Easter – Cycle A

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

22 May 2017

Reflecting on Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17

Dearest New Christian,

I saw you last week at Mass. Who could miss you? You had that look of joy and deep peace that comes from Jesus. One month ago, at the Easter Vigil, you walked, tears streaming down your face, right into the baptismal font, making your baptismal promises, receiving water, oil, and light, your face showing the deep serenity that comes from seeking and finding the One who loves you beyond all telling.

This process of receiving the Holy Spirit is intense! And you are intense too. We all see the way you listen to the scriptures―especially these Easter scriptures, which are all about YOU and the love that the earliest disciples had for those who were first hearing about Jesus, and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), and him risen (Matt. 28:6), and him radiantly alive in those who believe (Acts 8:17).

I just had to ask, because the world simply does not give the peace that I see on your face: “How has your life been since your baptism a month ago?”

“Wonderful. We are so happy. We were all baptized together, our whole family. And now we all go up to Communion together. We feel so blessed.”

For those of us whose parents brought us to the font as infants, and who were raised up in the Church, this is the season of gratitude. We didn’t have to fight for what our newest Christians have finally received.

Are we matching the joy of the newly baptized? The verse from today’s first letter of Peter must be ours: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (3:15).

How are you cooperating with grace to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

15 May 2017

Reflecting on John 14: 1-12

If you saw me driving around these days you’d probably worry about my mental health. That’s because I’m listening to Charles Dickens’ third and funniest novel, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Parts of this book are so hilarious I’m laughing out loud, all alone in the car.

There are, of course, terrible, cruel adults oppressing innocent, orphaned children. But, oh, how luminous are the adults in the book who model Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”

In a world of greedy, greasy sociopaths stalking the streets of London, we meet the Cheeryble brothers, a pair of middle-aged, millionaire businessmen who inhabit every gift of the Holy Spirit, and spend their lives cheerfully (note their onomatopoeic surname) carrying out the corporal works of mercy.

It’s so healing to observe their kindness and thoughtfulness toward each other. These two brothers cherish each other. They abound in gratitude for their business acumen, which has brought them a fortune that they delight in sharing with everyone who comes their way.

Somehow they are still shocked and outraged that any child would ever be hurt in their beloved city. No hungry person is ever met with anything but the warmest friendship. Jobs are found, apartments are found, food and fireplaces and new clothes are found.

Dickens allows us to imagine a world where everyone behaves with outrageous, passionate love, doing the works that Jesus did. The two brothers prefigure, I suspect, his later immortal character Ebenezer Scrooge, who wakes up just in time to learn that humankind was supposed to be his business.  That’s our business too, of course.  So, how’s business?

In this Easter season, how are you doing the works that Jesus did?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

7 May 2017

Reflecting on Jn. 10: 1-10

I have come that you might have life, and have it in abundance.  Who can resist the One who promises that to each of us? I can’t. I never have been able to resist Jesus, and that grace has brought me nothing but blessing every day of my life.

Imagine Jesus, using the language of sheep-tending, trying to draw the Pharisees into the new life that is their inheritance. He reminds them of the sheep-gate, and how the sheep won’t enter until the gate-keeper opens it. The Pharisees just stare at him. Okay, he says, let’s try this: the sheep will only follow the good shepherd. They know the voice of the shepherd who truly cares for their welfare, and they won’t follow the thieves and robbers. The Pharisees look dumbly ahead. They’re just not getting it.

LOOK, says an exasperated Jesus. I AM THE GATE. I AM YOUR LIFE, YOUR HOPE, YOUR SECURITY, YOUR PEACE. He can’t say it more clearly than that. But how can he be the long-awaited Messiah when he has no army, no generals to command, he breaks the laws of the Sabbath, he let that adulteress go free, and he eats and drinks with sinners?

Oh, says Jesus, if today you would just hear my voice. I’m calling you―that’s YOU he’s talking to, by the way. Dig deep. Listen with all your heart. Tune out all soul-deadening clamor of the culture. If you seek me, says Jesus, you will find me. If you seek me with all of your heart I will let myself be found by you.

Abundant life? Oh, yeah. Call us by name, Good Shepherd. You’re coming in loud and clear.

In what ways are you tuning in to the voice of Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

2 May 2017

Reflecting on Luke 24: 13-35

My husband Cleopas and I decided to leave Jerusalem. We were heartbroken. We had hoped that Jesus, our beloved friend, would redeem Israel. But instead, the Romans crucified him. The Romans are beasts.

Our group spent the next hours huddled together, terrified of the soldiers. This morning, three of the disciples went to the tomb with spices to anoint his body. They came running back with the wildest tale! They were screaming that his body is gone, that he has been raised! And even Peter ran to the tomb and found the burial cloths just lying there in the empty tomb.

People are crying and laughing and screaming and singing, “He has been raised!” But we aren’t naïve. We won’t be taken in by wishful thinking. The Jerusalem group can keep their joy. We saw him crucified. He had no power over the Romans. He wasn’t the one we’d hoped for after all.

But here’s the thing. On the road back to Emmaus, a stranger appeared on the road. He asked us why we were weeping. How could he not know? We started from the beginning, from the day three years ago when he heard about Jesus, and came to find him, and fell so in love with him. We told him about the friends we had made, friends we thought we’d have forever. It felt good to tell the story.

That Stranger was a good listener, but when he started speaking to us our hearts began to burn within us. He opened up our memories. Our frozen hearts began to melt. The love we have for Jesus rose up in us and gave us joy beyond all telling.

Ha! How did we not recognize him? It was Jesus! As usual, we thought we were running away from him, but he was on the road with us the whole time.

How does remembering the Story bring Jesus nearer?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle A

22 April 2017

Reflecting on Acts 2: 42-47

I know what you’re thinking. They held all things in common? Boy, you just couldn’t do that.

Of course you could. You did it in your childhood. Was it so terrible?

A while back my husband Ben renovated our basement. Our friend Karen asked if she could live there for a short time. We weighed the pros of sharing our tiny house with her―laughter every day, and the introduction of the 6pm Happy Hour―and the cons. Funny, I can’t remember any of them now.

At first we were all desperately polite. Her life was her own. We pretended not to notice when she came in. We cooked our separate suppers and assigned her a small corner of the refrigerator and a single shelf in the cupboard. This was a formal, temporary arrangement. In time her fortunes would change and she would go off to her lovely, lonely condo. Isn’t that the American Dream?

Nine years came and went. All of our fortunes changed. We remembered the way we used to live when we were kids, sharing closets and clothes and clotheslines. I still suspect her of making off with the mates of two of my socks. None of us knows whose turn it is to buy the milk. None of us can remember how we used to live.

Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, she’s marrying her adorable Mountain Mike and moving up to Coal Creek Canyon to help build their new home. We are bereft.

Now comes the separation of goods. Coffee pot? Hers. Blender? Mine. Dog? Ours. Bitter custody battle to ensue.

Hearts? Overflowing with gratitude that this beloved friend was willing to share all things in common with us. Such is the kingdom of the Risen One.

What happy memories do you have of sharing things in common?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle A

19 April 2017

Reflecting on Acts 10: 34A, 37-43

My Lenten resolution this year was to use less water―to take shorter showers, and to be more mindful of the water I waste.  A thousand miles away, and without our talking about it, my sister chose the same fast, but each day as she ended her too-short shower she added a prayer for someone, known or unknown to her, who needed an extra-loving boost of grace that day.

God, who is not confined by time and space, answered her prayers and those of billions before and after her. On that Easter morning, God gave all creation, for all time, an “extra-loving boost of grace.”

Easter, not Good Friday, is the center of God’s heart.

God did not make death. God made life, and gave it to us, pressed down and overflowing, exactly as our Easter altars express it today. Gorgeous colors, heavenly fragrances, new life bursting from the cold winter graves―this is our God, singing our souls out of their hard shells and saying, “Partner with me, love and protect my stunning world, and I will show you the Risen One in the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.”

Jesus did not need an empty tomb in order to break the chains of death. He who calmed the sea and cast out demons did not need a rolled-away stone in order to be in glory. His resurrected body was for the sake of those who, confined by time and space, needed a bodily Jesus, raised from the dead and eating and drinking with them.

Those of us who were not the eyewitnesses need not feel left out; we know where to find our Risen Lord.

In what radiant parts of your life do you find our Risen Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

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