For Me?

O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion,
wipe out my offense…
wash me from my guilt…

From Psalm 51:3-4

I’m often told that I have a selective memory. The worst of my personal history lies very deep within me. The best of it glows in a rose-colored aura that attests to the many blessings -mostly in the form of people- which have made me who I am today. Occasionally, something unexpected jars one of those dark recollections which would be best left forgotten. Though the transgression which comes to mind has long since been forgiven and forgotten by both my victim and my God, I dwell on it until my guilt peaks and I can’t bear it any longer. Only then do I bury this reminiscence once again with the hope that I’ve buried it deep enough this time…

There is some good news here. Since I began writing these daily reflections, I’ve felt increasingly obliged to practice what I preach. If I write of God’s merciful love for others, I’d better believe that this love is meant for me as well. If I write that the transgressions of others are forgiven and forgotten in a millisecond, I’d better believe that forgiveness is also mine.

Dear God, I know that these wonderful gifts are meant for me, too. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Instinctively Good

Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.

Psalm 112:4

I’ve been blessed by the kindness of many people. When I thank them for their efforts, they respond, “It was nothing!” or “Don’t be silly!” or “What did I do?” Their good deeds are so habitual that they fail to realize the impact they have upon the rest of us.

It seems to me that this is what “being good” is all about: Simply doing our best to respond lovingly to those we meet along the way. Many times, our smile will be enough. Occasionally, time spent just listening will do the trick. Sometimes, we will need to give of our talents or our treasure to make things right for a suffering soul. Whatever the case, it seems that our gut instincts serve us well when it comes to doing good. I think that those internal urges which nudge us toward our good deeds are strategically inspired by our very wise Creator. All we need to do is respond.

Creator God, you fashioned us with a natural desire to do good. Help us never to miss an opportunity to live up to your expectations.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Valentines All…

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my loved one in whom I delight.

From Matthew 12:18

Though this day is no longer officially designated St. Valentine’s Day on our church calendars, I’m compelled to pay homage to my childhood idol. For as long as I can remember, I happily celebrated the good Valentine who bolstered the spirits of others by sending messages of love from his prison cell. This is also my mother’s birthday, a worthy coincidence since I learned my first lessons in love from her.

This February 14, this nation and our world give us too many reasons to cling to doubt and to question the concept of love. Though we do our best to nurture love within our families and among our loved ones, it’s difficult to make a dent in the misery of Planet Earth as a whole. Still, we plug along because we’re convinced that love is the source of true happiness.

Today, will you join me in trying to emulate the spirit of St. Valentine? While school children everywhere share heart-covered cards with their classmates and teachers, will you join me in sharing morsels of love with those we meet along the way? Perhaps we can all become Valentines today and every day, one loving act at a time. Together, let’s chip away at the despair of this world just enough to reveal the hope that comes to those who know love.

God of Love, help us to love one another as you love us and thank you for those you have given us to love and for those who love us.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Solitude

After he had dismissed them,
he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone.

Matthew 14:23-24

I enjoy being with people. Whether at a party, out together for a show and dinner or visiting after Mass at church, I enjoy being with people. I will normally choose to spend a day out with others rather than staying home alone. Still, after a series of gatherings or a vacation which immersed me in crowds twenty-four/seven, I long for solitude. Though I’m grateful for the company of others, I’m also grateful to be in my own company as well. These quiet times allow me to regroup, replenish and renew my spirit.

In this technological era, it’s difficult to find time alone. Even when we’re the only passenger on a bus, the only patient waiting in the doctor’s office or at home by ourselves, our cell phones, tablets and other devices provide a constant stream of information, wanted and otherwise. These days, it’s quite possible never to have experienced a moment of quiet during a given day’s waking hours.

It occurs to me that Jesus experienced the same type of bombardment throughout his ministry. When Jesus found himself too tired or drained to go on, he stole away to be alone. Yes, there is something to be said for regrouping, replenishing and renewing our spirits even for Jesus.

I enjoy being with people. Still, I must remember that I’m one of the people with whom I need to spend some time.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of others and for the gift of ourselves.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Glimpses of God

Since the creation of the world, invisible realities,
God’s eternal powers and divinity, have become visible
through the things God has made.

Romans 1:20

I’ve shared often that I love the outdoors. Though I’m not a mountain climber, boater, skier or even a seasoned hiker, I do enjoy brisk walks in any weather. It matters little if I’m exploring new territory or retracing steps I’ve taken for a dozen years. Whichever the case, I always manage to find something new to appreciate along the way. It seems to me that God intended these amazing discoveries when God orchestrated the creation of this world and the universe which surrounds us. Though I’d like to think that I’ve come to appreciate a bit about God throughout the decades, I admit that I’ve failed to scratch the surface of the Almighty.

With so much in nature to learn about God, imagine how much more we humans have to teach one another about our Maker! After all, of the things God has created, we humans are the ones who are made in God’s image. Perhaps I need to give a second and third and hundredth look toward my brother and sister humans. Perhaps it is in these amazing discoveries that I will finally scratch the surface and revel in a glance at God’s essence.

Creator God, help me to find you in all of the work of your hands, especially in the people with whom you have graced my path.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Salt and Light for the World

After I read today’s scripture passages, I quickly turned to the journal I kept during our recent trip to the Holy Land. Jesus’ insistence that his disciples were the salt of the earth and the light of the world elicited fond memories of our Israeli guide. As I read through my notes, I pictured Yossi who insisted upon many things throughout our stay. Beside the standard directives, Yossi insisted that we pray. He insisted that we must pray for peace among the Israeli people because we can pray and he cannot. Yossi was raised in a communist kibbutz where God was never mentioned. So it was, Yossi insisted, that he never learned to pray. Later, Yossi observed that many of his countrymen and woman who do acknowledge God in their lives focus upon a vindictive and punishing God. Yossi insisted that this deity must be replaced by the compassionate and merciful God of Jesus. This seemed to be a surprising assessment from a self-proclaimed non-believer. This comment offered one of many indications that Yossi might not be the secular Israeli he claimed to be.

Throughout our stay, Yossi introduced us to many Jewish, Muslim and Christian acquaintances who exhibited a similar desire for unity. We found that Israelis who practice no faith at all desire unity within their nation as well. Yossi insisted repeatedly that Jesus’ influence is needed to achieve peace among his people. With that end in mind, Yossi reiterated his request that that we pray in full earnest for his country and its neighbors. Every time Yossi did this, I marveled at his faith in our tiny band of travelers. This is the reason Yossi came to mind when I read today’s gospel. Through all of his insistence, Yossi echoed Jesus’ sentiments regarding our value in the grand scheme of things. Apparently, Yossi saw us as the salt of the earth and the light of the world just as Jesus saw his followers.

It was when we neared the Mount of the Beatitudes that Yossi read from Chapter 5 of Matthew’s gospel. He began at the beginning by listing the Beatitudes before going on to today’s verses regarding salt and light. Yossi reminded us that salt was an extremely valuable commodity in Jesus’ day. Soldiers were often paid their wages in salt. Salt was the only means to preserve food at the time and it was a popular means to flavor food. Salt was even used to seal dirt roofs to protect them from the rain. Light was another matter. Though the sun could be scorching by day, its reflection in the night moon provided perfect light for traveling from place to place in desert conditions. The tiny oil lamps used in Jesus’ day assaulted the darkness with their small, but mighty glow. Yes, salt and light were extremely valuable and important commodities in the lives of Jesus’ contemporaries. Jesus knew exactly what he was saying when he called his disciples the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 5:13-15) tells us that when Jesus spoke to the crowds on the mount that day, he offered these promises, “Blest are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blest are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blest are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…” Jesus listed eight conditions which the world viewed as suffering and then he insisted that the best of God’s blessings would be given in response to each one. After offering these guarantees for happiness to the crowds, Jesus turned to his disciples to insist further, “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world.” Jesus challenged his closest friends to be the salt which would enrich those around them and the light which would guide those who couldn’t yet see the path which led to God. Jesus left no uncertainty regarding how this would be accomplished. Once again, Jesus used his most insistent voice to say, “…your light must shine before others.” Jesus knew that when the people experienced the salt and light which his disciples offered, they would take God’s offer of peace, mercy and compassion to heart.

I admit that I found Yossi’s ongoing insistence that we pray and that we share our God to be quite a challenge. Though I’d prayed seemingly forever, I had left my own country in turmoil and I didn’t expect things to be much better upon my return. The disciples’ trepidation filled me up every time Yossi insisted upon our help. How could any of us be the salt and the light which the Holy Land needs, which our own country needs, which those suffering far more than we so desperately need? Still, Yossi persisted just as Jesus did. In the end, Jesus reassured his followers with his insistence and his faith in them as he sent them on their way. Yossi reassured me and my fellow travelers by insisting, “You can do it!” God reassures each one of us with the same. Whenever we are salt or light, God sends us out with the hopeful insistence that we will transform our world one loving deed at a time.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved