Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

5 April 2016

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Like Thomas, I long to see miracles face to face. That’s why I loved the wonderful new movie Miracles from Heaven. The film, starring Jennifer Garner, tells of a miracle that took place in a young girl who was undergoing treatment for an inoperable abdominal obstruction at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The glorious miracle, of course, is the most heart-stopping part of the movie, but it’s the short montage towards the very end that inspires me every time I think of it. In this too-brief section, we see the hidden kindnesses of many people who left their comfort zones in order to extend mercy to the traumatized family in the months before the miracle occurred. They made what they did look unimportant, but we find out at the end that each of them sacrificed something ―a day off, a night off, a possible termination from their job― in order to give this struggling family every possible comfort.

Those hidden acts of mercy are miracles in themselves, and we have experienced them countless times in our lives. It doesn’t matter that, like Thomas, we were not in the room with the Risen One that Easter night.

We have seen him, and touched him, and received the Holy Spirit from him in a thousand ways. How? Through the gracious kindness of those who have sacrificed their time and energy in order to care for us in illness, or listen to us in sorrow, or even just call us by our name.

Blessed are they who have seen miracles. How much more blessed are they whose gracious kindness opens the doors to miracles for others. That, too, is the Divine Mercy we celebrate today.

Are you aware of some of the hidden kindnesses of others?

 

For Peg and John, who are accompanying their beloved ones through the hardest time in their lives.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle C

26 March 2016

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

Easter, 2016

Dearest Mary of Magdala,

Mary, did you know that he whom your heart loved would not be in the tomb when you went to minister to his body that sad spring morning?

Mary, did you know that he who’s dreadful death broke your heart in half would break open the graves of all believers?

Mary, did you know that when you bravely ran to tell the news to the Beloved Disciple and Peter, your wonder-filled race would mark the very first steps of the faith that would change the world?

Mary, did you know that when the angels in the tomb asked you why you were weeping, they were asking the same question to all of us who would follow you, too afraid to hope, too full of wonder not to believe?

Mary, did you know that once the men departed the empty tomb and you were left there, weeping, your Lord would appear and call you gently by your name? And that, yes, it was your name the gospels would record as the first name spoken by the Risen One?

Know this, dear sister of Magdala: On this Easter morning we race with you to the tomb, we stand in grateful wonder at the angels in our lives who have asked why we are weeping, and we turn our faces from the grave, knowing that the Voice we hear is Jesus, calling us by name.

What things do you know for sure about Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle C

19 March 2016

Reflecting on Luke 22: 14-23:56

It’s weird, the things you remember. I’m sure I’ve been thirstier, or hotter, or in more pain than that sweltering hot Good Friday many years ago. But carrying four bags of groceries up several flights of stairs at three in the afternoon that particular day imprinted on me an awareness of just a fraction of the pain of Calvary, and that’s the day I realized how central to our faith is the Suffering Servant.

It’s not that the Father requires it. It’s that we require a God who knows thirst, who knows pain, who knows terror, who knows us. I can’t think of an experience of sorrow that Jesus didn’t know, and I take much comfort in that.

He knew the little stuff―like arms burning from carrying a few bags up a few flights of stairs―because he endured the big stuff, like carrying the crossbeam of his cross up the hill of Calvary.

He knew the pain we suffer when our friends don’t love us, because the night before he died, Peter, withering under the scrutiny of a maid in Caiaphas’s courtyard, denied that he had ever known him.

Do you have asthma? Jesus knows what it is to struggle for breath. It was the particular torture of crucifixion that the victim eventually asphyxiated from pulling up to get air, then collapsing down again.

Someday the little pains of our lives will magnify. The diminishments of old age will bring us to our knees, and we will pray one last time, Jesus, remember me.

And then he who was obedient unto death, even death on a cross, will say to us, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”

What particular affliction in your life did Jesus also suffer?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

14 March 2016

Reflecting on John 8: 1-11

Don’t miss the underlying theme of the three wondrous readings today. The Church has chosen them carefully. That poor woman dragged out for Jesus to condemn―the Pharisees knew she couldn’t be put to death, of course, but they wanted to get Jesus on record defying the scriptures that said she should be―surely thought there was no way out for her. She had the stone-bearing Pharisees ahead of her, and her difficult past behind her. And there, writing in the sand, was the Rabbi. She would soon understand that he, whose other name is MERCY, was the way out.

Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus was writing? I suggest that he went straight to the scriptures and wrote the verse we hear today from Isaiah: Remember not the events of the past; the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Do you not perceive it?

Or maybe he wrote what his great apostle, St. Paul, would later say to the Philippians: Forget what lies behind; strain forward to what lies ahead.

Jesus had us in mind as he wrote, I’m sure of it. He begs us to remember God’s mercy in the past, and to remember not the injustices and losses and sorrows that may have us pinned to the ground, unable to move forward.

We don’t know what happened next to that “woman caught in adultery.” Did she spend the rest of her life bitterly remembering that humiliating experience? Or did she bravely step out into a new life, filled with grace as she remembered her encounter with Jesus?

God is always doing something new in your life. Do you not perceive it?

How are you open to the grace to “remember not the events of the past”?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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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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