Z is for Zenith

Great is God and wholly to be praised
God’s holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.

From Psalm 48:2-3ab

Z is for Zenith. Zenith… the high point, the point directly overhead, the peak, the pinnacle, the summit, the fairest of heights. When good things happen to us we say that our spirits are high or that we’re uplifted. Though I don’t think there is actually a direction toward heaven, I turn my eyes upward to pray. I visualize God and the heavenly cohort looking from above upon me.

This is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent 2019 and the last day of this alphabet of reflections. I find this a meaningful coincidence. For most of my life, I’ve approached Lent with a sense of penitence, fully aware of my need to do better and to be better. For the past few years, I’ve taken a different stance. Rather than concentrating on repairing my own inadequacies, I’ve tried to celebrate God’s complete adequacy to me and to us all.

Zenith is my z-word because God is the high point of everything. This “above-ness” doesn’t imply in any way that God is unwilling to enter into the troubles of this world. God’s assigned position “above” never stops God from being with me in the worst of messes. God’s position “above” never stops God from responding to us. God loves us from the fairest of heights and in the deepest of trenches. God also loves us from that quiet place within us all where God also resides.

Today, I thank you for making your way through this alphabet of reflections with me. I also invite you to make your way through Lent 2019 with the God we’ve celebrated through all of this. As we walk through the lessons and passion of Jesus, remember the reason Jesus came: To show us firsthand that God is the joy of all the earth and the source of joy for each one of us. Let’s spend Lent getting to know our God more intimately.

Loving God, as we acknowledge your company this Lent, make it very clear that you are with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lent… 40 Days to Love

“If today you hear God’s voice,
harden not your hearts.”

Psalm 95:8

It is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent 2016. I have given much thought to my observance of this precious season. I habitually set aside these forty days to rekindle my personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. After all, his words and works revealed the essence of our most loving God to me. I find it to be a happy coincidence that St. Valentine’s Day is just a few days away. What better time is there than Lent to think about Love -God’s love for us and our love for one another?

Today, Christians everywhere flock to churches to receive ashes. Though a smudge on our foreheads normally requires immediate face-washing, things are different on Ash Wednesday. Today, we will leave that smudge in place as a reminder of Jesus’ walk among us more than two millenniums ago. Jesus did everything possible to assure us of God’s love. Jesus spoke of this love and he demonstrated it in all that he did. As I contemplate the ashes that rest upon my forehead, I realize that it is time for me to do the same.

Loving God, help me to use every opportunity to bring your love into this world during this Lent and always.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ash Wednesday Eve

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.
By now they have been with me for three days
and have nothing to eat.”

Mark 8:2

This Ash Wednesday Eve, I try to finalize my plans for Lent 2016. In years past, life has sometimes dictated my Lenten journey. Simply adjusting to the issues at hand with a loving heart proved to be a worthy practice. This year, I find myself with choices. So it is that I join Christians all over the world in selecting something to do -or not to do- which will make me a better person and this world a better place over the next forty days.

Tomorrow, I will join Christians everywhere once again. This time, we will flock to churches everywhere. In our parish, Ash Wednesday attendance rivals that of Christmas. Every Mass and prayer service will be filled with people seeking ashes, a visible sign of our relationships with God. On Ash Wednesday, we give special attention to Jesus who lived and died with absolute love for every one of us. Jesus revealed the mercy and compassion of our Benevolent Creator in everything he said and did. Because of what Jesus shared, most of us have given up our fear of hell to make room for our absolute hope in the promises of heaven. Yes, we gather with good reason.

There is something very special and welcoming about tomorrow’s gathering. No one will worry about having a seat or running out of ashes. Our only concern will be being present together to pay homage to the one who has fed us all in innumerable and amazing ways.

Dear God, thank you for Jesus who revealed your unquestionable love for us. Help us to walk with him this Lent.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lent Begins

Come let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord who made us.
For he is our God, and we are the people
he shepherds, the flock he guides.

Psalm 95:6-7

Today, as I begin my Lenten journey, I consider my pursuit of the God who never tires of enticing us into a relationship. The life of Jesus has convinced me of this. Though the parables of the Prodigal Son, the Good Shepherd and so many others poignantly express God’s love for us, I find that Jesus’ life is the purest expression of that love. Jesus displayed compassion and forgiveness, limitless patience and creativity when responding to those he met along the way. Whether a woman caught in adultery, a tax collector or a leper, Jesus looked deep into the hearts of those who needed him. Every time, Jesus responded to what he found with great love. All of these things convince me that God wishes to share the same intimacy with you and me.

As I contemplate my Lenten journey this Ash Wednesday, I puzzle over how I might return God’s love in kind. It seems to me that the time Jesus spent with those who needed him was his greatest gift to them. Since I am convinced that God makes the same investment in me, perhaps I need to return the favor by spending more time with God. Yes, my Lenten Itinerary must include time spent every day opening my heart to the God who knows me better than I know myself.

This Lent, I offer you the gift of my time, Dear God. Please be near and nudge me along as I take a moment with you every day that I am given.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved