Through God’s Eyes

It happened again, so I must share again. This time, it was Abba, Jesus’ Dad.

Last night, I sat in the back of the church. I usually choose this seat because I enjoy looking over the congregation as we pray together. That beautiful sea of God’s kids gathered in prayer quenches my thirst for community. Last night, my second reason for choosing the back of the church was my role as coordinator of the evening’s liturgy.

It was easy enough to prepare things ahead of time. Sitting in the back gave me the ability to see everything and to respond immediately if I had forgotten something important. The not-so-easy part was watching everything unfold for nine people whom I have come to know well this past year. These nine studied with my husband and me in order to prepare to be received into the church. Last night, they took their final steps by being baptized, making a profession of faith or completing their sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. I felt like a teacher who had rehearsed a program with her students and then watched with great anticipation as it unfolded. Like that teacher, I knew it was up to my students to make their way through the evening. I could only watch from the sideline and support them with my love and admiration.

As these nine made their way through each of the steps they had prepared for, I realized that I was seeing them with different eyes. Somehow, each of their successes and each of their vulnerabilities emerged before me. Somehow, I began to view them with the love and compassion of a parent -The Perfect Parent. Somehow, while I wished the very best for each one of them, I also knew that I must let each one continue on his or her own. Somehow, I heard myself say, “This is what the gift of free will is all about. I made them in my image, and now I must trust them to do their best with that.” My image?

Dear, dear God, thank you for allowing me this moment to see others as you see each one of us. I am beginning to understand why our lives unfold as they do. You prepared each one of us perfectly well. You also armed each one of us with free will. Yes, Dearest Abba, you care about every moment of our every day. Still, you love us enough and honor us enough to allow us to do what we do on our own terms. So it is that I must never blame you for my circumstances. Rather, I must turn to you in whatever goodness or evil I find myself and I must respond as only I can.

Yes, it happened again. I simply had to share God’s gracious gift to me.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Easter Season Reflections

I am very grateful for each of you, my readers. Though I had intended to return to only weekly posts after Easter, I am reluctant to give up this daily sharing of the things which are most important to me. So it is that I will attempt to provide some weekday reflections for you in addition to the Sunday editions. Hopefully, I will be blessed with the time and the inspiration to make this a daily event.

In the mean time, may the promise of Easter take root and bloom within us all!

Easter Sunday

“Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed…”
John 20:1-9

Poor Mary was beside herself when she first approached the tomb to find Jesus missing. Only after Mary stewed and fretted did Jesus make himself known to Mary and the others. Fortunately, when Jesus came to them he greeted them with the words they needed most to hear, “Peace be with you.”

Now Jesus knew very well the fear that caused his friends to tremble though it was already three days since he was arrested, condemned and crucified. Jesus knew the guilt that wrenched their hearts. Jesus knew that they struggled to face having deserted him when he needed them most. Jesus knew the distrust that grew among them until Judas exposed his own guilt. Jesus knew that when they lost him, his friends also lost their hope. The one upon whom they had wagered their futures and their very souls was gone forever. Indeed, Jesus knew well the emptiness that consumed his friends because he felt it himself just a few days earlier. It was this intimate knowledge of suffering that impelled Jesus to return to his friends and to set their world right again. It is this knowledge that impels Jesus to do the same for you and me this Easter and always.

If we could see into the hearts of those gathered to worship with us this Easter, we would find unimaginable joy and unimaginable suffering. While the joy is tangible in smiles, dancing eyes and good cheer, the suffering hides in quiet comings and goings. Some join us to worship and to celebrate this Easter Sunday without a wife or a husband, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter or a dear friend who left this world far too soon. Some have joined us this Easter Sunday in the face of a failing marriage or without a pay check. Some are so lonely that they will try to ignore this Easter after they leave church today in order to avoid the pain. Some will listen to the alleluias ring out. Some will actually sing “Alleluia” again and again for you and me in spite of their conviction that God cannot possibly intend Easter Joy to be theirs. Some struggle with worry over their children. Some battle illnesses that seem to be winning the war. Some sit among us in sadness, unable to explain even to themselves why they feel the way they do.

Today, Jesus reaches beyond the suffering of Good Friday to minister to those whose suffering continues. Jesus refuses to leave us alone in our good times and in the bad times that threaten far too often. Jesus embraces each one of us and whispers the words which brought comfort to Mary, Simon Peter and the rest. “Peace be with you,” Jesus says. “Peace be with you.”

You and I share this reflection today because we have walked our Lenten journey in search of a relationship with Jesus. Regardless of the quality of our effort, there is peace to be found this Easter Sunday because Jesus remained fixed on God’s promise. Jesus is risen from the dead and everything has changed for us. Jesus remained fixed on God’s promise as he persisted in teaching us and showing us how God’s children must live. Jesus remained fixed on God’s promise as he dragged his cross to Calvary. Jesus remained fixed on God’s promise when he used his last breath to call to the Father whom he knew was listening. When Jesus experienced the fulfillment of God’s promise firsthand, he could not help sharing what he found with his friends. So it is that Jesus spoke the words he has repeated over the centuries and which he continues to whisper in your life and mine. Over and over again, Jesus whispers, “Peace be with you.”

Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in the circumstances of our lives, we remain fixed on God’s promises -All of them!- until we experience each one firsthand, just as Jesus did.

Risen Jesus, help me to embrace this Easter and every day of my life with God’s promise in mind. Keep me mindful of your love for me in my joy and in my sorrow. Fill me with your peace today, and make me a good steward who nurtures that peace within my heart and within those you have given me to love. Thank You, Jesus, for accomplishing the miracle of Easter, for eternal life that will one day be my own, and for the friendship you pursue with me even when I lose my way. Amen.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Saturday

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”
From Matthew 28:1-10

Though it is Holy Saturday and Easter’s Eve, I find myself reluctant to move beyond Jesus’ passion and death to celebrate his resurrection. At Lent’s onset, I promised myself that I would use these forty days to renew my relationship with Jesus in a very personal way. I told myself that I would look for Jesus beyond the words of the creed and pursue Jesus through his life, words and works among us.

This Lent, especially this Holy Week, I have experienced the most difficult days of Jesus’ life more fully. Jesus suffered real pain, real loneliness, real uncertainty regarding the value of his ministry, real fear and real disappointment. When Jesus hanged from the cross, Jesus caught a glimpse of hope through his bloody sweat and swollen eyes. Though much of the world saw a despised failure nailed to that cross, those who knew Jesus knew better. So it was that Jesus reached beyond the skeptics and cynics to offer salvation to the insurgent hanging beside him and to earn a place in eternity for you and me.

This Holy Saturday, all is not well in the world, nor will it ever be. Nonetheless, all is well with our friend Jesus. Jesus caused those rumblings in the tomb. Jesus returned more alive than he had been since Bethlehem. Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Easter Promise. So it is that I move beyond Jesus’ suffering and sing “alleluia” after all.

Risen Lord, I praise you, I glorify you, and I thank you! Alleluia!

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Through Jesus’ Eyes

I have to tell someone, so I am sharing this with you.

Tonight, I looked through Jesus’ eyes. More than a hundred people came to me, one by one. Each approached with absolute devotion, reverence and love. They were young and old. Of means and poor. Men, women, boys and girls, toddlers and babies. Some were pale as fine ecru linen. Some were aged bronze. Some glowed like polished ebony -as though their skin could no longer hold their spirits within them. Some had such expressive eyes that I could attend to nothing else. Some were dressed specially for this encounter. Others came in their work garb, happy to have arrived on time. Some came after a day of errands or childcare or eldercare. Some seemed energized in spite of their reverence. Others seemed weary, if not of this life, at least of this day.

Tonight, I looked through the eyes of Jesus. More than a hundred souls came to me, one by one. In spite of and regardless of their variety, I felt impelled to love them. Not “compelled” but “impelled” because it was something deep within me which opened my heart and let the love flow out. I knew with each encounter that I saw for a brief moment what Jesus sees. How did I know? Because I could never have loved this deeply on my own.

Tonight, I looked through the eyes of Jesus. At our parish celebration of Jesus’ Passion and Death, the congregation was invited to come forward to venerate the cross. I held the cross as more than one hundred people came forward to kiss, touch or bow in recognition of what Jesus did for each one of us. As they came forward, Jesus came forward, too. It was difficult to hold back the tears as I came to realize why Jesus continually poured himself out for those he met along the way. Jesus simply could not help himself. Jesus loved each one too much not to respond.

I have to tell someone, so I am sharing this with you. If you have any doubt that you are loved, give it up! I assure you. I looked through Jesus’ eyes tonight. I saw as he sees. Indeed, you are loved!

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good Friday

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”
From John 18:1-19:42

The pain had to be excruciating. Other men could not tolerate ten strikes of a Roman’s whip, yet Jesus endured thirty. The soldiers continued their abuse by pressing a crown fashioned from thorns into Jesus’ scalp. They threw a purple cloak onto Jesus’ torn flesh and paraded him back to Pilate. When the crowd of onlookers refused their mercy, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.

In spite of his weakened state, Jesus carried his crossbeam to Calvary. By the time the soldier pounded the spikes through Jesus’ wrists, the pain was unbearable. Yet, as he hanged on the cross just minutes from death, Jesus opened his heart to those who kept vigil at his feet. They needed to be cared for more than he. So it was that Jesus called Mary to treat the beloved disciple as her own son. Then, Jesus turned and asked John to treat Mary as his mother.

As he hanged dying, Jesus opened his heart to you and to me as well. Jesus would have endured his passion and death for any one of us, even if you or I had been the only one who required redemption. As he hanged dying, Jesus spent himself to find the lost sheep; Jesus extended mercy to all of God’s prodigal children; Jesus paid the ultimate price for the rare pearl; Jesus became Savior of all the World.

Jesus, I kneel at your feet in sorrow as I have failed you more often than not. Yet, as I offer my contrition, your embrace reassures me. In the depths of your suffering, you draw me into your love. I love you, too, Dear Jesus.