Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

25 March 2023

Reflection on John 11: 1-45

Every three years we circle back to this story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This is the week when we picture Martha, rushing to meet Jesus, who waited a full two days before setting out to Bethany after hearing the news of Lazarus’ illness.

They greet each other, and then, immediately, Martha’s words of indictment: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. That’s the killer, the stab to the heart, because it strikes so close to home. How many losses have we suffered, crying Lord, if you had heard my prayers, this death would not have happened?

My experience of grief is, first, we have to forgive Jesus for not being there to save our loved one from death. Second, we acknowledge him next to us at the tomb, weeping. Third, we find ourselves upheld by Martha’s words, “even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” And then the journey of making sense of our grief, and our faith, begins.

There is something holy about grief. We enter into a sacred space, where outlines of our loved one begin to fill in, and we know them better in death than in life.

Those who identify as agnostic or atheist will read this story and ask, “Did Jesus save your loved one from death? I was at the funeral.” Those who cling to their baptism, and their faith, will bring Martha to memory and say, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ.”

It is the Christ who journeys with us in all the years after loss, planting in us resurrection seeds.

Has deep grief drawn you closer to Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

No Comments to “Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

18 March 2023

Reflecting on John 9: 1-41

Let us now consider Plato. You remember him. He’s the Greek philosopher who wrote that beautiful “Myth of the Cave,” in his Republic, around 350 years before Christ. He gives the example of prisoners in a cave, whose only connections with the outside world are the flickering images on the cave wall. One of the prisoners, however, escapes, and returns with fanciful stories of light, and life, and warmth outside the cave.

He’s crazy, of course. They know that the only reality is their chains, and the cold, and the dark, and those amusing images on the wall. Remind you of anyone?

Those Pharisees, and the man’s neighbors, were so deadly intent on disproving the healing of that Man Born Blind that they came up with every possible disclaimer:

No, you just LOOK like the guy who was blind from birth!

No, I’m the guy.

But he healed you on the Sabbath! That makes him a sinner!

Well, I don’t know anything about that, but here’s what I do know: I was blind, and now I see.

I don’t ever want to be like the Pharisees, or the prisoners in the cave. I want, always, to look to the Light that is always flickering outside the rigid and sad structures of our sophisticated and cynical world. Miracles? I absolutely believe that Jesus Christ is still healing. But here’s your part. It’s the task of the baptized to help prisoners, blind to the goodness of God, step out into the Light.

What experiences have you had of healing? Have you even taken the time to notice them?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

No Comments to “Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

11 March 2023

Reflecting on John 4: 5-42

I hate drinking water when I’m not thirsty, and, due to my sedentary lifestyle, I’m almost never thirsty. But there it sits, the chart of the eight empty boxes I’m supposed to check off, as I gag down those 64 ounces of water every day. It’s like having a full-time job. It’s got great benefits, but you actually have to put in the work to get them.

Metaphorically speaking, I don’t think we as a culture are very much in touch with our thirst either. There’s too many things pretending to be water. We can shove our thirst underground with endless diversions. (I gave up scrolling the internet for Lent, by the way, and all of a sudden I notice my thirst for the living God. It turns out I’m thirsty after all.) Thank God for Lent.

The thing about thirst is that, since we don’t know we’re thirsty, dehydration creeps up on us. We’re feeling achy, our brain is foggy. We blame it on everything else but the culprit: we don’t thirst for water. The opposite scenario is that we’re sick with illnesses that deplete our fluids, and all of a sudden dehydration is suffocating us.

In the chapel at the Samaritan House in Denver there is a crucifix, and the last words of Jesus underneath it: I thirst. Guests at the shelter are often found there, prostrate underneath the crucifix. They are dying of thirst, dying for recovery from poverty, dying for the deep love of Jesus.

Has dehydration set in in your soul? Have you thirsted for that which doesn’t satisfy? Tell Jesus that you thirst for him. The great gift is that he is even thirstier for you.

What ways have you used to divert yourself from your thirst for Jesus?

Kathy McGovern©2023

No Comments to “Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

4 March 2023

Reflecting on Genesis 12: 1-4a

One of the first things I learned about scripture is that God told Abram that HE AND HIS FAMILY would be a blessing. I knew that Abram would be blessed, but missed the best part, that all the communities of the earth would be blessed by him.

Imagine saying to your child as she gets out of the car for school, “Remember to bless your teacher today. Remember to give that extra sandwich to your friend who never has his lunch.” Such is the world blessed.

In fact, a portion of the Talmud— the rabbinic debates in the 2nd-5th century on the teachings of the Torah—insists that it’s forbidden to benefit from the world without making a blessing! I guess that means my sister has it right. When we visit her in San Diego we must stop at every scenic turn in the road to notice the greatness of God.

As I stare at the beautiful Valentine bouquet my Muslim friend Zeenat sent me, I remember how deeply her presence, and that of all her family, has blessed me. I recall circling the huge University parking lot for a space so I could attend her graduation. Her younger brother and sister-in-law rushed to their car and drove it away so that I could have their close-in spot. Such a blessing.

The three great religions all spring from Abram. Visit Bethlehem some Christmas Eve and try to navigate through the thousands of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all crowding together. Descendants like the stars in the skies, indeed.

Jesus Christ, descendant of Abraham, has fulfilled the command to be a blessing. By his cross, death, and resurrection, he has set us free.

In what ways do you make of your life a blessing?

Kathy McGovern©2023

No Comments to “Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

First Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

25 February 2023

Reflecting on Genesis 2:7-9;3:1-7

Ah, Lent. Thank God you’re here. We would never have summoned you on our own, but you’ve arrived, as always, to challenge, and, yes, to befriend us.

Temptation has already licked at our heels these first few days of Lent. We may be a little hungrier, or hankering for the hours on the computer we’ve determined to limit. Whichever of the disciplines we take up this season, you can bet that the Tempter will remind us there are MUCH better uses of our time. But we know that voice by now.

You’ve got to feel sorry for Adam and Eve. Yes, God tells Adam (because Eve wasn’t formed yet) not to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad (a better translation than “evil’). Then Satan, the Liar, slyly asks Eve if God, that bully, REALLY told her she couldn’t eat from any fruit in the Garden.

Imagine having the Prince of Liars slide up to you and start touching your trigger points. Did you REALLY think you could reach out to your estranged sibling and show her how much you love her? Sure, that looked good on Ash Wednesday, but you don’t want to place yourself in that toxic environment again, do you?

The two temptations today feature weakened protagonists. Eve is weak because she doesn’t have any prior knowledge of the Liar, and is vulnerable. Jesus is weakened by his long fast in the desert. Adam and Eve fall for the lure, but Jesus, weak as he is, overcomes the Tempter.

Because of that, writes Alice Camille, “There is no desert so barren that Christ will not stand with us against our demons.”

How will you take strength from Jesus’ victory over Satan this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

No Comments to “First Sunday of Lent – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

18 February 2023

Reflecting on Matthew 5:38-48

Oh, boy. We’ve reached that most difficult section of the Sermon on the Mount, and just in time for Lent. What a rich fast that would be, to really meditate on this text, and then live it for forty days. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

I know I’ve written about this before, but it always comes to me when we read this section from Matthew 5. I once received a horribly nasty note on my windshield from the neighbor whose house I’d parked in front of over the course of eight years, threatening me if I parked there again.

I was stunned and hurt. But, taking a cue from my radically peace-filled roommate, I baked some cookies and brought them to him the next day. When he answered the door I immediately understood what had happened. He had casts on his arms and legs, the result of a bad car accident. My car was impeding his ability to get into his house.

I looked at him, and he looked at me, and together we both said, “I’m sorry!” And that began in me a practice of radical peace-making, especially in traffic. I once followed a woman through a parking lot and into a coffee shop, to apologize for cutting her off a block earlier. Try this! Instead of being on the defensive, go on the offensive! Be the first to apologize, and the last to take offense at others’ mistakes.

As Fr. Gerhard Lohfink wrote in Between Heaven and Earth: New Explorations of Great Biblical Texts, “it is always better to be a victim than a violent victor.”

How will you practice radical peacemaking this Lent?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

No Comments to “Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

11 February 2023

Reflecting on Sirach 15:15-21

There’s a funny video on the internet of a little boy—maybe four years old—giving his mother an inspirational pep talk.  “You!” he says, pointing his finger at her, “You can be anything you want! All you have to do is WANT it bad enough! You could live at the White House! You could be President!”

He goes back to his cheerios, while mom and dad howl in the background. Out of the mouths of babes.

Sirach gives a similar, but much more somber warning, in today’s first reading. There are set before you fire and water. To whichever you choose, stretch out your hands. He isn’t issuing a threat. He’s simply stating the way the world works. That which we reach for will reach back for us.

Resentment? Let it fester, and you’ll have a whole stew of it, ready to poison your whole body. Rage? Rehearse it, feed it, fuel it, and soon you’ll be practicing taking your assault weapon—which represents, of course, another time you reached for fire—into the place of your previous employer.

Sirach is brilliantly paired with the gospel today. We’re still listening to the Sermon on the Mount, and in this section Jesus, the Master Teacher, prods us to live an interior life of goodness. We have the skill to dig deep and name the motivations that lead us into sin. If we are riddled with envy, we have the grace to work backwards and find the trigger for it. By getting to the source, we can stop a Deadly Sin before it kills us.

You can be a better human being! says Jesus. You just have to want it bad enough.

What great sins do you avoid by paying attention to the smaller sins that lead up to them?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

No Comments to “Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

4 February 2023

Reflecting on Isaiah 58:7-10

We had a huge snowstorm on Christmas Eve, 1982. For the first time in history, a Catholic Church in Denver opened up all night, to provide shelter for those who would have been on the street. That radical decision eventually evolved into the Samaritan House, the first dedicated homeless shelter in the country.

I remember my dad, Jesuit-educated, watching the news stories in wonder, and saying, astonishingly, “I’ve been a Catholic all my life, and this is the first time I’ve heard that I’m supposed to care about all the people sleeping on the street.”

This staggering statement makes perfect sense if you consider that the Sunday lectionary of the pre-Vatican II Church used exactly one reading from the prophets (Isaiah 60, on Epiphany) in the entire Church year.

Since the Revised Lectionary of 1969, we hear the prophets every single Sunday except in the Easter Season. And this huge —some might say relentless—exposure to the prophets has shaped us. There are certainly no practicing Catholics today who would pretend to never hearing that they are called to Share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them…

In fact, the very first sentence of the 1965 Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World states: The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.  

As Ebeneezer Scrooge so joyfully recognized that glorious Christmas Day, humankind is our business. We hear you, prophets. You’re coming through loud and clear.

In what ways do the prophets energize you today?

Kathy McGovern ©2023

No Comments to “Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

28 January 2023

Reflecting on Zeph. 2:3; 3:12-13

Some of us may remember the medieval chant, the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath). It used to be sung at funerals, portending terrible judgment on the Last Day. Thankfully, today we hear texts that stir our hearts with hope in the resurrection.

Dies Irae was inspired by the first chapter of Zephaniah, verses 14-18: Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them  on the day of the Lord’s wrath (vs. 18) . But in today’s reading of the SECOND chapter of Zephaniah we hear the good news. The Day of Wrath will be redeemed by the Day of Humility! The humble and lowly will become the Faithful Remnant of God.

Oh, how I want to be in that number. But how do we who have never been materially poor crowd in with, as Richard Rohr writes, the poor in spirit, whose “material poverty has broken their spirit”?  My only answer is to hang out with people who serve those who are poor with abundant love.

Our parish is partnering with Lutheran Family Services to help resettle a large Afghan family. This has required a handful of talented, selfless people to put in hundreds of hours of hard work, navigating endless government forms, securing housing (humble as it is), finding schools with Dari speakers on site, navigating four car seats to drive the kids to doctor’s appointments, and so much more.

They have so many stories of what they are learning from this family. Christ, who will always side with the poor, begs us to place ourselves in proximity to “the weak of the world,” so that we too may learn from them. Theirs is the kingdom.

Have you ever been inspired by someone who is “humble and lowly”?

No Comments to “Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

21 January 2023

Reflecting on Matt. 4: 12-23

I read a shattering book over the Christmas season. A Radical Faith: the Assassination of Sr. Maura by Eileen Markey follows the life of Maryknoll sister Maura Clarke, from her childhood in Rockaway Beach, NY, through her long and heroic years serving the poor of Nicaragua. After a three-year return to the U.S. to educate on the wars in Central America, she was sent to El Salvador, the most violent country on the planet in 1980.

From whence does one summon the courage to say goodbye to one’s beloved family to go to 1980s El Salvador? Everyone begged her to stay. But a lifetime of caring for starving women and children in Nicaragua had forged in her a rock-hard commitment to live and die with the poorest of the poor.

Soon after, she attended a conference of Religious Communities in Nicaragua. She and Sr. Ita Ford told the harrowing stories of beheadings in the street, and execution squads dragging young seminarians out of classes. And why were they there in Nicaragua? Because they wanted to ask more Maryknoll sisters and priests to move to El Salvador with them.

I think of this courage as I read today that, after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus left the safe environs of the tiny town of Nazareth to follow John’s path to martyrdom. As Mahri Leonard-Fleckman writes, he “took up John’s torch, and fulfilled John’s prophecies.” He could have safely lived out his life in his small village. Instead, he moved out into the bustling city of Capernaum and began his public ministry. Which led, of course, to his death.

The word martyr means “witness.” Pray that we never forget.

Who are the martyrs who have most inspired you?

No Comments to “Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

« Previous PageNext Page »