Do You Know?

“…to you, my dear child whom I love,
grace, mercy, and peace…”

From 2 Timothy 1:2

Our kids gifted my husband and me with a virtual photo album. This wonder of modern technology looks like an empty tabletop picture frame. However, when we plug it in, its black screen comes to life to feature an ongoing slideshow of photos featuring my favorite people in this world…

Our middle granddaughter’s birthday recent birthday gave me reason to sit and enjoy that frame-full of family. Our granddaughters are now thirteen, twelve and nine years of age. Our older grandson is five and his little brother is two. How did this happen? It wasn’t all that long ago that I held my older son in my arms. It wasn’t all that long ago that I held my younger son in my arms. How is it that they have wives and children of their own? This musing fills me with joy because my sons’ evolution into dads resulted in my own evolution into a grandma!

My most precious treasure is quality time with my sons, their wonderful wives and my grandchildren. I often wonder if they realize just how special they are to me. Though I try to express these sentiments in a variety of ways, I wonder if I’ve been successful. The best job I’ve ever had is my job as a mom. The next best job is being Grandma. I hope that I’m a good mother-in-law. (I do work hard at this!) Still, I wonder. Does my family know how much I love them? Just in case… I love you all! (This includes you, dear husband!) I love you all very much!

I’d planned to end this post with the paragraph above. Then, it occurred to me that I smiled the entire time I wrote. This hasn’t been the case for a while. Perhaps God is reminding me that though the pandemic and natural disasters, social unrest and injustice continue, our ability to love one another and to be loved also continues. There is something to celebrate today… the gifts we are to one another!

Dear and generous God, thank you for today’s smiles and for our capacity to love!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Blessed Labor Day!

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy
because on it God rested from the work God had done….

From Genesis 2:3

I’ve always enjoyed Labor Day. When I was a child, we observed this holiday with a picnic which included our extended family. Back then, the new school year opened the following day. This last day of freedom gave us kids good reason to celebrate. Later, when I discovered the meaning of labor for myself at my first job, leisure time became a precious commodity.

It was no accident that the author of Genesis allowed God a day of rest after six days of labor creating this world of ours. When Jesus came to remind us of God’s presence in a tangible way, he spent the greatest portion of his life working and resting just as we do. Only after living thirty years as a typical citizen of his day did Jesus set out to preach and teach. Even then, Jesus often stole away to rest in God’s company.

Labor Day 2020 is certainly different from those of the past. This year, we’re being quite creative in our socially distanced revelry in order to keep one another safe. We’re also celebrating essential workers who’ve risked so much for us in a very special way. In spite of the holiday, many of them are reporting to work as usual today. Let’s seize the opportunity to rest and to celebrate these workers and the special work to which you and I have been called. It seems to me that all of our best work is simply being there for one another. In the end, all of our work is precious in God’s eyes and today’s rest is well deserved!

Faithful God, thank you for the opportunity to labor and to rest in your loving care.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Prime Directive

After scanning the newspaper and half-listening to the morning news, I determined that I’d given enough time to this world’s woes. I decided to improve my mood by raking up the branches strewn about by last week’s storm. After only twenty minutes’ effort, I was dripping with perspiration. As I ambled back into the house to cool off, I told myself that those branches would be better left for another day. I poured myself a glass of water and sat. I attempted to be productive by reading today’s scripture passages in preparation for this writing. Afterward, I set my book aside and turned on the television. Perhaps a mindless interlude would allow my creativity to take form. The channel was set to H & I (Heroes and Icons) which is my husband’s favorite oldies station. I found myself in the midst of a well-worn episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As soon as the inhabitant of a primitive planet announced, “You! You are the Picard!”, I realized that I’d found my inspiration…

My husband-the-deacon has preached homilies for thirty-two years. I’ve written my reflections for twenty-eight of those years. Throughout that time, Mike has shared ideas with me while serving as my part-time proof-reader. Still, we’ve never offered the same interpretation of a given week’s scriptures. Though we agreed on the focus of the passages, we shared the wisdom drawn from them quite differently. At least this was the case until today. When I heard, “You! You are the Picard!”, I knew I had to repeat a homily Mike offered several years ago. Mike has been an avid Star Trek fan throughout the original television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Star Trek movies. Years ago, when the episode I happened upon today was originally televised, Mike announced, “There’s a good homily in that one!” Mike filed that information away until months later when he read the gospel we hear today. He was very excited because it provided the perfect setting for his Star Trek-inspired message. When he was fully prepared, Mike asked my opinion regarding the suitability of a Star Trek scenario for this purpose. After assuring him that this would be fine, he smiled and I wrote something completely unrelated.

The following Sunday, Mike shared his love for all things Star Trek. He went on to reference that episode when Captain Jean-Luc Picard had a startling encounter with an alien race. While the inhabitants of this strange planet looked human, they were quite primitive. This was particularly troubling to the captain because, when exploring new worlds, the crew was bound by The Prime Directive. This regulation indicated that they must never interfere with the development of alien cultures. They were never to impose their own technological, scientific and other intellectual evolution upon people who hadn’t yet discovered such things on their own. In this case, the aliens inadvertently witnessed the capabilities of the landing party before the crew realized what had happened. Their arrival in a large ship with bright lights and seemingly magical powers resembled the coming of this people’s god as described in their holy writings. When the planet’s natives approached the captain and he identified himself, they dropped to their knees. Without hesitation, their leader announced, “You! You are the Picard!” The poor captain was beside himself because he had indeed violated The Prime Directive. Captain Picard was even more upset because he was looked upon as a god, an extremely uncomfortable role for any of us. Fortunately, which is always the case in a Star Trek episode, everything ended well, as did Mike’s homily that weekend.

In his gospel (Matthew 16:13-20), Matthew chronicled a conversation between Jesus and his closest friends which had a similar outcome. Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Some responded with what they’d heard on the street, that Jesus may have been John the Baptizer or the prophet Elijah. While they were quite willing to repeat what had come from the lips of others, none would declare what was in his heart. Finally, Simon exclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” When he acknowledged Jesus’ identity, Simon changed everything. Suddenly, Jesus’ often-outspoken and sometimes-unthinking student had become Jesus’ spokesperson. Suddenly, Simon’s life took on new meaning because he recognized God Among Us. When Simon was renamed Peter, he didn’t fully understand the logistics of his new role. Nonetheless, he certainly understood what it meant to have Jesus at his side. As for Jesus, he didn’t have to say, “I am the Christ,” because Simon Peter said it for him.

Though Captain Picard flinched a bit at representing God to those primitive people, he eventually found a way to use their acceptance of him to guide them onto the right path. When Peter found himself saying, “You, you are the Christ!”, he may have wondered, “I’m with the Christ! Now what do I do?” The scriptures tell us that Jesus guided Peter as well. As a result, Peter was truly instrumental in revealing God’s love to this world of ours. It seems to me that our prime directive is to do the same.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Angels in God’s Eyes

“You have made them little less than the angels,
and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Inspired by Psalm 8:6

Our wedding anniversary gave my husband and me reason to revisit our wedding album. Afterward, I had to acknowledge that the bulk of our family guests were mine. I come from a very large family. My dad is one of twelve children and my mom is one of eight. My earliest memories include large family gatherings for the holidays, christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. Because I grew up down the block from our church, numerous people passed our house on the way to Mass each week. I worked at the grocery store throughout high school and college where the entire neighborhood shopped. Afterward, I married, began my teaching career and became involved in our parish. Throughout all of this, people of every sort came into my life.

I’m especially grateful for the individual moments I’ve shared with those around me. During these encounters, I’ve received glimpses of many amazing souls. Several of them have no idea of their ability to contribute to this world of ours. As a result, I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts whenever I can.

You know, each of us has been made little less than angels. Because we are God’s children, each of us is crowned with glory and honor. God sends us out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the unique gift of ourselves. Let’s take a long look in the mirror today. What is it that you and I have to offer those around us? What can only you and only I do to make this world a better place?

Dear God, thank you for loving us so much that you trust us to bring goodness into this world!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

That Special Boat

He called them, and immediately they
abandoned their boat and their father to follow him.

From Matthew 4:21-22

While in Israel I had an encounter with a true relic which touched me deeply. Let me tell you about The Jesus Boat…

We read a good deal about fishermen and boats in the gospels. Though some of his followers abandoned their fishing businesses to follow Jesus, he went back to their boats often to get from place to place, to preach and to rest. Though no one can say with any certainty that Jesus set foot on The Jesus Boat, this vessel is definitely a relic from Jesus’ day. Because it was discovered just north of Magdala and just south of Tabgha, Jesus may have set eyes on this boat as he lingered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The day we sailed the Sea of Galilee, we also visited Kibbutz Ginosar where the Jesus boat is displayed. Before seeing it, we watched a short film which told the tale of Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and fellow fishermen who discovered the ancient boat buried in mud near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Though I’m certain their parts in the film were well rehearsed, neither brother could hide his excitement over this discovery. Their treasure had shaken both the archaeological world and the spiritual world to their cores because no one had ever unearthed such an old vessel in such complete condition.

Though the science behind The Jesus Boat’s preservation is fascinating, I am more fascinated by Jesus’ presence in all of this. Once again, it matters little to me whether or not Jesus sailed in this particular boat. What does matter to me is the glimpse into Jesus’ daily life and the lives of those he loved which this boat afforded me. When I gazed upon that ancient relic, I imagined Jesus out on the water with his friends. That day, I experienced just a bit of the amazing adventure that must have been!

Current events compel me to acknowledge that the contemporaries of Jesus also suffered. Though in Israel I recalled the best times Jesus enjoyed on his friends’ boat, I must remember that they and that beloved boat also endured terrible storms. Do you remember the gospel story of Peter and the others who feared for their lives as they were being tossed from wave wave to wave by a powerful gale? In the midst of it all, Jesus suddenly appeared on the water. Though I don’t expect Jesus to embark on foot across Lake Michigan to ease my worries today, I do expect that he remains close enough to hear every prayer I utter. Best of all, he responds. Speak up, because he’s listening to you as well.

Dear God, thank you for being present in the joys and the sorrows of life on this earth. Hear our prayers and those of all of your people.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Called By Name and By Love

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

From 2 Timothy 1:2

Our granddaughter recently made an astute observation regarding our family names. She noted that in her family everyone’s name begins with a different letter. She also noted that in Grandpa’s and my family everyone’s name begins with the same letter except for Uncle Tim. “How did that happen?” she asked. I responded with the same explanation I’d offered Tim more than two decades ago…

It was dinner time and Tim was uncharacteristically quiet. Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old son howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback because we had no idea that this bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” I hoped that telling Tim the truth would sooth his wounded spirit.

“Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t have any choice about that. When we had our first baby and he was a boy, Dad wanted to name him after himself and Grandpa. So his name is Mike, too. When you were on the way, I just knew you were going to be a boy. Dad and I talked a lot about your name, but I didn’t like any of the M names. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved Timothy and that’s why you have that name. Yours is the only name that this family really had to think about.” With that, Timothy finished his dinner with a smile.

I’m happy to report that my granddaughter accepted this explanation as well.

Dear God, please bless all of your children with grace and peace, especially those who question their place in your world today.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved