First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

5 March 2022

Reflecting on Psalm 91: 1-2, 10-11. 12-13, 14-15

We’re living through some significant dis-ease these days, and It’s during these seasons of stress and fear that we want to remind Jesus, as Satan did, of Psalm 91, which we sing today and throughout Lent. Doesn’t it clearly say that God’s angels will surround us, lest we dash our foot against a stone? That tact didn’t work with Jesus, who repelled Satan’s volleying of sacred scripture by returning Satan’s challenge with the ultimate reproof: Thou shalt not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

But still we sing it, not just in Lent, but “On Eagle’s Wings,” the beautiful musical setting of Psalm 91, is now a hymn beloved by people of many faiths throughout the Western world. We sing it, I think, not only because we love the strong and comforting assurance that God will be with us when we are in trouble, but because there are so many times in our lives when we knew, deep in our bones, that it was true.

I admit that I remind Jesus on a daily basis of the promises in this psalm, but my motive is far removed—I hope—from the menace and predation of Satan. I pray these powerful words in gratitude, because they have been true every day of my life. But I also pray for strength and obedience, to surrender to the mystery of suffering and death.

This whole losing battle for Satan was in the desert, of course. Who knows? Deserts were once gardens, millions of years ago. On the cross, Jesus waged his final battle against Satan, who hangs out in deserts, and restored to us the Garden of eternal life.

Cling to him. He will deliver you.

In what ways has “On Eagle’s Wings” been a comfort to you throughout your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

26 February 2022

Reflecting on Luke 6:39-45

People are so gracious, aren’t they? Just yesterday I called my kind friend Don by the wrong name when he stopped to say goodbye to me after a talk we both attended.

I called him by the wrong name! How would I feel if the situation were reversed? But he pretended not to even notice, and when I apologized he was his usual gracious self, assuring me that he answers to anything.

The truth is, we pretty much advertise who we are every time we speak. During the Super Bowl halftime concert, my niece asked her brother if he knew about the big online feud brewing between two of the rap artists on stage. He said, “Now, how would I know anything about that? Do you think I waste my time with that?”

And so, with those few words, he humiliated my beautiful niece. By her question, of course, she betrayed her own interest in the media lives of the rap stars, and by his impudent answer he betrayed his embarrassment that, just a few years ago, he had been just as obsessed. She knew that, of course, which is why she asked the question.

When we lash out, when we roll our eyes, when we turn sullen and silent, we’re giving a hidden camera view of our hearts. That’s why keeping our hearts pure of secret criticism and secret cynicism is everything. At a moment of stress, we want only good fruit to pour out of us. That’s the true test of how we’re really spending our time and filling our hearts.

Meditate on the good. Delete the bad. That probably includes the addicting feuds of rap stars.

What verbal blunder have you witnessed lately that betrayed the true heart of the speaker?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

19 February 2022

Reflecting on I Sm. 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23

Am I the only one who really, really resonates with that scene with David and King Saul? It’s delicious in its irony. Here is poor David, hounded all l over the Judean desert by the jealous King.

He and his attendant sneak into Saul’s camp. They find Saul and his sword. This is it! The Lord has clearly placed Saul in David’s hands! It will be just like the child David’s encounter with Goliath years before! Cut off his head and chase his army out of town!

But David walks away from that immense temptation. He leaves the king to his sleep. Walking over to a hilltop and holding the sword aloft, he makes his presence known. Shouting to the sleeping troops, he lets them know how easily he could have slain Saul. But he walks away instead.

How many times has someone offered up to you the most delicious gossip about someone who has been unkind to you, or who has hurt your feelings in some way? Here is the perfect way to settle the score. Let them know what you know. Even better, find casual ways to let others know what you know. But then, in a moment of grace, you don’t. You walk away, and you never think about it again.

Or maybe Saul’s experience hits closer to home. How many times have you, in retrospect, discovered that some graced friend has held back on much-deserved criticism of you, when speaking would have been to their advantage? They gracefully kept silent. There is no way to repay such stunning love. But, like Saul, we can stand in wonder at its unmerited kindness. And we can go and do the same.

Looking back, of which moments of keeping silent are you the most proud?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 February 2022

Reflecting on Luke 6: 17, 20-26

The prolific and insightful scripture commentator Alice Camille has this intriguing take on the Beatitudes: if you are poor in spirit, or hungry, or weeping, or being humiliated for taking an unpopular stand, God is very near, because God delights in being the salvation of one in need. Here is how I think this salvation takes place: when grief, or hunger, or a shocking reversal of fortune shakes our foundations, our cracked-open hearts provide a small entry space for grace.

When, as Sr. Joan Chittister says, we are lost in the land of nowhere but God, our very emptiness is what God delights in filling. That space seems to be exactly the right size for grace to seep in. And when grace seeps in—sneaks in?—blessing always ensues.

It’s profoundly moving to see the good news that the gospel is for those who are poor. Visit a nursing home, or maybe a trailer park, and count the number of crucifixes on the walls. The companionship of Jesus in the draft, and chill, and darkness of life is a greater blessing than affluence without him. It is, of course, the call of all believers to help alleviate the draft, the chill, the darkness, while drawing all to him who is Light.

That’s why Father John Kavanaugh, SJ, counsels us to abide in our hunger for holiness, to live with a thirst for justice. Why are there hungry people in a nation of shocking abundance? Thirst for justice for them. Are there people mourning in your parish right now? Abide in hunger to comfort them through the years ahead.

I thirst, Jesus said from the Cross. Blessed be He.

In what ways are you poor? In what ways are you rich?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

5 February 2022

Reflecting on Luke 5:1-11

Our parish is fully immersed in the Synod listening sessions. It’s fascinating to listen to new Catholics, veteran Catholics, and people thinking about becoming Catholic, talking freely and without fear about the ways in which they feel the Spirit is speaking to them about the Church.

What’s missing, at least so far, are those who were baptized Catholic, embraced the faith for a time in their lives, and have now left us. These are the voices Pope Francis wants to hear from most urgently. He wants us to cast into the deep waters, and bring out the voices of the disappointed, the embittered, the abused, the scandalized, the indifferent, and those seeking God elsewhere. He wants those beloved of God to know that he is listening, through the vehicle of this worldwide Synod.

It sounds good in theory, but it’s so hard to do in practice. I’d be mortified to ask my non-practicing family members why they’ve absented themselves from the Table. I’m afraid of what they might say. Fortunately, the process only calls for listening, not for responding.

I don’t want to ask, but the deep water is where the pain is, and where we should be. Might it be that many who have left have been waiting for someone in their lives to ask them why? Do all who leave imagine that they aren’t missed, that the Church will just lumber on, sinful and sorrowful, without them?

I admire my friends who say that they ask their kids their reasons for leaving us, and that they listen and try to be instruments of reconciliation. That’s where the net meets the deep. It might even be where healing begins.

How will you embrace Pope Francis’ call to quietly listen to those who are estranged?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

29 January 2022

Reflecting on I Cor. 13: 4-13

Last weekend I attended the funeral of a dear high school friend. John had a warmth, and a loving way of including everyone within a hundred miles, that left a palpable energy of joy long after he’d left the room.

He married my dear friend Barb forty-nine years ago, and together they raised the kindest, MOST darling daughters. Sullivan, one of their precious grandsons, while sitting on his mother’s lap, heard the devastating news that his dear grandpa had died. He cried and cried, and then, sobbing, told his dad, “This is the saddest sad I’ve ever been.”

The church was packed; the music just exactly perfect. The two eulogists— first, his sister, next, his heartbroken son-in-law—remembered him as the sweet, funny brother he was, and the endlessly generous and gracious man he became.

The presider, a classmate of John’s, captured him so vividly, so hilariously, that, somewhere around the Eucharistic Prayer,  you could begin to feel the night turn into day. Everything so lovingly placed in the sanctuary—the flowers, the sports caps, the delightful photo of him, looking mischievous and up-to-something—began to almost hum with energy.

And when we reached the words Do this in memory of me, my thoughts turned to St. Paul’s famous words. Yes, when you are patient, and kind, not rude, not quick-tempered, bearing all things, hoping all things, when your love never fails, then you are living in memory of Jesus.

I wonder. What words, what photos, what funny hats of mine will one day hum with an energy I tried all my life to create, an echo of the Love of Jesus, and a simple life lived in Memory of him?

What memories of you will bring such joy that people will recall today’s reading about love?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

22 January 2022

Reflecting on I Cor. 12:12-14, 27

My husband Ben returned from a recent trip to Juarez, Mexico with a beautiful painting of Joseph and the Child Jesus. We put it up against the wall, and soon Christmas cards surrounded it on all sides. It was touching to see the art on the cards, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and this lovely painting in the center.

It’s kind of an old-fashioned painting, but here’s what I noticed: I like looking at it. It makes me happy. It’s probably not great art. I’ve decided I don’t care. In fact, just yesterday, as we finally took away all the cards, we chose to make the painting a permanent fixture on the wall.

I’ve loved the image of the Child Jesus since we visited Ávila, Spain a few years ago, and heard this touching story about St. Teresa. One night, Teresa was walking the grounds of the monastery when she saw a beautiful child. “Who are you?” he asked. “I’m Teresa of the Child Jesus. Who are you?” And He answered, “I am the Child Jesus of Teresa.”

Even today, the tears come. We are “of him,” and he is “of us.” And so, today, when I read about six thousand members who serve more than 75,000 children living in poverty—the demographic nearest my heart—I was touched at the name of the organization: The National Christ Child Society. I signed up.

See, I think that’s how the gifts Paul speaks about become actualized. An image on the wall, a touching story from my adult life, and the exact ministry I’ve been looking for, all with The Child Jesus in the title. That’s how the Spirit speaks. That’s how the Body works.

How does beauty and religious imagination empower your own ministries?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

15 January 2022

Reflecting on John 2: 1-11

That wedding that Jesus attended with his friends could very well have already gone on for several days. Weddings were huge events in the first century Middle East, as they are today. I imagine that Mary had been serving the guests. We see this part of her character right off the bat in Luke, when she sets out immediately, right after the Annunciation, to walk all ninety miles to visit the home of her cousin, Elizabeth. Why? Because she wanted to serve her in the last months of her pregnancy.

So we know this about Mary: she serves. It makes perfect sense that she would have been serving at the wedding, and, dreading that her friends be embarrassed, went immediately to Jesus and said, “They have no more wine.”

This is funny. We get the sense that this Jewish mother knows her son better than he does. He doesn’t know what all this has to do with him, but she does. She has known, from his conception—Luke’s gospel, again—that he has “come to His people to set them free” (1:68). Did she know that he could turn huge vats of water into wine? I think she knew he would do far greater than that.

And don’t miss this: Jesus addresses his mother twice in John, here and at the foot of the cross (19:26). Both times he calls her “Woman”. Ah. Just like the eleven times Eve is called “Woman” in Genesis. The Jewish ear immediately understood that Jesus is telling us that Mary is the New Eve, the New Mother whose Son has come to redeem us from the Liar, the Serpent.

Created. Abducted. Ransomed by the one who sets us free.

How will you work, in this new year, to “do whatever he tells you”?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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The Baptism of the Lord – Cycle C

8 January 2022

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

He says many fiery things in the gospels, this cousin of Jesus. He rants about broods of vipers trying to escape the coming wrath. He rails against adulterous Herods and their adulterous wives. But the sentence I most associate with him—other than his embryonic announcement of the Messiah from his mother’s womb—is what he says about Jesus: I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. It touches me deeply that, at the height of his renown in the desert, he was willing to step out of the frame so that Jesus could come into perfect focus.

Oh, to see Thee more clearly, Jesus. I long for it. The entire Catholic Culture presses me to see You in Your most distressing disguise, those who are poor in all kinds of ways. I try not to know about them, but, of course, that will be a ridiculous defense when I meet You. I will never be able to say I didn’t know.

Maybe I try not to know because I so deeply recognize that I’m not worthy to loosen the sandals of those whose lives are so challenging. I couldn’t do for one day what aging grandparents are doing in order to keep their imperiled grandchildren safe and sheltered. I know I couldn’t do for more than a few hours what those caring for spouses and parents with dementia do, endless day after endless day.

I am aware of the giants around me. But this year I resolve to look for Jesus in the daily courage of the unseen, people’s whose challenges I could never, never meet. Step into the frame, Jesus. I long to see You.

Who are the people whose sandals you are unworthy to loosen?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle C

1 January 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 2: 1-2

Wouldn’t you love to know more about those mysterious Magi, who left everything to follow a Star from the day of its rising? They fascinate me. There are innumerable legends about them, including their names Balthazar (of Arabia), Melchior (of Persia),  and Caspar (of India). One of the more charming legends is that in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (in present-day Punjab, Pakistan), one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.

Later Christian writings identified them as kings, certainly because the Old Testament scriptures bear many prophecies of royalty. Today’s first reading from Isaiah 60:1-6 refers to “kings coming to the brightness of your dawn,” and the Responsorial Psalm sings of “all kings falling down before him” (72:11).  It made perfect sense to imagine that these very wise men must have been the royalty the Old Testament writers were awaiting. Maybe they were.

Here’s what fascinates me. These Gentiles saw a bright star rising, and they left everything to follow it. When it hovered over Jerusalem they stopped and announced themselves as ones who had come to give homage to the newborn King of the Jews. Isn’t that astounding? They were willing to leave their pre-Christian worldviews in search of a Jewish King. Why?

I think it’s because that’s how God touches all of us. God recruits all of nature to tell the glory of God. The winter chill, the spring rains, the abundant summer fruits, the stunning autumns, all speak to a God who is with us. I think the Magi were just fascinated, as we are, by the heavens touching down to earth, and saying, “Here. Here. Come and worship.”

What was your greatest “Epiphany” of the nearness of God this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

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