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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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

16 February 2019

Reflecting on Luke 5: 1-11

Blessed are they who need help.

I’m on two crutches these days. I’m confident I’ll recover from my latest orthopedic challenge, but at this moment our house looks a bit like Lourdes, with crutches and walkers everywhere.

Accomplishing a trip to the grocery store is huge right now, with snow and ice covering the parking lot. Last week I was oh-so-gingerly tapping my way through the icy obstacle course. “Here,” said a sweet, Spanish-accented voice behind me, “let us help you.” Immediately a mom and her two kids came to my side, holding me on both sides until we reached the door.

“Isn’t your mom nice?” I asked. “Yes,” her son said proudly. “She’s really nice.” How blest I am.

But how to get back to the car? I hadn’t thought about that when I set out. I was two feet from the store when a kind man, with whom I’d struck up a conversation in the check-out line about our mutual disabilities, came up to me. “Oh, Miss Lady, let me help you.”

“But you’re on a cane! I don’t want you to slip.” “That’s okay,” he said, “we’ll hold each other up.” So a line of cars waited patiently as a crippled African-American helped an aging white lady across the slush.

His name is Mario. He’s had two toes amputated as a result of diabetes. He also has kidney disease and coronary heart disease. I learned this because, watching him limping toward the street, I asked if I could drive him the six blocks to his apartment.

“Be safe, Mario,” I called, as he got out of the car. “Miss Kathy, the Lord is my strength and my shield.”

Blessed are they who need help. They shall be filled.

What blessings have come to you because you were in need?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 February 2019

Reflecting on Luke 5: 1-11

What does it take to make an adult cry? For me, it’s always the experience of the nearness of God. Take those guys on the shore of the Galilee, for example. They fished that sea all night and came back with nothing. Just a word from Jesus, though, and the fish came racing into the nets, begging to be caught up in the great Mystery.

When Simon Peter saw this he broke down. Get away from me, Rabbi. You don’t know me, and once you do you won’t want anything to do with me. That’s usually everyone’s response when they have a God-sighting, a moment of such grace that, along with tears, comes the sense that someone else should have received this, someone better, someone worthier, someone who is…well…not us.

Don’t worry, says Jesus. This was just a practice catch. From now on you and I are going to be hauling in people, billions and billions of them. So don’t stress about your insufficiencies. My grace is sufficient.

You see, Jesus knows where all the fish are. He knows where to place the boats, way out in the deep. He knows where your wounds are, your losses, and your doubts. It’s never in the shallows, but in the deep memories, that sadness festers.

Do you feel like you’ve fished all night long for a job, for friends, for love, for healing? Jesus sees you. He knows where you are in the big Sea.  He wants to comfort you, to reel you into his net of communion and compassion. It’s never about being worthy. It’s about being welcomed.

Let Jesus catch you in his net. It’s the safest place in the sea.

In what ways have you experienced the nearness of God?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

2 February 2019

Reflecting on I Cor. 12: 31-13:13

If I wear all the right hats, or hate those who do, but don’t have love, it’s better I just not show up at all.

If I am so confident of my authority on a subject that no one can teach me anything, it’s better I sit this one out lest I end up stomping on love.

If I have the coolest insights into scripture, but don’t let people know how deeply I love them, they’ll despair that God is actually able to be found there.

If I love Jesus so much and people so little, I need to ask a loving person to convert me, because I’ve mistaken religion for something else entirely.

Love writes a note of thanks to the person who extends a thoughtful gesture, even if that person isn’t “important.” He or she is important to God.

Love listens, and remembers, and laughs at other people’s jokes.

Love doesn’t sneak tiny criticisms of others into the conversation, then stand back and enjoy the fallout.

Love really does rejoice when something wonderful happens to someone else. Love promotes other people.

Love is expansive, and forgiving, and gracious. Love doesn’t make people feel insecure or “less than.”

The sun may burn out, and the universe may expand into the Deep Chill. Heaven and earth may pass away; but love will remain forever.

How is the presence of love tangible in your parish?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

30 January 2019

Reflecting on Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room as Ezra reads that foundational scripture to the men, women, and children old enough to understand. What none of them is admitting is that, after returning to the land from the Babylonian Exile, things haven’t worked out as well as they had hoped.

Their new Temple is puny compared to the majestic Temple that Solomon built (and Nebuchadnezzar burned). The returnees are dwelling in a desolate, undefended city, tilling a few ravaged fields, easy prey for marauding bandits.

When Ezra reads this document (now called the Torah), their response is to hang their heads and weep. And what does Governor Nehemiah do? He interrupts to declare a holiday, and to exhort them to eat and drink and rejoice. Why? Because he knows what they have forgotten: the joy of the Lord is their strength. Nothing less will ever be enough.

In today’s synagogue services there is a stirring moment. After the sacred readings, the homily, and the singing of the psalms, a spotlight is shone on the tabernacle. Those with the priestly last name of Cohen (or Kohen) come forward. This group, with the rabbi, takes the five dazzling Torah scrolls and begins to dance with them.

And then all heaven breaks out. The children leap up to dance with their parents. Joyous groups jump out of their pew to greet the Torah as it passes by. For a raucous few minutes the sedate assembly exults in the joy of Torah. Another week of hard work looms for all, but on the Sabbath they draw deeply from their greatest strength, which is the joy that only comes from intimacy with God.

In what ways is the joy of the Lord your greatest strength?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

23 January 2019

Reflecting on I Cor. 12:4-11

There are different kinds of talents, thank God, and the Holy Spirit breathes in each of them. The brilliance it takes to put together parish websites, for example, blesses the visitor who goes there, perhaps to connect with the Church for the first time.

To one is given the skill to create parish databases, to another the savvy to create the easiest way for us to contribute financially to the parish. These are some pretty technical skills, but it’s the same God who gives the energy and passion it takes to make these things happen.

To some are given so much love of children that our religious education classes and schools abound in joy and love. There are even some―God bless these unique people―who give their lives for the formation of adolescents. A thousand blessings on their heads.

Some have the expertise to serve as administrators and pastoral associates, carefully watching over to assure the sacramental and spiritual needs of the parish are met. Some oversee the many outreaches to shelters, sandwich lines, and safe houses, and some work with people one-on-one through the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Some devote their time to praying for each of us. Yes, there are parishioners who do this, every day, their whole lives. They take the lists of the sick and dying, and pray. There is one dear couple, in a parish where I served years ago, who have prayed for me at breakfast every day for fifteen years.

This is the tip of the iceberg, of course. We haven’t even talked about music, and scripture, and liturgy, or even priesthood, for heaven’s sake. Church, do we know how rich we are?

How will I use my energy and talents to work for the Kingdom of God this year?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord – Cycle C

12 January 2019

Reflecting on Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

We saw the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” last fall. The ending is very uplifting, but throughout the show the audience grieves for Evan, whose social anxiety is so terrible that he imagines himself forever waving through a window, with no hearing, no one seeing.

It reminded me of an odd incident several years ago. While walking our dog in the neighborhood, for some reason I turned back to the house I had just passed. There, waving frantically in the window, mouthing “Happy New Year,” were the darling kids who lived in the house.

I waved and smiled and walked on, wondering at the unusual coincidence that, without seeing them in the window and without hearing them calling to me, I turned in their direction in time to see their warm greeting.

At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens opened, the voice of the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit actually appeared in bodily form as a dove.  But Luke doesn’t tell us who saw the dove, or who heard the voice. It happened, we know.  But who besides Jesus (and the evangelist, who is Spirit-inspired) had eyes to see or ears to hear?

If we could train our eyes and ears, I’ll bet we too would see the heavens open, and hear the voice from heaven speak.  This appearance of the Trinity—the Son coming out of the water, the Spirit resting as a dove, the Father speaking from heaven—was not a one-time event.  Christ is always with us in our dyings and risings, the Spirit is always pointing us to the ways of peace, and the Father is always speaking to us.

Or, to put it another way, love and comfort and wisdom are constantly waving at us through Divine windows.  Take a moment to look back and notice.

How has God’s loving presence made itself known to you recently?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Epiphany – Cycle C

8 January 2019

It’s the gorgeous Feast of the Epiphany. Time to trip a little light fantastic. That’s right…you! You are the lamplighter of your family, your class, your parish, your office, your work place.

But look who I’m telling. You already know this! You’ve probably known all your life, or at least since your Confirmation, that you are the Light-Bearer, the one whose gracious and kind disposition is making this pilgrim path much easier for others.

Mother Teresa begged us to “be the living expression of God’s kindness.” That’s you. Think of the charities that are able to continue their work because of your generosity. Think of the kind direction you’ve given to help educate children in the faith. Think of the ways you have comforted the grieving, and visited the sick, and given food to the hungry.

Think of your presence at Mass, and what confidence that builds in your parish community. Think of the ways you have prayed for the sick and dying. Think of the ways you have personally accompanied loved ones through their own transition from life to eternity.

You can’t see it, but you’re your own constellation out there. You have no idea the people who have seen your Star―your warmth, your kind invitation to friendship, your help in times of need—and been intimately drawn to the One who is Light from Light.

Isn’t it a great blessing to be part of the constellation of Christ? Every darkness that comes your way you transform into light. You are a luminous comet of forgiveness, joy, friendship, and expectant hope.

And the day when you and Jesus see each other face to face? Step back. Nova, meet Super Nova.

What is the greatest light that you cast in this world?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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