Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 July 2023

Reflecting on Mt. 11: 25-30

I’ve been to a lot of funerals lately. Each has been beautiful in its own way. Each broke open the mystery of the life of the deceased in unique and touching ways. But the thing that each of these gatherings had in common was the bringing together of diverse and loving friends from all parts of the globe to remember and honor their beloved.

Many of these friends has left the Church of their childhood, and yet I felt a great longing from them of the love and security they knew as children. Watching them watch the videos of the First Communion, Marriage, and life of faith that the deceased lived, with the hundreds of friends who companioned them in that life, I thought I felt a wistfulness for that which they left behind.

I thought I felt a kind of surprise, like that of adults looking at where their life might have gone if they had chosen a different route, and realizing that leaving “childish” things behind meant that they left far more than they realized.

Might joining the ranks of the “wise and learned” have given them comfort for a time, but being back with their childhood friends, and memories of their Catholic childhood, bring them to the shocking awareness that they were smarter, and happier, on the day of their First Communion than they are today? Might it actually be true that God had revealed the beauty of faith to them as “little ones”?

It must be said, of course, that for MANY, leaving is what has given them peace, and they have no regrets. The “childish” things were what drove them away, and they have been much happier.

What a relief it is to lay it all down, all the burdens of trying to remain in a Church that brings you no life. Funerals can really be a lens through which we realize the good and the bad of our childhood faith. But a life without a daily relationship with Christ is what is mourned. What a relief to once again take up the easy yoke of faith.

What burdens of being wise and learned are you ready to give back to God?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

1 July 2023

Reflecting on Mt. 10: 37-42

I love showering the people I love with love. That’s why this gospel pericope (extract from the text) REALLY bothers me. Jesus challenges tribal identity when he tells his apostles they must love him more than they love their parents, or even their children.

When I drive by the hundreds of encampments of chronically unhoused people in our city, it’s clear that the bonds that hold families together aren’t strong enough to combat, as our mayor said, “a nationwide drug crisis, mental health crisis, and continued fallout from the pandemic on our most vulnerable residents and communities.”

Many people living on the street are disabled, or escaping domestic violence. And a preponderance of young, emaciated men are living on the street because of addictions.

I really wonder if there were encampments in Jesus’ day. Were there hundreds of thousands of people living out in the elements, not because they were pilgrims, but  because their families couldn’t help them anymore, or because their particular situations forced them to reject the help? 

As I think of all this now, I see the wisdom in this hard saying of Jesus. That’s why we need to love Jesus MORE than our families. Wars, pandemics, shocking cultural tsunamis have all changed the way we live. Our family bonds have become fragmented and do not seem to have the strength to support us.

What has held us together through it all is our fidelity to, and love of Jesus. Jesus was inviting a love of God that compels us to build communities of love, which reach out and protect and help those whose familial bonds have shattered. That’s the love that may save the whole human family someday.

What ways have you witnessed the love of Jesus poured out on the most vulnerable?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Two friends whose lives are dedicated to these issues—Rita Niblack and Ann Zimmer—made this essay much better.

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

24 June 2023

Reflecting on Jer. 20: 10-13

Poor Jeremiah. He was a young man, called from his mother’s womb to speak what God was saying to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and neighboring towns. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t be stung by the ridicule of his peers.

I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!”

I don’t think there is anyone who can comfortably continue to say unpopular things while his or her own peers are rolling their eyes, and agreeing among themselves that some people are just not evolved enough to understand the more mature way of looking at things.

And how much more wrenching for a young man, living in an honor and shame culture. He suspects that his “friends” are talking about him behind his back:

All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.’

Why couldn’t he relax and enjoy the soothing comforts of the palace prophets, on the payroll to keep the populace from panicking about the rumblings coming from Babylon?

He was a vexation, with his frightening predictions of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies coming to destroy Jerusalem by fire, sword, and famine. No! said the false prophets. Nebuchadnezzar will soon lose interest in us and set his sights elsewhere! We are, after all, the Chosen People.

Jeremiah’s reply? If you are, indeed, the Chosen People, then stop worshiping idols, stop burning your children in sacrifice, and return to your original covenant with God.

But the strong pull of culture held sway. Jeremiah lived, the kings and most of the populace died. Have mercy on us, Lord.

What would Jeremiah say to us today?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

17 June 2023

Reflecting on Romans 5: 6-11

In her wonderful book God’s Word is Alive, Alice Camille reflects on those comforting words of St. Paul today,“While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8-9).She recalls a Baptist service she attended where the minister offered a MOST unusual communion call:  This table is set for sinners. The righteous can all go home now. Will the sinners please come forward to share this food?

And, of course, every person in the church lined up to receive. Can you imagine being the one who went home? That would never happen, because we all know that we are sinners. (And even if a person was feeling particularly righteous, it would be too embarrassing to just walk out, wouldn’t it?)

You know, it fits beautifully with our own Eucharistic liturgy, where, just before receiving, we all pray, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” None of us is worthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This is not something any of us can ever earn. In fact, to say so borders on blasphemy.

As Matt Maher’s hymn says so beautifully, “Lord, I need you, oh I need you. Every hour I  need you.” I have never been more aware of my fallen nature, and my need for Christ every minute of my life. I thank God for that awareness. As St. Paul points out, it is precisely because we were sinners that Christ came to save us. If we were righteous, there would be need of Jesus. He is our righteousness.

And we need him, oh we need him, every hour we need him.

How can you get in touch with your need for Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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

10 June 2023

Reflecting on John 6: 51-58

Last week I met the MOST beautiful couple. I had come to their house to pick up a book about the seminary in Juarez, which has been supported by many of you through the St. Jerome Mission, an outreach to Mexico which originated through many churches in Denver.

From the moment they opened the door they flooded me with kisses. He’s American, she’s from Juarez, but they both share that immense joy that should come when Catholics meet other Catholics. The president of the seminary in Juarez (and the author of the book I’d come to get) is a mutual friend of both or ours, and that’s all it took for them to keep hugging and kissing me.

And here! Here are the pictures of their Wedding Mass three years ago! And here are their Confirmations! And their new baby’s Baptism! And here, at the center  of the room, were two First Communion pictures, his from  a big church in Denver, hers from a small church in Juarez. Those two photos hold the place of honor in their home. The day of their First Communions remains the most important day of their lives.

Thinking about it now, I realize that’s true for me too. I’m sure that the couple I met would say the birth of their child is the most joyful day of their lives, but the day any of us met Jesus in his Consecrated Bread and Precious Blood was the most important day of our lives. We are what we eat and drink, and the more we eat and drink of the Eucharist, the more deeply we become one with Christ.

So Happy Feast Day, Church! Let the hugging and kissing begin.

How has the Eucharist caused you to become one with the heart and mind of Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A

3 June 2023

Reflecting on John 3: 16-18

A lot of times, we have a sense that the things we do that make us feel good aren’t actually good for us. Isolation is one of those things that feels good for a while. There is something increasingly seductive about staying at home with a book, or with endless Netflix movies.

Today we can block any calls we don’t want. We have cameras to assure we never have to answer the door. Of course, the longer we isolate, the more we crave it. That, we secretly know, is not good for us.

But yesterday I heard about my friend Ginny (96) from some of her family members. After her beloved husband died, we all held our breath, wondering how she would ever live without him. The adjustment was painful, but made bearable by the warm love of the many, many friends she and Bill cultivated through their long marriage.

Ginny could have withdrawn, I guess. But instead, she responded to the grace of family and friends. Every night, she hosts “happy hour” with a different set of friends. Ginny knows what we all secretly know inside: it is not good for us to be alone.

Today’s feast is actually a mandate for all of us: Just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in relationship, we exist in relationship with each other. When we talk to that stranger on the plane, or make that phone call we’ve put off, or get over to the school and volunteer to read to the kids, we are acting as agents of the Holy Trinity.

Warm relationships are a big jigsaw puzzle. Are you the missing piece? Let the Holy Trinity show the way.

What relationships do you miss? How will you restore them?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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A Pentecost Sequence – Cycle A

27 May 2023

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

They were all gathered that day in one place,

Peter, and Andrew, and She Full of Grace.

Like a mighty wind, just then the Spirit descended,

The Age of LIFE started, the Age of Law ended.

The Age of Grace poured out, in tongues as of fire.

And so filled, whatever their Christ would require

Became their great joy, their mission, their Moment,

With power they named our Despair their Opponent.

Our sadness, our shame, our losses, addictions,

Our too-tiny tremblings of too-small convictions,

They roared with the Spirit, we still hear their voices!

In memory of them the earth still rejoices.

 For God is not tiny, not helpless, not buried.

The Resurrected One was the Christ who they carried

Out to the world, to its remotest parts,

To hold us, to heal us, to DWELL in our hearts.

How do you live in Pentecost strength?         

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Solemnity of the Ascension – Cycle A

20 May 2023

Last week we resolved to begin our Pentecost novena either last Thursday, or today. Imagine that all the readers of this column around the country are praying together, right now. Our prayer is that we would be ready to give a reason for our HOPE.

It’s hard to find HOPE at times, I know. As I read back on last year’s novena, I see heartfelt prayers for a swift end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. We prayed that Vladimir Putin would have a conversion experience. We prayed that those who were trapped in Ukraine would find a safe way out.

We prayed this novena for nine days, right up to Pentecost of last year. I’m going to pray it again this year, and for as long as it takes. But I want to suggest another novena that’s closer to home this year.

It was so inspiring—so HOPEFUL—to see the lines of cars lined up last month in our parish parking lot. They had come to surrender any weapons from their homes. We recovered 58 guns, several of which were assault weapons. It’s a drop in the bucket, of course, but there’s no stopping a moment whose time has come. And so, I offer this Novena Prayer:

O God of peace, we couldn’t have imagined that the Second Amendment would serve as a shield for mass murderers.

But here we are, God, the land of the free and home of the brave, dying every day of terrible mass shootings and mass murders because of our RIGHTS.  This is the reason for our HOPE: hearts can be changed, if not amendments. Change our hearts this day. We pray in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Who will you talk to about how easy it is to surrender a firearm?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

13 May 2023

Reflecting on 1Peter 3: 15-18

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

That line from the second reading today (1 Peter 3: 15) has been trending powerfully the last several years. I think it’s an exhortation from evangelists who are witnessing the sad reality that fewer and fewer Christians can explain what they believe, and why they believe it.

Are you ready to give an explanation for the reason for your hope, or are you, like me, timid and insecure around those who have actively rejected the faith? As we get closer to Pentecost, these two weeks might provide a fruitful time of reflection. What is the reason for your hope?

I’ll start. The reason for my hope is that I see, clearly, that God has been faithful in my past, and is faithful in the present. This lifelong awareness of the nearness of God, and the providential goodness of God in my life, stirs a solid hope in me that God will be faithful in the future as well.

Psalm 71:5 has been, I realize now, the signature scripture of my life: For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. I think about this often, the many ways my Catholic childhood, nurtured in the Catholic schools, rewarded with glow-in-the-dark medals, submerged in beautiful music and beautiful liturgy, forged a DNA of hope and trust from my youth.

This Thursday our Pentecost novena begins. For nine days before our great FEAST, let’s do a full-court press of prayer. Let’s ask God to stir in us the reasons for our hope. And may that hope renew the face of the earth.

Are you ready to give a reason for your hope?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

6 May 2023

Reflecting on Acts 6: 1-7

It’s so embarrassing to look back on the behavior of the dominant culture in every age. We know, because we are living it right now, that the day will surely come when children will say to their parents, “You could have saved us from environmental disaster and you did WHAT?”

Looking back at the things we took for granted is so shocking now. We watch TITANIC and say, “WHAT? People lived and people died on that ship depending on how much MONEY they had?” The answer is YES. Financial status seemed the only proper way to decide who had access to the lifeboats.

Every day, it seems, another appalling injustice from generations ago is brought to light. As author Bonnie Garmus wrote, “some things needed to stay in the past because the past was the only place they made sense.”

I think of all this as I read that ultra embarrassing sentence from Acts today: the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

This is in the earliest days of the Church, when miracles abounded, and huge numbers were added to the Church every day! The eyewitnesses to the Risen Lord were walking and talking in Galilee and Jerusalem, giving witness to the greatest event in all history.

And yet. When the food was distributed to the community of believers, it was understood that the widows of the Greek-speaking Jews would be neglected. They didn’t speak Hebrew, they lived in the Diaspora (outside of Jerusalem), and they didn’t have any husbands to speak for them. They were invisible.

O God, save us from the blindness upon which later generations will judge us.

What behaviors of yours in the past do you particularly regret today?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

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