Easter – Cycle B

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

7 May 2018

Reflecting on I John 4: 7-10

Do you sometimes have to dig deep in order to love some of the “unlovables” in your life? It’s probably more the case that, at certain times, on certain days, any of us is pretty unlovable. That letter of John today gives us all the energy we need, though, to have graciousness and patience in situations that can be trying. It’s so easy.

Just reflect for the tiniest moment on all the ways God has loved you. When you are tempted to say something unkind, just think of the thousands of times when people were kinder to you than you deserved. When you want to avoid eye contact with that compulsively needy talker, remember the endless patience of those who loved you through your annoying adolescence.

Sometimes the very quickest touch-point for the love of God is to simply look out the window. Oh my gosh! Look what happened on your street overnight. Trees that were barren yesterday are suddenly bursting with green. Apple blossoms are painting the trees pink and white. Spring flowers are starting to pull up out of the earth, and all creation is groaning with the delight of new birth. Oh, yeah. God’s love for us is impossible to miss.

So, as John’s letter says, it’s not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us! St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, advises us to pay attention. Look around! Remember! Breathe in the love of God which is all around you, in your sleeping spouse, your healthy kids, your restored health, your meaningful work. Find your particular gratitude, and that will be the strength that flows to help you love others. It’s easy.

What immediately comes to your mind when you remember God’s love for you?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

28 April 2018

Reflecting on Acts 9: 26-31

My friend Joni used to have this plaque hanging over her fireplace: Lord, thank you for everything I know today. And forgive me for everything I thought I knew yesterday. I think of that wonderful message when I consider Saul, he of the inherited Roman citizenship and perfect Jewish pedigree, the Pharisee who was the son of a Pharisee, breathing fire as he self-righteously marched to Damascus in order to arrest any Christians living there.

Here’s a guy who knew who was right and who was wrong, who was in and who was out. No one was a fiercer persecutor of the infant Church than he. And yet, when a light flashed around him and struck him to the ground, he had the grace to ask, “Who are you?” He heard, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

And that was that. All of history tilted at the moment when Saul, the tri-lingual Jewish defender of Orthodoxy, the one person who was as comfortable in the big cities as in the backwater, unincorporated, lawless badlands of the far-flung Roman empire, asked Jesus for his identity. He spent the rest of his life, in synagogues and law courts, in Gentile marketplaces and desolate prisons, telling everyone he met about that identity. There are no records of the event, but we can feel sure that he was still preaching Jesus to his executioners as they leveled the sword against his head.

He risked it all so that we might know Jesus. Thank you, St. Paul. You’ve shown us how to admit that we sometimes get it wrong.

What example can you give of having the humility to admit that you were wrong?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

21 April 2018

Reflecting on John 10:11-18

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  Don’t those magnificent words of Jesus sit well with your soul? I remember the anguished nights of my youth, praying for all those around the world who would die that night and go to hell because no one had ever told them about Jesus. Even as a ten-year-old I knew, in that deep, warm place where grace and truth hover in the heart, that God was greater than all that.

The Vatican II pastoral document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) gives words to our intuitions about who the sheep in Christ’s pasture might be:

We ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to everyone the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. (22)

In the sixth book of C.S. Lewis’ classic Christian allegory, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawntreader—such a beautiful book, my favorite of the seven―the odious, insufferable cousin Eustace has a terrifying encounter with a dragon, and is saved by a Lion. He immediately feels terrible about his past behavior, and asks his cousins Lucy and Edmond to forgive him, and to tell him more about this Lion (the Christ). Do you know him? asks Eustace.

Yes, says Edmond. I know him. But he knows me better. Ah. Beautiful. God is near to us, and knows us better than we can know God. There is, unfortunately, one caveat: God looks upon the lowly and supplies them. But the proud God knows from afar (Ps. 138:6).

What are you doing to make sure God doesn’t know you from afar?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

14 April 2018

Reflecting on Luke 24: 35-48

How did I never notice before that the first two gospel accounts that we hear in the Sunday liturgies in Easter Season—Divine Mercy Sunday and today’s Third Sunday of Easter―both give an account of Jesus asking the disciples to touch his wounds? Last week’s section from John recounted that Thomas needed to touch the wounds of Jesus in order to truly believe that he was risen from the dead.  This week’s section from Luke tells of the appearance of Jesus to the Eleven, and how they, astonished, were invited by Jesus to touch his wounds.

“Touch me and see,” he said, “and then he showed them his hands and feet.”  Reading them together now, I feel such tenderness toward Jesus, the Crucified One.  Even now, risen and glorified, his humanness is apparent.  Is it possible that Jesus the Risen One is still so in love with our human nature that he wants his dear friends to share in the awfulness of his experience? Is it possible that he, like every human who has ever lived, needs his loved ones to touch his pain and truly understand what he suffered?

Like everything about Jesus, he stands our understanding of suffering on its head. Maybe it’s NOT a holy thing to keep our wounds covered so we don’t disturb people. Maybe the holier thing is to say, when we are beside ourselves, “Help me. I’m hurting. I just broke my arm.” And, of course, the much less socially correct cry, “Help me. I’m hurting. Someone just broke my heart.”

And the other thing Jesus taught that day? Our friends trust us even more when we are willing to show them our wounds.

What wounds that you’ve kept hidden need to be brought into the light of day?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle B

10 April 2018

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

If you struggle with the actual truth of the resurrection, consider two things. First, after the resurrection every one of the Twelve (excluding Judas) went out into the farthest corners of the known world, filled with the utter conviction that he had seen the Risen Lord. Every one knew exactly what would befall him, and every one chose to go anyway. Such was the faith of those who had watched Jesus die, and seen the empty tomb, and experienced the Divine Mercy. Resurrection faith changes us.

The second may be just as compelling. In the earliest Christian communities, those who owned property or houses would sell them, and the proceeds were distributed to each according to need. Think of that. These early Christians SO BELIEVED in the resurrection that they sold their belongings and shared all things in common, carefully taking care of those in need. Resurrection faith seeks nothing but to love.

If you observe women and men in religious communities you see this first-century faith. Imagine doing your job all week, and then putting your paycheck in a communal kitty. Each one takes from the kitty only what she needs, but of course some members need more than others do, and this is how you survive, every day for the rest of your life. Resurrection faith is stronger than death.

Maybe that’s why Thomas needed to place his hands in the wounds of Christ. He could already sense, in the joy and strength of those who had seen Him, that his life would be forever transformed if he believed. His very act of touching His wounds was his first-class ticket into the community of the martyred. Resurrection faith doesn’t care.

What experience of Divine Mercy have you had this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

Easter Sunday – Cycle B

31 March 2018

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

This might be the most uneasy Easter I’ve ever experienced. The weather is so weird. School shootings now occur at the rate of one a week. Worse, it seems like we, like the frog in the water, are adapting, adapting, adapting, until all of a sudden we are trapped in a boiling cauldron out of which there is no escape.

If there is an image that lifts me up right now it’s this: Mary Magdalene RAN to tell the others that Jesus was not in the tomb. Picture that. We don’t know how old she was. She could have been a teenager. I’ll bet she was.

We’ve all seen the images of teenagers running, running for their lives out of schools that are under siege. We’ve seen them filing out of hiding places, arms on the shoulders of the student ahead of them, with watchful, armed police searching for the shooter in their midst.

And, God help us, we’ve seen their terrified, grateful parents running towards them, arms outstretched to receive their babies, overjoyed that they were spared, overcome with grief for the parents who were not.

Those are our Good Friday images. But let this Easter image work in you. Mary Magdalene RAN from the tomb. She RAN to find Peter. She is still RUNNING.

This young woman, who stood bravely at the cross and was the first witness to the resurrection, is RUNNING as hard as she can in your direction, crying The tomb is empty! RUN with me! RUN to change the hearts of those who will not see Him! RUN to change the minds of those who will not speak for Him!

RUN, ye faithful ones. RUN.

Are you willing to RUN to proclaim the resurrection?

Kathy McGovern ©2018

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B

7 June 2015

Is it wrong that what I most remember about my First Communion is what we had to eat afterwards? I have lots of pictures of my beautiful dress, but I wish someone had taken a picture of the great food at the party after Mass. Unforgettable!

After Mass, Sister Vivian led our huge First Communion class into the school cafeteria, magically transformed with balloons and beautiful tablecloths. There were little paper cups of mints and nuts at each place, pancakes and scrambled eggs, tiny glasses of orange juice, and even little cups of hot chocolate. Heaven.

The truth is, I remember the food at all the sacraments of my youth. At my baby brother’s baptism party, held in our garage, we had platters of sloppy joes and chips, and that most blessed of childhood memories, chocolate cake and homemade ice cream. Confirmation was spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, brownies and ice cream, and Shirley Temples for the new soldiers in Christ.

Don’t you just love sacraments? Just thinking about them makes me hungry.

I hope you feel hungry today on this great feast day of the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Eucharist is the Mother of all sacraments. And guess what? It relies on food―real Bread, real Wine―to make Jesus Really Present.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (John 6:55).

I knew it at age six, walking into that lovely cafeteria with beaming parents and sweet pancakes. I’ve known it at every sacramental party of my life.

It’s all about food―real food that sustains real people, hungry for a relationship with the Real Jesus.

Sacraments make me hungry. They’re supposed to. Happy Feast Day, Church.

What is your favorite memory of food at a sacramental celebration?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B

30 May 2015

The best things come in threes, it seems to me.  Let’s see. The sun, the moon, and the stars all seem to go together.  They are all beautiful, and give light, and fascinate us.

Families come in threes. It takes a mother and a father to create the third person in the family, the child, who is the combination of both of them, with about a billion individual characteristics thrown in for good measure.

The day is divided into three sections: morning, noon, and night. Our basic necessities seem easily divided into food, clothing, and shelter.  St. Paul noted that the greatest virtues are three: faith, hope, and charity. There were three magi who sought the Christ Child, and at his most intimate moments with the Father, Jesus invited Peter, James and John to be with him.

Time is divided into past, present, and future. We enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  And at those meals we generally use a knife, a fork, and a spoon.

One voice is beautiful, but add another on top and a third underneath and you’ve got a trio―God’s own music.  Think of the Andrews Sisters. The Three Tenors.  Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Now there is some great music.

It takes three branches of our government to keep the country from imploding. And, of course, it took three ships sailing the ocean blue to “discover” this land in 1492. That’s right, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

This feast of the Holy Trinity just resonates with us because our human clock seems to be set for threes. When we talk about God, we somehow think in threes.

I’m hungry. How about a BLT?

Do you have some significant threes in your life?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Pentecost – Cycle B

23 May 2015

Hey, Holy Spirit, come over here.

You created this world, and all we hold dear.

We live in deep gratitude, but just now and then.

Come, Holy Spirit, renew us again.

First, give us new eyes to see how our sin

Has helped lay the groundwork for evil to win.

We gasp at a distance at terrible things

But won’t own the deeds our own apathy brings.

The suffering in Syria, the graves in Iraq,

And so many martyrs, we try not to keep track.

Come, Holy Spirit, breathe peace to the world.

And please, Holy Spirit, #BringBackOurGirls.

We weep for the suffering lives in Nepal.

Oh hover there, Spirit, and comfort them all.

And for plane wrecks, and train wrecks, and violent deaths,

Oh Spirit, draw near with Your soul-stirring Breath.

Pour into us, Spirit, infuse us with grace.

We promise again to stay true to the race.

Hold us and mold us, create us anew.

There’s no stopping what those who live for You will do.

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Solemnity of the Ascension – Cycle B

17 May 2015

Reflecting on Acts 1: 1-11

We’re not supposed to leave Jerusalem. We don’t know why. We are hankering to go, to get out of here, where they murdered the prophets and crucified the Savior. We want to do what he told us to do before he was taken up. We want to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, and we are ready to go NOW.

But he ordered us to stay here in Jerusalem until we are “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Whatever that means. We are terrified to stay. We spend the nights in sleeplessness, expecting the swords and torches of the Romans, coming to take us away as they did our Christ.

But they haven’t come. Instead, we spend our time remembering him. We talk about our years with him. We whisper in astonishment at the signs that we saw. We nod our heads when one of us says, “Did we really see those five thousand people eat their fill from five loaves and two fish?” “Was that really Jesus on the Galilee that night of the storm?” “Did he really die that day on Calvary?” “And was the tomb truly empty when the women visited it the day after the Sabbath?”

His mother is here with us, staying in the upper room. She wants to hear the stories again and again. And she has many of her own, stories we hadn’t heard before. On the night he was born in Bethlehem, for example, angels filled the sky with singing.

Is that what we are waiting for? Angels in the sky? We don’t know. Jerusalem will be packed next week for the great festival of Pentecost. Maybe something will happen then.

What special intention are you praying for during this Pentecost novena?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

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