Write On…

I have written this to make you realize
that you possess eternal life…

1 John 5:13

One of the most enjoyable things I do is to write. This is an odd turn of events because it was extremely difficult for me to receive an “A” on creative writing assignments throughout high school. In college, I did slightly better only because most papers involved research and the recycling of established facts which involved little creativity on my part. Twenty-three years ago, my new pastor asked me to write “something inspirational that will fill a column or two” in our first parish bulletin. I surprised myself when I took this challenge. Somehow, I managed to bury my fear and to compose something acceptable in response.

Every week since, I have poured over the scriptures and my own life experiences to do the same. What began as a challenge has morphed into a welcome opportunity to spread the word –not my word, but the Good News that God’s Spirit has so generously revealed to me. Truly, I cannot help myself. What God has shared is simply too good to keep to myself!

Generous God, thank You for inspiring all of the moments of our lives. Help us to realize your loving presence in our labor and our leisure and in all that we do.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Open To The Message

While going through a closet the other day, I came across a small stack of books which I had read with my students years ago. I purchased these favorites because I hoped to share them with my potential grandchildren one day. As I set them aside for my granddaughters, images from my first assignment as a reading teacher came to mind.

When I set up my classroom that August, I promised myself that I would see to it that every one of my students learned to enjoy reading. It was early in the school year when I discovered that this would not be easy. Some of the other children whispered disparaging remarks, rolled their eyes or smirked when I collected my “remedial” students from their classrooms. These children who didn’t need “extra help” seemingly decided that there was something lacking in the children who did. Sadly, I realized that my own students were also inclined to define a pecking order to eliminate any question regarding who needed the most help. The greatest frustration of my teaching career, and of life in general for that matter, has been the willingness of some of us to hurt others by designating them as “outcasts.” This situation was no exception, and I quickly determined that I would do something about it.

I will be forever grateful for the love of books which my Children’s Literature professor passed on to me in college. Sister Mary Wojnicke assured me that, if I could get a child to pick up a book, getting that child to read it would be easy. With this in mind, I attempted to convince my students that their lives would not be complete if they didn’t explore each new book which I found for them. I amazed myself when I convinced a group of fifth graders to read a series of mysteries written at second grade level. These chapter books featured a primary grade detective. Though this would not normally appeal to older readers, I challenged my students to see if this little kid could actually solve a mystery.

After reading three books in the series, my students begged for more. By the end of that year, they were reading at the fourth grade level. Though they had a way to go, they were on the road to reading at grade level by the time they moved on to junior high school. The best part of this was that I didn’t have to lecture the classmates who made fun of my students. Some of them actually asked if they could come to my room to read those “cool” books. Though I couldn’t invite the little imps in for lessons, I did reward their change of heart by reading some of those “cool” books to their entire class. In the end, my students improved their reading skills, their classmates stopped making fun of them, and all concerned were excited, at least some of the time, about books.

In today’s gospel (Mark 1:21-28)), it is Jesus who finds a way to share his message. The people are ready and waiting for their Messiah, but are uncertain of where to look for him. On this particular day, Jesus goes to the synagogue to the scriptures and interpret their meaning. Jesus peaks the people’s interest because he teaches both knowledgeably and with an aura of authority. In the midst of Jesus’ lesson, a man stricken with an unclean spirit comes forward. The spirit within the man cries out, “I know who you are -The Holy One of God!” Jesus steps in immediately. Perhaps Jesus hopes that the people will come to know him on their own terms, rather than as the result of this seemingly supernatural encounter. So it is that Jesus orders the spirit to leave the man. When the spirit obeys, the people become more convinced than ever that this Jesus is indeed someone special. Mark tells us that from this day on Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee.

You know, when I convinced my students to read, I succeeded only because they opened themselves up to my message. Because they believed me, these reluctant readers turned page after page in search of the exciting stories which I assured them they would find. There, they encountered the adventures I had promised and they discovered just how capable they actually were. This is the challenge Jesus offered his neighbors in the synagogue that day and the challenge God extends to us today. If we reach beyond our comfort zones and our own painful places to the opportunities God offers, we will discover just how capable we are of loving God and loving one another. Just as my students transformed themselves into capable readers, we will transform ourselves into Christians who live the message far more capably than we ever expected. In the process, we might also transform this world into the worthy home God intends it to be.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make Your Difference

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:15-17

This scripture passage echoes recent posts with reason. Though each of us is gifted with unique gifts, we are all also burdened with our personal variety of frailties. Still, the Lord God has seen fit to place this world of ours into our hands. This is no empty gesture on God’s part. After all, it is God who created each one of us in the Divine’s image and likeness. God knows better than we do just how capable we are.

Today, I use this space to offer a challenge to myself and to anyone else who attends to this space. I encourage you to join me in setting aside your worry regarding the woes which trouble humankind these days. After praying with great fervor for world peace, look a bit closer to home. Is there something in your community, your neighborhood, your temple, your church, your workplace, your organization or in your own home which needs attention? Then, join me in asking yourself, “Is there something I can do to help?”

Let’s not discount even the smallest opportunity to do good. I am convinced that our efforts will make a difference somewhere to someone every time.

Caring God, open our hearts to your selfless love. Help us to love and care for one another as you care for us.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved