Monthly Archives: September 2023

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

30 September 2023

Reflecting on Philippians 2: 1-11

I have so many questions about what Jesus knew, and when he knew it. Did he and the other members of the Trinity talk it over, and decide to offer up Jesus to the world? Though he was in the form of God, did Jesus truly count the cost before he gave up the bliss of heaven to become one with us? He had the fullness of everything that ever was or ever will be, and yet he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.

Imagine a multi-billionaire like Bill Gates deciding that he couldn’t truly help the world unless he became like the poorest of the poor. Imagine him giving up his dazzling estates around the planet, not just for a noble experiment that had an exit strategy, but for the rest of his life. Imagine him giving up his health care and dental plan. In fact, imagine him sacrificing the health care he’d had all his life, and going out into the world with unchecked high blood pressure, and rotting teeth.

Those who actually do live with these health deficits will likely die earlier than those of us who gratefully see our dentists and health care providers as needed, if not twice a year. But imagine having those advantages, and giving them up, so as to truly live as much of the world lives.

We might be able to stretch our imaginations that far, but until we enjoy the Beatific Vision ourselves (by God’s grace), we will never grasp what Jesus gave up in order to be God with us. That’s love beyond all telling. That’s the most amazing grace.

I can only imagine.

In what ways is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

23 September 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 20: 1-16a

We were celebrating my husband Ben’s birthday last month when I was delighted to hear this story about him from his childhood. Only Ben! Said his sister Lynda. Only Ben would go around the table when we were kids, show us all his hand, and then teach us what cards to play to beat him.

It’s a family trait. Our three little nieces used to squeal in delight at whatever gift their brother was receiving on his birthday. They never counted the presents under the tree. It was all delight, all joy, all grace.

But would they have been as gracious if, twenty years later, they labored all day in the hot Mediterranean sun, only to find that the ones who worked the last hour of the day received the same wages as they? Doubtful.

It’s the Original Sin, the Original Suspicion. Somebody is getting a better deal than we are. Somebody is more loved than we are. Somebody has access to more of God’s grace than we do.

Just watch a baby with her adoring parents. She has all the love a parent can possibly shower on her, but let the parent’s gaze leave her for just a moment, ESPECIALLY if the gaze should wander over to another beloved child, and she will guide the parent’s gaze back to her.

WH Auden wrote: The error bred in the bone…craves what it cannot have. Not universal love, but to be loved alone.

But that’s where we’re wrong. Love is not a nonrenewable resource. The love that we receive? That’s the love that goes right back into the world, to every vineyard worker, no matter what time he clocked in.

In what ways do you delight when others succeed?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

16 September 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 18:21-35

Last year around Thanksgiving I read a story that’s stuck with me all year. The author was writing about her father, who estranged himself from his family when his kids were young. He was a no-show at their birthdays and graduations. He did ask to attend her wedding, but expected nothing, and sat by himself in the back, grateful to be invited.

Several years went by. He began sending cards and gifts for her birthday. She ignored them. He left cheery notes on her phone. She deleted them. But here’s the thing: he never stopped. Over the course of many years, he never stopped showing her, in countless thoughtful ways, that he loved her and wanted to be in her life.

It would have been easy to just let him go on, never hearing from her, never receiving any acknowledgement from her. It would have been a satisfying revenge for a childhood spent yearning for him.

But the author did an astonishing thing. She called him and invited him to Thanksgiving dinner with her family (which included her mother, whom he had hurt so dearly all those years ago). He  tearfully accepted. He arrived with gifts for the table and for her. Her mother allowed a short hug. The tense dinner began, and within a few minutes the conversation turned to sports and the weather.

Thus began a reconciliation that took just a year or two to thaw her cold heart. Her mother had long ago forgiven her father, and that seemed to give her permission to do the same. God willing, they’ll all be at Thanksgiving dinner again this year.

Forgiveness. The most delicious feast at any meal.

What experience do you have of forgiveness?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

9 September 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 18: 15-20

A friend of mine, the mother of two young adults, once said: I think my kids loved to watch “Friends” because the characters in that television show openly confronted each other (hilariously, of course) and didn’t have any hidden resentments. 

But in real life nobody really relates that way, and so my kids leave all kinds of things unsaid, even with each other.  They were so much closer when they were kids, before they learned to hide their feelings.

It’s true, isn’t it?  The challenges of social interactions are so great that many conversations never happen, and decades-long resentments are never voiced, which means true intimacy is never approached.

Jesus knows a thing or two about intimacy, and gives us this bold suggestion: just open your mouth and say what’s on your mind.  Now, this is very risky.  Chances are great that the person whom you want to be closer to, but can’t because of whatever it is that’s bothering you, will listen respectfully, thank you for your “feedback”, and then check you off their list of their most intimate friends because they are inwardly seething.

There is an epidemic of estrangement going on in families today. For what appears to be no reason at all, young people are closing themselves off from their parents, and taking the beloved grandchildren with them. And, in many cases, the pleading of their parents for reconciliation is falling on deaf ears.

If only both parties had been able to be honest from the start.  Honesty is agonizing, but no great marriage or family ever thrived without it.

Have you ever had the grace to let a friend tell you their honest feelings about you?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

2 September 2023

Reflecting on Jeremiah 20:7-9

In the forty years I’ve known Mary, I doubt we’ve ever had a single conversation that didn’t center around her intense love for her two sons, just babies when we met.

She built a deep awareness of God into their DNA. She read bible stories at bedtime. She reminded them that their prodigious sports, musical, and academic achievements reflected the glory of God, alive in them.

Their baptisms, First Communions, and Confirmations were beautifully celebrated, with big parties after each one. Their baptismal candles were saved, and lit on their anniversary days.

Jason, in particular, was a sensitive child. With a genius IQ, even the top schools had trouble keeping him engaged. He finally settled on Medical and Law degrees from Harvard. The celebration of his wedding Mass to beautiful, joyful Melanie was one of the most glorious occasions I can remember.

He was an expert and experienced hiker. He and Melanie hiked mountains all over the U.S. and Europe. But last week, at a height of fifty feet at Devil’s Lake Park in Wisconsin, Mary’s kind, brilliant son fell to his death after slipping on a wet rock. Life will never be the same.

Mary and Dave did everything right. Their boys grew up with lots of sunshine, lots of exercise, lots of music, lots of healthy, nutritious food. Immediately, my thoughts turned to Jeremiah: You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

But this is what faithful, heartbroken Mary says: Do I feel duped? Never. God has blessed me all my life. This was a tragic accident. Christ was comforting Jason during those last, terrible moments.

During his lifetime, the prophet Jeremiah never knew the indwelling presence of Christ. But it’s that presence that hold us tight today.

How has your faith strengthened you during terrible loss?

Kathy McGovern ©2023