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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First Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

28 November 2015

The season we wait for all year long is finally here. The purples and pinks, the smell of evergreen, the minor-key Advent carols, the darkness, the beautiful readings, and the entire sensory delight that is Advent is finally here. Let’s enjoy every delicious minute of this short and profound season.

But before that first candle burns down too far, let’s take a minute to consider the countless ways that the Long-Awaited One, for whom we longed LAST Advent, has been manifest in our lives these past 52 weeks.

December:         Advent, and Christmas, and looking ahead

January:             The Epiphany of Christ our Light.

February:            Lent began, again.

March:                Holy Week, with its endless grace.

April:                   Easter, and baptisms and First Communions and Confirmations.

May:                    Spring! Remember how beautiful it was?

June:                   Summer!

July:                    Picnics!

August:               Bike rides, and feast days, and back-to-school

September:        Glorious Indian Summer. Thank you, God

October:              The mystery of death

November:         The saints, and giving thanks

And here are the Advent candles again. Come, Lord, Jesus, and give us eyes to see your presence always.

Take ten minutes to review your year since last Advent. Can you see Christ there?

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 Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Cycle B

27 November 2015

Reflecting on John 18: 33b-37

I often wish that I didn’t feel so comfortable in this world. When I hear Jesus say to Pilate, “My kingdom is not here,” I feel a little squeamish, because my kingdom is absolutely here. I love all the things of this world that will one day pass away―that are, in fact, already passing away.

I love hot showers, and warm blankets, and mountains of books. I love chilly November mornings and warm, crunchy November afternoons. I love each of my precious friends, especially those my age who share my same memories and have had equally privileged lives.

I love feeling great every day, and am deeply grateful that all of my family members are well. I adore every beautiful child in my life. I love my parish, my job, my house, and my dog. I love telling my sweet husband at least a hundred times a day how much I love him.

And all of that, of course, is passing away with each breath. I hate that.

Jesus loved all these things too. He certainly loved his mother, and Joseph. He had a number of beloved friends, twelve of whom he chose to live with for three years. He loved getting in a boat and teaching. He loved this life, with its aching beauty and exquisite longing.

But when it came to the day of his terrible inquisition by Pilate, the day for which he was born and for which he came into the world, the Prince of Peace acknowledged that his kingdom is not here.

Not yet. But as Advent nears, let us renew our vows to live so as to bring the Kingdom of God.

In what ways do you not feel at home in this world?

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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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Times – Cycle B

18 November 2015

Reflecting on Mark 13: 24-32

I wonder if I can still find it. Ah. Here it is. A very old, grainy picture sits at the bottom of my file marked “Apocalyptic Literature.” I sort through papers on the Book of Daniel, with its great tales of angels in the fiery furnace, and ravenous lions who lay down at Daniel’s feet in their den. I love those stories, written in a time of great peril, about God’s power to save.

And then, of course, there is my big, fat, juicy file on the book of Revelation. Lakes of fire.  Seven seals and seven trumpets. The Four Horsemen.  A New Jerusalem.

I like the sound of that.  If ever a city, and its embattled history, cries out to be made new, it’s Jerusalem.

I hold the precious picture, given to me by a devout Oklahoma evangelical gospel singer forty years ago. It was taken during a tornado. After it was developed, the believing family gasped. There, in the midst of the deepening dark clouds, is a figure clothed in white, right there in the middle of the storm.

I’ve held that photograph close through the years, through times of shuddering illness and shattering loss. Perhaps it’s a trick of the light. Perhaps it’s vapors swirling in the vortex. But I choose to believe that the image is one of the endless signs to us of the nearness of God.

They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, reads the fading caption, typed out on an old Underwood, decades before the personal computer. My experience compels me to add Jesus’ words at his ascension: And behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.

What moments in your life do you remember as a sure sign of the comforting presence of 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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Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

10 November 2015

Reflecting on Mk. 12: 38-44

It was once my singular pleasure to take five beautiful little girls to Mass every Sunday. They were best friends, and all claimed that they wanted to learn more about Jesus.  I cringe today when I think of how culturally tone-deaf I was to think that Zeenat, coming from a religious Muslim family, and Jeanette, whose Vietnamese parents were Buddhists, actually wanted to come to Mass so that they could learn about Catholicism.

They were there because they wanted to help their friend, whose parents weren’t willing to take her to church, make her First Communion in the spring. They reveled in all the love they received on Sunday morning. It was also a blessed break from the bleakness of the housing projects where they lived. Afterwards, we played on the church playground, and all five girls loved coming with me to my office at the Archdiocese, where they played in front of the statues and drew beautiful pictures on the chalk board.

When the big day came, my Baptist nieces made a colorful banner for the table. Zeenat decorated the cake and the hall. The parish gave Tamara an unforgettable party, and my photographer-brother took stunning pictures of the day that I hope are still on her wall.

Together, we all offered a widow’s mite.  I didn’t have much, but I had a car and I had the time. The parish didn’t have much, but the gracious pastor and warm parishioners embraced them with love and real friendship. The girls themselves had so little, but they showed up every Sunday and gave their very best.

Several different faith traditions gave, from very little, to give Tamara a great feast.

Have you ever witnessed the great wealth of those who are poor?

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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Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

2 November 2015

Don’t you love having friends in high places? I’ve had St. Anthony on speed dial since the day I learned to say Tony, Tony, come around. Something’s lost and can’t be found. Is there any saint who gets called on more often in a day than he does? How on earth do non-Catholics ever find anything?

This very Catholic “thing” we have with the saints isn’t something that some high-ranking cleric invented. The sense that those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith are still with us, aiding us and loving us, came from the earliest days of Christianity.

In 165 A.D., when Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was burned at the stake and then stabbed to death, a spontaneous act of love erupted in the amphitheater. Those who knew him rushed to obtain something of his body―his hair, his bones, his clothes―in order to touch something that had been part of him. Thus began the reverence for the saints that is one of the defining charisms of Catholicism.

It would be great if those internet bloggers who claim that “idolatrous Catholics” worship the saints would actually consult a Catholic, any Catholic, before posting such sureties.  We revere the saints. We name our kids after them so they will have someone heroic to feel close to every day. And we ask for their prayers, just as we ask our living friends to pray for us too. Why wouldn’t I ask someone who is already in the Divine Presence to pray for me?

We don’t worship the saints. But if St. Anthony could help me find my glasses and my keys I’d certainly send up a few high-fives.

Happy Feast Day!

Update: My glasses showed up two days after sending this column in, and Ben just walked in with my missing keys. Don’t you just love All Saints Day?

 Who is your current favorite saint?

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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