Be Kind To Everyone!

Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart,
and in my inmost being you teach me this wisdom.

Psalm 51:8

Quite recently, a celebrity drew criticism after sitting with a perceived political enemy at a public event. Some of her fans and followers took her to task because the person she’d associated with had been unsupportive of issues which directly effected them all. This celebrity responded candidly as she habitually does. She pointed out that she consistently encourages her audiences and friends to be kind to one another. She went on to explain that this means to be kind to everyone, not only those with whom we agree. I admit that I applauded her for standing by her principles. I also asked myself how often I’d allowed a difference of opinion to cause me to withhold my kindness from another of God’s children.

You know, I truly believe that God is alive and well among us and within us all. This celebrity may or may not acknowledge God in her life. However, she exhibited God’s attitude toward us through her example in this situation. The good news is that many of us do our best to live out what we call our faith or our consciences’ dictates or our humanity.

This story touched me because so much of the opposite is at play these days. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to pay closer attention to our parts in all of this. Whether we’re driven by faith or philosophy or a simple sense of our common humanity, we need to allow one another to do the best each of us can. When interventions are in order, we need to offer them constructively as best we can. It seems to me that this is all God asks.

Dear God, help us all to be ambassadors of your love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Important Work

“Go home to your family and make it clear to them
all that God has done for you.”

From Mark 5:19

While growing up, I had visions of grandeur regarding what I would do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to work with special needs children. I wanted to become a nurse. I wanted to teach…

When things began to fall into place, the path before me became less cluttered. I learned to value the seemingly mundane vocations that in reality make all of the difference in the world. A good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we have been given to love -both near an afar- is the most important work we can do.

Though it’s taken me a lifetime, I finally get it!

Loving and Generous God, sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my loved ones or this world any good. Thank you for the precious moments with them which dispel my doubt.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Specially Made

“You have made them little less than the angels,
and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Psalm 8:6

I come from a very large family. My dad is one of twelve children and my mom is one of eight. My earliest memories include large gatherings filled with our relatives on a multitude of occasions. I also grew up down the block from our church. Numerous people passed our house on their way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where the entire neighborhood shopped. Afterward, I married and began my teaching career. Throughout all of this, amazing people of every sort have come into my life.

I’m especially grateful for the moments I’ve shared with those around me. During these encounters, I’ve received glimpses of many remarkable souls. Several of them have no idea of how richly they contribute to this world of ours. As a result, I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts at every opportunity.

You know, each of us has been made “little less than angels”. As God’s children, each of us is “crowned with glory and honor”. God sends us out to enrich those around us and this world with the unique gift of our selves. Let’s take a long look in the mirror today. What is it that you and I have to offer those around us? What can only you and only I do to make this world a better place?

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring our own variety goodness into this world!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Difficult Endeavor

Often, doing the right thing is a difficult endeavor… Today, Luke’s gospel (12:49-53) tells us that Jesus made this quite clear. I admit that this passage had been among the most troubling and difficult for me to understand over the years. I prefer Jesus’ lessons regarding love and forgiveness, compassion and mercy. I treasure the image Jesus put forth of God as Abba, our dad who considers us all God’s children and God’s family. Yet, in this gospel, Jesus announced, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on this earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father…” I didn’t continue this quote because I’m certain you get the idea. Why, just a few weeks after teaching us to be true neighbors (Remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan?), did Jesus change course? It occurs to me that Jesus may have done this to prepare us for what certainly lies ahead. Perhaps Jesus hoped to offer us encouragement for those times when we’d have to proceed alone because even our loved ones fail to understand.

This past Thursday, we celebrated the Feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, the last event of Mary’s life. Today’s gospel nudged my thoughts toward Mary’s lifetime. Before she left this life, Mary experienced years of uncertainly, anguish and even division among her loved ones while trying to do the right thing. This likely began when the angel invited Mary to become the mother of Jesus. Mary knew what the scriptures taught regarding the long-awaited messiah. Like her contemporaries, Mary didn’t expect that messiah to be born to a powerless and impoverished maiden. When you and I are faced with difficult choices or forced into relentless suffering, we can turn to two thousand years of Christianity for inspiration. We endure and we rise above our suffering because we’ve learned to do so from Mary’s own son. Unfortunately, poor Mary found herself in uncharted territory when that angel asked her to enter into an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Seeking her parents’ understanding was quite a hurdle to overcome! What of her unsuspecting fiancé? What of her faithful fellow Jewish believers who might have seen this as cause to stone her? Still, in spite of the uncertainty, Mary followed her heart armed only with her faith in God’s presence at her side.

