Monthly Archives: January 2016

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?

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

25 January 2016

Reflecting on I Corinthians 12: 12-30

Every once in a while I take inventory of my body. Let’s see. I’ve been coloring my hair since I was twenty-five. I’ve needed glasses since college. Let’s just stop there. The rest is where it starts to get ugly.

How about you? What assessments would you make about the history of your body? Does that old football injury still kick up when it rains? Has your appendix scar just sort of blended in with all your other battle scars? St. Paul’s letter today inspires me to review my physical body, and to marvel at how brilliant the whole messed up thing is.

But of course he’s using the body as a metaphor for the Body of believers, that perfect organism whose blood supply is Love. So let’s take a quick inventory of how the Body is functioning in our time.

Where there is loneliness, are we there? Where there are refugees, are we mobilizing? Where there is ignorance and intolerance, are we courageous and outspoken? Where there are people bound to their homes through illness and disability, are we organized to bring them comfort, meals, rides to doctor appointments?

Where there are young families with newborns, are we supporting them with meals, and our time, so they can catch up on sleep? For that matter, where there are small children at Mass, are we providing child care so their exhausted parents can pray and be renewed?

Are we honoring the elders who built our parishes and schools and who now need our help? I can proudly say that, in many ways, we are. But, just like that nagging arthritic knee, the broken places still cry out for healing.

In what ways are you helping to build up the Body?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

This week’s column was inspired by four wonderful friends. Christine Maschka oversees the stunning Share the Care program at Most Precious Blood Parish in Denver. This column is a very brief summary of the dozens of needs she responds to and serves each week. Madonna Gaudio is finishing her degree at Regis University, after which she will immerse herself in addressing those needs in a larger arena. Justin and Lauren Zuiker regularly attempt Mass attendance while juggling two toddlers. It is observing their struggle that inspires the question about child care in our parishes.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

16 January 2016

Reflecting on John 2: 1-11

Some scholars say that the secret to the story of the wedding feast of Cana lies in those mysterious six stone water jars. What on earth are six huge jars, holding twenty to thirty gallons of water, doing outside a tiny house in tiny Cana of Galilee? The only appropriate courtyard for such massive jars would have been―of course! ―the Temple in Jerusalem.

The first century Jewish reader would smile in profound recognition. Brilliant! John has transported the very stone jars that once stood outside the Temple, the Temple which, by the time this late gospel was written, had been brutally destroyed by the Roman army, and transported them to tiny Cana where Jesus, his mother, and their friends are all celebrating a joyous wedding.

They have no wine, said Mary to Jesus. Might that be symbolic language for “all the things we held dear as faithful Jews have been destroyed”?

After a brief skirmish with his mother, which of course he doesn’t win, Jesus directs the servers to fill those (symbolic) jars with water. If we take this story literally (which I suspect would disappoint John the Evangelist deeply) we have to wonder how long it would take―and how many trips to the well it would involve―  to pour one hundred and twenty gallons of water into those jars.

The very shape of this wondrous story suggests that this deeply symbolic account of a neighborhood wedding is meant to tell us one thing: Jesus is the new Temple, Jesus is the new wine, Jesus is everything we had longed for and thought we had lost.

It’s that simple. Thank you, Blessed Mother! Now go and do whatever he tells you.

What things that you once held dear have you put aside in order to follow Jesus?

The Baptism of the Lord

9 January 2016

My friends Mary Ann and David have the most fabulous Epiphany party every year. It’s a tradition that goes back decades now. None of us can remember a Christmas season that wasn’t marked by this annual gathering of hundreds of friends gathered ‘round the grand piano, singing four-part harmonies, enjoying delicious drinks and sampling the dozens and dozens of cookies for which, along with many other amazing talents, Mary Ann is famous.

But it wasn’t the two fantastic Christmas trees, or the thousands of lights throughout the house and out into the driveway, or even the warmth of the many beloved friends there that I will most remember this year. It was a conversation with her oldest friend, who reminded me that she wasn’t at the party last year. Why? Because she had endured nine hours of surgery the day before to excise lung cancer.

I was stunned. I hadn’t heard about this. “But you look so healthy!” I said. “Oh,” she said, “I feel great. Mary Ann and David put me in their guest room (where they cared for Mary Ann’s mother for the last several years of her life) and they just bathed me in love. They fed me and cared for me, and I recovered beautifully. I had a wonderful year.”

She had lung cancer, and she had a wonderful year. Just think about that. Each of us has the power to bring so much mercy into someone’s life that, a year after their struggle, they can say, “I had a wonderful year.” Imagine being baptized into that mercy every day. Imagine extending that mercy.

It’s going to be a wonderful year.

In what ways have you already experienced mercy this year?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord – Cycle C

2 January 2016

Reflecting on Matthew 2: 1-12

Star dust. It turns out we are all made of it. Almost every element on Earth was formed at the heart of a star. How? When a massive star explodes, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen are released into the universe, providing the building blocks for planets, and plants, and human life. Everything in us is formed from residual stardust, and here’s the best part: you have stuff in you as old as the universe.

So consider this: when those passionate astrologers saw that Star, might it have been the stardust in them, routed into them through eons, from the day God spoke the world into being, that shouted out, “We recognize You! We are made from You! We have literally longed for You, in every cell of our being, from the beginning of time!”

Each of us carries those Wise Men in our own DNA. We too are made of the stuff that sees the Star and says, “Yes, I was made to seek You and find You. Nothing in my life will ever satisfy me until I do.”

And so I ask you, Star gazers: where do you feel the most completely yourself, the most utterly at home? Allow yourself this epiphany: only by knowing what you know for sure will you ever truly find the peace that comes from God, who formed the world from the beginning of the beginning. If you are breathing, then you are stardust, and you won’t feel at home until you find the Star.

Joni Mitchell had it right: We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.

In what ways do you sense that you belong to God?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).