Refreshment For A Weary Soul

…be converted …that the Lord
may grant you times of refreshment…

From Acts 3:19

It is only a week since Lent ended and four days since Easter. Still, I find myself falling into some old habits that I thought I had left behind. When I choose something to do for Lent, my intent is to work diligently at my cause for the forty days we are given and then to carry this through long after Easter. This is not the case this time around. I lost track of my efforts early on due to the unexpected expectations of others whom I chose to accommodate. This isn’t an excuse. It’s just what happened.

Still, if I truly intend to change something that is important to me, I need to commit myself for the long haul and to make this commitment a priority. When it comes to improving myself or my circumstances, it is up to me to see to it. Since I didn’t do this well during Lent, I’m turning my eyes inward where I will acknowledge my weakness in all of this. Then, I will turn my eyes upward where I will ask the Lord God for a small reminder that I am indeed loved and indeed worth the effort.

Compassionate God, thank you for your ample gifts of hope and love. Open my eyes just a bit more, that I may recognize these gifts whenever I need them.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Bountiful Hope

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you: in the name of
Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
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Acts 3:6

I ignored my sadness for weeks due to the numerous tasks at hand. With my Lenten and Easter to-do lists complete, those buried emotions rose to the surface. I decided to walk because the fresh air always seems to rejuvenate me regardless of the condition of my psyche. Unfortunately, heavy rain coaxed to the mall to stretch my legs and my spirit.

The pouring rain proved to be a blessing. As I walked indoors, I ran into a friend who had recently survived a seemingly hopeless ordeal. Though that topic never entered into our conversation, the joy with which she embraces every new day was unmistakable. Still, in spite of her miraculous outcome, my friend has not forgotten the pain of her grim journey. So it was that, after allowing me to bare my soul, she hugged me. “Mary, you have reason to feel they way you do. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will find it!”

I walked away from that conversation feeling a lot better and a little silly. My dear friend had survived cancer though she was not expected to live. I was surviving raw emotions which didn’t come close threatening my life. For the rest of that walk, I counted my abundant blessings.

Loving God, you sprinkle morsels of hope and encouragement in the most unexpected, but opportune places. Thank you!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Persist In Doing Good

Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,” and then
reported what he had told her.

John 20:18

Good news is hard to keep to oneself, especially when the information will be helpful to others. We share a good book and diet tips that really work. We tell our colleagues about inroads we have made with the new payroll technology or the new boss. We cannot keep the news of a long-awaited pregnancy or a cancer remission to ourselves for longer than it takes to scroll down to a number on our cell phones. It seems that good news is a far too limited commodity in this Twenty-first Century world of ours.

The truth is that since humankind first rejected God’s ways, good news has been in short supply. The prophets laid the foundation before Jesus arrived in Bethlehem to offer glimpses of true hope. When Jesus made it up the hill to Calvary, hope took on new life. When Jesus embraced death, he presented hope-fulfilled to the world. A few days later, the rumbling in the tomb sealed the deal. Good news took on a whole new meaning –forever!

Dear God, painful as his passion and dying were, Jesus persisted because of the great good which would result. Help me to persist in doing the right thing as well, even when it is painful.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Spread The News

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way…

From Matthew 28:8-15

This Monday after Easter, I am relieved to have a clear calendar. The past few weeks have been very busy. Some days, the best I could do to observe Lent was to survive. Still, there was much to celebrate in the midst of all of the tasks at hand. My Holy Week observances were both sobering and uplifting as I returned to the scene of Christ’s Passion -at least mentally. I offered my presence with the hope that I would have stayed with him if I had been there two millenniums ago. Today, just as spring offers hints of the beauty to come, I hope to hint at the Promise of Easter in my efforts.

When the two Marys went to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning, I wonder what they expected to find. I wish I had been there when they arrived and found the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus was gone. Did either Mary say, “I knew it! I just knew it! He rose as he said he would!”? Though I can’t be sure of their initial reaction, I do suspect that they responded with great enthusiasm when they eventually discovered what had happened.

Loving God, help me to make my life an ongoing hint at
the amazing things to come for us all.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Joy Enough To Share

As is the case for most children, Christmas and Easter occupy the top two spots on my list of favorite days. The difference between the children and me is that my anticipation of these holy days brings me as much joy as the feasts themselves. In spite of the hustle and bustle of the days before Christmas, my Advent observances keep me focused on the reason for the season. I enjoy the wait! At my church, our anticipation for Christmas peaks on “Gift Weekend” when gifts for thousands of our needy neighbors fill the church. The joy of Christmas becomes quite tangible very early in Advent as a result of our parishioners’ generosity. When Christmas Day finally arrives, we celebrate once again. This time, it is God’s generosity which takes center stage. Heaven and earth met in the person of Jesus and his birth marked a new beginning for us all. The life of loving service, generosity, forgiveness and mercy which followed illustrates without a doubt that our joy over Jesus’ birth is most appropriate.

The days before Easter are usually another story. In my case, Lenten anticipation has taken a lifetime to evolve. As a child, I focused on little sacrifices to make up for my failings and to keep me focused upon all that Jesus did for me. I gave up candy and attended daily Mass. Young as I was, I developed a deep appreciation for the physical suffering Jesus endured. The Lents of my childhood lacked joy because I focused solely upon the end of Jesus’ life. I overlooked the teaching, loving, healing and forgiving which Jesus had accomplished beforehand. Fortunately, high school religion classes, college theology courses, further encounters with the scriptures and a variety of gifted writers and homilists nurtured my appreciation of Jesus’ entire life among us. Lent 2016 here at my parish highlighted this realization quite dramatically as we made it our goal to live out The Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy together.

Every week, my parish family did something to reveal God’s mercy and Jesus’ loving ways. We fed the hungry by donating items for our local food pantries. We gave drink to the thirsty by collecting bottled water which a Flint, Michigan church distributed. This proved to be a greater gift we than expected because store shelves in Flint have no water left to sell. We clothed the naked by responding to our Fourth Grade religious education students’ baby shower. We provided diapers and other basic necessities to needy mothers. We also cleaned out our closets and shared unneeded items. We sheltered the homeless by supporting our St. Vincent DePaul Chapter which sees to the needs of those who make requests of our parish. We visited the sick by caring for those who might otherwise suffer alone and we buried our dead with our prayerful and supportive presence. Throughout Lent, our parish families also filled Rice Bowls with spare cash to support even more of the needy both near and far. Every week, these efforts reminded me that we best show our gratitude for Jesus’ suffering and death when we live as Jesus lived before he carried his cross to Calvary. Though our efforts didn’t change the entire world, they certainly changed the worlds of those we helped. We brought a taste of Easter Joy to others and to ourselves.

On this Easter Morning, joy surfaces in full bloom. Alleluias fill our churches as we sing of the miracles which inspired our good deeds during Lent and throughout the year. Alleluias fill our church because Jesus’ Resurrection promises the same for each one of us. You know, when Jesus called his followers, he knew that they responded with all of their imperfections intact. Still, Jesus embraced them and remained with them through everything. Today, Jesus embraces you and me with equal enthusiasm. Alleluias fill our churches this Easter Sunday because we know without question that God cherishes us more than we ever would have expected and more than we dared to hope for.

Though my reasons for treasuring Christmas and Easter differ a bit from those of most children, I can’t help envying their absolute delight with these special feasts. It seems to me that the best way to recapture this fervor is to mimic children’s efforts to prolong their celebrating for as long as possible. Though they may be satisfied with a later bedtime, we need to prolong the revelry through the weeks and months ahead. What better way is there for us to celebrate Easter then to live and rise as Jesus did whenever and wherever we are needed?

May God bless each of us with just enough Easter Joy to share!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just The Beginning…

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph
who… was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus…
He took it down, wrapped it in fine linen and laid it in a tomb.

From Luke 23:50-53

The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Stations:
Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross and Jesus Is Laid In The Tomb

This morning’s clouds have given way to a sunny afternoon. My heavy heart has evolved as well. Today, the horror of Jesus’ death no longer haunts me. Though his body lay in that borrowed tomb for thirty-six hours or so, Jesus’ spirit didn’t rest a minute. Jesus spoke of a kingdom beyond this one, and I’m quite certain that he made his way there as soon as the last bit of this life drained from him. As for me, I will imagine rumbling in the tomb so strong that it causes the stone at the entrance to roll away. I will imagine Jesus standing in the Easter Sunlight. Today, I will allow myself a morsel of Easter Joy and everything that this entails…

Loving God, thank you for revealing yourself to us through the life and lessons of Jesus. And thank you for continuing this effort through each one of us.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved