On My Way…

Dearly Beloved, we are God’s children now…
From 1 John 3:2

I decided to use a free afternoon to clean and organize my desk. I admit that I need to do this far more frequently than most people. Apparently, I find it impossible to part with a good quote, allegedly important notes or an inspiring story. This time, I found a wrinkled page of notes which summarized something I’d read about St. Therese of Lisieux a long time ago…

Therese who is lovingly referenced as The Little Flower didn’t always merit that designation. Poor Therese realized this at the ripe old age of thirteen. It was then that Therese realized the selfishness of her ways. Poor Therese was the youngest in her family and she was prone to tantrums whenever things upset her. It was Christmas Eve when she overheard a life-changing comment from her father. He suggested to Therese’s sisters that they get through Christmas Eve as quickly as possible so they could be finished with Therese’s outbursts for the day. Sadly, poor Therese had no idea that she’d caused so much pain for the people whom she loved most in this world. It was within minutes of hearing her father’s frustration wit her that Therese resolved to change her ways.

Year’s later, Therese described this event as her “Christmas Conversion”. It was from that moment on that Therese began to live according to what she later called her “Little Way.” Through all of this, Therese realized that God loved her just as her family had loved her in spite of herself. As a result, Therese spent the remainder of her short life convincing others that God loves them just as completely.

I admit that I stopped cleaning my desk long enough to considered my contributions to the world around me. Is “Mary’s Way” as honorable an endeavor as Therese’s had become? This gave me quite enough to think about as I finished cleaning my desk…

Loving God, you love us and you forgive us everything. This new year, be with us as we work on our own little ways of doing good.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Forgiven in Spite of Myself

That is why whoever breaks the least significant of these commands
and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God.

Matthew 5:19

Forgiveness is tough. It’s tough to forgive those who’ve hurt us and it’s tough to forgive ourselves. For decades, I allowed three events from my youth and teens to plague me. Though these wrongdoings were minor in the grand scheme of things, my guilt in their regard lingered mercilessly. Never mind that the victims of my mediocre transgressions told me long ago that they had no recollection of what occurred. Still, the guilt remained. It was my younger sister’s graceful approach to her own humanity just prior to her passing which inspired me to finally forgive myself.

You see, the verse I’ve cited from Matthew’s gospel doesn’t tell the entire story. When Jesus offered this remark to the disciples, he referenced far more serious infractions than my own. Then, after doing so, Jesus acknowledged that even those perpetrators would be given a place in God’s kingdom! My dear sister was certain that her welcome into the hereafter would be a most pleasant experience in spite of her honest self-appraisal. What was I thinking? Yes, God forgives us everything, even before we have the sense to say we’re sorry!

As I consider the guilt I bore for far too long, I imagine God looking down at the time shaking a finger at me. “For someone who knows so much about my love,” God seemed to say, “you certainly didn’t take it to heart!” With that image in mind, I encourage you to join me in doing the best we can, admitting when we mess up, knowing that God loves and forgives us and moving on!

Loving God, thank you for all of the encouragement!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Human as Human Can Be!

That is why whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches
others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God.

Matthew 5:19

Forgiveness is tough, especially in regard to ourselves. I can recall my misdeeds from decades ago in full detail. These lingering wrongdoings are minor in the grand scheme of things. Still, if I give them the time of day, they fill me with remorse. In some cases, the victims of my mediocre transgressions told me long ago that they have no recollection of what occurred. Nonetheless, I continue to feel guilty. If I allow myself to dwell on them, they paralyze me until I bury them in my psyche once again.

As I consider the verse above from Matthew’s gospel, I realize my foolishness. When Jesus offered this observation, he referenced far more significant infractions than my own. Jesus also went on to acknowledge that even those most guilty perpetrators would be given a place in God’s kingdom. Though I’m forgiven by both God and my fellow humans, I fail to forgive myself. I can’t help asking, “What am I thinking?” My answer is that I’m not thinking at all!

