Love’s DNA

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

After spending some very enjoyable time outdoors in God’s company, I had to laugh over my attempts at prayer. There are times when the tone and the topic of my prayers amaze me. I can only imagine what God must be thinking! More than once, I’ve stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I’m thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty, I take a deep breath and begin again.

It’s during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on. The latter is the experience I enjoyed today.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate to be created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in us. I can’t help thinking of this infusion of love as God’s DNA within us. As a result, we all know on some level that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we’re not only compelled to pray, but also to assume that we’re heard.

Loving God, thank you for your loving care.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Act Like Children… Really!

For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is greatest.

From Luke 9:48

A recent walk around a nearby lake reminded me of just how small I am. This particular lake is tiny itself and offers a very limited beach area. The remainder of its circumference is lined with trees and foliage. The greenery is interrupted only by a narrow path just wide enough for two or three people. Still, as I walked along, I felt like a little ant in the grand scheme of things.

There are other times when I feel very small as well. In spite of my best efforts, it seems that I cannot do much to solve the problems of this world. Though I try very hard to live up to the spirit of these daily reflections, I don’t seem to accomplish much. Our war with COVID-19 rages on, poverty in so many places ravages too many of us, and special interests continue to argue more and accomplish less. I wonder too often if there actually is anything I can do to make an important difference.

It’s in the midst of this lament that I recall Jesus’ words regarding our need to become like children. Little girls and boys don’t over-think things. They simply observe the situation at hand and respond accordingly. It occurs to me that I do my best work when I follow this lead. I do actually have the capacity to change the world. Through seemingly insignificant efforts, I bring something which is needed to one soul at a time. You know, so do you! Never underestimate the power of simply doing what needs to be done in the moment at hand.

Dear God, thank you for acknowledging that the small things we do for one another make a world of difference after all.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Joseph, The Worker

Instead, because of a warning he received in a dream,
Joseph took them to the region of Galilee.
There he settled in a town called Nazareth.

From Matthew 2:22-23

It seems appropriate to acknowledge Saint Joseph in these Lent 2020 reflections. After all, he joined Mary in providing the family life and home where Jesus prepared for his work among us…

On this Feast of St. Joseph, my thoughts return to one of two references made to Joseph during our visit to Israel. While in Nazareth, we viewed Mary’s home and another dwelling carved out of stone. Our guide remarked that the people lived in stone homes. Even shelves and seating areas inside where hewn from rock. “If you look around,” Yossi observed, “there aren’t many trees here. No one could have made a living as a carpenter.” Archaeologists and historians agree that Joseph was more likely a stonemason and a versatile handyman of sorts who could handle a variety of tasks. Yossi agreed that Jesus likely followed in Joseph’s footsteps which would make him a very-much-in-demand artisan as well. “This was very respectable work,” Yossi added.

In the midst of this commentary, I imagined Joseph looking more like the Israeli soldiers I’d seen than the sedate statuary which adorns many churches. There is nothing easy about carving into stone and Joseph certainly built strong muscles in the process. There was nothing easy about Joseph’s lot in life. When Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus, she pulled Joseph into impossible circumstances. Her out-of-wedlock pregnancy could have caused Mary to be stoned to death. To protect her, Joseph intended to divorce Mary quietly until an angel explained the circumstances. So it was that Joseph took Mary into his home as his wife. They were barely settled when a census forced them to travel to Bethlehem. After Jesus was born, Joseph packed up his family once again to flee to Egypt. To avoid further danger, Joseph finally settled his family in Nazareth where Jesus grew into manhood.

We celebrate the Good Saint Joseph because he gave up everything to provide for Mary and Jesus.

Dear God, give us the courage to emulate Joseph’s generosity and selflessness as we care for those we have been given to love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Time To Forgive

“…go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:24

I recently celebrated my mom’s and stepdad’s wedding anniversary. While they celebrated in the hereafter, I recalled the whirlwind of festivities which led up to their wedding day and the happy days which followed. This musing elicited memories of my own wedding preparations…

When we became engaged, our parish priest provided all of the required marriage preparation. I appreciated this effort because I had known Father O’Connell since I was four years old and my fiancé had known him since high school. Father was like a second dad to me and I was thrilled that he wanted to ensure that Mike and I started this marriage with our best feet forward. Though Father’s talks were all helpful, one bit of advice has proven to be most beneficial over the years. Father encouraged us to never ever go bed angry with one another. The longevity our relationship is evidence of Father’s wisdom in this regard.

As I consider the value of Father’s wisdom, it occurs to me that I need to apply his advice to my other relationships as well. It’s never helpful to allow recent hurts to age into old scars. When I spend time nursing my wounds rather than dealing with their source, I bring their pain to every subsequent encounter. How much better off I’d be if I had sought out my perceived adversary and explored the problem with him or her! Though the result might not be what I prefer, the air between us will certainly be clearer. Isn’t fresh air always more energizing than smog?

Loving God, it has taken me too long to apply Father’s decades-old lesson to my other relationships. Thank you for giving me the sense to figure this out!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Inspired To Carry On

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of God.

Psalm 98:3cd

On this second day of the New Year unfolds, I’m inspired by faith and hope. I’ve encountered these virtues in people whom many view as having little reason for either. A friend who continues cancer treatment celebrated Christmas bravely. He embraces 2020 with the certainty that blessings lie ahead. Family members and friends who placed a husband and dad, grandpa and father-in-law, brother and cousin and best friend into God’s hands over the past few months mourn their losses by supporting those who mourn with them with unrivaled love. A discouraged friend who gives herself in service to others day in and day out now sees that her hope is fulfilled in everyone she touches. She’s learning to accept their thanks graciously and to take time for herself on occasion.

Too many in our human family suffer the worst this life has to offer. Each one endures his or her personal variety of devastation. It is God’s presence at their sides which encourages our hope that each one will endure and emerge with grace.

It really is true that God’s salvation extends to all the ends of the earth. It’s up to us to open our eyes to see it, our arms to embrace it and our hearts to share it.

Loving God, wherever I find myself today, help me to move beyond my own trials with faith and hope in better things to come. In the process, help me to encourage others to do the same.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beloved Servant

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Matthew 20:27

A recent walk past my wall of family photos brought Aunt Lucille to mind…

After raising her own children and becoming a widow for the second time, Aunt Lucille busied herself by caring for home-bound elderly people. She had a way with others and her “ladies” as she called them were no exception. One particular woman had been troublesome from the start. This was our opinion, NOT Aunt Lucille’s. The woman’s memory no longer served her which exacerbated her already trying personality. She was unkind and demanding at best. Still, Aunt Lucille made a point of discovering this woman’s favorite things and her pet peeves in an attempt to accentuate the positive and to avoid the negative as best she could. During the year Aunt Lucille cared for her, this woman became one of her most tiring and most beloved patients. When this woman passed away, Aunt Lucille attended her funeral.

The woman’s family was well-known and many notable people attended the service. When Aunt Lucille arrived early to insure herself a seat, she sat in the last row to avoid imposing upon anyone. Just before the funeral service began, the woman’s son noticed Aunt Lucille in the back of the church. He immediately walked back to her and escorted her to the family’s pew. “My mother loved you, Lucille. You’ve been a blessing to her and to us. Your place is here!” Needless to say, my aunt was overwhelmed by this recognition. That son’s kindness gave her a glimpse of God’s appreciation as well!

Loving God, help us all to put ourselves aside and to care for those we’ve been given to love with Aunt Lucille’s humility and generosity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved