World Environment Day

God looked at everything that God made
and found it to be very good.

Genesis 1:31

In 1973, the United Nations designated June 5 as World Environment Day. The intent of was to unite the world in an effort to literally save this planet. Each year’s observance calls attention to the human transgressions which cause climate change, deforestation, air pollution and pollution of the oceans. Add to this the disruption COVID-19 has brought to life as we know it and you can see that there is reason for concern. More importantly, the day’s designation is also intended to be a hopeful call to action.

Oddly, it is COVID-19 which brings some hope to the situation. The world’s adherence to stay-in-place mandates has decreased our use of airplanes and automobiles, factories and other polluting entities. This has also decreased air pollution. Some weeks ago, atmospheric maps indicated notably cleaner air in some places. New York City’s pollution decreased 50%. In Wuhan, China, pollution was down 25%. News stories indicated that those residing in Northern India saw the Himalayan Mountains for the first time in 30 years. In addition to these atmospheric changes, wild life on both land and in the sea has thrived. Though pollution has concerned me since my college days, I suddenly find hope that it’s not too late for us to join hands to do something about it.

Two great spiritual leaders came forward to support this effort on Earth Day, April 22, 2020. The Dalai Lama and Pope Francis offered a call to action to us all. An old Spanish saying offered by Pope Francis seems to summarize their concern best: “God Always forgives; we humans sometimes forgive and sometimes not; the earth never forgives.” Pope Francis underscored the urgency of the situation by adding, “The earth does not forgive; if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly.”

In the wake of COVID-19, while we adjust to our new normal, perhaps we can adjust our efforts to care for this earth as well. How great it would be for our new normal to bring renewed health to our global home.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Mother Earth. Be with us in our efforts to care for her lovingly.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Option A or B or…?

When they heard the sound of God moving about in the garden,
the man and his wife hid themselves…

From Genesis 3:8

When I was a child, we had two family bibles. One was a nicely bound family edition and the other was intentionally kid-friendly. This large book consisted of cardboard front and back covers which held together several booklets. The covers and booklets were held in place by extremely long fabric laces. The seventy-two booklets which eventually completed this bible arrived by mail every month. With each delivery, my mom carefully undid the laces, removed the bible’s covers, inserted the new booklet, replaced the covers and retied the laces. Afterward, I poured over the new arrival.

Every page included colorful illustrations and reasonably understandable text. When I finished perusing each new edition, I habitually returned to the first book’s story of Adam and Eve, the snake and that forbidden tree. The Garden of Eden amazed me almost as much as heaven did. “Why,” I often wondered, “did Adam and Eve eat that stupid apple when God had given them so much else?”

In the years that passed since I posed that question, I accumulated a measure of maturity and wisdom. I found that life in this world poses similar questions every day. I also discovered that it’s up to us to answer as best we can in the moment at hand. Is Option A really my best choice or is it as foolhardy as eating that apple? It’s up to me to figure it out. In the mean time, God watches with great love and with great faith in my and all of our ability to do what’s best.

Dear God, the second and third and twenty-ninth chances you give us seem more important than ever these days. Please be with us as we do our best to choose wisely.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

And So I Pray…

Then he said, “Dear God, please don’t be angry,
but let me speak just once more…”

Genesis 18:32

Our stay-at-home circumstances have allowed me to drift into contemplative mode more often than usual. This is usually a good thing. This week, however, I’ve had thoughts of the bittersweet variety. Today is my younger sister’s birthday. My only brother’s birthday will follow in a few days. The good news for both of them is that they are celebrating in a place far better than our COVID-19 ridden world.

Throughout their lives, I often wished that I could have made this life a little easier for these siblings. Since childhood, I prayed often for both. As soon as I had God’s attention, I pleaded and negotiated for this or that circumstance to take a turn for the better. By the time my sister and brother had reached adulthood, I’d become quite good at ordering God around on their behalf. I did this because each of them had weathered tough times and I’d too often forgotten that God had been with them through it all. Today, I have no doubt that my dear siblings would live their lives over again just as those lives were if God asked them to do so. They probably chuckle together often over my continued efforts to direct God’s part in all of this. Silly me!

Yes, I can be very silly in my efforts to order God to make things better for my fellow humans. If only I prayed something like, “Thy will be done.” Unfortunately, I more often plead that my will be done. After all, who knows better what my loved ones need than I? Oops! Yes, Lord, once again I acknowledge that you know best of all!

Loving and Patient God, thank you for listening and for responding to my loved ones needs with more love than I could ever hope for. Thank you, Dear God, for running things far more efficiently than I ever could. Amen!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Fine-Tuned with Love

God looked at everything God made and God found it to be very good.
Genesis 1:31

When I checked my calendar this morning, I realized that it will soon be time to schedule the dryer vent cleaner and our piano tuner. Though that vent cleaning is a necessity, the piano tuning is a luxury I can’t live without. Though I continue to play like a fifth grader who didn’t practice as much as she should have, I love my piano and so does our piano tuner….

Our piano tuner’s arrival always manages to put a positive spin on my day. Jordan is a gracious fellow who never begins his work without first inquiring about the family and life in general. Once he’s assured that all is well, he settles in to begin the task at hand.

In the realm of pianos, ours ranks among the blue-collar variety. It’s what we could afford when we decided to make music a permanent fixture in our home. Still, Jordan treats it like a fine instrument. He carefully removes the upper front panel to expose the piano’s inner workings. With his head tilted just so, he pounds each key and adjusts each tuning pin accordingly. Every few keys, he plays a chord or two to confirm that the sound is what it should be. As I watch, I wait expectantly for those chords. Jordan is a talented pianist and even a few bars are worth my attention. When he finishes, Jordan always graces us with a medley of tunes. This is his own test of his work and an assurance to me that my piano is just as is should be.

Jordan doesn’t realize this, but his encounters with my piano always remind me of God’s work in my life. Though I may be of the blue-collar variety as well, God tends to me with great care. In the process, God sees to it that I, too, am just as I should be.

Creator God, thank you for tending so carefully to the things you have made, especially your children.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N is for…

God looked at everything God made
and found it to be very good.

Genesis 1:31

N is for Nature. If you check a dictionary, it will define “nature” something like this: the essential characteristic or quality which makes something what it is; its essence. I think it’s extremely important for us to remember the Source of our nature. God is the Source who made us who we are. It is God who created us and everything else from nothing more than an insatiable willingness to love.

The line I cite above from the Creation Story certainly gets to the nature or essence of God’s feelings for us and for all of God’s handiwork. It seems to me that our best response is to accept that we are good and to live accordingly. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, it’s hard to see the good. Yet God insists that it’s there within me. Sometimes, my neighbor poses the challenge when he or she behaves in anything but lovable ways. Still, God insists that goodness dwells within every one of us and God asks that we behave accordingly. If this isn’t troublesome enough, God also insists that all of creation is good. Not only must I love my fellow humans, but also I must care for our earthly home.

N is for Nature. God asks that I live up to my nature by living with love toward myself, my fellow humans and this earth. Indeed, God looks at us all and finds us to be very good. What an amazing place this will be if we do our best to do the same!

Patient God, this is a tough one. Please be with me as I try to look upon everyone and everything with your loving eyes.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Extraordinary Reality

As I sat at my keyboard to begin this reflection, I remembered that I needed to return a phone call to a long-distance friend. I dialed her number with the hope of offering her and her seriously ill husband some support and consolation. Though I’m not certain that I helped either of them, I assure you that my friend helped me. She calmly shared her conviction that things will unfold as best they can and as they are meant to be. This elicited a few tears on my end of the conversation. My friend has no idea that her efforts to be compassionate, wise and strong while easing her family through this difficult time also brought comfort to me. Her practical approach to dealing with her possibly life-changing circumstances gave me reason to pause. There isn’t much that is earth-shattering in my life, yet I’ve recently found myself in panic-mode. As I set down the phone after that conversation, it occurred to me that my friend had embraced two extraordinary realities. Though I’ve shared both in recent reflections, I seemed to have loosened my own grip on these encouraging truths.

When I returned to my keyboard, I lamented the fact that my friend and her husband aren’t alone in their suffering. Each of us can list loved ones near and far who are plagued with difficulties. When we consider our own struggles and those of many of this world’s people, it’s difficult to see the point of it all. In an effort to open my eyes to what my friend seems to see so clearly, I’m taking another look at those encouraging truths which make all of the difference in everything. The first is God’s presence within us. Wherever we are, God is as well. Whether or not we acknowledge God, God remains. The second truth is that a peace-filled eternity awaits each of us. When we complete our earthly journeys, we will share an everlasting home with God. The Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time offers a timely opportunity to celebrate these gifts because they can transform our ordinary lives into so much more. When I remind myself of these things, the obstacles in my path become manageable and the joy in my life grows.

The scripture readings for the next several Sundays in Ordinary Time focus upon the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary trials and tribulations of earthly life. This week’s selections are no exception. In the passage from Genesis (3:9-15), God approached Adam and Eve after the two had eaten from the one tree in the Garden of Eden which they were told to avoid. Adam provided a classic example of our human frailty when he blamed Eve for his disobedience. Eve did the same when she blamed the serpent for her sin. Though God first turned to the serpent to deal with his wrongdoing, God dealt with Adam and Eve as well. God sent them off with the clothes on their backs and the stubborn pride they’d harbored in their hearts. “If you think you know best,” God seemed to say, “get by on your own.” In the gospel (Mark 3:20-35), Jesus exhibited a similar mindset. Some of the people questioned Jesus and suggested that he was possessed. Jesus responded by pointing out that one possessed by a demon cannot also cast out a demon because he would be fighting against himself. Jesus observed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The people’s comments so disturbed Jesus that he added, though all sins would be forgiven, blasphemy against God’s Spirit would never be forgiven.

Fortunately, in the second reading from 2 Corinthians (4:13-5:1) Paul put the apparent harshness of both our Creator and of Jesus into perspective. In the end, God didn’t leave Adam and Eve on their own and Jesus went on to remind the people that God’s love is absolute and that God’s capacity to forgive is unlimited. 2 Corinthians is a compilation of five letters in which Paul responded to the internal and external suffering around him and within himself. Paul reminded his followers that, regardless of the suffering we endure, God continues to renew us within. Paul added that, even when we find no inner peace here, the peace found in the hereafter is worth all of our effort.

I admit that my initial reaction to these passages was frustration. I have great difficulty with images of a vindictive and unforgiving God. In the face of these descriptors, I had to remind myself that these stern portrayals were offered to a specific audience at a specific time. Perhaps they resulted from frustration with a thick-headed people who had forgotten that God was in their midst. I also have great difficulty with the suffering of both loved ones and of all people for whom relief seems improbable. So it is that in the midst of my difficulty, I turn to the lesson which my friend taught me during that phone call earlier today: Though none of us knows what the next week or day or hour will bring, we do know that God is with us in everything. Though none of us is certain that we will find even a morsel of joy in the moment at hand or in the moments awaiting us down the road, we do know that God will shower us with eternal joy at the end of this life’s journey.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved