Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

8 February 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 1-12a

I like to do things that make me feel good. One thing that works every time is to stop to analyze what it is about people that makes them lovable, or approachable, or even inspiring.  I think about that today when Paul says “whoever boasts should boast in the Lord.” The people I know who inspire me are, always, people who point the praise and glory elsewhere.

How blest, then, are those who are so poor in spirit that they look beyond their own accomplishments and seek a greater good. How blest are those who are so clean of heart that they can get past their own insecurities and brokenness and mercifully reach out to others. The person who seeks God is the person who attracts me, because I too am made to draw nearer and nearer to God.

As a teacher of Scripture I am deeply touched by the way adult students will put everything aside for as long as they can to just study the Word.  As a student of Scripture I sit weekly at the feet of my own teachers, never disappointed, yet never satiated.  Our shared life in Christ is the treasure which draws me.

The person who seeks the Lord, in spite of our highly secular society that laughs at such a pursuit, is the person I want with me on a desert island. That is the truly blessed person, the deep person, the intelligent person. How blest are all of us who seek God. The scriptures promise that, as we draw near to God, God draws near to us.

In what ways has seeking the Lord been a blessing for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 January 2017

Reflecting on Matthew 4: 12-23

It’s a call narrative. That’s the name given to the account of how two sets of brothers, all fishermen, literally dropped everything and followed a man they hadn’t even met yet. I’ll bet Zebedee (the father of James and John) was thrilled when his sons just left the nets they were mending on the boat and abandoned him and the family business. James and John were called “the sons of thunder,” which may give us an idea of the kind of temper Zebedee possessed. I’m glad I wasn’t around at the time.

Another theory suggests that any Jewish father would have been honored to have his sons called by the famous rabbi Jesus. Rabbinic texts from the first century offer many examples of the prestige bestowed on a man whom a rabbi called to be his disciple. It was considered a huge honor to walk away from everything you knew in order to study with a teacher of the Law. Since all the apostles answered this radical call, is it possible that Jesus was already known by the Galilean community before he called the Twelve?

We all have a call narrative, a story we love to tell about how we knew what we wanted to do with our lives, or where we wanted to live, or the first time we met a dear friend or our spouse. Those are the sacred stories we tell at wedding receptions, at reunions, and at funerals. But there has never been an encounter like the day Jesus called four guys in two boats. His voice soared from the shore to the sea. “Come after me,” he said. If you listen, you can hear it still.

What is the favorite call story of your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 January 2017

Reflecting on John 1: 29-34

And there you have it. Just one week removed from the Christmas season and the gospels are already moving us in the direction of Lent. Hence this powerful baptism story, which will launch us into the ministry of Jesus, which will take us straight to the cross.

John the Baptist “did not know” his kinsman Jesus until he had a personal encounter with him at Bethany, on the other side of the Jordan. It was then, when he saw the Holy Spirit hovering over Jesus, that the fullness of the meaning of his own life became clear. He was born to witness to the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

How profound that the word is singular. It is the sin of the world that’s killing us. Individual sins, deadly and less so, do not weigh the world down in the way that our corporate selfishness does.

My 10-year-old nephew Jacob and I had the BEST conversation on the phone before Christmas. He had just seen the BEST movie with grandma, and was going to the BEST baseball camp over vacation, and they had the BEST Christmas tree in their house.

At that point I interjected, “Oh, and don’t forget to get the present from us that your mom has for you under the tree. “Aunt Kathy, “he said, “I already got my Christmas present. My grandpa isn’t sick anymore.”

That’s precisely the place where Jesus wants us all to be, that sacred place where our personal encounters of love save us from the deadly sin of only looking out for ourselves. That is the “sin of the world” the Lamb of God came to redeem.

What do you think is the greatest “sin of the world”?

Kathy McGovern ©2017 www.thestoryandyou.com

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle A

9 January 2017

Reflecting on Mt. 2: 1-12

There have been some unbalanced people on thrones throughout history, but they don’t come any crazier than Herod the Great. Matthew gives us the dark narrative of the malevolent way in which Herod tried to trick the Magi into returning to Jerusalem with the GPS coordinates of the new king of the Jews.

That I too may give him homage, he said to them. That must have been their first clue that the wisest move would be to return in the opposite direction.

The story of the massacre of the Holy Innocents did not come out of nowhere. Herod― so neurotic about losing his royal status that he murdered his wife Mariamne and several of his sons because he either feared they were plotting against him or they really were plotting against him― was a terrifying figure in the ancient world.

A master builder, yes. But he was so loathed by his subjects that, when he fell off the litter his slaves were using to carry him to his summer palace one sweltering day, he was slow to revive. Eventually they― cautiously and then exuberantly― began celebrating what they thought was his demise.

But rumors of his death were exaggerated, and when he awoke to singing and carousing he pronounced the following: I command that on the day of my death, all the Jewish elders in Jerusalem be brought into the Herodium and murdered. That way I can make certain there will be true grief over my death.

Blessedly, his sister outlived him and withdrew the death sentence.  May all world leaders experience the Epiphany that brought foreigners from afar, but eluded the king who lived five miles away.

What important gifts might you be missing because of your own insecurities?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of Mary – Cycle A

30 December 2016

I made a little video memory for my nephew this Christmas. Apparently he got engaged a few weeks ago. Uh huh. His dad and we adoring aunts and uncles happened to see it on Facebook, where we also read about the party that followed, where “all our friends and family came to congratulate us.”

Hmm. Apparently this sweet, generally thoughtful kid forgot about his side of the family. Hence the video memory, where he can see photographs of his relatives going back nearly to the Civil War, and lots of pictures of himself with his dad and us, through every Christmas of his life.

As I look at these pictures, and read today’s gospel, I’m especially touched by Mary, who, after the shepherds left, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In Mary’s heart I see my darling mom, proudly holding each new baby, attending every game, standing with us at every milestone. Like Mary, I know my mom “reflected in her heart” about each of her children as we grew into adults.

So many parents today are walking through great times of crisis for their children. Their beloved kids are experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, or debilitating mental illness. Many of them, despite all their Facebook “friends,” are lonely and isolated. And no, even though new studies show that church attendance can be better for your heart rate than skipping church and running a marathon, this health-conscious generation isn’t interested in participating.

Today, on this World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of Mary, we place all our children, and their children, into the heart of God. That’s an infinitely safer place than Facebook.

 

Kathy McGovern ©2017

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Nativity of the Lord – Cycle A

24 December 2016

Reflecting on Luke 2: 1-14

It happened at night, says St. Luke. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night when the sky exploded with angels.

The Magi, says St. Matthew, saw a Star and followed it for up to seven hundred and thirty nights, finally finding the Child in Bethlehem at night. When Herod plotted to kill all boys of the age of two and younger, the Magi and Joseph had dreams at night that warned them to flee. Joseph then took the Child and his mother at night and fled into Egypt.

The people who walked in darkness were the ones to see the great Light.

God created night first, then day. Night is essential for dreams, for sleep, for healing, for the unconscious to rewind, refresh, and re-start. Night is where the soul comes out.

It’s Christmas, that nocturnal feast born in the winter solstice. The nights are long and deep in our western hemisphere. Oh, how we need them.

Linger in these nights. Rest in these nights. Take the whole family out in their jammies and go out to see the Christmas lights, dull in the day but gorgeously vivid at night.

Keep this Christmas season. Sing carols for your night prayer. Memorize “O Holy Night” and let its depth hold you as you sleep. Let your soul feel its worth.

This is no ordinary time. This is the dark, sacred night of Christmastide. In the quiet and the dark we perceive Him come to meet us, come to live with us, come to be with us.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

What traditions will you begin this year that celebrate the gift of night?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

23 December 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 1: 18-24

He doesn’t speak a word in the entire New Testament, and yet his character comes in loud and clear. He is unlike any of the men we meet anywhere in scripture―except, of course, the Joseph of the Old Testament, who is also given to prophetic dreams, and also is the son of Jacob, and, like Joseph of the New Testament, went down into Egypt. Yes, St. Matthew is definitely remembering the Joseph of the Old Testament as he writes his narrative of Joseph, the spouse of Mary.

There are more Christian shrines to St. Joseph than any man except Jesus. One of the things I’ve learned from my privileged life of travel is that Christians of all traditions are crazy about St. Joseph. He’s everywhere.

Thirteen countries (and all the provinces of the Western Hemisphere) claim his as their patron. In fact, the most common name for a city on this planet is San Jose, Spanish for St. Joseph.  We know very little about him, but Matthew’s gospel tells us what we need. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is featured prominently in St. Luke’s radiant Christmas story. But it’s Joseph who comes to the fore in Matthew’s much darker narrative of Jesus’ birth, and history has embraced the foster father of Jesus with great devotion and love.

It’s Matthew who tells us about this righteous man who said yes to the mystery of the virgin birth. And don’t miss this: he decided to divorce Mary quietly― rather than having her stoned (Deuteronomy 22: 23-17)―BEFORE the angel appeared to him in a dream and told him that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit.

So, the first thing we know about him is that he’s a really good guy. The rest of Matthew’s story will show us HOW good a guy he is, how strong and faithful and courageous and intuitive and protective he is. Do you know the way to San Jose? It’s through faithfulness to God, in darkness and in light.

What traditions does your family keep about St. Joseph?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

12 December 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 11:2-11

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a holding pattern? Have you prayed the same prayers for years, with little or no sign of an answer?

If you’re nodding your head and saying, “Yes, Yes, Yes” then this is your season. Advent is your seedtime.  You may never see the harvest in your life. But your prayers are in some awesome company.  Take St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example. We now know that she spent the last five decades of her life praying for the return of the consolation of God. That’s okay. She has eternity to rest in it now.

John the Baptist is an Advent saint. Locked up in Herod’s dungeon, we can imagine that he looked back at his ministry at the Jordan and wondered whether he had it right or not. Israel was lousy with false prophets. He himself had railed against them. And yet, chained in and far away from the desert stars, he may have feared that he had thrown his life away for no good reason.

His disciples carried his prison prayer to Jesus: are you the One who is to come?  You can feel Jesus’ love traveling faster than the speed of light from the Galilee into the Jordan Valley and right into John’s cell. Go and tell John what you hear and see.

Which takes us back to our own Advent lives. Have you, over time, experienced the healing of an illness, the reconciliation of a broken relationship, the growing out of an addiction or an immature behavior? Go and tell someone what you’ve heard and seen.  It may be the message they’ve been longing to receive while they themselves are in chains.

What answered prayers will you share with someone this week?

©Kathy McGovern 2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

8 December 2016

Reflecting on Isaiah 11:1-10

There are so many ways to waste time on the internet these days, but I can’t stop myself from lingering over those heart-warming videos of those inter-species animals playing and cuddling up together.

Here’s a cat and dog opening a door, a bear and tiger snuggling, a beautiful bird swimming with a dolphin. What speaks to us, I think, in these anomalies of nature is that the animals seem to delight in getting to know each other, to investigate each other’s fur and size and wingspan, without fear of betrayal or attack.

It’s that peaceable kingdom, that idyllic and lovely playground where animals frolic instead of preying on each other, which Isaiah promises. Imagine it. In spite of everything we have ever thought, the most terrifying of tigers is actually meant to snuggle contentedly with the sheep in the pasture. Why? Because the tiger is not hungry, and is not hunting among the defenseless lambs for food for her cubs. Take hunger out of the equation, and the Peaceable Kingdom has already arrived.

There might be some memory extraction required. Eagles and fish will need to rethink their relationship. Tigers might need to unlearn what they’ve known for thousands of years. But oh, what a fun education that would be.

Are humans smart enough to attend this school? Can the most recent―and by far most predatory― arrivals in earth’s long history miraculously pull together and save ourselves? Can we, finally, learn to work together to open the locked door, to find comfort in each other, to delight in swimming the seas together? As Advent always asks, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

How are you helping to bring about the Peaceable Kingdom?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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First Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

29 November 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 24: 37-44

We were robbed last month, sometime around midnight. Our friend Karen, who lives in our basement and brings huge gulps of laughter and fun into our house, heard someone coughing in our driveway. Her first thought was that she should go outside and investigate. Her second thought―thank God―was that her bed was cozy and warm and that she should go back to sleep.

My husband Ben also heard coughing right outside our upstairs window at the same time. He got up and looked out the window. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he considered getting up and going outside, but, again, cozy and warm outbid chilly and cold.

We all compared notes in the morning, when we saw the ransacked garage and the broken-into cars. The intruders were brazen enough to walk right through our back yard rather than use the closer entrance through the alley, certainly because our neighbors, having been robbed exactly the same way last year, have a bright motion detector that lights up whenever the smallest squirrel ventures into their magnetic field.

We got right on it, of course. We changed the code on the garage door and once again promised to remember to lock the garage door at night. Next time, we’ll be ready.

Which brings us, of course, to Advent, and St. Paul’s urgent warning that now is the hour to awake from sleep. Loud coughing right outside our window at midnight wasn’t alarming enough to rouse us. Sleep is so much more comforting than facing that which is urgently trying to wake us. But it’s Advent, and it’s time to wake up. Jesus, our Morning Star, is trying to rouse us.

What is Christ calling you to “wake up” to this Advent?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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