Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

25 May 2024

Reflecting on Matthew 28:16-20

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 the New Testament writers 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 were dedicated to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, 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 ©2024

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

10 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

In her fascinating new book on the American saints (When the Saints Came Marching In: Exploring the Frontiers of Grace in America; Liturgical Press 2015) author Kathy Coffey lingers lovingly on St. Marianne Cope, the Franciscan nun who, with six others sisters from her community in Syracuse, N.Y., warmly accepted the same invitation from the Hawaiian government which fifty other religious communities had turned down.

I am not afraid of any disease, she wrote in 1883. Hence it would be my greatest delight to minister even to the abandoned lepers of Molokai.

And so she did. She and her sisters cared for the dying St. Damien, assuring him that his work with those who had contracted the dread disease would continue after his death. She finally achieved real safety for the women and girls on the island by establishing schools and hospitals just for them. She brought games, and laughter, and fun.

The most compelling thing about her for me is how beautiful she was, and how celebrated she is in Hawaii. A visitor to Molokai is immediately greeted by a large, framed photograph of this smiling, radiant Franciscan sister.  Throughout the Hawaiian Islands (where her sisters still minister) her lovely face, shrouded in the white coif and wimple of the 19th century habit, is celebrated on key chains, tins of macadamia nuts, and even beer mugs. She and her sisters are beloved, and the Hawaiians want the world to know about them.

Jesus warned the man he cured of leprosy to tell no one.  Instead, he broadcast it far and wide. When the love of Christ overshadows you, even the remotest parts of the Hawaiian Islands shout for joy.

What ways have you found to reach out to modern-day lepers?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 29 -39

Everyone in looking for you, Jesus. And it didn’t take long. Immediately—a favorite word of Mark’s gospel, appearing over seventy times—after Jesus’ first miracle in Mark, when he cured Simon’s mother-in-law with his touch, crowds descended on him. “The whole town” appeared at his doorstep that evening, and he healed many of the sick, and drove out demons.

We can imagine. The mental and physical ailments that make all of us miserable at some point in our lives cause us to cry out every day to Jesus, the Healer. Mark’s gospel abounds with miracles, so much so that I once had a student leave the study of Mark because it was too painful to see all those people being healed, while her daughter suffered terribly every day.

I often think, as I read the accounts of Jesus’ miracles, that there is something about the encounter with the afflicted one that triggers his ability to heal. What was it about Simon’s mother-in-law that stirred so much compassion in Jesus that, when he reached for her, the fever left her immediately?

Throughout this Year of Mark we’ll see Jesus wage many battles with demons. Who knows what the ancients thought demons were? Today we assign the idea of demons to the many vagaries of mental illness—depression, bipolar disease—or brain diseases, like epilepsy.

But not so fast. I’ll always remember Sr. Macrina Scott, OSF, the innovative founder of the Denver Catholic Biblical, after she returned from teaching in Africa. She had always believed that the biblical demons were probably the mental illnesses of today. And then she witnessed exorcisms! And actual demons roaring out of their victims!

Everyone is looking for you, Jesus.

What healings have you experienced in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

28 January 2024

Reflecting on Deuteronomy 18:15-20

We’ve had so many nudgings lately to hear God’s call, to carefully discern where God is leading us, but always the question remains: how? The only answer I have to this is to lean in to what makes you truly happy. Chances are that God, who desires only our happiness, has put into our hearts the very desires for which we long.

For example, my friend Ann has the most unbelievable energy and passion for helping migrant families. It’s bitter cold these days, and she is out there, getting coats and gloves and warm winter clothes to migrants coming in from warm climates. She’s not alone, of course. I could name at least two dozen friends whose passion for this work takes up much of their time. They seem really happy to me.

In that first reading from Deuteronomy we hear that, in the desert, the Israelites begged God not to speak to them! They didn’t want the dreaded voice of God! They asked that God speak to them through a prophet like their friend Moses. Isn’t that so often the way we discern the direction of our lives? It’s through the inspiration and modeling of the people we know, and like, and with whom we come in contact.

So many  memoirs are filled with the authors’ experiences of being shaped and changed by the great people in their lives. The opposite is also true. I know great teachers and leaders who answered the call to service because they saw it done so poorly by others, and knew they could do it better.

So, if today you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your heart. Chances are God’s voice is very near to you.

What people have served as the voice of God in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

21 January 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1:14-20

It’s that first sentence in today’s gospel, our first entry from Mark in Ordinary Time this year, that give me chills: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.

Similar sentences have read, “After the four North American churchwomen were murdered in El Salvador, the next plane brought their replacements from Maryknoll.”

Or, “After the first wave of volunteers were taken away in exhaustion, a second wave of volunteers from around the world took their place, digging for the missing who were swept up in the tsunami.”

Jesus knew that his hidden life had come to an end. The great prophet John the Baptist, after speaking truth to power, was thrown into Herod’s dungeon. What fate would await him? Jesus didn’t wait to find out. He immediately stepped into John’s role, and began to proclaim the gospel.

“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The martyrdom of John was a shocking event for all who had been baptized by him, for John’s disciples, and for Jesus. Now it was clear: Jesus would also die at the hands of powerful men, who would misunderstand him, and what he wanted to give them. Jesus now knows how very dangerous these men are, and his response is to preach the gospel anyway.

I know people like that, many of them. I know courageous women and men who have risked, and lost, jobs they loved, in order to simply do the right thing. It shouldn’t be like this. We should ALL desire that the right thing prevail, even—especially—those with something to lose should that come to pass.

What examples of right overcoming might have you seen in your lifetime?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

14 January 2024

Reflecting on John 1:35-42

Every once in a while the gospels inadvertently let a bit of history seep into the narrative. Today we get that interesting background into the ministry of John the Baptist, that he had disciples himself before the public ministry of Jesus.

One of those disciples, who must have been in John’s inner circle in order to have been close enough to hear John say, about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” was no less than Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.

So, we know that Andrew was a seeker. He traveled with John the Baptist, and had certainly heard many fiery sermons from John. But at the very moment that John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew and the other (unnamed) disciple left John and followed Jesus.

In fact, Andrew went straight to his brother and announced that they had found the long-awaited Messiah. He brought Simon to Jesus, who then did what Rabbis did for their most prominent disciples. He changed his name to Cephas (Petra, which means “rock”).

The history of the Church can be written from what follows in this short account towards the beginning of John’s gospel. Andrew and the other disciple seem to understand that John is bidding them goodbye. Their time with him is over, because the “Lamb of God” has been identified, and it is their destiny to follow him.

Simon, too, comes with his brother to see where Jesus is staying. He, too, must have been a seeker. Upon meeting his Lord, he submits to having his very name changed, never realizing that it will be his faith that will be the “rock” upon which the Church will be founded.

What split-second decisions have you made that changed your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle B

7 January 2024

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

The more the years go by, the more this story calls to me. There’s something almost  hauntingly familiar about it: the beautiful, blazing STAR, the wise astrologers watching the skies. When I see the Christmas cards with the three large visitors on the camels, purposely headed for Bethlehem, bearing their iconic gifts, I get a shiver. I feel like I’m on one of the camels, leaving everything behind because my future has always been with the One lying in a bed of straw, somewhere very near.

Last week I asked the question, “Who are YOU in the story?” I received several fascinating replies. One friend said she is the sand under the feet of the shepherds as they hastened to Bethlehem, supporting them, bearing silent witness to their mission. Another friend said he is the donkey, carrying Mary and the Child, always willing to be of service in any way.

My friend Alice Camille, author and scripture scholar, said that she longs to be the Magi, taking four years off to seek for Jesus, to take whatever roads lead to him, to find him and offer her whole life and heart as her gift. She longs for that, yes, but she knows that, at this point in her life, she’s still the STAR, guiding others to Jesus while she longs to take a huge swathe of her life to seek him herself.

That’s what’s so compelling about the Epiphany. How could these wise foreigners, who had NEVER heard of Moses or of any promised Messiah, have left everything to follow that STAR for two years? They carried gifts, but the greatest gift was their lives. Yes, that’s it. That’s why this STORY calls to me.

In what ways does this STORY call to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

20 November 2021

Reflecting on John 8: 33b-37

I love watching people do that for which they were born, that for which they came into the world. You know it when you see it, don’t you? This morning I witnessed twenty ADORABLE young children march into the sanctuary to display the drawings they created from the story time they had just enjoyed.

THIS, I thought! For THIS we were created, to be ever joyous in our sharing of the story of Jesus. Oh, that each of us would have that childlike delight in telling others about Jesus our entire lives. I count it as the greatest blessing that I have been allowed to do this since my early teens.

What a thrill it is to watch a great pianist sit down and play a great work of art. The music lives in the muscle memory of the pianist, who has given up so many other loves in order to have this one. That’s true of all people who bring beauty and grace to the world.

I especially love to watch teachers of the young children who, right about this time of year, are starting to “get it.” These delighted children are sitting in hallways, sitting in tiny chairs with other tiny friends, and they are READING. They are making that most sacred connection between letters and REAL WORDS! And their teachers—blessed be they—are grinning and nodding and saying YES! YES!

For this moment those dear teachers were born. For this they came into the world.

On this great Solemnity, consider that all the baptized are to be teachers. Like children, we carry our own drawings of Jesus into the world. We were born to testify to the Truth.

When do you feel most closely aligned with that which you were born to do?

Kathy McGovern©2021

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

13 November 2021

Reflecting on Mark 13: 24-32

I am a fearful person. I’ve been careful and cautious. The world was certainly ending soon, and I wanted it to hurt as little as possible. Growing up, there were just enough prophets of doom around to keep me in a perpetual state of alarm. Some of their dire predictions have come true over time, but many have not. I confess that I chose fear over faith in every case.

It’s been three spins around the sun since we heard Mark’s terrifying apocalyptic account of the end times, but this time I’m noticing something that was there all along, waiting for me grab hold and reach safety.

It’s this: right after Mark portrays the terrible tribulations—stars falling from the sky, neither the sun nor moon giving any light—Jesus says, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.” What is the lesson that all fruit-bearing trees have for us?

Check it out, they say. Come in closer. See the leaves that fell last winter? They were stamped down into the earth by rain and snow. The tiny insects came and decomposed the leaves. Some of that was released into the atmosphere, and other parts remained and turned into nourishment for the soil. See those tiny buds? Uh huh. Apples. Peaches. Figs. Just you wait.

Just you wait, friends. Take a lesson from the fig tree. The Divine Plan is never that we should be paralyzed by fear. I get that now. It’s embedded in the DNA of the trees. God intends to give us “a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).

Oh, and here’s some other good news. The joy-filled Gospel of Luke is right around the corner.

How has a fearful heart stopped you from embracing a life of faith?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

6 November 2021

Put yourself in Jesus’ place here. He’s just spoken out against the big shots, how they love to be recognized in public, and get the best seats in restaurants. He even says they “devour the houses of widows,” and in the very next scene we see this happen in real time.

Seated in the Temple near the Treasury, Jesus has the perfect view of what people are contributing to the upkeep of the Temple and its ministries to the poor.

Can you imagine? Thank God for online giving, huh?

Before we meet her, we need to say a word about widows here. The scholar John Pilch tells us that in Hebrew society, the word for “widow” was “one who keeps silence.” Without a husband or sons to speak up for her, the widow—who was excluded from inheriting from her deceased husband—was at the mercy of the religious officials. That was, after all, the very point of the Treasury collections. The money collected was to be disbursed to those in the community who were poor.

But was it? Jesus seems to be lambasting the scribes, whose use of the monies went to their long robes and fancy banquets, while this poor widow fulfilled her tithing observance by giving everything she had.

Is it possible that there may be another layer underneath the story of the shocking generosity of this woman? Another interpretation might suggest that Jesus, while inspired that she gave everything she had, was outraged that the scribes, whose mandate it was to care for the “widow, the fatherless, the stranger in the land” ((Ps.146:9), sat comfortably in their seats of honor and let her?

Who are  the humble servants who care for those without safety nets in our own world?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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