Christmas – Cycle A

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle A

7 January 2023

Reflecting on Isaiah 60: 1-6

We don’t pay as much attention to that first reading as we should, since there is SO much to talk about in the gospel: the astrologers from some exotic land, the deeply paranoid King Herod, the STAR as cosmic guide, and dear St. Joseph, the strong protector of the Holy Family.

We know that story. We sing that story. But let yourself really sink into Isaiah’s hope-filled prophecy of five hundred years earlier. Have someone read it to you. Read it to someone. Imagine its fulfillment right now, today.

Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. What if our beloved country was such a shining city on a hill that all nations chose a similar path? What if kindness and truth met in our behavior, and justice and peace kissed in every law, and on every street (Ps. 85:10-11)? See it. Resolve to work hard to make it happen.

Your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. What if every estranged son and daughter responded to the grace to humbly and honestly communicate with those whom they’ve decided are “toxic”? What if dangerous, violent, abusive parents responded to the grace to humbly and honestly see their behaviors for what they were (and are), and would seek professional help in order to communicate true and lasting sorrow to those they have hurt?

The riches of the sea shall be poured out before you. Yes! Imagine a healed sea, free of plastics, and brimming with thousands of healthy species of fish. Just think of it! O God, give us wisdom to bring Isaiah’s prophecy to fulfillment. Guide us to Thy perfect Light.

What epiphanies have you had that have led you to a better lifestyle?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Cycle A

31 December 2022

Reflecting on Luke 2:16-21

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  I’ve thought about that word a thousand times. It appears that Mary was as shocked at the words the angels sang to the shepherds as they were.

When the shepherds joyously ran the five miles from what is now called Shepherd’s Field to “see this thing which has come to pass,” they found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Then, apparently, they ran into the neighborhoods, shouting the Good News which the angels had proclaimed.

And what did the young Mary do? She kept these things. She treasured these things. She pondered these things. We’ll see that word again twenty verses later when Jesus, now a young man of twelve, Is “found” in the Temple by his frantic parents.

At some unconscious level, they must have known the day would come when their Child would announce the mission of his life. The three returned to Nazareth, and Mary pondered all this in her heart.

To “ponder” means to “throw together.” I think this means that Mary held together the entire Mystery–the Angel Gabriel’s shocking announcement, the surprise pregnancy of her older cousin Elizabeth, the angels filling the skies and singing about the birth of her Son, the visit of the shepherds, the joy with which Anna and Simeon greeted the Child in the Temple, and yes, the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart.

She held all these things together. Throughout history, the human race has begged her to hold our prayers close to her, now, and at the hour of our death.

Do you think Mary was shocked at the appearance of the angels, and the shepherds?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

Christmas – Cycle A

24 December 2022

Reflecting on Matthew 1:1-25

There must be thirty distinct characters in the Christmas story, but I find myself drawn to St. Joseph more and more. Does it seem to you that he is everywhere?

More Christian shrines are dedicated to him than any man besides Jesus. I wonder why. He doesn’t speak a single word in scripture. He doesn’t have to. He is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in his dreams, and, like that young Joseph in Egypt 1600 years earlier, he trusts that God is speaking to him through them. That trust saves the Child, and you and me, and will, in the fullness of time, save the world.

St. Joseph the Worker. That’s the image that most of us know. Jesus is called “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55,) and that image has made its way into art of all ages. We see him working with wood, but “carpenter”—tekton—-may also have been someone who works with stone. There weren’t a lot of trees in Nazareth, but there was a large rock quarry just three miles away. Joseph and Jesus may, in fact, have worked on the large Roman city, Sepphoris, very close to Nazareth, a city largely constructed of stone, as were most of the homes in the region.

Interesting, but not at all why we love St. Joseph. We love him because of his quiet strength, his protection of Mary and the Child, his wisdom in discerning how God is acting in his life. We love that, BEFORE Gabriel told him of the virginal conception of Jesus, he had already decided to divorce her quietly, lest she fall prey to the Orthodox readers of Deuteronomy 22: 13-17, and be killed. Love him.

St. Joseph, we need you. Please dream a new world for us this year.

What would you like to ask St. Joseph this Christmas?

Kathy McGovern ©2022

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Cycle A

11 January 2020

Reflecting on Acts 10: 34-38

Idling at a red light around Christmastime, I glanced over at the car in the next lane. The driver was male and kind of scary looking—you know, a different race from mine, dressed differently from the guys I know, and a bit out of place in our neighborhood. He was listening to loud music (which is probably what brought him to my attention). And he was driving a really cute red car.

I hit the button and the window rolled down. I motioned to him that I wanted to say something to him. Immediately on the defensive, he looked a little uncertain, but he turned down his music and waited for me to speak.

“What a darling car!” I said, smiling. “I just love the color.” Everything changed at that moment. He gave me a smile that revealed the delighted young man he was, thrilled that a stranger had noticed his great treasure.

His smile, so pure, so gentle, could have melted the ice on the street. “Oh, thank you! That’s so nice! I really like it.” The light changed, we both set off, and he was still waving and smiling at me when I turned off half a block later.

Don’t you love those encounters with people who don’t look like you do? That little exchange changed everything for me the rest of the day, and weeks later I’m writing about it now.

I begin to see, said the Orthodox Jew Peter to the Gentile centurion Cornelius, that God shows no partiality. That was a huge moment in the history of the Church. Gentiles and Jews, once so estranged, started recognizing and waving to each other.

How will you embrace those who don’t look like you this year?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord – Cycle A

4 January 2020

Reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12

Star dust. It turns out we are all made of it. Almost every element on Earth was formed at the heart of a star. How? When a massive star explodes, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen are released into the universe, providing the building blocks for planets, and plants, and human life. Everything in us is formed from residual stardust, and here’s the best part: you have stuff in you as old as the universe.

So consider this: when those passionate astrologers saw that Star, might it have been the stardust in them, routed into them through eons, from the day God spoke the world into being, that shouted out, “We recognize You! We are made from You! We have literally longed for You, in every cell of our being, from the beginning of time!”

Each of us carries those Wise Men in our own DNA. We too are made of the stuff that sees the Star and says, “Yes, I was made to seek You and find You. Nothing in my life will ever satisfy me until I do.”

And so I ask you, Star gazers: where do you feel the most completely yourself, the most utterly at home? Allow yourself this epiphany: only by knowing what you know for sure will you ever truly find the peace that comes from God, who formed the world from the beginning of the beginning. If you are breathing, then you are stardust, and you won’t feel at home until you find the Star.

Joni Mitchell had it right: We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.

In what ways do you sense that you belong to God?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – Cycle A

29 December 2019

Don’t you wish we knew more about the Holy Family? We’d love to know about Joseph, the silent protector of Mary and Jesus. He utters not a word in scripture, yet his humility in accepting God’s miraculous work, and his divine role in that unfolding, makes him the perfect model for all fathers who strive to protect and defend their children.

The earliest artistic rendering of Mary is a fresco, c. 150 A.D., in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. It’s so touching to see her, protectively cradling Jesus, on this ancient wall upon which the martyrs of Rome carved their faith. About this time a book appeared, The First Gospel of James, which was immediately beloved by the Christian communities in Rome. Though never accepted as part of the canon of the New Testament, it contrived to give background stories of Mary and Joseph that we crave to know even today.

It’s in this popular second-century book, for example, that we discover the names of Mary’s parents. Can you name them? If you are—ahem—of a certain age, you can jump up with, “Yes! They are Anna and Joachim!”

And HOW do you know that? Well, it’s nowhere in scripture, but it IS in this First Gospel (or Protoevangelium) of James, which practically no one has read, but it was so important to the tradition of the Church that their names are even preserved in the Catechism.

We have so many questions about them. When we see them in heaven we can get all the answers.

What would you most like to ask Joseph or Mary?

Kathy McGovern c. 2019

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Cycle A

24 December 2019

When you think of Christmases past, do you have some that you treasure more than all others? Here are some of mine:

  1.  Every single Christmas Day of my childhood, after hearing from my dad for at least eleven months that we were going to the poorhouse, my four siblings and I walked into our magical living room to see every toy our hearts could desire. There were games, and dolls, and baseballs, and gloves, and dresses, and bikes, and all manner of ecstasy. I think we felt an overwhelming sense of how deeply we were loved, especially since, with the shadow of debtor’s prison hanging over them and all, our parents still broke the bank for us. It took adulthood to finally figure out that things might not have been as desperate as portrayed.
  2. I remember singing ” O Holy Night” for Midnight Mass, and walking out into the beautiful, snowy night, the lights twinkling, the carols wafting, all my friends there with their families, and being held in the stunning, wondrous beauty of it all.
  3. Certainly the most dramatic Christmas of my life was attempting to get myself and seventy pilgrims to Midnight Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem in 1996. Every single descendant of Abraham—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—was crammed into that square. It was frightening, hilarious, and a piece of my heart is still in the nave of St. Catherine’s Church.
  4. So, Christmas will always be the surety of wondrous, unconditional love, the joy of making music with beloved friends, the little town of Bethlehem, and my rock-solid belief that the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Him that night.

What are your favorite Christmas memories?

Kathy McGovern ©2019

The Epiphany of the Lord – Cycle A

9 January 2017

Reflecting on Mt. 2: 1-12

There have been some unbalanced people on thrones throughout history, but they don’t come any crazier than Herod the Great. Matthew gives us the dark narrative of the malevolent way in which Herod tried to trick the Magi into returning to Jerusalem with the GPS coordinates of the new king of the Jews.

That I too may give him homage, he said to them. That must have been their first clue that the wisest move would be to return in the opposite direction.

The story of the massacre of the Holy Innocents did not come out of nowhere. Herod― so neurotic about losing his royal status that he murdered his wife Mariamne and several of his sons because he either feared they were plotting against him or they really were plotting against him― was a terrifying figure in the ancient world.

A master builder, yes. But he was so loathed by his subjects that, when he fell off the litter his slaves were using to carry him to his summer palace one sweltering day, he was slow to revive. Eventually they― cautiously and then exuberantly― began celebrating what they thought was his demise.

But rumors of his death were exaggerated, and when he awoke to singing and carousing he pronounced the following: I command that on the day of my death, all the Jewish elders in Jerusalem be brought into the Herodium and murdered. That way I can make certain there will be true grief over my death.

Blessedly, his sister outlived him and withdrew the death sentence.  May all world leaders experience the Epiphany that brought foreigners from afar, but eluded the king who lived five miles away.

What important gifts might you be missing because of your own insecurities?

Kathy McGovern ©2017

Solemnity of Mary – Cycle A

30 December 2016

I made a little video memory for my nephew this Christmas. Apparently he got engaged a few weeks ago. Uh huh. His dad and we adoring aunts and uncles happened to see it on Facebook, where we also read about the party that followed, where “all our friends and family came to congratulate us.”

Hmm. Apparently this sweet, generally thoughtful kid forgot about his side of the family. Hence the video memory, where he can see photographs of his relatives going back nearly to the Civil War, and lots of pictures of himself with his dad and us, through every Christmas of his life.

As I look at these pictures, and read today’s gospel, I’m especially touched by Mary, who, after the shepherds left, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In Mary’s heart I see my darling mom, proudly holding each new baby, attending every game, standing with us at every milestone. Like Mary, I know my mom “reflected in her heart” about each of her children as we grew into adults.

So many parents today are walking through great times of crisis for their children. Their beloved kids are experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, or debilitating mental illness. Many of them, despite all their Facebook “friends,” are lonely and isolated. And no, even though new studies show that church attendance can be better for your heart rate than skipping church and running a marathon, this health-conscious generation isn’t interested in participating.

Today, on this World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of Mary, we place all our children, and their children, into the heart of God. That’s an infinitely safer place than Facebook.


Kathy McGovern ©2017


The Nativity of the Lord – Cycle A

24 December 2016

Reflecting on Luke 2: 1-14

It happened at night, says St. Luke. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night when the sky exploded with angels.

The Magi, says St. Matthew, saw a Star and followed it for up to seven hundred and thirty nights, finally finding the Child in Bethlehem at night. When Herod plotted to kill all boys of the age of two and younger, the Magi and Joseph had dreams at night that warned them to flee. Joseph then took the Child and his mother at night and fled into Egypt.

The people who walked in darkness were the ones to see the great Light.

God created night first, then day. Night is essential for dreams, for sleep, for healing, for the unconscious to rewind, refresh, and re-start. Night is where the soul comes out.

It’s Christmas, that nocturnal feast born in the winter solstice. The nights are long and deep in our western hemisphere. Oh, how we need them.

Linger in these nights. Rest in these nights. Take the whole family out in their jammies and go out to see the Christmas lights, dull in the day but gorgeously vivid at night.

Keep this Christmas season. Sing carols for your night prayer. Memorize “O Holy Night” and let its depth hold you as you sleep. Let your soul feel its worth.

This is no ordinary time. This is the dark, sacred night of Christmastide. In the quiet and the dark we perceive Him come to meet us, come to live with us, come to be with us.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

What traditions will you begin this year that celebrate the gift of night?

Kathy McGovern ©2016


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