom does not belong to this world.

There are places that do not belong to the kingdom of Jesus. My husband recently visited Auschwitz, that place so clearly taken over by demons. All the visitors were struck dumb in the presence of pure evil. The kingdom of Jesus is not there.

But let’s not linger, for the kingdom of Jesus will redeem all those deaths. Let’s linger where truth resides. For example, Pope Francis said recently, “You cannot be a Christian and an anti-Semite.” Doesn’t that truth take you to a place outside this world, to a place, say, that resembles the kingdom of heaven?

Or maybe it was a courageous family member who confronted you about an addiction. Or were you, perhaps, the one to confront the lies of addiction with truth?

Perhaps you were with a person with some disabilities, and observed how respectfully and kindly he or she was treated. There. It’s easy to spot it. There is the reign of God. Step into it.

There are traces of the kingdom all around us, embedded in courage and kindness. Or, as the great C.S. Lewis wrote, “The word is out that the king may land.”

But until that day…ah…Advent.

Where do you experience the profound peace of the kingdom of God?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

17 November 2018

Reflecting on Mark 13: 24-32

The other day I was scrolling through the photos on my phone.  I’d forgotten that I’d taken pictures of our backyard urban garden last year. There, in still life, stood cold and dreary January. But the next picture opened up another world: the hoeing and planting, and the beautiful rows and rows of the tiny greens of May. And then, with just a click, there they were: thousands of lush, plump red tomatoes, ready for harvest, ready for their destination at food banks around town. Yum.

My favorite photo is one the day before our big freeze last month. Their baskets overflowing, the gardeners left a few hundred yellow and green and red tomatoes in a bucket on our porch, ready to be taken away as soon as they had room in their overflowing truck.

It’s the last picture that’s so stunning, though. Just a week after the frost, our backyard morphed from the Garden of Eden into a Halloween ghost town. Dead, sad branches moaned. Lifeless, leafless plants bent over into sad farewell. And there it all was, right there, on a phone I’d been ignoring for years. Life and death are accessible to me now, every time I click “Photos.”

That’s what this 33rd Sunday has always been about. We are ordered to open ourselves to the life and death we each carry deep in our hearts. Yes, the winter is upon us, and we know not the day nor hour when we will see Jesus.

But here’s the good news. Jesus is Lord of the summer and the winter. Bidden or unbidden, death awaits us all. Our job is to keep planting, and harvesting, and waiting in joyful hope.

How do you hold life and death deep in your heart?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

13 November 2018

Reflecting on Mark 12: 38-44

I love hanging around people who give everything they have, just because that’s where their joy is. I adore watching grandparents with their adorable little ones, not caring that crawling around and lifting up babies sets off that bad back.

I like watching people doing jobs they love.  Everyone I know who plays an instrument well would happily play all night. People who are great at hospitality, who know how to make strangers feel comfortable and friends feel welcomed, would do that every day if we would let them.

I would write this column twice a day if church bulletins were set up that way. My husband Ben would fix the muffler on our car every week of his life if it would just keep breaking. We love to pursue what makes us happy, and the saddest people, I suspect, are those who are deprived of that most basic of human rights.

I remember the great 90s sitcom Mad About You, and how well it captured the essence of the main characters. But I don’t need a haircut, said the husband to his ultra-energetic wife.  I know, she said, but I really need to give you one.

That’s the thing we need to remember. Sometimes, ‘tis truly better to receive than to give, because it means so much to the giver.

I wonder about that widow in the Temple. Yes, the scribes were a disgrace in comparison with her. But the people I know who give everything they have do so because, for them, nothing comes close to that kind of joy. I want to hope that’s what was going on with her.

What do you love to do because it brings you joy?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

4 November 2018

Reflecting on Deuteronomy 6: 2-6

Well, we’ve celebrated the saints, and all this month we remember all the souls who have gone to God. In just a breath or two we’ll be headlong into Advent―blessed Advent―and then glorious, trumpet-sounding Christmas.

And so, before it all gets away, let’s just breathe. We’ve been immersed in Mark’s gospel all these months. How has it changed us? Every three years we are in the grip of the most urgent of the gospels, written during a time of terrifying torture and death for those who followed the WAY.

Surely if there is any Old Testament passage that captures the passion of Mark it’s the one that Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy today. He begs us to love the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength.

I love remembering the giants we celebrated all last month. Has anyone in history loved God with more heart than St. Francis of Assisi? Are there any martyrs who gave their soul and mind to Jesus more than St. Ignatius of Antioch?

But it’s St. Teresa of Avila who is in my heart today. It’s so touching how much the young people of Avila love her. “We call Thérèse of Lisieux the Little Flower,” they’ll tell you proudly. “But ours is Teresa of the Big Flower.”

One day in the monastery she encountered a beautiful young boy. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am Teresa of the Child Jesus. Who are you?” His reply always brings tears to my eyes: “I am the Child Jesus of Teresa.”

That’s what it means to love Jesus with our whole strength. Insert your name there. One day Jesus will call you by your true name.

How does loving Jesus make you stronger?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 November 2018

Reflecting on Mark 10: 46-52

The last thing Jesus does before his entrance into Jerusalem (and his eventual death) is to take pity on the blind Bartimaeus, who is calling out to him as he is leaving Jericho. In fact, this beggar is on the roadside, which I suppose means he’s begging from people leaving the city.

Some in the crowd, who think they are the experts in knowing the heart of Jesus, tell him to go away. Jesus is way too important to be bothered by him. I’ll bet this beggar is a familiar sight. The Jericho folks have probably known him all his life. He’s probably an annoyance, sitting at the gates, asking for alms, year after year. Now they have the Master in town, they’ve done their best to make a good impression, and just when they think they’ve pulled it off, there sits the blind man, calling out to him.

Ugh. This is the guy we cross the street to avoid meeting, and Jesus is walking straight towards him! Didn’t anybody think to get him off the streets before Jesus left? He’s ruining everything.

I get the feeling that, just as Bartimaeus may have strategically placed himself outside the gates so as to have better access to travelers (whom he hadn’t worn down through the years), Jesus placed himself in that exact spot so as to have maximum exposure to the beggar. He absolutely didn’t want to miss him. Or you. Or me.

At what times in your life has Jesus placed himself directly in your path?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

 

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