Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – Cycle A

5 August 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 17: 1-9

“Once, when I was in the service in Iraq, a bird I had never seen before flew right in front of me and stared at me.  From that moment on I knew I was going to make it home okay.”

“Once, when my mom was dying, I got a call from a friend I hadn’t seen from high school. I can still remember the goosebumps I had, realizing that God was near me.”

Oh, the things we remember. These are actual “moments of encounter with God” that students have shared with me through the years. They have two things in common.  First, the comforting experience occurred during a time of great stress in the person’s life. Second, even though it only happened once, they never forgot it, not even a lifetime later.

Were they “God sightings”? Well, they certainly weren’t visions of a transfigured Jesus on a mountain. But their effects were the same. We enshrine those moments in that sacred place where we store wonder. We “build tents” around our memories of encounters with the Divine so as to recover them throughout our lives.

The three disciples up on Tabor knew something about stress. They had left their lives behind in order to follow the Rabbi. The hostile Jewish authorities, and the Romans, waited in the wings. The next time they would be alone with Jesus would be in Gethsemane. No wonder they longed to stay on the mountain.

But what of those who honestly report that they have never once felt the nearness of God? No worries. Scripture has lots of people who saw actual miracles, and then forgot and despaired of God’s goodness.

In the end, it’s the waiting in joyful hope that gets you to the finish line.

How will you watch for God’s comforting presence in your life today?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

31 July 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 13: 44-52

It’s so interesting to watch the birds in our neighborhood. They appear to be just hanging out, chattering to their friends from the trees, or languidly floating around, making circle eights in the sky. But, all of a sudden, a whole flock of sparrows descends on one little patch of grass, and away they fly, carrying worms and other gems back to their nests.

That’s the thing. If you want the hidden treasure, you have to put yourself in the position to find it. Then there’s the matter of discerning what is truly valuable. Skim milk, sang Gilbert and Sullivan, often masquerades as cream.

If we want something badly enough we are willing to buy a whole field in order to own the treasure we know is hidden there. But great gifts like a loving spouse, faithful friends, nurturing families and great jobs require our devoted attention. We can’t just drop them off somewhere and expect they’ll be there when we return. The greatest treasures require our greatest efforts.

Faith is like that. A grown-up, nurturing faith that goes the distance for a lifetime is the pearl of greatest price, but we have to keep ourselves in the game in order to own it. Like birds circling in for the food they’ve been watching for, human beings also need to hover close to that which truly nourishes.

Catholics today are living in a time of spiritual explosion. There must be twenty great publications, in print or online, that offer insightful reflections on the gospel for each day of the year. Classes and retreats abound. Spiritual directors are available. Are you feeling hungry? Swoop down and get yourself some breakfast.

In what ways are you keeping your faith alive and nourished?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

22 July 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 13: 24-33

What kind of person sneaks into a neighbor’s field and plants weeds? It’s a shocking example of the evil of which humans are capable. My dad told similar stories about the “dairy wars” during the Depression, when rival dairies would follow the delivery carts and place worms in the milk just delivered to the homes of Denver’s wealthy. My grandfather’s dairy lost its account with Molly Brown in just this way.

In the movies it’s easy to see into the hearts of those who do such obviously evil things. The bad guys know they are bad guys, and they tell themselves stories about imagined crimes against them in order to psych themselves up for the bank robbery or the murder for hire.

What kinds of stories do people tell themselves as they are breaking into someone’s home, or stealing the life savings of the elderly? If they were willing to dig deep they’d admit that someone has something they want, and the collateral damage that comes from obtaining it is, well, unfortunate.

They never admit that, of course. Even virtuous people will invent utterly transparent reasons to justify selfishness. If we could see that one truth―that each of us is capable, at times, of behavior that puts us squarely in the “bad guy” column― what grace that would be. Imagine what this world would look like if the humans planting weeds in fields just stopped and said, “Wait. What am I doing?”

We are all working to become, more and more, the fruitful field planted at our baptism. We trust that the Divine Harvester (using Dag Hammarskjold’s image), will keep the grain and, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

How is the fruitfulness of your life overcoming some past selfishness?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

19 July 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 13: 1-23

Words, words, words. Unlike Eliza Doolittle, I never get sick of words.  I adore them―fat words, skinny words, funny words, and, my favorite, lovely words.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can always heal us. And, like the rain that falls and never returns to heaven without nourishing the earth, a timely and wise word spoken to a child in the last century is still bearing fruit in this one.

A kind word is like that fecund seed in Jesus’ parable. It just keeps producing harvest after harvest. Here in mid-summer, with crops growing like mad―and the ever-fertile weeds growing right along with them―it’s a holy thing to recall the good words planted in us through the years, and how they have never failed to give us protection and shade in the heat of uglier, unkinder words that have traveled next to them in our hearts throughout our lives.

Here are some words spoken to me at some point that are every bit as delicious to me today as they were decades ago when I first heard them:

Ha! You’re funny.

You’re my best friend.

Tell that story again.

I love you.

Will you marry me?

There are, of course, the painful words, the critical words, but those words that at first hurt like weeds can often behave like fruitful seeds. Such is the mystery of the grace of humility; if we are open to receive it, it can produce great fruit as well.

Are you still simmering over a hurtful word from long ago? Ask God to bring back to your memory the hundreds of fruitful words that have also shaped you. Love wins over weeds.

What are some of the favorite words spoken to you in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 July 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 11: 25-30

My measly six-block walk feels like six miles when I do it in the heat of the day, which somehow it always is. I always start out early in the morning, with a very light jacket and a water bottle. Three blocks in and I’ve got the jacket wrapped around my waist, and by the time I’m home the water bottle feels like a ten-pound barbell.

My fantasy is always the same, that my husband will come along on his bike and carry the jacket, the bottle, and, finally, me, over the finish line. Somehow I always make it―tiny workout that it is―but I’ve never once done it without wishing someone would come along and make it easier.

What a heavy load the Jews of Jesus’ day carried. They labored long and hard in the desert sun, and a good portion of what they earned went straight to the Romans. They were also loaded down with the burdens of the Mosaic Law, which, although received in joy centuries before at Mount Sinai, had become impossible to fulfill because of the hundreds of additions and legalities imposed as time went on.

What an enormous relief the gospel was for the disciples, and for all of us who are carrying around too much stuff.  In the heat of the summer it’s best to travel light, and there is nothing lighter than the yoke of forgiveness and unconditional love which Jesus wants to place on our shoulders, while removing the weights of regret and remorse.

Are you heavily burdened and praying for relief? I pray that the Body of Christ is on the way, right around the corner, ready to carry you, and all your stuff, across the finish line.

How do you help carry the burdens of those who are heavily laden?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

1 July 2017

Reflecting on 2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a

Can something be done for her? I love that. Elisha visits this family so often that the “woman of influence” (I love that too) sets up a little room for him up on the roof, with a bed and a table and, I’ll bet, some lovely fruit and bread for the morning.

Elisha, who is well known and, perhaps, a tad entitled to these niceties, sees this kind woman for who she is―gracious, thoughtful, industrious―and wonders if anything can be done for her.

Have you ever been surprised by the kindness of someone who really saw you, really understood the effort you make to keep others comfortable? So much of what we do in life is invisible to everyone but God. That extra attention the engineer gives to building a bridge that is not just adequate, but truly safe, comes to mind. No one sees that triple-checking, but life is better because of it.

I have an oncologist who is so meticulous, so loving in the care he gives his patients that I joke that after he saves my life maybe he could change the oil in my car too. Can something be done for him? I always wonder.

I love the people in this world who see the person struggling with mental illness and say, “Can something be done for her?” In many parishes, a staff position is dedicated to noticing the needs of the homebound, the immigrants, the young families juggling life with a new baby, and asking, “Can something be done for them?”

And what about you? Can something be done for you? God wants to know. We all do.

Have you ever noticed someone, and acted immediately on their behalf?

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, EVERYONE! MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

28 June 2017

Reflecting on Jeremiah 20: 10-13

Oh, Jeremiah. We really get you. You sound just like us when we were, say, fifteen. Back then we knew that our every word, every behavior was being scrutinized by our “friends” and used for conversation  at the slumber party to which we had received no invitation. How the memories still sting.

You were a young man, maybe even a teenager, when you wrote, “All those who were my friends are on the watch for some misstep of mine.” It turns out that you weren’t paranoid. Your friends WERE talking about you behind your back. They were talking about your prophetic warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem, and going back through the years to remember how you’d ALWAYS been addicted to drama, ALWAYS been a worry-wart, ALWAYS been  looking for attention.

Yes, you were right and they were wrong. And your prayer―so full of the hurt feelings of a young person―was answered. They died, and you lived. But I’ll bet that, seeing your friends tortured and killed, or taken into captivity, was not the satisfying moment you thought it would be. I’ll bet that you begged for their release before Nebuchadnezzar. But he wasn’t exactly the reasonable guy you hoped for, was he?

You probably hadn’t heard today’s responsorial psalm yet, since it wasn’t put in its final form until the grandchildren of those dragged away that day returned to Jerusalem. Let me remind you of it now: The Lord hears the poor, and those who are his own he spurns not (69:33).

It’s a blessing to be little. It’s a blessing to be humbled. That kind of poverty puts you directly in the center of God’s heart.  Lucky you.

What memories do you have of God’s great love during a time of being humbled?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

Next Page »