Fourth Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

24 March 2020

Reflecting on John 9: 1-41

It’s only in recent times that we have documented cases of adults who have lived their entire lives without sight, and then, through surgery, are able to register “optical phenomena.” Unlike the man born blind in today’s gospel, though, they don’t register what they’re seeing right away. They know there is some kind of invasion of their retinas, but it takes patience and therapy for their brains to learn the codes of color, shape and form. It takes time to learn how to see.

One of the commentaries on this gospel suggests the reader should watch the beautiful 1999 movie, At First Sight, based on the true story of a sighted architect who fell in love with a man who lost his sight as a toddler, then, through her encouragement, had surgery in New York and, to the thrill of everyone who knew him, regained his sight.

The movie is filled with touching insights into the challenges he faced in learning to read his girlfriend’s facial expressions once he could see her. We get the majority of our data about our loved ones from a lifetime of looking at them in sickness and in health, in sadness and in utter joy. At first he couldn’t get enough information from her face to know what she was feeling, so he had to close his eyes so he could see her better.

We have to really feel sorry for all those blind people in today’s gospel. You know, the ones who had sight from birth, and still couldn’t see Jesus.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery).

What are you seeing about yourself this Lent that is improving your vision?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

14 March 2020

Reflecting on John 4: 5-42

It’s all about water, really. The Hebrews who followed Moses out into the desert thirsted for it, and badgered Moses for it for forty years. That’s some powerful thirst. Twelve hundred years later, another thirst—to be deeply known by another—was met as Jesus conversed with the Woman at the Well. That’s what compelled her to race away, leaving her water jar behind, to tell everyone she could find about this stranger who told her everything she ever did. As St. Paul writes, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (I Cor. 13: 12).

That’s what Jesus gave that unnamed woman. As John Kavanaugh, SJ has written, “He was the Unknown who would know her most deeply.” She had some detours in her life, but her encounter with Jesus transformed her from that isolated woman at the well into the Spirit-filled apostle who fell in love with Love.

And don’t miss this. The Jewish community hearing this story would have nodded their heads and chuckled. Here comes the betrothal, they would say. They’re right. Isaac’s future wife Rebecca meets his marriage broker Eleazar at a well. Jacob meets his future wife Rachel at a well. Moses rescues future wife Zipporah from harassing shepherds at a well. And Jesus betrothes himself to all isolated, lonely, thirsty people when he meets the Samaritan woman at the well.

As Mother Teresa famously noted, the “I thirst” Jesus whispered from the cross must be understood in its true and eternal context: I thirst for you. He thirsts for us still.

You are beloved. You are deeply desired by Jesus. Drink that in.

Whom will you tell about the love of Jesus this week?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

9 March 2020

Reflecting on Genesis 12: 1-4

Wouldn’t that be the greatest thing, to be promised by God that you and all your descendants would be a blessing? Think of your own family, maybe the one you were born into or the one you’ve created. How has your family blessed your city, or your schools, or the parishes to which they’ve belonged?

I love the idea of doing a DNA search on family blessing. What remote cousin of yours stepped in when someone in his grade school was being bullied? Did your dad coach a team, or lead the Boy Scouts? Do you have any firefighters or police officers? Has anyone served in the military?

Did your sister help with voter registration, or work on election day? Has any family member ever served in office? Closer to home, have you raised kind, compassionate children? That’s the greatest blessing of all.

Do you have any teachers in your family? Medical professionals? Does anyone in your family know how to get blood from a patient painlessly? Those of us who have blood drawn regularly bless you for providing us with that most crucial cog in the medical world, the painless phlebotomist. That is a unique and powerful blessing.

Think back on the people who have provided rich blessings in your life. Maybe it’s the lawyer who helped you with your will. Maybe it’s the plumber who figured out where the leak was coming from.

Blessings travel faster around the globe than any scary pandemic. Like Abram and Sarai, our ancestors left home to find a new home. Some became famous, most toiled every day in difficult circumstances. But their blessings remain, and go forward through us.

In what ways will you be a blessing this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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First Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

29 February 2020

Reflecting on Genesis 2: 7-9, 3:1-7

It’s all about how much we’re willing to lie to ourselves. That’s really what that sad story of the Fall of Adam and Eve is about. The Prince of Lies sends out his first trial balloon. Hey, did God really say  you couldn’t eat any of the fruit of the garden? Oops, he overshot that one. Eve is already correcting him with the truth,  Oh no, we can have all the fruit except from the tree in the middle of the garden.

Okay, he’ll have to go straight to his BIG LIE. You poor thing! God is deceiving you. God knows that as soon as you eat of that fruit you’ll be as smart as the gods and you’ll know the difference between good and evil.

And there you have it. They knew all along that they were being played. God was holding out on them. They certainly are too smart to let God keep them in the dark like this. They grab the fruit and gobble it down.

And here’s the thing. Now they know the difference between good and evil, because now there IS a difference. Before they were lured into lying to themselves, only good surrounded them. You certainly won’t die if you eat the fruit! whispered the Prince of Death. The thing is, there WAS no death before they ate the fruit. It was in the moment of their profound lying to themselves that death entered the world.

We lie to ourselves a lot, and the result is that we are sick and sad. But Jesus saved us from ourselves. All the shiny objects of this world can’t lure us, because we know whose we truly are.

What are the lies you keep telling yourself?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 February 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 5:38-48

Of all the examples Jesus gives of nonviolent  resistance—turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile—it’s that business of the tunic that’s hardest, especially in bleak mid-winter.

Jesus says, “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well.” Try this. Imagine that you need milk and cereal for your kids, but you’re several dollars short at Walmart. The owner says, “Well, it’s snowing and it’s freezing. Give me your parka as collateral.”

Your kids are hungry, so you leave the store with your groceries and go stand at the bus stop with just a sweater to warm you. That parka is your only coat, so when the sun goes down it’s too bitterly cold to go back to the store to deliver the few dollars. In the morning, the police arrive to take you to jail because you haven’t paid for the groceries yet.

Now you’re in front of the judge, shivering in your thin sweater. “Here,” you say, taking off the only protective garment you own. “Since having my parka is so important to the owner, give him my sweater as well.”

It’s all about mercy. We are never to cast such a burden upon people that their most basic needs can’t be met. Hence the scripture, “If you take  your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset, for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body” (Exodus 22:26-27).

Use your wits, Jesus says. If your situation puts you in a position of servitude to a Financial Giant, find a way to make him look very small indeed.

How are you helping those without a coat this winter?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 February 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 5:17-37

Wouldn’t Jesus, the Master Teacher, have fun shredding some of our favorite cultural proverbs? I can just imagine the scene:

You have heard it said, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but I say to you, “All that is hidden shall be made clear. All that is dark now shall be revealed” (Luke 8:17).

You have heard it said, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” but I say to you, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven…where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6: 19-21).

You have heard it said, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” but I say to you, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people” (Leviticus 19:17).

You have heard it said, “Look out for Number One, because nobody else will” but I say to you, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

You have heard it said, “Life’s terrible, and then you die,” but I say to you, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:3-5).

You have heard it said that the bible says, “God helps those who help themselves,” but I say to you, “No, that’s Aesop’s Fables, not the bible. Go and find the Samaritan Woman at the Well, or the Man Born Blind, or Lazarus in the tomb. They will tell you that God helps those who cannot help themselves.”

Ah, so true. Thanks, Jesus.

What family proverbs do you have that Jesus could easily overturn?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 February 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 13-16

Jesus invited his disciples to be Real Salt, and Real Light, and by accounts we have of the earliest Christians, they really were. The second century theologian Tertullian imagined the pagans observing the behavior of the Christians and saying, “See how they love one another!”

Our parish is hosting an eye-opening class on Racial Equity. I realize, to my shock, that the places where I thought I was bringing salt—like taking a Spanish class in order to know a tiny bit about the parishioners in my heavily Hispanic parish years ago—were the same places I was rubbing salt in old wounds—like nominating myself to proclaim the Spanish-language reading, poorly, instead of yielding it to the actual Spanish speakers in the parish. Shivers.

I learned in class about an African-American employer who asked a young, white male applying for a job if he noticed her color. He gave the same answer I imagine myself giving, “Not at all. I don’t see color.” The interviewer helped him understand that it’s okay, it’s honest, really, to say something like, “Of course I see your color. If I didn’t I wouldn’t see you.”

Why was he afraid to give that answer? Perhaps he was wrestling with an unconscious assumption that seeing color means seeing someone who is “less than,” and he doesn’t see her that way. And that goes in both directions. When people of all ethnic backgrounds insist they don’t “see color,” might they also be really saying, “I don’t see you with the damaged worldview that I might have unconsciously received from the culture”?

Real salt. Real light. Jesus challenges us to bring Real Peace by sweeping out the dusty corners of our own hearts.

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – Cycle A

3 February 2020

Reflecting on Luke 2: 22-40

Don’t we all love this story? And we only hear it in the odd year when the February 2nd Feast of the Presentation falls on a Sunday, and thus pre-empts the usual Sunday in Ordinary Time. The last time we heard it was in 2014.

It’s the concluding story in Luke’s gorgeous narrative of Jesus as an infant. His parents, observant Jews, traveled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem so that he could be “dedicated,” or “presented,” at the Temple. This ritual also called for the purification of the mother, which of course Our Lady did not need, but I’ll bet she went along with, as Jesus did his baptism.

We live this life in grateful service to God, but eternity has a foothold in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Simeon and Anna waited, decade after decade, for the salvation of Israel. When Joseph and Mary walked into the Temple that day with the Baby Jesus, the Holy Spirit led them both to perceive that their life’s waiting was finally over.

All of us have this deep intuition, or maybe memory, that we are made for heaven. But it’s the timing of when we die, and how we die, that we wish we could direct. Anna and Simeon knew that the purpose of their lives had been fulfilled. But is that when most of us die? So often that seems impossible, especially in the deaths of children and young parents. On the other hand, the elderly sick, languishing for years, may beg God for death, and live and live.

Today’s gospel assures us that Jesus holds our future. Clinging to him in life is the surest way to recognize him at our death.

What are you hoping to achieve in your life before you see heaven?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

25 January 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 4: 12-23

We have a kind houseguest staying with us this month. Emmanuel is from Pakistan, but has studied abroad for several years. We expected to see a lot of cultural differences, and we are humbled by them. Even though he has a driver’s license and we’ve offered him the use of our extra car, he walks everywhere! Almost every day he walks nearly four miles to visit his uncle. The four miles back are usually walked in the cold and the dark. He admits to no discomfort. Walking, he assures us, is the better way to live.

He came home one night with a delicious dinner he had prepared at his uncle’s house and carried home to us. He found us in the tv room, just finished with dinner, watching the playoff game. “Come in and eat and watch the game!” we offered. He smiled, set the table, and called us to dinner. In no universe he knew did anyone eat dinner alone, or in front of a tv. We left the game, had a fabulous second dinner, and a wonderful conversation.

When did Jesus begin his public ministry? The day he invited people to share in his mission. He sought out the brothers Simon and Andrew, and the two sons of Zebedee. (Notice how they’re identified by their relationships.) Jesus knew that the heavenly banquet collects, like a net of fish, humankind at its hungriest. We are meant to sit at the Table together. There is grace in stepping away from our computers and phones.

There is companionship and real community in carpooling.

And yes, it’s SO much easier to work alone than with a team. But that’s not how Jesus did it, thank God.

How will you stretch yourself to build community this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

20 January 2020

Reflecting on John 1: 29-34

I think it’s easy to see the people on whom the Spirit of God rests. John the Baptist said that even though he did not know who Jesus was initially, when he baptized Jesus he saw the Spirit descend upon him, and that’s when he knew he was the Son of God. By the way, if you’re confused about why John the Baptist didn’t know Jesus, remember that today’s gospel is according to St. John, not St. Luke, the only gospel writer who knows that Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins.

But I digress. Don’t you think it’s easy to recognize those people around us who are guided by and shot through with the Holy Spirit? I love being around those people. They are warm, and kind, and they notice things. For example, they notice when people are telling racist or sexist jokes, and they step in and stop it. (Okay, in those situations they tend to be HOT more than just warm.)

People infused with the Holy Spirit notice everyone in the room, and they somehow find their way to the ones most overlooked. You know, the folks who talk too much, or eat too much, or stay quiet too much. Here is the thing I find so inspiring, since I’m always drowning in clutter. People in submission to the Spirit actually read the charitable pleas crowding their inboxes, and carefully investigate those groups, and even make changes to their usual list of charities in order to include them. Only the Spirit could inspire such patience.

It’s even easier to identify those whose hearts are hardened to the Spirit, but why would you even associate with such a person?

Who do you know who seems filled with the Holy Spirit?

Kathy McGovern©2020

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