All God’s Poor

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

This is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis’s transition from a life of comfort to a life of poverty was absolute. I write “absolute” because, after leaving everything else behind, Francis stripped himself naked as he walked away from his family’s wealth. With that, Francis embraced the lot of the poorest of the poor who lacked even clothing enough to cover themselves. Though I won’t detail all that happened next, know that Francis remained true to his commitment to the poor for the rest of his life.

When I consider the poor, my thoughts turn to those with dire material needs. Francis’s lifelong generosity inspires my own efforts to assist them. As I reflect further, I remind myself that God’s definition of “the poor” is more inclusive. Some among us are materially rich, but also experience need deep within where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing secure lives, the rest of us sometimes lose our grip on the things which are most important. Francis of Assisi inspired many in this situation to turn their attention from their own treasures to wealth as God sees it.

We’re all counted among God’s poor at one time or another. This much-loved group includes us whenever this life robs us of the things we need. Whether we’re lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parents, we’re in need. Whether we’re besought by a stack of bills or by the demons within us, we’re in need. Francis of Assisi would respond by offering us what we need at the moment and by insisting that, in spite of our other needs, we always have enough of God’s love to get by. I wholeheartedly agree.

Loving God, you recognize our poverty in all of its forms. Thank you for your generous response.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Random Acts of Peace

Be compassionate, as God is compassionate.
From Luke 6:36

My words fail me as I attempt to express the life-changing and life-giving nature of our trip to Israel. Every day, the people we encountered and the sites we visited touched me deeply in indescribable ways. Even the seemingly simplest interactions etched unforgettable lessons into my heart.

Our day in Akko was no longer than any other, yet it remains with me as though I was there yesterday. A member of our tour wasn’t feeling well. Nancy, our tour-organizer, immediately attended to our friend. (I call her “friend” as we couldn’t possibly have shared so much on so many levels without also developing affection for one another!) Though “facilities” were usually conveniently available, there was nothing nearby at the time. After visually scanning our locale, Nancy decided to approach a shop for assistance. Though we were obviously tourists visiting Christian sites with our Jewish guide, this Muslim shop-owner and staff immediately responded when Nancy explained the situation. Our friend was invited to rest and to take care of her needs for as long as necessary. When she and Nancy returned, they couldn’t hide their gratitude for the warm and welcoming assistance they’d received.

Our friend enjoyed the rest of that day for good reason. Nancy had responded to her with compassionate action and that wonderful shop-owner and cohort did more than she dared to hope for. Of course she felt much better!

Loving God, thank you for the instruments of your peace who grace our paths every day.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make Peace, Not War

Justice shall flower in his days
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.

Psalm 72:7

In Israel, we visited as many sites as possible every day. Our day in Akko was no exception. When we climbed onto the bus afterward, I was grateful for the opportunity to absorb all that we’d just experienced. I offered a silent prayer in thanksgiving for this and for our guide Yossi. His musical interludes dispelled our fatigue and opened our hearts to the beauty and truths and questions and reflection inspired by every encounter.

Akko had certainly given me much to think about. I was completely taken by the peaceful environs in which Muslims and Christians live and worship together there. Still, I was troubled by the woes which preceded the peaceful coexistence they enjoy today. As is the case with many of Israel’s cities, Akko’s location made it an attractive conquest to those seeking a local stronghold or a gateway to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Crusader’s punctuated Akko’s history with conquests and losses which led to much bloodshed. Though the Crusades were fought with seemingly lofty intent, current events here and throughout the world compel me to question much of what we humans purport to do in God’s name. Do any of us actually believe that we serve God by harming and even taking the life of another? After all, if we believe what we say we believe, that “other” is also one of God’s children.

Merciful God, please forgive my repetition as I ask once again that you make each of us an instrument of your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Francis of Assisi

This is October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I have spent a good deal of time trying to put into words the wonderful lessons which Francis offered through his simple, yet extremely meaningful, inspiring and humanity-changing life.

As I contemplate what Francis’ influence has meant to me, I realize that he is one of the truly amazing souls who echoes the teachings of Jesus in both his words and his deeds. Francis did his best to put God and God’s people before himself. Francis became so familiar with our Loving Creator that he found God’s image not only in other people, but also in God’s creatures and Nature itself. Yes, Francis truly appreciated the oneness of all things and the unmistakable presence of God in all things. No wonder Francis prayed as he did. He understood that when he served others, he served God and himself as well.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved