Share the News!

Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,”
and then shared what he had told her.

John 20:18

While mulling over the coming year, I considered possible projects for our parish families. I’m part of a committee who deal with such things. Last year, we prepared for Christmas and Easter by engaging in various acts of generosity to assist those in need. I found myself overwhelmed by the kindnesses which seemed to grow with every passing week. I admit that recent events near and far compel me to long for the Christmas Spirit and Easter’s “alleluias”. I recall commenting often regarding my fellow parishioners’ good deeds. After all, good news really is hard to keep to oneself.

I admit to offering updates regarding our grandchildren to anyone who will listen. I’m just as eager when my news might be helpful to others. We’re all willing to spread the word when that word is worth spreading. We share a good book and diet tips that work. We tell our colleagues about inroads we’ve made with the new payroll technology and the new boss. We can’t keep the news of a long-awaited pregnancy or a cancer remission to ourselves for longer than it takes to scroll down to a number on our cell phones. I suppose this is the case today because good news is a limited commodity in this Twenty-first Century world of ours. The truth is that good news has been in short supply since the beginning of time. No wonder we share glad tidings whenever they come our way.

With that in mind, I share these glad tidings today: Regardless of what occurs around us and within us, God’s presence is the single consistency which we can always count on and, one day, God will turn all of our trials into good news!

Loving God, thank you for breathing your life into every minute of every day.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Amazing Seeds

A man scatters seed on the ground.
He goes to bed and gets up day after day. Through it all, the seed sprouts
and grows without his knowing how it happens.

From Mark 4:26-27

When our younger son and his wife left their condo in the city for a home in the burbs, their new front lawn suffered a major blemish. The former owners had lost an old tree to a storm. Though the tree was carefully removed, it left a gaping hole in its place. My husband and son filled this small abyss with twice the soil they originally thought they needed. After packing it into place, they seeded and watered. My husband advised my son not to worry about the grass. “Worry about everything else you have to do. The grass will take care if itself,” he said. My son heeded this advice. With so much to do, he had no choice. A few weeks later, when my husband and I arrived for a cookout, we were pleasantly surprised. Amazingly, new lush growth had sprung from that one-time hole. My husband smiled as he noted that his faith in that grass seed was well placed.

You know, God places the same faith in the seeds you and I plant every day. Sometimes, our efforts are long-term. Sometimes, we must do what we can in a given moment and move on. In either case, we do our best and hope for the best. God will see to the rest.

Trusting God, you have great faith in our ability to sow seeds of goodness wherever we are. Help us to do this as best we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Hope Morphs Into Joy

Last Sunday, I began my Advent journey with a heart filled with hope. I’d parted with a tiny village of Christmas houses which had been with my husband and me since our first Christmas together. Though I had second thoughts, I found the courage to leave them at the St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store because I gave in to the hope that another family would treasure them as much as I. A few days later, while I prepared for my day to babysit for our little grandson, his mommy called to say that Danny was under the weather. No one knew if this was a reaction to recent immunizations, teething or a little “bug” of sorts. As a result, Mommy planned to stay home with Danny. When I offered to help out as needed, Mommy asked if I could sit for just an hour while she took care of a few things. I happily obliged.

When I arrived, I immediately noticed the difference in Danny. This crawling-walking-talking little imp confined himself to Mommy’s lap. His slight fever dulled his typically sparkling eyes and he was unusually quiet. In an effort to keep our time together as normal as possible, I took Danny on our usual morning tour. We looked out the living room windows to check the weather and assess the condition of every leaf-shedding tree we could see. We stopped at the piano for one verse of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and then moved on to the wall of family photos. I was heartened when Danny perked up at the sight of Grandpa’s picture. We continued our walk past a mirror where I made silly faces (never to be repeated in public) to amuse him. Danny couldn’t help laughing aloud at each of my attempts. When we ended our walk in his room, I asked Danny if he wanted to work at his desk which is a little table-top toy with lots of musical gadgets. When I pressed a button to start the music, Danny perked up a bit more. When I pushed a second button, Danny began to chair-dance in my lap. He looked at me and smiled as he moved in sync with the beat of the song. For the first time since I’d arrived, Danny seemed truly joyful and I knew he’d feel much better in short order.

You know, whenever Danny hears music and whenever he is particularly happy, Danny dances. When I read the scriptures passages for this Second Sunday of Advent, I realized that Danny is on to something. We are all meant to embrace the joy which comes our way with Danny’s enthusiasm. In Isaiah 1:1-10, the prophet describes the day when one will come who is filled with the spirit of the Lord, “…a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength.” This one would embody these things so perfectly that he would transform this wretched world into God’s holy mountain, a second Eden where peace and joy would reign over everything. In Matthew’s gospel (3:1-12), John the Baptist emerged from the desert after praying, reflecting and making Isaiah’s message his own. John’s enthusiasm was so great that throngs of people came to listen and to be baptized by him. Even Pharisees and Sadducees sought out John’s baptism in an effort to be prepared for God’s promised one. It is Paul’s letter to the Romans (15:4-9) which encourages us to recognize what Isaiah’s and John’s audiences could only hope for. Paul pointed out to his followers and he points out to us that we have seen the one of whom Isaiah spoke. He is Jesus who opens his arms and his heart to everyone who seeks God. Paul expected all who had seen to live accordingly. Indeed, we are a people of hope-fulfilled and we have no excuse not to dance!

I recognize that it is unlikely that Isaiah or Paul, the apostles or Jesus’ other followers danced their way through this life on a daily basis. Jesus himself likely didn’t dance his way to breakfast each morning. Though I dance with Danny every time Grandpa and I visit him, I don’t dance my way into the grocery store, the cleaners or wherever else my errands take me. I don’t even dance into church for Mass. Still, like Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus’ other followers, you and I do have reason to dance. Jesus’ love impelled him to respond to others regardless of his own fatigue and the numerous plots against him. In the same way, God’s love for us compels us to work within our circumstances to love one another and, yes, to dance with joy on occasion. The imperfections of this life simply cannot stop us from responding to those in need. We muster the courage to dismiss our own suffering and turn from our own pain to care for those we have been given to love. Like Jesus, though our legs aren’t moving in choreographed fashion, our hearts dance with love because we have seen and we know true joy.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk -or Ride- With Faith

A few week’s ago, my husband and I drove to St. Louis to attend a wedding. The bride and her parents are friends and we were pleased to celebrate with all concerned. We left just after the morning rush hour the Friday before so we’d arrive with plenty of time to dress for the rehearsal. When I made my usual offer to assist with the driving, my dear husband got behind the wheel. In the process, he mumbled something about letting me know if he became too tired to continue. So it was that I nestled into the passenger’s seat with a prayer of gratitude on my lips for the opportunity to enjoy the scenery along the way. Mike backed out of the driveway and I settled in for the duration with the certainty that I’d find inspiration as I gazed out the window. Traffic was a bit heavier than expected and it offered plenty to entertain me along the way. Mike sang along with his favorite oldies and I absorbed life unfolding on the road ahead.

We passed two school buses filled with children who were likely on a field trip. I didn’t envy their teachers and chaperones as I recalled that even the most organized excursions sometimes brought unexpected surprises. I wished them well with a prayer that they’d all return to school unscathed. Several semi drivers plugged along as well. I wondered if they ever tired of life on the highway. Did they have families who missed them too often or did they find solace on the open road? Either way, I prayed that each one would find peace in his work that day. A hapless texter interrupted my contemplation when she edged into our lane. Mike quickly alerted her to the problem by sounding his horn. I prayed quickly that she’d learn her lesson before hurting herself or anyone else. We passed many single-passenger cars and many others filled with families. I wondered if any of those full cars were headed to St. Louis as well. Though I received no response to my wondering, I also added prayers for them. When Mike noticed ambulance lights in his rear-view mirror, he eased over to make room. I prayed in full earnest for the person who needed that hopefully life-saving ride. As we increased our speed again, I turned my attention to the Lord God. I acknowledged that the prayers I offered that day wouldn’t necessarily result in making things perfect or at all improved for anyone. I’ve acknowledged this numerous times before, yet I continue to pray…

When I turned to the scriptures, I found a trio of explanations for my persistence. Passages from Habakkuk (1:2-3; 2:2-4), 2 Timothy (1:6-8, 13-14) and Luke (17:5-10) each speak of those promises which fuel our faith in God. Habakkuk complained that his life and the world around him were complete disasters. God responded by instructing Habakkuk to revisit his dreams, for indeed the dreams of the just will be fulfilled. Though life on this earth is rarely easy, life in heaven would fulfill Habakkuk’s every expectation and more. In his letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged his young friend to hold tightly to his faith because God would reward him with heaven’s joy as well. In the gospel, Jesus summarized everything when he observed that faith as tiny as a mustard seed is capable of ordering a tree to uproot itself from the ground and replant itself in the sea. Jesus went on to speak of the servant who does what is expected with no expectation of his master’s gratitude. The servant does what is expected because it is expected. Jesus explained that we Christians are asked to live appropriately for the same reason: This is what is expected of us. Having faith doesn’t mean that life will unfold perfectly. Nor does it mean that if we truly believe we can somehow magically make things happen the way we would like them to happen. Having faith means that we do what we do because we truly believe that we will find peace and absolute joy with God in the end.

You know, I will continue to pray for all sorts of people and their special intentions. Though my efforts won’t ensure any of them a smooth path in the immediate future, God will listen to every word. Indeed, God answers every prayer with the promise that each of our paths will lead to something greater than we can imagine in this life. God knows better than we just how difficult life on this earth can be and all God asks is that we respond as best we can. All any of us is expected to do is the best we can. During that drive to St. Louis and every day, my fellow travelers and I need only to embrace the moment, the hour, the day and the lifetime we are given. God will be with us all the while and God will be with us in the end.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

T… for Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

T is for Thanksgiving. I hope I have made it clear in one way or another that life is not always perfect for me. Still, I have much to be thankful for -far more than I ever expected or dared to hope for. The most precious of these gifts aren’t tangible, but they are very real to me just the same. Yes, I am a very blessed soul.

When this life presents unpleasant challenges, I face them most effectively with a grateful heart. I hope our dear Lord never tires of hearing me pray, “God, I know you have been very good to me, but really? I don’t mean to complain, but how can I deal with this?” It usually takes me a few minutes to adjust my thinking and my prayer. I continue, “Thank you, God, for being with me in everything. I know that all of this will end well. In the mean time, help me to respond as you would.”

T is for Thanksgiving. Today and every day, I will do my best to face everything with a heart full of thanksgiving.

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Believe!

“You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.

John 4:50

I have spent my entire life worrying about sick loved ones and I admit that it has taken me a lifetime to imitate the man about whom John wrote. I must also admit that I have succeeded only some of the time…

The man who approached Jesus on behalf of his dying son was a royal official. He was likely quite used to having his every need met without question. When his child lay dying, he tapped every resource at his disposal to find a cure. In spite of his powerful position, when all else failed he went to Jesus for help. Something he had heard or seen encouraged him to do this. When Jesus simply instructed him to go home because his son was recovering, the man believed and he went home. John tells us this man was not disappointed.

I’m not sure of what this royal official learned about Jesus before he approached him for help. I am quite certain that this man knew only a tiny fraction of what we have come to know about Jesus in the two millenniums since. Still, in the face of two thousand plus years of study, contemplation and proof of God’s love for us in more than a billion lifetimes, we doubt.

Loving God, I know that you love me. Please strengthen my faith in your constant companionship and care. Let me simply believe and be on my way.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved