Monthly Archives: February 2023

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

25 February 2023

Reflecting on Genesis 2:7-9;3:1-7

Ah, Lent. Thank God you’re here. We would never have summoned you on our own, but you’ve arrived, as always, to challenge, and, yes, to befriend us.

Temptation has already licked at our heels these first few days of Lent. We may be a little hungrier, or hankering for the hours on the computer we’ve determined to limit. Whichever of the disciplines we take up this season, you can bet that the Tempter will remind us there are MUCH better uses of our time. But we know that voice by now.

You’ve got to feel sorry for Adam and Eve. Yes, God tells Adam (because Eve wasn’t formed yet) not to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad (a better translation than “evil’). Then Satan, the Liar, slyly asks Eve if God, that bully, REALLY told her she couldn’t eat from any fruit in the Garden.

Imagine having the Prince of Liars slide up to you and start touching your trigger points. Did you REALLY think you could reach out to your estranged sibling and show her how much you love her? Sure, that looked good on Ash Wednesday, but you don’t want to place yourself in that toxic environment again, do you?

The two temptations today feature weakened protagonists. Eve is weak because she doesn’t have any prior knowledge of the Liar, and is vulnerable. Jesus is weakened by his long fast in the desert. Adam and Eve fall for the lure, but Jesus, weak as he is, overcomes the Tempter.

Because of that, writes Alice Camille, “There is no desert so barren that Christ will not stand with us against our demons.”

How will you take strength from Jesus’ victory over Satan this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

18 February 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 5:38-48

Oh, boy. We’ve reached that most difficult section of the Sermon on the Mount, and just in time for Lent. What a rich fast that would be, to really meditate on this text, and then live it for forty days. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

I know I’ve written about this before, but it always comes to me when we read this section from Matthew 5. I once received a horribly nasty note on my windshield from the neighbor whose house I’d parked in front of over the course of eight years, threatening me if I parked there again.

I was stunned and hurt. But, taking a cue from my radically peace-filled roommate, I baked some cookies and brought them to him the next day. When he answered the door I immediately understood what had happened. He had casts on his arms and legs, the result of a bad car accident. My car was impeding his ability to get into his house.

I looked at him, and he looked at me, and together we both said, “I’m sorry!” And that began in me a practice of radical peace-making, especially in traffic. I once followed a woman through a parking lot and into a coffee shop, to apologize for cutting her off a block earlier. Try this! Instead of being on the defensive, go on the offensive! Be the first to apologize, and the last to take offense at others’ mistakes.

As Fr. Gerhard Lohfink wrote in Between Heaven and Earth: New Explorations of Great Biblical Texts, “it is always better to be a victim than a violent victor.”

How will you practice radical peacemaking this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

11 February 2023

Reflecting on Sirach 15:15-21

There’s a funny video on the internet of a little boy—maybe four years old—giving his mother an inspirational pep talk.  “You!” he says, pointing his finger at her, “You can be anything you want! All you have to do is WANT it bad enough! You could live at the White House! You could be President!”

He goes back to his cheerios, while mom and dad howl in the background. Out of the mouths of babes.

Sirach gives a similar, but much more somber warning, in today’s first reading. There are set before you fire and water. To whichever you choose, stretch out your hands. He isn’t issuing a threat. He’s simply stating the way the world works. That which we reach for will reach back for us.

Resentment? Let it fester, and you’ll have a whole stew of it, ready to poison your whole body. Rage? Rehearse it, feed it, fuel it, and soon you’ll be practicing taking your assault weapon—which represents, of course, another time you reached for fire—into the place of your previous employer.

Sirach is brilliantly paired with the gospel today. We’re still listening to the Sermon on the Mount, and in this section Jesus, the Master Teacher, prods us to live an interior life of goodness. We have the skill to dig deep and name the motivations that lead us into sin. If we are riddled with envy, we have the grace to work backwards and find the trigger for it. By getting to the source, we can stop a Deadly Sin before it kills us.

You can be a better human being! says Jesus. You just have to want it bad enough.

What great sins do you avoid by paying attention to the smaller sins that lead up to them?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

4 February 2023

Reflecting on Isaiah 58:7-10

We had a huge snowstorm on Christmas Eve, 1982. For the first time in history, a Catholic Church in Denver opened up all night, to provide shelter for those who would have been on the street. That radical decision eventually evolved into the Samaritan House, the first dedicated homeless shelter in the country.

I remember my dad, Jesuit-educated, watching the news stories in wonder, and saying, astonishingly, “I’ve been a Catholic all my life, and this is the first time I’ve heard that I’m supposed to care about all the people sleeping on the street.”

This staggering statement makes perfect sense if you consider that the Sunday lectionary of the pre-Vatican II Church used exactly one reading from the prophets (Isaiah 60, on Epiphany) in the entire Church year.

Since the Revised Lectionary of 1969, we hear the prophets every single Sunday except in the Easter Season. And this huge —some might say relentless—exposure to the prophets has shaped us. There are certainly no practicing Catholics today who would pretend to never hearing that they are called to Share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them…

In fact, the very first sentence of the 1965 Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World states: The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.  

As Ebeneezer Scrooge so joyfully recognized that glorious Christmas Day, humankind is our business. We hear you, prophets. You’re coming through loud and clear.

In what ways do the prophets energize you today?

Kathy McGovern ©2023