Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

19 September 2015

Reflecting on James 3:16-4:3

I had heard about this outrageous behavior, but didn’t realize it actually happened, until, in the past several years, many friends confided to me that at least one of their siblings had embezzled money from their parents’ estate in the years before their deaths. Then, astonishingly, they demanded even more than their share of the estate―often in blatant disregard of the parents’ express wishes―after their deaths.

Where do the wars and conflicts among you come from? asks the letter of James today. They come from exactly this kind of behavior. If there are five children, and an estate is supposed to be divided equally among them, then one child does not demand―or steal, as it turns out―more than twenty percent of the estate. Somehow, this easy math eludes a huge number of adults today, who apparently never catch on that their share of the pie is in direct proportion to the number of people at the table.

Why can’t we ever seem to remember that? How is it that adult children ask that they receive more than their share of an estate, with the certain result that their parents’ other children receive less?

You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Now that makes sense. If we consider that God is the creator of ALL life, than asking God to give us more (so that the rest of God’s creatures can have less) is a waste of God’s time and ours.  Indeed, as Dag Hammarskjöld wrote, “Your cravings as a human animal do not become a prayer just because it is God whom you ask to attend to them.”

Do you ever assume that you are entitled to more than your share of the earth’s resources?

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 © 2014-2015

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Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

15 September 2015

The other night, while enjoying an otherwise perfect evening downtown, my sainted husband Ben pointed out an older woman walking in the mall, dragging her suitcase behind her. Come to think of it, he said, I’ve seen several people this year in different parts of the city, carrying their suitcases around. They don’t appear to be going to the airport.

Who are these people, living in this country, who have to drag their belongings around with them? I can’t imagine how cumbersome, how exhausting that must be. When I travel, I always check my suitcase. It’s too hard to drag it with me everywhere I go. How terrible to have to carry your belongings around with you every minute of your life.

I try to get through the day not noticing the suffering around me because it’s so upsetting, and I don’t know how to truly help. And yet I love to read about heroic Christians of the past who stood up to slave owners, or ran soup kitchens out of their homes during the Depression, or brought to light, at their own risk, the terrible injustices of their day.

Hopefully, future generations will say, “I can’t believe our grandparents tolerated so much misery in their midst. We wouldn’t let any of that happen today. Was that really the best they could do?”

We’re trying! I want to shout. We need guidance to know how to do better! Yet that guidance comes straight from the letter of James today: Faith without works is dead. So, I’m going to try to really see the suffering around me. That’s the faith that will make future generations proud to call themselves Christian.

Have you ever been hungry and had someone say, “Stay warm and well fed”?

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 © 2014-2015

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Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

8 September 2015

Reflecting on Mark 7: 31-37

There are so many things that shout to us that the kingdom of God has not yet been fulfilled. War, and its accompanying miseries that ripple around the world, is the same soul-deadening sadness no matter which app you choose to read about it.

We feel distanced from it, thank God. But illness and health challenges are always right in front of us, and it seems like we ought to be masters of it by now. But, for all of our technological wizardry, those who are blind, or lame, or hearing impaired, or suffer from autism, or devastating mental illnesses, still bear witness that the kingdom is not quite here.

I think that might be why Jesus groans when he looks up to heaven and cries Ephphatha! Be opened! I imagine him, with his fingers in the ears of the man who is deaf, crying out to his Father from the depths of his soul: Father, look at all this sickness and suffering. Have mercy on these children. Open his ears. Open her eyes. Let them all be healed. The kingdom of God is here.

And immediately the man’s ears were opened. The kingdom had broken through.

And it continues to break through. Isaiah could read like this today: Then shall polio, and measles, and smallpox be vanished from the earth. Then shall those who are in pain get relief, and those who need new kidneys receive them.

In fact, if we had the will, we could wipe malaria off the face of the earth. Maybe that’s why Jesus groaned. He was begging those who have seen glimpses of the kingdom to partner with him to help make the kingdom come.

What advances in medicine have made your life easier?

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 © 2014-2015

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Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

1 September 2015

Reflecting on Mk. 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Within you read the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me. I’m getting better at recognizing grace when it hits me between the eyes, and so I relaxed into that beautiful message and felt more grace course through me.

Are you churning with rage over the behaviors of others? The power to forgive is within you. Are you tormented with anxiety about your children, your parents, your future? The grace to trust that the same God who has been faithful in the past will be faithful in the future is within you.

Why live a life steeped in sacramental grace if you don’t dip into it every day? It is there, within you, waiting to be activated. Jesus reminded the Pharisees of this. It’s not whatever image we try to project to others that is going to comfort us in times of need. It’s what is truly within us, and we have an endless bank of grace to see us through.

That is, of course, if we place ourselves in the direction of grace so we can receive it.

“Two wolves,” says the Cherokee grandfather, “battle within me. One is evil, anger, resentment, inferiority, superiority, and ego. The other is serenity, hope, empathy, compassion and faith.”

“Which wolf wins?” asks his grandson.

“The one I feed.”

So, says Jesus, make a conscious effort every day to feed your soul the grace that goes the distance. Give the benefit of the doubt every single time. See things from the perspective of others. Recognize―and this always comes as a shock ―that people have been forgiving you every single day too.

Graciousness, kindness, forgiveness. All these things come from within you, and they will save the world.

How will you activate sacramental grace today?

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 © 2014-2015

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Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

24 August 2015

Reflecting on John 6: 60-69

As I write this, the bells are ringing, calling the pilgrims who have traveled to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario to prayer. The Jesuits came here to New France in the 1630s, to freeze and starve, to paddle canoes over thousands of miles of treacherous waterways, and to live and die in the camps of the Hurons. Eight Jesuits―six priests and two donnés, or lay helpers―were martyred here and in upstate New York.

We Americans know St. Isaac Jogues the best of the eight, because he was killed by an Iroquois tomahawk in New York and he left the most unbelievably vivid and brilliant journal of his life as a missionary to the Mohawks.

But here in Canada, St. Jean de Brébeuf is the most beloved of all those martyrs. He was a large, generous, extraordinarily loving man who lived with the Huron/Wendat for nearly twenty years. It is his name that the native converts called when they were sick and dying. And when the village where he was giving a mission was raided by the Iroquois one terrible night in 1649, instead of fleeing from the fires they said, “Come, let us die with him.”

And so they became eyewitnesses to the destruction, through hours of torture, of the body of the man who had baptized them, comforted them, nursed them through illness, and brought them to Jesus. Because of them we know that, in the end, his tormentors cut out his heart and consumed it, that they might have, in their own bodies, his strength and power.

Unless you eat my Body and drink my Blood you shall not have life within you.

I think I get it now.

In what ways does your reception of the Eucharist give you Jesus’ strength and power?

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 © 2014-2015

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

15 August 2015

Reflecting on Proverbs 9: 1-16

Wouldn’t it be great to be Lady Wisdom? She has this gorgeous dinner prepared―and I’ll bet her house is clean too, and not just because she’s having company. The meat and wine are laid out, and her maids go out to call the guests. I know for sure I’m invited to that banquet, because it is specifically for “those who lack understanding.”

She, like a parent taking her child out for a driving lesson, is ready to impart a lifetime of vital, life-saving advice. But is her eager-to-get-on-the-road teenager paying attention?

We all wish we had listened when our own parents and teachers tried their best to set us on the straight path. How much happier and healthier we would be if we, in fact, HAD actually saved a portion of our paycheck, or eaten more broccoli and fewer brownies. Even as I write I’m still not sure the second part of that sentence is true.

And therein lays the problem. In order to see the fruits of wisdom in our lives we have to actually believe that we will be happier ―not right this minute, of course, but down the road―if we do the right thing. Happiness is a powerful motivator, but delaying gratification in order to have it is the challenge.

Look at our ancestors, the Jews said to Jesus. They gave us manna to eat. And Jesus’ retort is priceless. Right, and what do we notice about them? They all died in the wilderness. The quick fix of daily food kept them alive for a while. But Jesus, the New Moses, is looking at eternity, and gives us his Body and Blood to get there.

Okay. I’m listening.

What wisdom are you glad you listened to?

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 © 2014-2015

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

9 August 2015

Reflecting on Ephesians 4:30-5:2

What? No bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, or reviling? How will we ever get through football season, not to mention the presidential debates? Somehow it’s enlightening to know that the Christians in ancient Ephesus had the same trigger tempers and rude behaviors that mark so much of what passes for adult discourse in our day.

The author of the letter to the Ephesians had to spell out the ABCs of how those who have embraced Christ should behave towards each other.  Yes, they had to be scolded. Yes, they had to be schooled in the soul-changing virtues of compassion and forgiveness. But the Good News is that the radical social engineering that is the Christian life took root and bore fruit that remains.

The early Christian church in the first three centuries after the resurrection brought about the most amazing transformation of diverse social and religious cultures ever achieved by peaceful means in the history of the world.

Sociologist Rodney Stark analyzed the survival and growth of the early church in the first few centuries. He offers the following observations:

To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. And to cities faced with epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.

Tertullian, writing from North Africa around 197AD, cited his pagan neighbors remarking, “These Christians, see how they love one another!”

We’re still working at it. But Christ has won the victory. We have only to carry it out.

If you were tried as a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

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 © 2014-2015

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 August 2015

Reflecting on John 6: 24-35

It sounded simple when Jesus said it. You want to take part in the work of God? Believe in me.

But today, in our postmodern, post religious world, belief in Jesus is some of the hardest work there is.

Our generation doesn’t think we need to sit in church every Sunday to be good people.

I think I can speak for any of the over-fifty crowd who still fill the pews in any parish when I say that not one of us is here because we think “sitting in church” makes us a good person.

We are here because we want to participate in God’s work in the world, and belief in Jesus gives us the comfort and inspiration to reach outside ourselves, and to know his presence.

Exposure to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to those who share our desire to hear it and live it, does us good and not harm every day of our lives.

Here is the example that touches me to my core. In the thirty years that I’ve known my husband Ben, he has accompanied me through a tedious list of serious illnesses, accidents, and surgeries. We long since passed the mark where I could possibly take the same care of him in our life together as he has taken of me.

If Ben were comfortable to be “postmodern,” I think he might have noticed long ago that it might be much easier to travel through life with a more mobile spouse.

But he is joyful to be a servant.  Inspired by Christ and his scriptures, Ben loves his wife. I never want to live in a world that is too sophisticated for that.

In what ways does your belief in Jesus affect your behavior and your happiness?

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 © 2014-2015

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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

28 July 2015

Reflecting on Jn. 6: 1-15

Remember Joey on Friends? He loved women, would do anything he could think of to attract them, and was thrilled to take a beautiful woman out to dinner. Unless, of course, she tried to taste anything on his plate, or share his French fries.

I don’t share food! he would shout. This was his non-negotiable. She could have anything of his that she wanted. But she couldn’t have his food.

We live in a culture of abundance, but we buy into the myth of scarcity. So what if she shared his dessert? He could always buy another one, and they could share that too. But Joey was loathe to venture out of his unconscious fear of not getting enough.  Even if it meant insulting his beautiful date, some things were just sacrosanct. When it comes to food, what’s mine is mine.

Protecting our food source is, of course, one of the strongest drives of the unconscious. And into that primordial pull steps Jesus, who says, “Have the people recline.” For just that moment, the five thousand who crossed the lake to find him would not be forced to leave because they were hungry. They could stay, reclining on the “green grass” so reminiscent of their beloved Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

Ah. So Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus feeds his flock. After he blesses the five loaves and two fish―such a miserable catch for the enormous crowd― the myth of scarcity dissolves in front of their eyes. All are fed. There is plenty of bread.

There are more than enough resources in this world for all to be fed. Only then can we truly be friends.

Have you ever noticed that you eat less when you are enjoying the companionship of friends?

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 © 2014-2015

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

20 July 2015

Reflecting on Mark 6: 30-34

I was lucky. Unlike the majority of my peers growing up in the fifties, I learned many of the stories in scripture through a beautiful children’s bible that we took off the shelves every Friday afternoon at St. Vincent de Paul Grade School. The illustrations, the stories, the connections with real life grabbed me by the heart. That fascination has never left me.

Then I got lucky again. Sr. Macrina Scott―she of blessed memory―created the acclaimed Catholic Biblical School just in time for me to spend the rest of my life utterly mesmerized by the endless depth and breadth of the scriptures, and the insights of those who teach it.

When I started learning scripture I was just like the people longing to get close to Jesus and the Twelve. What a scene that is. Jesus tells the exhausted apostles to come away with him to a “deserted spot” so they might rest from their long journey. But the crowds, so hungry for the word of God, “hasten on foot” to meet them there. Maybe you’ve had this same experience while trying to escape your kids for just a few minutes?

When I stand in front of “great numbers of people” who long to learn the scriptures, I tremble at my great good “luck” again. But I am moved with pity for all the people who are intrigued by something they’ve  heard at Mass during the scripture readings, but haven’t known where to go, or whom to talk to, to open up the deeper meaning.

Are you starving for a more intimate grasp of the scriptures? Proceed with caution. Take it from me, once you start investigating the gospels you’ll have a hunger that never goes away.

What passage of scripture most intrigues you?

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 © 2014-2015

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