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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Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Cycle C

21 November 2016

Reflecting on Luke 23: 35-43

I suppose it was inevitable. My husband Ben, who fears neither height nor depth nor OSHA regulations, fell fifteen feet from a ladder while painting a house in a low economic neighborhood two weeks ago. Despite the intense pain of recovering from his broken hip, hand, and scapula, we are both speechless with gratitude that there was no paralysis or brain damage. In fact, it could have been fatal because, as Butch said to Sundance, The fall will probably kill you.

At the same time that he was being ambulanced to the hospital, the fire crews were putting out a fire up the street. A single mom and her three kids were paying $1500 a month to live in a one-room apartment, now going up in flames. Jesus, remember them.

Watching the election results in the hospital on Tuesday night, we watched the weeping, the cheering, the convulsions of rage and glee. Jesus, remember us.

While Ben was wincing in pain a week later at home, we watched the Wounded Warriors on Veteran’s Day, facing lives as double amputees, many living with intense pain, minute by minute. Jesus, remember them.

Running parallel to that story were a dozen stories of drought, wildfires, mass murders and terrorist attacks. Jesus, remember them.

There are endless people for Jesus to remember, every hour of every day.  What comfort to know that Christ our King knows what it is to be in agony, to be tortured and killed by people who knew not what they were doing.

But we know what we are doing, and on this feast day we resolve to use our lives to bring healing and compassionate love, in memory of Jesus.

What good work will you do this week, in memory of Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

14 November 2016

Reflecting on Malachi 3: 19-20a

We’ve only had two mornings of real chill, and already I miss the sun. I want to sit on the beach and feel its heavenly rays. I want to sit out on the porch and read by its warm light. I want an eternal summer.

But oh, how this planet needs winter.  Floods and fires and drought are all the hallmarks of accelerated temperatures. I could live in capris and t-shirts all year, but I’d gladly trade them for parkas and gloves if it meant a restoration of the polar ice caps and a cessation of drought around the world.

It’s almost eerie that Malachi, prophesying the end times, says the days are coming like a blazing oven, when evildoers will be set on fire. We had a few days―make that weeks―last summer when it seemed that prophecy was already being fulfilled.

We’re hearing from Malachi today, and from the apocalyptic section of Luke’s gospel, because the liturgical year is groaning to a close. It does not go out quietly, gradually yielding to a docile and gentle Advent.  The end-of-the-church-year readings are cacophonous, and scary. They foretell terrible changes in climate, the agonies of war, and earthquakes and famines that sound like what’s trending right now on CNN.

But here’s what CNN will not say: there is a loving God who is with us, in blast furnaces and Arctic tundras. The long view of history must surely bear this out. In spite of our willful ignorance and blinding selfishness―and an excruciating election season― life is still being sustained every second by a Creator who is good.

So be at peace.  Reuse, recycle, and reduce. And, oh yes, trust God.

How are you standing up to your fears by holding fast to faith?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

5 November 2016

Reflecting on Luke 20: 27-38

There is something in us that remembers eternity. My favorite Old Testament passage captures it beautifully: God has made everything appropriate for its time, and yet has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We long for those glimpses of heaven that come to us―a tender wink from a beloved who has gone to God, or maybe a near-death story that has the ring of truth to it. But whether we experience those particular graces or not, the nearness of the eternal is right there, in our memory and our soul. We are made for heaven.

But we are also made for the earth, because that is where we forge the materials we will take into eternity. In C.S. Lewis’s beautiful parable, The Great Divorce, we see the excruciating conundrum. Heaven is right there, just steps away from the bus that carries those caught in the limbo of indecision. All one has to do is get off the bus. The problem is, heaven is so solid, so real. The grass is like knives for those who try to take selfishness and grubbiness and gossip and meanness into heaven. They’ll need to lay those wimpy things down if they want to walk in the strength of the Divine Presence.

That’s another piece of eternity that we already experience in this life: the “muscle memory” that comes when we grow into who we are meant to be. When we knock temptation to the ground, when we stand up for justice, when we grow the muscles of compassion and honesty, we can feel ourselves getting fit for the sturdiness of heaven.  The saints all got to the gym and got buff enough for eternity. Just do it.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

1 November 2016

Reflecting on Luke 19: 1-10

We can argue about Zaccheus all day. The Jews loathed him, since he made his living collecting the taxes the overlord Romans demanded. But some defended him, saying that if the Jews didn’t pay their taxes then the violent Romans would extract them themselves. Zaccheus was simply keeping the Jews alive and safe by keeping them in line with the demands made on them. That’s another way to look at him.

And then there’s this: Jesus’s companions on his long journey from Galilee down to Jerusalem were faithful and devoted people who, we can assume, would LOVE to have been called by Jesus and told he was having dinner with them that night. So who does he honor with that immeasurable grace? The vertically challenged, incredibly odious tax collector who climbs a tree on a whim and gets a better view than everyone else there. That’s not fair.

But here’s what Zaccheus will always have in his favor: he was seeking to see who Jesus was. Think about the people you know who have the Jesus Thing all figured out. He holds no mystery for them. They have deconstructed the miracles, googled “the culture” about him, and, perhaps sadly, put him away with all their other childhood dreams.

You know what? Zaccheus lived in the same kind of world. Prophets and would-be Messiahs were a dime a dozen. His Roman employers were cynical business men who would certainly have snickered at Jesus and his pitiful entourage. Nevertheless, he risked it all and climbed a tree, because, no matter how ridiculous he looks, he wanted to see Jesus.

That puts him way ahead of the game in our world today.

How can you inspire someone you love to want to see Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

22 October 2016

Reflecting on Lk. 18: 9-14

The Pharisee and the tax collector have something sacred to teach us. We must hold it close. To realize that we might actually be the Pharisees, the ones who think (secretly, of course) that we are more deserving of God’s mercy than anyone else, is a grace in itself. The surest and quickest passage to God’s mercy is to be profoundly aware of our need of it. I’ll bet that most readers immediately identify with the humble “sinner,” never realizing that the Pharisee is much closer to their true identity.

Try to remember a time when you were humbled by sin. Maybe one of the deadly sins has you in its vise, and a lifetime of wrath, for example, finds you banging on the hood of somebody’s stalled car at rush hour. Or maybe, like me, you are intentionally blind to the deadly sin of greed, so that a lifetime of using far more resources than the rest of the world gets to have has made you dependent and weak.

It’s a precious gift to be humbled, to bow before God and say, “Lord, I thank you that I’ve finally been found out. I thank you that the world now knows what you’ve known all along. I want to change more than I want to keep up the charade of being less sinful than I am. I humbly realize that I’m not fooling anybody, especially not you. Be merciful to me, a sinner.” Recognizing and naming our sinfulness doesn’t feel good, but it changes us. It nudges us a bit closer to heaven, where sinners are welcomed home every day.

How has the awareness of sin in my life changed me?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

15 October 2016

Reflecting on Lk. 18: 1-8

My husband Ben and I are leading a pilgrimage to Lourdes and Fatima this week. I’ve asked everyone I’ve talked to recently how we can pray for them while we are there. It’s so touching to me how people never even think to pray for themselves. Always, it’s their kids, and it’s sad how similar the prayers are. Please pray that my kids go back to church.  Please pray that my grandchildren get baptized. Please pray that my son gets a good job. Please pray that my daughter’s depression gets better. Please pray for healing of my grandchild’s drug addiction.

My oncologist, a smart, warm, funny doctor who wears charming ties and never appears to be the least bit hurried, has a stunning poster in his office at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center. Against a dark blue background, a battered but sturdy oak tree holds its own against the wind and the cold. The text says: Do not pray to have an easy life. Pray to be a strong person.

What does it mean to be a strong person? That widow who goes it alone at the city gates, never offering a bribe, never losing hope that she will be heard and given justice, now she’s a strong person.  Imagine what that takes, to have no influence, no special interest groups lobbying for you, just your faith that the judge will hear your case and find in your favor.

Jesus must have seen the blind, the starving, the dying every day. And yet, he told us to never stop begging God to give us what we need. Be a strong person, he seems to say. And never stop believing.

Help us pray for you while we on our pilgrimage. Take a moment to ask God for the healing you need.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

11 October 2016

Reflecting on Lk. 17: 11-19

How precious are the moments when we realize who really loves us. Most of the time that thrill of recognition comes when the people closest to us do some thoughtful gesture that says, “You are still beloved to me.” But sometimes we get a jolt of kindness from someone who wasn’t even on our radar. Basking in the glow of that surprising warmth, we rush off the thank-you note, or find the phone number and call to say how wonderful we feel because of the unexpected bolt of goodness extended to us.

Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army, got that shock of astonishing love when he finally listened to the prophet Elisha, the famous Israelite to whom he had traveled, hoping for a cure for his leprosy. At first he was arrogant. What? Are you sure I don’t need to swallow some nasty potion, or offer up a herd of cattle? If it was as easy as swimming in the river I could have done that at home. But Elisha prevailed, and when Naaman came up out of the Jordan, healed, he was overcome with astonishment and gratitude.

The Samaritan, one of the ten healed of leprosy by Jesus, felt that same shock of recognition. Oh. He loves me. This Jesus, a man I’ve never met before loves me, a foreigner. Is there any more intimate connection with the divine than to feel love and care—which can only bring healing—from another member of the human race? I think of both of those foreigners today as I read another terrifying story coming out of Aleppo, or of Syrian refugees running for their lives. Oh Jesus, show us how to love.

How will you surprise someone with love today?

Kathy McGovern c. 2016


Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

1 October 2016

Reflecting on Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4

And I thought Oprah Winfrey invented vision boards. Those are collages of pictures and positive statements about the job or car or success you are going to achieve in the future. It turns out that the prophet Habakkuk promoted vision boards way back in the seventh century B.C., and he commanded that the vision be engraved so clearly that “a courier may run with it.” That means that, in the social media of the ancient world, the message would be large enough for people to read while the courier ran from village to village.

There are thousands of courageous people who wrote their visions down and then spent their lives working to see them fulfilled. Bartolomé de las Casas―1484-1566― was a Dominican friar who was appalled at the atrocities committed in the enslavement and genocide of the native peoples of the West Indies. But he didn’t start out that way. He himself was a slave owner. Once he was converted from that sin he suggested bringing slaves from Africa rather than enslaving the Indians. Finally, he was converted from THAT sin and became a fiery opponent of all slavery.

Habakkuk understood that visions of justice take time. In our own lifetimes we are seeing the convulsions of cultures around issues of what constitutes (and should be the punishment for) sexual assault, or the slaughter of legally protected dolphins, or the hunting and killing of elephants for their ivory. Those are just a few of the issues―and they’re not even in my top ten― about which we pray the next generations will say, “Seriously? You really did that?”

So take heart, and be strong. “If the vision delays, wait for it.  It will surely come” (Habakkuk 2:3).

What vision of justice do you spend your life announcing?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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