After Jesus’ birth, Joseph shared Mary’s faithfulness to God and to the child whom they would raise together. It was in their home that Jesus developed into the person who enriched human history with everlasting results. What wonderful examples this laborer father and peasant mother must have been! What difficult discussions they must have had beyond earshot of their son! Joseph and Mary nurtured Jesus within a family who seemed typical of those who inhabited Nazareth. Like neighboring couples, Mary and Joseph didn’t necessarily agree on every aspect of Jesus’ upbringing. Imagine the conversations which streamed through their work and leisure. Imagine the laughter and worry they shared at mealtime. Imagine the talks between Jesus and his mother and father before bedtime. Poor Mary and Joseph were certainly blessed by their child, but he also overwhelmed them. In the end, whatever occurred between these three has made all of the difference in this world to the rest of us.

While Mary survived Jesus’ childhood, she couldn’t have predicted what life after Joseph’s death would be like. Nor could she have imagined the triumphs and troubles which followed Jesus throughout his ministry. What did her neighbors say when Jesus left the widowed Mary to pursue his work? What did these friends say when they heard tidbits of Jesus’ teaching during the weeks, months and years that followed? Who warned Mary of the horror that threatened when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time? Somehow, Mary was among the people who crowded the way as Jesus plodded along that path to Calvary. Somehow, Mary found her place at Jesus’ cross. As she stood helplessly beneath him, did Mary question her choices regarding Jesus’ upbringing? Did Mary mourn missed opportunities to urge he son in another direction? Did Mary question her faith in the seemingly faraway Abba who stood by through all of this? The mother in me can imagine nothing worse than standing at the foot of my son’s cross. Still, though Mary Magdalene, Joanna, John and others may others have attempted to usher Mary away for her safety, none succeeded. Mary had agreed to be Jesus’ mother and she held onto that title until the end. Yes, doing the right thing is a difficult endeavor.

Perhaps Jesus’ insisted that he’d come to divide us because he’d learned early on that even those closest to us don’t always understand the reasons we do what we do. Mary and Joseph set out to parent Jesus with no assurances. Jesus set out to do his Abba’s work with no assurances. The disciples who first heard this one-time laborer’s preaching followed without guarantees. The man born blind and Mary Magdalene opened their hearts to Jesus with no regard for what others thought. In the end, each one opted to do what he or she felt called to do just as Jesus had. This life can be harsh at times. Just as Jesus prepared us to bask in God’s love for us and our love for one another, he prepared us for the troubles we’d encounter along the way. When unrest and division occur as a result of our doing the right thing, Jesus assures us that the good that follows will outlast it all. Jesus proved this beyond a doubt, don’t you think?

©2019 Mary Penich-All Rights Reserved

We Can Do It!

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

Hebrews 10:24

I admit that recent posts reveal my impatience regarding the state of our world and many of the institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something now to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I encourage myself and all of us to take action. But what are we to do?

As I write, I wonder if I all of my fretting has given God reason to laugh. God knows better than I that this world has struggled with the results of our use -and misuse- of free will since the first of us realized the power of this gift. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we’re quite 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 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 to improve things. Will you join me?

Patient God, you transform my worry into hope. As long as we care, we are capable of great good. Help me and all of us to make that great good a reality.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Good… It’s There!

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live.

Amos 5:14

Remember when I mentioned cleaning off my desk the other day? I actually spent an hour dealing with my beloved clutter. That day, I found a small piece of paper with three words written on it. Those little gems inspired the reflection I wrote immediately afterward. Today, I’m going to share another bit of wisdom which my niece forwarded to me some years ago. It was written by a fellow church member. Just above the message, Cece had written, “I thought you’d like this one.” While rereading those precious paragraphs, I realized once again that Cece was correct in her assessment.

The reflection was actually a commitment on the part of the writer to find the best in everyone and everything she would encounter during the coming day. The writer began by listing all of the reasons for her certainty that she would, indeed, find goodness around her. She would expect no effort on the part of others. Rather, she would look for goodness, regardless of how well-disguised it might be. While acknowledging the trials and tribulations which might mute that goodness in others, she would look for their goodness just the same.

I know why I kept this reflection. It’s a poignant reminder of my need to look for the good around me as well. Negativity bombards us from every direction. I think it’s time for each of us to respond by bombarding the world with our best attempts to find goodness in those around us. Perhaps we can go on to one-up ourselves by infusing our own goodness and love into every moment we’re given.

Dear God, give us eyes to see and hearts to appreciate the goodness in ourselves and in others.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved