No Greater Love…

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved,
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”

John 19:26-27

When I traveled to Israel, I saw examples of the whips used for scourging. Most men couldn’t tolerate the pain of even ten strikes with such a whip. Jesus endured thirty. I saw vines which resembled the thorny crown which was pressed into Jesus’ scalp. The purple cloak draped over Jesus’ torn flesh added to his misery. When onlookers refused their mercy, Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified. As I walked the path to Calvary, I wondered how anyone made it there to die. I’ve mentioned those nails before, the ones that soldier pounded through Jesus’ wrists. How did he bear that pain?

In spite of all of this, as he hanged on that cross just minutes from death, Jesus opened his heart to those who kept vigil. He opened his heart to us as well. Jesus seemed to think that we all needed to be cared for far more than he did. So it was that Jesus called his mother and his friend to treat one another as family from that day forward. Jesus calls you and me to do the same.

I have no doubt that Jesus would have endured all of this for any one of us. As he hanged dying, Jesus spent himself to find every lost sheep; Jesus extended mercy to all of God’s prodigal children; Jesus offered the ultimate price for the rare pearl. Though the jealousy and fear of some had driven them to see to Jesus’ death, the faith and good will of many others urged him on. When Jesus endured crucifixion, he began to write the rest of the story which he’d tell on Easter morning.

Loving God, there is no greater gift than the love you revealed through Jesus. Thank you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Beloved Servants

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet and
dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:4-5

Amazing, isn’t it? Jesus knew all that was in store for him, yet he persisted. The rumblings among the people weren’t muffled enough to shield him from the probabilities which would begin to unfold within hours. Still, Jesus set aside his worry to serve those he had been given to love. I was gifted with a mom who followed Jesus’ lead precisely…

When my sisters and I gathered with heavy hearts to tell our mom the results of her surgery. The doctor had removed her eighty-two year old gall bladder with great success. Unfortunately, the disease which resulted in this procedure had spread to other organs. Nothing more could be done except to keep our mom as comfortable as possible.

When we shared this news with her, our mom immediately declared, “I’ve had a good long life. I wanted to leave a family that contributed and I have. I hope I can do what I want to do for as long as I can.” With that, our mom went on to say that she would no longer need the bedrooms she used at my sister’s and my homes. She would become a permanent resident of the facility we’d selected for her recovery. When she settled into her new home, our mom continued to do everything she could to make her eventual passing as easy as possible for us. This was her custom, you know. Our mom always put others before herself.

Tonight, as we wait with Jesus, let’s pick up our own basins and towels. Someone nearby needs his or her feet to be washed as only we can.

Dear God, we will wait through this night with Jesus just as you always wait with us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Saying Good-Bye

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”
John 13:33

Though my husband retired from his work as a hospice chaplain, he continued to visit a few of his former patients and the spouses of a few others for several years afterward. The loss of the last of Mike’s hospice friends returned my thoughts to this important work.

Choosing to accept hospice services is difficult at best. After all, this admission acknowledges the reality that ones days are numbered. The good news is that this admission is also an invitation to pull back some of the artillery and to negotiate peace with ones impending journey home. My husband never ceased to be amazed by the calm which settled upon his patients as they approached their last days. Their acceptance of the things to come seemed to free them to enjoy the days they had while tying up loose ends as best they could. When his patients offered their final farewells, Mike rejoiced with them because they had achieved certain peace at last. Though I didn’t accompany Mike on these journeys, I joined my brother, my mom and my sister when they walked the same path. Like Mike, I was amazed by the calm which enveloped them and by the generosity with which they responded to we who were left behind.

That first Holy Week, Jesus knew that his days were numbered as well. Still, Jesus took the time to savor his last meal with his friends. Jesus took the time to reflect and to embrace what lay ahead. While others planned his demise, Jesus’ acceptance freed him to share his final lessons with those he loved.

Dear God, while I walk with Jesus this week, fill me with the peace and courage which allowed Jesus to love us even as he endured his passion.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be There For Him

“You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.”

John 12:8

An unexpected “invitation” to babysit for our granddaughters urged me to organize and to prioritize in short order. After adjusting my schedule and completing another of the tasks at hand, I sat to relax at our kitchen table. Though this isn’t our home’s most comfortable place to sit, its position next to a large patio door makes it very special. The views of our backyard and side yard that day included the greening lawn and budding bushes. Nature’s miraculous resurrection hinted at all that Jesus accomplished that first Holy Week so long ago. “There’s a story here,” I told myself.

I didn’t continue my musing because a gentle tap distracted me. A lovely dove sat staring at me from the large barren flowerpot outside that patio door. Though such visitors usually fly off when I draw closer, the dove remained, content to stare back at me. A ray of sunshine caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. As I wondered what this dove was up to, it occurred to me that she likely wondered the same about me. This is Holy Week, the week I’d promised to walk with Jesus.

I’d promised to recall all that happened to Jesus and to be there for him. My beautiful feathered friend encouraged me to do just that. I returned to the story which had come to mind a minute earlier. I put myself in Jesus’ shadow as it unfolded. Though I wasn’t able to change the outcome, I changed everything simply by being there.

This week, it’s our turn to love and to comfort and to be there for this Jesus who changed everything for us.

Dear God, thank you for that sweet dove’s reminder to express my appreciation tangibly by keeping watch with Jesus.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In Jesus’ Footsteps…

He emptied himself
taking the form of a slave,
being born in our likeness.

Philippians 2:7

It is Palm Sunday Eve. I’m involved in Holy Week preparations at church. As a result, images of the first Holy Week swirl about in my mind. Though I’ve tried to set aside time to spend with God every day throughout Lent, Holy Week is a special opportunity for me to do this. 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 today I’m certain of my response to Jesus, to his example and to his teachings. So it is that I focus on those images from so long ago…

While Jesus and the disciples prepared to enter Jerusalem, Caiaphas began to execute his plan. He would see to the demise of the Good Shepherd, the one who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. Poor Caiaphas had missed everything of importance which Jesus had said regarding God’s mercy and inclusiveness and unconditional love. Poor Caiaphas was blinded and deafened by his own 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 during the week ahead.

This coming week, I plan to turn the tables on Jesus as well. Rather than waiting for my Good Shepherd to find me, I will find Jesus in his hour of need. I will walk with him every step of the way.

Loving God, Jesus emptied himself for love of you and for love of me. Amen.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

What Shall I Do With Him?

Pilate said, “Then what shall I do with this Jesus…?”
From Matthew 27:22

In just seven days, we’ll observe Good Friday. Where have the first thirty-four days of Lent 2019 gone? It occurs to me that I need to adjust my focus and to make the most of the coming week. My husband’s recent battle with lingering flu symptoms and my own cold have drained our energy. These things have lengthened our to-do lists and shortened the time I usually invest in writing. Still, my husband and I are recovering. We will catch up one of these days. In the mean time, I return my thoughts to the coming week and to this Jesus who puzzled poor Pilate so. I offer a prayer for this Roman Procurator who couldn’t bring himself to deal with Jesus justly. Though Pilate sensed that those who brought Jesus before him had less than honorable intentions, he couldn’t move beyond his fear to question their intentions. Rather, he allowed that relentless mob to lead him.

This same Jesus rarely puzzles me. It is Jesus who revealed God’s limitless love and mercy to me. It is Jesus who inspires me to love my neighbors and enemies alike and to stop along the way to help anyone who needs me. Though I fail too often, it is Jesus who encourages me to try, try again to do my best. This is all that Jesus -and God whom Jesus revealed- ask of us.

During the seven days which take us to Good Friday, let’s answer Pilate’s question, “What shall I do with this Jesus?” Let’s respond to Pilate and to everyone else who wonders through all that we do. Jesus inspired me with the way he lived. Let’s do the same for one another.

Loving God, help us to share your love as Jesus did.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved