Lent – Cycle A

Second Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

19 March 2014

Reflecting on Matt. 17: 1-9

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “daddy hunger”, the term for whole generations of young men and women who grew up without their fathers in the home.  Prisons are full of them―men who had no father to love them and so seek that “daddy love” from participation in gangs, and women who buy guns for felons and take enormous risks for dangerous men who give them the attention they crave.

I know hundreds of fabulous fathers, but incarcerated people often know the detached, violent, or demeaning father whose unloving presence serves as the backdrop for their lives.  Dad can’t say “Good job, I’m proud of you” because he never heard it from his dad, who in turn never heard it from his.  Scratch the surface of the life of a chronically depressed male of any age, and often (but certainly not always) you’ll find his emotionally unavailable father at the center of his wounds.

But not Jesus.  From the moment of his baptism at the Jordan to this transfiguring moment of identity revelation on Mount Tabor, the Father tells Jesus who he is:  My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Wouldn’t this world be a different place if children, boys in particular, heard this from their fathers on a regular basis?  Yes, this is my beloved son.  He makes me proud every day.

That’s the piece of heaven we learn about first in the gospels:  Jesus is the beloved Son of a heavenly Father who claims him, and names him, and is well pleased with him.  It’s that deep knowledge of being eternally loved that strengthens Jesus to go back down Tabor and face Jerusalem and his destiny.

In what ways do you witness “daddy hunger” 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

First Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

10 March 2014

Reflecting on Gen. 2:7-9; 3:1-7

What is it about a lie that is so much more comfortable than the truth?  I think any lie that corroborates our own secret desires―which eventually kill us, by the way―will always find a welcome home with us.

The Enemy starts with a lie by suggesting to Eve that God has forbidden her all the trees in the garden.  Oh no, she says, just the one in the middle. 

Seriously? (says the Prince of Liars), I can’t believe that.  I’m outraged for you.  Why SHOULDN’T you have it all?

And you know what?  There is some part of us that thinks that we should.  Just give me a reason, any reason, why I should get to consume far more than my share of the world’s resources and I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief.  No opposing viewpoints will find such an attentive ear.

Or suggest, as the serpent did, that I should be suspicious of others, that I’m being purposely left out of things, or that my experience is more exquisitely painful than all the rest of humanity, and I’ll lovingly nurture that lie for the rest of my life.

That Original Lie, that we are being secretly excluded by a conniving God―insert parent, or teacher, or coworkers, or friends―is our Original Wound.  And we willfully break that wound open, over and over again.

A million years later the Tempter tried the same lies on Jesus.  But the new Adam rejected Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises.  And at the end of these forty days we will gather at the Easter Font, renew our baptismal promises, and reject the Liar once again.

What lies do you resolve to reject this Lent?

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

Palm/Passion Sunday – Cycle A

17 April 2011

Reflecting on Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

Okay, can we please talk about something?  It’s that responsorial psalm today, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? We sing it over and over after the first reading, and then we have to hear it again in the reading of Matthew’s Passion, when Jesus quotes from that very psalm (22) in his last agonizing breaths on the cross.

I hate that.  It hurts me every time I hear it, and have to contemplate that Jesus, in his last moments, experienced the betrayal of the Father.  But finally, after years of uneasiness with that portrayal of Jesus’ death, I learned something that healed that hurt immediately, and I wished someone had told me decades earlier what I now pass on to you:

In his agony, Jesus the Jew calls out the beginning verse of that well-known psalm of lament:  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? There are some women “standing at a distance” who have followed him since he set out from Galilee to Jerusalem.  They surely know this psalm, and in synagogue style they respond to his introduction by reciting the rest of it, all 31 verses, including the triumphant end, when the suffering one proclaims that all will proclaim the Lord to generations still to come, his righteousness to a people yet unborn.  AMEN.

Jesus the Faithful One knows that he has not been betrayed, that the Father’s great love will be proclaimed to all generations forever.  He calls out the first verse Psalm 22 with his last breaths, knowing that “those standing at a distance’—and that’s us, too, isn’t it?―will respond by praying the rest of the psalm for him.  Jesus knows how it ends, and how it all will end.  Forever and ever.  AMEN.

Is there a psalm, a song, a Scripture or a prayer that will be on your lips as you die?

 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 Lent – Cycle A

10 April 2011

Reflecting on John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

Through the years I have had the great privilege to visit the Holy Land many times, but the only souvenir I have ever kept from my pilgrimages hangs on my wall, directly over my parent’s wedding picture of October 31, 1938.  They smile out at me, these two young, beautiful, hopeful newlyweds, in the everyday clothes common to Depression-era weddings of the day.

Could they have imagined what the future would hold?  The war in Europe was just getting going.  They and everyone they knew would be changed by it.  In ten years their children would finally arrive, and eventually their robust youth would give way to middle age.  They would lose their parents and their siblings.  They would raise their children in the faith, and that faith would sustain them when their own son went off to war.

The beautiful bride and groom are gone now.  But their children live on, remembering them, loving them, knowing that at our own deaths we will see them again.  When Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus call him out of the cave he climbed, climbed up from his dark tomb.  I’ve seen that tomb.  I have taken a torch and climbed down into its belly, and imagined the sound of Jesus, calling into its depths Lazarus!  Come out! And the dead man came out.

So it was from here that I carried home my sole souvenir, a small mosaic that says “Bethany”.  It keeps watch over the young newlyweds on the wall, and all their children and grandchildren, whose pictures surround them now.  When our earthly bodies lie in death we’ll find an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

What do you think it must have been like for Lazarus to come out of that tomb?

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 Lent – Cycle A

2 April 2011

Reflecting on John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

It’s the last line of today’s Gospel that’s the real zinger.  Jesus, you’re not suggesting that we are the ones who are blind, are you?  Because we know how God has set up the world.  Good things happen to good people, and bad people are blind from birth.  Okay, maybe this guy isn’t directly responsible for his blindness, but his parents must have been sinners, right?  And we know for sure that YOU are a sinner because you brazenly heal on the Sabbath!

Isn’t their response a little similar to ours when we hear about something terrible that has happened to someone we know?  Yes, it’s terrible that she has lung cancer, but she probably smoked, and I don’t smoke, so I’ll never get lung cancer. Yes, it’s horrible about the car accident, but I’ll bet he wasn’t wearing his seat belt, and I always wear my seat belt, so I’ll never be in a car accident.

There is something in us that needs to find a reason why bad things happen to very good people, because it’s too terrifying to admit that they could happen to us too. And if we can admit that, perhaps we are also ready to acknowledge that God can shake us from our cynicism, peel away our layers of bravado, and actually heal us too.  It’s not a trick.  It’s not a plot hatched years ago to make us think the man was blind when he really could see all this time.  His parents weren’t in on it, and he wasn’t in on it.  That man they call Jesus touched him, and now he can see.

And if we can’t believe that, we are more blind than the man who was born blind and now sees.

In what ways have you felt the healing touch of Jesus 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

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

26 March 2011

Reflecting on John 4: 5-15, 19b-26, 39a,40-42

One Sunday three decades ago I was distraught over the collapse of the strong parish community I had enjoyed for over a decade.  A new pastor had come in, and a better preacher had been installed in the parish down the road.  Within a few months the vibrant, warm, packed-to-the-gills Sunday Masses had deteriorated, and most of the friends with whom I shared Sunday had moved to the other parish.  It was so painful.

This particular Sunday I stopped by to visit a friend.  He did then, and still does to this day, spend the early morning hours in prayer with the Scriptures.  We talked for awhile about the dwindling numbers and the lackluster preaching, and then we fell silent for a few minutes.

What are you reading today? He looked down at the Bible on the table, open to the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel, and read the Samaritan woman’s challenge to Jesus:   Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people say the place to worship is Jerusalem.

Huh.  So questions about who’s got the best parish have been around at least since the day Jesus went out of his way to find that heartbroken woman, in the heat of the day, at a well that her great ancestor Jacob had dug.  He invited her into friendship with himself, and she left everything behind to tell the world about him.  Now that’s true worship, in Spirit and in truth.

Sharing God’s Word at Home:

Are there ways that you can build up your parish and the worshipping community?


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 Lent – Cycle A

19 March 2011

Reflecting on Genesis 12:1-4a

All we ask you, God, is to speak as clearly to us as you did to Abram.  Tell us to get up and wander to a new land.  We’ll pack today.   Send us down to Egypt during a famine and we’ll book our flight.  Show up at our door with two angels at your side and we’ll rush to make a huge meal for you.  Just speak to us, God.  We’re so confused.

I will make of you a great nation

How does one discern the will of God?  God speaks to us through our own history, our memory, our understanding.   St. Ignatius of Loyola counsels us to notice what gives us peace, what gives us energy, what makes us unhappy, or burdened with guilt.  To paraphrase the old physical therapist joke, Does it hurt when you are cynical, or selfish, or lazy?  Then stop doing that.

Does it feel good when you end a conversation that is sliding into gossip and meanness?  Do that some more.  Does your spirit rejoice when you are the first to apologize, or to reach out for reconciliation?  I suspect you have wandered into the very heart of God.

Like Abraham and Sarah, we sojourn in a land that God unveils to us throughout our lives.  It’s a land marked by mistakes and bitter regrets, but shot through with grace and gradual healing.  Pay attention to what makes you truly happy, truly peaceful.  Abraham, at 75, lived one hundred more years after he discerned God’s call.  Let’s all keep listening.

At what times do you feel the most connected with 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 Lent – Cycle A

12 March 2011

Reflecting on Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11

What a sneaky snake that serpent was.  He made his appearance in the Garden (who let him in to begin with?) and right away started lying.  That’s the thing about enemies. They take a lie and find a way to re-word it so it sounds like the truth.  Maybe they know we prefer the lie to begin with.

When the snake first encountered Eve he framed his question/lie masterfully:  What?  God told you you couldn’t eat from any of the trees in the Garden?  But Eve corrected the Enemy:  No, we can eat from all the trees except the one in the middle. If we eat from that we will die.

Now here is something you’ll never hear from a liar:  You caught me.  I was trying to stir up some drama, but you knew the truth and you knew that I wasn’t relating it correctly and you nailed me.  Sorry.  I’ll sliver away under my rock and never bother you again.

But no.  The serpent turned up the heat by telling a greater lie, which fell on Eve’s receptive ears:  You poor thing!  You certainly won’t die! Don’t you realize that if you eat from this tree you’ll be as wise as gods?  You are the victim here and I am just outraged for you.

A million years later the Tempter tried the same lies on Jesus.  But the new Adam rejected Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises.  And at the end of these forty days we will gather at the Easter Font, renew our baptismal promises, and reject the Liar once again.

What lies do you resolve to reject this Lent?

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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