A Time For Everything

A childhood friend who shares my nostalgic tendencies recently sent me the link to a YouTube video. I rarely click email links, but I was thrilled to go to this one. It took me to a recording of Turn! Turn! Turn! which was recorded by The Byrds in 1965. When I clicked the “play” arrow and sat back to listen, I was not disappointed. The Byrds put the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to music almost verbatim. At the time, this American Folk Rock Band performed the song to promote world peace. In my case, every time I listen, the musical score and those amazingly simple words fill me with inexplicable peace.

For those not familiar with the lyrics, every verse begins, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under heaven.” If you look at the song lyrics or the scripture passage, you’ll find that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, to reap, to kill, to heal, to laugh and to weep. There is also a time to build up and to take down, to dance and to mourn. According to Ecclesiastes and the Byrds, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Both the song and the scripture passage end with the assertion that there is also a time for peace. Insisting that this was the case even in the tumultuous 60s, the Byrds added, “I swear it’s not too late.” Ecclesiastes is not among the scripture readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend. Still, it seems to me that the Ordinary Time gospels from recent weeks and today indicate that Jesus is very much aware of the timing of the events of his life.

After much prayer and reflection, Jesus went to his cousin John to be baptized. It was time for Jesus to begin his public life. Jesus also attended the wedding in Cana with his friends. Very much aware of timing herself, Mary sought out Jesus’ help when the couple involved ran out of wine. If she acted quickly enough, they would suffer no embarrassment over this turn of events. Jesus initially seemed unhappy with Mary’s timing. Still, on second thought, he abided by his mother’s wishes and turned water into wine. At the same time, Jesus’ friends realized it was time to allow their belief in Jesus’ friendship to grow into belief in his ministry. In today’s gospel (Luke 4:21-30), Luke tells us that Jesus found himself in the midst of seemingly poor timing when he preached for the first time in his home town of Nazareth…

In the synagogue where he grew up, Jesus read this passage from the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.” Afterward, Jesus set aside the scroll and told the people that this saying had come to fruition before them. His neighbors marveled at his knowledge of the scriptures, but they also wondered why Jesus performed no good works among them. After all, those closest to Jesus certainly deserved a miracle or two. Apparently, Jesus felt the timing wasn’t right. Rather than offering a miracle, Jesus responded with a lesson. Jesus insisted that ones proximity to a temple or preacher, priest or prophet, bible or scroll has little to do with ones relationship with God. It is the generosity of a person’s spirit which speaks volumes. When we reach beyond the confines of our own comfort zones and our own time zones to those who need us most, we demonstrate our proximity to God quite clearly. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesus’ neighbors. They weren’t ready to recognize the joy to be found in aligning ourselves with God’s timing and with God’s love. They didn’t understand that, whether the opportunity is a one-minute encounter with a homeless person or a lifelong relationship, it is always the right time to love as God loves.

I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes join Jesus’ neighbors in failing to take advantage of God’s timing. When I look back upon the happiest and the most trying episodes of my life, I realize that there truly is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. In between those two events, God sees to it that there is also time enough to plant, to reap, to heal, to laugh and to weep, to build up and to take down, to dance, to mourn and to love. God sees to it that there is always time enough to transform our little corners of the world with love -just as Jesus did and as only we can.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Embrace The Journey

“He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…”

Mark 6:8

Though I’ve shared this often in the past, I am repeating that my husband loves to travel. As soon as the last of our Christmas decorations were stowed away, Mike turned his attention to the travel sections of the newspaper and to the travel channel on television. Though I longed to take a breather after the busyness of Christmas, he made his way full speed ahead through travel websites and folders. In spite of the fact that we have an out-of-town wedding to attend and a trip scheduled a few months down the road, the poor man is aching to plan further.

I think I finally get it. A few days ago, when a Medicare notice arrived, I was taken aback by the swift passage of time. Our eldest granddaughter is eight years old and our newborn grandson somehow morphed into a five-month-old. Perhaps Mike has adopted the sense of urgency I so often write about. I’m convinced that we need to make the most of the moment at hand. Apparently, so is my husband.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Perhaps he didn’t want them to waste a moment in making the most of their travels among us. Perhaps this is a nudge for me to do the same.

Generous God, thank you for this amazing world and the awesome people who fill it. Be with us as we explore them further.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share The Love

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me…

From Mark 7:6

The past few days’ reflections give me reason to pause. I have been extremely blessed with many good people who have shared God’s love with me. It occurs to me that I must be diligent in doing the same. Though I may not be able to counter all of the loveless ways of this world, I can do something to bring God’s love to the moments at hand.

I’m not going to stand on street corners quoting scripture, preaching or reading my posts to those who happen by. However, I can offer a smile as I pass my fellow humans. I can be patient as I wait in line at the store, using my time to pray rather than to fume. I can smile at that noisy toddler in church so her parents realize that their efforts are appreciated. I can listen to the elderly man who seeks out a willing ear every time I look in his direction. I can phone a lonely friend, visit a parishioner at the nursing home. I can take the grandkids while my son and daughter-in-law enjoy an evening out. I can also donate groceries to the food pantries my parish supports. Whenever I encounter an opportunity, I need to embrace it! This is the best way for me to share God’s love along the way.

Dear God, help me to share your love with others every moment of every day.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of God

“If I just touch his clothing,” she thought,
“I will get well.”

Mark 5:28

I am most grateful that my parents introduced me to God. Their perspectives regarding God’s love and concern made this life manageable for them and they have done the same for me. This shared awareness of our Creator gives me great insight into many good people whom I’ve met along the way. Though we sometimes belong to different faith communities or to none at all, our shared membership in God’s family makes all of the difference in the world.

I’ve told you about her before. Still, thoughts about our relationships with God bring her to mind again. Sister Gerard was convinced of one this over everything else: God is good! Sister Gerard first spoke this phrase to me more than five decades ago. My great-aunt was a dynamic and lively little nun! After spending much of her career teaching at a boarding school for boys, Sister Gerard shared, “I’ve taught convicts and bishops, lawyers, janitors and butchers, and I love them all. God put them all into my life. God is good!” When Sister Gerard was assigned to a parish school in Chicago, we were able to see her more often. How I listened as she shared stories about her teaching career and life among the sisters. Eventually, bouts with cancer mandated her assignment to the sisters’ mother-house. This kept her close to the hospital where she received treatment. During this final assignment, Sister Gerard busied herself by visiting the elderly sisters -of whom she was one- to keep them company during their hospitalizations.

Through all of this, Sister Gerard maintained her conviction regarding God. During her treatment, she frequently observed, “God is good!” At ninety-two, Sister Gerard discovered that her final bout was a losing battle. She smiled at me from her sickbed as she admitted, “I was a little upset that Jesus didn’t cure me this time around. Then, I thought about where I’m going and I thanked Him! God is so good!” When my sweet aunt passed away, her funeral was truly a celebration of new life.

Good God, thank you for my parents, Sister Gerard and all of the amazing people who share your goodness with the rest of us. Strengthen all of our faith in your goodness and love.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Stay Or Go?

Whatever place does not welcome you
or listen to you, leave there and
shake the dust off your feet…

Mark 6:11

I find it extremely difficult to shake the dust off my feet. I usually find peace in the familiar and I am reluctant to make change when the status quo is working. The few instances in which I have done so were the result of impending danger -physical or psychological- to someone I love or to me. This propensity to stay connected is partially genetic and partially learned. My parents opened their door to everyone. My mom often said, “I leave the door open. If people choose not to come in, it’s their loss.” Jesus welcomed everyone who crossed his path as well. Since I subscribe to Jesus’ way of life, I try to welcome people as he did.

Still, there are people who really are not good for us. They may not cause physical harm, but they do take a psychological or spiritual toll on us. I find that if my gut is having a strong reaction to someone, I need to listen. This does not necessarily mean that I need never to speak to this person again. However, it may mean that I should limit our contact. Sometimes, this limit can only be achieved when I vacate the premises.

This may seem like an odd topic for a spiritual reflection, I know. However, I have good reason for sharing this. Sometimes, good people think that part of “being good” is to allow themselves to be hurt unnecessarily. I truly believe that God could not disagree more.

Dear God, keep us safe and wise. Help us to recognize harm and guide us away from its source.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Dear Child

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

2 Timothy 1:2

On this Feast of St. Timothy, I smile as I recall that my husband and I celebrated our family feast days with a little cake and the favorite dinner of the honoree. When our sons moved out, we sent greeting cards -usually homemade- to celebrate these special days. Today, I admit to resorting to a quick phone call or a text to assure Mike and Tim that I have not forgotten their special days. After all, their names mean a lot to me, too.

I also can’t help recalling a dinnertime conversation when our son Tim was in first grade. The meal had progressed with the usual talk about each of our days. In the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old suddenly howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback because we had no idea that this so bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” It occurred to me that this was a good question for a seeming outcast.

I explained that his dad and I didn’t choose each other because our names began with M. I added that when our first baby was a boy, his Dad wanted to keep the name Michael in the family. When our second baby was on the way, I felt certain that he was a boy. We talked at length about his name because my husband was committed to another M-name. I told Tim that I didn’t like any of the M names his dad suggested. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved “Timothy” and that’s why I selected that name. Tim’s is the only name in the family we really had to think about. With that, the smiling Timothy finished his dinner.

Dear God, regardless of what we are called, you know us and love us. Thank you!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved