Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

16 July 2018

Reflecting on Mark 6: 7-13

It’s that time of year again. Our sweet, gentle priest-friends from Juarez are here in Denver, visiting us and talking in some parishes about their work at the seminary there. They’re staying at the gracious Colorado Vincentian Volunteers (CVV) house downtown, and every single thing anyone does for them is the kindest thing anyone has ever done.

This morning after breakfast I wondered why they weren’t moving. It was time to go off on a little trip to the mountains, but they were each lined up, waiting to give me a hug and a kiss and to thank me for the BEST breakfast they had ever had.

They break your hearts, these guys. They are super educated professors at the seminary there, but they live as simply as their poorest parishioners. When I lined up water bottles for them to carry through the hot Denver streets they were incredulous. A water bottle—with our delicious, clean, safe Denver water–for each of them!

They reminded me of Jesus and his friends. They, too, left on those hot desert roads without any of the comforts we think we need. No water bottle, no backpack, no hotel reservation. The urgency of the gospel compelled them out, away from everyone they knew, into the dangerous byways of the Roman world.

Where on earth does one find such simplicity anymore? I find it in our visitors from Juarez, one of the world’s poorest cities, that continues to produce salt for the earth and light for the world. And, of course, these friends from our southern border brought lovely gifts from their parishes to all of us.

Sometimes I have to turn away; the tears are that close.

Who are the people in your life who remind you of Jesus and his friends?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

7 July 2018

Reflecting on Mark 6:1-6

How many times were you told as a child, and have since told your own children, that true wisdom comes from learning when to keep your mouth shut? That’s a central lesson of our lives, and most of us feel enormous gratitude for the many times we wanted to say something horrible, and didn’t. That’s true maturity, and society functions so much better when people exercise that discipline. Ahem.

But here’s the question: when is it holy and right to speak up? I admit that I congratulate myself every night, when I make my examen, that I showed such maturity in staying quiet in situations where I might have wanted to speak. Hey, I didn’t make any waves. And there go my baptism and confirmation vows, right out the window.

I don’t know how I missed it for years and years, but the actual image of Jesus that emerges now from the distortions of my youth is One who took issue with the religious and political authorities, and those who were profiting because of them. He put his life at risk―and yes, died terribly for it―every time he spoke, when it was so much smarter to stay silent.

Jesus the Prophet broke all the rules. He healed on the Sabbath. He ate with sinners. He touched the “unclean.” He even went into the Temple and discharged those who were cheating the poor. And when he came into Jerusalem the week before his death, he came on a colt, a beast of burden, an animal of peace.  The Romans, of course, entering from the west at that same time, came in on their war horses.

Oh, Jesus. How did we miss you?

How has your image of who Jesus truly is changed through the years?

Kathy McGovern©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

2 July 2018

Reflecting on Mark 5: 21-43

Touch. That might be the most powerful thing we do in this world. The newborn, lovingly held and kissed and touched by mom and dad for the first few years of life, is developing neural pathways of confidence and security that will carry her for the rest of her life.

I wonder why we can’t remember those first years. Playing with my baby niece in the pool the other day, passing her from one adoring family member to the next, I had a flashback of my mom, holding my baby brother in a big towel while the rest of her confident brood splashed and swam laps in the pool.

Marty would join us soon enough, but in that stage of life he needed nothing but the warmth of the sun, and the security of being held by mom. That’s the core of what we all need, isn’t it?

Our Jesus knows that. Imagine that poor woman, “unclean” by every standard, so desperate for healing that she reached out to him just to touch his clothes. She’d been roughly treated by her many doctors, and their touch had only brought more pain. But merely touching the clothes of The Compassionate One healed her immediately.

Jesus could have healed Jairus’s daughter with just a word. I think he traveled to her house because he knew that the whole family needed to be touched by him. And when we hear him say, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” we feel ourselves being touched by him, held by him, through the millennia, through the painful experiences of our lives, right through Mark’s text.

I just felt power go out from him. Did you?

In what ways do you feel the powerful touch of Jesus in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Cycle B

23 June 2018

Reflecting on Luke 1: 57-66, 80

How can John the Baptist be a saint? Thanks to Herod Antipas’s drunken promise at his birthday party to give his step-daughter Salome whatever she wished, John was beheaded in the dungeons of Machaerus long before the crucifixion of Jesus. That means he wasn’t around for the resurrection either, or for Pentecost. The Baptizer was never baptized into the body of Christ. Technically, then, he wasn’t even a Christian.

I’ll do you one better. Did you know that there were three people in history born without original sin? Let’s see. There’s Mary―and I confess I was 25 before I realized that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was about HER, not Jesus―and then Jesus, of course. I count two.

Give up? It’s John the Baptist. Here’s why. Catholic doctrine and tradition hold that, because he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary entered the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, he was cleansed of original sin and became filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. Since sin and the Spirit can’t exist together, the Church extrapolates that he was born without original sin. At his birth, then, he was as sinless as babies are after their baptisms. But, like all of us (except Jesus and Mary, who were conceived without original sin), he was subject to sin and death after his birth.

John is the transitional saint between the Old and New Testament. Everything about him, from his birth, to his challenging presence in the desert, to his pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God, to his horrific death for speaking truth to power, is prophetic. On this day, two billion people commemorate his birthday. Herod Antipas? Not so much.

What is your favorite story about John the Baptist?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

23 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 4:26-34

This section from Mark may be my favorite part of the entire New Testament. I’ve never seen the unfolding of our lives expressed more beautifully than when Jesus offers his brilliant analogy of the secret seed (4: 26-29).

This is how the kingdom of God is built: with daily kindness and graciousness, with the unrecognized nurture of parents and teachers, with ethical decisions that others take note of but never mention. Evening comes, and morning follows, year after year. And one day a person you don’t remember takes you aside in an airport and says, “I’ll never forget what you said to me that day. It changed my life.”

Or maybe one day, after years of struggle, you sit down and play a Mozart sonata with beauty and ease. Or maybe your daily Spanish tutorial finally pays off when you can converse with—or at least understand a conversation with—those nice people in the parish whom you’ve been smiling at for ages.

Or maybe your skinny jeans FINALLY fit. Or maybe you finally throw them away and stop measuring your right to live by whether you can wear them or not. Now THAT’S the kingdom of God, for sure.

My favorite line occurs after the farmer scatters seed on the land, and sleeps and rises, day after day, and the seed, without him doing anything else, sprouts and grows. How? He does not know.

Take fathers, for example. No child consciously decides which of his traits she’ll carry into the world. But studies show that his day-to-day presence and strength will help form her into a confident woman. How? She does not know. But such is the kingdom of God.

In what ways has your father most influenced your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

9 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 3:20-35

Oh, boy.  Here is that controversial section from Mark’s gospel that we almost never hear because the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time almost always gets bumped by Feast Days. Easter was so early this year, however, that this rare piece from Mark is getting a hearing. Let’s be brave and jump right in.

The relatives of Jesus hear that he is in town, and they go to “seize” him because they think he is “out of his mind.” Then, when His mother and brothers and sisters arrive, Jesus looks around the circle of disciples and says, “Whoever does the will of God is my mother and brother and sister.”

Who are these siblings of Jesus? The roots of the Church’s teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity go back all the way to the earliest Christians. An anonymous author wrote a wildly popular pamphlet called The Protoevangelium of James around 150 AD. This uncanonized booklet tells us the names of Mary’s parents (Joachim and Anna), and goes out of its way to explain that Mary took a vow of virginity as a young child.

Two centuries later another document, The History of Joseph the Carpenter, said that the “brothers and sisters” were actually the widower Joseph’s children from his earlier marriage. It needs to explain the presence of these siblings because the earliest Christians believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Curmudgeonly St. Jerome, of course, said “Phooey. Brothers and sisters means cousins.” End of conversation.

As to Mary coming to get Jesus, I totally get that. She knew the Cross was looming, and she was trying to buy time before that sword pierced her heart. You know your mom would do the same.

What controversial things did your mother do to keep you safe?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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

5 June 2018

Reflecting on Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

Every once in a while I take inventory of my body, and on this great feast day I encourage you to do the same. I’ve decided to get over myself and stop ruing the inevitable ravages of age. As I survey what’s left of the body God gave me (after taking into account all the scars, which are considerable) I am astonished at how kind my body has been to me.

I still have all my limbs, two of every organ you’re supposed to have a spare for, a functioning heart and lungs, and if I lose my keys at least I know what the keys are for, so I’m good. I can ambulate from here to there and, best of all, grab my nieces and nephews and wrest hugs from them that feel better than any marathon run.

How about you? Can you muster up an attitude of gratitude for eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that love? That’s what this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is all about. After the Romans destroyed the body of Jesus, our God―whose very existence is about bringing life from death―raised it up, and ascended it to glory.

We who eat his body and drink his blood share in this transformation all throughout our lives. Yes, our hearing may dim with age. But the ears of our hearts will, over time, learn to discern the things that matter, the things that bring us good and not evil all the days of our lives.

In what ways is your body still serving you beautifully? No worries. Christ’s Body in you will do more than you can ask or imagine.

For what spiritual maturities are you thankful for today?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

26 May 2018

The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, and once again time to reflect on the Power of Three. I learned recently that the triangle is the most powerful geometric shape in the world. Any added force is evenly spread through all three sides. Bridges and buildings that must carry a lot of weight have structural elements built on triangles.

Doesn’t that remind you of the Trinity? The love of the Father, the grace and peace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are all strong in equal measure. Imagine living with only two of those, and not the third. We need every “side” of the Trinity to strengthen us every day.

Fiction writers know that the strongest stories involve three main characters to give an uneven, off-kilter tension. Gone with the Wind needs Scarlet, Rhett, and Ashley Wilkes to give it its Greek tragedy contour. What would Harry Potter be without Harry, Hermione, and Ron traveling together through Hogwarts?

And then there are music groups. Let’s see. There’s the Andrews Sisters, the Hansons, the Kingston Trio and the Supremes. I’ll bet you can think of many more. (I think we talked about the Three Tenors last year.)

The Olympics give medals in gold, silver and bronze. When we think of the future we say we are optimistic, pessimistic, or average. Our pain levels are high, medium, or low. The three primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The most basic harmony in music involves the third note in the scale.

The concept of the Holy Trinity speaks to us because it’s in our DNA (another three) here on planet earth, which is, of course, the third rock from the sun.

With what Person of the Trinity do you most identify?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Pentecost Sunday – Cycle B

22 May 2018

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

Come, Holy Spirit.

Like a mighty wind, hover over North Korea and the U.S.

Like tongues of fire, rain down

Wisdom, and Right Counsel,

Understanding, and Fortitude,

Piety, and, oh yes, Fear of the Lord.

 

Come, Holy Spirit.

As you did at creation,

Move upon the waters.

Still volcanoes and earthquakes,

Hurricanes and tornadoes,

Violent rains

And deadly droughts.

 

Come, Holy Spirit.

Heal the wounded in mind and in body.

Change our hearts.

Change our laws.

Change our lives.

Renew us, Spirit, into your servants.

Then uphold us as we renew the face of the earth.

How are you working to serve the Holy Spirit?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B

12 May 2018

Reflecting on Acts 1: 1-11

Okay, Church. It’s time for our annual Pentecost novena. You may have already started yours last Thursday (on the official Ascension, which most of us now celebrate on the Sunday before Pentecost). Either way, now is the time for all of us to engage in a full-court press to pray for the needs of our families, our cities, our country and our world. Let’s start by praying for all of our mothers, living and dead.

Speaking of mothers, recall that Mary and the disciples kept the first Pentecost novena. They stayed in Jerusalem for the eight days between the Ascension and the day of Pentecost, praying for the descent of the Spirit. After that event, the strength to persevere in prayer was given to all of us. Each year provides more and more opportunities for us to partner with the Holy Spirit in renewing the face of the earth.

What are you storming heaven for during this novena? I had a pretty good list made up, all around our domestic problems of gun violence, advocacy for those with mental illness, and cures for all the diseases which break our hearts. I’ve recently become aware of a family of young girls who are fighting Batten Disease. Google that and count your blessings.  I was moving on to list the other diseases for which I’m praying for cures when I thought to google “world’s worst diseases.”  That’s a grim google search, but I recommend it on the off chance that your list is too short.

There are human rights abuses around the world that cry out for justice and relief. This is just a starter list. Grab a prayer partner and pound on heaven’s door. Pray for God’s kingdom, and for the grace to work toward making that kingdom come.

What will be the top three prayers in your Pentecost novena?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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