Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

8 February 2016

Reflecting on Luke 5: 1-11

They do this for a living, every night but the Sabbath. They study the sea. They know its ebbs and flows. Their families depend on their patience, their intuition about where to cast their nets. And this night, they can say with certainty, the sea has no fish.

Jesus has commandeered Simon’s boat and is teaching a short distance from shore. It’s morning now, and the exhausted fishermen are cleaning their nets, joining with others to listen to this unknown, charismatic teacher.

Jesus says to Simon, “Cast out into the deep for a catch.” Is there anything more beautiful? Jesus is sitting in the boat. The crowds on the shore are gathered. And with the words of his mouth, the schools of fish, hidden all night, gather to hear him too.

On the Fifth Day of creation Jesus, the One who was there at the Beginning, commanded the fish to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the waters in the seas.”  And now, billions of years later, that Voice is out in the sea with them. They gather by the millions to hear his Voice again.

The fishermen don’t know this, of course. But in just their brief moments with Jesus they are willing to cast their nets deep. Like the fish, they are drawn by the Voice who, on the Sixth Day, created humankind in His Image.

And so out they go, out into the deep, where the vast numbers of fish leap into their nets.

That was a mere two thousand years ago. The voice of Jesus has not changed.  Listen.  Then cast out into the deep and watch his grace move in your life.

Have you ever experienced the astonishing abundance of God’s grace?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

30 January 2016

Reflecting on Luke 4:21-30

I know a fascinating secret about today’s section from Luke. This insight comes from the work of Bargil Pixner, osb., an archaeologist who excavated some of the more famous portions of ancient Israel.

The city of Nazareth (never mentioned in the Old Testament) was very probably founded only a hundred years before the birth of Jesus, and was purposely named Nazareth from the Hebrew word nazir, which means set apart. This means that the grandchildren of those who settled that little town―who had probably emigrated from Babylon, that place of exile― saw themselves as set apart. Why? Because they were descended from King David, and they expected that the Messiah would come from their ranks.

Doesn’t that make much of the odd behavior of the people from Jesus’ home town make sense? Throughout all four of the gospels there is a backdrop of hostility and disappointment when Jesus returns to Nazareth. He is the famous miracle worker, the charismatic leader who has drawn twelve devoted apostles to his work, he is royalty, for heaven’s sake, and yet what has he done?

Has he mobilized an army, like David would have, to expel the loathsome Romans? Has he marched on Jerusalem and staged a coup to take over the palace? Most important, has he assigned his own family members as generals in his army and presidents of his parliament?

What good is finally having the Messiah (anointed one) come from your home town if his idea of anointed is that he bring good news to the poor and restore sight to the blind? What kind of glorious revolution is that?

No wonder they tried to throw him off a cliff.

Have you ever relinquished your expectations of family members and honored who they really are?

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

25 January 2016

Reflecting on I Corinthians 12: 12-30

Every once in a while I take inventory of my body. Let’s see. I’ve been coloring my hair since I was twenty-five. I’ve needed glasses since college. Let’s just stop there. The rest is where it starts to get ugly.

How about you? What assessments would you make about the history of your body? Does that old football injury still kick up when it rains? Has your appendix scar just sort of blended in with all your other battle scars? St. Paul’s letter today inspires me to review my physical body, and to marvel at how brilliant the whole messed up thing is.

But of course he’s using the body as a metaphor for the Body of believers, that perfect organism whose blood supply is Love. So let’s take a quick inventory of how the Body is functioning in our time.

Where there is loneliness, are we there? Where there are refugees, are we mobilizing? Where there is ignorance and intolerance, are we courageous and outspoken? Where there are people bound to their homes through illness and disability, are we organized to bring them comfort, meals, rides to doctor appointments?

Where there are young families with newborns, are we supporting them with meals, and our time, so they can catch up on sleep? For that matter, where there are small children at Mass, are we providing child care so their exhausted parents can pray and be renewed?

Are we honoring the elders who built our parishes and schools and who now need our help? I can proudly say that, in many ways, we are. But, just like that nagging arthritic knee, the broken places still cry out for healing.

In what ways are you helping to build up the Body?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

This week’s column was inspired by four wonderful friends. Christine Maschka oversees the stunning Share the Care program at Most Precious Blood Parish in Denver. This column is a very brief summary of the dozens of needs she responds to and serves each week. Madonna Gaudio is finishing her degree at Regis University, after which she will immerse herself in addressing those needs in a larger arena. Justin and Lauren Zuiker regularly attempt Mass attendance while juggling two toddlers. It is observing their struggle that inspires the question about child care in our parishes.

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

16 January 2016

Reflecting on John 2: 1-11

Some scholars say that the secret to the story of the wedding feast of Cana lies in those mysterious six stone water jars. What on earth are six huge jars, holding twenty to thirty gallons of water, doing outside a tiny house in tiny Cana of Galilee? The only appropriate courtyard for such massive jars would have been―of course! ―the Temple in Jerusalem.

The first century Jewish reader would smile in profound recognition. Brilliant! John has transported the very stone jars that once stood outside the Temple, the Temple which, by the time this late gospel was written, had been brutally destroyed by the Roman army, and transported them to tiny Cana where Jesus, his mother, and their friends are all celebrating a joyous wedding.

They have no wine, said Mary to Jesus. Might that be symbolic language for “all the things we held dear as faithful Jews have been destroyed”?

After a brief skirmish with his mother, which of course he doesn’t win, Jesus directs the servers to fill those (symbolic) jars with water. If we take this story literally (which I suspect would disappoint John the Evangelist deeply) we have to wonder how long it would take―and how many trips to the well it would involve―  to pour one hundred and twenty gallons of water into those jars.

The very shape of this wondrous story suggests that this deeply symbolic account of a neighborhood wedding is meant to tell us one thing: Jesus is the new Temple, Jesus is the new wine, Jesus is everything we had longed for and thought we had lost.

It’s that simple. Thank you, Blessed Mother! Now go and do whatever he tells you.

What things that you once held dear have you put aside in order to follow Jesus?

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Baptism of the Lord

9 January 2016

My friends Mary Ann and David have the most fabulous Epiphany party every year. It’s a tradition that goes back decades now. None of us can remember a Christmas season that wasn’t marked by this annual gathering of hundreds of friends gathered ‘round the grand piano, singing four-part harmonies, enjoying delicious drinks and sampling the dozens and dozens of cookies for which, along with many other amazing talents, Mary Ann is famous.

But it wasn’t the two fantastic Christmas trees, or the thousands of lights throughout the house and out into the driveway, or even the warmth of the many beloved friends there that I will most remember this year. It was a conversation with her oldest friend, who reminded me that she wasn’t at the party last year. Why? Because she had endured nine hours of surgery the day before to excise lung cancer.

I was stunned. I hadn’t heard about this. “But you look so healthy!” I said. “Oh,” she said, “I feel great. Mary Ann and David put me in their guest room (where they cared for Mary Ann’s mother for the last several years of her life) and they just bathed me in love. They fed me and cared for me, and I recovered beautifully. I had a wonderful year.”

She had lung cancer, and she had a wonderful year. Just think about that. Each of us has the power to bring so much mercy into someone’s life that, a year after their struggle, they can say, “I had a wonderful year.” Imagine being baptized into that mercy every day. Imagine extending that mercy.

It’s going to be a wonderful year.

In what ways have you already experienced mercy this year?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord – Cycle C

2 January 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 2: 1-12

Star dust. It turns out we are all made of it. Almost every element on Earth was formed at the heart of a star. How? When a massive star explodes, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen are released into the universe, providing the building blocks for planets, and plants, and human life. Everything in us is formed from residual stardust, and here’s the best part: you have stuff in you as old as the universe.

So consider this: when those passionate astrologers saw that Star, might it have been the stardust in them, routed into them through eons, from the day God spoke the world into being, that shouted out, “We recognize You! We are made from You! We have literally longed for You, in every cell of our being, from the beginning of time!”

Each of us carries those Wise Men in our own DNA. We too are made of the stuff that sees the Star and says, “Yes, I was made to seek You and find You. Nothing in my life will ever satisfy me until I do.”

And so I ask you, Star gazers: where do you feel the most completely yourself, the most utterly at home? Allow yourself this epiphany: only by knowing what you know for sure will you ever truly find the peace that comes from God, who formed the world from the beginning of the beginning. If you are breathing, then you are stardust, and you won’t feel at home until you find the Star.

Joni Mitchell had it right: We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.

In what ways do you sense that you belong to God?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Cycle C

24 December 2015

Here’s a question. Which of the people in the Christmas story are you?  I promise that you are somewhere in this inspired narrative. That’s how the world’s great stories are meant to work, and the story of the birth of Jesus Christ is surely tied with the narrative of his resurrection as the greatest story ever told.

I realized years ago that I am without a doubt the shepherds. Like them, I had the good news announced to me, and I have spent the rest of my life in haste, rushing to verify it for myself (which I have), and then “making it known” to anyone who will listen.

Are you a maverick, someone who speaks the truth and doesn’t care about the consequences? Hello, John the Baptist. Do you delight in being the bearer of comfort and very good news? Welcome, angels! Are you someone who seeks the Truth, even if it’s outside your comfort zone, and is willing to go to any length to find it? Step into the manger scene, Magi.

Or maybe you find yourself in one of the darker characters this Christmas. Are you paranoid about losing your power and status these days? Do you worry that a younger or more charismatic employee wants your job? Hmm. I’m sorry to tell you that King Herod had the same suspicions.

Here’s a good one. Are you a Christ-bearer, someone who brings goodness and Light to everyone around you? Brace yourself. You are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who carried Christ into the world.

Gaze at the manger scene and find yourself there.  In your heart, recognition. And on earth, peace.

Share with a dear one who you are in the Christmas story.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

19 December 2015

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-45

Sometimes we just have to live between memory and hope. When Mary asked, “How can this be? the angel Gabriel appealed to her memory. Certainly Mary remembered the great miracle stories in the scriptures, didn’t she? Just thinking about them would have stirred her faith in what was happening right that minute. But Gabriel had another surprise. “Look!” said Gabriel. “You know your elderly, childless cousin Elizabeth? She’s pregnant! See? And God who is mighty is doing something even greater right now. Are you in?”

“I’m all in,” said Mary. Then―and don’t miss this―the angel left her. There is no evidence that the angel ever visited Mary again. Not when she was an unmarried, pregnant girl about to give birth in an over-booked Bethlehem. Not when the prophet Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart. Not even, oh God, at the foot of the cross. Not even then.

Have you chosen to remember, even in the dreadest times, God’s nearness to you in the past? Elizabeth’s words to Mary are for you too: “Blessed are you who BELIEVE that the promise of the Lord will be fulfilled.”

In what ways do you live between memory and hope?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

13 December 2015

Reflecting on Luke 3: 10-18

“What should we do?” asked the crowd that followed John into the wilderness. He looked at each one and told them what particular thing was keeping them from the fulfilling the Law in their own lives.  “Stop cheating.”  “Stop extorting.” “Stop hoarding what you’ve got.”

Hmm.  I wonder what he would say to us.  Imagine the Baptizer encountering us, leveling his refiner’s fire at us.  I suspect we would hear things like, “Stop being anxious.  Your heavenly Father knows what you need.” Or, “Stop working so hard to provide things.  Your family needs YOU more than things.”

Or maybe, “Stop secretly harboring grudges.  Your resentments have grown tiresome. Others have overcome far worse injustices than you have. Forgive, and move on. Or is it possible that being wounded makes you happier than being healed?”

Here’s an Advent assignment: imagine John the Baptist looking into your heart. What would he tell YOU to do? And here’s the hard part: could you do it? Today’s third candle (pink for hope) promises that you could.

What changes are you making for the Year of Mercy?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

10 December 2015

I had a “moment” in the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. Although I had been shopping for a week, there was still a significant list of last-minute items to pick up at 4pm Wednesday afternoon. It was bitter cold outside, but the store was bumper-to-bumper buggies and their harried operators. We squeezed past each other. We smiled tight, stressed smiles while reaching over each other for rolls and marshmallows.

I snagged the last bouquet out of the cooler.  On my victorious journey to the checkout lane several people congratulated me. They laughed. I laughed. And then the realization of how ridiculous it all was came over me, and somehow I think we all felt it at the same time.

Seriously? I was stressing over a table decoration? Where am I, Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? Mali? Paris? Colorado Springs? San Bernadino?

I don’t think I imagined this. I think a moment of what we used to call “actual grace” was released in the store, at least in the area where I was shopping.  People relaxed.  They smiled and wished a Happy Thanksgiving to strangers―those abundantly blessed buggy drivers, none of whom would be jockeying for a place at the overcrowded shelters that night, or standing on the frozen street with signs asking for spare change.

It was a Thanksgiving Miracle. An ease, a peace, an immense swelling of true gratitude seemed to waft through the store. Or maybe it was just in my heart. That’s where most of the really awesome miracles begin.

And now it is Advent, and the long-awaited Year of Mercy. Having felt the breath of the Spirit, I intend to spend this year gorging on gratitude, and handing others the last bouquet.

How will you celebrate the Year of Mercy?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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