Loved Through It All…

You lowly ones, be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the God hears the poor,
and God loves them.

Psalm 69:33-35

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor, we assume that this term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It references each and every one of us whenever our needs, material or otherwise, become too much to bear. Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, those who seem to have the material things they need sometimes lose their grip on the things which truly matter.

There are times when we are all counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes us whenever life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering and shares our concern. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. Even when we’re completely lacking in compassion for our fellow humans, God looks upon us with everlasting compassion. We must remember that, in spite of our personal varieties of poverty, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving and Caring God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms and for easing us through it with your loving presence.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Just As You Are

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God in heaven give to those who ask!”
Luke 11:11-13

When I came across this passage from Luke’s gospel, a long-ago encounter with someone very dear to me came to mind…

I still recall my heartache as my friend sobbed that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow that had filled her life. My friend ended this monologue with more tears. I waited some time for her tears to run out. When she had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad to be with her and that I loved her. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thanks.”

I was extremely grateful when my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold anything against you. You lived through some tough times and I understand what drove you to do what you did. You know what else? My opinion doesn’t matter. God’s does. If I can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of this for you. God never ever gives up on you! God doesn’t give up on any of us!”

I think my friend believed me because I left her smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear that smile in her voice. That smile lasted for a very long time…

Thank you, loving and merciful God, for loving each one of us so completely.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Yes… There’s Hope!

I hear what God proclaims;
God proclaims peace.

Psalm 85:9ab

I know I’ve shared this before. Still, I can’t help myself. As we ease into what has or will eventually become our new normal, I continue to worry. I’m bothered and I’m restless. A sense of urgency overwhelms me and I feel a deep need to fix things. I ask myself often if this is simply a sign of my age.

Because I love our sons, their wives and our grandchildren, I find myself gravely troubled by the state of this world. Every time I convince myself that things cannot possibly get worse, additional turmoil surfaces. I think of our family, especially our grandchildren, and I ask myself what this world will be like for them after Grandpa and I are gone.

The family photo resting above my keyboard interrupts my brooding. The sparkle in the eyes of my offspring insists that I give them and their contemporaries a little credit. That sparkle also touches those smoldering embers of hope deep within which I’ve recently ignored. It occurs to me that numerous generations before me have wrung their hands in despair as well, only to be surprised by the goodness brought about by the young people among them. I look back at that family photo. There, I rediscover my hope. There, I find peace.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of our offspring. Within each one of them lies the reason for our hope and the potential for healing and peace on this earth.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Nature… God’s Precious Gift

Truth shall spring out of the earth…
From Psalm 85:12

When I walk just south of our neighborhood, I pass a greenhouse, Mary’s Greenhouse to be precise. I chuckle when I read the sign on that building full of flowers and greenery. For years, I’ve told my husband that he should have been a florist or tended a greenhouse because he has an amazing green thumb. Though I’m a worthy assistant when it comes to digging up flowerbeds, trimming roses and weeding here and there, my knowledge of annuals, perennials and most other aspects of gardening is minimal. The good news is that my husband loves these things. As a result, the yard around our home is beautifully picturesque. I appreciate his efforts more than words can express. I also find a world of inspiration in the loveliness of his handiwork especially during our stay-in-place stint.

As I write, it occurs to me that “Mary’s Greenhouse” provides the perfect reminder of how generously God has blessed me. God has given me both my own gardener-in-residence and the sense to recognize the wonder present in his flowerbeds. In each one, I enjoy both the fruits of my husband’s talent and the fruits of God’s love for us. How much God must care to have created a world capable of producing such beauty! How much God must care to have given us those who make the most of this gift!

Generous God, we can all find joy in the beauty which springs from this earth. Inspire us to be good custodians of this precious gift.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate the God of Love

When I was a little girl, I was surrounded by people who had a very strong sense of God’s presence in our lives. Each one seemed convinced that voicing ones concerns to God was the most sensible action to take when the circumstances of this life went awry. Each one did so with the full expectation that all requests sent God’s way would be heard. When she tucked me into bed at night, my mom often asked me to pray for family members who were ill or who had special intentions which needed attention. I happily agreed to do so as I was honored that my mom thought that even my prayers mattered. The truth is that I was convinced that God agreed.

From early on, my parents indicated that God is a kind and caring Creator. I remember our children’s bible’s rendering of God looking lovingly upon Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I was certain that God looks at all of us the same way. Several family experiences confirmed this impression. I was five when we gathered in the living room evening after evening to say the rosary for my hospitalized uncle. When it became evident that his recovery wasn’t possible, my mom led us in praying for his happy death. Because this dear uncle lived with us, his looming loss was devastating. When my dad sensed our fear, he assured us that all would be well. My dad explained that our dear uncle was going to heaven. He added that everything in heaven is perfect and that God would make our uncle perfect as well. He would be happy and healthy in his new home. When my uncle passed away, I cried because I would miss him. Still, I knew that all really was well. God came through for my uncle. Within the three years that followed, God did the same for my grandpas and my dad who also passed away.
In second grade, I expanded my knowledge of this God of ours. Though I’d known about Jesus, I didn’t consider how Jesus fit into my image of God until my teacher began to prepare us for First Communion. I listened carefully to the things Sister said about him. My image of Jesus soon became quite tangible. I liked the things Jesus said. The stories Jesus told concurred with the image I had of my kind and caring Creator. The things that Jesus did illustrated the magnitude of God’s love for me and for everyone else. Young as I was, I found great joy and great consolation in Jesus’ promise that, no matter what I did, God would always love me.
I was in sixth grade when the things which seemed so clear a year or month or day earlier became inexplicably murky. While I continued to value God’s presence in my life, I also realized that life in this world isn’t at all perfect. What was worse, when I looked in the mirror, the sweet little girl I used to see had morphed into someone I hardly recognized. Fortunately, I would soon be confirmed and my teacher made becoming an adult Christian the focus of every catechism class. Sister assured me and my classmates that we were no longer little girls and boys. Each one of us was morphing into something much more. Sister informed us sixth graders that this change was well-timed. The choices that lay ahead for each of us would only grow in difficulty as we grew older. More importantly, Sister assured us that we didn’t have to make those difficult choices alone. God’s Holy Spirit would inspire us and strengthen us every step of the way. We needed only to listen and to do the best we could. Sister reassured us all that the constancy of God’s love would be a given for the rest of our lives.
I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two more about God since sixth grade. Still, on this Trinity Sunday, I’m happy to focus on Sister’s assurance regarding the constancy of God’s love. Though our lives have been anything but celebratory throughout this pandemic, God’s presence in the midst of it all has made all of the difference in the world to me. While I missed our sons, our daughters-in-law and grandchildren, God missed them with me. Images of overworked healthcare workers and their suffering patients tore at my heartstrings and God felt their pain. When the number of those lost increased by thousands and then tens of thousands, God welcomed each one home while loving their families through their mourning. When protesters demanded only to matter as much as their fellow citizens do, tears streamed down my face. God remained nearby, perhaps wondering what our human family is coming to. Truly, God has been with us throughout every bit of this suffering.

Though I cannot begin to explain the Trinity, I can assure you that ours is the God of Love, the all-caring Creator who breathed life into all of creation and into each of us. Ours is the God of Love, this Jesus who became one of us to show us that the best way to open our hearts to God’s love is by loving one another. Ours is the God of Love, God’s Spirit which remains among us in raging winds and gentle whispers. On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the God of Love who remains with us and within us though everything.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


World Environment Day

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

Genesis 1:31

In 1973, the United Nations designated June 5 as World Environment Day. The intent of was to unite the world in an effort to literally save this planet. Each year’s observance calls attention to the human transgressions which cause climate change, deforestation, air pollution and pollution of the oceans. Add to this the disruption COVID-19 has brought to life as we know it and you can see that there is reason for concern. More importantly, the day’s designation is also intended to be a hopeful call to action.

Oddly, it is COVID-19 which brings some hope to the situation. The world’s adherence to stay-in-place mandates has decreased our use of airplanes and automobiles, factories and other polluting entities. This has also decreased air pollution. Some weeks ago, atmospheric maps indicated notably cleaner air in some places. New York City’s pollution decreased 50%. In Wuhan, China, pollution was down 25%. News stories indicated that those residing in Northern India saw the Himalayan Mountains for the first time in 30 years. In addition to these atmospheric changes, wild life on both land and in the sea has thrived. Though pollution has concerned me since my college days, I suddenly find hope that it’s not too late for us to join hands to do something about it.

Two great spiritual leaders came forward to support this effort on Earth Day, April 22, 2020. The Dalai Lama and Pope Francis offered a call to action to us all. An old Spanish saying offered by Pope Francis seems to summarize their concern best: “God Always forgives; we humans sometimes forgive and sometimes not; the earth never forgives.” Pope Francis underscored the urgency of the situation by adding, “The earth does not forgive; if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly.”

In the wake of COVID-19, while we adjust to our new normal, perhaps we can adjust our efforts to care for this earth as well. How great it would be for our new normal to bring renewed health to our global home.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Mother Earth. Be with us in our efforts to care for her lovingly.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved