Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle A

17 June 2017

Reflecting on John 6: 51-58

My friend John’s story about going to the football game with his dad comes back to me every year on this feast day.  “I’ll never give up my season tickets.  I go to every game. It’s the place where my dad and I have our best talks.”

Actually, his dad died nearly thirty years ago. Growing up, John and his dad enjoyed the entire Game Day ritual―Mass, breakfast, driving to the stadium, firing up the grill, hamburgers, and football. They talked, and ate, and shared in the triumphs and humiliations of the game. And the next week, if the team was in town, they did it all again.

John grieved horribly when his dad died in the spring of 1990. He was his best friend. They had built so many memories. He would never see him again.

Except, of course, on Sunday afternoons, in the sun and wind and cold, and the hot dogs and beer, and the cheering and the booing, and memories so real that John feels his dad next to him at every game.  He goes to see his dad, to really feel his presence.

There are many sensory triggers that can transport us. Think about pipe smoke.  Can you smell it? I can, and suddenly my grandpa is with me.  A Beach Boys song on a summer day can bring childhood friends right into the room. These cues make the past Really Present.

As Catholics, we get that. Every Sunday we place ourselves in the position to Re-Member the One who loved us to his death. In the Eucharist the Beloved Past becomes the Real Presence. This is the feast that tells us who we are.

What sensory experiences bring the past right back to you?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A

12 June 2017

Reflecting on 2 Cor. 13: 11-13

It was really just a teeny fender bender. I was pulling out onto the highway from the ramp, and then I wasn’t. (Right now you might be thinking how much you hate it when drivers give every indication that they are moving out and then don’t.)

So, yeah, he bumped into me. Furious, he jumped out of his truck and ran over to my car, screaming in frustration. A few expletives later and he was on his phone, calling the police.

Then I asked him who he thought would get the ticket. “I know,” he said. “I’m getting the ticket. I bumped into you.”  Since neither of our cars was damaged, I asked if he couldn’t just call back and say we settled things and were moving on, since we were blocking the ramp. “No,” he said, much calmer now, “it’s the law. I need to report this.”

While the officer collected our information I asked him―by now we were addressing each other by our first names―if I couldn’t just tell the officer that I didn’t want him to get a ticket since he was going SO SLOWLY when he hit me, neither of ours cars was damaged, and neither of us was hurt. “You would do that?” he asked.

It was so easy. The officer agreed that it was so minor no ticket needed to be given.  And the guy who had been screaming at me minutes earlier said, “Kathy, I’m sorry.” And two strangers hugged on the ramp and moved on to have, indeed, a very nice day.

Agree with one another. Live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

What opportunities did you take this week to bring peace to your world?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

27 February 2017

Reflecting on Matt. 6: 24-34

The thing that most delights me about nature is how utterly oblivious it is of us. Every spring―and I’m jumping the gun here by a couple of months, I know―I just howl at the pictures of birds that build their nests in wreaths hanging from doors, in baskets on bicycles, and even in an old shoe left out on the porch.

Ha! Consider the birds of the air. They neither pay rent, nor fill out financial questionnaires. They provide no references, and yet they set up residence in your bedroom window and don’t even notice all your kids and relatives staring in wonder as they lay their eggs and incubate them until they hatch, then feed their DARLING babies all kinds of gross worms that were apparently living in your yard, and then teach them, somehow, to fly the coop. And they leave the nest a mess and pay no damage deposit!

So, what do they know that we don’t? They know what we have forgotten, which is that the earth is the Lord’s, and all the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).

We see our high-rises and our traffic lights as symbols of civilization and order. Birds see them as perfect spots to set up housekeeping, and build intricate nests and hatch their chicks right there on top of the flashing marquees in Times Square.

Jesus wants us to lift up our eyes and remember what we once knew, before the Fall, before we began hoarding and sectioning off pieces of earth and calling them ours. There is sufficient sun, and seed, and rain to feed the world. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need. Do we?

How is what you want masquerading for what you really need?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

18 February 2017

Reflecting on Matt. 5:38-48

The traditional approach to Jesus’ words on nonviolence, of course, is to forget we ever heard it and carry on. But let’s be brave and try to understand.

In a research project a few years ago, participants were given a slight pinch on their fingers, then told to pinch their partner with the same intensity. Every single time, the first one to be pinched exerted more pressure on their partner than they had received themselves. Why? Because pain felt is always more than pain given. That’s why violence always escalates.

Here’s an example that might resonate. You walk by a group of friends and hear your name in their conversation. Now, maybe (but not likely) they actually ARE talking about your weight gain, or your son’s plagiarized science project, or your no-show at yoga again. But if you measured the amount of true malice in their hearts towards you (tiny) it wouldn’t be in the same stratosphere as the amount of rage you feel just hearing your name in a conversation in which you are not present. The pain felt is always more than the pain given.

Jesus knows how weak we are. He knows that lawsuits and small battles escalate into wars because we can’t differentiate between the actual pain (small) and the pain we experienced (large). Once shocked, we can’t remember that we’re the ones who started it. It is the rare person who is humble enough to admit that the injury is small, and the chance that she played some part in it is great.

Pray for your enemies, Jesus tells us. Wouldn’t it be a shock to learn that you’re the “enemy” someone else is praying for too?

Have you ever looked back at a conflict and finally realized that you were the antagonist?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

15 February 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 17-37

I imagine this conversation between Jesus and some people at the Women’s March in D.C.

Jesus: You have heard it said, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” But I say to you, “Yes! Atrocities toward women are the scourge of history. You’ve brought attention to many, like equal pay for equal work, but there’s more. End sex trafficking. Starve the pornography industry, which endangers women and changes the brains of the men who use it. End domestic abuse everywhere.  End the abduction of girls and women by groups like Boko Haram and others. Secure safe education for every girl on the planet. That will keep you busy.”

And I imagined this conversation in the same city at the March for Life the next week.

Jesus: You have heard it said, “Life begins at conception.” I say to you, “Yes! And it ends in natural death. Redouble your efforts―and you’ve made some brilliant and creative starts ― to provide first-rate prenatal care and labor and delivery for all mothers. Make sure their families have nutritious food and safe, secure housing. Continue to educate about adoption services. Use your lives to lift up those who are poor. Protect the environment. And never, ever let an elderly person feel she has a duty to die. That will keep you busy.”

“But Lord,” I heard both groups cry, “you’re asking the impossible! We’d need far, far more people all over the globe to commit their lives to these unsolvable problems. Can’t we leave them to the next generation to solve?”

What next generation? YOU are the light of the world,” he said. “Go set fire to the earth.”

How are you working to solve an unsolvable problem?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 February 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 13-16

Do you feel it, or is it just me? I sense a shift in my world, a fragrant shift of radical kindness, radical goodness, radical awareness of the way our lives can be used in service of the gospel of mercy and grace.  It’s been happening for a while now, several years I think.

One of the ways I’ve experienced it is the graciousness that greets me when I travel. I have a slight disability, a hip that’s been replaced several times. But the minute I arrive at the airport there seems to be a kind employee ready with a wheelchair, kindly whisking me through security and politely delivering me to the gate. And when I arrive at my destination the airline has called ahead and has another kind porter waiting to whisk me to the handicap-accessible ground transportation.

My endlessly thoughtful husband Ben arranged for a wheelchair for me during our recent fascinating (and disturbing) visit to Alcatraz Island. We were both deeply touched at the number of strangers who jumped in to help push the wheelchair up the steep hills. There is something afoot. I think it’s a tsunami of goodness, and its vessels are the human race.

I hope it’s not just me. I hope you, too, are sensing this warm wave of intentional kindness that seems to be gaining momentum all around us. Salt of the earth? I’m surrounded by smart, generous people who are giving their energies and experience toward making the world a kinder, gentler place. Light of the world? I need sunglasses, the glare of goodness is so bright.

Love is love is love is love. I hope you’re drowning in it.

In what ways are you living in intentional kindness?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 February 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 1-12a

I like to do things that make me feel good. One thing that works every time is to stop to analyze what it is about people that makes them lovable, or approachable, or even inspiring.  I think about that today when Paul says “whoever boasts should boast in the Lord.” The people I know who inspire me are, always, people who point the praise and glory elsewhere.

How blest, then, are those who are so poor in spirit that they look beyond their own accomplishments and seek a greater good. How blest are those who are so clean of heart that they can get past their own insecurities and brokenness and mercifully reach out to others. The person who seeks God is the person who attracts me, because I too am made to draw nearer and nearer to God.

As a teacher of Scripture I am deeply touched by the way adult students will put everything aside for as long as they can to just study the Word.  As a student of Scripture I sit weekly at the feet of my own teachers, never disappointed, yet never satiated.  Our shared life in Christ is the treasure which draws me.

The person who seeks the Lord, in spite of our highly secular society that laughs at such a pursuit, is the person I want with me on a desert island. That is the truly blessed person, the deep person, the intelligent person. How blest are all of us who seek God. The scriptures promise that, as we draw near to God, God draws near to us.

In what ways has seeking the Lord been a blessing for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 January 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 4: 12-23

It’s a call narrative. That’s the name given to the account of how two sets of brothers, all fishermen, literally dropped everything and followed a man they hadn’t even met yet. I’ll bet Zebedee (the father of James and John) was thrilled when his sons just left the nets they were mending on the boat and abandoned him and the family business. James and John were called “the sons of thunder,” which may give us an idea of the kind of temper Zebedee possessed. I’m glad I wasn’t around at the time.

Another theory suggests that any Jewish father would have been honored to have his sons called by the famous rabbi Jesus. Rabbinic texts from the first century offer many examples of the prestige bestowed on a man whom a rabbi called to be his disciple. It was considered a huge honor to walk away from everything you knew in order to study with a teacher of the Law. Since all the apostles answered this radical call, is it possible that Jesus was already known by the Galilean community before he called the Twelve?

We all have a call narrative, a story we love to tell about how we knew what we wanted to do with our lives, or where we wanted to live, or the first time we met a dear friend or our spouse. Those are the sacred stories we tell at wedding receptions, at reunions, and at funerals. But there has never been an encounter like the day Jesus called four guys in two boats. His voice soared from the shore to the sea. “Come after me,” he said. If you listen, you can hear it still.

What is the favorite call story of your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 January 2017

Reflecting on John 1: 29-34

And there you have it. Just one week removed from the Christmas season and the gospels are already moving us in the direction of Lent. Hence this powerful baptism story, which will launch us into the ministry of Jesus, which will take us straight to the cross.

John the Baptist “did not know” his kinsman Jesus until he had a personal encounter with him at Bethany, on the other side of the Jordan. It was then, when he saw the Holy Spirit hovering over Jesus, that the fullness of the meaning of his own life became clear. He was born to witness to the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

How profound that the word is singular. It is the sin of the world that’s killing us. Individual sins, deadly and less so, do not weigh the world down in the way that our corporate selfishness does.

My 10-year-old nephew Jacob and I had the BEST conversation on the phone before Christmas. He had just seen the BEST movie with grandma, and was going to the BEST baseball camp over vacation, and they had the BEST Christmas tree in their house.

At that point I interjected, “Oh, and don’t forget to get the present from us that your mom has for you under the tree. “Aunt Kathy, “he said, “I already got my Christmas present. My grandpa isn’t sick anymore.”

That’s precisely the place where Jesus wants us all to be, that sacred place where our personal encounters of love save us from the deadly sin of only looking out for ourselves. That is the “sin of the world” the Lamb of God came to redeem.

What do you think is the greatest “sin of the world”?

Kathy McGovern ©2017 www.thestoryandyou.com

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Cycle A

24 November 2014

Reflecting on Mark 13: 33-37

Advent begins next week, and with it comes a new gospel. This is the last we will hear from Matthew―except, always, on Epiphany, since he is the only evangelist who knows the story of the Magi―until we return to him in December of 2016.

Before we turn the page to Mark’s gospel, then, it’s good to remember what Jesus tells us, over and over again, in Matthew’s brilliant gospel. It’s really just one word: mercy.

Go and learn the meaning of this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. This is what he tells the learned Pharisees, shocked that Jesus has called a tax collector (Matthew)to be one of the Twelve, and is even now having dinner at his house (9:13)!

This is a bit like a professor telling a veterinarian student, “Go and learn the meaning of the word cat”. It’s deeply insulting to the scripture-quoting Pharisees, because Jesus is quoting the famous passage from Hosea 6:6.They have known that text from their youth, yet here is Jesus telling them to go learn it again.

Pope Francis has said about his papacy, “I think this is a time of mercy.”  And about the gospels: “The Lord’s most powerful message is mercy.”  In fact, his first major book as Pope has just been published, with this beautiful title: The Church of Mercy.

But if it’s all about mercy, what, then, are we to make of the God who rescues and heals the lost and scattered, but destroys the “sleek and strong”? We hope that we will be the sheep who inherit the kingdom of heaven, but where is the mercy for those goats that God will cast into eternal fire?

Maybe Matthew’s final message to us this year is this: Christ the King will be the judge. And he will judge us on how merciful we were.

In what ways have you shown mercy this year?

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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