Ordinary Time – Cycle C

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

26 February 2022

Reflecting on Luke 6:39-45

People are so gracious, aren’t they? Just yesterday I called my kind friend Don by the wrong name when he stopped to say goodbye to me after a talk we both attended.

I called him by the wrong name! How would I feel if the situation were reversed? But he pretended not to even notice, and when I apologized he was his usual gracious self, assuring me that he answers to anything.

The truth is, we pretty much advertise who we are every time we speak. During the Super Bowl halftime concert, my niece asked her brother if he knew about the big online feud brewing between two of the rap artists on stage. He said, “Now, how would I know anything about that? Do you think I waste my time with that?”

And so, with those few words, he humiliated my beautiful niece. By her question, of course, she betrayed her own interest in the media lives of the rap stars, and by his impudent answer he betrayed his embarrassment that, just a few years ago, he had been just as obsessed. She knew that, of course, which is why she asked the question.

When we lash out, when we roll our eyes, when we turn sullen and silent, we’re giving a hidden camera view of our hearts. That’s why keeping our hearts pure of secret criticism and secret cynicism is everything. At a moment of stress, we want only good fruit to pour out of us. That’s the true test of how we’re really spending our time and filling our hearts.

Meditate on the good. Delete the bad. That probably includes the addicting feuds of rap stars.

What verbal blunder have you witnessed lately that betrayed the true heart of the speaker?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

19 February 2022

Reflecting on I Sm. 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23

Am I the only one who really, really resonates with that scene with David and King Saul? It’s delicious in its irony. Here is poor David, hounded all l over the Judean desert by the jealous King.

He and his attendant sneak into Saul’s camp. They find Saul and his sword. This is it! The Lord has clearly placed Saul in David’s hands! It will be just like the child David’s encounter with Goliath years before! Cut off his head and chase his army out of town!

But David walks away from that immense temptation. He leaves the king to his sleep. Walking over to a hilltop and holding the sword aloft, he makes his presence known. Shouting to the sleeping troops, he lets them know how easily he could have slain Saul. But he walks away instead.

How many times has someone offered up to you the most delicious gossip about someone who has been unkind to you, or who has hurt your feelings in some way? Here is the perfect way to settle the score. Let them know what you know. Even better, find casual ways to let others know what you know. But then, in a moment of grace, you don’t. You walk away, and you never think about it again.

Or maybe Saul’s experience hits closer to home. How many times have you, in retrospect, discovered that some graced friend has held back on much-deserved criticism of you, when speaking would have been to their advantage? They gracefully kept silent. There is no way to repay such stunning love. But, like Saul, we can stand in wonder at its unmerited kindness. And we can go and do the same.

Looking back, of which moments of keeping silent are you the most proud?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

12 February 2022

Reflecting on Luke 6: 17, 20-26

The prolific and insightful scripture commentator Alice Camille has this intriguing take on the Beatitudes: if you are poor in spirit, or hungry, or weeping, or being humiliated for taking an unpopular stand, God is very near, because God delights in being the salvation of one in need. Here is how I think this salvation takes place: when grief, or hunger, or a shocking reversal of fortune shakes our foundations, our cracked-open hearts provide a small entry space for grace.

When, as Sr. Joan Chittister says, we are lost in the land of nowhere but God, our very emptiness is what God delights in filling. That space seems to be exactly the right size for grace to seep in. And when grace seeps in—sneaks in?—blessing always ensues.

It’s profoundly moving to see the good news that the gospel is for those who are poor. Visit a nursing home, or maybe a trailer park, and count the number of crucifixes on the walls. The companionship of Jesus in the draft, and chill, and darkness of life is a greater blessing than affluence without him. It is, of course, the call of all believers to help alleviate the draft, the chill, the darkness, while drawing all to him who is Light.

That’s why Father John Kavanaugh, SJ, counsels us to abide in our hunger for holiness, to live with a thirst for justice. Why are there hungry people in a nation of shocking abundance? Thirst for justice for them. Are there people mourning in your parish right now? Abide in hunger to comfort them through the years ahead.

I thirst, Jesus said from the Cross. Blessed be He.

In what ways are you poor? In what ways are you rich?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

5 February 2022

Reflecting on Luke 5:1-11

Our parish is fully immersed in the Synod listening sessions. It’s fascinating to listen to new Catholics, veteran Catholics, and people thinking about becoming Catholic, talking freely and without fear about the ways in which they feel the Spirit is speaking to them about the Church.

What’s missing, at least so far, are those who were baptized Catholic, embraced the faith for a time in their lives, and have now left us. These are the voices Pope Francis wants to hear from most urgently. He wants us to cast into the deep waters, and bring out the voices of the disappointed, the embittered, the abused, the scandalized, the indifferent, and those seeking God elsewhere. He wants those beloved of God to know that he is listening, through the vehicle of this worldwide Synod.

It sounds good in theory, but it’s so hard to do in practice. I’d be mortified to ask my non-practicing family members why they’ve absented themselves from the Table. I’m afraid of what they might say. Fortunately, the process only calls for listening, not for responding.

I don’t want to ask, but the deep water is where the pain is, and where we should be. Might it be that many who have left have been waiting for someone in their lives to ask them why? Do all who leave imagine that they aren’t missed, that the Church will just lumber on, sinful and sorrowful, without them?

I admire my friends who say that they ask their kids their reasons for leaving us, and that they listen and try to be instruments of reconciliation. That’s where the net meets the deep. It might even be where healing begins.

How will you embrace Pope Francis’ call to quietly listen to those who are estranged?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

29 January 2022

Reflecting on I Cor. 13: 4-13

Last weekend I attended the funeral of a dear high school friend. John had a warmth, and a loving way of including everyone within a hundred miles, that left a palpable energy of joy long after he’d left the room.

He married my dear friend Barb forty-nine years ago, and together they raised the kindest, MOST darling daughters. Sullivan, one of their precious grandsons, while sitting on his mother’s lap, heard the devastating news that his dear grandpa had died. He cried and cried, and then, sobbing, told his dad, “This is the saddest sad I’ve ever been.”

The church was packed; the music just exactly perfect. The two eulogists— first, his sister, next, his heartbroken son-in-law—remembered him as the sweet, funny brother he was, and the endlessly generous and gracious man he became.

The presider, a classmate of John’s, captured him so vividly, so hilariously, that, somewhere around the Eucharistic Prayer,  you could begin to feel the night turn into day. Everything so lovingly placed in the sanctuary—the flowers, the sports caps, the delightful photo of him, looking mischievous and up-to-something—began to almost hum with energy.

And when we reached the words Do this in memory of me, my thoughts turned to St. Paul’s famous words. Yes, when you are patient, and kind, not rude, not quick-tempered, bearing all things, hoping all things, when your love never fails, then you are living in memory of Jesus.

I wonder. What words, what photos, what funny hats of mine will one day hum with an energy I tried all my life to create, an echo of the Love of Jesus, and a simple life lived in Memory of him?

What memories of you will bring such joy that people will recall today’s reading about love?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

22 January 2022

Reflecting on I Cor. 12:12-14, 27

My husband Ben returned from a recent trip to Juarez, Mexico with a beautiful painting of Joseph and the Child Jesus. We put it up against the wall, and soon Christmas cards surrounded it on all sides. It was touching to see the art on the cards, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and this lovely painting in the center.

It’s kind of an old-fashioned painting, but here’s what I noticed: I like looking at it. It makes me happy. It’s probably not great art. I’ve decided I don’t care. In fact, just yesterday, as we finally took away all the cards, we chose to make the painting a permanent fixture on the wall.

I’ve loved the image of the Child Jesus since we visited Ávila, Spain a few years ago, and heard this touching story about St. Teresa. One night, Teresa was walking the grounds of the monastery when she saw a beautiful child. “Who are you?” he asked. “I’m Teresa of the Child Jesus. Who are you?” And He answered, “I am the Child Jesus of Teresa.”

Even today, the tears come. We are “of him,” and he is “of us.” And so, today, when I read about six thousand members who serve more than 75,000 children living in poverty—the demographic nearest my heart—I was touched at the name of the organization: The National Christ Child Society. I signed up.

See, I think that’s how the gifts Paul speaks about become actualized. An image on the wall, a touching story from my adult life, and the exact ministry I’ve been looking for, all with The Child Jesus in the title. That’s how the Spirit speaks. That’s how the Body works.

How does beauty and religious imagination empower your own ministries? nationalchristchild.org

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

15 January 2022

Reflecting on John 2: 1-11

That wedding that Jesus attended with his friends could very well have already gone on for several days. Weddings were huge events in the first century Middle East, as they are today. I imagine that Mary had been serving the guests. We see this part of her character right off the bat in Luke, when she sets out immediately, right after the Annunciation, to walk all ninety miles to visit the home of her cousin, Elizabeth. Why? Because she wanted to serve her in the last months of her pregnancy.

So we know this about Mary: she serves. It makes perfect sense that she would have been serving at the wedding, and, dreading that her friends be embarrassed, went immediately to Jesus and said, “They have no more wine.”

This is funny. We get the sense that this Jewish mother knows her son better than he does. He doesn’t know what all this has to do with him, but she does. She has known, from his conception—Luke’s gospel, again—that he has “come to His people to set them free” (1:68). Did she know that he could turn huge vats of water into wine? I think she knew he would do far greater than that.

And don’t miss this: Jesus addresses his mother twice in John, here and at the foot of the cross (19:26). Both times he calls her “Woman”. Ah. Just like the eleven times Eve is called “Woman” in Genesis. The Jewish ear immediately understood that Jesus is telling us that Mary is the New Eve, the New Mother whose Son has come to redeem us from the Liar, the Serpent.

Created. Abducted. Ransomed by the one who sets us free.

How will you work, in this new year, to “do whatever he tells you”?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

The Baptism of the Lord – Cycle C

8 January 2022

Reflecting on Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

He says many fiery things in the gospels, this cousin of Jesus. He rants about broods of vipers trying to escape the coming wrath. He rails against adulterous Herods and their adulterous wives. But the sentence I most associate with him—other than his embryonic announcement of the Messiah from his mother’s womb—is what he says about Jesus: I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. It touches me deeply that, at the height of his renown in the desert, he was willing to step out of the frame so that Jesus could come into perfect focus.

Oh, to see Thee more clearly, Jesus. I long for it. The entire Catholic Culture presses me to see You in Your most distressing disguise, those who are poor in all kinds of ways. I try not to know about them, but, of course, that will be a ridiculous defense when I meet You. I will never be able to say I didn’t know.

Maybe I try not to know because I so deeply recognize that I’m not worthy to loosen the sandals of those whose lives are so challenging. I couldn’t do for one day what aging grandparents are doing in order to keep their imperiled grandchildren safe and sheltered. I know I couldn’t do for more than a few hours what those caring for spouses and parents with dementia do, endless day after endless day.

I am aware of the giants around me. But this year I resolve to look for Jesus in the daily courage of the unseen, people’s whose challenges I could never, never meet. Step into the frame, Jesus. I long to see You.

Who are the people whose sandals you are unworthy to loosen?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

9 November 2019

Reflecting on 2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14

Eighty years later, Hitler is STILL the number one best-selling topic in book sales. I admit I can never get enough of the horrible Nazis. Immersing myself in the lives of those who died in the camps fills me with a bone-deep gratitude for my warm house, with warm food, and my warm spouse, who is here with me instead of parachuting behind enemy lines somewhere in Europe, 1943.

“It is better to do evil than to BE evil,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, explaining why he, a beloved Lutheran minister, could take part in an assassination attempt. He could justify doing wrong for the greater good of ridding the world of Hitler, but, conversely, would NOT justify doing wrong—saluting, or taking an oath of fidelity to the Reich—for the “greater good” of keeping his church open during the war.

I’ll bet that, during the first religious persecution in history, people urged the Maccabee brothers and their mother to just go along to get along. Eat their stupid pork, they begged. Try not to notice there is a statue of the emperor on the altar in the Temple, they pleaded. But the Maccabees wouldn’t accommodate, and so they died horrible deaths.

There are many things today we are expected to “accommodate” in order not to rock the boat. I have some friends who will endure listening to racism and ignorance in order to keep the conversation “pleasant” at Thanksgiving dinner. I have other friends for whom the pro-choice position of some family members makes holding their tongues impossibly painful.

I’m inspired by the martyrs. Year after year, I choose not to be one. Please pass the gravy.

Have you ever endured the fallout from doing the right thing?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

3 November 2019

Reflecting on Luke 19: 1-10

I think that we are all doing the best we can. It’s tough out there. We have to be great parents, attentive and available grandparents, debt-free, environmentally conscious, active parishioners, and avidly working on our fat-to-muscle ratio.

Outsiders might look at our rowdy kids and say, “Why doesn’t someone teach those parents how to discipline their kids?” Others might say, in the car after the party, “I can’t believe they used paper plates when they could have just brought out their regular dishes and washed them later. I thought they were supposed to be such environmentalists.” Or, the worst, “She says she’s watching her cholesterol, but did you see that piece of cake she ate?”

Looking at us from the outside, it appears that we are hypocritical and lazy. But the Incarnate Jesus, the one who dwells with us, isn’t looking from the outside. He dwells within us, and breathes every breath with us. He is with us during the endless sleepless nights we endure with our kids. He is with us when we recycle the annoying cardboard boxes. He is with us when we spend those lonely late-night hours working to get out of debt, or to face and recover from our addictions.

What Zaccheus experienced when Jesus, who had talked so often about the dignity and worth of the poor, called this rich man down from the sycamore tree and invited himself over for dinner. The Incarnate One knew he was doing the best he could, and Zaccheus, overjoyed at being held in the embrace of Love, did even better than his best for the rest of his life.

Whose belief in you has inspired you to be the best you can be?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

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