Monthly Archives: October 2023

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

28 October 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 22: 34-40

Well, the Pharisees are now 0-2 in their attempts to trick Jesus. They’re determined to give it another try, though, so they have a Lawyer ask him a question that would give any Law-abiding Jew a long pause.

What’s the greatest commandment? The Lawyer certainly knows that the Torah provides 613 commands, and the rigidity of observance of every one is the sign of a good Jew. Can you imagine? 613 ways to fall short, every single day. Imagine what grace it was to meet Jesus, who could parse it all down to two things:

  • Love God with everything you are
  • Love your neighbor with all the compassion and attention you give yourself.

The first one would have brought affirming nods. Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the familiar Shema, the prayer that observant Jews pray six times a day.

Mary and Joseph did a good job training Jesus up in the faith. All parents are admonished, in this chapter from Deuteronomy, to impress this Law upon the hearts of their children, and, of course, it’s deep in Jesus’ DNA.

But Jesus isn’t letting them off with just the familiar commandment to love God. He makes sure they hear the second commandment (Leviticus 19:18) too, and it’s here that he reveals his prophetic character.

The prophet, someone said, is like sand in your swimsuit. Jesus is determined to make us uncomfortable. Love God? Check. Love your neighbor as yourself? That’s the challenge of our lives. But Jesus won’t let the Lawyer, or us, off the hook. There is no loving God without giving the human race the same compassion and attention we give ourselves.

How exasperating. Pharisees- 0, Jesus- 3.

What ways have you found to love others as you love yourself?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

21 October 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 22: 15-21

How embarrassing. Those wily, smarmy Pharisees thought they had the perfect trap for Jesus. They began by revealing that they already knew much about his extraordinary character. From his miracles and parables they had to admit that he didn’t pander to people of any particular status, and that he was bluntly honest about the hypocrisies of those in religious power.

So, they began by flattering him. No, YOU don’t care what anybody thinks. YOU are pure as the driven snow. (Their sarcasm drips off the page.) And then they set their trap: we know that YOU wouldn’t do anything unlawful for Jews to do, so, what about the tax demanded by the Romans? Would you pay it? Hmmm?

And then he set the trap for them. “Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they took it out of their pockets. Jesus was kind not to humiliate them right there, but, when they thought about it later, they must have blushed. Jews were forbidden to carry Roman coins, because the coin that circulated in Israel at the time of Christ was stamped with not one but TWO images of the Roman emperors.

The front of the coin showed the head of Tiberius, and the back had the head of Augustus, with the Greek inscription, “God Augustus Caesar.“ So, for a Jew to carry a Roman coin it meant that that person was breaking the first commandment, “Thou shalt not have false gods before me.”

Jesus doesn’t ask them how they reconcile their public personas with the obvious hypocrisy of caving to the culture. We don’t get to grin too hard, lest he should ask us the same question.

What parts of the culture are the most tempting for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

14 October 2023

Reflecting on Isaiah 25: 6-10

Last week some friends invited me to a fundraiser for Bridging Hope, a nonprofit that provides assistance to indigent, ill, disadvantaged, and disabled women and children in Viet Nam.

I felt like I was on the mountaintop from the second I arrived. There was a dear friend in every corner of the room, and when I sat down I realized that eight other friends were sharing our table! Heaven.

Talk about your feast of juicy, rich food, and pure, choice wines. Beautiful Vietnamese teenagers, parishioners of the vibrant Vietnamese church in our archdiocese, came to our tables practically begging us to take all the fried egg rolls we could eat. Soon they returned, with large bowls overflowing with scented rice and vegetables, herb-crusted salmon, and beef with broth. I can’t remember ever eating a more abundant or delicious meal.

What overwhelmed me the most was the loving participation of SO many young people. The young Vietnamese dancers were jaw-dropping, and the colors filled the room so much that it seemed the sun had burst into a billion gorgeous prisms.

The music was, of course, spectacular. The Vietnamese are known for their musical artistry. As the Youth Choir sang, my friend turned to me and said, “We look at these beautiful young singers, and forget what happened in their homes over fifty years ago, and what it took for their grandparents to get here.”

And then I felt the veil that veils all people, the web that is woven over all nations, dissolve in front of me. Humans were never made to be at war, but to sing, and dance, and eat together at the banquet of eternal friendship and love.

When in your life have you felt the veil of separation and sadness lift?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

7 October 2023

Reflecting on Phil 4: 6-9

Ah. Every three years or so we get to reflect on that gorgeous section from Philippians. Let’s leave the vineyards of Isaiah and Matthew, and rest in that lovely prayer of St. Paul.

Whatever is true. It’s getting hard, isn’t it, to really know truth from fiction? But we can search our own hearts and find the ways in which we are not being true to who we are, and who we can be.

Whatever is honorable. This is something that we recognize when we see it, and when we live it. I’m thinking of parents who hear their childrens’ cry in the night and, God bless them, rouse themselves from sleep and attend to their needs.

Whatever is just. It’s so easy to skirt this one, especially at tax time. The just person pays their way, and looks out for those who can’t.

Whatever is pure. Webster’s says “pure” means “free from contamination”. You know when someone’s friendship, or work, or love, is free from the shortcuts that end up destroying everything.

Whatever is lovely. We know when we see, or experience, something truly lovely. This time of year pretty much gets the prize for lovely.

Whatever is gracious. I think this is my favorite. I LOVE being in the presence of gracious people. These are the people who make you feel utterly welcome, utterly loved, utterly at home.

This is what makes being alive so wonderful, the encounter with people who live these adjectives.

Do you long for a richer life? Think on these things.

Which of the above adjectives best describes you?

Kathy McGovern ©2023