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

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The Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle A

9 January 2017

Reflecting on Mt. 2: 1-12

There have been some unbalanced people on thrones throughout history, but they don’t come any crazier than Herod the Great. Matthew gives us the dark narrative of the malevolent way in which Herod tried to trick the Magi into returning to Jerusalem with the GPS coordinates of the new king of the Jews.

That I too may give him homage, he said to them. That must have been their first clue that the wisest move would be to return in the opposite direction.

The story of the massacre of the Holy Innocents did not come out of nowhere. Herod― so neurotic about losing his royal status that he murdered his wife Mariamne and several of his sons because he either feared they were plotting against him or they really were plotting against him― was a terrifying figure in the ancient world.

A master builder, yes. But he was so loathed by his subjects that, when he fell off the litter his slaves were using to carry him to his summer palace one sweltering day, he was slow to revive. Eventually they― cautiously and then exuberantly― began celebrating what they thought was his demise.

But rumors of his death were exaggerated, and when he awoke to singing and carousing he pronounced the following: I command that on the day of my death, all the Jewish elders in Jerusalem be brought into the Herodium and murdered. That way I can make certain there will be true grief over my death.

Blessedly, his sister outlived him and withdrew the death sentence.  May all world leaders experience the Epiphany that brought foreigners from afar, but eluded the king who lived five miles away.

What important gifts might you be missing because of your own insecurities?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of Mary – Cycle A

30 December 2016

I made a little video memory for my nephew this Christmas. Apparently he got engaged a few weeks ago. Uh huh. His dad and we adoring aunts and uncles happened to see it on Facebook, where we also read about the party that followed, where “all our friends and family came to congratulate us.”

Hmm. Apparently this sweet, generally thoughtful kid forgot about his side of the family. Hence the video memory, where he can see photographs of his relatives going back nearly to the Civil War, and lots of pictures of himself with his dad and us, through every Christmas of his life.

As I look at these pictures, and read today’s gospel, I’m especially touched by Mary, who, after the shepherds left, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In Mary’s heart I see my darling mom, proudly holding each new baby, attending every game, standing with us at every milestone. Like Mary, I know my mom “reflected in her heart” about each of her children as we grew into adults.

So many parents today are walking through great times of crisis for their children. Their beloved kids are experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, or debilitating mental illness. Many of them, despite all their Facebook “friends,” are lonely and isolated. And no, even though new studies show that church attendance can be better for your heart rate than skipping church and running a marathon, this health-conscious generation isn’t interested in participating.

Today, on this World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of Mary, we place all our children, and their children, into the heart of God. That’s an infinitely safer place than Facebook.

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Nativity of the Lord – Cycle A

24 December 2016

Reflecting on Luke 2: 1-14

It happened at night, says St. Luke. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night when the sky exploded with angels.

The Magi, says St. Matthew, saw a Star and followed it for up to seven hundred and thirty nights, finally finding the Child in Bethlehem at night. When Herod plotted to kill all boys of the age of two and younger, the Magi and Joseph had dreams at night that warned them to flee. Joseph then took the Child and his mother at night and fled into Egypt.

The people who walked in darkness were the ones to see the great Light.

God created night first, then day. Night is essential for dreams, for sleep, for healing, for the unconscious to rewind, refresh, and re-start. Night is where the soul comes out.

It’s Christmas, that nocturnal feast born in the winter solstice. The nights are long and deep in our western hemisphere. Oh, how we need them.

Linger in these nights. Rest in these nights. Take the whole family out in their jammies and go out to see the Christmas lights, dull in the day but gorgeously vivid at night.

Keep this Christmas season. Sing carols for your night prayer. Memorize “O Holy Night” and let its depth hold you as you sleep. Let your soul feel its worth.

This is no ordinary time. This is the dark, sacred night of Christmastide. In the quiet and the dark we perceive Him come to meet us, come to live with us, come to be with us.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

What traditions will you begin this year that celebrate the gift of night?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

23 December 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 1: 18-24

He doesn’t speak a word in the entire New Testament, and yet his character comes in loud and clear. He is unlike any of the men we meet anywhere in scripture―except, of course, the Joseph of the Old Testament, who is also given to prophetic dreams, and also is the son of Jacob, and, like Joseph of the New Testament, went down into Egypt. Yes, St. Matthew is definitely remembering the Joseph of the Old Testament as he writes his narrative of Joseph, the spouse of Mary.

There are more Christian shrines to St. Joseph than any man except Jesus. One of the things I’ve learned from my privileged life of travel is that Christians of all traditions are crazy about St. Joseph. He’s everywhere.

Thirteen countries (and all the provinces of the Western Hemisphere) claim his as their patron. In fact, the most common name for a city on this planet is San Jose, Spanish for St. Joseph.  We know very little about him, but Matthew’s gospel tells us what we need. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is featured prominently in St. Luke’s radiant Christmas story. But it’s Joseph who comes to the fore in Matthew’s much darker narrative of Jesus’ birth, and history has embraced the foster father of Jesus with great devotion and love.

It’s Matthew who tells us about this righteous man who said yes to the mystery of the virgin birth. And don’t miss this: he decided to divorce Mary quietly― rather than having her stoned (Deuteronomy 22: 23-17)―BEFORE the angel appeared to him in a dream and told him that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit.

So, the first thing we know about him is that he’s a really good guy. The rest of Matthew’s story will show us HOW good a guy he is, how strong and faithful and courageous and intuitive and protective he is. Do you know the way to San Jose? It’s through faithfulness to God, in darkness and in light.

What traditions does your family keep about St. Joseph?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

12 December 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 11:2-11

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a holding pattern? Have you prayed the same prayers for years, with little or no sign of an answer?

If you’re nodding your head and saying, “Yes, Yes, Yes” then this is your season. Advent is your seedtime.  You may never see the harvest in your life. But your prayers are in some awesome company.  Take St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example. We now know that she spent the last five decades of her life praying for the return of the consolation of God. That’s okay. She has eternity to rest in it now.

John the Baptist is an Advent saint. Locked up in Herod’s dungeon, we can imagine that he looked back at his ministry at the Jordan and wondered whether he had it right or not. Israel was lousy with false prophets. He himself had railed against them. And yet, chained in and far away from the desert stars, he may have feared that he had thrown his life away for no good reason.

His disciples carried his prison prayer to Jesus: are you the One who is to come?  You can feel Jesus’ love traveling faster than the speed of light from the Galilee into the Jordan Valley and right into John’s cell. Go and tell John what you hear and see.

Which takes us back to our own Advent lives. Have you, over time, experienced the healing of an illness, the reconciliation of a broken relationship, the growing out of an addiction or an immature behavior? Go and tell someone what you’ve heard and seen.  It may be the message they’ve been longing to receive while they themselves are in chains.

What answered prayers will you share with someone this week?

©Kathy McGovern 2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

8 December 2016

Reflecting on Isaiah 11:1-10

There are so many ways to waste time on the internet these days, but I can’t stop myself from lingering over those heart-warming videos of those inter-species animals playing and cuddling up together.

Here’s a cat and dog opening a door, a bear and tiger snuggling, a beautiful bird swimming with a dolphin. What speaks to us, I think, in these anomalies of nature is that the animals seem to delight in getting to know each other, to investigate each other’s fur and size and wingspan, without fear of betrayal or attack.

It’s that peaceable kingdom, that idyllic and lovely playground where animals frolic instead of preying on each other, which Isaiah promises. Imagine it. In spite of everything we have ever thought, the most terrifying of tigers is actually meant to snuggle contentedly with the sheep in the pasture. Why? Because the tiger is not hungry, and is not hunting among the defenseless lambs for food for her cubs. Take hunger out of the equation, and the Peaceable Kingdom has already arrived.

There might be some memory extraction required. Eagles and fish will need to rethink their relationship. Tigers might need to unlearn what they’ve known for thousands of years. But oh, what a fun education that would be.

Are humans smart enough to attend this school? Can the most recent―and by far most predatory― arrivals in earth’s long history miraculously pull together and save ourselves? Can we, finally, learn to work together to open the locked door, to find comfort in each other, to delight in swimming the seas together? As Advent always asks, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

How are you helping to bring about the Peaceable Kingdom?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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First Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

29 November 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 24: 37-44

We were robbed last month, sometime around midnight. Our friend Karen, who lives in our basement and brings huge gulps of laughter and fun into our house, heard someone coughing in our driveway. Her first thought was that she should go outside and investigate. Her second thought―thank God―was that her bed was cozy and warm and that she should go back to sleep.

My husband Ben also heard coughing right outside our upstairs window at the same time. He got up and looked out the window. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he considered getting up and going outside, but, again, cozy and warm outbid chilly and cold.

We all compared notes in the morning, when we saw the ransacked garage and the broken-into cars. The intruders were brazen enough to walk right through our back yard rather than use the closer entrance through the alley, certainly because our neighbors, having been robbed exactly the same way last year, have a bright motion detector that lights up whenever the smallest squirrel ventures into their magnetic field.

We got right on it, of course. We changed the code on the garage door and once again promised to remember to lock the garage door at night. Next time, we’ll be ready.

Which brings us, of course, to Advent, and St. Paul’s urgent warning that now is the hour to awake from sleep. Loud coughing right outside our window at midnight wasn’t alarming enough to rouse us. Sleep is so much more comforting than facing that which is urgently trying to wake us. But it’s Advent, and it’s time to wake up. Jesus, our Morning Star, is trying to rouse us.

What is Christ calling you to “wake up” to this Advent?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Cycle C

21 November 2016

Reflecting on Luke 23: 35-43

I suppose it was inevitable. My husband Ben, who fears neither height nor depth nor OSHA regulations, fell fifteen feet from a ladder while painting a house in a low economic neighborhood two weeks ago. Despite the intense pain of recovering from his broken hip, hand, and scapula, we are both speechless with gratitude that there was no paralysis or brain damage. In fact, it could have been fatal because, as Butch said to Sundance, The fall will probably kill you.

At the same time that he was being ambulanced to the hospital, the fire crews were putting out a fire up the street. A single mom and her three kids were paying $1500 a month to live in a one-room apartment, now going up in flames. Jesus, remember them.

Watching the election results in the hospital on Tuesday night, we watched the weeping, the cheering, the convulsions of rage and glee. Jesus, remember us.

While Ben was wincing in pain a week later at home, we watched the Wounded Warriors on Veteran’s Day, facing lives as double amputees, many living with intense pain, minute by minute. Jesus, remember them.

Running parallel to that story were a dozen stories of drought, wildfires, mass murders and terrorist attacks. Jesus, remember them.

There are endless people for Jesus to remember, every hour of every day.  What comfort to know that Christ our King knows what it is to be in agony, to be tortured and killed by people who knew not what they were doing.

But we know what we are doing, and on this feast day we resolve to use our lives to bring healing and compassionate love, in memory of Jesus.

What good work will you do this week, in memory of Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

14 November 2016

Reflecting on Malachi 3: 19-20a

We’ve only had two mornings of real chill, and already I miss the sun. I want to sit on the beach and feel its heavenly rays. I want to sit out on the porch and read by its warm light. I want an eternal summer.

But oh, how this planet needs winter.  Floods and fires and drought are all the hallmarks of accelerated temperatures. I could live in capris and t-shirts all year, but I’d gladly trade them for parkas and gloves if it meant a restoration of the polar ice caps and a cessation of drought around the world.

It’s almost eerie that Malachi, prophesying the end times, says the days are coming like a blazing oven, when evildoers will be set on fire. We had a few days―make that weeks―last summer when it seemed that prophecy was already being fulfilled.

We’re hearing from Malachi today, and from the apocalyptic section of Luke’s gospel, because the liturgical year is groaning to a close. It does not go out quietly, gradually yielding to a docile and gentle Advent.  The end-of-the-church-year readings are cacophonous, and scary. They foretell terrible changes in climate, the agonies of war, and earthquakes and famines that sound like what’s trending right now on CNN.

But here’s what CNN will not say: there is a loving God who is with us, in blast furnaces and Arctic tundras. The long view of history must surely bear this out. In spite of our willful ignorance and blinding selfishness―and an excruciating election season― life is still being sustained every second by a Creator who is good.

So be at peace.  Reuse, recycle, and reduce. And, oh yes, trust God.

How are you standing up to your fears by holding fast to faith?

Kathy McGovern ©2016 www.thestoryandyou.com

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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