Plug Away and Hope

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they shall have their fill.

Matthew 5:6

Though I’ve been working hard to inspire hope and to share a bit of peace along the way, I continue to be distracted from my efforts by this world’s troubles. Unrest here and overseas, ongoing injustice and the inability of our legislators to agree on much of anything give me little reason to rejoice. Once again, I admit that I’ve been cranky as well. Still, I persist with my Christmas preparations.

My husband the deacon works on his homily and I prepare an article for the early Christmas bulletin deadline. I breathe deeply every time I stop to water our Christmas Tree. I find the scent of pine to be truly life-giving! I have most of the gifts and stocking stuffers we need. I’m also glad that we’ve budgeted something for those who need a little boost just now. Happily, our parish gift-giving campaign characteristically reached beyond all of our expectations. In the midst of this all, my husband and I have spent a good deal of quality time with our grandchildren.

In spite of the troubles that beset me and my world, I find reason to hope and to carry on. When I do so wholeheartedly, I can’t help spreading a bit of peace as well.

Dear God, thank you for giving us the sense to embrace hope and the generosity to share your peace.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Peacemakers All

Blessed are the peacemakers…
From Matthew 5:9

Today’s date is etched in my memory. A chill travels up my spine in spite of the years that have passed. You likely recall precise details of where you were when you realized what happened in New York City, Arlington County, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. The good to be found in all of this unfolded among us during the days, weeks and months afterward. Uncommon selflessness and generosity became the norm. Political differences fell to the wayside. We joined hands as one people to do everything possible to heal this nation’s broken hearts.

I was convinced then just as I am today that our world is in dire need of peace. Our sisters and brothers who were directly touched on 9/11 as well as those in war-torn countries across the earth can attest to this. Our service men and women who continue to experience the horror of that day in the unrest both nearby and faraway attest to the same. If this isn’t enough, daily news reports regarding the violence we inflict upon one another here at home underscore our need to rid this world of violence.

My mother used to remind me often that charity begins at home. She expected me to show my own family the kindness that I so willingly extended to others. Today, I remind myself that peace begins at home as well -in our world, in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our homes and, most importantly, in our hearts.

Loving and Merciful God, help us. Give us hearts which desire peace and hands which extend that peace to all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Co-Exist

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

After stopping for a quick lunch, I continued our gardening efforts. Though this was my first attempt at this task, I trimmed a row bushes which had begun to grow together. As I swept up afterward, I admit to smiling over the finished product. My husband would be happily relieved not to have to repair my handiwork! On my way to put the clippers away, I noticed sprinkles of soil next to two planters on the patio. As I swept the soil, I saw a squirrel watching me from afar. “You little stinker!” I whispered. After all, I didn’t want to scare the poor thing.

As I continued to sweep, it occurred to me that I should have scared my furry friend. He was likely the culprit who had displaced that dirt while digging around the begonias. So it was that I decided to engage that squirrel in conversation. “You know,” I said loudly enough to scare him away, “You can dig up the entire yard if you want to. Just leave the flowers alone!” Afterward, I went on to wash the bird bath. When I finally went into the house, that squirrel or his twin brother scampered up to the planters. I knocked on the patio door glass to remind him of my offer. I couldn’t help laughing as he scampered off with record speed.

My husband and I will figure out a way to keep our squirrel friends our of our planters. In the mean time, we’ll continue to welcome them into the rest of the yard because they really are fun to watch.

God of Love, help us humans to find better ways to co-exist. When we do, we’ll also be so much more fun to watch.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jesus’ Mountain

When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountainside.
After he sat down, the disciples gathered around him…

Matthew 5:1

The Mount of the Beatitudes is another favorite place to which I returned this year. Though I cannot mark off the specific parcel on which the people gathered to hear Jesus, the geography of the mountainside indicates that we were in the vicinity. The view from my bus window revealed the beauty of this much-referenced site. As we neared our drop-off point, I wondered if those who gathered there were prepared for Jesus’ radically simple and love-filled lessons in living.

While Matthew placed Jesus on a mountainside for this discourse, Luke described the site as level land. A close look clears up this discrepancy as there are numerous level places on the hillsides of Galilee. Jesus could have delivered his sermon from any one of them. None of this matters as it is the essence of Jesus’ teaching that day which turned his world upside-down. Matthew’s indication that Jesus sat before he began is an important observation. Those who taught in the temple always sat before offering their lessons. Jesus made a point when he followed suit. Jesus, too, was teaching with authority.

What a life-giving experience it must have been to hear Jesus ask the people to live in a way in which he was willing to live himself. There were no double standards for the mighty and the poor. Jesus asked the same of them all. Those who heard Jesus that day listened because Jesus’ actions always spoke louder than his words.

Loving God, thank you for sending an authentic representative to share your loving ways with us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Homecoming

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
forever and ever.

From Psalm 23:6

Though this was my second trip to Israel, every morning promised a new adventure. In spite of having visited most of the sites on our itinerary last year, each one gifted me with new and unexpected levels of inspiration this time around. Because I had more time to internalize this experience, I often found myself talking non-stop to Jesus of Nazareth along the way. Last year, I felt that I’d returned to my homeland because Israel seemed so familiar to me. This year, I felt even more convinced that I was doing just that.

The Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Magdala elicited a sense of homecoming which I cannot deny. The events from Jesus’ life which unfolded in these places made me feel as though I was returning to revive my own ancient memories. Indeed, I wasn’t disappointed.

I may not have stood on the precise patch of ground where Jesus spoke the beatitudes or multiplied the loaves and fishes. I may not have stepped in Mary Magdalene’s footprints. I may not have sailed Jesus’ course on the Sea of Galilee. Still, I felt that I walked where I was meant to walk in order to rekindle important relationships from long ago. I wouldn’t have felt more at home if a family member had come forward to welcome me home after a far too long absence.

Loving God, thank you for making me feel at home wherever you are.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Justice For All

Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for justice sake;
you shall be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6

While in Israel, I was amazed by the circumstances of its people and its property. Israel occupies a large portion of what we consider to be the Holy Land. Interestingly enough, the holiest places within its borders are controlled by various entities, including Muslims, Christians and Jews. Because our guide is an Israeli citizen who respects his countrymen whatever their beliefs and speaks Hebrew, Arabic and Italian (among other languages), he gained us access to sites where others are denied entry. Whenever this occurred, Yossi didn’t revel in his success. He simply pointed out that being respectful of the ways of others and meeting others on their own turf or terms usually leads to peaceful encounters which benefit all concerned. “This is the way to peace,” Yossi would say.

Perhaps this is the reason Yossi exhibited some impatience with his Hasidic Jewish neighbors. I was surprised to learn that they make up only ten percent of Israel’s population. Most of this sect live in their own neighborhoods where they adhere to the strictest code of conduct. Our guide also surprised me when he shared that eighty percent of the population is non-religious. It seemed to trouble Yossi to acknowledged that the holiest place on earth is home to so many non-religious people. Still, Yossi added that the strict rules and intolerance of a few soured many Israelis’ views of organized religion.

As I pondered all of this, I wondered how many of these “secular” Jewish people quietly worked toward change. I wondered how many of them also opened their hearts to something else as Yossi had.

Loving God, help us all to work toward justice with loving hands and loving hearts.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved