Christmas – Cycle B

Solemnity of the Epiphany

2 January 2021

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

I’ve been thinking about the Three Kings quite a bit lately. They represent all of us, of course. We are the ones who have searched the skies, and the scriptures, and the Tradition of the Church, and the wisdom of all of our friends. Like the Magi, we have traveled extensively in our spiritual lives, from the certitudes of childhood to the hard-won adult faiths we bring to the manger today.

I feel sorry for the famous women of history who never had the chance to hear this story. I think of Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II. Every day of her life as Queen of Egypt she was lavishly waited on by her Hebrew slaves. Think of her, 1300 years later, having the chance to see the Star of Bethlehem, and leaving everything behind to find Him.

And the beautiful Queen Esther! She saved the life of every Jewish person in the entire Persian kingdom when she stood up to her husband King Ahasuerus as he was preparing the gallows for his Jewish subjects. Yes! You KNOW she would have the courage and the wisdom to find that Star in the heavens hundreds of years later, and travel from the East in search of Him.

And, oh yes, Cleopatra! She was a fierce military strategist, and probably spoke ten languages. She was certainly brilliant enough to follow if the Star beckoned her too. If she had had the chance, I’ll bet she would have led the barge.

Hmm. Maybe we should sing We Three Queens some Epiphany, because as blessed as those kings were, the great queens of antiquity would have searched for him too.

From where has Jesus called you?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Feast of the Holy Family

26 December 2020


At this point, we all know the drill.

Stay away. Keep your distance. Wait this out.

But God knows our tensions, our anxieties,

Our weakened immune systems.

God did not stay away

Nor keep a safe distance

Nor wait for a more receptive world to greet Him.

He came in the time of Occupation

And disease

And famine

And war.

“God with Us”

Even in our isolation

And masks

And worrisome coughs.

MARANATHA, Come Lord Jesus

And pitch Your tent with every grieving child

Every feverish grandparent

Every lonely person looking for Your face.

Comfort, give Comfort

To Your people, oh God.

And speak tenderly to us

That this year of misery has ended,

And we are found in your grace.


The Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle B

6 January 2018

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

Here’s that beautiful story again. You know the one. Three immigrants, following a Star, cross unnamed borders, have an interview with a Crazy King, joyfully reconnect with the Star in Bethlehem, and make their presence (presents) known to Mary and Joseph.

They could have succumbed to Herod’s flattery. They could have sent a message to the palace, saying, “Oh yes, great and wise king, your humble servants have been the first to locate the King of the Jews! We’ll return for our finder’s fee, and perhaps a place of honor in your cabinet.”

But they were too prayerful, too intuitive, too full of wonder to do anything so risky to The Child. They had, after all, seen his star rise a full two years earlier. They left all the comforts of language, food and citizenship in order to find the One whose star drew them away from what they knew into the endless depths of what can never be fully known.

And so they entered the house over which the Star hovered, and nothing has ever been the same. And when it came to them in a dream not to return to Herod, they paid attention to that dream and went home another way.

If even one of them had defected and said, “This is my time to get rich and famous and I’m selling this scoop to the tabloids,” he could have made a run for Jerusalem and made Herod a very happy man. The soldiers would have intercepted the Holy Family before they ever left Bethlehem.

But not one of the Magi desired anything but to find him for whom his heart longed. Very wise men, indeed.

In what ways has following the path of righteousness given you a deep joy?

Kathy McGovern ©2018


The Holy Family – Cycle B

2 January 2018

How did you and your relatives get along this Christmas? If you were a little relieved to get back to your own house and your own bed, it might be instructive to consider on this Feast of the Holy Family that no family in first-century Palestine lived on their own in a separate dwelling. For purposes of safety and resources and tribal connections, everyone lived in multi-generational family homes.

Um-hmm. So, there was no happy waving from the car as families took their leave until getting together again during summer vacation.  After festive dinners everyone retreated―well, nowhere. There was no place to go, and those who had the least private space were considered the most blessed, because that meant they had the most family members.

It seems to me that kids today grow up supporting and encouraging each other instead of competing for mom and dad’s limited attention. The teenagers I know are proud of their siblings and consider them their best friends. A friend of mine says she can’t figure out why her kids love spending so much time together. At their ages, she and her sister had stopped speaking, and all the years haven’t changed that.

I was recently with a 23-year-old brother whose 25-year-old sister had just had her first baby. He couldn’t stop showing me pictures on his phone. At least half of the pictures are of the new baby with her adoring young uncles and aunts, who have loved their sister passionately all their lives, and now are thrilled to love their new niece within an inch of her life.

There are holy families all around us. It’s never too late to have one yourself.

How will you consciously act to forge stronger bonds with your family?

Kathy McGovern ©2017


The Nativity of the Lord – Cycle B

24 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

The Baptism of the Lord – Cycle B

10 January 2015

Reflecting on Mark 1: 7-11

I imagine that some things take us close to the bliss of heaven. A good book and a blazing fire on a cold night have got to be a glimpse of heaven. Plunging yourself into the Jordan River for the repentance of sins you will never commit is another encounter with the Divine.

Huh? Well, isn’t that just how it happened? Jesus, the Sinless One, allowed himself to be baptized by John, for repentance of sin. In so humbling himself and taking on our human form completely, Jesus came out of the water and straight into the Beatific Vision.  He saw the heavens open and the Spirit descend upon him. And he heard the Father’s voice claiming him as the Beloved Son. A glimpse of heaven, indeed.

Sometimes, when the sun is shining and I’m out on the porch with a book, I’m pretty sure that heaven and earth have touched. But my husband, who visited India recently, reports that he saw heaven and earth meet when a dying woman in the street reached out to take the bread he offered her. She looked him in the eye and found his heart, longing to be met.

He has never witnessed the misery of others so keenly. He has never experienced the nearness of God so profoundly. In that moment, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and he heard a voice say, “This is my beloved daughter. Hold her gaze.”

Every day we have the chance to split the veil that seems to divide heaven and earth. Often it’s our communion with another that brings the Spirit hovering, and God’s voice in our hearts naming us as beloved.

When have you experienced the meeting of heaven and earth?

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).

Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle B

5 January 2015

Reflecting on Matthew 2: 1-12

And so we come back to the beautiful story of those wise men from the East.  And our questions arise as surely as the Star.

How is it that they observed the Star at its rising?  Why did they, Gentiles who knew nothing of the promised Messiah, leave everything to seek a newborn King of Judea? And, the harder question: if the Star hovered over the house where the Holy Family stayed in Bethlehem, with none of the Jews in the City of David noticing it, how did the Gentiles see it clearly from afar and find the Messiah through its Light?

St. Matthew (the only one of the four Gospel writers who knows this Epiphany story) is telling his Jewish/Christian community something beautiful: those who seek Jesus will surely find Him, whether born into the right bloodlines or not.

And there’s something else here too: are we ready to follow the Stars that arise in our lives, to be utterly open to the Surprising Love of the One who meets us in our comings and goings, our dreaming and our rising, our instinctive drawing near to him who drew so near to us?

In this new year let’s resolve again to keep our eyes wide open for the Christ who comes to us in a thousand different ways, bidden and unbidden,  searching for us even more earnestly than we are searching for him.

In what ways do you sense that God is seeking you?

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).

The Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle B

28 December 2014

Reflecting on Colossians 3: 12-21

Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year? Because I’m sure I saw more presents for you, hidden under the tree and tucked away in secret places where you can find them at just the perfect time.

Here’s one addressed to you from “Heartfelt Compassion”. You’ll feel your heart break open as you feel “’with passion” the daily struggle of a family member whose addiction has already strained the bonds of love in your family. It’s okay. Feel that tenderness and love for your broken relative once again. It’s Christmas for them too, with all its promises of God with us.

This next gift goes with it, so open up “Kindness” too. This is SUCH a perfect gift for you because it will keep surprising you all year! Watch for the kindness of a sister who sends the funniest birthday card, or the patience of the parent who never stops believing in you, and trusting that you will pull your life together.

Here’s a priceless gift: “Humility”. It will present itself in the form of your sweet spouse taking out the trash every single day, without ever saying a word. Or maybe it will be your adult child, calling to say, “Remember how hard I fought to get you to let me hang out with my friends when I was fourteen? I’ve never thanked you for holding your ground and keeping me safe.”

There are lots more presents, and they will come from beloved ones who aren’t your biological family, but with whom you have created bonds of love just as strong. It’s a holy family, this Body of Christ. Happy Feast Day.

How are you working to strengthen your family bonds?

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).

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God – Cycle B

1 January 2012

Reflecting on Luke 2:16-21

One Christmas Eve, while on pilgrimage to Israel, my husband and I took a memorable walk to Bethlehem from Shepherd’s Field.  This is the field that remembers the sacred place where the shepherds—that group who were considered so unclean that their testimony was not honored in court—saw the angel, who entrusted to them the greatest news in the history of the world.  Then the heavens opened and they saw “a multitude of the heavenly host” praising God.

Ben and I decided to follow their footsteps from Shepherd’s Field that Christmas Eve afternoon.  We “went in haste” those three miles, which gradually got steeper as they led to the Church of the Nativity.  Breathless and with hearts bursting, we entered the church which, at Midnight Mass in ten hours, would be packed with pilgrims from around the world.  But at this moment we were alone.  We climbed down the dark stairs that led to the ancient cave where the shepherds found “Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.”  Then those shepherds, those “outlaws”, testified to them what they had been told about Jesus.

What peace we felt there in that cave on that Christmas Eve.  As we walked out into the December chill we promised to increase our own testimony of Jesus, and to work harder for peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.

Are there places in your heart that can’t embrace a God who has love for all people?

This column is dedicated to our dearest friend in Jerusalem, Rev. Goran Larsson, who is friend to Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy City.  He has walked from Shepherd’s Field to Bethlehem many times, but his life and his extraordinary spirit  brings believers to the place where they can find Jesus.

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).

Solemnity of the Nativity – Cycle B

26 December 2011

Reflecting on Luke 2:1-14

We were arguing when it happened.  We were keeping the night watch in the fields.  The new hire, the one who just got out of one of Herod’s prison dungeons, started leading the sheep away from the water.  But we wanted to spend the night there, drinking wine and telling stories about our good times up north in Jerusalem.

And all of a sudden it wasn’t night, and it wasn’t day.  It was just LIGHT, everywhere LIGHT.  And this Angel was standing right in the circle where we’d been arguing.  We were terrified.  Somehow we heard this Angel speak. And our fear just fell away as we heard about this Baby, this Savior, who had just been born just three miles away in Bethlehem.

And then!  The sky was filled, from every corner, with these HUGE, BEAUTIFUL messengers of LIGHT.  And oh, the music.  Try to imagine the sweetest sound you’ve ever heard, coming from LIGHT in every corner of the sky.

Glory to God in the highest!  And Peace! Peace! Peace!

We don’t remember running.  We couldn’t stop until we found Him.  He was there, this heavenly Child, lying in a manger in the back of a barn.  We shouted out what had happened in the skies, and what we had learned about Him.  And we knelt in front of this Child and His mother.  And nothing will ever be the same.

As we left we saw the Beautiful Mother gazing at the Child, and we wondered what she was seeing.  She was quiet as we walked away.

What mysteries of your own life do you “ponder in your heart”?

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).