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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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

9 February 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 5: 13-16

I am surrounded by light.  I can’t even remember what darkness looks like.  Every time I pick up a bulletin, every time I have a conversation with a friend, well, I am almost blinded by light.

Have you noticed that Jesus didn’t say, “Do good works and you will be the light of the world”?  He said, “You ARE the light of the world.”  YOU, right now, are a little lantern walking around in your home, your job, the soccer field, your parish.  And every time you share your bread with the hungry this huge burst of light pours out of your lantern and warms everyone around you.

YOU are the city set on the hill.  You know that enchanting, light-filled house you can see from the highway and want to drive over and see it up close?  That’s YOU.  And every time you shelter the oppressed and the homeless your house becomes even more inviting, more alluring than the brightest star, and immigrants and refugees take courage as they make their way towards it.

YOU are the salt of the earth.  You know that gracious, open-hearted, open-handed person who removes oppression, false accusation and malicious speech? That’s YOU.  And every time you stop gossip in its tracks and end conversation that is hurtful of others, YOWZER!  A gigantic salt-shaker makes everything around you delicious.  Bring on the margaritas and chips.

Want to make your city on the hill even more visible? Check out www.oxfam.org.  Want to give out more light than a supernova?  Go to www.covivo.org .  Let the Vincentian charisms wash over you, and then step back.

Break forth, oh beauteous heavenly light.

Who are there people in your life who radiate light?

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

7 Comments to “Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

  1. People in my life who radiate light have always been people I see at mass week after week. What great training we get in prayer and spirituality by coming back to mass every week. I am also grateful for a mom and dad who radiate light and faith to me and all those around them.

  2. There are so many people in my life who radiate light, but to tell the truth, I never think of MYSELF that way. This reflection really stopped me in my tracks!Anyway, some of my “lights” are: the teacher down the hall from me who always seems to have the time for and a way with the worst-behaved kids in school, the nurses who care for my mom in the nursing home, my precious grandchildren who are so open, loving, and accepting, our priest who is always so warm and welcoming. If you look for it, you can always find a light somewhere in your life, right?

  3. Kathy, that is a amazing view of the loving and giving nature of humans! Iam a house mate with two of the best examples of this weeks Gospel. They are always extending good will to those around them. I am learning a lot from their true acts of Christian love. They aren’t the kind who boast about themselves. They just see a need and act on it to the best of their ability. They saw a need for me to relocate and they came to Colorado to move here. Just being around them makes me want to imitate them. You know I have always thought that Good deeds are contagious! And may be that the secret our Lord was teaching here, if everyone did just a simple kind gesture out of the kindness of their heart, I bet in no time it would spread world over. There are things everyone can do, visit a sick person may do there dishes, dump their trash or walk their dog. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or if you don’t have any just your company will pick their spirits up. The light that shines forth just might be the shine in their eyes. We all have a gift to share rather we know it or not. The many time I have been hospitalized seeing a person stopping with Communion lift me up and my whole mood has changed. It’s so simple and also so seldom that people act on the chance to act.

  4. Good insight on being light even before the good deed. The sequence is important. Thanks, Kathy.

    Good deeds are contagious – - I need to remind myself of that too. Thanks, Becky.

  5. Cris, every time you look pass the misspelled words and the typos right to the meaning You are doing a good deed. That just it A light on the hillside or the salt that favors a simple dish cost nothing more then a moment of time and a kind word, Being Christ like is a easy thing to do but doing a Christ like deed cost time and sometimes our reputations Thank You for lighting up my day.

  6. Suzer mentioned the “people she sees at Mass week after week” and this reminded me of my professor who said: “Do not underestimate routine because routine is the backbone of life.”

  7. My husband is a light, after working a 48 hours helping people in crisis all.night long, he comes home and although incredibly sleep deprived will be up late helping with our sick daughter or offer to help around house.he does a great job being bright and cheery with little sleep. Now that is a light!

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Presentation of the Lord – Cycle A

3 February 2014

Reflecting on Luke 2: 22-40

Rembrandt, Simeon in the Temple, 1669

Even though we are reading from the gospel of Matthew this year, today’s feast falls on a Sunday and therefore trumps the Ordinary Time readings.  Since two female saints, Mary and Anna, are featured in the account, you can bet that Luke is the author.  He loves to tell us stories about women, especially Mary, and we love to hear them.

This story is all about timing.  Mary and Joseph waited the prescribed forty days and then entered the Temple.  Simeon was led by the Spirit to go there that day, and Anna purposely placed herself in the Temple every day so that she could bear witness to God’s perfect timing.

Have you ever been at the right place at the right time? So often it’s only in looking back that we recognize the perfect timing that led us to our spouse, or to our friends, or to faith itself.  But much of “perfect timing” has to do with aligning ourselves with grace.  Mary and Joseph complied with the Law.  Simeon complied with the Holy Spirit.  And Anna complied with her inner knowledge that if she was to see her Savior she needed to stay in the Temple.

We live our lives immersed in mystery.  We are astounded at the perfect timing of many events in our lives.  Somehow, we intuitively sense the Divine, and situate ourselves to be receptive to the presence of Christ, visible and invisible.

It’s in that patient day-to-day watchfulness that our lives unfold.  And one day, in God’s own time, we too will say:  Lord, dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.

What moments of “perfect timing” have you experienced?

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

5 Comments to “Presentation of the Lord – Cycle A”

  1. You wrote: ” So often it’s only in looking back that we recognize the perfect timing that led us to our spouse…..But much of the “perfect timing” has to do with aligning ourselves with grace.” – - – I appreciate the profound insights contained in these words, Kathy because it took from 1964 / 65 to 1972 before I finally got to marry my wife in 1972 – - all with the timing that comes from grace alignment; and then my landing a job in Denver in 1987 – -the timing that did not look like “grace” because it was occasioned by unethical politics by supervisor in Richmond – -now looking back, Denver has been a most grace-full experience.

  2. I wrote a rather lengthily share last week that still applies this week. It amazes how God gives me life changing gift right a difficult time. When I first got psoriasis at the same time I and my family had been homeless for three months, and then my grandma died I thought please Father no more I’m sick and I’m tired, please no more suffering. And then I found a job at Laradon. It was my chance in a life, I am very educated and I have always been obese, But here I was at a job serving God’s special needs people. I think I can relate to the Gospel the long awaited salvation and hope for a better life had arrived. I retired in 2006, but I still reap blessings from working there the friends I met and my pay that has offered me a reasonable disability check. Sometimes the blessing aren’t exactly what we asked and sometimes they are even better. Jesus wasn’t the great warrior Israel was looking for, He was better He was the Son of God and our salvation.

  3. Sorry for the typos “I’m not very educated” is what I
    meant So many typos and no editing Oh well thank for understanding.

  4. When I read stories like Becky’s, embracing the pluses and minuses of life, the question comes to me:
    “How do you create an accommodating heart?”

  5. Thank you Cris, trust me right now I’m doing well My depression is somewhat under control but there are those days that I just wouldn’t share because I’m in a negative place. And sharing would so difficult, But God Bless you for the kind words.

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

26 January 2014

Reflecting on Matthew 4: 12-23

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, from the Church of Sant’ Apollinare, Ravenna, Italy

And so it begins.  The Spirit hovers over Jesus, and announces his identity as God’s own Son. Soon afterwards, John is arrested and shut up in prison.  It is time, the time marked out from the beginning of time.  Jesus the Christ moves away from the comfortable Jewish neighborhoods of Nazareth and launches the Age of Grace in the Galilee of the Gentiles.

The people who walked in darkness now see a great Light.  His name is Jesus, and he is living, and preaching, and healing among them.  And he is calling them out of their boats into the greatest fishing adventure of all time.

Sometimes you just know that it’s time.  Time to grow up.  Time to move away.  Time to put away childish behaviors, petty resentments, unhealthy habits, and immature ideas about God that keep you at a safe (but so unsafe) distance from the One who is God with us.

The distance between Nazareth and Capernaum was only 48 miles.  Sometimes the greatest journeys we take are the shortest in distance, but in looking back we say, “Yes, that’s when my life changed forever.”  Jesus knew it was time to stretch out his arms to every person, Gentile and Jew, to heal and console, to catch all creation in his safe embrace, and let anguish take wing.

In time, those healing arms would be stretched out on a cross.  Did he know that when he left tiny Nazareth to catch Peter and Andrew and James and John in the net of eternity?  He caught us too, of course.  We live in gratitude for that, and hope to be his best catch ever.

What has been a significant time of transition in your life?

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

3 Comments to “Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

  1. 1977 I took religious instruction at St Rose of Lima, I met people that I still call friend I grew spiritually and emotionally. 1980 my father passed away and the love and support from this parish carried through the grief In 1982 my grandmother passed, we were close she had raised me. She was the one who first converted to Catholicism in the 1940s and she was the one who had formed my faith as a Catholic from the crib up, A week after she died, I started work as a houseparent at Laradon Hall a facility for the developmentally disabled, I work there for 24 years, I met my best friend Joe there, we have been friends for nearly 30 years. My mom passed in 1992 after a long illness from rheumatic heart disease. my friends from St Rose and my friends from Lardon Hall brought me through that grief. I guess what I’m trying to say there wasn’t that defining moment of transition. God puts me where I need to be and helps me build the support I need for next celebration or the next crisis He provides me the tools I need to survive. I guess what I am trying to say and not doing it so well is there are peaks and valleys in our life and God make His presence known when we least expect it. I don’t believe in luck, I believe Blessings. We all have to experience happiness,grief fear, anger and so on it is a part of growth But by faith we never have to do it alone. I was very sick and in the hospital a year ago. I spent 8 months in bed, I had curtain people who were suppose to be helping me, I found that they were doing some very illegal thing in my home while I laid sick in bed, And Joe came to Denver and helped me move here to California where I am safe. 30 years ago I became friends with someone who would remind that God always makes a way for me even if He starts the plan 30 years prior to the need.

  2. Thank you, Becky for sharing your journey. It makes me reflect and pray.

  3. Becoming a wife and mother has been a great transition full of blessings and growth. It has helped me become less selfish which still is a challenge at times, but the Lord definitely gently guides me along the way. I loved the last line “He caught us too…hope to be the greatest catch.” So true and as I reflect on the call to marriage, I hope my spouse continues to feel that “I am the greatest catch” as well. May God continue to pour his graces on all married couples as with His help they meet the challenge of being His loving presence to each other and the world. God bless

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

19 January 2014

Reflecting on John 1: 29-34

I did not know him. That’s quite a confession, especially coming from John the Baptist, the very one sent to herald his coming.  Even John did not know him, but the day that Jesus appeared in Bethany across the Jordan all the mysteries of John’s life finally came into focus for him.

Ah.  It was for this that I cried out in the wilderness.  It was for this that I lived a celibate, ascetic life.  It was for this that I stood in the river and baptized.  It was for this, to proclaim him and know him, that I was born. (And it was for this that John, shortly afterwards, would speak truth to Herod, and be martyred.)

Maybe you feel like John.  You are working hard.  You are volunteering.  You are raising a family, coaching the volleyball team, teaching the kids their prayers, and praying them yourself with all your heart.

Or maybe you’re retired now.  Or widowed.  Or never married.  And you still make your Morning Offering as you always have:  Here am I, Lord.  I come to do your will.

Like John, you keep showing up for the life God has given.  Sometimes you wonder if your prayers will ever be answered.  Sometimes you wonder why a life of faithfulness to Him seems to mean so little to anyone else.  But every once in a while you experience that spine-tingling grace of recognition: Christ, the One for whom your heart longs, is right here with you.

And the Spirit hovers.

In what ways do you “show up” for your life in Christ?

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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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Cycle A

12 January 2014

Reflecting on Mt. 3: 13-17

Sometimes I find a word that seems to follow me around until I pay attention to it.  For many years now that word for me has been “yield”.

Yield.  It’s a word so full of grace that we need to just lean into it, just rest with it and let its mysterious comfort seep into us.  What would it be like if we allowed ourselves to yield in our family relationships and, mercifully, allowed each of our flawed siblings and parents and children to just be themselves?  The truth is, in a thousand ways unknown to us they have yielded in their desire to change us over the years too.

Jesus began his public ministry not by teaching or healing, but by yielding.  He yielded to the chilly waters of the Jordan, though before the beginning of time he shaped the mountains whose snows would feed that river.  He yielded to time and place and asked John to baptize him, though John was astonished that the sinless One would allow such an irony.

John had to yield too.  He would have much preferred to be baptized by Jesus, but he “allowed” it, he yielded to it, because Jesus asked him to.  He immediately received the graces from yielding, because then he witnessed the heavens opening and the announcement of Jesus as the Beloved Son of God.

Is there a chronic sadness or dis-ease in your life because you keep going over and over the mistakes you’ve made, or the injustices you’ve experienced, long ago?  Aren’t you tired yet? Try giving up the struggle.  Yield.  And then watch peace flow like a river.

Have you experienced a recent grace from “yielding”?

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 “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Cycle A”

  1. I loved the word yield. So many times we push and are taught to “take it to the next level”. Yet, Yielding allows us to be content with others and God. Insightful.

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Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle A

4 January 2014

Reflecting on Mt. 2: 1-12

Lately, I’ve been playing some brain games from Lumosity.com. I like the one that challenges me to look at things differently in order to solve a puzzle.  When I try to solve it from my narrow perspective I lose.  But when I open my eyes to a new direction, suddenly the solution appears, and is so easy that I wonder how I didn’t see it before.

The Magi were great at that.  They were probably Persians, searching the skies for astrological signs, when they saw this compelling Star, and were so drawn to it that they left everything to follow it for two years.  And where did it lead them? Far away, into the heart of Jerusalem.  That must be why they surmised that the star was announcing the newborn king of the Jews.

Talk about openness.  They weren’t Hebrews, but were willing to change the direction of their lives in order to find this Jewish King and pay him homage.  Then, overjoyed at finding him in Bethlehem, they paid attention to their dreams and changed directions again, going back home another way in order to give the Holy Family a head start in their flight away from Herod and into Egypt.

Thirty-three years later, the orthodox, Law-abiding Saul of Tarsus encountered that same Jesus, now risen and ascended, as a Light whose blinding brilliance stopped him in his tracks.  He left the road to Damascus and changed the direction of his life, and thus the direction of the history of the world.

Are you looking for a new path for your life?  Ask him whose birth was heralded by a Star to shine the Light in your direction.

What dead-ends do you want to stop following this year?

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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Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph – Cycle A

31 December 2013

Reflecting on Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Rest on the Flight into Egypt Olivier-Merson 1869

Something very interesting is hidden inside that gospel story today of the return the Holy Family to “the land of Israel”.  We are more familiar with Luke’s Christmas stories, bracketed by the census that took them to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in a cave because “there was no room for them in the inn”, and their return back home to Nazareth.

But a close reading of the first two chapters of Matthew’s gospel betrays a significant difference in the two accounts.  Here, there is no journey down to Bethlehem at all.  Joseph lives there, and has taken Mary into his home.  When the Magi find them, the Star is hovering over the “house” where they live.  They flee from Herod into Egypt, and when they return they intend to settle back in Bethlehem.  It’s only because they are afraid of Archelaus that they travel north into the Galilee.  They choose to settle in a tiny village called Nazareth.

But there is no mention of this village anywhere in the Old Testament.  The word “Nazareth”, or “nazar”, means “consecrated” or “separated”.  Might it be that the Jews who settled there in the decades before the birth of Jesus purposely named the town “Nazareth” because they believed that the Messiah would come from their ranks, that they were consecrated and separate from the others?  Consequently, might Mary and Joseph have chosen that village because they knew that, indeed, they carried the Messiah in their arms?

Luke and Matthew have different memories of when the Holy Family reached Nazareth, but the theology is the same: the Long Awaited One is here.

What family stories seem to “conflict” at your Christmas table?

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 “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph – Cycle A”

  1. Another brilliant theological piece! Thank you Kathy. The thought that’s knocking on my door is this: “What Nazareth have I committed to in my life? From the outside it may look like “separation” but in the eyes of Our Lord, it is “commitment.”
    Human nature may sometimes be averse to “separation” but if seen as “being magnetized towards something noble” the separation anxiety might be alleviated.
    My 2 cents.

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