Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

8 May 2021

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

Today was the greatest day of my life. Even though I am a Roman centurion and not a Jew, I love the God of Abraham, and I longed to learn more about this Jesus whom the entire territory is talking about.

When the angel appeared to me and told me about a man named Simon Peter who was staying in Joppa, I hoped that this was the same Peter who was the great apostle of Jesus. I sent messengers to ask him to come here to Caesarea.

When he entered my house I was overcome. I fell to my knees, but he lifted me up and said, “I too am only a man.” So this was Peter. He possessed great power, and a quiet strength born of great suffering. I had prayed that the man whom the angel told me to summon was he. And now this legend, this man whose faith Jesus said he would build his church upon, was standing in my home.

And a Jew! Standing in the home of a Gentile! We were all in shock. As it turns out, he had just had a vision himself, just before my messengers arrived in Joppa. In his vision he saw animals of every kind, clean and unclean, and then God told him that all food was “clean,” and good to eat.

Everything we thought we knew about God has been turned upside down! From now on, the Jews don’t need to keep kosher dietary laws any more, and we Gentiles can be part of God’s salvation even though our men aren’t circumcised! Peter said, “I begin to see that God shows no partiality.”

And, one by one, we all began to see it too.

In what ways have you learned that God loves all people?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

1 May 2021

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 boxes of book ideas that have never seen the light of day. I’ve got the most well-meaning projects— scrapbooks, video memories, clothes I’m going to fit back into—that sit in mute witness against me every time I open the closet and 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 parish community. You’ve read, and studied, and stayed apprised of the readings for Mass. You somehow kept your families together during the pandemic. Nobody starved (I’m assuming). You stayed close with, and available to, your kids and grandkids, your siblings and parents, even if you couldn’t see them in person.

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 haven’t slowed down during the shutdown. In fact, people who were already “doing too much” doubled their efforts to get food to the hungry, and to show love in a thousand ways.

And love, said St. Teresa of Calcutta, is a fruit in season at all times.

How is God glorified through the fruit of your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

24 April 2021

Reflecting on John 10: 1-18

Is anybody besides me worried that, once the pandemic is officially over, and the restaurants, and schools, and libraries, and gyms are all back to the Roaring Twenties, our churches won’t recover the numbers they had before?

I’m worried that it was so easy to stay home on Sunday and worship virtually that, once the virtual Masses are no more, the staying home will remain. With all my heart I hope not, because the Good News is that we have SO MUCH that the world needs, now more than ever.

As we all emerge from the darkness of shutdown into the light of traffic, and sports contests, and catching up with family and friends, will we yearn for that spiritual connection with our parishes, with the hymns we sang in community, with the hundreds of vital good works in which every parish engages?

Of course yes. Just this past weekend I saw parishioners I didn’t know before the shutdown. I met them on ZOOM, in classes our parish held as one of its many creative approaches to keeping us connected. It was such fun to meet these new friends in person! There must be dozens of new friends I’ve made through these ZOOM events. We’ve all said we can’t wait to finally meet, face to face (or mask to mask), when this is all over.

What good is there in knowing Jesus, the Good Shepherd, if the sheep don’t come when they hear his voice? The world is desperate for the healing and joy that we sheep can bring to the world in his Name. Let’s all fill our churches again, that the world might live.

How do you hear the Good Shepherd calling you?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

17 April 2021

Reflecting on Lk. 24: 35-48

The Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran had it right, I think, when he spoke of grief. He described death as an incense bead which doesn’t break open until a loved one’s death. Then its perfume fills the room. “Death is the revealer of life,” he said. It’s only at death that the fullness of someone’s life breaks open.

All of a sudden we see them more clearly, and with so much more love (and longing) than we even did in life.

I suspect that happened for the disciples of Jesus. After his horrible death, the fullness of his life, and the meaning of his death, broke open. Now they had the rest of their lives to regret not loving him better, not staying and praying with him in the Garden, not fleeing from the Cross but, instead, staying and dying with him.

Maybe that’s what they were all saying, through their heartbreak and tears, that Easter evening. They may have been remembering, over and over, the precious moments they shared with him in his life, and accusing themselves of the grossest ignorance in not understanding who he was, and to what he had called them.

And then. Two disciples from Emmaus came running into that Upper Room with the most astonishing news. He’s alive! And we recognized him in the Breaking of the Bread! And no sooner had they announced this glorious news than Jesus Himself stood among them. And suddenly, nothing was ever the same again.

Are you longing for a deceased loved one? Imagine them just entering into your room right now. Oh, what endless joy! They are alive.

Trust this vision. Trust Jesus. They are alive.

How do you experience the presence of your deceased loved ones?

Kathy McGovern © 2021

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle B

10 April 2021

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Thirty years ago my cousin Patty, the purest soul I’ve ever known, was on her way to Marianne Williamson’s class A Course in Miracles in the Bay Area. Stepping off the bus, she was approached by an armed assailant. Doing as she’d been trained to do while living in a dangerous city in dangerous times, she dropped her purse and ran for her life. He shot her in the back anyway. Risen One, where was your MERCY then?

Three weeks ago another young man suffering from mental illness, armed to the teeth with combat weapons he bought legally, murdered ten beautiful humans in a grocery store. Risen One, where was your MERCY then?

Here in Colorado, of course, we’ve lost the Triple Crown. We can’t go to high school, the movies, or the grocery store. Young men suffering from mental illness, but clear-headed enough to plant bombs and hide assault weapons, have stripped us of the slightest veneer of safety we may feel for ourselves or for those we love. O Risen One, where is your MERCY now?

Well, the MERCY is here with us, holding out his pierced wrists and exposing his punctured side. Here, he says to us, touch my wounds. Feel my agony. Now hold out your hands and let me touch yours.

Okay. I’ll take that invitation.  Here, Jesus. Feel my wounds. I can’t look at those darling young faces, those dear older faces, and please, please don’t make me hear one single thing about the people who love them.

He touches my wounds, and holds my bleeding hands, and my broken heart. And we both weep. That’s where the MERCY is now.

Where do you most need to feel God’s MERCY now?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Easter Sunday – Cycle B

3 April 2021

Reflecting on Acts 10: 34a, 37-43

Why didn’t everyone living in Jerusalem see the Risen One?  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 ©2021

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle B

27 March 2021

Reflecting on Mark 14: 1-15:47

Suffering. The experience of it often supersedes the relief we feel when it is over. Somehow we participate in the stern forty days of Lent, with its ashes and palms, with more fervor than in the glorious fifty days of Easter, suffused as they are with baptismal gowns, First Communion clothes, and Confirmation robes.

We’re not alone. The Passion Narrative was, most probably, the earliest part of each of the four gospels to be written. Was it closer to the hearts of the evangelists than even the Resurrection Accounts? Tradition believes that St. Peter was the eyewitness behind Mark’s gospel (I Peter 5:13). It’s touching to think that Peter wanted to make sure Mark wrote down how Peter denied Jesus. He didn’t want later historians to give him a pass.

I do know this for sure: Mark the Evangelist knows how the story ends while he’s writing his Passion. You bet he does. Only Mark has a young man follow Jesus after the arrest, and when they seize his cloak, he runs away naked (14:51).

I loved it when early commentaries suggested that it was Mark, writing himself in as a terrified, hidden disciple. But I love this theory even more: we see that young man again, and this time he isn’t terrified at all. He’s powerful, and robed in white, and sitting on the rolled-away stone of the Empty Tomb. “Go tell Peter what you saw,” he says (Mk. 16:7).

That’s the Good News, shouted through the ages, and, in Mark, announced by one who was, just days ago, running for his life. He’s running in a different direction now, that angel. He’s running towards you, towards me.

Run, boy. Run.

Are you sure you know how the Story ends?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

20 March 2021

Reflecting on Psalm 51

Create in me a clean heart, and renew Your Spirit within me. Imagine waking up on the Fifth Sunday of Lent with the open, wide-eyed wonder of your childhood self. With just a bit of guidance, you could see God’s work everywhere, and the rivers of joy coming from God’s Spirit would animate your life once again.

I think of young King David, shockingly breaking the ninth commandment by coveting the wife of poor Uriah the Hittite. He wanted the beautiful Bathsheba—whose father, grandfather and husband he knew—and what the King wants the King gets.

Just like some modern-day kings in the Middle East, he summoned her to his bed and she was obliged to go. She soon turned up pregnant, of course, and hence the bungled cover-up commenced. Nobody needs to know, thought David. He tried all kinds of ways to keep his sin undiscovered, but in the end the only thing that worked was an obvious ruse to get Uriah killed on the front lines.

Bathsheba was then free to marry King David, but, to their despair, their child did not live. And it’s smack in the middle of that despair—and the strong rebuke by his prophet Nathan— that, tradition says, King David composed Psalm 51, the Miserere,  that we sing today: Create in me a clean heart, oh God. Renew Your Spirit within me.

It’s the job description of sin to find endless ways to bring misery, and it did. The sword never left the House of David (2 Samuel 12:10) from that day until the day the Prince of Peace was born in the City of David.

That’s the backstory on today’s psalm.

How is God creating a clean heart in you this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

13 March 2021

Reflecting on John 3:14-21

Do you remember the exhilaration of getting your first pair of Keds, say, when you were five? I could absolutely jump higher and run faster than ANYBODY, just watch me! watch me! watch me! My parents, ever indulgent, oohed and aahed at the ecstasies of all of their kids. And, in those early years, I thought their love and admiration for me was directly tied to how blindingly fast I was, and how shockingly high I could jump.

It wasn’t until my baby brother aged into the new Keds experience, and they clapped and praised his athletic genius too, that it hit me. Oh. Our parents don’t love us for what we accomplish. They egg us on into believing we are super-human in all our endeavors because they know that makes us happy. They love us because they love us, not because we are great at anything we do, because, well, we really aren’t.

What a grace it is to read John 3:17: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. What a get-out-of-jail passage that is. God didn’t love us unto death because of anything, anything, that we did. The word “grace” means “undeserved kindness.” It’s like when the judge orders a stay of execution for the (guilty) guy on death row. We are saved because of the undeserved kindness of God.

Now we are free to run as fast as we can to the finish line, life on high in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). And, in our joy, we jump as high as we can to feed, and clothe, and bring justice to God’s earth.

What good works that you perform make you the most conscious of the undeserved kindness of God?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

6 March 2021

Reflecting on Exodus 20:1-17

I hope that you had the great grace of being made to memorize the Ten Commandments as a child. But in case your brain has had to delete them to make room for the thousands of other things you’ve needed to stuff in there through the years, take the list out of today’s first reading and see how long it takes to commit each one to memory again.

It was easier when we were kids. Our brains were more supple, of course, but, more than that, it was easy to confidently recite commandments we were certainly never going to break. I think of those commandments a lot these days, during tax time. It turns out that a lot of us are willing to break the seventh commandment because, well, we can.

Thou shalt not steal seems like such an obvious command. No society can prosper when there is no deterrence from stealing from each other. Certainly we can all point to government waste, and entitlements we deem immoral. Funding those in our taxes is a bitter pill. In other cases, though, hiding assets is meant to benefit the wealthier member of a divorcing couple, to the detriment of the children of that union.

These past two tax seasons have been particularly appalling as poor, single mothers realize that their “smart, savvy” ex has stolen their stimulus check from them. During the pandemic, the most obvious sin against the seventh commandment has been the number of fraudulent unemployment claims filed—sevenfold the number of authentic claims! Do we not realize that this is theft?

We need a “come to Jesus” moment. Thou shalt not steal is not a suggestion. It’s an honest-to-God commandment.

Which commandment am I struggling with this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2021

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