Rumbling In The Tomb

“Why do you search for the living one among the dead?
He is not here; he has been raised up.”

From Luke 24:5-6

It was our last day in Israel when we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. Though I hadn’t thought of this beforehand, this timing was absolutely perfect! I was secretly proud of my husband and me because we’d endured the walking, climbing and other rigors of this second tour quite well. I was especially pleased because none of these “externals” had distracted me from the amazingly spiritual experience this trip had proven to be. I had many good reasons to rejoice when we visited that beautiful church.

Though archaeologists aren’t absolutely certain that this church houses either Jesus’ tomb or the place Jesus was crucified, the evidence supports this theory. The location is close-by and allowed the Romans to carry out their executions efficiently. The close proximity of passersby allowed a lesson to be given regarding the fate of those who chose to break Roman Law. Though there seems not to have been a specified place for executions, this location served its purpose in Jesus’ and his fellow victims’ case. None of this was particularly important to me because simply being in the vicinity of these events was enough.

In one way or another, I crossed Jesus’ path as he dragged himself to the place of his crucifixion. I also walked near the place where Joseph of Arimathea had given up his tomb for Jesus’ burial. As I considered these events, it occurred to me that though Jesus’ body lay wrapped from Friday until Sunday morning, Jesus himself was busy celebrating with his Abba over our good fortune. We would all soon realize that the end of this life isn’t the end after all!

Loving God, only you can draw such amazing good from even the worst of our evil-doing. Amen! Alleluia!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jesus Gives Up His Life…

Jesus uttered a loud cry and said
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
After he said this, he expired.

Luke 23:46

Our visit to Israel ended in Jerusalem. By the time we drove into the holy city, Jesus’ life had become very personal to me. I realize that this sounds odd coming from a lifelong believer, yet it’s true. The adage which suggests that we walk in another’s shoes before passing judgment holds true when it comes to loving others as well. When we appreciate what it’s like to be someone else, our respect and our love for that person grow exponentially. Though before our trip I thought I couldn’t love God more, I know now that this isn’t true regarding my love for God or for anyone else for that matter.

I read the Passion of Jesus from each of the four gospels before selecting the passage above. I chose Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ last words because they are closest to my experience of God’s love. These words leave no doubt regarding Jesus’ choices. He wasn’t on that cross because his Abba or anyone else put him there. Jesus freely chose to endure crucifixion for your sake and mine. When Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, scourged and nailed to that cross, he knew this would not be his end. New and abundant life awaited Jesus on the other side of this terrible ordeal and it was worth the anguish it took to get there. Through his death, Jesus made it very clear that our eternal lives will be worth our personal varieties of anguish as well.

This is the reason we call today Good Friday. Everything that follows will be very good indeed!

Dearest Lord, I acknowledge your suffering with great sorrow and much love. Tomorrow, I will celebrate all of the good which came afterward.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Thursday… Jesus’ Last Supper

When the hour arrived, he took his
place at table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, “I have greatly desired to eat
this Passover with you…”

Luke 22:14

I know I shared this just a few days ago, but I must return to Jerusalem and the monastery chapel next door to The Upper Room. I was deeply moved by my visit to the Upper Room though archaeologists are reasonably certain that this is not the location of Jesus’ Last Supper. That nearby monastery doesn’t claim to be this holy place either. Still, the life-size sculpture of the Last Supper certainly gave me reason to pause. While I was moved by the large figures who brought that amazing night to life, it was the lone statue of Mary Magdalene which assured me that, had I been there, Jesus would have welcomed me in as well.

I chose to share Luke’s passage regarding the Last Supper because it captures the sense of homecoming which overwhelmed me throughout my stay in Israel. Jesus seemed to say, “I have greatly desired to spend this time with you.” At every turn, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in a particular place or within the people there. Sometimes, God came in strangers and sometimes in those with whom I traveled. Our dear tour guide Yossi would blush upon hearing how often his words and kindness and musical interludes ushered me into God’s company.

On this Holy Thursday, the same words are spoken to each one of us… I have greatly desired to eat this meal and to spend this time with you!

Dear God, though I know what followed that meal, tonight I celebrate this time at table together.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Week… Spy Wednesday

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”
From Matthew 26:15

Though I haven’t heard this term as of late, the church has traditionally referred to this day as Spy Wednesday. As a child, I was taught that Judas struck a deal with the high priests and arranged his betrayal of Jesus on the Wednesday before Passover. The timing isn’t as important as the deed itself. Betrayal at any level stings. When it comes at the hands of a trusted colleague, friend or family member, betrayal cuts us to the core. Perhaps the only good that comes from these experiences is the light they shed upon Jesus’ capacity to love and to forgive…

In Israel, when I walked the paths that Jesus walked with his friends, Judas came to mind. Judas seems to have been the practical one who looked out for the day-to-day needs of the group. Jesus shared his most important teachings and his most intimate feelings with Judas and the others. The weeks leading to Passover proved to be extremely difficult as sentiment in the Temple turned against Jesus completely. The scribes’ and Pharisees’ treachery certainly angered and frightened Judas. Having Jesus’ best interest in mind, Judas likely warned Jesus. but Jesus remained firm in his intent. So it was that Judas did what he thought was necessary to save himself. Judas sealed his betrayal with a kiss. In the end, Judas regretted what he’d done and he hanged himself. Judas didn’t wait long enough to seek forgiveness. Still, I’m certain Jesus offered it when he hanged from his cross the following day.

Please, God, let us never forget that we are loved and forgiven no matter what.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Week… Tuesday

The huge crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while some began to cut branches from the trees
and lay them along his path.

Matthew 21:8

I suppose it was easy to get caught up in the frenzy over Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, the faces of those around me vied for my attention. Though most were too busy to notice the small group of tourists who hurriedly walked among them, an occasional passer-by offered a smile. Others looked less-than-pleased when our presence slowed their frenetic pace. I couldn’t complain. A friend I recently met at the grocery store pointed out that I sported a fairly sour facial expression when hurriedly making my way to a register. These Israeli’s who call Jerusalem home had no idea that they were a very important part of my time there.

I imagined Jesus looking out at the crowds who welcomed him with such excitement. Surely, they resembled our fellow pedestrians as we made our way through the city. Surely, they were as busy or preoccupied as their modern-day counterparts. Still, they stopped to welcome Jesus and to cheer him on. Had they heard about his miracles? Had they heard about his inability to pass by a person in need? Were they simply thrilled that someone was bucking their Roman rulers or the stringent temple hierarchy?

I have many reasons to welcome Jesus. Though I’ve heard about his miracles and his conflicts with the powers that be, it is Jesus’ inability to pass by any one of us which draws me to him.

Loving God, thank you for this Jesus who continues to reveal your great love for us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Week… Monday

And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”

Matthew 21:10

While in Israel, our arrival in Jerusalem startled me a bit. This last stop on our tour was at least as frenetic as downtown Chicago on Black Friday. Though the other places we visited were well-populated, the crowds in Jerusalem rushed in every direction for as far as I could see. It occurred to me that Jesus’ contemporaries felt the same every year as Passover approached. Devout Jews filled the Holy City to observe this solemn feast. It was Friday when we arrived in Jerusalem. Sabbath would begin at sunset which prompted the frenzy in the markets. Everyone rushed to complete their errands before the shops closed a few hours later.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Sunday so long ago, I imagine he was anxious as well. It was not the shopping which concerned Jesus that day. It was we who were on his mind. He had worked tirelessly to reveal God’s loving and compassionate ways. Still, many remained who didn’t understand. Sadly, I don’t always behave as though I understand. As I looked into those crowds in Jerusalem that day, I wondered if they appreciated the thinking behind their Sabbath preparations. When I caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window, I wondered if I appreciated the thinking behind what Jesus had done for me.

Loving God, Jesus could not have given us a better picture of you. Help me to catch glimpses of you in everyone I encounter this week and always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved