The Ascension of the Lord/ Seventh Sunday – Cycle A

24 May 2020

Reflecting on John 17: 1-11A

I almost never get to talk about today’s gospel reading. I’m so glad I finally have the chance to tell you the greatest news you’ve ever heard. Here it is: YOU ARE ALREADY IN HEAVEN.

Now, at this moment in history that may seem like very bad news indeed, as in Seriously? Heaven is being stuck in the house all day and night, terrified of a horrible virus? If this is heaven, what’s hell?

Well, you make a point. It doesn’t seem like heaven, except for the most important fact about your life: you know Jesus. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ (Jn. 17:3).

If you were an infant on the day of your baptism, your Godparents answered those all-important questions for you: Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his Son? They answered YES for you, and your life’s task has been, with all your heart, to answer YES on your own.

It’s in that YES that eternal life begins right here on earth. That YES lifts the believers up into that realm that holds them, through sickness, and loss, and grief, and even pandemics. I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13),says the one whose YES has taken him or her into eternal life right here on earth.

The one who knows Jesus already has a taste of heaven. That does not mean that we are immune from the terrors of this life. It means that holding fast to Jesus anchors us to Him whose comfort and healing is a foretaste of the next.

How has knowing Jesus throughout your life lifted you up?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

16 May 2020

Reflecting on 1 Peter 3: 15-18

How often do you cry these days? I admit that I cry nearly every day, always in response to some heroic act I see featured on tv. When I hear the first responders–the ambulance drivers and EMTs, especially–describe desperately trying to get a patient to the hospital before they die, I can barely watch.

But when they interview the exhausted nurses and doctors, and hear their answers to the inevitable questions about how they are getting through their shifts without breaking down, I long to hear just one of them reference that scripture text we have today from I Peter: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

In Catholic New York, I Iong to hear at least one baptized and confirmed health care hero say, “Well, I’m Catholic. That means I’m never alone. I bring the whole Body of Christ with me when I put on my protective equipment and enter the ward. And, of course, I have all the angels and saints holding me through my shift every day.”

In my daily prayer I picture those angels and saints holding parents tight, giving them patience and strength as they face another ALL KIDS ALL DAY marathon. I picture angels guiding and holding every kind of First Responder .

The reason for our hope, right in the middle of this terror, is that the Holy Spirit is guiding the researchers and every person placing their precious lives on the line. Where is God in all of this? Right there in the ambulance, right there in the ventilator. God did not make death. That is the reason for our hope.

Do you ever share with anyone the reason for your hope?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

9 May 2020

Reflecting on Acts 6:1-7

Every time I read that account from Acts that admits that the Greek-speaking widows were being left out of the daily distribution of food by the Hebrew-speaking men, I remember that horrible scene from Titanic. You know the one, where, in the panic for the lifeboats, those in third-class steerage were locked out of the gate that led to the boats so that as many of the wealthier passengers as possible could board.

It turns out that wasn’t actually the case. They weren’t “locked out,” but, in fact, a far higher percentage of those in steerage died that night than those on the upper decks. One explanation posited was that many of them were immigrants who didn’t speak English, and therefore didn’t understand the instructions that came over the loudspeaker.

It’s not hard to imagine that those earliest Christians, forming those communities of believers who “shared all things in common,” simply didn’t see the Greek-speaking widows. They were foreigners, and they didn’t speak the language of the dominant culture. The fact that the leadership assigned Greek-speaking deacons to make sure their widows were being fed betrays a huge crack in the Church from the get-go. If those in the minority were going to be fed, they had to find people who actually saw them so they could feed them.

This quarantine period has exposed the fissures in our own culture, hasn’t it? Today I saw a heartbreaking and inspiring story of an African-American mother who drives her two honor-roll students to the bus stop every morning and sits in the car with them all day so they can keep up with their school work. Why? Because they can get an internet connection there. I see her now.

Whom do you see more clearly now that the isolation period is winding down?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

7 May 2020

Reflecting on John 10: 1-10

It’s so funny, isn’t it, watching the videos of lions sunbathing in the streets, and goats cavorting through towns as if they owned the joint? The delicious irony is that the humans are locked up, and the animals are running free.

I suspect that they are just as curious as we are about what’s going on these days. It must be surreal for them to have cities all to themselves. Where are all the humans? Is this a thing now, or will they be back tomorrow, shouting at us to get back to our designated habitats?

While they’re looking for us, we’re looking at them, and laughing. We can see firsthand what life was like before humans invaded, and dominated, the spaces once ruled by wildlife.

That will all change, of course, and humans will tame their plazas and streets soon enough. But for this one moment, writing as I am on this cleanest Earth Day ever, we can observe our beautiful planet from the magnificent views of pristine Los Angeles air, clear Venetian rivers, and the gorgeous snow-capped Himalayas.

Oh Jesus, Shepherd of our souls, take loving care of us during this most upsetting time. As we ask You, with every breath, to wipe the scourge of this virus from the earth forever, we also ask You for the wisdom and the will to change our hearts this time.

Good Shepherd, hold us carefully as you guide us through the months and years to come. Our planet cries out for You. Give us wise guidance and global solidarity. In these weeks before Pentecost, give us the wisdom to partner with your Holy Spirit in  renewing the face of the earth.

What will you ask the Good Shepherd for today?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

25 April 2020

Reflecting on Luke 24: 13-35

It takes about two months to form a new habit, but I’ll bet collective trauma bakes in a new habit a lot faster. I suspect that because, after just eight weeks or so of maintaining a six-foot distance from everyone, I’m shocked that the “Stranger” just walked right up to the two disciples (Cleopas and Mrs. Cleopas) and started talking to them.

Was he wearing a mask? Were they? More disturbingly, when he broke the Bread with them, did they all share it from a common plate? Probably. There would be hundreds of devastating plagues in the two millennia to come. There is no evidence there was one in that room that night.

These disciples of Jesus had been in Jerusalem for Passover, and had (perhaps) even witnessed his horrifying crucifixion. And yet, they didn’t recognize him until his Risen Body broke through time and space, met them on the road, revealed the scriptures to them, and then revealed himself to them (and us) in the breaking of the bread.

Do you feel like your eyes have been opened during this strangest of all seasons? Mine are opened wide. The healed air quality is breaking through a century of brown cloud. I stand outside at night and see the STARS! Then, our young neighbor comes outside and plays a beautiful piece on his flute. All the neighbors applaud. Our hearts burn within us.

My eyes are opened wide about who the essential workers are, too. From now on, every teacher of any grade gets a 100% raise. Grocery store workers get our warmest respect. And health care workers? They own our hearts. And our hearts burn within us with gratitude.

How have your eyes opened since this experience?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle A

18 April 2020

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

And there you have it. The doors were locked, but Jesus came in anyway. Apparently they had been social-distancing all week, ever since Easter night when Jesus appeared to them while Thomas was away. They were quarantining—which means “forty days,” of all sublime things—from the Jewish leaders. They were terrified of the highly contagious virus of Fear and Power that was apparently driving a search for them in the city.

Mary Magdalene had come tearing through town on Easter morning, crying out that the stone was rolled away and Jesus was not in the grave. After the footrace to the tomb, the two male disciples entered. Jesus had left his face mask behind. (When One is bursting from death to life, the old restrictions are superfluous.) They saw, and believed.

The female disciple, however, remained at the tomb, and her great love was rewarded. She raced back to that locked room, weeping and laughing and shouting, “I have seen the Lord!”

So, the quarantined disciples first heard the news from Peter and the Beloved Disciple, then from Mary Magdalene, and then from Jesus himself! And Thomas wasn’t there for any of it. No wonder he needed to place his hands in the Wounds. His own dark doubts had taken him to a terrible place.

Are your doors locked and your windows closed, sheltering while the Surge races through your city? No worries. The Divine Mercy has already come through the door and is with you, comforting your wounds and placing your trembling hands in his.

Jesus, we trust in You.

In what mysterious ways have you felt that resurrection is afoot?

Kathy McGovern  © 2020

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The Resurrection of the Lord

11 April 2020

After the apex, when it was deemed safe to come out, we rushed to the tombs to see if there was any life left. The shelves at the grocery store started to fill up again, and those who had thoughtlessly hoarded goods that others needed just as much stood at the entrances and begged forgiveness.

So too, those who had disregarded ordinances for social distancing began their sentences. They worked twelve-hour shifts in hot, crowded factories in parts of the world where the virus was exploding, sewing masks and gloves and gowns for all those who, while serving the sick, would become sick themselves because the numbers of sick were too great, because they were infected by those who wouldn’t step away from the beach or the bars when it mattered the most.

We counted our dead, and finally cried for our elderly neighbors, our grandparents, our friends, ourselves. We checked in with our jobs, those that still answered the phone and had the lights on. We checked in with our stock portfolios and our bank accounts. Okay, that might take a while.

Finally, our hearts heavy, we went to our churches. And behold, the ground outside that was cold and hard in mid-Lent was bursting with flowers! Inside, the purples were gone, and glorious Easter whites and golds filled every corner of the sanctuary. And the lilies! That sweet Easter fragrance soaked into our dry bones, and we began to revive. And we heard the voice of the Lord say, “My people, I am going to open your graves and have you rise from them.”

And the trumpets began to blast, and the Alleluias burst forth. And the voice of the turtledove was heard in the land.

What are you most looking forward to when the church doors finally open again?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

6 April 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 26: 14-27:66

What an odd Palm/Passion Sunday. There will be no elegant processions through the neighborhood, no communal reading of the Passion. But we are experiencing parts of his passion right now.

Do you miss your family? The meal with loved ones is the cornerstone of our connections. Jesus didn’t eat alone before his arrest. He ate a meal of memory, the Passover meal, with the Twelve. It was his will that every time we eat that Bread and drink that Cup, we remember him.

Do you feel deep sorrow for the actions of your life that have wounded others deeply? Imagine Peter, after his betrayal of Jesus, going out and weeping bitterly.

Are you isolated and lonely? Think of Jesus, chained in Caiaphas’ dungeon the night before his death.

Do you feel intimidated by bureaucracy right now? Imagine Jesus standing before Pilate, who had the power to release him, or to crucify him.

Do you feel shame over any bullying you took part in when you were young? Imagine the shame of those chief priests, scribes and elders who mocked the Crucified One and mocked God, saying He trusted in God. Let God deliver him.

Are you worried about your investments and retirement funds? The soldiers entertained themselves at the foot of the Cross, playing a gambling game with his garment, his sole possession.

Finally, do you love someone who is fighting fever and shortness of breath? Jesus is with them, intimately. Crucifixion is really death by asphyxiation.

The Passion of Jesus holds every suffering of this world. God did not abandon Jesus, but allowed him to be with us in every way. Crowd the cross. It holds all the comfort you need.

What part of the Passion of Jesus resonates the most with you today?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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Fifth Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

28 March 2020

Reflecting on John 11: 1-45

I suspect that most of you are reading this here on The Story and You website because your parish bulletin was unavailable this week. Welcome! I pray that you are each safe from this scary virus, and that the controls put in place have in fact flattened the curve of infection. May our fast from the Eucharist make us stronger, kinder people, and may we be especially mindful of those most in need of our strength.

It’s been so inspiring to go on to our Next Door Neighbor site and see the hundreds of generous young people offering help to any neighbors who need child care, grocery pick-up, snow shoveling, or just a well-visit at the door. Barbra Streisand is so right. We people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

Jesus needed people. He needed his disciples. He certainly needed his Mother, and Joseph. And among his friends, it seems that he needed Martha, Mary, and Lazarus most of all. The gospels tell of two significant meals at their house in Bethany. Jesus and his disciples spent a lot of time in that town (including the week before his death). Most compelling of all, though, is that after the death of Lazarus, his sisters sent word to Jesus, saying the one you love has died. And two verses later we learn that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. And, of course, when he wept at the tomb, the onlookers said see how much he loved him.

It warms my heart to imagine Jesus losing control and sobbing at the tomb of Lazarus. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. His weeping for his friend is the surest way for us to know that he is ours.

How are you watching out for loved ones during this challenging time?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

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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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