Our Work

Doing the will of him who sent me
and bringing his work to completion
is my food.

John 4:34

Several weeks ago a couple of sisters visited our parish. Not long after, another sister appeared to make an appeal for missions in the Philippines. These women were not siblings, but religious sisters who immediately elicited memories of my own aunts who were also nuns. From the time I realized what a nun was, I wanted to enter the convent. While cleaning house with my mom, I asked her opinion of some “sister names” I had come up with. She smiled in response, always adding, “Well, I have five daughters and I think it would be nice if one of them became a nun.”

Though I spent a lot of time with the sisters over the years, including an entire summer during college, I never did join them. Oddly, it was during that summer away that the sisters encouraged me to accept a date with a young man who volunteered at the parish. Though this puzzled me at the time, their counsel proved most helpful. I happily invited these sisters to our wedding the following summer!

You know, I was drawn to the sisters because of the good they accomplished. Nothing appealed to me more than the lives of service they lived. These decades later, I realize that God’s call to service has less to do with ones marital status than the status of ones heart. When we open our eyes and our hearts, each of us finds amazing and unexpected ways to make God’s work our own.

Dear God, help me not to miss any opportunities to bring your goodness into our world,
especially during these troubling times.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rain Love

This, remember, is the message you heard from the beginning:
we should love one another.

1 John 3:11

A storm is brewing just beyond my window. I’m still reeling over the abundance of rain which flooded parts of our neighborhood a few weeks ago. Though our local television meteorologist offers encouragement with a promise that sunshine will return tomorrow, she fails to dispel the gray which lurks beyond my window today.

It occurs to me that my knowledge of human nature fails me as much as my understanding of weather patterns on occasion. I sometimes ignore this wisdom and “push buttons” that would best be left alone. Though I know well what will come next if I attempt to have the last word, I speak in spite of myself. When the thunder in my adversary threatens, I push when I should let go. I forget to let love take care.

Today, as the rain continues, I will continue in my own effort to dispel the gray clouds from my attitude and to let the sun shine in.

Dear God, though the weather is very much out of my control, my attitudes and actions are my own. Help me to use them both with love and good will.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Goodness Finders

Now I have seen for myself and have testified,
“This is God’s chosen One.”

John 1:34

My husband and I recently attended an out-of-town wedding. The groom is the son of dear friends and we were happy to make the effort to celebrate with them. The better part of this is that many of the couple’s friends did the same. As a result, we enjoyed a long weekend in very good company. One of the couple’s who attended was Ellen and Ross. As I watched them dance at the wedding reception, I couldn’t help recalling the evening I first met Ross…

We were hosting our annual Christmas Party and our children and granddaughters were in attendance. This was the first time the girls met Ellen, a young woman whom I’ve known since she was a child. I love Ellen and my granddaughters immediately followed suit. That evening, Ellen brought along her boyfriend whom most of us were meeting for the first time. I couldn’t help liking Ross from the moment he offered his greeting and that sweet smile. I didn’t have the opportunity to confirm my first impression because I didn’t see much of Ross for the rest of the evening. My granddaughters managed to monopolize the poor man for most of the duration of the party. When my granddaughters told me how cool and wonderful and funny Ross is, what more did I need to know? I knew that Ross and Ellen had chosen one another wisely.

A very wise teacher once told me that if I ever wanted to know whether or not a person was a good soul simply to watch the way children react to him or her. Children somehow instinctively know who does and who does not have their best interest at heart. As I watched Ellen and Ross enjoy one another at that wedding, I knew my teacher and my granddaughters were absolutely right!

Loving God, thank you for the children among us who detect goodness with such precision and thank you for the wonderful people who bring that goodness to life.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Amazing Seeds

A man scatters seed on the ground.
He goes to bed and gets up day after day. Through it all, the seed sprouts
and grows without his knowing how it happens.

From Mark 4:26-27

When our younger son and his wife left their condo in the city for a home in the burbs, their new front lawn suffered a major blemish. The former owners had lost an old tree to a storm. Though the tree was carefully removed, it left a gaping hole in its place. My husband and son filled this small abyss with twice the soil they originally thought they needed. After packing it into place, they seeded and watered. My husband advised my son not to worry about the grass. “Worry about everything else you have to do. The grass will take care if itself,” he said. My son heeded this advice. With so much to do, he had no choice. A few weeks later, when my husband and I arrived for a cookout, we were pleasantly surprised. Amazingly, new lush growth had sprung from that one-time hole. My husband smiled as he noted that his faith in that grass seed was well placed.

You know, God places the same faith in the seeds you and I plant every day. Sometimes, our efforts are long-term. Sometimes, we must do what we can in a given moment and move on. In either case, we do our best and hope for the best. God will see to the rest.

Trusting God, you have great faith in our ability to sow seeds of goodness wherever we are. Help us to do this as best we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Worry or Do Something

And let us consider how we may spur one another
on toward love and good deeds…

Hebrews 10:24

Recently, I’ve been entertaining the possibility that I’m getting old. I find myself full of impatience regarding the state of our world and of the many institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I feel impelled to take action myself as well. But, where do I begin?

As I write, I wonder if all of my fretting has given the Lord God reason to laugh. God knows better than I that we humans have struggled with the results of our use of free will since time began. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we are capable of transforming the worst situations into amazing opportunities.

Perhaps God hasn’t been laughing at me after all. Rather, God has smiled in my direction and imparted a bit of Divine Wisdom in the process. It occurs to me that, though I may not be able to alleviate all of this world’s woes, I can certainly do something in my little corner of this world.

Patient God, as long as we care, we are capable of great good. Help me and all of us to use our energy and resources to make that goodness a reality.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

At Home in Nazareth

Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?

Matthew 9:15

While in Israel, we visited Nazareth. Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived there from the time Jesus was a little boy. Mary had also grown up there and it was in Nazareth that Mary discovered she would be the mother of Jesus.

The Basilica of the Annunciation rests over the place where it is believed the Angel Gabriel visited Mary. A small grotto in the church houses the place where many believe this occurred. After viewing that area, our guide Yossi arranged for us to be admitted to a small area where the neighborhood under the church is partially excavated. Through a glass covering, we viewed a typical Nazareth home likely the same as that of Jesus and his parents. It isn’t unreasonable to believe that Mary had walked into that home to visit a neighbor or that the boy Jesus had run through it in pursuit of a playmate. It isn’t unreasonable to imagine Joseph was there as well, perhaps to carve into a wall to create a ledge for storage.

It was there that I was completely overwhelmed by the past, a past in which I felt I had a share. The events which unfolded in Nazareth two thousand years ago prepared Jesus and his family for what was to come. The neighborliness of Joseph and Mary impacted Jesus’ behavior toward others as a child and in adulthood. All of this has everything to do with the manner in which I live my life.

That day in Nazareth, I celebrated with my long-ago family who remain with me even today.

Dear God, thank you for the many hints of your presence which sustain us all.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved