Wednesday, The Second Week of Lent

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
From Matthew 20:17-28

Though this might seem to be a small gesture to some, my neighbor’s kindness meant the world to me. We had suffered a very heavy snowfall and most of the residents of our block headed outdoors early to clear our driveways. My neighbor and another good soul took care of their own driveways and then moved on to a third because that neighbor was out of town. In the mean time, I plugged away at the thick blanket of snow which covered my driveway.

I had almost finished when a village plow came through. I watched in horror as the plow formed an eighteen-inch icy mound at the end of my driveway. I knew immediately that it would be impossible for my mediocre snowblower to make a dent in that great white wall. I also knew that my back would not tolerate lifting all of that snow. Still, I picked up my shovel and headed toward the street.

My neighbor across the street who continued to clear another neighbor’s snow must have seen my tears. Not a minute later, he strolled across the street with his more capable snowblower. In spite of the ice on his eyebrows and his rosy-cold cheeks, he immediately pushed into my snowbank. When I tried to assist him with my shovel, he instructed me to go into the house to warm up while he worked. With the deepest gratitude, I put away my shovel and went indoors.


Dear Jesus, you teach us to serve one another. Help me to serve those you have given me to love with my good neighbor’s generosity. And, Lord, please bless him especially generously today.

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Tuesday, The Second Week of Lent

“For they preach, but they do not practice.”
From Matthew 23:1-12

I am convinced that my mom had issues with double standards. After hearing a television newscaster’s remark or reading an article in the newspaper, she often said, “Do as I say and not as I do.” She sometimes repeated this observation regarding situations at work. Apparently, her supervisor did not always exhibit the behavior he expected from his employees.

My mom tried to be fair in all of her interactions and she did not appreciate those who refused to do the same. Perhaps this is the reason my mom taught best by example. Though I recall her favorite sayings, I remember the things she did for my family and for me more vividly.

Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus is very direct in his teaching on this particular topic. The message is simple. Do the right thing regardless of what those “in charge” do themselves. It matters not that they preach and judge and engage in all of the right moves to play the game. Jesus reminds us that we are not in “the game.” We are in the midst of real life. And real life demands that we do our best, just as Jesus would, in spite of who is or is not watching us.

Can I be getting the hang of this, Jesus? Your lesson today makes perfect sense to me, and I’m going to do my best to live what I’ve learned. Stay with me, Lord, and I will try to stay with you.

A Message to My Readers

Much to my dismay, I have had neither telephone nor internet access for two days. My provider indicates that this will be the case for another day. So it is that I am typing at my friends’ kitchen table, drinking their diet soda and untilizing their wireless internet capabilities. In a minute, I’ll take full advantage of their generosity by preparing yesterday’s and today’s posts for you. I thank my friends for their kindness and I thank you for continuing to read my work. Have a great day!

Monday, The Second Week of Lent

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
From Luke 6:36-38

During freshman year religion class, Sister Imelda remarked that we can get a good picture of ourselves by looking at our friends. Though Sister’s observation doesn’t always hold true, there is wisdom to be found in what she said. How often during my teaching career did I observe a good kid being conned by the allure of unsavory acquaintances? More times than I’d like to admit, for sure. Giving in to behaviors that aren’t “so bad” can lead an unwary child down the frightening path to big trouble.

The good news is that I also witnessed the opposite phenomenon among my students. Placing a troubled child in good company resulted in many unexpected liaisons which widened the horizons of all concerned. These amazing friendships changed everything for the children involved.

This Lent, you and I walk in the company of an unexpected friend as well. Though he suffers the ramifications of “guilt by association,” you and I enjoy the full benefits of his station in this life and in the next. It is up to us to be so open to his influence that, when others look at us, they get a good picture of this Jesus who has befriended us.

Dear Jesus, I am doing my best to get to know you better this Lent. Please teach me even more about you through the scriptures, through my worship, through my prayer and through the good people who are my family and friends. As we journey together, transform me that I may be a reflection of your goodness to others.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Second Sunday of Lent

“While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory…”
From Luke 9:28b-36

Every time I read the gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, my childhood impressions of this event come to mind. The behavior of Peter, James and John after this mountainside experience perplexed me. I’d become familiar with the lives of the saints, and I was especially taken by those who had visions or heard the voices of Jesus or Mary. I concluded that these holy souls must have found the inspiration to do the good deeds that characterized their perfect lives in these encounters. I convinced myself that if I ever heard or saw anyone from heaven, I, too, would live the life of a saint from that moment on.

Since the disciples were privileged to walk, talk and live with Jesus day in and day out, I determined that they should have been the most perfect saints of all. The events that led to Jesus’ death left me heartbroken. I grieved because the disciples lost sight of their friendship with Jesus and deserted him to save themselves. I experienced hopelessness to the extent that a child can. After all, if the disciples who knew Jesus personally failed him, how could I hope to do any better?

Fortunately for me, my religious education did not end in elementary school, and I am not left with my childhood convictions. The realities of life and the human condition have helped me to recognize that Peter, James and John were not alone in the agony that followed their experience on that mountainside. Though Jesus experienced all of this with them, after all it was Jesus who glowed like the sunlight, Jesus was overwhelmed as well. Before he was taken into custody, Jesus wept, sweated blood and begged God to take this cup from him. This very human reaction on Jesus’ part helped me to realize that the disciples did the best they could at the time. After all, they were human, too.

My childhood heartbreak over all that Jesus endured returns to me this Lent. The scriptures tell us that Jesus suffered crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Historians provide the grisly details of this heinous death. Initially, Jesus was scourged with a whip, likely made of leather straps with pieces of metal tied to the ends. Most men of the time endured less than ten strikes, though Jesus was struck thirty times. The scriptures go on to report that soldiers crowned Jesus with a ring of thorns. Later, when they forced Jesus to carry the beam of his cross, they pressed the wood against bleeding muscle because much of Jesus’ skin had been torn away. The road to Calvary lacked the smooth pavement we enjoy today. Each time Jesus fell, dirt, pebbles and manure likely made their way into his wounds. By the time Jesus stretched out his arms to be nailed to the cross, his physical agony was unbearable. No wonder my childhood hope evaporated at the foot of the cross. No wonder my adult heart wants only to be there for my dying friend.

My childhood piety at the foot of the cross prevented me from focusing upon the lifetime Jesus spent teaching us why he would one day find the strength to endure his passion and death. In all that he said and did as he walked among the people, Jesus revealed God’s love. If we take to heart the compassion evident in Jesus’ healing and forgiveness, if we take to heart Jesus overriding concern for the poor, the heartbroken and those ostracized from the rest of society, and if we take to heart the promise of heaven offered in the miracle of The Transfiguration, we must also take to heart the love expressed in each of these things. We simply must not ignore what I missed as a child: That Jesus did what he did to convince us that we are loved and that we are called to love one another.

This Lent, our work is simple. We must put aside our own needs in order to attend to one another and to attend to God. Jesus did actually live and die for each one of us, and you and I are counted among his dearest friends. It is up to us to return Jesus’ friendship in kind.

Precious Lord, God touched humankind with the best of heaven when you became one of us. Help me always to be mindful of the gift of your friendship. Just as you laid down your life for me, give me the strength to lay down the life I have been given for you.
©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Saturday, The First Week of Lent

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
From Matthew 20:17-28

Though this might seem to be a small gesture to some, my neighbor’s kindness meant the world to me. We’d had a very heavy snowfall and most of us headed outdoors early to clear our driveways. He and another neighbor across the street took care of their own drives and then moved on to a third because that neighbor was out of town. In the mean time, I plugged away at my own mound of snow.

I had almost finished when the village plow came through and left an eighteen-inch icy mound at the end of my driveway. There was no way that my mediocre snow blower would make a dent in that great white wall. There was also no way that my back would tolerate shoveling. Still, I grabbed my shovel and headed toward the street.

My neighbor across the street must have seen my tears. Not a minute later, he strolled over with his larger snow blower. In spite of the ice on his eyebrows and his rosy-cold cheeks, he cleared away my snow bank. When I tried to help with my shovel, he instructed me to go into the house to warm up while he worked.

Dear Jesus, you teach us to serve one another. Help me to serve those you have given me to love with my good neighbor’s generosity.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved