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

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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

From Hope To Joy

“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord..”

From Isaiah 11:9

The approach of Christmas preparations always pique my nostalgia. Tomorrow is the first day of Advent and I can’t help taking a walk down Memory Lane. My musing draws me back to Christmas 1959, just five months after my dad passed away. I was only eight years old and I wondered what Christmas would be like that year. Today, I recall the efforts of those around me who made this Christmas special, perhaps in an effort to ease the sting of my dad’s absence…

Though she was in mourning herself, my older sister Rita helped our Mom to prepare a special gift for each one of us. On Christmas Eve, our parish priests asked my brother to walk his wagon to the rectory. Raoul returned with a full wagon carrying a beautifully wrapped package for each of the six of us. After Christmas dinner, we went on to Aunt Claire’s and Uncle Steve’s home to celebrate with my dad’s family. My aunt and uncle ushered us to their Christmas Tree for more gifts. Though all concerned knew that nothing could replace my dad, they did their best to emulate his love for us. Though I cannot name all of the gifts I received that year, I continue to feel the love offered that day. It has sustained me for a lifetime. My hope was fulfilled well beyond my expectations that Christmas. You know, my hope is fulfilled beyond my expectations every day!

Generous God, you gifted me with loved ones who fulfilled my hope beyond my dreams. As we begin Advent 2017, help me to spread hope throughout this season and always.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beloved King

In an effort to organize my thoughts for this writing, I decided to ignore the mist in the air and to head outdoors for a much-needed walk. I reread today’s scripture passages and then bundled up for my trek into autumn. Much to my surprise, I found that the threat of rain had retreated and the clouds had separated just enough to allow an occasional glimpse of blue. I whispered a prayer of thanks for my good fortune and then set my pace for the duration. In an effort to clear my head, I set aside today’s topic and concentrated on the fleeting color around me. Recent winds, my dear husband and our diligent neighbors had removed most of the leaves along the way. The few which remained on the sidewalk made no sound as I walked over them. The morning’s drizzle had robbed them of their crackling crunch. Still, I gave thanks for their once-brilliant color which had so generously gifted us all.

As I walked, I noticed a few stubborn leaves clinging with all of their might to otherwise barren branches. As I continued on, I saw that several more determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves mustering their strength in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second during which they remained in place. Those determined leaves had lived life to the full as best they could and they weren’t about to let go before they absolutely had to do so. Those leaves which clung so tightly to their branches weren’t in alone their efforts. I also discovered a smattering of their counterparts nuzzled close to the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulated them for a job well done. I also reminded them that their work on this earth isn’t finished. They will swirl and settle and swirl in the air again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. While they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will also enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves. These new leaves will repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

In spite of my effort to clear my head, those leafy encounters filled my head with a renewed understanding of today’s feast day. For this I was also most grateful. Today, we observe the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year which is The Feast of Christ the King. This timing is intentional. We’ve spent the year reading and listening to scripture passages which recount Jesus’ life and his teachings. Jesus used both his word and his example to teach God’s ways. Jesus preached love, mercy and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus worked very hard at convincing those he met along the way that God loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. This is the reason Jesus publicly referenced God as his Abba, his Daddy, and the reason Jesus invited us to do the same. While Jesus provided a lifetime of good example, he assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, shunning the presumptuous ones who attempted to use his acquaintance to increase their stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor and he always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, determined not to let go until he had to let go. On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who hold onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, his work continues in and through the lives of all of God’s children. Yes, through you and me.

As I considered the innumerable reasons I have to give thanks for Jesus’ impact upon my life, his presumed kingship never entered my mind. I researched the history of today’s feast because I wondered why we call attention to the one title which Jesus seemed least anxious to acquire. I discovered that in the grand scheme of church history this feast is relatively new. This observance was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Pius served during extremely difficult times when communism and fascist governments threatened many. Pius hoped that this feast would draw attention away from those political bullies and toward Jesus who ruled with the authentic power of God’s love. When I consider Jesus’ kingship in this light, I find good reason to celebrate.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I rejoice in the many lessons I found among this year’s crop of leaves. Their brave journeys through spring’s budding, summer’s lush exuberance and fall’s decay opened my eyes once again to the wonder to be found in Jesus’ life. So it is that today I celebrate Jesus, our Jesus who clung to a tree to complete his life and to let go of it, just as you and I will do. Even more so, I celebrate the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is that life which teaches me how to live and how to love as God asks.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I Give Thanks

Give thanks to God;
bless God’s name for God is good:
the Lord whose kindness endures forever…

From Psalm 100:4-5

As I consider the things for which I’m grateful, I find that I have more time than usual to compile a list. My husband and I aren’t cooking today. Our older son and his wife have taken on our annual Thanksgiving feast. His younger brother and wife will do the same for Christmas Day. I admit that I’m quietly rejoicing in response to this turn of events. Thank you, God!

The next point on my list of blessings is my family. That I married was a huge surprise to me. That my husband and I have children is a miracle, literally, from what the doctors have told us. I’m grateful to my parents who shared their faith with me through their practical daily lives. They appreciated God’s love and their resulting ability to weather any storm taught me to do the same. My siblings each contributed to who I am today in so many ways. Thank you, God!

I appreciate God’s love, too. When in doubt, I turn to Jesus who insisted that God loves us as we are with all of our frailties intact. Though Jesus provided a lifetime of very good example, he also assured us that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more. Thank you for this, Dear God, because I sometimes forget that I’m good enough for you!

On this Thanksgiving Day, this reflection should be the longest I’ve ever written because my blessings are so numerous. Suffice to say that God knows them all and that I’m most grateful. I hope you find that the same is true for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever-Grateful!

Giving voice to my thanks,
and recounting all your wondrous deeds, O Lord…

From Psalm 26:7-8

I cannot tell you whose voice it was that I heard. I was in the other room during the telecast. Still, those words echoed in my mind throughout the day. Even today, I can hear, “A grateful soul is a happy soul!” Though I was too busy to run into the family room to see who spoke from our television set, I was not so busy that I ignored the message. As is usually the case when I hear or read something which gets to what I consider to be the heart of the matter, I mulled over this observation for days.

I’ve understood the value of gratitude since very early on in my life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve begun my prayers by saying “thank you” for blessings received. Even when the moment at hand seemed void of reason to be grateful something within always compelled me to say, “Thank you!” to God. These initial expressions of gratitude never failed to influence the tone of the rest of what I had to say. What might have been a litany of requests morphed into a conversation during which I spoke and then listened regarding the needs of others. Though I never actually heard another voice in response, I certainly felt the presence of our Benevolent God. It is no wonder that I wake up every morning saying, “Thank you for the sleep!” I simply can’t help myself for which I’m also most grateful!

Gracious God, help us all to be grateful heralds of your generous love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved