Easter – Cycle B

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B

7 June 2015

Is it wrong that what I most remember about my First Communion is what we had to eat afterwards? I have lots of pictures of my beautiful dress, but I wish someone had taken a picture of the great food at the party after Mass. Unforgettable!

After Mass, Sister Vivian led our huge First Communion class into the school cafeteria, magically transformed with balloons and beautiful tablecloths. There were little paper cups of mints and nuts at each place, pancakes and scrambled eggs, tiny glasses of orange juice, and even little cups of hot chocolate. Heaven.

The truth is, I remember the food at all the sacraments of my youth. At my baby brother’s baptism party, held in our garage, we had platters of sloppy joes and chips, and that most blessed of childhood memories, chocolate cake and homemade ice cream. Confirmation was spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, brownies and ice cream, and Shirley Temples for the new soldiers in Christ.

Don’t you just love sacraments? Just thinking about them makes me hungry.

I hope you feel hungry today on this great feast day of the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Eucharist is the Mother of all sacraments. And guess what? It relies on food―real Bread, real Wine―to make Jesus Really Present.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (John 6:55).

I knew it at age six, walking into that lovely cafeteria with beaming parents and sweet pancakes. I’ve known it at every sacramental party of my life.

It’s all about food―real food that sustains real people, hungry for a relationship with the Real Jesus.

Sacraments make me hungry. They’re supposed to. Happy Feast Day, Church.

What is your favorite memory of food at a sacramental celebration?

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

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

30 May 2015

The best things come in threes, it seems to me.  Let’s see. The sun, the moon, and the stars all seem to go together.  They are all beautiful, and give light, and fascinate us.

Families come in threes. It takes a mother and a father to create the third person in the family, the child, who is the combination of both of them, with about a billion individual characteristics thrown in for good measure.

The day is divided into three sections: morning, noon, and night. Our basic necessities seem easily divided into food, clothing, and shelter.  St. Paul noted that the greatest virtues are three: faith, hope, and charity. There were three magi who sought the Christ Child, and at his most intimate moments with the Father, Jesus invited Peter, James and John to be with him.

Time is divided into past, present, and future. We enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  And at those meals we generally use a knife, a fork, and a spoon.

One voice is beautiful, but add another on top and a third underneath and you’ve got a trio―God’s own music.  Think of the Andrews Sisters. The Three Tenors.  Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Now there is some great music.

It takes three branches of our government to keep the country from imploding. And, of course, it took three ships sailing the ocean blue to “discover” this land in 1492. That’s right, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

This feast of the Holy Trinity just resonates with us because our human clock seems to be set for threes. When we talk about God, we somehow think in threes.

I’m hungry. How about a BLT?

Do you have some significant threes in your life?

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

Pentecost – Cycle B

23 May 2015

Hey, Holy Spirit, come over here.

You created this world, and all we hold dear.

We live in deep gratitude, but just now and then.

Come, Holy Spirit, renew us again.

First, give us new eyes to see how our sin

Has helped lay the groundwork for evil to win.

We gasp at a distance at terrible things

But won’t own the deeds our own apathy brings.

The suffering in Syria, the graves in Iraq,

And so many martyrs, we try not to keep track.

Come, Holy Spirit, breathe peace to the world.

And please, Holy Spirit, #BringBackOurGirls.

We weep for the suffering lives in Nepal.

Oh hover there, Spirit, and comfort them all.

And for plane wrecks, and train wrecks, and violent deaths,

Oh Spirit, draw near with Your soul-stirring Breath.

Pour into us, Spirit, infuse us with grace.

We promise again to stay true to the race.

Hold us and mold us, create us anew.

There’s no stopping what those who live for You will do.

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

Solemnity of the Ascension – Cycle B

17 May 2015

Reflecting on Acts 1: 1-11

We’re not supposed to leave Jerusalem. We don’t know why. We are hankering to go, to get out of here, where they murdered the prophets and crucified the Savior. We want to do what he told us to do before he was taken up. We want to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, and we are ready to go NOW.

But he ordered us to stay here in Jerusalem until we are “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Whatever that means. We are terrified to stay. We spend the nights in sleeplessness, expecting the swords and torches of the Romans, coming to take us away as they did our Christ.

But they haven’t come. Instead, we spend our time remembering him. We talk about our years with him. We whisper in astonishment at the signs that we saw. We nod our heads when one of us says, “Did we really see those five thousand people eat their fill from five loaves and two fish?” “Was that really Jesus on the Galilee that night of the storm?” “Did he really die that day on Calvary?” “And was the tomb truly empty when the women visited it the day after the Sabbath?”

His mother is here with us, staying in the upper room. She wants to hear the stories again and again. And she has many of her own, stories we hadn’t heard before. On the night he was born in Bethlehem, for example, angels filled the sky with singing.

Is that what we are waiting for? Angels in the sky? We don’t know. Jerusalem will be packed next week for the great festival of Pentecost. Maybe something will happen then.

What special intention are you praying for during this Pentecost novena?

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

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

11 May 2015

Reflecting on Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48

Today was the greatest day of my life. Even though I am a Roman centurion and not a Jew, I love the God of Abraham, and I longed to learn more about this Jesus whom the entire territory is talking about.

When the angel appeared to me and told me about a man named Simon Peter who was staying in Joppa, I hoped that this was the same Peter who was the great apostle of Jesus.  I sent messengers to ask him to come here to Caesarea.

When he entered my house I was overcome. I fell to my knees, but he lifted me up and said, “I too am only a man.” So this was Peter. He possessed great power, and a quiet strength born of great suffering. I had prayed that the man whom the angel told me to summon was he. And now this legend, this man whose faith Jesus said he would build his church upon, was standing in my home.

And a Jew! Standing in the home of a Gentile! We were all in shock. As it turns out, he had just had a vision himself, just before my messengers arrived in Joppa. In his vision he saw animals of every kind, clean and unclean, and then God told him that all food was “clean,” and good to eat.

Everything we thought we knew about God has been turned upside down! From now on, the Jews don’t need to keep kosher dietary laws any more, and we Gentiles can be part of God’s salvation even though our men aren’t circumcised! Peter said, “I begin to see that God shows no partiality.”

And, one by one, we all began to see it too.

In what ways have you learned that God loves all people?

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

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

4 May 2015

Reflecting on John 15: 1-8

It’s May. It took forever to get here, but the springtime feast of the senses is finally, gloriously underway.  The fragrance of the luscious apple blossoms makes a non-stop bike ride to the park impossible.  What sort of robot could catch a whiff of their perfume and not stop to take in that heavenly scent?

The branches are already heavy with blossoms. Soon, apples will begin to grow at the center of the flowers, and the buds will fall to the ground, turning the grass and gutters into a stunning sea of pink and white.  After the fruit is picked in the fall, the trees will appear naked as winter approaches. But that, like death itself, is an illusion. In fact, the buds for next year’s fruit will already be in place.

There’s something sad about seeing a flowering branch that has become separated from the rest of the tree.  Within days, without the nurture of the vine, it grows brown and old, good for nothing but the fire.

Jesus used this familiar image when, on the night before he died, he gathered his loved ones together and begged them to remain in him. He knew he was going to the Father, and he knew that they could still be nurtured and sustained by him by living in him. Only by separating themselves from intimacy with him would they grow bitter and old.

Resurrection, like a bud on a tree, is hiding in plain sight. When we remember him, and dwell in him, there he is in our midst. For he is the Vine who lives forever, and we who stay connected to him will bear great fruit.

What is your favorite Easter season flower?

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

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

26 April 2015

Reflecting on John 10: 11-18

This world is lousy with bad shepherds. I’m thinking especially of those people who make their fortunes herding desperate people onto overloaded boats, and locking hundreds of them in steerage, knowing they will drown when the leaky ship capsizes. I’m thinking of “coyotes” who take a year’s pay to load people up in vans, and then leave them, with no water or food, in the desert to die.

Those are the bad shepherds. But the world is also bursting with great shepherds. I’m thinking of those who work to get Congress to pay more attention to poverty at home and abroad. Visit them at www.results.org.

I’m thinking of Harvard grad siblings Riley and Nick Carney, who began their life’s work breaking the chain of illiteracy by helping to build three schools in Africa, and organizing groups who donated more than 25,000 books to American inner-city schools, before either of them reached the age of twenty-one.

The good shepherds at www.againstmalaria.com buy anti-malarial bed nets for needy families. The website at GlobalGiving lets you browse, and contribute to, life-saving projects being done around the world. And at www.one.org you can join petitions backing evidence-based spending on global health.

The list goes on. I know you can add your own good works to it. I don’t know one single person who isn’t making sacrifices in order to help lighten the load of someone else. So, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, resolve to maintain your energies for good, and take courage against the terrors of this world. For behold, we have a Good Shepherd who has overcome the world.

In what good works do you find energy and strength?

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 Easter – Cycle B

20 April 2015

If you love scripture, chances are, in the mysterious ways in which the Spirit works, Sr. Macrina Scott, osf planted the seeds that found a welcome home in your heart.

She entered Religious Life as a cloistered Benedictine, where she studied the works of the great scholars writing at the time of the Council. She went to God on Holy Thursday an active Franciscan, who took to heart the Council’s call to make the Word of God alive and active in the hearts of the Catholic laity.

It doesn’t matter where you live. Her brilliant model, the Denver Catholic Biblical School, was adapted and re-worked to fit the needs of Catholics around the world. Magazines reflecting on the daily scriptures began to thrive, and flourish today with large subscriber numbers, in part because of the educated Catholic laity which she helped create.

From the start, publishers from around the country began begging her for more. I would have said, “I don’t have time.” She said, “I’ll write a book.”

She wrote three. Her beautiful, funny, insightful treatments of the Old Testament, and the Gospel of Luke/Acts of the Apostles, remain the gold standard for bible study groups. You can find them at Tau Publishing.

She went on to create a brilliant program―the Wisdom Center―that encouraged those in the second half of life to pay attention to the spiritual adventures of aging.

When she flew home to him whom her heart loved, the news spread the old fashioned way―through communities of people who were once strangers but, like those disciples to whom Jesus appeared on Easter night, were forever bonded together because, like Jesus, she opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

Below is my reflection on her life and death:

Oh Macrina, it’s been sixteen days now since you flew to Jesus on Holy Thursday, the Marriage Feast of the Bridegroom and his Bride. Oh, what a meeting that must have been. I love to think of you and Jesus “leaning in” together, talking it all over, remembering your early years of learning how to read and tell stories in that famous red chair of your childhood. And, of course, you talked about those years of scholarly and liturgical formation at Regina Laudis. I thank God that you spent those early years of religious life leaning in to the scriptures, and the great books about how to read them that were written in those years.

I’ll bet you and Jesus HOWLED at the remembrance of that first week when the DCR ran the story about a new Biblical School being offered. You were in Berkeley (for graduation, I think) while everybody who worked at the Chancery fielded the 600 calls from earnest Catholics who had waited all their lives—-and in the spirit of all who had waited for a couple thousand years before that—for some inspired educator to teach them how to read the scriptures.

I think of Jesus tenderly speaking to you about that awful surgery you had on your neck many years ago. That was a terrible experience for you, mostly because you were shocked that, in the midst of all that suffering, you couldn’t feel his nearness. You had felt his companionship in every other journey of your life, but when you most needed to sense his closeness, he was silent. I long to know what he said to you about that dark night. But I know this: you recovered in every way, and your intimacy with him picked up right where it left off. Once again, you were teaching us, this time about  how a Christian suffers, and how a Christian remains faithful even when God is silent.

I love thinking about your reunion with your dear Sr. Antonia. I imagine the two of you embracing in the most joyful hug, and then Jesus holding you both close as you remembered together the terrors of the car accident, the painful days before Antonia flew to heaven, and the sacred and sad time that followed, when you had to go on without her.

Macrina, I had been meaning to ask you about the redness in your face, especially under your eyes and above your cheek bones, which started around the same time as your terrible fatigue, and then nausea, and then loss of appetite. I, of all people, should have thought to wonder about ovarian cancer, since I had those exact symptoms, in exactly the same order. I have never seen rosacea as a symptom, but I can see, as I look at the beautiful picture of you that is printed in the Wake and the Mass booklet, that you had it too, just as I did.

It grieves me that you tried and tried to get answers for all these spirit-sapping symptoms. You were ready to die—had been ready, really, since Antonia’s death—but I wonder if you might have wanted to stay with us much longer if your ovarian cancer had been diagnosed early, as mine was. No wonder you told so many people that you didn’t know what God wanted you to do in the next years of your life. You knew, in that secret and holy place where your body tells you the truth and waits for your conscious mind to know it, that dying was your next great adventure.

And then, of course, there was your dream. It appeared last fall. You dreamt that you were sitting, completely comfortably, in a crypt at the mortuary. Beside you was a companion. You both were in a kind of holding pattern, waiting for the journey you would take together. As you pondered this in your heart, you realized that your companion was Jesus.

You knew, of course. You tried to tell us all. You knew that you weren’t well. You knew that you were exhausted, and then nauseated, and then just sick. But on the day of your diagnosis, on March 24th, the Vigil of the Feast of the Annunciation―the exact day, eleven years earlier, of my own diagnosis, but with a much different prognosis―you were filled with joy. Finally, a confirmation of that which your soul knew. There was an actual, medical reason for your dis-ease. You were dying. You had, perhaps, six months. You were elated, and, as always, you found the perfect words to describe the indescribable. I have my ticket! You finally had the entrance pass to heaven.

And then Jesus, who had seemed so silent in that earlier surgery years ago, sang your name just like the Bridegroom in that Song of Songs verse that you loved so well: “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!” There was no confusing his voice. You spent your lifetime listening to it, and teaching the world how to hear it too. You knew his voice, and he knew yours. And so you flew to him so that you could be with him for the Holy Thursday Marriage Feast.

Your Sisters are grieving. They look out the window and your tidy, cheerful little house is dark. You aren’t there, to greet them, to love them, to listen to them, to know them in that expert way that you know the people you love. It is still Holy Saturday for them. They are waiting, and watching for signs that the stone has been rolled away.

Oh, Macrina. How blest are those who knew you in this life, and will always hear that glorious laugh, and hear your HILARIOUS answers to our deepest questions. Go to Macrina for counsel, and then stand back. It is NEVER going to be what you expect. You’ll go home reeling. And then, in just a little time, the voice of Lady Wisdom starts to dig deep inside you, planting seeds that will bear fruit for the rest of your life. I will always get chills when I remember Angeline leading the assembly of those who love you in a refrain to Lady Wisdom at the Wake. We were singing to you.

And so, for some it is Easter. And for some, it is still Holy Saturday. We will all probably go back and forth between the two for many years. But whenever two or more are gathered to read scripture, there you will be in their midst, helping them find their story in the STORY.

That’s where we will find you. That’s how we will know that all is well with your soul.

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

Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle B

11 April 2015

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

I have an aversion to a particular childhood game. What sort of sadist thought that children would enjoy walking around a circle until the music stops, then scramble to sit in the chair behind them? The tension is that there are only nine chairs for ten kids.

That insecurity about being the one for whom there is no chair―and hence exiled to the sidelines with the other weeping losers―has never left me. I have positioned myself to always be around the winners, to always, paraphrasing Carly Simon, be where I should be all the time.

That’s why I cringe for poor Thomas. He, too, tried to be where he should be all the time. When the disciples discouraged Jesus from going to Judea when Lazarus was sick, it was Thomas who said, “Let us go also, that we may die with him.” When Jesus promised that he was going to prepare a place for the disciples, it was insecure Thomas who asked to know exactly where that place was, so that he could follow. He wasn’t going to be left behind if Jesus did something wonderful in his absence.

So wouldn’t you know, it was this same disciple who happened to be away on that Easter night when the risen Christ appeared. How utterly frustrating for Thomas to arrive back and hear that he had just missed Jesus, that he was alive and had appeared to the others, but not to him.

As Thomas learned, it is never the Divine Mercy of Christ that we be left behind. By his cross and resurrection he redeemed us from Musical Chairs. He has secured a place for us, forever. Blessed be he.

How does the Easter Season bless you with the awareness of the Risen Christ?

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

The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle B

4 April 2015

We did it. We made it to Easter, safe and sound. Contrary to how we felt, say, around the Second Sunday in Lent, our prayer, fasting and almsgiving did not, in fact, kill us. And yes, many of us did not succeed for the entire season, but we’re here anyway, Easter bonnets donned and the Easter ham in the oven.

Oh, it feels good. We lived with empty sanctuaries and purple drapings for forty long days. Outside, the early spring kept tempting us to behave as if Lent had yielded early this year, as if we were no longer held to its demanding timeline. But then we stepped back into church and were reminded that we are part of a universal fast that does not end just because it’s warm outside.

Is it just me, or has it become much more painful to keep Lent these days? My theory is that there is so much Easter in my daily life―so much beauty, so much fun, so much food, so many books, so many friends, so much prosperity, that keeping a fast from any of it seems much more restrictive than it did in my youth.

But fast I did, in my weak and puny way. I certainly don’t deserve Easter, but, thank God, no one ever does. Yet, despite all of our failures, Easter has finally arrived, with its fragrant flowers and lily-trumpeted sanctuaries. What a feast for the senses!  Bring on the Easter sacraments― the Baptism waters, the First Communion chalices, the Confirmation oils.

For lo, the winter is past, and the flowers appear on the earth (Song of Songs 2:11). Therefore, let us keep the feast.

How are you planning to keep the fifty-day Easter feast?

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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