A God Day? Yes, Indeed!

You shall rejoice in every good thing
which the Lord your God has given you.

Deuteronomy 16:11

I know I’ve shared this before. I also know that I’d convinced myself that I’d eliminated this particular typo from my repertoire. Nonetheless, I repeated this error in every personal email I sent today. Duh! Let me explain… I normally close my emails by typing “Have a good day.” However, each time I reread a message today, I found that I’d actually typed, “Have a god day!” Though my typo did not begin with a capital letter, the meaning of my error didn’t escape me.

Some years ago, I caught myself making this particular error on almost every email I sent. I had wished others “God days” several times during a single week. The funniest part of this is that I didn’t catch my error for so long. It was only when I looked back at one week’s messages in my “Sent” box that I discovered the magnitude of my mistake.

After chiding myself over my carelessness, I realized that there was no error in my work after all. If I shared what I truly wished for those who are a part of my life, I would type “Have a God day!” intentionally. I wish everyone realized from morning til night that God loves them more than anything. I wish that this knowledge would ease their burdens and give them hope regardless of the trials and tribulations which befall them day in and day out. I wish that they understood that God’s loving hand wipes away our failings long before we have the sense to regret them. I wish that this life would become do-able for them simply because they know that wherever life’s path leads them, God is with them. The most unique gift God gives each of us in the opportunity awaiting us in each new day. Yes, indeed. I wish us all a God day every day!

Loving God, you make all of our day’s “God days” even when we fail to notice. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Welcome to God’s Banquet!

Last Sunday before Mass began, I looked around the church at the many people who’d gathered to pray with me. I found myself moved unexpectedly by both familiar faces and those who were new to me. Our parish has a new Mass schedule which prompted many of us to rethink our Sunday routines and to choose an alternate “favorite Mass” to attend. The increased attendance at all of the Masses indicates that we’ve distributed ourselves among the Masses quite efficiently. It’s been twenty-five years and seven months since I waited for our first Mass together as a parish to begin in the in the gym of a local school. As I considered the good people who surrounded me at Mass last Sunday, I couldn’t help feeling amazed at all that has happened since then.

My parish community which began with just sixty-seven families has grown to include more than three thousand two hundred families. If every parishioner attended Mass on any given weekend, more than six thousand adults and children would gather there. This number boggles my mind! Most of the time, I find it difficult to greet many who are there because I’m helping people at our information desk. At the end of each weekend when my husband-the-deacon asks me if I saw this person or that, I admit that I missed him or her. Actually, I miss my fellow parish family members whenever things like severe weather or a nice three-day weekend keep them away. The liturgy we share and the activity in the gathering space after Mass just isn’t the same without everyone there. Perhaps this is the message of Jesus’ parable today. We miss our people when they aren’t around us because we love them and they love us. We enjoy their company and they enjoy ours because we’re comfortable enough with one another to be ourselves. Our joy increases when we share it with others just as the burden of our deepest sorrows is lightened by the company of those who care. Perhaps Jesus teaches about God’s kingdom in the context of a wedding banquet because those invited are the people loved most by the host.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14) is one of Jesus’ more familiar stories. Nonetheless, I’m struggling with this writing more than usual. It seems to me that there is more to consider here than the obvious problems of the invited guests’ refusals to attend and one man’s failure to put on the wedding garment which the host had provided for him. Scripture scholars tell us that Old and New Testament authors alike often used banquets to symbolize the joy to be experienced in the God’s kingdom. This makes perfect sense to me as some of the happiest events in my own life have been celebrated within the context of shared meals as small as a dinner for two and as large as a wedding reception. It occurs to me that the joy of these events lay not in the meal which was served, but in the company of those who shared these precious moments with me.

I would have been absolutely heartbroken if those we invited to our sons’ weddings had refused their invitations as the king’s guests did in today’s parable. In both cases, it was extremely difficult to whittle down our guest list to the numbers our budget could accommodate. We wanted to share these awesome days with everyone we care about. When I looked around at those who attended Mass with me last Sunday morning, I realized that the people before me numbered among the “everyone” with whom God hopes to share every new day we’re given. I thought about everyone who filed in for Mass last weekend. Every single one, whether familiar to me or not, is one of the “everyone” whom God loves. I could stand in the midst of Great America’s Fright Fest or at Entrance F at Gurnee Mills and say the same about every person who’s wonders in: “You and you and you are one of God’s loved ones. You and you and you are one of the ‘everyone’ whom God invites to the greatest feast of all.”

Every day, God offers each one of us an invitation to the banquet that is this life. We accept God’s invitation when we embrace the moments we’re given. When we’re at work and at leisure, when we’re alone and with others, when we’re well and when we’re ill, when we’re filled with joy and when we wallow in the depths of despair, God invites us to partake of the moment at hand to the full. God planned the banquet which is my life, just as God planned yours. Good host that God is, God provides everything that will be necessary along the way. There’s no need to worry about a wedding garment because God has already clothed us in all that we require. There’s no need to RSVP because we’re already in God’s company and there we will remain until God delivers us safely home.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Travel Lightly

He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…

Mark 6:8

Last week, my husband took a friend to a nearby brewery to celebrate his birthday. This friend shares his birthday with our grandson, so my husband had very good reason to partake of a bit of ale with him in celebration of them both! At the same time, my sisters and I gathered for one of their birthdays. Though we’d each had a good time, Mike was excited to share that our friend is as interested in travel as he is. As Mike elaborated on this revelation, it occurred to me that my dear husband was already making plans…

The truth is that during the planning stage of any of our earlier trips, I have bitten the bullet and allowed myself to be dragged along. The further truth is that my husband’s wanderlust guides his planning with such precision that the results have never disappointed. We both enjoy a wonderful time once we reach our destination regardless of where it is. The planning, packing and other preparations are what drove me crazy. I was our trip to Israel which changed all of that. Finally, I realized that I needed to focus less on the inconvenience of “getting there” and more on the treasure to be found when we arrive.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Perhaps he didn’t want anything to keep them from making the most of their travels among us.

Dear God, thank you for my persistent husband who continues to plan much-needed times away for us. Bless him with more wonderful trips and bless me with the courage to enjoy this beautiful world and its wonderful people.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good Reason To Love

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 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Power of Hospitality

Hospitality mirrors God’s Presence among us in powerful ways! The events of this life which are most precious to me are the products of hospitality. Each one involved a welcoming of sorts. Each one enriched me in lasting ways which continue to affect all that I say, all that I write and all that I do. These experiences of hospitality were most often the result of the unexpected kindness of others. In each instance, it would have been appropriate to leave me in the shadows. I’m happy to share that, much to my good fortune, something or Someone inspired these welcoming souls to allow me into their company…

As challenging as they proved to be, my parents persisted in hosting family gatherings. The “immediate family” included both sets of grandparents and all of the little ones their combined offspring of twenty had produced. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners required two very large turkeys and an abundance of side dishes and desserts. Immediate family members occupied every chair in the house and most of the floor space. There was no place to go that wasn’t filled with chatter and the clanging of dinnerware. There was no place to go that didn’t ring with laughter and resound with joy. When our guests left, my parents and we children continued to celebrate the day’s events as we cleaned up the last bits of evidence that the house had indeed been overrun. Interestingly enough, my childhood dreams of heaven –and sometimes those of adulthood– resemble these gatherings where everyone seems so much at home and so very happy. Hospitality reflects God’s Presence among us in powerful ways!

My mom, my extremely perceptive aunts and our neighborhood priest mastered another form of hospitality more challenging than hosting a feast for a houseful of guests. They extended their hospitality at far more difficult times. At ages four, six and nine years and many times in between, I woke my mother in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. She held my hand as she walked me back to my bed to tuck me in. If I hadn’t said my prayers earlier, she helped me to do so before returning to her own bed for some much-needed rest. It wasn’t until my own offspring woke me during the night that I realized how God-like my mother had been in her kindness to me during the wee hours…

Like their sister, my aunts extended their hospitality to me as well. Fortunately, I accosted them only during daylight hours! I habitually sat on the fringes of their conversations when the men of the family gathered in the kitchen for card games and the kids headed outdoors to play. I knew very well that I should’ve left. These special women had a right to engage in their adult family talk. Yet, I stayed. I hung onto their every word and they allowed me to do so. Occasionally, they acknowledged my presence with a compliment regarding how grown up I was. At ten years of age, this was high praise…

Our poor parish priest didn’t fare as luckily as my aunts who had to put up with me only during their visits. The poor man made the mistake of telling me that I could stop at the rectory to see him “any time”. After my dad passed, “any time” became “all of the time”. Still, in spite of the frequency of my intrusions, Father always greeted me with a smile. Hospitality reflects God’s Presence among us in powerful ways!

In today’s first reading (2 Kings 8-11, 14-16a), a woman of influence who welcomes Elisha into her home does so because she recognizes that he is “a holy man of God”. In the gospel (Matthew 10:37-42), Jesus asks his disciples to look upon their needy brethren with the same respect this woman extended to Elisha. Jesus requests our hospitality –our complete acceptance and respect– for those around us who need us most. In the second reading (Romans 6:3-4, 8-11), Paul assures us that our hospitality of one another during this life will be repaid with great flourish in the next.

One might view my parents’ hospitality and my mother’s patience with me as family obligations. One might see the efforts of my aunts and our parish priest as small talk aimed at getting a pesky little girl out of their hair. The recipient of this kindness holds a differing opinion. These experiences of hospitality filled my life with unexpected joy and a very real awareness of God’s presence. Our seemingly ordinary efforts to extend our hospitality to those who need us most hold the potential to do the same. Yes, our hospitality toward one another reflects God’s Presence among us in truly powerful ways!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s DNA

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

After spending some very enjoyable time outdoors in God’s company, I had to laugh over my attempts at prayer. There are times when the tone and the topic of my prayers amaze me. I can only imagine what God must be thinking! More than once, I’ve stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I’m thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty, I take a deep breath and begin again. It’s during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on. The latter is the experience I enjoyed today.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate to be created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in us. I can’t help thinking of this infusion of love as God’s DNA within us. As a result, we all know on some level that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we’re not only compelled to pray, but also to assume that we’re heard.

Loving God, thank you for your loving care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved