U is for…

“Which of these was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?”
They answered, “The one who treated him with compassion.”.

From Luke 10:36-37

U is for Unity. I recently attended my cousin’s 80th birthday party. Yvette is the eldest cousin on my dad’s side of the family. She’s also one of the nicest people I know. It was truly my pleasure to gather with our extended family to honor her. I’ve always been particularly touched by my dear cousin’s devotion to her loved ones. While her husband and their five children top this list, Yvette has been a loving and supportive presence for her own parents, siblings and the rest of us as well. During all of the years since I came along, I’ve observed Yvette’s positive presence among us. Her own family’s relationships indicate that Yvette’s children have picked up on this as well.

You know, the unity within Yvette’s family is tangible. It seems to me that this should be true of God’s family as well. We need not congregate in the same worship spaces or in any places of worship at all. We do need to respect one another and to see each other as God’s children. We need to love one another as we love ourselves and our own families. We need to set aside the non-essential details of our differences and to focus upon the most essential needs of all of humankind.

My cousin raised five children who in turn are raising children of their own. Unique as each one is, I know Yvette loves them all. God has breathed life into billions of children and God loves each of us even more so. God’s only request is the same as that of any loving parent: That we love another and learn to get along. Yes, U is for Unity. You and I are meant to be for Unity, too!

Loving God, help us to love one another and to work together to transform this world into a fitting home for us all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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M is for…

…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

I’ve repeated yesterday’s scripture passage with very good reason…

M is for Mercy. Of all of characteristics of God which Jesus revealed, I find God’s all-inclusive love to be the most powerful. An extremely close second is God’s mercy. To be certain that his message was crystal clear, Jesus taught mercy first through his interactions with others. Jesus extended mercy generously to all, especially the isolated souls disdained by everyone else. To underscore his every word in this regard, Jesus offered the unforgettable Parable of the Prodigal Son. If any of us question our worthiness of God’s love and mercy, this story definitively assures us that, indeed, God deems each one of us worthy.

Jesus begins the parable with a son’s request to be given his inheritance early. Among Jesus contemporaries, such a request gravely insulted a parent. 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. The young man had reached rock bottom when he found work tending swine. In the end, he realized his wrong-doing and returned home to beg his father to allow him to work as a servant. As Luke’s passage tells us, this father would have none of it. At the sight of his son, mercy and love flowed from the man who embraced his wayward child and welcomed him home.

God promises the same reception to you and to me regardless of how frequently it is required…

Loving and Merciful God, thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

F is for…

God remembers forever the covenant
which God made for a thousand generations…

Psalm 105:8

F is for Faith. I learned early on that faith is a precious gift. For me, faith is that sense deep within which keeps me ever-mindful of God’s presence in my life. Whether we view God as a distant entity, a constant and nearby companion or as someone quite different from either, it is our faith which tells us that God is.

For me, my faith has been life-giving and life-saving. I’m not referencing my religious affiliation here. I’m writing about my conviction that God is. It seems to me that it is often the faith deep within -or our search for faith- which urges many of us in the direction of our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. My faith community includes precious people and other treasures which nourish my soul. They sustain me in the best and the worst of times. Still, my faith is also strengthened by the beauty of humanity-at-large, the wonder of nature, an amazing book, music which touches my heart and soul and the breath-taking goodness in a fellow human.

I think I best exhibit my faith when I live out my appreciation for God’s presence in my life by revealing it in my attitudes and actions. Whether or not I’ve attended a religious service any given week seems less important than the manner in which I conduct myself the other six days. I’ve been deeply touched and inspired by many people who have no religious affiliation at all, but who exhibit God’s greatness in most of what they do. It seems to me that when we live with love, generosity and concern for our fellow humans, we are most faithful.

Faithful God, because I know you, I do my best to live accordingly.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

E is for…

God looked at everything God made
and found it to be very good.

Genesis 1:31

E is for Everlasting. Much to my good fortune… No, let me rephrase that… Much to all of our good fortune, God is everlasting. God has no beginning and no end. God is, was and always will be. Though we’ve been blessed with immortal souls, it is God who breathed life into each one of us at a particular point in time to get us going.

The best part of all of this is that God’s every characteristic is also everlasting. God’s love; God’s patience; God’s forgiveness; God’s mercy; God’s creativity; God’s knowledge of you and me; God’s amusement over our silliness; God’s compassion when we’re hurting; God’s ability to look beyond our failures to the goodness deep within us; God’s hope in us; God’s conviction that each of us can change this world in our own positive way; God’s presence at our sides and within us through everything. God’s everything is everlasting. Even more wonderful is my conviction that since God breathed life into us, a trace of God’s everything lies within us as well.

Today, I respond to God’s everlasting gifts to me with gratitude. Perhaps today will be the first of an everlasting string of days on which I thank God simply for being God. What more do I need? What more does any of us need?

Everlasting God, you remain with me and us all for the long haul, today and always. Thank you for including us in your eternity.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Remember When?

I sat at my computer to check the email messages I hadn’t been able to get to. Just before my husband and I headed north for a few days, my printer broke. Though I’d hoped to remedy the situation before Mike and I left, my inability to print remained until the day after we returned. The family tech experts (a.k.a. our sons) indicated that a new printer was in order. After purchasing said printer, I turned to my inbox. While determining which messages to deal with first, I found a “Forward” from a dear friend. In spite of my frustration regarding all I had to do and though my fear of computer viruses usually keeps me from opening forwarded emails, I gave this one a look. The friend who sent it dislikes SPAM and viruses as much as I do and he is as busy as I am, so I assumed his message merited my attention. The subject line “Remember When…” enticed me to take a stroll down Memory Lane.

The truth is that I wasn’t disappointed by my friend’s email. My printer issue had really gotten to me because I do my final proofreading of these reflections from a printed copy. Keri, our ever-patient bulletin editor can tell you that my submission last week was certainly last-minute. Perhaps I needed this interlude with nostalgia to forget my printer woes and to move on. As it happened, from the first photo in my friend’s email, I was hooked. It featured two high school girls wearing gym uniforms suspiciously similar to the one I wore for four years. As I scrolled down to each subsequent photograph, images from my childhood filled me up. A small television set with a very tiny screen which took several minutes to warm up brought me back to my childhood living room. There I saw my brother who insisted that we watch “Sing Along with Mitch” every week. And, every week, my brother sang every song with great gusto and completely off-key. It was in that same living room that I often nestled next to my mother in an overstuffed chair to enjoy the vintage movies playing on that tiny screen.

As I continued through that email, I encountered Hula Hoops and a full-service gas station where attendants actually wiped windshields with every fill-up and provided tire air at no cost. A vintage class picture featured clones of my own grade school classmates who donned familiar uniforms. A cloud which resembled a heart transported me to the rusty old swing set in our backyard. I loved swinging alone while I stared at the sky. When I did this, I found shapes of every sort among the clouds. Sometimes, I imagined God looking down at me from behind those clouds where I truly believed heaven awaits us all. Pictures of a dial telephone, S&H Green Stamps and a cel from a vintage Bugs Bunny cartoon caused me to tear up a bit. Suddenly, my Uncle Gee appeared before me as he dialed up my grandmother on our family’s single black telephone. I couldn’t help reciting “VanBuren 6-1-0-9-9”, the first telephone number I’d ever memorized. By the time I’d scrolled down to the end of that email, I’d mentally celebrated numerous high points from long ago. Though I’d intended to allow myself only a few minutes, I’d spent a half-hour on Memory Lane.

The following weekend, when I arrived at St. Paul’s for Mass, a lone First Communion booklet on the gathering space desk whisked me back to Memory Lane. Once again, I was immersed in the heartwarming comfort brought on by that nostalgic email. While walking to my pew for Mass, I remembered kneeling in my parish church decades earlier. I recalled my parish priest’s suggestion that we begin every Mass by asking God to take care of our family and friends and to forgive us for anything that needed forgiving. I’ve done this for decades, always ending with a bit of quiet to allow for God’s contribution to the conversation. Though God can be very quiet at times, that morning, God seemed to look with me as I saw myself walking toward the altar to receive Holy Communion for the very first time. The heartwarming comfort which that email had elicited morphed into a soul-drenching fullness that I truly cannot explain. I only know that I found myself filled up from top to bottom, inside and outside with God’s presence.

On this Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, I can find no better way to celebrate than to stroll down Memory Lane once again. This time, rather than focusing upon old photos, I turn my eyes and my heart to Jesus. Jesus shared himself completely when he walked among us. The love between Father and Son filled Jesus so much so that it permeated Jesus’ every word and deed. To be certain that this love remained with us, Jesus left us the gift of himself in the Eucharist. Happily, there is no need to walk down Memory Lane to embrace this gift. Jesus who walked among us so long ago remains with us today and he will be with us always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

D is for…

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I’ve often wondered if Jesus appreciated the irony when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. I shouldn’t wonder any longer. Jesus knew what he was doing when he asked Peter and the rest to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I best manage the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface as well. Most things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or look or deed in their direction.

Depth… Of all of God’s gifts, I think I most appreciate the understanding of a fellow soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you reside within the depths of each one of us. Be with us as we cast our nets with care to love one another.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved