Easter – Cycle A

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

The Ascension of Our Lord – Cycle A

4 June 2011

Reflecting on Matthew 28:16-20

First, we should probably talk about the strange disconnect between Luke’s account of the Ascension in the first reading (Acts 1:1-11) and Matthew’s account in today’s Gospel (28:16-20).  Although he doesn’t specifically state it, the site of the Ascension in Acts has to have been in Jerusalem. Why?  Because they are enjoined not to leave Jerusalem until the gift of the Father (the Holy Spirit) comes upon them.  So the Ascension must have taken place in Jerusalem.

The Ascension of Christ (Rembrandt)

But Matthew says that the Eleven gathered in the Galilee for Jesus’ Great Commission.  It was on a mountain—which of course reminds us of the mountain at Sinai and the mountain of the Beatitudes —where Jesus promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of the age.  Mark’s Gospel (16:7) sets this in motion when the angel at the empty tomb tells the women to tell the other disciples to go to Galilee, where they would see the risen Lord.

But here’s what’s interesting: it seems that in the Gospel today, Jesus appears to them as a manifestation of his already ascended state.  There is no mention, as in Acts and Luke’s Gospel (24: 36-53), of Jesus ascending to heaven as they watched.

So even in the earliest memories of the Church the specifics of the when and where of Jesus’ ascent to heaven are purposely clothed in mystery.  What a perfect metaphor for our own journeys.  Crazy predictions of the end of the world will go on. But our deepest intuition and faith that our Christ is with us always, right up to the end, lives on.

In what ways do you sense that he is “with you always”?

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

28 May 2011

Reflecting on 1Peter 3:15-18

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

 

The Martyrdom of St. Peter

Isn’t that beautiful?  The author of the second reading today is talking to the earliest converts to the faith, urging them to have a good reason on hand for why they are hopeful in their terrifying first-century world.

I like to think about those earliest Christians.  According to tradition, every single one of the apostles listed in the Gospels (except for Judas) experienced torture, and most of them martyrdom, because of their hope in Christ.  They “took on Christ” during the most violent years of the Roman Empire.  They faced up to Nero and Trajan and Domitian, and often converted their own jailers, who went to their deaths with them.

I recently saw the shatteringly beautiful movie Of Gods and Men.  It tells the true story of eight Cistercian monks who chose to stay with their Muslim friends in a besieged Algerian village in 1997.  Two eyewitnesses who survived recorded their memories of the agonizing community meetings that took place before the abduction and murder of the other members.

Why did they stay when they knew their lives were in imminent danger?  We know from the survivors that the love of Christ compelled them.  Their love for their neighbors, whom they doctored, and cared for, and worked side by side with, gave them the strength to face their radical Islamist assassins when they came for them one dark and freezing night.

The Christ who called them to Himself was the reason for their hope.  And hope does not disappoint.

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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