Holy Week… Holy Thursday

When the hour arrived, he took his
place at table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, “I have greatly desired to eat
this Passover with you…”

Luke 22:14

In Jerusalem, there is a church next door to the Upper Room. I was deeply moved by my visit to the Upper Room though archaeologists are certain that this is not the actual location of the Last Supper. That nearby church doesn’t claim to be this holy place either. Still, the life-size sculpture of the Last Supper inside that church certainly gave me reason to pause. While I was moved by the large figures seated at a stone table who brought that amazing night to life, it was the lone statue of Mary Magdalene which assured me that, had I been there, Jesus would have welcomed me in as well.

I chose to share Luke’s passage regarding the Last Supper because it captures the sense of homecoming which overwhelmed me throughout my stay in Israel. Jesus seemed to say, “I have greatly desired to spend this time with you.” At every turn, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in a particular place or within the people there. Sometimes, God came in strangers and sometimes in those with whom I traveled. Our dear tour guide Yossi would blush upon hearing how often his words and kindness and musical interludes ushered me into God’s company.

On this Holy Thursday, the same words are spoken to each one of us… I have greatly desired to eat this meal and to spend this time with you! Though our churches are locked and our opportunities to break bread at the same table with those we love are nonexistent these days, we can still express Jesus’ sentiments to those we’ve been given to love. We can break bread together in spirit through a phone call or text message, a greeting card or an email. Be creative and share the love!

Dear God, thank you for the example of Jesus’ creative generosity.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Week… Wednesday

Then Jesus went with them to a place called
Gethsemane. He said to his disciples,
“Stay here while I go over there and pray.”

Matthew 26:36

In Israel, the Garden of Gethsemane rests next to the Church of All Nations. I can’t help making my own interpretation of this architectural juxtaposition. The church’s name acknowledges the many countries which contributed to its construction. For me, the church’s name designates much more. Jesus opened his heart to his fellow Jewish people as well as to many others who were ostracized by their communities. Jesus made room for anyone who longed for his company. It seems to me that Jesus was teacher, preacher and caretaker to all nations, just as we should be.

Though this grand church’s architecture draws tourists’ eyes from afar, it is the garden at its side which beckoned me nearer. In this place, Jesus opened his heart to us all once again. When I arrived, I was reluctant to step onto this holy ground. A lifetime of images I’d created in my head and in my heart filled me up as I imagined Jesus’ praying there so long ago. It was Jesus’ custom to go off by himself when he turned to his Abba in prayer and this evening was no exception. Though I cannot know the content of their prior conversations, this night the talk between Father and Son had taken an extremely serious turn. This night, after consulting with his Father one last time, Jesus chose to continue the journey which has made all of the difference in this world to me and to us all.

As I look out my window this morning, I consider that garden in faraway Israel. Though we have several decades-old trees in our yard, none can compete with the centuries-old olive trees which grace the garden where Jesus committed himself to the trauma of his final days. Still, my relatively youthful trees remind me of Jesus’ endurance. During the most difficult days of his live, Jesus did what he had to do. On this Wednesday of Holy Week, all God asks is that we persist as well. Like Jesus, we must do what we have to do even if that means simply staying home, staying safe and staying well…

Dear God, we know you are with during these difficult days. Thank you!!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I’m With You…

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:49-50

Of all of the places I visited in Israel, I found Jerusalem to be the most unsettling. Its present-day inhabitants seemed more harried and focused on the moment at hand than their counterparts in less populated areas. I imagined that Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem were more taxing than the time spent in other places as well. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and images from the Holy Land and the first Holy Week swirl about in my mind. I wasn’t in Jerusalem two thousand years ago and I don’t know what my response to Jesus would have been if I had been there. I am here now and I can only be certain of my response to Jesus today. Still, I’ll turn back time and imagine myself in Jesus’ company long ago…

While Jesus and the disciples enter Jerusalem, Caiaphas unfolds his plan. He is determined to see to the demise of Jesus-The Trouble-Maker who has interfered with the high priest’s hold on the people. Poor Caiaphas has missed everything that Jesus said regarding God’s mercy and inclusiveness and unconditional love. Poor Caiaphas is blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his stature and his power. Caiaphas missed Jesus’ assertion that each one of us, including Caiaphas himself, is worth everything Jesus would endure in coming week.

I think it’s important to keep Jesus’ assertion in mind as we continue our worldwide battle against COVID-19. Though none of us can be certain of when that vaccine and cure will be discovered, we can be certain of God’s love for us and of our need to love one another through these difficult days. Like Jesus, it’s up to each of us to do what we can to care for those who share our little corners of this world with us.

Loving God, be with us as we love one another through this very difficult time.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Thursday… Jesus’ Last Supper

When the hour arrived, he took his
place at table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, “I have greatly desired to eat
this Passover with you…”

Luke 22:14

I know I shared this just a few days ago, but I must return to Jerusalem and the monastery chapel next door to The Upper Room. I was deeply moved by my visit to the Upper Room though archaeologists are reasonably certain that this is not the location of Jesus’ Last Supper. That nearby monastery doesn’t claim to be this holy place either. Still, the life-size sculpture of the Last Supper certainly gave me reason to pause. While I was moved by the large figures who brought that amazing night to life, it was the lone statue of Mary Magdalene which assured me that, had I been there, Jesus would have welcomed me in as well.

I chose to share Luke’s passage regarding the Last Supper because it captures the sense of homecoming which overwhelmed me throughout my stay in Israel. Jesus seemed to say, “I have greatly desired to spend this time with you.” At every turn, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in a particular place or within the people there. Sometimes, God came in strangers and sometimes in those with whom I traveled. Our dear tour guide Yossi would blush upon hearing how often his words and kindness and musical interludes ushered me into God’s company.

On this Holy Thursday, the same words are spoken to each one of us… I have greatly desired to eat this meal and to spend this time with you!

Dear God, though I know what followed that meal, tonight I celebrate this time at table together.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I’m Here…

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:49-50

Of all of the places I visited in Israel, I found Jerusalem to be the most unsettling. Its present-day inhabitants seemed more hurried and focused on the moment at hand than their counterparts in less populated areas. I imagined that Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem were more taxing than the time spent in other places as well. As Palm Sunday approaches, images from the Holy Land and the first Holy Week swirl about in my mind. I wasn’t in Jerusalem two thousand years ago and I don’t know what my response to Jesus would have been if I’d been there. I am here now and I can only be certain of my response to Jesus today. Still, I’ll turn back time and imagine myself in Jesus’ company long ago…

While Jesus and the disciples prepared to enter Jerusalem, Caiaphas unfolded his plan. He was determined to see to the demise of Jesus-The Trouble-Maker who interfered with the high priest’s hold on the people. Poor Caiaphas had missed everything of importance that Jesus said regarding God’s mercy and inclusiveness and unconditional love. Poor Caiaphas was blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his stature and his power. Caiaphas missed Jesus’ assertion that each one of us, including Caiaphas, is worth anything and everything Jesus would endure in coming week.

As for me, I’ve decided to turn the tables on Jesus as well. Rather than waiting for him to find me, I will find Jesus in his hour of need.

Merciful God, though I wasn’t present to make the choice to be with Jesus that first Holy Week, I’m here today.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In Jesus’ Footsteps

Jesus went with them to a place called
Gethsemane. He said to his disciples,
“Stay here while I go over there and pray.”

Matthew 26:36

This year, we returned to the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden rests next to the Church of All Nations. During last year’s visit, I thought I’d taken in every detail of the garden and the church. As I retraced my steps, I found that I was mistaken.

Though I’d walked in Jesus’ footsteps for days, it was Gethsemane which beckoned me to more. Walking this hallowed ground left me yearning for something I couldn’t identify. It was in this place that Jesus poured out his heart. It was here after his last supper that the talk between Father and Son took an ominous turn. That night, Jesus understood far too clearly all that was in store for him. That night, after consulting with his Father one last time, Jesus chose to continue the journey which has made all of the difference in this world to me and to us all.

As I walked away from the garden to visit the church, I couldn’t shake my uneasiness. Finally, while walking along a lushly planted path, a large stone grotto startled me. “How could I have missed this last year?” I’d hardly finished my question when I saw the small brass-colored sculpture nestled in the rock. This tiny bit of artwork depicts a forlorn Jesus draped over a tree stump with his head buried in his arms. At that moment, I knew that Jesus would have done it all just for me. Jesus would have done it all for any one of us. Walking in Jesus’ footsteps suddenly took on new meaning.

This is the reason I began Lent 2018 determined to acknowledge Jesus’ friendship every day. It’s the least I can do after the time he spent with me in Israel and everywhere else I’ve been.

Dear Jesus, thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved