In Jesus’ Footsteps

Jesus went with them to a place called
Gethsemane. He said to his disciples,
“Stay here while I go over there and pray.”

Matthew 26:36

This year, we returned to the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden rests next to the Church of All Nations. During last year’s visit, I thought I’d taken in every detail of the garden and the church. As I retraced my steps, I found that I was mistaken.

Though I’d walked in Jesus’ footsteps for days, it was Gethsemane which beckoned me to more. Walking this hallowed ground left me yearning for something I couldn’t identify. It was in this place that Jesus poured out his heart. It was here after his last supper that the talk between Father and Son took an ominous turn. That night, Jesus understood far too clearly all that was in store for him. That night, after consulting with his Father one last time, Jesus chose to continue the journey which has made all of the difference in this world to me and to us all.

As I walked away from the garden to visit the church, I couldn’t shake my uneasiness. Finally, while walking along a lushly planted path, a large stone grotto startled me. “How could I have missed this last year?” I’d hardly finished my question when I saw the small brass-colored sculpture nestled in the rock. This tiny bit of artwork depicts a forlorn Jesus draped over a tree stump with his head buried in his arms. At that moment, I knew that Jesus would have done it all just for me. Jesus would have done it all for any one of us. Walking in Jesus’ footsteps suddenly took on new meaning.

This is the reason I began Lent 2018 determined to acknowledge Jesus’ friendship every day. It’s the least I can do after the time he spent with me in Israel and everywhere else I’ve been.

Dear Jesus, thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


As God Sees Us…

God looked at everything God made,
and God found it very good.

Genesis 3:31

As I walked through Nazareth and Capernaum and Magdala, images from my childhood bible filled me up. Though we had a lovely family bible, we also had a children’s bible. It was stored in a massive binder made up of separate booklets which came in the mail every month. With each new arrival, my mom carefully removed the bible’s cardboard cover, inserted the additional booklet and replaced the cover. Afterward, I poured over the newest edition’s colorful pictures and passages. While in Israel, I saw many of the places featured in that precious tome. While taking in each one, I came to realize the reason that my childhood favorite was the Book of Genesis. It takes us back to our roots!

While walking the streets and byways of the Holy Land, I glimpsed a bit of God’s handiwork. Every face drew me in. I wondered how many of these might trace their family trees back to the families of Joseph or Mary. Whether or not this was possible, I know that we can all trace our roots back to God. Whether it happened in seven days or as a result of The Big Bang, God started it all. God started us all. Seeing ancient ruins which date back to Jesus’ day and beforehand, I couldn’t help being awestruck. What amazed me even more is that God continues to look carefully enough upon us and to find even more which is very good.

Loving God, help me to realize how much you value each one of us and to respond with a grateful heart.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Graced Once Again!

The child grew in size and strength,
filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

The New Year is just forty-eight hours away and my thoughts turn to my hopes and dreams, worries and fears for 2018. I once considered myself to be blessed with an inner calm which I could never explain. Those of you who follow my reflections every day know that this hasn’t been the case during the last several months of 2017. I allowed myself to fret with the best of them, especially in the face of this world’s violence both near and far away. During that time, I found myself extremely frustrated by my inability to remedy these things.

Oddly enough, the passing of a young man I taught more than forty years ago helped me to recapture some of that fleeting inner peace. I found the gathering of people who mourned Robert to be life-giving. The comforting and challenging words of his pastor led me back to the familiar path I thought I might never find again. Finally, I began to feel like the child of whom Luke wrote so long ago. Finally, I’ve turned my attention to the goodness around me.

Though I’ve grown neither as wise nor as strong as Jesus did, the grace of God is upon me. This grace assures me in the midst of the worst of my fretting that my loved ones, this world and I will be fine in the end. Yes, God’s grace is upon us all.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for your presence and your enduring love which renew my hope and lift my heart.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts of Love

“What will this child be?
Was not the hand of the Lord upon him?”

Luke 1:66

This week before Christmas, thoughts of my family fill me up. They always do! Still, every time I walk past the gifts my husband and I wrapped for them I imagine their reactions. Our granddaughters have given up their fascination with gift wrap and turn their attention to the gifts inside. Our little grandson is following in their footsteps. He certainly enjoyed his last birthday gifts! Our daughter’s-in-law will enjoy their gifts as well. If they don’t, we’ll never know because they’re two of the most gracious young women I know. Our sons are another story. Old as they are, they have studied and shaken the gifts left in sight over the past few weeks. We have purposely disguised almost everything we’re giving them in an effort to confuse them as best we can.

Yes, my family has been on my mind –not their gifts as much as each one of them. Though none of us is perfect, the hand of the Lord has truly blessed us all. I’m most grateful! When one feasts upon Christmas Love all year long, there’s nothing more to do than to give thanks.

I thank you with all of my heart, Dear God, for the family and friends you have given me to love. Help me and all of these precious people to share your love wherever we find ourselves.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Reason To Be Joyful!

Summoning two of his disciples,
John sent them to ask the Lord,
“Are you He who is to come
or are we to expect someone else?”

Luke 7:19

I’ve decided to hold tightly to the peace with which I’ve been blessed these days while I also turn my attention to Christmas Joy. Though the house is decorated and most of the shopping is finished, we continue to tackle the tasks at hand. My husband the deacon works on his homily. I prepare an article due to the early Christmas bulletin deadline. I breathe deeply every time I pass our Christmas Tree. I’ve wrapped most of the gifts and checked our stocking stuffers. Our budget includes more than I’d hoped for those who need a little boost just now and our parish gift-giving campaign characteristically reached beyond all of our expectations. In the midst of this all, we’ve spent a good deal of quality time with our family.

Yes, in spite of the world’s troubles both near and far, I’m experiencing tangible joy. When John the Baptist posed the question I cite above, Jesus answered with absolute proof of better things to come: “The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life and the poor have the good news preached to them.” Two millenniums later, God hints at those better things in the loving care we give and receive every single day.

Dear God, thank you for the joy which comes in the goodness of others and in your presence among us all.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seeds of Peace

Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted.

Psalm 80:16

As this second week of Advent comes to an end, I continue my effort to bring God’s peace to my little corner of the world. Our Christmas shopping is nearly finished and I’m most grateful. Still, I’ve had a bit of trouble maintaining the peace within and around me. It’s so difficult these days!

My little family and I are generously blessed. I express my gratitude to the Lord God daily –sometimes several times a day- for this. I also cannot count how often I give thanks for the little things which compel me to smile so often. Still, others for whom I care deeply suffer greatly. Add to this the woes of our world and you see why I’m troubled. I wonder what I can do to alleviate any of this.

So it is that I pray for peace within those I know and in the rest of this world. When nothing seems to change, my impatience compels me to order the Almighty to take care of things. “I wouldn’t talk to you this way,” I say, “if you’d fix this!” It’s usually after such a conversation that I run into a loved one. He or she shares that, though all isn’t well, God is within and they’re at peace. The same is true with the rest of the world. When I’m most tempted to lose hope, a random peacemaker across the ocean makes the nightly news. It’s then that I kneel to apologize and to renew my promise to share God’s peace.

Patient God, thank you for trusting each of us with your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved