Advent – Cycle B

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

23 December 2017

Reflecting on Luke 1 and 2

There are so many things I long for each of you this Christmas. Here are a few:

I want you to be visited by an angel. I want you to know that you have found favor with God. I want you to feel so strengthened and empowered by God’s nearness that you could walk the same ninety miles that Mary walked, just to tell someone you love that God has broken through.

I want you, like the shepherds keeping watch that night, to have moments of wonder. I hope that you are astonished by God’s power to heal, to console, to bring life from death, and yes, to set hosts of angels in the sky who have probably been standing watch there from the beginning of time, waiting for you to notice their song.

I want you, like Mary, to hold closely in your heart every moment when God did something astonishing and bewildering and soul-soaring. And especially when those moments come to you through encounters with people who don’t look or live like you, remember how smelly and rough those shepherds must have seemed to the Holy Family. I want you, like St. Joseph, to love the people you love so faithfully and fiercely that they know one thing for sure, that you are their safe place to land even when everything and everyone is against them.

I want you, like the Child Jesus, to be brave if you are placed in unfamiliar and frightening situations this year. In the beginning was the Light. It shines in the darkness. And that darkness shall never overcome you.

How will you, like Mary, let God astonish you?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

16 December 2017

Reflecting on Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11

I get the best ideas from my friends. Last year my wonderful friend Julie shared with me how nice Thanksgiving was at their house because she laid out bags, water bottles, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and McDonald’s gift certificates on the dessert table. After everyone had enjoyed the pumpkin pie, they carefully filled their bags with goodies to hand out to the people standing on the street corners.

What a great idea. I tried it with my family and they loved it, so we did it again this year and will do it for Christmas too. That little holiday discipline reminds me of Isaiah’s “anointed one” who is sent to do all the hard things: heal the brokenhearted, release prisoners, and bring glad tidings to those who are poor.

It’s the little things, really, that advance the kingdom. The person who knows no brokenhearted people is the person who is living a deeply isolated life. I’ll bet each person reading this could name at least a dozen people struggling with a broken heart right this minute. And guess what? We’re the ones God has anointed to heal them.

There are a number of ministries in the Church that address the spiritual needs of those in prison, and those ministries depend on us―God’s anointed ones―to do the corporal work of mercy of visiting those in prison.

I have friends who easily engage those who stand on the sidewalk carrying a sign. They offer a warm smile, and always ask the person’s name. They never give money, but they thoughtfully keep a small bag of helpful items for them. For some, a toothbrush can bring glad tidings better than a ten-dollar bill.

What special work do you feel “anointed” to carry out?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

12 December 2017

Reflecting on Mark 1: 1-8

When I hear about John the Baptizer dunking Israelites in the Jordan I remember a tender moment with my friend Charles Onofrio, the great lion of God who went home to heaven last year. No one loved Jesus and the Church more than Chuck, and no one was more receptive to and educated about the reforms of Vatican II than this eloquent Catholic lawyer.

But the first time Chuck observed the catechumens preparing for baptism being led from the church after the homily he was outraged. “Well, I’m not standing for this. If they can’t stay for Communion then neither can I.  I’m a greater sinner than any of them. How dare I stay when they are being asked to leave?”

It took a few words of kind explanation from the great Bishop George Evans to help Chuck understand that this was the new rite of initiation for converts to the faith. Their dismissal is not―good heavens! ― because they are sinners and we aren’t. They are dismissed in front of us so they can go for catechesis together, and so we can pray for them every step of the way.

Chuck became the lead catechist in the parish, and must have prayed hundreds of new Catholics to the baptismal font over the next thirty-five years. But I think he secretly liked the style of that wild, locust-eating Baptist, who dragged his own people―not those converting to Judaism, but lifelong, faithful Jews― out into the desert and got them to admit that THEY were sinners and that THEY needed a baptism of repentance.

Advent is such a quiet, reflective season. Listen carefully. A voice is crying out in the wilderness.

What is the voice of John the Baptist saying to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

First Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

12 December 2017

We Catholics are just weird. Here we are, twelve weeks into the school year, five months into the fiscal year, and eleven months into the calendar year, and yet, for us, the new year starts today. The First Sunday of Advent is where it all begins again. New hymnals. New colors (violets and pinks). New evangelist (St. Mark). New songs, in the minor keys of Advent longing. We live in chronological dissonance. And we love it.

From the earliest years of the Church, Christians marked time differently. Sunday―the day of the resurrection― became the primary day of worship, even though it was a work day in the Roman world. The early Christians felt that Christ should change the way they lived.

