Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

10 May 2019

Reflecting on Jn. 20: 19-31

This is the Sunday when I most like to recall the mercies of God throughout this past year. Let me invite you into a similar meditation.

Remembering back, what victories did you have in holding your temper, in holding your tongue, in holding back a savvy “shade” on someone? That’s mercy.

Blessed are those who have not had unkind words spoken to them; more blessed indeed are those who have not spoken unkind words themselves.

What physical challenges have you overcome this year? Did you fall prey to the horrible flu, or the bad colds of this season, or even pneumonia? How blessed are you who were sick and are now well. Even more blessed are those who stayed with you, cared for you, nursed and doctored you back to health. They have shown mercy, and mercy will be shown to them.

How about your prayer life? Did you experience the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit as you navigated the depths of Christ’s life in you? Maybe a faith community has welcomed and loved you. For that mercy, in the winter and spring of your days this year, be grateful. Even more blessed are those who have extended that friendship and grace.

I know a little bit about mercy, because I am the endless recipient of it. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I offer this suggestion. Find the image of Divine Mercy. Stand in front of it. Imagine the healing rays coming from the heart of Jesus pouring straight into whatever part of your body or soul is hurting. Let those rays in. The mercy of the Risen One longs to pour into you.

Jesus, we trust in you.

How can the Divine Mercy of Jesus transform you this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle C

20 April 2019

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

It’s Easter, finally! Breathe it in. Smell it. Taste it. Touch it. It’s glorious, gracious Easter, arriving once again in spite of our imperfect attempts to prepare for it.

Ah, flowers. Take in that delicious Easter smell of last night’s orgy of joy­—the chrism, the Candle, the cries of joy from the Elect as we dunked them with the waters of the parted Red Sea and the blessed Jordan River.

It’s Easter, people! Get out your gorgeous Easter colors, your Easter hats and your white gloves, your Easter baskets and your Easter hearts, broken open by Good Friday, overflowing with joy at the news of the empty tomb.

Do you have timeless and beautiful Easter memories? If so, call them up. Thank you, Aunt Margaret, for those heavenly chocolate Easter eggs, with each of our names in gorgeous pink script.

Thank you, Sister Genevieve, for teaching us the music for Holy Week. Our eighth grade class led all the music for the entire Triduum. As always in my life, I was in the right place at the right time.

Thank you, kind parish of my youth. You opened the choir loft to children, and the indelible mark of mission and music has never left me.

Thank you, Egeria, you intrepid fourth-century nun. You traveled from Spain to the Holy Lands to see how the Christians in Jerusalem celebrated Easter. Your fascinating diary, discovered in 1884, is the reason our Holy Weeks are so stunningly beautiful.

Thank you, St. Mary Magdalene, disciple to the disciples. Your witness rings out to the farthest reaches of the earth: the grave is empty!

Death couldn’t hold the Author of Life. And it won’t hold you either.

What are your favorite Easter memories?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle C

13 April 2019

Reflecting on Luke 22:14-23:56

How does Jesus begin his entrance into the city of his death? He’s been journeying toward Jerusalem for the last ten chapters of Luke’s gospel. This journey must have taken several weeks. Or was it years? Or was it his entire lifetime? Or did the journey begin with the creation of the world, and culminate on Calvary, and find its fullest meaning very close to Golgotha, in a new tomb that would only be inhabited for a moment?

Having made the journey for which he was born, for which he came into the world, Jesus stood outside the city and gave two disciples directions to a colt─-a peacetime animal—and instructed them to just untie it and bring it to him for his entrance into Jerusalem.

Imagine that. The owner of the tethered colt sees two people untying it, and leading it away. He asks, “Why are you taking my property?” They answer, as if this solves everything, “The Master has need of it.” And that’s that. The creature that will carry Jesus into the city that will murder him goes off with the disciples. The owner, apparently, understands perfectly. We can imagine him kneeling as he gives his colt to those in service of the Master.

In our lives, death and suffering, resurrection and life are always hovering. Jesus is always making his way to us, giving instructions of where to find what we “own” so that it can be given to him in order to bring life out of our deaths.

The warmth and rock-hard faith you’ve been withholding because others might see who you really are? You’ll need to give all that up. The Master has need of it.

In what ways is your life a heart-felt Hosanna?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

11 April 2019

Reflecting on Isaiah 43:16-21

Let’s gaze on the first reading (Isaiah 43: 16-21) for a moment. Every day we read of suicides of tormented young people who need this scripture so desperately.

Years ago I was stricken with a sudden staph infection.  At noon I was going to lunch with a friend. At 3pm I was in the emergency room, screaming. Months later, after five hospitalizations, the infection was cleared. But the shock of the experience left me badly shaken.

A psychologist-friend approached me with a new treatment for PTSD. Over the course of three months she worked with me, placing small electrodes in each palm. She invited me to remember the frightening experience of being helpless and in pain. The electrode in one hand pulsed mildly.

Then she invited me to think of my safe places, my loved places, and she gave the electrode in the other hand a stronger pulse. Over time the pulse of the electrode in that palm was increased to the point that it overrode the strength of the pulse in the other palm. She forged a path in my brain―a way through the Sea, Isaiah would say―that diminished the memory of the terror and increased my peaceful spirit.

Remember not the former things, we pray for those who have witnessed school shootings and other horrors. Behold, God is doing something new. Watch, and it will spring forth.

Isaiah knew about PTSD. He was speaking to the traumatized Jews who had witnessed the burning of Jerusalem and had been taken into exile. He begged them to let God’s liberating power override their terrible memories.

The God of “something new” can heal our memories. Hold fast to this powerful scripture.

What approach have you used to stop “pondering the things of the past”?

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

30 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

This is NOT sitting easy with the neighbors as that half-starved kid makes his way home. They hear he is at the gate, and they prepare a nice gauntlet of taunts, spittle, and even belts to welcome him as he passes through them on his way to the house.

But look! Here comes the shameful father, with his robe lifted up and running like a girl right through the gauntlet! He throws his arms around this disgraceful son and even kisses him! And now he’s calling for a beautiful robe and putting it on this rotten son.

Is this what we can all expect now? Are we supposed to just hand over their inheritance when our greedy sons say, “Drop dead. I want my money”?

And to think of how he spent it! He’s probably filled with infection after consorting with the Gentile dancing girls. And look how skinny he is! Rumor has it he worked as a PIG FEEDER. A Jewish boy, feeding the swine.  How disgraceful. He is dead to us.

At least they didn’t give him any of that nauseating gruel they give the pigs. He’d have diarrhea for a month after eating those bitter berries.

He and his father are embracing. He is weeping, and his father is dancing and laughing and ―hold up―is that a ring he’s putting on his finger? And shoes on his feet? This son who ran away is being treated like nothing ever happened, like he’s a regular member of the family!

Oh, boy. Is that the fattened calf on the spit? That’s enough to feed the whole village. And we’re all invited! And just the smell is making us hungry!

Well, sure we’re going to the party. Let’s at least hear what he has to say.

How have you been lured into forgiveness through God’s artful powers of persuasion?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

27 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 13:1-9

So, for three years the owner comes to the fig tree for fruit and is disappointed not to find any. Hmm. The owner must not be Jewish, because every good Jew knows that the Book of Leviticus prohibits anyone from eating the fruit of any fruit tree for the first three years of its life (19:23-25).

The gardener is obviously an observant Jew, because he sneaks around this non-Jewish landowner and plucks off the early fruits― the unripened fruits―so he won’t find any when he comes.

But the landowner has another surprise coming, because next year, when the tree FINALLY bears its mature, delicious fruit, its produce belongs to God and not to him. It’s only when this long-awaited fig tree is five years old that its fruit may rightfully be eaten by the one who owns the land on which it’s planted.

This might be a Jewish joke on the Roman occupiers. Look how savvy the hired hand is! He tricks the Romans into observing the laws of Moses! Wouldn’t they be surprised if they knew they were behaving like Jews? Maybe they’ll give up and go home already.

Or maybe it’s a parable about delayed gratification. God gave us rules about trying to get to food―or anything, really― too early. We should exercise the discipline of patience in all things. The best fruits come to those who don’t squander their lives on the easy things, but work hard for that which is worth the wait.

But these are the secondary fruits. The first fruit is this: we are all on borrowed time. Take advantage of every grace offered yesterday, and make your life a delicious offering today.

How is your life a sweet fruit?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

16 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 9: 28b-36

Don’t you wonder what Peter, James, and John were thinking that day up on Mount Tabor? Just one chapter earlier in Luke they were the ones Jesus selected to go with him into the room of a young girl who had died. Everyone was wailing and crying, and Jesus beckoned those three to go into the house with him.

How terrifying! True, that very day they had seen him cure the hemorrhaging woman. They had witnessed several miracles, but this was different. This was a dead child.

But they took courage and entered the house, and because of that grace they witnessed the raising of a child from death. Even that, though, couldn’t prepare them for what was coming next. Up on that mountain, while he was praying (and they were, as usual, sleeping) their Teacher was suddenly changed.

Their traveling clothes were dusty and dirty; his were dazzling white. They were talking with each other; Jesus was talking with the Law and the Prophets. And that conversation wasn’t just idle chatter.  Moses and

Elijah were talking with Jesus about his exodus. What a thoroughly Jewish way of saying they were talking about his death.

I would have begged to build some tents too. Having heard the heavens talking about the terrible events that lay ahead, I would have begged to stay put on the mountain.

And, wouldn’t you know, it was those three who were called away one last time, to pray with Jesus in Gethsemane the night of his arrest. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have three stunning Sundays to go before we come together for that terrible Passion.

Stay tuned. The greatest stories ever told await.

Have you ever been the one called upon to do something brave?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

13 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 4: 1-13

Standing in the reception line of a friend’s funeral recently, an acquaintance and I struck up a conversation, during which she reminded me that I sang at the funeral of her first husband, who died tragically in a river during a honeymoon rafting trip forty years ago.

“Wait,” I said, “that was YOU? I’ve told the story of singing ‘Be not Afraid’ at the funeral of a bridegroom who drowned on his honeymoon so many times. When I sang the words Though you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown I knew that if someone didn’t explain what those words meant I simply couldn’t continue being believing in either the Old or New Testament.”

A year later I saw the notice about a Biblical School starting. I knew immediately that I had found the people who could explain the seeming discrepancies between the promises in the scriptures and what we experience in life.

Satan knew the struggle that the People of the Book were having, trying to reconcile the comfort of their scriptures with the terrors of their real lives. The very Jews whose scriptures promised the restoration of their land were living under the thumb of the violent Roman occupiers. Hunger was the daily crucible for those whose prophets promised long lives in the land, and streets filled with happy children.

Go ahead, said Satan, give those famous scriptures of yours a try. Throw yourself off those rocks. Let’s see what happens.

If, this Lent, when you watch the news, and then read the Lenten scriptures, you begin to despair that those scriptures aren’t really true, take heart. Jesus overcame Satan when he whispered the same questions.

And Jesus has overcome the world.

What actions will I take this Lent to learn how to read the scriptures more fully?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

3 March 2019

Reflecting on Sirach 27: 4-7

What beautiful readings this week, and they couldn’t be timelier. Both the gospel and that funny section from Sirach uncover the deep truth about human nature: that which we spend time ruminating on will find its way out of our brains, into our hearts, and out of our mouths.

And then comes the backpedaling, the “I was on Ambien and don’t remember a thing” excuses, the endless attempts to retrieve words that, as St. Philip Neri demonstrated so effectively, are like feathers shaken from a pillow.

If that Sirach reading seems strange to you, you’re right. It’s only in the years where Lent is late that we get as far as the eighth or ninth Sundays in Ordinary Time. Since we switch from reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke over a three-year cycle, and that Sirach reading is chosen to harmonize with today’s reading from Luke, in order to hear that reading we have to be in Cycle C (so every three years) and have a late Lent.

But this gives me a chance to extol the book’s humor, its insight into human nature, its beautiful treatises on friendship, its savvy money advice, and, sadly, to warn about its dreadful comments about women.

You’ll enjoy it and wince at it, but you won’t be bored. We have the first-century Christians to thank for rescuing it from oblivion, and the Catholic Church for continuing to use it and copy it. By the way, the lectionary is the brilliant brainchild of Vatican II, and has been adapted by so many other Christian traditions that on most Sundays, all Christians who share the liturgical calendar hear the same readings. Don’t you love that?

How does your speech disclose the bent of your mind?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

2 March 2019

Reflecting on Luke 6: 27-38

One of the great experiences in my life as a classroom teacher was the afternoon teacher’s lounge. That’s where, at the end of the day, teachers told the adorable stories of their funny first-graders, or teachers in the upper grades shared their challenges of making history interesting to junior-high boys who were more interested in pulling desks out from under each other.

But the most challenging (and, in hindsight, valuable) part of that time was learning from the more experienced teachers. One day I was congratulating myself on standing up to a fourth-grader who had been talking back to me. She got my most humiliating stare, and then, in her silence, a long homework assignment.

“Well,” said a revered and much beloved faculty member, “I think you embarrassed her because you’re bigger and have the authority. I try never to ridicule or demean a student, no matter how obnoxious, just because I can. There are other ways to discipline without humiliating a child.”

Ach! Her correction went straight to my heart, and straight to that place where behavior changes. I hope I have never since that day used any authority I might have to demean anyone, especially one who is powerless.

Notice how St. Luke gets straight to the point, early in his gospel, to make sure we remember how deeply Jesus wants us to understand this.  Pray for those who mistreat you, says Jesus. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you.

It’s exactly the opposite of what we want to do. It’s totally counterintuitive. So, come to think of it, was the Cross. But by such wondrous love the world is being saved.

What grace have you found in praying for those who have hurt you?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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