Rather than giving myself something more to regret, I’m going to take Jesus at his word. Today, I am letting go of my guilt and acknowledging that I’m only human. Just like the rest of God’s children, I am absolutely imperfect and I am absolutely loved!

Loving God, you bless me with my humanity. Help me to use this precious gift as only I can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Little Way

Dearly Beloved, we are God’s children now…
From 1 John 3:2

A few weeks before Christmas, I helped to plan a reconciliation service. My hope was to move those who would attend beyond their guilt to certainty of their forgiveness and their goodness.

As I looked through my notes, I found the service we’d used a few years earlier. Our associate pastor had given me a copy of his homily for that evening. I searched for inspiration as I perusing his words. Early on, I found Father Dave’s reference to St. Therese of Lisieux. He’d cited Therese’s realization -at age thirteen- that she’d seriously harmed her family and herself. Therese was prone to tantrums whenever things upset her. On Christmas Eve, she overheard a comment from her father which opened her eyes to what she’d done to her family and to herself. She’d held her family hostage with her outbursts. She’d also transformed herself into an extremely selfish person. With that realization, Therese resolved to change her ways. The timing prompted Therese to call this her “Christmas Conversion”. This change did take hold and Therese began to live according to what she would later call her “Little Way.” All the while, Therese knew that God loved her just as her family had loved her in spite of herself. As a result, in all that she said and did, Therese hoped to convince others that God loves them just as thoroughly.

As I continued my planning, I considered my contributions to my family’s well-being and to that of the world around me. Was “Mary’s Way” as honorable an endeavor as Therese’s had become? After reflecting upon that for a while, I realized that my efforts would be well placed if I did as Therese had done. I would encourage those who attended as Therese had encouraged me.

Loving God, you love us and you forgive us everything. This new year, be with us as we work on our own little ways of doing good.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Unexpected Peace

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.

Numbers 6:24-25

During Lent, my parish hosted a Reconciliation Service. This gathering gave those present the opportunity to acknowledge God’s mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Such gatherings usually begin with prayer followed by a gospel reading and homily. We continue with a short reflection which allows us to consider the things for which we might wish to express our contrition. The liturgy closes with an invitation to private confession for those interested.

It was my task to plan and to read at this liturgy. Because life was extremely busy during Lent and getting people to church on a week night can sometimes be challenging, I wanted to make this gathering as meaningful and comforting as possible. So it was that I invested my best effort. A few hours before I was to appear to serve as lector, my sister called with a request for my company. I determined that she needed me more than those who would gather at church that evening. When my husband offered to take my place, I drove off to my sister’s.

When we returned home later that evening, my husband shared what had transpired and I did the same. In the end, all went well and we both accomplished precisely what we had hoped. The peace we felt was tangible.

Thank you, loving God, for gifting us with your mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Most of all, thank you for empowering us to share these with one another.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Only Human

That is why whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God.
Matthew 5:19

Forgiveness is tough, especially in regard to oneself. Three events from my past haunt me. The truth is that these lingering wrongdoings are minor in the grand scheme of things. The victims of my mediocre transgressions told me long ago that they have no recollection of what occurred. Still, the guilt remains. When I dwell upon these truly minor incidents, they paralyze me until I stow them away for another day.

As I consider the verse I have cited from Matthew’s gospel, I realize the foolishness of my guilt. When Jesus offered this remark to the disciples, he referenced far more significant infractions than my own. Jesus went on to acknowledge that even these perpetrators would be given a place in God’s kingdom! I dealt with my offenses long ago when I offered apologies to my victims and contrition to my God. Perhaps the underlying issue is that I consider myself “above” the things I have done. Though I am forgiven by both God and my fellow humans, I cannot forgive myself. If I do so, I acknowledge my frailty and the reality that I may be unkind once again.

Perhaps today is the day that I must free myself from that guilt and acknowledge that I am only human -just like all of God’s children!

Loving God, you bless me with my humanity. Help me to use this precious gift as only I can.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved