Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

7 March 2016

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

For over twenty years the diocese of Saginaw, Michigan was led by the brilliant and insightful Bishop Ken Untener. He was known as a great reconciler. Wounds didn’t fester in his diocese. You’ll see why in this beautiful piece, The Forgiving Father―With a Mother’s Twist, gratefully reprinted with permission for one-time use here:

While the father and elder son are arguing in the back-yard, the mother comes out and says, “Now I have had just about enough.”

To her husband: “You’ve always favored our youngest and you know it. Our elder son works hard every day and you take him for granted. I hardly ever hear you say ‘thank you’ except to the hired hands. It’s about time you started noticing your family for a change.”

Then to the elder son: “And you … always the martyr. You act as if you’re the only one who has to go the extra mile. Well, I have to do it and so does everybody else. It’s time you learned to swallow hard and rise above the things in life that are unfair. Stop your silly pouting.”

She then goes and gets the younger son. “And you, the spoiled little prince — in there celebrating and you never even thought to ask about your brother and apologize for leaving him to do all the work. It’s about time you realized that the whole world doesn’t revolve around you.”

Then to the three of them: “Work out your differences some other time. We’ve got company, so get in there and start acting like family instead of three-year-olds.”

Reconciliation can be complicated. But that’s no reason not to reconcile.

Does your ongoing feud with family members need a mom who’ll deliver some tough love?

 

Thank you, dear Rita Albright, for bringing this great piece to my attention just in time! It’s reprinted from The Little Black Book, based on the writing of Bishop Ken Untener. Learn more at www.littlebooks.us  (989) 797-6653

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

29 February 2016

Reflecting on Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15

My nephew, raised in a Catholic home and surrounded by practicing Catholic family and friends, loved his twelve years of Catholic schools. After high school he went to the state university with several of his childhood friends. I visited him on campus for his April birthday, and, while touring the grounds, asked, “Where is the Catholic Church on campus?”

I could have been speaking Swahili. After eight months on campus, spent in the company of his Catholic friends, it hadn’t occurred to one of them to inquire about  a parish where they could stay connected with the faith that had been so carefully and lovingly nourished in them.

There were many bushes burning all around them―fascinating classes that could have ignited their intellects and longing to seek the Master Designer, and kids their age of all different religious backgrounds who could have stimulated great conversations about faith. Surely there were SOME interesting people on campus―Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons who could have caused them to draw near and say, “What is your background? Is faith in God part of what makes you so compelling? Tell me more.”

But no one fascinated them enough to come closer, to investigate, to take off their shoes and stand humbly before the Mystery. That’s what makes holy ground―when the Divine Spark finally connects with our own longing, and we can’t stop ourselves from drawing near. It was the cultural imperative of college life that they simply walk away from all religious impulses.

I think about that bush in the desert, utterly consumed with God. I suspect that it had been burning from the beginning of time, waiting for someone to catch its light and be ineluctably drawn towards it.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God, wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ah, yes. But grace upon grace is still burning in the desert, waiting for us to be chilly enough, lonely enough, “not enough” enough, to take off our shoes and listen.

Where are the places of holy ground―of engagement with God―for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

22 February 2016

Reflecting on Luke 9: 28b-36

I wonder what they thought when Jesus led them up Mount Tabor to pray.

“Seriously, Rabbi?” James and John might have thundered, “Can’t we just pray down here?”

“Listen, Master,” Peter may have cajoled, “we’ve got a long road ahead. If you insist on going down to Jerusalem, which as you know I do not advise, we can pray our tefillah down here and rest.”

They couldn’t have been surprised when Jesus kept walking. After all, didn’t Moses climb the mountain of Sinai twice? And speaking of Mt. Sinai, wasn’t it there that Elijah heard God speak in the tiny breeze?

So of course they went up the mountain. Jesus was climbing, and, having been invited into that intimacy, they could never have stayed away.

I climbed that mountain once myself. It remains the most terrifying experience of my life. Trapped in the mud and the cold, with an arthritic hip and a heart Much Afraid, I would never have made it to the high places without my husband and several friends.

Was it worth it? Ask Peter, James, and John. Because of their willingness to climb with Jesus, they saw him transfigured, his divinity fully revealed, and they heard the Father speak. And yes, Moses and Elijah appeared too, comforting Jesus about what was to take place in Jerusalem. Oh yeah. It was worth it.

It was worth it for me too. Everyone should have such a memory, of loved ones pulling her out of the depths, and Habakkuk 3:19 being fulfilled in her life: “The Lord God is my strength, and will give me hinds’ feet, and will make me to walk upon the high places.”

Have you read the classic Christian allegory, “Hinds’ Feet in High Places”? It will give you strength.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

In loving memory of wonderful Ted Schwarz, who, having arrived at Tabor and not finding me there, came back to get me.

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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First Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

14 February 2016

Reflecting on Luke 4: 1-13

It’s Lent again, thank God.  In a culture of excess and prosperity, I don’t have the discipline to impose a fast of any kind any other time of year. And the thing is, I want Easter to really mean something. During these cold days I find myself longing for sun, and flowers, and the crocus pulling up. But here in bleak mid-winter it’s good to remember that the seeds of Easter are planted firmly in Lent, and so, once again, I turn my face towards Jerusalem, and the cross.

The other problem is that I’m not really clear about what temptation is any more. (And I know that that itself is the port of entry for its endlessly entertaining disguises.)  But this I know: every time I hear Satan telling Jesus that all the kingdoms of the world―think about that for a moment―have been given to him, I get a chill. And my fuzzy vision clears up right away.

Why? Because I know that the gap between who I am, and who I desire to be, closes a little bit every time I deny the Author of Lies any power, any glory. How dare he tell the Author of Love that the kingdoms of the world are his, to be won over by the deadly sins of hate, and envy, and greed, and violence?

Not the kingdom of my heart. Not the kingdom of my life. The Word of God is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart. You have only to carry it out.

I may not be able to define temptation, but I know it when I see it. And I stand with Jesus.

In what ways will you challenge the Author of Lies this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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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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