Easter Sunday – Cycle A

20 April 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 28: 1-10

If you attended the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday you heard Matthew’s detailed and fascinating resurrection account.  It’s only here that we learn there was a “great earthquake” when an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and, like swatting a fly, rolled the stone away that had tried to keep Jesus chained in death.

And Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” actually saw this!  This is the only account in the four gospels where eyewitnesses actually saw the stone rolled away!  The big scary Roman guards posted at the tomb were so terrified by that angel that they fell dead asleep.  But not those women!  They stood their ground and watched―not fainting, but full of a faith that only comes from Love.  They loved Jesus.  No angel was keeping them from him. 

And because of their Love they witnessed the greatest event of all history.

On this day, Easter Sunday 2014, I offer you this invitation:  Fall in love with him.  Soften your heart.  Enter the tomb and see that it is empty.  Enter into a life in Christ and see that is full to overflowing with grace and love for you.  I promise.

The guards could have been eyewitnesses too.  Instead, they helped start the rumor that Jesus’ disciples stole the body so that there would be an explanation for that empty tomb when people came to see for themselves.

The world is like that these days.  There are lots of explanations for that empty tomb.  Except for this: the earliest Christians gladly accepted martyrdom because they had seen, and utterly believed, that their BELOVED was waiting for them just on the other side of the grave.

What might be keeping you from falling in Love?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle A

17 April 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 26: 14-27:66

Five weeks ago we heard a familiar and eerie story.  Jesus, having just been baptized, goes into the desert to keep his rendezvous, set from the beginning of time, with the Enemy. Famished from fasting, he is accosted by the Liar, who says, Look, you’re God, right?  I know you’re hungry, and there’s nothing to eat out here.  Just turn these stones into bread.

Jesus repulses the Liar with scripture, but he persists.  If you really want to show these people that you’re God, you should throw yourself off this cliff and let the angels catch you.  That’s the way a real God would do it.

Again Jesus rebuffs him, and the Enemy finally shows his hand.  Okay, you’re God and I’m not.  But I’ve got all the kingdoms of the world in my pocket. Give up this charade of being a human being, bow down and worship me, and I’ll give you everything.

At this, Jesus commands the Liar to leave, and so he must.   Matthew’s gospel tells us that angels then come to minister to Jesus.  Watch for those angels.  They’ll be back to roll the stone away on Easter morning, and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against them.

Satan failed so miserably because he couldn’t believe that Jesus, though he was in the form of God, would empty himself, taking the form of a slave.  Satan must have been astonished on Good Friday, when Jesus became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Two thousand years later, we’re still astonished.  And at his Name, 2.18 billion Christians bend their knees today, and their tongues confess:  Jesus Christ is Lord.

Are you still astonished at this wondrous love?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

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Fifth Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

6 April 2014

Reflecting On John 11:1-45

Ten years ago this week I went into Rose Hospital for exploratory surgery on a ten centimeter ovarian cyst.  I don’t think it’s going to turn out to be anything, said my wonderfully reassuring surgeon.  We’ll probably be done in an hour.

When I woke up, three hours had passed.  That’s when I knew for sure that the same disease which killed my mother in 1985 now had me in its grip.

But not for long. There was no metastasis.  I was one of those rare women to whom the symptoms of ovarian cancer did not whisper at all.  They shouted loud enough for my husband and my friend Angeline Hubert to say, “Something is very wrong with you.”

Like Lazarus, I was dead in the tomb.  Had my loved ones not pushed me to find the reason for my deep fatigue, the disease would surely have progressed to a stage beyond the scope of surgery.  Kathy, come out! Jesus our Healer commanded me.  And the nearly dead woman came out.  I am the longest-living survivor of ovarian cancer at the Rose Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.

Lord, if you had been here my mother would never have died.  How I prayed that my wonderful mom would be cured so many years before, but it was through her death that I recognized the disease when it came upon me nearly twenty years later.  We don’t know, in our lifetimes, the way God will use our suffering in the future, or is using it now.

Our task, while we live, is to unbind each other until the day the Risen One removes our death clothes once and for all.

How are you helping unbind people of their suffering?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

One Comments to “Fifth Sunday in Lent – Cycle A”

  1. So true that we do not know the way God will use or is using our suffering. I can see how God has used past suffering to draw me nearer to him by SHOWING me how to unite my sufferings with his. Often people talk about uniting sufferings to christ or offering it up, it truly is a grace! THe most recent suffering was with regards to my daughter being diagnosed with food allergies (after several months of screaming, and us misguided parents thinking it was just colic). It led to a lot of dietary changes for her and the family which has been truly a lifestyle change (hardly eating out, challenges when eating with family/friends, etc. not to mention giving up lots of processed/convenient foods). We truly see the health benefits now, but aside from that I hope we can help others in similar situations. So to finally answer the question we hope to allow the Lord to use our past sufferings/experience to help others in similar situations like my friend who recently had a daughter who also is struggling with allergies. Mary mother of Lord, and our mother pray for us.

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Fourth Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

1 April 2014

Reflecting on John 9: 1-41

The thing is, we know this guy.  We’ve known him since he was a child.  As far as anyone can remember, he was always blind― blind from birth, his parents said.  Obviously, he’s a sinner.  His parents, too.  You don’t have a terrible affliction like blindness without a long history of sin in the family.

Moses insists we open wide our arms to the needy, so we’ve been giving him alms all these years.  That’s what makes what happened today so infuriating.   The sinner Jesus has been in Jerusalem with his disciples since the Feast of Tabernacles.  He’s caused his usual uproar, saying outrageous things about himself, even giving some people the impression he is replacing our feasts of water and light with himself.

None of us has forgotten what he did last Passover, when he drove the money changers out of the Temple and hinted that he was going to destroy the Temple and replace it with himself!  He even consorts with Samaritan women!  You might have heard about that little travesty, and how she went running back to tell all the Samaritans about him.  He’s obviously a sorcerer, just like they are.

And then there was the business with that woman caught in the very act of adultery.  That was his chance to prove that he was a true child of Moses, but no.  She walked away without a word of judgment from him.  We’d already collected the stones.

Next thing you know we’ll be hearing stories of him raising people from the dead.

In the meantime, now this blind man pretends to see, and says that this Jesus cured him.  And on the Sabbath!  Sinners don’t cure people.  Everyone knows that.

Jesus, the Messiah?  No way.  We just don’t see it.

What behaviors in your life do you refuse to see?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

One Comments to “Fourth Sunday in Lent – Cycle A”

  1. I finally got in after five tries. I treasure the “hunger as the password to unlock grace…” I also need to re-examine my soul’s posture vis-a-vis “The Positive Regard of Everyone I meet.” Thanks for feeding me, Kathy and for constantly inoculating me against vanity.

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Third Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

24 March 2014

Reflecting on John 4: 5-42

Give me a drink.  Seriously, Jesus.  I’m asking.

I’m thirsty, and I know that’s the very thing you want to hear.  My emptiness is the password that unlocks your grace, and oh how I need it.

I suppose that, like your great Samaritan disciple, I’ve had five husbands too.  Hers were the five religions practiced by the slaves the Assyrians brought in to populate Samaria seven hundred years earlier.  The inhabitants of Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hammath, and Sepharvaim knew nothing about Jacob or Moses, or the great prophets Amos and Hosea.

Well, to be honest, even Amos and Hosea couldn’t pierce the deafness of the inhabitants of Samaria all those years ago.  They had the very well that their ancestor Jacob dug, and they gave lip service to the laws of Moses, but still they burned their children alive on altars dedicated to the Canaanite gods.  So there were definitely wide open spaces in their hearts for the allure of the gods of the foreigners who came in with the Assyrians.

I left myself wide open for five husbands too, and they enslaved me.  Their names are Comfort, and Food, and Safety, and People who Look Like Me, and, my most powerful master, The Positive Regard of Everyone I Meet.

I’ve drunk deeply from those wells, but they only made me thirsty again.  Comfort and Food and Safety left me listless and useless.  And the truth is, the faces of your poor look nothing like me, and those who care for them care only about YOUR positive regard.  Give me a sip from the well from which THEY drink and are so satisfied.

Fill my cup, Lord.  I’m finally lifting it up.

What “husbands” have left you unsatisfied?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

One Comments to “Third Sunday in Lent – Cycle A”

  1. I loved the line “My emptiness is the password that unlocks your grace, and oh how I need it.” Oh how true! And when I think of to what I have wed myself to fill this emptiness you got them all! (Comfort, food, safety, positive regard) I was just talking to a friend the other day about the concept that we want everyone to like us and oh how the Gospel concept of persecution contradicts this desire! May this time of Lent (Fasting, Almsgiving, Prayer) help me to seek HIM, who can truly fulfill my hearts desire.

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Second Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

19 March 2014

Reflecting on Matt. 17: 1-9

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “daddy hunger”, the term for whole generations of young men and women who grew up without their fathers in the home.  Prisons are full of them―men who had no father to love them and so seek that “daddy love” from participation in gangs, and women who buy guns for felons and take enormous risks for dangerous men who give them the attention they crave.

I know hundreds of fabulous fathers, but incarcerated people often know the detached, violent, or demeaning father whose unloving presence serves as the backdrop for their lives.  Dad can’t say “Good job, I’m proud of you” because he never heard it from his dad, who in turn never heard it from his.  Scratch the surface of the life of a chronically depressed male of any age, and often (but certainly not always) you’ll find his emotionally unavailable father at the center of his wounds.

But not Jesus.  From the moment of his baptism at the Jordan to this transfiguring moment of identity revelation on Mount Tabor, the Father tells Jesus who he is:  My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Wouldn’t this world be a different place if children, boys in particular, heard this from their fathers on a regular basis?  Yes, this is my beloved son.  He makes me proud every day.

That’s the piece of heaven we learn about first in the gospels:  Jesus is the beloved Son of a heavenly Father who claims him, and names him, and is well pleased with him.  It’s that deep knowledge of being eternally loved that strengthens Jesus to go back down Tabor and face Jerusalem and his destiny.

In what ways do you witness “daddy hunger” in the world?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

One Comments to “Second Sunday in Lent – Cycle A”

  1. I worked with teenagers with addictions in the past and can see the “daddy hunger.” But on a more personal note, I also have been blessed with a great father (not perfect so sometimes may have had a little daddy hunger myself =) But in general I can see how he has reflected the Heavenly Father’s love to me (always providing for me financially, helping me with my car, etc.) but more specifically providing for me emotionally; on one particular occasion, on recently becoming a mother and struggling with certain questions on how to raise our new baby, I left the house frustrated and upset, my dad was also leaving and instead of going the usual way out of the neighborhood he followed me and I texted him as I saw him drive by why he went that way, he responded, just wanted to see that you are okay. Then without any discussion of what was going on, he texted, you are a great mom just the way you are, you don’t have to try to be anyone else. For me in that moment I felt God had answered my prayers and shown his fatherly care for me. God bless fathers! May we always remember to also pray for them, what an important role they have!

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First Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

10 March 2014

Reflecting on Gen. 2:7-9; 3:1-7

What is it about a lie that is so much more comfortable than the truth?  I think any lie that corroborates our own secret desires―which eventually kill us, by the way―will always find a welcome home with us.

The Enemy starts with a lie by suggesting to Eve that God has forbidden her all the trees in the garden.  Oh no, she says, just the one in the middle. 

Seriously? (says the Prince of Liars), I can’t believe that.  I’m outraged for you.  Why SHOULDN’T you have it all?

And you know what?  There is some part of us that thinks that we should.  Just give me a reason, any reason, why I should get to consume far more than my share of the world’s resources and I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief.  No opposing viewpoints will find such an attentive ear.

Or suggest, as the serpent did, that I should be suspicious of others, that I’m being purposely left out of things, or that my experience is more exquisitely painful than all the rest of humanity, and I’ll lovingly nurture that lie for the rest of my life.

That Original Lie, that we are being secretly excluded by a conniving God―insert parent, or teacher, or coworkers, or friends―is our Original Wound.  And we willfully break that wound open, over and over again.

A million years later the Tempter tried the same lies on Jesus.  But the new Adam rejected Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises.  And at the end of these forty days we will gather at the Easter Font, renew our baptismal promises, and reject the Liar once again.

What lies do you resolve to reject this Lent?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

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Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

3 March 2014

There is a moment in the long-ago television show Thirtysomething that has stayed with me all these years.  One of the main characters was an avid environmentalist who didn’t drive a car.  He rode his bike in all seasons, and his friends worried that he would be hit by a car, or slide on the ice and fall into traffic, or hit a pothole and break his ribs, or get stung on the tongue by a bee and go crashing off his bike and then skid ten yards into traffic.

No, wait.  That’s my bicyclist-husband Ben’s resumé.  The bicyclist on the show was suddenly killed off in one episode, and yes, it was a car accident, but the unexpected twist was that he happened that night to be a passenger in a car that was hit by a drunk driver.

Isn’t that always the way?  We decide on the things we’ll worry about, and devote our sleepless nights and years to them, and sometimes the things we’ve worried about happen right on schedule, but more often it’s the things we never saw coming that take us to our knees. That’s what Jesus meant by sufficient for a day is its own evil. Every day brings its own challenges, and then blessed sleep repairs our psyches and prepares us for the next day.  Or, as the Genesis author wrote so beautifully about God’s work in the six days of creation, evening came, and morning followed.

There was, of course, that anguished, sleepless night in Gethsemane, and the terrible events of the next day. But Good Friday came, and Easter followed.  Jesus has won the right to tell us to cease worrying.

Over which worries have you lost way too much sleep?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

22 February 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 38-48

As the Olympics come to an end this weekend I find myself wondering: What if there were an Olympics that awarded medals for individuals or nations that best perform three events put before us in today’s readings?

  • Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people (Leviticus 19:17).

Are you STILL nursing that grudge against your sister after all this time?  Get over yourself.  Review the past and see things from her perspective for once.  Disarm yourself.  Call her.  The family member who takes that advice to heart wins the gold medal, and gets the biggest chocolate bunny this Easter.

  • Give to the one who asks of you (Matthew 5:42).

On the website that accompanies this column there was an exchange last week that brought this controversial Olympic event into focus.  Due to a childhood in poverty, Becky’s basic reading and writing skills are poor.  During the past few weeks she expressed on the site a number of beautiful theological insights drawn from her lifetime of suffering.

An English teacher might be tempted to take a red pen to the errors in spelling and sentence structure.  Instead, Cris, a highly educated reader a thousand miles away, chose to read past the grammatical struggles and responded to her heart, the heart she was asking to be cherished.   It’s a tie.  They share the gold medal, Becky for having the courage to ask to be heard, and Cris for truly hearing.

  • Forget not all God’s benefits (Ps. 103:2).

When you drew open the blinds this morning did you instinctively thank God for sunlight?  Step up to the dais.  The gold is yours.

In what virtues are you training for Olympic gold?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

17 February 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 17-37

Now that the Jaqueline Kennedy interview tapes have been released, we know the fascinating advice her husband gave her about managing the hostility she felt toward some of the foreign guests at the White House.  He said, “Jackie, you can’t think these insulting things about people, even in private, because someday those thoughts will come slipping out of your mouth at some state dinner, and next thing you know we’ll be at war with Russia.”

How true.  Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said that insulting each other is like committing a murder.  Unkind words are not easily forgotten, regardless of how much we assure the contrite friend that all is forgiven.  The general trajectory of hurtful words is hurt feelings, which invariably lead the offended party to get revenge in some unconscious way.  We have no real cultural model in which to say, “You really hurt me last month, and I thought I could forgive you, but I find that I am apprehensive and hostile towards you now.” True forgiveness is hard work, and probably takes longer than we’d hoped. 

So, the way to avoid all this is to go on a fast from thinking uncharitable things about people.  This is harder to do today than ever because creatively insulting people is the national media pastime, especially in election years, and when is it not an election year? Fast from imagining some hilarious barb you would sling at someone, and chances are you never will sling that barb, which will keep them from having to come at you someday with a hatchet.

What experience have you had with the “murder” that hurtful words can cause?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2013

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