In Jesus’ Footsteps…

He emptied himself
taking the form of a slave,
being born in our likeness.

Philippians 2:7

It is Palm Sunday Eve. I’m involved in Holy Week preparations at church. As a result, images of the first Holy Week swirl about in my mind. Though I’ve tried to set aside time to spend with God every day throughout Lent, Holy Week is a special opportunity for me to do this. I wasn’t in Jerusalem two thousand years ago and I don’t know what my response to Jesus would have been if I had been there. I am here now and today I’m certain of my response to Jesus, to his example and to his teachings. So it is that I focus on those images from so long ago…

While Jesus and the disciples prepared to enter Jerusalem, Caiaphas began to execute his plan. He would see to the demise of the Good Shepherd, the one who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. Poor Caiaphas had missed everything of importance which Jesus had said regarding God’s mercy and inclusiveness and unconditional love. Poor Caiaphas was blinded and deafened by his own desire to maintain his stature and his power. Caiaphas missed Jesus’ assertion that each one of us, including Caiaphas, is worth anything and everything Jesus would endure during the week ahead.

This coming week, I plan to turn the tables on Jesus as well. Rather than waiting for my Good Shepherd to find me, I will find Jesus in his hour of need. I will walk with him every step of the way.

Loving God, Jesus emptied himself for love of you and for love of me. Amen.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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What Shall I Do With Him?

Pilate said, “Then what shall I do with this Jesus…?”
From Matthew 27:22

In just seven days, we’ll observe Good Friday. Where have the first thirty-four days of Lent 2019 gone? It occurs to me that I need to adjust my focus and to make the most of the coming week. My husband’s recent battle with lingering flu symptoms and my own cold have drained our energy. These things have lengthened our to-do lists and shortened the time I usually invest in writing. Still, my husband and I are recovering. We will catch up one of these days. In the mean time, I return my thoughts to the coming week and to this Jesus who puzzled poor Pilate so. I offer a prayer for this Roman Procurator who couldn’t bring himself to deal with Jesus justly. Though Pilate sensed that those who brought Jesus before him had less than honorable intentions, he couldn’t move beyond his fear to question their intentions. Rather, he allowed that relentless mob to lead him.

This same Jesus rarely puzzles me. It is Jesus who revealed God’s limitless love and mercy to me. It is Jesus who inspires me to love my neighbors and enemies alike and to stop along the way to help anyone who needs me. Though I fail too often, it is Jesus who encourages me to try, try again to do my best. This is all that Jesus -and God whom Jesus revealed- ask of us.

During the seven days which take us to Good Friday, let’s answer Pilate’s question, “What shall I do with this Jesus?” Let’s respond to Pilate and to everyone else who wonders through all that we do. Jesus inspired me with the way he lived. Let’s do the same for one another.

Loving God, help us to share your love as Jesus did.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They Couldn’t Resist Him!

Jesus said to them, “Come after me;
I will make you fishers of men.”
They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:17-18

In a few days, several friends will fly off to Israel. I’m feeling a bit melancholy regarding their departure as I was supposed to join them for this adventure. Unfortunately for me, circumstances arose which caused me to delay this return trip for another time. Still, as quickly as I wrote about my disappointment, I couldn’t help smiling. I’ve been to Israel twice before and both trips left me filled with awe. Though I know Jesus’ story well, walking where he walked and meeting his modern-day countrymen and women firsthand touched me in amazingly unexpected ways.

It was in Israel that I finally began to understand what caused the disciples to walk away from everything to follow Jesus. Simon and Andrew were hard-working men who left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps Jesus couldn’t contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people to him. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely, all of whom found the courage to approach Jesus.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I did walk where he walked. I breathed the air he breathed and I sailed on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus so often found solace. The truth is that I can’t imagine my life without his influence. When I consider the Jesus I’ve come to know, I understand the attraction. It must have been overwhelmingly amazing to walk with a visible Jesus because simply being where he was proved completely overwhelming to me.

With that, I wish my Israel-bound friends an equally amazing encounter!

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Reveal God’s Love

“The works that I’ve given to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that God has sent me.”

From John 5:36

For just a little while, I’m once again citing my childhood impatience with some of Jesus’ contemporaries. As a pre-teen (I think I’d be a “tween” today), it seemed obvious to me that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God. I wondered often why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to accept the same. They knew that Israel had awaited the Messiah for some time by then. They knew better than the rest of the people the Messiah’s origins and the circumstances of his eventual arrival. Still, they rejected Jesus.

Sadly, I admit that I sometimes do the same… Jesus accomplished amazing things from his humble state, yet I wonder if my retirement will be comfortable. Jesus needed no worldly authority to serve others, but I’m sometimes saddened when others don’t value my input. Jesus habitually sought the company of outcasts. Still, I sometimes seek out the local power-brokers to promote my causes. Jesus set aside his own concerns whenever he was needed. As for me, I sometimes withdraw because I’m tired of doing all that I do. Jesus prayed at every opportunity and I can go for hours without whispering a word to God above.

Though I wish the Pharisees had embraced Jesus rather than rebuffing them, I’m going to forget about their behavior and focus on my own. I know that Jesus revealed our loving God quite accurately and it’s up to me to do the same as best I can.

Good and Patient God, help me to reveal your love as only I can.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Recognizing Jesus

“The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.”

John 5:36

I am returning for a moment to my childhood impatience with the behaviors of Jesus’ contemporaries. If it was so obvious to me at age ten or eleven that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God, why was it so difficult for the Pharisees to accept the same? They knew that all of Israel awaited the Messiah. Foreign astrologers who recognized the sign in the night sky over their own country traveled to faraway Jerusalem in search of Jesus. It seemed to me that, in spite of everything, the Pharisees and many others should have known better than to reject Jesus.

Sadly, I acknowledge that times have not changed much. Though we see all that Jesus accomplished from his humble state, we work to accumulate riches. Though we see that Jesus needed no worldly authority to serve us, we vie for power. Though Jesus sought the company of outcasts, we prefer those of higher stature regardless of the condition of their character. Though Jesus set aside his own concerns whenever he was needed, we take care of ourselves first. Though Jesus sought out time for prayer at every opportunity, we complain when our worship service seems dull or a homily lasts too long.

Though times have not changed much, there is still time for me to change.

Good and Patient God, I continue to allow my humanity to keep me from nurturing the beautiful soul that is my authentic self. Help me to replace the ways of this world with your ways.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved