Good Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love and Be Loved

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Matthew 5:41-42

Sometimes, those around us seem determined to push us to the nth degree to fulfill Jesus’ words from Matthew’s gospel. Though we feel compassion for those in need, we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the numerous demands on our time and our resources.

It is when I’m overwhelmed in this way that someone always manages to come along to minister to me. Though my busyness and expended resources are the result of my own choices, this makes no difference to the kind soul who comes to my aid. He or she simply says just the right thing or spends just enough time listening to ease me through my current rough spot. I always walk away from these encounters feeling replenished and revived, fully capable of responding to the next person who needs me. I can only hope that my benefactor is repaid in kind down the road.

Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind all along. Perhaps we’re meant to care for one another and to be cared for by one another until we make it home to heaven. There, God will take over the loving and the caring for each one of us.

Loving God, thank you for caring for us and for sharing this skill with us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Priceless Treasure

I recently reconnected with a childhood friend. When we met for lunch, within minutes we were laughing and sharing stories from the old neighborhood. As we visited, I recalled the day Kevin announced that he would be leaving the area for college. He had been accepted at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Within a year or two of his departure, Kevin made another announcement. He had decided to join the Benedictines for the long haul and eventually to be ordained a priest. After a wonderful journey with the Benedictines who continue to be counted among his friends, Kevin eventually left them to pursue a different career. As we talked, I recalled the leg of my own journey which took an unexpected turn much as Kevin’s had.

I had celebrated my twenty-first birthday late as this milestone had arrived before my broken ankle healed. Perhaps it was the realization that I was just a year from college graduation, my recent convalescence, having never lived away from home or all of the above. Whichever the cause, I suffered from an extreme case of restlessness. I couldn’t afford to backpack across Europe or anywhere else because I was responsible for senior year’s tuition. So it was that I picked up the phone to seek a less costly remedy for my unrest.

I was almost disappointed when Father O’Connell answered. I wasn’t at all sure of what I was going to say. My uncertainty vanished when Father greeted me with happy surprise. Without hesitation, I asked if there was something I might do to help at his parish during the coming summer. I explained that it was time for me to leave the comforts of home, at least for a while. Father surprised me with his excitement as he explained that he had already arranged for two nuns to spend the summer there. Father had asked them to teach “survival” English to Spanish-speaking children entering school in the fall. Since I had studied Spanish and was a teacher-in-training, Father determined that I would be a natural in the program. With that, I asked Father when I could start.

When the sisters and I arrived, I discovered that Sister Liz had grown up in my neighborhood. Though they were a generation ahead of me, I was very much at home with her and Sister Rose. We immediately delved into planning, gathering materials and setting up house in the convent. Father provided a car for Sister Liz who served as chauffeur. Our morning routine included Mass, breakfast and school. The children happily endured our lessons on those hot summer mornings, likely in anticipation of the mid-morning snacks we provided. Afterward, the sisters and I spent the afternoon planning the coming day’s lessons and visiting parish families. When we returned to the convent, we enjoyed dinner and relaxed. Occasionally, I spent the evening at the rectory answering the telephone and door. It was on one such occasion that I met my husband -but that is another story.

While I was away, I didn’t handle a bit of currency. Father provided for our groceries and other necessities. I didn’t shop because my seven-plus-one outfits lasted through each week. Six weeks later, when I left the children, my new sister-friends and that convent, I worked extra hours at my job to make up the money I hadn’t earned toward my college tuition. Still, I wouldn’t have traded that time away for anything. It was truly freeing not to worry about myself and to concentrate on the children. I treasured this experience more than anything else I might have done with those six weeks.

I share my adventure away from home with you because, in today’s gospel (Mark 10:17-30), we encounter a young man whose life also took an unexpected turn. This rich young man had spent his life carefully following The Law. He seemed to have had a plan in place much as Kevin and I did. His well-intentioned heart and his desire to do more drew him to Jesus. Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him, loved him and said, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.” Sadly, Jesus asked more than the young man was able to give and he walked away with a heavy heart. You know, neither Kevin nor I had all that much when he joined the Benedictines and I spent that summer in the convent. Yet, I think we both agree that our lives were changed forever by these experiences. I wish we could have told Jesus’ young friend that letting go is not as painful as he thought. I wish we could have shown him that when he opened his hands to let go, he freed himself to embrace the authentic treasure which Jesus offered. Though it is a little late to share this wisdom with the rich young man, it is just the right time to remind ourselves that what we have is not nearly as valuable as what we give.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Taking Care

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Matthew 5:41-42

Sometimes, it seems that those around us have read Matthew’s gospel and have decided to push us to fulfill Jesus’ words to the letter. Though we often feel great sympathy for those in need, we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the numerous demands on our time and resources. Still, we press on to respond as best we can.

It is when I am on the verge of being overwhelmed in this regard that someone always comes along to minister to me.  Though my busyness and limited resources are the result of my own choices, this makes no difference to the kind soul who comforts me.  He or she simply says just the right things or spends just enough time listening to ease me through this rough spot. Often, this generous individual rolls up his or her sleeves to help with whatever it is I am trying to do. I walk away from these compassion-filled encounters feeling replenished and revived. So it is that I respond to the next person who needs me in kind. 

I wonder. Could it be that we are meant to care for one another and to be cared for by one another until we make it home? Then, God will take over the loving and caring for us.

Creator God, thank you for giving us hearts to love as you do.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He is speaking about the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He is speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas must not have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas has missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he is blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplainable and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as he could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction in our care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Care and Be Cared For

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Matthew 5:41-42

Sometimes, those around us seem determined to push us to the nth degree to fulfill Jesus’ words from Matthew’s gospel. Though we feel compassion for those in need, we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by numerous demands on our time and our resources.

It is when I’m overwhelmed in this way that someone always manages to come along to minister to me. Though my busyness and expended resources are the result of my own choices, this makes no difference to the kind soul who comes to my aid. He or she simply says just the right thing or spends just enough time listening to ease me through my current rough spot. I always walk away from these encounters feeling replenished and revived, fully capable of responding to the next person who needs me. I can only hope that my benefactor is repaid in kind down the road.

Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind all along. Perhaps we are meant to care for one another and to be cared for by one another until we make it home to heaven. There, God will take over the loving and the caring for each one of us.

Loving God, thank you for caring for us and for sharing this skill with us.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved