God’s Enduring Love

A time to love…
From Ecclesiastes 3:8

Sometimes, circumstances around us and circumstances within our hearts evoke feelings far from love. When bad things happen to those we care for or those who cannot defend themselves, it’s difficult not to feel hatred toward the responsible parties. At the same time, we’re frequently amazed and inspired by victims who have been ravaged by the evil deeds of others and yet find it in their hearts to forgive.

There is something deep within each of us which urges us to find God’s love in the moments of our lives and to share that love with others. Though I cannot explain why some of us seem to experience God’s love more tangibly than others, I am convinced that God’s love is present within each of us just the same.

It’s suddenly clear to me that this is the reason I write. I simply can’t help spreading the word regarding God’s love for us. I’m convinced that God’s love has carried me through the best and the worst times of my life. When no one else understands my pain, God does. If you take nothing else away from these writings, please take the assurance that God loves you!

God of Love, you dwell within each of us. Please rumble a bit more noisily within those of us who doubt.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Merciful

Blessed are they who show mercy;
mercy shall be theirs.

Matthew 5:7

Many beautiful churches, mosques and chapels flank the holy places within Israel’s borders. The Mount of the Beatitudes is no exception. The Church of The Beatitudes was built in 1938 for the Franciscan Sisters. Our guide shared an unexpected aspect of the building’s history. It was funded by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Though history seems to indicate otherwise, I hope that Jesus who first spoke The Beatitudes touched this tyrant in some way.

Our guide also pointed out that the dome of this church is eight-sided. Each side depicts one of Jesus’ “Blest are…” statements. As I consider Jesus’ radical stance in viewing the most troubled of us as blessed, I cannot help thinking of Mussolini and the many other dictators who have ravaged our world. Mussolini seems to have been inspired by his father who was an outspoken anti-cleric. Why did his father’s message take hold over everything else he learned?

I cannot explain Mussolini’s actions any more than I can explain those of the others who have marred our history with their atrocities. However, I think I can explain Jesus’ thinking when he encountered such evildoing. It was sixty years ago. My widowed aunt and her children lived in the flat below us. It was late at night when a mugger brutally beat my aunt as she returned from her job cleaning office buildings downtown. The following morning, my mother told us what had happened. We scrambled down the stairs to wish our aunt well. Bruised and disfigured as she was, my aunt told us, “I’m praying hard for that guy. Can you imagine the terrible things that must have happened to him to make him do this to me? You need to pray for him, too.”

When Jesus looked into the eyes of the suffering and of those who caused that suffering, he saw everything that brought them to the moment at hand. Today, I’ll pray for all of us who are doing terrible things to others and I’ll pray for their victims. I’ll also replace my own unkind urges with mercy. I can’t afford to contribute any more suffering to this world of ours. None of us can.

Merciful God, give us loving and merciful hearts like yours.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Look Past The Dust

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

While cleaning up after we completed our holiday decorating, I noticed a cobweb in the corner of the living room just above our Christmas Tree. Because we display a village and crèche beneath the tree, it was impossible for me to reach and remove that pesky string of dust. I tried everything, including extending a broom handle in its direction. Nothing worked. Though I was tempted to brood about this mini-eyesore, I decided to use my effort a bit more constructively…

There are many cobwebs in my life. They serve as small reminders of annoyances of every sort and size which usually remain out of sight. Occasionally, when I’m having a bad day or not feeling my best, I allow these “mini-eyesores” to monopolize my attention. Though dozens of blessings surround me, I overlook them in order to focus upon one annoying cobweb or another. Though I can’t reach that pesky cobweb which still reigns over my Christmas Tree, I can reach inside to dispel the cobwebs within me.

On that first Christmas, there was likely a cobweb or two in the cave that housed the Holy Family. I’m quite certain that if those cobwebs were there, Mary and Joseph never noticed them. They had a far greater blessing to attend to and so do I!

Loving God, give me eyes that see the good around me and give me a heart which forgives the rest.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Wrapped and Rapt With Love

“When he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20-21

We cherish our best friends. They know what is on our minds before we do. They can finish our sentences. They help us through the most difficult times of our lives and they share our greatest joys. The impact which a best friend has upon any of us is beyond words. That being said, I’m going to use my feeble words to share with you one of the greatest things my Best Friend has done for me…

I’ve often told those who are close to me that I truly appreciate the way Jesus of Nazareth asked us to live. I like Jesus’ acceptance of each of us for who we are and I like his command that we love one another. Jesus values humility and service and so do I. Most of all, I appreciate knowing that there is nothing I can do that is unforgivable in God’s eyes. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is among Jesus’ greatest gifts to me because it promises that God’s love is unconditional. It promises that God’s love is a constant offering to you and me. Though any one of us can spend an entire lifetime rejecting God’s love, God’s embrace awaits us just the same.

Loving God, did you know that these would be the words powerful enough to encourage all of humanity for a billion lifetimes? Did you know that these would be the words which I so desperately need to hear again and again and again?

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A History Lesson

Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us…

From Psalm 79:8

A recent gathering reminded me of just how much I’ve forgotten. When a family member reminded me of a childhood incident which she thought had devastated me, I was hard-pressed to recall what had actually happened. Fortunately for me, I usually let these things go. The scar left by this particular injury faded into nothingness long ago.

I admit that there are a very few unpleasant memories which remain close to the surface. Though I never dwell on them, they do induce goosebumps or a queasy stomach if I give them the time of day. I never choose to think about these things. Still, a single word sometimes evokes memories which I cannot control. At times such as these, I take a deep breath and look upward. It helps to know that God knows my pain even better than I do.

We all add to our personal histories with every breath we take. This is no problem when joy accompanies those breaths. Unfortunately, the realities of this life include both good and bad events. It seems to me that the best we can do is to learn from them all. When someone or something hurts us, we try never to impose the same pain on others. When something brings us joy, we find ways to bring similar joy to those we have been given to love.

Loving God, thank you for walking with us as we make history with one another as best we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

M is for Mercy

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him and was deeply moved.
He ran out to meet him,
threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

M is for Mercy. Of all of the characteristics Jesus exhibited, I find mercy to be the most powerful. Jesus taught mercy masterfully through his interactions with others. He underscored these lessons with his unconditional love for those whom he met along the way. Jesus solidified all of this with the endearing image of God which he offered in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. If any of us question our ability to be lovingly and mercifully forgiven, this story dispels all doubt…

In Jesus’ community, a request for an early inheritance insulted a parent gravely. The offending child essentially demanded, “Behave as though you’re dead so I can have my money.” According to the parable, in spite of his son’s selfishness and disregard for his feelings, that father gave his son what he asked. The son responded by leaving town and squandering every cent. When he was left to find work tending swine, the young man had reached rock bottom. In the end, he realized his wrong-doing and returned home to work for his father as a servant. He knew he was unworthy and undeserving of anything more. As the passage from Luke tells us, this father would have none of it. At the sight of his son, mercy and love filled up the man and spilled out onto this child whom he welcomed home with an embrace.

Though Jesus revealed God’s love for us in everything he said an did, Jesus revealed God’s essence in this simple story of mercy.

Merciful God, your willingness to forgive us everything and to love us in spite of it all is more than we could ever have hoped for. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved