The Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle B

28 December 2014

Reflecting on Colossians 3: 12-21

Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year? Because I’m sure I saw more presents for you, hidden under the tree and tucked away in secret places where you can find them at just the perfect time.

Here’s one addressed to you from “Heartfelt Compassion”. You’ll feel your heart break open as you feel “’with passion” the daily struggle of a family member whose addiction has already strained the bonds of love in your family. It’s okay. Feel that tenderness and love for your broken relative once again. It’s Christmas for them too, with all its promises of God with us.

This next gift goes with it, so open up “Kindness” too. This is SUCH a perfect gift for you because it will keep surprising you all year! Watch for the kindness of a sister who sends the funniest birthday card, or the patience of the parent who never stops believing in you, and trusting that you will pull your life together.

Here’s a priceless gift: “Humility”. It will present itself in the form of your sweet spouse taking out the trash every single day, without ever saying a word. Or maybe it will be your adult child, calling to say, “Remember how hard I fought to get you to let me hang out with my friends when I was fourteen? I’ve never thanked you for holding your ground and keeping me safe.”

There are lots more presents, and they will come from beloved ones who aren’t your biological family, but with whom you have created bonds of love just as strong. It’s a holy family, this Body of Christ. Happy Feast Day.

How are you working to strengthen your family bonds?

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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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

22 December 2014

Reflecting on Luke 1: 26-38

My mother and father didn’t see him. I was working at the grinding stone, grinding wheat to make the bread for the noonday meal.

I think I felt him before I saw him. The air around me seemed to change, as if a sudden rainstorm was brewing. I looked up and saw a flash of light, and then a luminous figure stood before me. I was too shocked to speak, too mesmerized to move.

Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. My breath stopped. I couldn’t turn my eyes away. I suddenly knew what my heart has known my whole life. God has given me a grace unlike any other graces. For this moment I was born. My spirit leapt and began rejoicing.

Speak, I wordlessly told the angel. Speak, and tell my soul what it has known from the moment I was conceived in my mother Anna’s womb.

He spoke. I joyfully uttered my yes. And the Spirit of the Most High overshadowed me with so much grace and peace that a new life was created in my virgin womb. Blessed be God forever.

I set out in haste to visit my cousin Elizabeth, for God who is mighty has done great things for her also. And her child somehow already knew what God has done! When I greeted Elizabeth her baby leapt in her womb! This cousin isn’t even born yet, and he is already announcing my son.

Here’s something important for you to know. From the second my baby was conceived I began to feel a mother’s love for every person who has ever lived. And especially for you. Now, and at the hour of your death. AMEN.

Have you ever been touched by an angel?

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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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

13 December 2014

Reflecting on I Thessalonians 5:16-24

Test everything. Retain what is good.

Paul’s advice to the church at Thessalonica sounds so easy, but how do you really know how to test the counsel that you receive, and keep what is good?  How, for that matter, does an intelligent person read the paper, watch the news, or vote in an election? Is it possible to see through the spin and discern who, if anyone, is telling the truth?

St. Paul is guiding the infant church in Thessalonica, the second largest city in Greece, in the ways to live their lives now that they have put on Christ. Since Paul’s letters precede any of the gospels―and since this is, in fact, his earliest letter, written less than twenty years after the resurrection― their questions take on even more urgency.  How DO they live their new lives in Christ? How DO they become mature and faithful disciples of Jesus?

There are no gospels, no Catechism of the Catholic Church, not even any other Pauline letters circulating around to give guidance to this early Christian community.  They are dependent upon what they learned from Paul himself when he visited two years earlier and founded the church there. They are a newborn creation, but how, then, should they live?

Huh. Somehow, modern Christians can’t figure that out either. We feel guilty no matter which way we vote. We feel certain that God is calling us to this job, this house, this friendship, and then things change and we’re not so sure.

St. Paul’s words give us guidance. Do not quench the Spirit. Refrain from every kind of evil. And surely John the Baptist would add, Prepare the way of the Lord.

How is Advent going for you so far?

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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Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

7 December 2014

Reflecting on Mark 1: 1-8

The funniest bumper sticker I’ve ever seen has a kind of Advent tint to it: Jesus is coming back. Look busy.

I still chuckle. What makes it funny, I think, is that it betrays our hapless misunderstanding of the Divine. If Jesus is coming back―and, by the way, he never left, thanks to his abiding Holy Spirit―then it must be like the teacher coming back into the room, or the boss returning from a trip.

Look busy, everybody! Because everything we’ve been doing while the boss was gone must be worthless. Working on projects, answering e-mails on our own schedule, or even taking a delicious sick day must all be a waste of the company’s money. The boss wants us to work, work, work, and if we work enough we’ll get promoted so we can work even harder.

Yuck. What an odd and unhappy Jesus we must be expecting.  We see in the gospel that people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were making the trek out to the desert to hear John and be baptized by him. And I’ll bet they were all willing to use their sick days to get there.

Why? Because they sensed that John was the witness of the One to come, and they wanted to be as close as they could get.

I suspect that, if Jesus has questions of us at his return, they will be something like this: Did you notice the astounding beauty of the world? Did you love as well as you could? Did you dig deep and find the grace to forgive?

And, finally, I imagine him asking that great question  that Aslan, The Christ figure in the last book of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, asks each of us:

I have known you long. Do you know me?

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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First Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

2 December 2014

Do you love Advent? I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t. And these days, after reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s exquisite book Learning to Walk in the Dark, I think I know why. After the long days of summer and the fading lights of fall, we’re finally ready to give in to the dark. Advent gives us permission to stay in the dark for four delicious weeks.

Something there is that doesn’t love the dark, but there is another part of us that craves it. Even the most roaring extrovert is grateful to crawl under the covers and let the night come in, with its healing dreams and restorative quiet.

And it is in the dark, of course, where we keep watch the best. The stars guide sailors to safe ports, and the changing shapes of the moon give expression to our own spiritual shifts, from consolation to desolation and back again.

This Advent I’m trying something new, and my soul is ready for it. I’m going to spend more time in the dark. I’m going to watch the darkness give way to the dimmest violet―an Advent color, by the way―in the early hours of the morning. I’m going to sit in the pitch dark―or at least as dark as our over-lit urban landscape allows―and listen for coyotes and night song.

It was, after all, in the night watch when the angels appeared in the sky, announcing the birth of the Savior and singing their Glorias to highest heaven. Just think: if the shepherds hadn’t been spending the night in a pitch-black field they would have missed the greatest moment in the history of the world.

It’s getting dark. It’s time to go outside.

What sacred memories do you have of meeting God in the dark?

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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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Cycle A

24 November 2014

Reflecting on Mark 13: 33-37

Advent begins next week, and with it comes a new gospel. This is the last we will hear from Matthew―except, always, on Epiphany, since he is the only evangelist who knows the story of the Magi―until we return to him in December of 2016.

Before we turn the page to Mark’s gospel, then, it’s good to remember what Jesus tells us, over and over again, in Matthew’s brilliant gospel. It’s really just one word: mercy.

Go and learn the meaning of this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. This is what he tells the learned Pharisees, shocked that Jesus has called a tax collector (Matthew)to be one of the Twelve, and is even now having dinner at his house (9:13)!

This is a bit like a professor telling a veterinarian student, “Go and learn the meaning of the word cat”. It’s deeply insulting to the scripture-quoting Pharisees, because Jesus is quoting the famous passage from Hosea 6:6.They have known that text from their youth, yet here is Jesus telling them to go learn it again.

Pope Francis has said about his papacy, “I think this is a time of mercy.”  And about the gospels: “The Lord’s most powerful message is mercy.”  In fact, his first major book as Pope has just been published, with this beautiful title: The Church of Mercy.

But if it’s all about mercy, what, then, are we to make of the God who rescues and heals the lost and scattered, but destroys the “sleek and strong”? We hope that we will be the sheep who inherit the kingdom of heaven, but where is the mercy for those goats that God will cast into eternal fire?

Maybe Matthew’s final message to us this year is this: Christ the King will be the judge. And he will judge us on how merciful we were.

In what ways have you shown mercy 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 © 2014-2015

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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

24 November 2014

Reflecting on Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31

It’s fun to consider the utter Jewishness of that reading from Proverbs today. We chuckle at the ancient Jewish male’s celebration of the perfect Jewish wife, but really, isn’t that the spouse we all want? She’s kind, industrious, an astonishing multi-tasker, brilliant in business and in keeping all the home projects on schedule, great with the kids, generous to those who are poor, and, best of all, everyone in town knows her smart her husband was to have married her.  Mazel tov!

I love to imagine Jesus, the Bridegroom, extolling us, his Bride, in a similar fashion:

The value of my Bride is far beyond pearls. I have entrusted my Sacred Heart to her.

She brings the planet good, and not evil, all her days.

 

Through her kindness and lack of ego, enemies begin to speak to one another

And those who were estranged join hands in friendship.

 

She reaches out her hands to those who are poor,

And extends her arms to those who are needy.

 

She yields to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

She is the first to say, “Forgive me”.

 

She believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Even in persecution, Her love never fails.

 

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting,

But those who hear the Word of God and do it

Will live in joy with Me forever.

 

How do you think the Church is doing as the Bride of 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 © 2014-2015

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

11 November 2014

The oldest basilica in Christendom is celebrated today, because the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran happens to fall on a Sunday, and so, like last Sunday’s Feast of All Souls, trumps the Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Constantine, Christianity’s first emperor, received the property from the wealthy Laterani family, which explains part of the name. (Later, the church was dedicated both to St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist.) This was, and is today, the official basilica of the Bishop of Rome.

Imagine what this building, restored and rebuilt many times, has seen. Like the Church itself, it has been declared dead many times. But it still stands today.

And here is the best part. On his first Holy Thursday as pope, the Holy Father elected not to remember the institution of the Eucharist, and Jesus’ command to wash each other’s feet, at that ancient basilica. He knew that there would be plenty of cardinals who would happily preside there, washing the feet of other dignitaries.

Instead, Pope Francis celebrated that most holy night, the night that remembers the institution of the priesthood, at a penal institution for minors on the outskirts of Rome. If you missed the heart-filling photograph of him bending to kiss the feet of the inmates whose feet he had just washed, google it, or ask someone to google it for you.

It’s the best possible image of what the pope’s church is. For where there is love, there is God. And there the Church must always be.

Which worship space most serves as the place where you encounter Jesus?

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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All Souls Day – Cycle A

4 November 2014

Several years ago I suffered a long illness. Every day that has passed since stands as a marker of gratitude so deep that it has changed the way I see, and hear, and breathe. I will never be the same, thank God.

While in the depths of the darkness, I had a recurring, disturbing sense of slowly descending down a long escalator. It seemed that all humankind was on this escalator with me, going down into the depths, with no escape hatch, no way out.  I wondered how the world kept turning, and people kept living with joy and courage, when the gaping mouth of the escalator was so near.

I will never forget this. I will never be happy again, because I have seen the escalator.

As the months passed, the infection left, my nervous system healed, and the rock-hard faith of all who love me pulled me out of the tunnel and back into God’s glorious light. The escalator began to fade, and today I can barely remember the journey I was sure I could never forget.

Today we remember the souls of all whom we have loved in this life, and will love forever. They are in the safekeeping of the God who, even though we walk in the dark valley, lifts us from the depths and carries us safely home.

For this is the will of God, that none of us should lose the confidence of eternity with Christ. Illness and death have their day, it’s true.  But the power of God will transform death, and no torment shall touch us again. The escalator exists. But, through God’s grace and mercy, it is always going up.

Do you have a memory of being confident of God’s mercy?

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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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

25 October 2014

Reflecting on Exodus 22: 20-26

Last weekend I ran into Monsignor Ken Leone, a beloved priest in the Denver Archdiocese and one of the city’s experts in the art of giving away most of what passes through his pockets in a day.

I hadn’t seen him since the day, three years earlier, when he invested a mutual friend with the task of tricking us into accepting a twenty dollar bill from him.

“Someone I know dropped this outside your drugstore today. He was too lazy to pick it up so he asked that I just give it to you.”

“Ha! Please give Monsignor Leone our warmest thanks.” We both laughed.

I put the bill in the pocket of my jeans, and forgot all about it until later in the day, when I was delivering prescriptions to an elderly, poor Russian widow living in a small apartment.

“Do you know Monsignor Leone?” she asked, out of the blue.

“That’s so funny you ask that. I just sent a message to him today.”

“Yes. He is very good to me.”  Not surprising.

Our transaction complete, she asked if I had change for the five dollar bill she was using to pay her bill. I had foreseen this, and had put two dollars in my pocket.  But, sure enough, out came the twenty dollar bill.

“Kathy,” I could hear Monsignor’s voice in my ear, “are you REALLY going to switch pockets and give this poor widow two dollars, when the twenty came to you as a gift to begin with?”

The ancient book of Exodus got it right.  The widows, orphans, and aliens in the land are owed what has come to us as gift.

How are you helping to transfer your gifts to those who have less?

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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