Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

29 June 2024

Reflecting on Responsorial Psalm 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

Every time that refrain for the Responsorial Psalm comes up in the lectionary—I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me—I find myself singing it all week. I hope you do, too. I hope you feel rescued.

Just in case you don’t, practice this for a week. Several times a day, notice how you were rescued. Maybe you delayed changing lanes for a second, and then saw that speeding car come tearing down the lane into which you nearly drove.

Maybe you were out for your walk and happened to notice the crack in the sidewalk that wasn’t there yesterday, just before you went careening into it. Maybe you had something gossipy and mean on the tip of your tongue, and you stopped just before spitting it out into the world. Good for you. You grabbed God’s grace, and you were rescued.

Sometimes, the very thing that looks like failure ends up being rescue. Aren’t you glad you DIDN’T end up with your junior-high girlfriend/boyfriend? (But apologies to those who did. Congratulations!)

It causes me to tremble when I think of all the things, terrible or just inconvenient, from which God has rescued me. (Someday I’ll regale you with my medical history.) And you know what? All of those Rescues have built up a history of faith in me, so that when the day comes when, for any reason, I am beyond rescue, I’ll remember that the same God who was faithful to me in the past will be faithful to me as I pass into the valley of the shadow of death.

That’s where the greatest rescue of all is waiting for each of us.

What is your best story about being rescued? Tell someone today. It builds a reservoir of faith.

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

22 June 2024

Reflecting on Mk. 4: 35-41

Is there any silence as palpable as the silence of God? Those disciples in that quaking boat railed against it so much that they were able to wake Jesus, who was serenely asleep during the storm. Sure, he rebuked them and wondered at their paltry faith, but the scolding was worth it. He did, after all, arouse and calm the terrifying sea.

If only we could be in that boat and scream so loud that Jesus would wake and heal all the storms in our lives. If only he would wake from his deep sleep and heal every person we love who needs his healing gaze so much.

I just finished reading Richard Gaillardetz’s stunning memoir of his terminal illness, While I Breathe, I Hope (Liturgical Press, 2024).  Every chapter of the book takes the reader further into the last months of his illness from Stage Four pancreatic cancer. Terrible as his suffering was, he graciously included in each chapter short passages from some of the great Christian writers throughout history. Each of them had wrestled with the silence of God, and each had come to the same conclusion:

In God’s seeming silence, there is the clear voice of the Body of Christ. As my great friend Father Patrick Dolan says, “When we say that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, the operative word there is WE.” If the Body of Christ rallies around, supports, prays with, and pulls as hard as it can to release us from the terrors of death, there is Christ in the midst of us.

Find someone who needs your strong, fierce love today. That’s Christ himself, roaring at the sea.

What experience have you had of the Body of Christ standing with you?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

15 June 2024

Reflecting on Mk. 4:26-34

It’s that time of year again, and it shocks me every time. The perennials on the side of our house have come up, with absolutely no effort or attention on our part, dancing in the breeze and saying, “Surprise! We’ve been here all along, just waiting for sunshine and rain!”

I can’t get over how KIND they are to keep popping up, riots of purple and pink, in spite of our profound neglect for the past nine months. Of its own accord the land yields fruit. God has created this brilliant memory in our gardens and fields. Of their own accord they come back, year after year.

Now, all you farmers are nodding, but also vehemently noting that EVERY harvest requires the back-breaking effort of sowing and tilling the grain, year after year.  But still, the wheat secretly grows beneath the winter snow. That’s God’s creative, utterly dependable work. And the rest of our lives are like that, too.

It took seventeen years, but I am finally in remission from my (easy) chronic leukemia. Around the same time, my veins healed from damage done during the original diagnosis all those years ago. And just last week I slipped into a cute pair of summer sandals, after clogging around in orthopedic shoes for a decade.

If given the blessing of time, we’ll see healing in many parts of our lives. Huh, we might say. When did I stop feeling resentful toward that person? Or,  Huh, I can see now why I got that poor job evaluation.  Or even, Huh. When did my cold go away? I didn’t even notice.

It’s God’s great secret, this healing. We know not how.

What healings have you noticed over time?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

8 June 2024

Reflecting on Mk. 3: 20-25

Oh, how those words of the scribes fall on our 21st-century ears.  In our time, the smartest among us are the ones who will NEVER be duped, NEVER send gift cards to phone scammers, because that was way back when we were naïve. We’re smarter than that now.

But let’s be clear: this kind of ‘savvy’ isn’t the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus discusses. It’s the intentional hardness of the heart, the stubborn crossed arms, and rolled eyes when the Gospel is proclaimed, the willful hostility and contempt for Jesus, which the scribes model today, that truly blasphemes the Holy Spirit.

The ”wise” can dissect every beautiful piece of scripture and pretend to understand why it has no value for us today. It does call to mind John Milton’s Paradise Lost, when Satan says, terrifyingly, Evil, be thou my good. In other words, hatred is Satan’s reality, and hating us is the fuel for his life. If we reject his hate, we starve him to death.

As always, C.S. Lewis gets it right: “What we see in Satan is the horrible co-existence of a subtle and incessant intellectual activity with an incapacity to understand anything.” We who know all, and compete with each other in cynicism,  are incapable of understanding anything at all.

And now…ahem. We need to talk about that disturbing ending, when his mother and brothers arrived and tried to get him away from the crowd. Here’s my take: it’s not that Jesus wasn’t ready for public ministry. His mother wasn’t ready. But it was too late. She had to watch him attract crowds, which would eventually attract the Romans, and then the cross. She wasn’t ready.

Are there parts of your spiritual life that have slipped into cynicism?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B

1 June 2024

A few months ago, my primary care doctor asked me why I never have my blood drawn at his office after my appointment, where there’s no line, but instead leave and drive all the way to the downtown clinic, where there’s always a long line.

“Well,” I hesitated, “I just prefer their clinic.” “Hmm,” he said, “is that really all there is to it?” And then I spilled the beans. “Okay, okay. They have a magical phlebotomist there. She somehow looks at my torn-up veins and knows exactly where and how to place the needle. I barely feel it at all! I’d drive anywhere to have her.” And his answer was just perfect: “That’s what I thought. That’s why we hired her here. She’ll be right in.”

Through the years, I’ve encountered a few genuinely gifted phlebotomists, and I always ask them how on earth they knew they’d be good at such a delicate profession. Every one of them has told me that they just knew. It came from some deep instinct about how to tap a vein. There is no greater gift to a patient who has to have frequent blood draws than a brilliant phlebotomist who just instinctively knows how to draw blood.

On this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I extend my blessings to all those who, like the magical phlebotomists, can painlessly get our blood flowing, and to all who selflessly donate their blood, the carrier of life. This mirrors the spiritual reality of our unity as humans. We are not just one Body but also one Blood.

Happy Feast Day, Church. This is the feast that tells us who we are.

What is your most cherished memory of this feast?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

25 May 2024

Reflecting on Matthew 28:16-20

I’ve always liked this feast. I love thinking of the ways that I am more than just one person in my life, that all of my different titles represent vital pieces of my identity. I am, for example, Ben’s wife, my parents’ daughter, my siblings’ sister, my cousins’ cousin, my nieces and nephews’ aunt. I am all of those titles, and I’m probably a little different with each of my beloved relatives.

I am also a friend, a student, a teacher, a reader, a writer, and a parishioner. I love being all those things. I can’t imagine a happy life without any one of them.

The earliest Christians—as early as Paul himself, whose profound transformation took place sometime in the mid-40s—were just praying and acting on instinct. There was no catechism, no papal decree to instruct them in what to believe. Paul, Silas, and Barnabas traveled thousands of miles, sailing dangerous waters in rickety boats, walking over treacherous terrain (complete with snakes, as Paul found out at Malta) in order to preach one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and raised, and living in us through the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t a hard leap for the New Testament writers to move towards the understanding of God as Three. They intimately knew the Father through their lives steeped in the stories of the Old Testament. They were dedicated to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they depended every day on the comfort and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It just makes sense that the God in whose image we are created would be more than one Person. We all are.

Which Person of the Trinity do you feel closest to at this point in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

10 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 40-45

In her fascinating new book on the American saints (When the Saints Came Marching In: Exploring the Frontiers of Grace in America; Liturgical Press 2015) author Kathy Coffey lingers lovingly on St. Marianne Cope, the Franciscan nun who, with six others sisters from her community in Syracuse, N.Y., warmly accepted the same invitation from the Hawaiian government which fifty other religious communities had turned down.

I am not afraid of any disease, she wrote in 1883. Hence it would be my greatest delight to minister even to the abandoned lepers of Molokai.

And so she did. She and her sisters cared for the dying St. Damien, assuring him that his work with those who had contracted the dread disease would continue after his death. She finally achieved real safety for the women and girls on the island by establishing schools and hospitals just for them. She brought games, and laughter, and fun.

The most compelling thing about her for me is how beautiful she was, and how celebrated she is in Hawaii. A visitor to Molokai is immediately greeted by a large, framed photograph of this smiling, radiant Franciscan sister.  Throughout the Hawaiian Islands (where her sisters still minister) her lovely face, shrouded in the white coif and wimple of the 19th century habit, is celebrated on key chains, tins of macadamia nuts, and even beer mugs. She and her sisters are beloved, and the Hawaiians want the world to know about them.

Jesus warned the man he cured of leprosy to tell no one.  Instead, he broadcast it far and wide. When the love of Christ overshadows you, even the remotest parts of the Hawaiian Islands shout for joy.

What ways have you found to reach out to modern-day lepers?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

3 February 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1: 29 -39

Everyone in looking for you, Jesus. And it didn’t take long. Immediately—a favorite word of Mark’s gospel, appearing over seventy times—after Jesus’ first miracle in Mark, when he cured Simon’s mother-in-law with his touch, crowds descended on him. “The whole town” appeared at his doorstep that evening, and he healed many of the sick, and drove out demons.

We can imagine. The mental and physical ailments that make all of us miserable at some point in our lives cause us to cry out every day to Jesus, the Healer. Mark’s gospel abounds with miracles, so much so that I once had a student leave the study of Mark because it was too painful to see all those people being healed, while her daughter suffered terribly every day.

I often think, as I read the accounts of Jesus’ miracles, that there is something about the encounter with the afflicted one that triggers his ability to heal. What was it about Simon’s mother-in-law that stirred so much compassion in Jesus that, when he reached for her, the fever left her immediately?

Throughout this Year of Mark we’ll see Jesus wage many battles with demons. Who knows what the ancients thought demons were? Today we assign the idea of demons to the many vagaries of mental illness—depression, bipolar disease—or brain diseases, like epilepsy.

But not so fast. I’ll always remember Sr. Macrina Scott, OSF, the innovative founder of the Denver Catholic Biblical, after she returned from teaching in Africa. She had always believed that the biblical demons were probably the mental illnesses of today. And then she witnessed exorcisms! And actual demons roaring out of their victims!

Everyone is looking for you, Jesus.

What healings have you experienced in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

28 January 2024

Reflecting on Deuteronomy 18:15-20

We’ve had so many nudgings lately to hear God’s call, to carefully discern where God is leading us, but always the question remains: how? The only answer I have to this is to lean in to what makes you truly happy. Chances are that God, who desires only our happiness, has put into our hearts the very desires for which we long.

For example, my friend Ann has the most unbelievable energy and passion for helping migrant families. It’s bitter cold these days, and she is out there, getting coats and gloves and warm winter clothes to migrants coming in from warm climates. She’s not alone, of course. I could name at least two dozen friends whose passion for this work takes up much of their time. They seem really happy to me.

In that first reading from Deuteronomy we hear that, in the desert, the Israelites begged God not to speak to them! They didn’t want the dreaded voice of God! They asked that God speak to them through a prophet like their friend Moses. Isn’t that so often the way we discern the direction of our lives? It’s through the inspiration and modeling of the people we know, and like, and with whom we come in contact.

So many  memoirs are filled with the authors’ experiences of being shaped and changed by the great people in their lives. The opposite is also true. I know great teachers and leaders who answered the call to service because they saw it done so poorly by others, and knew they could do it better.

So, if today you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your heart. Chances are God’s voice is very near to you.

What people have served as the voice of God in your life?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

21 January 2024

Reflecting on Mark 1:14-20

It’s that first sentence in today’s gospel, our first entry from Mark in Ordinary Time this year, that give me chills: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.

Similar sentences have read, “After the four North American churchwomen were murdered in El Salvador, the next plane brought their replacements from Maryknoll.”

Or, “After the first wave of volunteers were taken away in exhaustion, a second wave of volunteers from around the world took their place, digging for the missing who were swept up in the tsunami.”

Jesus knew that his hidden life had come to an end. The great prophet John the Baptist, after speaking truth to power, was thrown into Herod’s dungeon. What fate would await him? Jesus didn’t wait to find out. He immediately stepped into John’s role, and began to proclaim the gospel.

“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The martyrdom of John was a shocking event for all who had been baptized by him, for John’s disciples, and for Jesus. Now it was clear: Jesus would also die at the hands of powerful men, who would misunderstand him, and what he wanted to give them. Jesus now knows how very dangerous these men are, and his response is to preach the gospel anyway.

I know people like that, many of them. I know courageous women and men who have risked, and lost, jobs they loved, in order to simply do the right thing. It shouldn’t be like this. We should ALL desire that the right thing prevail, even—especially—those with something to lose should that come to pass.

What examples of right overcoming might have you seen in your lifetime?

Kathy McGovern ©2024

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