See With God’s Eyes

Throughout my life, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the array of sources which reveal God to me. The people I’ve been given to love top that list. My earliest memories include my parents’ heroic efforts. They were constant reminders of our God who I was assured loved me even more than they did. The affection of my family and friends helped me to see God even more clearly. I came closest to understanding God’s love for me the day I was told my dear husband and I were going to have a baby. Though I knew nothing of the little one who would change our lives forever, I loved him more than anything. This phenomenon recurred after we were told we’d never have another child and yet we did. Once again, unconditional love took root and I came to know God more intimately. As my writing often indicates, I’ve seen God in the wonder of creation. I’ve also discovered God in words both written and sung and in wordless musical compositions. Oddly, I’ve even found God in the dialogue between characters in a sitcom rerun. Did the screenplay writer know what I would find in those words decades later? In the end, I’ve found the most compelling evidence of God’s love for us in the words and works of Jesus.

During Lent, we share some of our richest scripture passages. Their writers skillfully wove together threads of temptation and triumph, suffering and healing, sin and forgiveness. The fabric which resulted offers an image of Jesus who brought peace, hope, acceptance and love to God’s people. Last week, we recalled Jesus’ encounter with the woman from Samaria at Jacob’s well. Jesus didn’t need the water he requested of her. It was the woman who thirsted for far more thirst-quenching waters. As always, Jesus responded by quenching the thirst he saw within the depths of that woman’s heart. Jesus revived her spirit that she might truly live anew. Today, we turn to Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. Since birth, this man’s very existence had been tied to sin. In the eyes of the people, the man’s parents must have sinned terribly. To the people, it was their transgressions which prompted God to impose blindness upon their son. In the eyes of the people, this fruit of sinful parents was of little worth. It is no wonder that those who saw the man after his cure failed to recognize him. They’d passed him on the road often, but had never taken the time to look upon his face. It seems to me that they were the blind ones. They were blind to God’s presence within themselves and within one another. They were blind to God’s presence within the man who was born blind. It was Jesus whose vision was intact. Jesus saw every trial and tribulation which devastated the people and which ravaged their spirits almost beyond repair. What draws me to Jesus is his generous response to his contemporaries and to you and me.

I don’t think haphazard thoughts or my vivid imagination allow me to see God in the world around me. It is Jesus who inspires me to see God in everything. More importantly, it is Jesus who inspires me to see God in those I meet along the way. Jesus saw with God’s eyes and he taught his contemporaries just as he teaches us to do the same. When we look with God’s eyes, we see the pain of our coworkers and our neighbors, our friends and our own family members. We see unrest on the other side of the world as well as in our own backyards. Trauma in all of its forms tears at our spirits with marked precision. It also blurs our vision. Even when we attempt to proceed with the clearest of vision, it is sometimes very difficult to find God in the difficulties at hand.

Please don’t let my assessment of things-gone-awry discourage you. Scripture scholars and historians tell us that life was no better in Jesus’ day. Still, Jesus persisted in seeing the people and the situations around him with God’s eyes. Remember, Jesus came into this world as a helpless child, just as each of us does. Jesus grew up in a family much like our own with parents who rarely understood what he was up to. As an adult, Jesus stood out from the crowds around him because he saw things differently. Though many came to appreciate Jesus’ ability to see them with God’s eyes, others responded with contempt. While Jesus rolled up his sleeves to do everything he could to make the lives of those around him what they were meant to be, his adversaries rolled up their sleeves and planned his demise. Jesus’ circumstances were no better than our own, yet he persisted in seeing them with God’s hopeful and loving eyes.

As I consider the new vision the man born blind experienced at Jesus’ hands, I can’t help feeling gratitude for the same gift in my life. After all, it is when I step back to see things with God’s eyes that I find hope. So it is that I hope that I never stop seeing God in everything around me and I wish the same for each one of us. Jesus continues his work through me and through of all us and it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and to make it so.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Suffering In Peace

They took his clothes and divided them
into four parts, one for each soldier.

From John 19:23

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

It should have been enough to crucify Jesus, but not so for his captors. They seemed anxious to make use of every opportunity to beat him and to humiliate him as best they could. What was worse was that curious and mean-spirited onlookers joined in the fun. Those who loved Jesus most could only watch in horror…

I admit that I find it much easier to deal with my own suffering than that of others. When loved ones and even people I don’t know endure hardship, I want to fix things and to make them right. These are the times when I find it impossible to place things in God’s hands. These are the times when I provide God an insistent to-do list which I fully expect to be fulfilled in short order. Of course, not long after issuing my demands to The Almighty, I look back upon those for whom I prayed. I see their resolve, their acceptance and their willingness to endure for as long as they must. I also sense an unexpected measure of peace in their demeanors. Somehow, they have found the strength to endure. So it is that I turn back to my prayer. First, I offer an apology for expecting my plans to direct God’s interactions with us. Then, I offer a prayer of gratitude for God’s constant companionship and unconditional love.

Jesus wasn’t alone in his suffering. You and I are never alone either.

Loving God, help me never to do to another what was done to you, not even in the smallest seemingly inconsequential way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

More Than A Statistic

There was an inscription over his head:
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

From Luke 23:38

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls The Third Time

Jerusalem is an extremely busy place. It was the same in Jesus’ day. Though I can’t imagine ignoring the approach of a bloodied man carrying a cross beam, many who went about their business that dark Friday did just that. The ominous presence of Roman soldiers kept busy business people and shoppers on their own way and off Jesus’ path. If they noticed, none had the courage to respond when Jesus fell. No one cared that this one was far more than the King of the Jews.

When I walked the streets of Jerusalem the first time, I was taken by the narrowness of those busy byways. Oddly, the locals navigated between and around one another quite easily. I wondered if we tourists were simply a part of the landscape to which they’d become accustomed. When I turned my thoughts back to Jesus’ day, I wondered further. Was Jesus just a part of the landscape as well? Was Jesus just another statistic in the vast database of Roman cruelty?

As for you and me, whether we’re standing upright or crumpled under the weight of our troubles, God takes notice. We’re never a statistic in God’s database. We’re on God’s mind and in God’s heart… ALWAYS!

Dear God, you love us more than we realize. Help us to share that love with those we meet along the way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Courage

But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem,
do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Luke 23:28

The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets The Women of Jerusalem

Once again, it was the women who approached Jesus. In spite of the soldiers’ threat, they stepped up to offer their tears on Jesus’ behalf. Jesus responded by consoling them. Jesus had embraced the road which lay before him. So it was that he encouraged the women to do the same. Jesus made no empty promises regarding the difficulties of life on this earth. What Jesus did offer was his example of persistence and his certainty in the things to come.

It isn’t easy for any of us to live as Jesus did. Though we may not be called to carry a wooden cross beam that is twice our size, we’re often called to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. Sometimes, our choices seem small in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, our choices have far-reaching consequences. Always, what we choose to do makes a world of difference to us and to those we have been given to love both nearby and far away.

Today, I find courage in those brave women who approached Jesus. Today, I’ll respond as they did to everyone I meet along the way.

Loving God, you are with me in everything I do. Help me to be brave enough to behave accordingly.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Lifts Us Up

The people stood there watching
and the leaders kept jeering at him…

From Luke 23:55

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls The Second Time

When I was in The Holy Land, I walked in the vicinity of Jesus’ trek to his own crucifixion. I learned that the walk to Golgotha wasn’t as long as one might think. The Romans carried out their crucifixions fairly close to the city gates, perhaps for their own security. We don’t know how often Jesus fell under that crossbeam. Still, I feel certain that he fell. Again, I wonder why he got up.

I’ve shared over the past several months that I’d had an encounter with my own variety of suffering. Though this experience was nothing in the shadow of Jesus’ passion, I struggled just the same. It seemed that every time I felt I’d overcome my misery, a tiny reminder crept up to insist that this wasn’t the case. Still, when I lay under the weight of each relapse, God’s presence around me and within me urged me up to try again. I can only imagine that Jesus sensed the same every step of the way. During his life among us, Jesus took every opportunity to steal away from the crowds to seek his Beloved Parent’s company. When he fell under the weight of that wood, it was only natural for Jesus to turn to the One who knew every detail of his suffering. It was only natural for that One to respond. Jesus got up because of the Divine Presence which accompanied him.

Every time the trials and tribulations of this life cause us to fall, God who endures our suffering with us urges us up as well.

Loving God, thank you for your good company.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love’s Power

The twelve were with him, as well as some women… Mary, called Magdalene…
and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna and many others,
who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke 8:2-3

The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes The Face of Jesus

Though I’m unsure if a woman called Veronica actually came forward to wipe Jesus’ face, I am certain that the women in Jesus’ company followed him along that road to Calvary. Though the Roman soldiers frightened the others, the women who loved Jesus and all that he stood for did not abandon him on this dark day.

I don’t often hold my womanhood up for any purpose. I don’t want to be treated better or worse because of my gender. At the same time, I am grateful today that I am a woman. I understand Veronica and the reason she (or I) would wish to wipe Jesus’ face. This act would do little to alleviate the physical pain Jesus felt. Still, this kindness would touch his heart, piercing it more deeply than the lance the soldier would thrust a few hours later. Though Veronica may be only a legend, the power of any of us to touch another’s heart is very, very real.

Loving God, help me use my ability to love with eloquent generosity, just as you do.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved