A Pentecost Sequence – Cycle B

18 May 2024

Reflecting on Acts 2: 1-11

Lord, send out your Spirit.

How else can we pray?

There is so much pain abroad,

And in our hearts today.

Lord, send our Your Spirit.

Enlarge our tents and hearts.

Nudge us to more clearly see

The Body’s many parts.

Lord, send our Your Spirit.

Bring peace where there’s despair.

Heal us, Spirit, hold us tight.

Help us see You there.

There where doctors heal the sick,

There where those estranged

Join hands in friendship and resolve

To form a world that’s changed.

Changed in hearts, and set on fire.

Changed in wisdom too.

Changed to lead, and to inspire.

To make the world anew.

Lord, send out your Spirit.

Bring health and hope to birth.

Indwell in us, empower us.

Renew the face of the earth.

What prayers for the world do you entrust to the Holy Spirit today?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B

11 May 2024

Reflecting on Ephesians 1: 17-23

I want that Ephesians reading plastered on the dashboard of my car, and taped to my computer screen. Yes, yes, yes, I beg for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.

I apologize for this sad story on the happy event of Mother’s Day. Many of us recently suffered the terrible loss of the 8-year-old granddaughter of a beloved friend as a result of a terrible car crash. We prayed so hard for her, that she would come out of the medically-induced coma they placed her in after she and her mom were hit by a motorcyclist going 100 mph.

After her death I cried out to the Wisdom figures in my life (I have many of them, thank God). I didn’t care how inappropriate it was for me to call each of them at home, at dinner time. I was in deep despair. I needed the wisdom of the people I know who have spent their lives in prayerful reflection, and face-to-face relationship with those who are suffering.

Their answers were comforting, and powerful. Mostly they were silent, pondering the terrible sadness, waiting to experience God’s mysterious presence during God’s seeming absence.

I hope you have some Wisdom figures in your life. I hope you have some people who witness to the fruit of a lifetime of prayerful listening. I hope you have a priest who could be brave enough to, at a distance of 1500 miles,  stay on the phone and pray with the grieving parents as they walked to the surgical room, where their daughter’s organs were harvested in order to greatly enhance the lives of many, many children.

Our Pentecost novena begins today. Let all the readers around the country pray together for the knowledge of God. O Jesus, we need you. Oh, how we need you.

Please pray for my friend Lori as she lives this terrible tragedy.

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

4 May 2024

Reflecting on Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48

If you’ve attended a First Communin Mass in certain (but not all) dioceses in the past several years, you may have been surprised to see the young children, after receiving First Eucharist, also receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.

At first, this seems totally out of place. Isn’t Confirmation a sacrament for older kids, say, 7th or 8th graders? Isn’t it the sacrament that seals the promises the parents made for their child at Baptism? Isn’t it the opportunity for older children to make a more mature declaration of their own faith?

Well, it evolved that way, but the first reading today gives us the scriptural evidence that Baptism and Confirmation were never meant to be separated. Here in Acts 10 (it’s good to read the whole chapter to get a better sense of the way the story unfolds) we read of Peter’s MOST unorthodox visit to the Gentile Cornelius.

Jews did not associate or visit with Gentiles, yet here is Simon Peter walking into Cornelius’ home and cordially greeting him and all his Gentile friends. Most shocking of all, as Peter is speaking to them of Jesus, they begin singing and speaking in tongues! In the infant days of the Church, from Pentecost on, a sure sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit was glossolalia.

At this, Peter realizes that if they’ve already received the Holy Spirit, they should be baptized as well. Two chapters earlier, in 8:14-18, there is a huge conversion to Christ in Samaria. Since so many have been baptized, Peter and John must come up to lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit immediately. Since the earliest Christians (up to 90AD) didn’t give Eucharist to children (that we know of), we can assume that, up to the 13th century, children received all three initiation sacraments at their baptism.

Pray for all children receiving these two sacraments this spring

Looking back, how did you experience your own Confirmation?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

27 April 2024

Reflecting on John 15:1-8

Can you imagine what you would look like if everything in your life that wasn’t bearing fruit got pruned away? I’d be a scarecrow. I’ve got the most well-meaning projects—scrapbooks, video memories, letters I’m going to answer—that sit in mute witness against me every time I open the drawer.

But today I think you should take inventory of all the things that ARE bearing fruit in your life. You’ve stayed faithful to your communities. You’ve read, and studied, and stayed apprised of the readings for Mass. You somehow keep your families together, when the world does everything to separate them. You stay close with, and available to, your kids and grandkids, your siblings and parents, and all that takes a lot of energy and work. And love.

Think of the people you know who bear much fruit—literally. I’m thinking of the people who stock the produce section of the grocery store. I always compliment them on how fresh and delicious the fruits and vegetables look. I’m always touched at how much pride they take in their work. Being close to the vine every day produces a holy person, I think.

A lifetime of conscious participation in the life of the Church keeps us bearing fruit too. I know so many people whose good works seem to grow with each passing year. As I write this, my dear friend Mary Frances, whom I met in high school, is in Colombia, presiding over representatives from 13 countries, all of whom have dedicated their lives to serving those who are poor. And in Spanish, no less! How did she get THERE? Through bearing fruit, a little each day. And love, as St. Teresa of Calcutta reminded us, is a fruit in season at all times.

How is God glorified through the fruit of your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

20 April 2024

Reflecting on John 10: 11-18

Here’s the problem: The GOOD shepherd, the one who loves to the ends of the earth, often meets a terrible and violent death. Jesus knows this. He knows that wolves run in packs, and if the good shepherd tries to protect the sheep from the wolves, the shepherd may well be killed.

Jesus met the death that awaited many good shepherds throughout history. Hunted down by packs of ravenous humans, hungry for revenge, bribed by corporations, fueled by ignorance, caught in the cancers of culture and contempt, the history of the Church is the history of martyrs. Jesus tells us, early in John’s gospel (10:11-18), that he will be martyred for us.

But good shepherds don’t need to be martyred to be inspirations. I recently met a young violinist from Montreal. Asked if he knew the story of the famous St. André Bessette, a monk who devoted his entire vocation to answering the door at the monastery in Montreal, he said, “No, in Montreal we have huge devotions to St. Joseph.”

“Aha!” I said. “Then you do know St. André! He’s the one who spread the devotion to St. Joseph all through Canada.” That’s a good shepherd. St. André was so beloved in Montreal that over one million people processed by his casket, kissing it and touching it, and sharing stories about the love with which he answered the door.

GOOD shepherds lay down their lives in little and large ways. Take you, for instance. I’ll bet you lay down your life many times a day. You don’t realize it, but through the humble witness of your life, like St. André, you are spreading devotion to Christ everywhere you go.

Who have been the good shepherds in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

13 April 2024

Reflecting on Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19

What torment the Jewish audience must have felt when Peter, shaking with the joy of the Risen Christ, addressed them in the Temple. He and John had JUST raised up a crippled man in the name of Jesus Christ, and he was now in the Temple, “walking and  jumping and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

Now those astonished Israelites listened as Peter upbraided them for their complicity in the passion and death of the very NAME who had just healed that crippled man, whom they had seen begging at the Temple gate for years.

How it must have stung to hear Peter say, “Now I know that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did” (vs. 17).

That’s the sentence that should land, like an arrow, in our own hearts. Is there any one of us who has not narrowly escaped a life-altering experience which we created out of ignorance, or arrogance, or just dumb youth?

I remember one day from my twenties. Not accustomed to alcohol, I’d been out for “happy hour” with some friends from work. After only one drink I was definitely impaired, but didn’t realize it until I was driving home. I very nearly escaped hitting the car in front of me. Terrified, I pulled into a parking lot and stayed there for at least an hour. Only a few blocks from home, I crept up side streets to my house. I fell on my knees in thanksgiving.

O merciful God, thank you that you have rescued us from our ignorant behaviors. We ask for your merciful Presence in the lives of those whose ignorance has ruined their lives, and the lives of those they’ve hurt.

When did you act out of ignorance, only to fall on your knees in repentance?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle B

6 April 2024

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Many years ago I heard an astonishing confession of a friend of mine who was a diocesan priest. Around Eastertime, he admitted that, early in his priesthood, he hadn’t believed in the resurrection. He tried everything, prayed with his spiritual director, consulted all the latest books about it, but his heart was hard. He just couldn’t believe.

He proceeded with ordination, never disclosing this wrenching ache. He kept this secret quiet, of course, until the grace of the Spirit removed any doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. In later years, he willingly shared with those coming to the Church for baptism and full initiation how vehemently he had struggled with the central tenet of our faith.

He had trusted that a faithful priesthood would bring him the grace to believe, and he was right. He was a powerful and effective pastor for many years. There were decades of glorious, faith-filled Easters in his priesthood, each with grateful Elect, whose faith had been stronger than his in the early years.

I think of him this Divine Mercy Sunday. He was a quiet dissenter, not nearly as open as Thomas about his doubts. Thomas stands as a great example of an insider whose own faith struggle did not ostracize him from the group.

He was one of the Twelve, but he refused to believe in the resurrection! Still, he remained in community, eating and praying with those with whom he had lived and traveled for three years.

Today is the day to ask for Divine Mercy for all the dissenters among us, that they would NEVER feel unwanted, or “less than” those whose faith hasn’t been challenged in hard ways.

Are there parts of the Creed with which you struggle?

Kathy McGovern©2024

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Easter Sunday – Cycle B

30 March 2024

Reflecting on John 20:1-9

Why didn’t everyone living in Jerusalem see the Risen One after his resurrection?  Acts says: Godgranted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us…(10: 40-41). I know that if I had seen Him hanging on the cross that awe-full Friday, I would have felt cheated that he didn’t appear to me, RAISED and RADIANT, that glorious Sunday.

Even Peter and the Beloved Disciple, after racing to the tomb, left without actually SEEING Jesus. It was only Mary Magdalene, whose story follows today’s gospel in John 10: 11-18, who actually saw him, and at first even she mis-took him for the gardener.

Balaam, the famous “seer,” couldn’t see God’s huge angel right there in the road (Nm. 22). And Elisha’s servant couldn’t see God until Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes to see the hills full of angelic chariots all around (2 Kgs. 6:17).

Most telling of all, Jesus’ own disciples spent Easter Sunday on the road with him and didn’t recognize him until the Breaking of the Bread (Lk. 24: 13-35). Jesus eventually appeared to over five hundred believers, according to St. Paul, who admits he got the story from Peter (I Cor. 15: 5-8). We have seen the Lord! they cried with joy. Lucky them.

But maybe he HAS appeared, to everyone who longed for him that day, and the billions who have longed for him since. Maybe we have felt his Presence, and sensed his nearness, countless times in our lives.

So let me ask you: who was that with you, in the Delivery Room, on your First Communion Day, at the graveside of a loved one? Ah. Of course. Lucky you. You have seen the Lord.

Where do you look for the Risen Lord these days?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle B

23 March 2024

Reflecting on Phil. 2: 6-11

You probably didn’t realize it, but in the Philippians reading this weekend we heard perhaps the oldest hymn in Christendom. Certainly the earliest Christians sang the psalms every day, and probably even a musical version of the crossing of the sea on holy days in the Temple. But Paul’s recitation of the hymn of kenosis―the self-emptying―of Christ on the cross suggests he knew that this beloved hymn was being sung by the Church at Philippi, which was the earliest Christian community in Europe.

Perhaps it was the On Eagle’s Wings of the first century―a well-known hymn that everyone could probably sing by heart with a little help. But why did Paul choose to include it in his letter? I wonder if its beautiful prelude is a key: though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.

Paul, that super-educated Jew, that Pharisee who studied with the greatest rabbi of his day, that tri-lingual missionary par excellence, eventually admits in this letter that all of that perfect pedigree is just “worthless refuse.”  The only thing that matters is that he gain Christ, and be found in him.

Let this mind be also in you, he writes. Don’t compete with each other. Don’t think that whatever status you hold in the world means anything in the kingdom of God. Christ, who was God, chose to take the form of a slave. So it must be with you.

Our western culture is crazy for fancy letters behind our names. Somehow that means we have accomplished something. But at our deaths we only need three letters: F.I.H.

Found in Him.

In what ways are you making sure you are found in him?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

16 March 2024

Reflecting on Jeremiah 31:31-34

There are two commandments. The first is the exterior commandment, imposed by exasperated parents: don’t hit your brother. That law lasts as long as it takes mom or dad to leave the room, and then all manner of hitting resumes.

The interior law comes later, hopefully, and it forms inside our own hearts: Don’t hit my brother. It hurts his feelings, and makes me feel terrible. The reward for observing both those laws comes later still: warm, honest, loving relationships among siblings, long after their parents have gone to God, with Easter tables filled with loving aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.

There are other exterior laws which are broken every day, sometimes with a terrible cost. Drive the speed limit. Don’t drink and drive. But it’s only when we internalize those laws, and truly reckon what our lives would be like if we killed someone because we violated those laws, that the likelihood of us ever breaking our interior rule to observe safe driving is very, very small.

The exterior commandment is to not bear false witness against your neighbor. But the interior commandment, which forms in our hearts over time, is to not pass on any kind of gossip at all, true or not. That’s the hard one, but, since gossip kills, we learn to treat gossip like a gun, and we train ourselves internally to never arm ourselves with such a deadly weapon.

Jeremiah knew that the Law Moses brought down from the mountain was only effective if it was written in our hearts. And how do we know it’s written there? If we know that God has forgiven us. If you still feel judged, who’s doing the judging?

Have you ever confessed to breaking one of your interior rules?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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