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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Fourth Sunday in Lent – Cycle B

9 March 2024

Reflecting on Chronicle 36:14-16, 19-23

What an ironic moment in history, when King Cyrus the Persian overtook the mighty Babylonians. Do you remember that scary story about the banquet that King Belshazzar hosted? He had all the sacred vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem brought in so he, and his wives, and consorts, and concubines, and consorts could drink wine in them. What a travesty!

But then, Suddenly… the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace. Everyone was struck with terror. Finally, someone called for Daniel, the famous Jewish man who had been brought to Babylon in his youth. He knew immediately what the writing meant:

You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. King Belshazzar died that very night, the invading Persians routed the Babylonians from the land, and King Cyrus took power (Daniel 5).

The Jews, held in captivity for fifty years, must have rejoiced to see their enemies vanquished. But listen! King Cyrus said the most astonishing thing. He admitted that God had given everything to him, and even charged him to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem! And then, this most astonishing sentence: Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him” (2 Chronicles 36:23).

And thus began the great journey home, and the long task of rebuilding the Temple and their homes. All because the one they thought was their enemy turned out to be a greater friend than many of their own prophets and kings. Isn’t that sometimes the way? This Lent, ask for the grace to see the gifts your “enemies” might be giving you.

What is God saying to you through your “enemies”?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Third Sunday in Lent – Cycle B

3 March 2024

Reflecting on John 2: 13-25

I always get a chill when I read the last lines of today’s gospel: Jesus knew human nature well.

Oh, dear. What do you know about us, Jesus? Since you were absolutely human, did you share in the nature of our deep human need to protect those we love?

When you wept over Jerusalem, you cried that you longed to gather her children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but they were not willing to be gathered (Mt. 23:27).

And when the soldiers of the high priest came to arrest you in the Mount of Mount of Olives, you asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And you answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go” (John 18:8).

And, in Matthew’s account of this same event, when the men stepped forward, seized you and arrested you, one of your companions (and we know from John’s gospel that it was Peter) “reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.”

 “Put your sword back in its place,” you said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Mt. 26: 51,52). 

And it’s Luke, of course, who gives us the rest of the story, which shows your compassion for ALL people, even though arresting you and taking you to your terrible death: “Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him” (22:51). 

Ah! That’s the human nature we long for, Jesus. The nature that forgives, and heals, and puts our swords away. Gather us, Jesus. We are willing.

How are you working to heal gun violence in our country?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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Second Sunday in Lent – Cycle B

25 February 2024

Reflecting on Genesis 22:1-2,9a, 10-13, 15-18

Okay, let’s take that Genesis reading and stare it down. It’s awful. And it’s not about what we thought at all. Whew.

Let’s get this out of the way immediately. If any person attempted to “sacrifice” their son because God demanded it, we would quickly remove the child and get the parent psychiatric help.

This is precisely what God is doing in the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. The entire story is meant for the ears of the neighbors, those terrifying Canaanites who killed their firstborn sons in huge numbers in order to prove to the gods of rain and harvest that they were seriously devoted to them.

See how the Canaanites behave? It shall never be this way with you, says the God of Abraham.  It’s God’s way of removing the children from the scary parents.

When Abraham allowed Sarah to cast Hagar out into the wilderness (along with his firstborn son Ishmael, a thirteen-year-old) he did so because God assured him they would survive.

Years later it was Isaac’s turn to be endangered, as he himself had become thirteen (the threshold of adulthood).

The same God who proved trustworthy earlier was demanding Abraham sacrifice his second son as a sign of devotion to him. Would the God who was faithful then be faithful now?

This isn’t about a sociopathic god requiring the blood of children. It’s about life’s most important question: can God be trusted in our lives and in our deaths?

We’ve all stood at the grave. Like Ishmael and Isaac, we’ve stood at the threshold of death. Can God be trusted to bring life from death? That’s the big question in this Lent’s gospels. Take heart, and wait.

Can God be trusted with your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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First Sunday in Lent – Cycle B

18 February 2024

Reflecting on Genesis 9:8-15

Sometimes it seems like God is shouting, “I’m here! I am with you! Our covenant still stands!”

It’s easy to see God in Colorado, but sometimes even natives like me nearly drive off the road for the shocking beauty of those mountains, blanketed in white. It can take your breath away.

The biggest shock I ever got while driving was two summers ago. Coming home, driving southwest, listening to the radio, I somehow sensed a presence outside my driver-side window. I turned my head and BAM, right outside my window, just parallel to  my car, was the brightest, biggest, closest rainbow I’ve ever seen.

I gasped, and gaped, and then laughed out loud. The song I was listening to was “Drawn to You,” by Sarah Hart. Do you know it? It’s so beautiful. I had just listened to the refrain:

Drawn to you, Lord we  are drawn to you. To the beauty of your presence in this place.*

Ha! The beauty of God’s presence was practically in my CAR, following along with me until I turned to the west and it fell out of sight. Nature mediates grace, doesn’t it? The natural world is God’s delivery system for grace. And rainbows are, in my experience, the MOST beloved God-winks of all.

The next time you notice a rainbow pin on someone, take a minute to ask them about it. I’ll bet they have a touching story about how a rainbow, appearing in the sky at the perfect moment, let them know that their deceased loved one was with God.

Our all-knowing God set rainbows in the sky for us to gasp, and gape, and to know that we are held by a loving God.

Tell someone your own rainbow story today.

Kathy McGovern ©2024

©Sarah Hart 2009 published by OCP

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

10 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

In her fascinating new book on the American saints (When the Saints Came Marching In: Exploring the Frontiers of Grace in America; Liturgical Press 2015) author Kathy Coffey lingers lovingly on St. Marianne Cope, the Franciscan nun who, with six others sisters from her community in Syracuse, N.Y., warmly accepted the same invitation from the Hawaiian government which fifty other religious communities had turned down.

I am not afraid of any disease, she wrote in 1883. Hence it would be my greatest delight to minister even to the abandoned lepers of Molokai.

And so she did. She and her sisters cared for the dying St. Damien, assuring him that his work with those who had contracted the dread disease would continue after his death. She finally achieved real safety for the women and girls on the island by establishing schools and hospitals just for them. She brought games, and laughter, and fun.

The most compelling thing about her for me is how beautiful she was, and how celebrated she is in Hawaii. A visitor to Molokai is immediately greeted by a large, framed photograph of this smiling, radiant Franciscan sister.  Throughout the Hawaiian Islands (where her sisters still minister) her lovely face, shrouded in the white coif and wimple of the 19th century habit, is celebrated on key chains, tins of macadamia nuts, and even beer mugs. She and her sisters are beloved, and the Hawaiians want the world to know about them.

Jesus warned the man he cured of leprosy to tell no one.  Instead, he broadcast it far and wide. When the love of Christ overshadows you, even the remotest parts of the Hawaiian Islands shout for joy.

What ways have you found to reach out to modern-day lepers?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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