One of the bitterest indictments of our Catholic school system came from a friend of mine years ago. Observing that the kids in the high school graduating class all aspired to be movie stars and sports heroes, he said, “And aren’t we proud? Nobody will ever guess that our kids spent twelve years immersed in the gospel of Jesus.”

If we don’t hold to a consistent ethic of life, if we don’t have a special interest in serving those who are poor, if our agenda isn’t radically different from the agendas of either political party, then we are pretending that the Lord of time didn’t break into human history and make all things new, with Himself as the Alpha and Omega.

Yes, we weird Catholics start our year with Advent. We hold to a different time frame. It’s a “faith frame,” and everything in our lives should be set to that clock.

How are you living a counter-cultural life in Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

17 December 2011

Statue of Mary and Elizabeth outside Church of the Visitation

Every year at this time I find myself thinking about a beautiful song about Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, which of course occurs right after today’s Gospel account of the Annunciation. My favorite lyrics are the last two lines of the second stanza.  Here are the words, reprinted with permission from Sr. Miriam Therese Winter of the Medical Mission Sisters:

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.

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In what ways are you carrying Christ 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 B

12 December 2011

One of the most beautiful things about the liturgical year is the lovely way the Church ties all the mysteries of faith together.  This is especially poignant with the feasts that point to the Nativity.  For all kinds of interesting reasons that may have their roots in the earliest  Christian understanding of time, the celebration of  the birth of Jesus was placed right smack at the Winter Solstice.  Why?  Perhaps to counter the pagan festival of Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun), which worshiped the sun as it dimmed to the shortest day and longest night. The Roman Emperor (who, by the way, liked to be addressed as Son of God) purposely celebrated his birthday at the exact same time.

So he thinks he’s the Invincible Sun?  Let’s place the feast of the Nativity at the Winter Solstice too, to celebrate the birth of the true Son of God.

Also, the ancient date of the Annunciation to Mary (and the conception of Jesus) –which may have even preceded the date for Christmas−−was set around the vernal equinox (March 25th), which of course was a perfect nine months before December 25th.

But it’s the date chosen for the birth of John the Baptist that I think is the most beautiful of all.  If Jesus was born at the Winter Solstice, when the sun gradually begins to increase, then John would be born at the Summer Solstice, when the sun’s power gradually decreases.

That I may decrease, and He may increase. The Baptist’s prayer whispers to us still, in the dark Advent night.

What do you like best about Advent?

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

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

9 December 2011

Reflecting on 2 Peter 3:8-14

I’m not comfortable with that second reading today, and maybe it’s because I’m taking it too literally.   The section from the Second Letter of Peter warns of the “day of the Lord”, and the fate that the heavens and earth will experience at the Second Coming.

I don’t like the idea that, when Christ comes in his glory, the heavens will “dissolve in flames” and the elements will “melt in fire”.  It was the heavens that opened up on the night of his birth so that the angels could fill the sky and sing their Glorias.  And each of the “elements”−−water, earth, metal, wood and fire−−served Christ in his ministry to us.

John baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River.  Jesus wrote a mysterious message in the earth while forgiving the woman caught in adultery. The metal coin on which the Roman’s engraved Caesar’s image provided the perfect teaching moment for Jesus.  The wood of the cross held the Savior of the world, and the fires of Pentecost still enflame the world today.

The beautiful but gasping earth is our home.  Pollution obscures the skies, but they still hold the majestic stars. The waters are belching with our waste, but they still are home to billions of silent creatures.  Why should God’s first creations—the heavens and the earth−burn up when Christ comes again?  I like to think that they who served him when he lived on earth will be given the highest places of honor when he comes again.

The Franciscans, in the spirit of their founder, say that Christ won’t destroy the world but will HEAL the world.  Ah.  Come, Lord Jesus.

In what ways have the heavens and earth helped you draw closer to God?

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

First Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

26 November 2011

Reflecting on Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7, Mark 13:33-37

Do you have a memory of the experience of feeling the presence of God in a moment so electric that it was as if God had “opened the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before him”?  Perhaps it was the birth of your child, or the recovery of a lost love, or a phone call from the exact person you were just thinking about.

We wait for Christ to come again in time, but we long for him to touch us in our own time, our own lives.  Think about those blessed moments of spine-tingling awareness that God is HERE, right now, opening doors that seemed closed, showing a way to reconciliation with those who were estranged, gently leading us through new insights and ancient, rock-solid creeds.

Imagine the servants, struggling to stay awake so they can greet the Master with a nice meal and warm hospitality when he returns.  I think Advent invites us to stay awake every day, to watch every day for the gentle presence of our Master who is already here.

What is your Advent practice of watching for 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