Easter – Cycle C

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

14 May 2022

Reflecting on Rev. 21: 1-5a

A new heaven and a new earth. Oh, how we long for it. This long winter was made nearly unendurable by the terrible war that goes on and on, misery on top of misery. We look at the ruined cities, and the  millions living far away from home and loved ones. This war is too much with us, and yet it seems that turning our eyes away is the coward’s way out. We force ourselves to see, to know, to pray.

But springtime, and Easter, were made especially joyful this year due to our parish’s delightful experience of helping re-settle a young, hopeful Afghan family, already learning English, and the bus lines, and the funny way we Americans do things. They will thrive, and succeed, and live happy lives here. And yet, we must force ourselves to know about, and to pray for, those left in Afghanistan, who are the victims of the Taliban, and of the last forty years of war.

When John wrote his Revelation, he was writing to seven communities of the infant Church. His great insight into what constituted the new heaven and earth was this: when the kingdom of God comes, God will bring heaven to earth, and God will reign.  And where God is, there is no war,  nor, as in Afghanistan, starvation left in its wake.

We long for a new earth, with millions of species finding their way back to life, and clean rivers, and oceans without plastic. All that and more was envisioned by John: winter replaced with eternal spring, and every tear we ever cried wiped away by God.

Does this vision have its time? The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”

What is your own prayer for a new heaven and earth?

Kathy McGovern©2022

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

7 May 2022

Reflecting on Acts 13: 14, 43-52

What is the actual birthday of the Church? I’ve heard several theories. Some hold firmly to March 25th, the feast day of the Annunciation to Mary. Yes, they say. The day Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb is the birthday of the Church.

Others say the Church was born that terrible day on Calvary, when Jesus gave his mother to the Disciple Whom he Loved, and that Disciple to his Mother. In other words, Jesus gave his Mother to us, the Church. Happy birthday, Church.

Others say it was the moment, after his death, when the Roman soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and blood (the Eucharist), and water (Baptism) flowed out. The Sacraments flowing from his side—that was the day the Church was born.

The most common choice, of course, is Pentecost. The day the Holy Spirit swept over the believers assembled in Jerusalem, filling them with inspiration and joy, was surely the birth of the Church.

But listen carefully, in these post-Resurrection weeks, to the accounts from Acts of what was going on in the lives of the eyewitnesses in the immediate weeks, months and years after the Resurrection. They had seen the Lord. And nothing—not even the cruelest of tortures and deaths, which all but one of the Twelve endured —would stop them from proclaiming the Risen One.

And it wasn’t just those who had known Jesus while he was on earth who were on fire for him. Paul “saw the Lord,” and his fellow-martyr Barnabas “saw” Jesus through faith.

The Church came to birth, in my opinion, with the martyrs, who were willing to die rather than say they had not seen the Lord.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, how do you “see” and “hear’ Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

30 April 2022

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

It’s all about extravagant love. Abundant, embarrassingly lavish love. We are the dumbstruck recipients. No wonder we feel like jumping out of the boat, fully clad, and rushing to the shore, because somehow we sense that we’ll find Jesus there.

This beautiful love song from the last chapter of John’s gospel—the epilogue, as it is called—is just packed with stories of Jesus’ tender love for us, but it’s that ginormous catch of fish that gets me every time.

Here’s what my life was like, right up until the day of my mom’s death, and then in all the years since, while she has been with God, interceding for me.

When I was holding the empty package of gum, and I SO wanted a piece of gum, she somehow had gum, and there it was. An unexpected catch of fish.

As I was leaving my parents’ home, loaded up with gifts after a warm Christmas dinner, my mom stopped me at the door. “Oh, wait, “ she said, “I think I forgot one of your presents.” She opened up the cloak closet and brought out a beautiful winter coat, waiting there for me all along. A HUGE and shockingly unexpected catch of fish.

When she was dying, out of the blue arrived this wonderful, kind, talented guy to be my beloved spouse. How do you say thank-you for that? You spend your life in awe of the wondrous love of your mom, who is, of course, your in-the-flesh encounter with Jesus, who knows where all the fish are, and greets you, ravishingly hungry at dawn, with warm and delicious food.

Watch for God’s abundance. And get your nets ready.

In what ways do you experience the abundant love of Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

23 April 2022

Reflecting on John 20:19-31

Three years ago, I found a new favorite author and a new book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans. In some ways it made me sad, because this formerly evangelical young woman was just now discovering Catholic approaches to reading scripture.

It’s understandable that it took  her awhile, growing up as she did in Dayton, Tennessee, made famous by the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. The trial, which drew famous prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, and defense attorney Clarence Darrow, publicized the tension between science (evolution) and the fundamentalist reading of the book of Genesis which was so popular in the south.

Rachel was courageous in her own growth as a Christian. As she famously said in Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions: “Doubt…requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it.”

What astounding joy Thomas must have felt when the Divine Mercy greeted him that night. I don’t think he ever doubted God. He doubted what he believed about God, that there could be no intersection between his lived experience—he had, after all, seen his Lord, crucified and buried that terrible Friday—and his faith. Touch my wounds, said Jesus.

One week after I discovered her, Rachel died of the flu at age 38. She left an infant, a toddler, and a devastated husband. Where is God in the tragedy of her death? Touch my wounds, says Jesus. I am here.

Jesus, I trust in you.

How does your faith inform your experiences every day?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Easter Sunday: the Resurrection of the Lord

16 April 2022

Reflecting on John 20:1-9

It’s so interesting to be up early in the morning and see the difference that light makes in a dark sky. At first it’s not so certain that the dim light coming up will actually overcome the darkness. This might be the first day in the history of the world—that dreaded day—-when dawn will never break, and the sun will never appear on the horizon. But, in the next breath, violets and pinks and blues splash across the skies, the heralds of the moment when light will overtake the darkness once again.

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb that Easter morning it was so dark that all she saw was the stone removed from the tomb. She raced back to tell the others. By the time Peter and the other disciple got to the tomb, more light was in the sky.

We know this because the faster runner, the “disciple Jesus loved,” got there first, bent down, and looked into the tomb, and saw the burial cloths. Mary would not have seen them inside the tomb because she arrived “while it was still dark.”

By the time Peter arrived there was enough light for him to see, from inside the open tomb, the burial cloths, and the head cloth, rolled up in a separate place.

But keep reading. In the verses immediately following today’s passage, in the full Easter light, Mary Magdalene, weeping outside the tomb, saw two angels, and the Gardener, whom she soon realized was Jesus himself.

A stone rolled way. Burial cloths. The head covering. Two angels. A Gardener. Jesus.

We come to faith in stages, given our access to the Light. And the darkness shall never overcome it.

What truths about Jesus do you see more clearly today than in years past?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Pentecost Sequence, 2019 – Cycle C

13 June 2019

It’s Pentecost, see, with its reds and its fire.

It’s hearing the story of yearning desire

To reach to the ends of the earth with the news.

And joy set them free to dispense with the Rules.

 

They left all they knew for THE STORY so glorious

But some of their number became quite notorious.

Saul became Paul, the great Gentile ally.

His letters gave Christians this peace to abide by:

 

Not Gentile, not Jew, not servant, not free.

God’s grace is abiding in you and in me.

Now all these years later it’s hard to recall

That unity was the Spirit’s great gift to us all.

 

So, come, Holy Spirit, let’s try this again.

Renew us. Imbue us, in His NAME. AMEN.

For when Spirit dwells there’s this one huge advantage:

When it comes to God’s grace, we all speak the same language.

 

How do you “speak the same language” with friends of other faith traditions?

 

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Ascension/ Seventh Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

1 June 2019

Reflecting on John 17: 20-26

Warmest thanks to Steve Padilla, President of the Board of Directors of One World Singers, and all the choirs who performed so beautifully at 

One World, Many Songs: A Denver Cultural Festival

 

We went to the most beautiful concert the other day. I’m still meditating on the many ways it touched and expanded my heart. It began with two songs sung beautifully by a “traditional” choir. Then a larger choir stepped up and joined them, and WOW. The sound and richness of their voices seemed to multiply ten times the sound of the original choir.

Applause. They disappear, and the sanctuary fills with the sublime colors of the Korean Choir, a combination of choirs from the Korean churches in the area. Oh, how this choir watches the director. Every note is perfect, every movement choreographed meticulously.

Applause. The colors swirl away, and now the church fills with the delightful dancers from India. The drums gently beat as these gorgeous dancers get everyone up on their feet and we all pretend we’re in the closing dance sequence of some charming movie from “Bollywood.”

Applause. Ha! Here come the Jews. All it takes is a clarinet, violin, two singers playing some kind of fascinating but unidentifiable string instruments, and we are transported to a pre-Holocaust Eastern European shtetl. The sound is haunting, dissonant, challenging, utterly stunning. I release my heart once again. The Jews own it.

And so it goes. One choir after the other commands the room, and then they all come together for the last piece, “Make the circle wider.” I notice, for the first time, that there are four Caucasians mixed in with the Mexicans, and three African-Americans dancing with the Indians. And the words of today’s gospel seem to sound all through the church, the city, the world: Father, may they all be one.

And they were. And we are.

In what ways are you using your life experience to make the circle wider?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

26 May 2019

Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29

Decisions. I hate them. I run from them, and put up every kind of smokescreen to keep from making them. That’s hugely frustrating for the people who have to work and live with me, and the truth is I would never decide at all if I weren’t eventually shamed into it.

The earliest Christians engaged in a history-changing discernment in 50 AD. This momentous decision regarded who would be admitted into the emerging Christian community. That was the decision for the ages.

How did they discern what restrictions to lay on those Gentiles who were asking to be admitted to their community? Certainly the Jewish Christians (like Mary, the mother of Jesus!) still considered themselves Jews, observed the kosher laws, and worshipped in the synagogue. But what to do about the burgeoning number of Gentiles who were hearing the Word through the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas? Shouldn’t they observe everything the Jews observe, including, for men, circumcision?

St. Paul said, “No!” The more conservative Jews in Jerusalem said, “Yes!” You can imagine the televised debates and internet sniping that would go on today. But the Holy Spirit filled this infant Church with an open heart.

A Council was called. The problem was set out. Then experience was called upon. Paul talked about the huge response to the gospel in the Gentile lands. Peter told the remarkable story of the conversion of the family of Cornelius, the Gentile centurion (Acts 10) that changed his mind about who’s in and who’s out.

Experience and compassion ruled the day. The Church spread like wild fire. Imagine a Church without Gentiles like St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. And you.

What experience have you had that changed a conviction you used to have?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

18 May 2019

Reflecting on John 13: 31-33a, 34-35

I hope you feel that you are abiding in love. If you don’t, it’s time to check the baptismal certificates of those around you. That’s right. Jesus could not have been clearer. By THIS the world will know we are his own, by the enormous amount of LOVE we pour out into the world.

Maybe we can’t define love, but we sure know it when we feel it, don’t we? I’m surrounded by disciples. Because of that I’m practically drowning in love.

How do you measure the way love sustains your life? Let’s take Sunday, for example. When you attempt the Daytona 500—otherwise known as the church parking lot—do your fellow worshipers smile and wave you ahead, while they take the next spot down? (And—ahem—do you make this same kind gesture for others occasionally?)

When you come into church, are you warmly welcomed? My husband Ben and I happened to be in Miami on Holy Thursday and visited a church there. Two people rushed to open the doors for us, and others scrambled to smile at us, greet us, and take us up to the front section. After Mass people couldn’t stop smiling at us. We were visitors, and they were just so happy to have us. How perfect to feel that much love with a community that has just celebrated the washing of feet.

Here’s the thing: love is what changes us for good. Other experiences teach us, and make us better at what we do. But love is what Christ gives us, and so it’s what we must give. Love for the life of the world. And no, not just for some…but for everyone.

How are you giving what the world needs now so much?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

11 May 2019

Reflecting on Acts 13: 14, 43-52

He did it again. Every week I read several commentaries to help me reflect on the Sunday readings, and once again the great John Kavanaugh, SJ has opened the most beautiful and insightful window into today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

What does it mean that “all who were destined for eternal life” (13: 48) came to believe? What did Barnabas and Paul know about eternal life? How could they know anything, since they were still alive, in bodies that were directed by brains that would die, which would then signal the death of their bodies? In other words, if you are brain dead, how do you experience any life?

Father Kavanaugh puts it this way:  “How can an ‘after’ life have any continuity with this life when all our experience is so brain-based? Our memories, our joys, the delights of every sense, the faces of our loved ones all seem so inseparable from this world and our bodies.”

Even though Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, what kind of bodies will they be, once they are separated by time and space? Kavanaugh offers this delicious question: imagine that all the babies born today could talk to all the babies still in the womb and give them this good news: life is even better outside the womb! I know it seems like only death outside, but “the new world beyond your womb is connected to what you are right now, but it is wondrously different! All the gifts you have are only glimmers of what they will become!”

You successfully made it through your birth. Trust God that this life is only a shadow of what awaits.

What insights into eternity have you gained this Easter?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

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