Easter – Cycle A

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – Cycle A

1 June 2014

Reflecting on Mt. 28: 16-20

Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Even at the moment of his ascension the apostles still didn’t get it. They still hoped that Jesus was getting ready to get an army together to expel the Romans from Palestine.  And these are the eyewitnesses!  They had seen him crucified, had seen the empty tomb, had seen him during the days after his resurrection, and still thought that the great work of his life was going to be to gather an army and rid Israel of the hated Roman occupiers.

That would take a lot of power, a lot of armies. But nothing like the power they were soon to experience. From heaven Jesus was about to send them the Holy Spirit, whose fire would burn—still burns—to the ends of the earth.  And yes, the day came when the Romans left Israel, only to be replaced by other foreigners, and today the wars still rage over the very land that Jesus loved. 

But the gifts of the Spirit which poured out on the infant Church just nine (novena) days after the Ascension are as powerful now as they were then.  May those gifts set the world aflame once again, and may those who terrorize, and abduct, and torture, and make their fortune selling weapons, and live their lives as if God can be domesticated and made to see things our way, be utterly converted by the radical love that only comes from the Spirit of God.

How is the Holy Spirit urging me to dream bigger dreams, to build a new 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).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

24 May 2014

Reflecting on John 14: 1-12

I really liked the movie Heaven is for Real, but of course when I googled it I found all kinds of naysayers.  Atheists found it ridiculous, of course.  Some fundamentalist Protestants are boycotting it because too many of the wrong people, people who had never publicly “accepted Christ as their personal Savior”, showed up in heaven.  Some fundamentalist Catholics are suspicious of the child’s account of his visit to heaven because he doesn’t have vivid memories of seeing Mary there.

I liked the book too, especially the incredulity of Colton’s Methodist minister father and, oddly, the hostility of the congregation toward the four-year-old’s account of his experience.  The most embarrassing kind of Christian, for some, is the one who believes magical things about an actual heaven, and an actual God who rules there.  Sophisticated Christians, in their view, are past all that.

I think the author of the Fourth Gospel, which we call John’s gospel, would like the movie too, especially the end.  Colton’s father Todd asks his grumbling congregation a series of questions.  What is God’s will?  That we love one another.  Why?  Because God is love, and we who abide in love abide in God.  And where is God’s will being done?  On earth as it is in heaven.  That’s a perfect summary of John’s gospel.

Conclusion: Love is the bridge between heaven and earth.   God, says the minister, showed Colton what we all need to know about heaven:  it is love, only and always.  The people we loved on earth are being loved in heaven.

We have not been left as orphans here on earth.  Rather, we are connected, through the Mystical Body, on earth as we are in heaven.

How do you sense your connection with your loved ones in heaven?

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 A

19 May 2014

Reflecting on I Peter 2: 4-9

We’re in the weather disaster season now.  Here in Colorado we are praying that last year’s house-leveling floods won’t pave the way for this year’s melting snowpack to turn into raging torrents in the same areas.

The author of the second reading today knew the shock of seeing his home destroyed too.  Imagine living in Jerusalem about 40 years after the resurrection.  Jewish “zealots”―read terrorists―had ambushed and killed enough Roman soldiers in the late 60s to bring the wrath and military might of the Roman Empire right into Jerusalem.

If you’re ever in Rome, visit the Arch of Titus to see its depictions of the triumphal sack of Jerusalem in 70, and the sacred vessels (and prisoners in chains) brought back to Rome.  The city of Jerusalem was left in flames, and its great Temple was left, as Jesus prophesied, with not one stone standing.

Now imagine this New Testament author standing amid the burning rubble, seeing the cornerstone of the Temple laying in ruins, and coming to this beautiful realization:  Jesus is the Living Stone, the Stone who gives life and meaning to a dying world.  And we are the living stones, the stones who stand in perfect symmetry and intimacy with the Living Stone.

The dead stones of Great King Herod’s Temple are still sitting there, 709,634 days later.  They’ve never been moved.  Meanwhile, the work of the living stones of most religious traditions―hospitals, schools, refugee centers, hospices, charitable work of every kind, companionship with those who are poor, and the preaching of the Good News―gathers momentum and energy every second of every day.

I love being a living stone in a building that will never die.

How do you experience your faith as a living stone?

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 A

10 May 2014

Reflecting on John 10: 1-10

Several years ago, while driving near Shepherd’s Field, a shout went out from some of the pilgrims.  “Stop the bus! There is an actual shepherd! And actual sheep!”  And we all jumped off and took photographs of the bemused shepherds, who must find it odd that strangers find their occupation so fascinating.

That’s how out of touch we are with the rural images which Jesus uses so richly.  By spotting an actual shepherd with actual sheep―and just outside of Bethlehem, no less―we city-dwelling, 21st century urbanites desperate for a connection with Jesus were thrilled to the core.

Who knows how much we are missing when we read the gospels, and Jesus’ beautiful images which were so familiar to his audience, and so unfamiliar to us? And because we miss so much of the shepherd imagery we miss this beautiful piece:  Jesus is not only the Shepherd, but he’s the Gate to the sheepfold too.

That means that Jesus protects us as a devoted shepherd protects his sheep.  Once they are in the sheepfold, he lays down next to the entrance and his body serves as the gate.  If there is danger, his sheep hide behind him.  If marauders do get in the sheepfold, they do it only over the shepherd’s dead body.

We should all experience that kind of love.  We should all know, from the womb, that we are safe.  We should be born into a world anxious to protect and love us.  We should not fear armies gathering at our borders, or bombs, or ferry boats.

The world is a dangerous place.  Hide yourself in Jesus, the Shepherd of your soul.

In what ways do you feel safe in God’s love?

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 A

5 May 2014

Reflecting on Luke 24: 13-35

The more I learn about Jesus and his times the more I understand why, even on Easter morning, even after hearing stories about an empty tomb, the disciples of Jesus returned to their home in Emmaus with heavy hearts.

We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel, they told the Stranger who traveled with them.   He didn’t redeem Israel after all.  He didn’t call together an army, he didn’t call down thunder from heaven and make the Romans pay for their unspeakable atrocities.  He didn’t rid Israel of the oppressor. 

What good is a redeemer who doesn’t rid us of the Romans?  Does God not see―does God not care― that they torture and brutalize us, and keep us in desperate poverty?  What good is a redeemer who loves to the end, even loves those who murder him so unjustly?  Who needs a redeemer like that?

We do.

The heavens opened, and angels rolled away the stone.  The tomb was already empty, even though the stone had held it closed until that moment.  Who needs a God like that?

We do.

Our hearts burned within us as the Stranger explained the scriptures to us, but we finally recognized him when he took, and blessed, and broke, and gave the Bread to us.  Who needs a redeemer like that?

We do.

Forever and ever.  Alleluia.

How does your own brokenness help repair the world?

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 A

27 April 2014

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Why is Thomas still hanging around anyway?  He’s heard all the reports.  He knows that Mary of Magdala found the stone rolled away.  He knows the tomb was empty.  And he certainly knows the tale that Jesus appeared to the other disciples that very first evening, when he so unfortunately was not there.

He doesn’t believe it.  He’s not going to be taken for a fool.  Unless he touches the wounds himself―well, maybe he won’t have to go that far, but you know what he means―he will not be taken in by mass hysteria and a conspiracy to believe.

So why is he still here, associating with a community of faith?

Clearly he is more sophisticated than they are, more worldly wise, less susceptible to hope when there clearly is no hope, yet he is still heart-broken.   His beloved friend has been tortured and killed, and when he died he took all of Thomas’ dreams with him to the grave.

And then there is the other thing.  He’s been suppressing a soaring in his heart all week.  Here is his secret:  he so desperately wants it to be true.  And it’s for this reason that he can’t pull himself away from those who already believe.  Take your crazy stories away, he tells them.  Please bring your crazy stories closer.

You might know someone like him.  You might be him.  So stay close to those who believe.  Hold the crazy stories deep in your heart.  And then watch for him to be standing very near you, inviting you to touch his wounds.

How has staying close to those who believe strengthened your belief?

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

Easter Sunday – Cycle A

20 April 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 28: 1-10

If you attended the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday you heard Matthew’s detailed and fascinating resurrection account.  It’s only here that we learn there was a “great earthquake” when an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and, like swatting a fly, rolled the stone away that had tried to keep Jesus chained in death.

And Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” actually saw this!  This is the only account in the four gospels where eyewitnesses actually saw the stone rolled away!  The big scary Roman guards posted at the tomb were so terrified by that angel that they fell dead asleep.  But not those women!  They stood their ground and watched―not fainting, but full of a faith that only comes from Love.  They loved Jesus.  No angel was keeping them from him. 

And because of their Love they witnessed the greatest event of all history.

On this day, Easter Sunday 2014, I offer you this invitation:  Fall in love with him.  Soften your heart.  Enter the tomb and see that it is empty.  Enter into a life in Christ and see that is full to overflowing with grace and love for you.  I promise.

The guards could have been eyewitnesses too.  Instead, they helped start the rumor that Jesus’ disciples stole the body so that there would be an explanation for that empty tomb when people came to see for themselves.

The world is like that these days.  There are lots of explanations for that empty tomb.  Except for this: the earliest Christians gladly accepted martyrdom because they had seen, and utterly believed, that their BELOVED was waiting for them just on the other side of the grave.

What might be keeping you from falling in Love?

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 Body and Blood of Jesus – Cycle A

27 June 2011

I know that I’ve never been actually hungry. Food is all around me and I can take it at any time.  But when I hear Moses say “He let you be afflicted with hunger, then fed you with manna….that you might know that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word from the mouth of God” I really resonate with that.  I have counted calories and dragged myself away from the table and fought off food cravings just about every day of my adult life.  I think I know what it is to be hungry, to go to bed hungry, to fixate on food and dream about it.

Today Moses tells the Hebrew people who lived and hungered with him in the desert all those years to remember what it was like when they were utterly dependent on God for the astonishing manna—a food unknown to their parents—sent from the sky six days a week to heal their hunger.

That’s where hunger can take you—weak enough to be ready to accept the gift of healing which God alone can give.  This manna wasn’t what they were used to.  It came from the sky and was probably some sort of chewy dew.  They were grateful to accept it, and their bodies were made strong with it, and there are no accounts of a single one of them dying of hunger during the 40-year sojourn.

So on this day of gratitude we process, hungry, towards the Body and Blood of Jesus.  We remember our hunger, and who alone can heal it.  Come to the feast.

Can you remember any experiences of the power of the Eucharist 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

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A

18 June 2011

We were sitting out on the porch with our adorable nieces and nephew when I finally understood the theology of the Trinity.  The three older kids (9, 7 and 5) had set up their special picnic bench, a few feet away from the grown-ups and right next to the swing set so they could jump up and play while eating their hot dogs.

They belong to each other

Their baby sister Lauren, up until this moment eating her dinner propped up on a chair next to her dad and mom, suddenly climbed down from her chair, toddled over to the kids’ bench and sat down.  Her delighted sisters and brother moved over to make room for her.

In that huge developmental step she demonstrated that she knew who she was.  She was a member of a family. She had a loving mom and dad and lots of other adoring family members.  She had a brother and two sisters.  She was a child, and her place was at the child’s table.  She could leave the safety of mom and dad and place herself right there on the bench with her siblings.  And somebody pass the potato chips.

That’s when I got it.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in God, and God isn’t solitary.  God exists in a relationship of Three.  We are made to find our place in the world, always in relationship with others.  We leave that place of infant unconsciousness and firmly place ourselves at the table, where we belong to others and they belong to us.

And of course none of those relationships happen without fathers.  Thanks, dad.

In what ways did your father help you find your place in the world?

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 Sunday – Cycle A

11 June 2011

A PENTECOST SEQUENCE

Come, oh Holy Spirit, come!

And make us ever more your own.

In flooded farmlands, send relief.

And where faith falters, send belief.

Where tornados maim and kill

Let us feel your presence still.

Touch the unemployed once more

With strength to find that open door.

And where assassins lurk and prey

Bring them to the light of day.

Touch our own hearts too, we pray

To see the ways we’ve turned away.

The blind eye cast, the hardened heart,

Help us, Spirit, see our part.

Renew the earth, renew us too!

In Jesus’ name, we beg of you.

In what ways can you sense the gifts of the Holy Spirit active 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

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