Wait With Joy!

May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.

Psalm 72:17

In just ten days, Christmas will be here. My husband has stolen away for a few well-deserved hours at the health club. I’ve completed the tasks at hand so I’m taking advantage of the quiet house. I settled myself in the living room where I had an unobstructed view of our Christmas Tree. Since childhood, this has been my favorite place to await Christmas Day.

I basked in the sparkling lights and inhaled the scent of pine. After a whimsical peek at the tree’s eclectic array of ornaments, my eyes rested upon the crèche below it. The tiny figurines huddled there give life to the greatest story ever told. I recalled childhood discussions with my mother regarding this amazing birth and the lessons offered by the good sisters and priests. They underscored all that my mother had told me about the baby boy in whom heaven and earth came together that first Christmas. His story changed the world forever. During those quiet moments before our Christmas Tree, I realized anew that his story changed my own life forever as well.

On my way to the study, I found myself humming Happy Birthday. Yes, Happy Birthday to Jesus! The gifts of his life and lessons continue to nudge us a bit closer to all that God hopes for us. Now there is reason to rejoice!

Gracious God, I can never thank you enough for the gift of your presence in my life. Gift each of your children with a tangible sense of your presence and a heart sensitive enough to respond.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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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

Peace-filled Hugs and Smiles

“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.”

Zephaniah 3:13

She’s done it again! Actually, Carol and her husband have done this numerous times much to my good fortune! A few years ago, I mentioned Carol in my daily reflection because she had really made all of the difference in the world to me on a really tough day. It was Advent and I was attempting to encourage all of us to bring a bit of peace to one another as we made our way to Christmas. (I know. This is a familiar theme which I’m revisiting this Advent.) Apparently, the annual frenzy which threatens all of our spirits compels me to repeat this urging. It seems that I need it more than most!

If you’re a frequent reader, you know that I’ve been impatient and on edge. I’m having great difficulty accepting the fact that I cannot repair this world to my satisfaction. Luckily, Carol has once again noticed my occasional grimaces and she has countered them with the best of hugs. Carol’s husband has learned much from her thoughtful ways. In Carol’s absence, Ed makes a point of happening by to elicit a smile from me. If their hugs or smiles seem not to lighten my mood, Carol and Ed ask what’s up and then listen with great patience. Every time, I walk away with a lighter burden because they’ve allowed me to share it with them.

Thank you, Carol and Ed, for this generous taste of peace on earth!

Loving God, as we prepare for Christmas together, help us to bring your peace to everyone we meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Waiting Peacefully

This Second Sunday of Advent, we begin our liturgy with the lighting of two candles on our Advent Wreath. Last weekend’s candle invited us to renew our hope by acknowledging God’s promising presence among us. Though this is the season of waiting, just as God’s people awaited the Messiah, we cannot help celebrating that arrival in the moments at hand. This week’s candle draws us in from December’s cold and that of our weary world. Its flame lights our way back to God who promises us all that we will ever need. It’s light draws us into the glow of God’s peace.

On the First Sunday of Advent, I lamented with Isaiah over the many imperfections of this life. I joined him in questioning God’s wisdom in allowing us the freedom to do what we wish. After all, we don’t always choose what’s best for ourselves or for those we’ve been given to love. Fortunately, I joined Isaiah in coming to one additional important realization: Along with the gift of freedom, God offers us the gift of good counsel. Isaiah put it perfectly when he prayed, “O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are the work of your hands.” Upon hearing those words, I promised myself that I would hold onto that image throughout Advent. What more can I ask than to have God’s hands wrapped gently around me, molding my rough edges into the person God knows I can be?

This past week, that image transformed potentially trying moments into joyful encounters. Tasks which might have overwhelmed me became memories in the making. My dear husband and I decorated for Christmas with the bows and beads, lights and ornaments we’ve gathered over the years. Each one inspired gratitude for blessings received and tragedies overcome. Though I cannot know what the next few decades will bring, I expect only more of the same because this is what God has taught me to do. As for this coming week, let’s turn to Isaiah once again for inspiration…

In today’s first reading (Isaiah 40:1-5; 9-11), the prophet heralds the onset of new times for his people. Isaiah rejoices because God’s passionate love has not run out. God is the shepherd who “…feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom.” While I found great solace in the image of myself as clay in God’s hand, I find greater peace in seeing myself as a lamb in God’s arms. God can certainly work miracles by molding my imperfections away. Still, how much more God can do with me when I’m drawn into God’s arms! What more might I become as my head rests against God’s chest so close to God’s heart?

This image evokes both a chill and remarkable peace. Resting in God’s arms is a welcome retreat. Yet I must consider the consequences. Once I allow myself to be in such close proximity to my God, I might never be able to pull myself away. I might never again be able to experience the things of this world in quite the same way. I might always be distracted by God’s beating heart, always looking toward something greater than this world has to offer. It occurs to me that I must thank Isaiah in my prayer today for revealing another facet of God’s love. How attuned Isaiah must have been to our loving Creator, for he describes God’s love most eloquently.

The flickering flames of our Advent Wreath’s candles beckon me once again. Though my thoughts unexpectedly return to all I hope to accomplish by Christmas, those flickering flames plead for my attention. I imagine myself to be the tiny lamb whom Isaiah sees in God’s arms. Suddenly, the tasks which await me at home and here at my parish seem less daunting. Suddenly, I find myself impelled to do what I must to share the peace I experience in God’s arms. Perhaps I can imitate Isaiah’s generosity by sharing Christmas Peace a few weeks early.

Inspired as I am by Isaiah’s peaceful image of you and me in God’s embrace, I acknowledge that not one of our lives is a series of perfect Hallmark Moments. Still, I can’t help sharing Isaiah’s conviction that you and I can transform those imperfections into something better if we choose to do so. How can we waste our time lamenting when we’re rapt in God’s peace? This coming week, will you join me in making this your Advent Prayer?

Loving God, I am the tiny lamb at rest in your arms. Hold me close to your heart that I may learn to love as you love. Let me see with your eyes, let me listen with your ears and let me touch every moment with your peace. Be with me as I embrace every day with the peace of Christmas. Amen.

©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

Mary’s Gift of Peace

“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me…”

From Psalm 50:5

As I attempt to share a measure of Christmas Peace with those around me, Mary comes to mind. My mom was devoted to the Mother of Jesus and I cannot help sharing her affection for this amazing woman. This reverence took root in elementary school. My parish and school were named to honor Mary on the occasion of her presentation to God in the temple by her parents. I’m quite certain that Joachim and Ann had no idea of the extent to which their daughter would take this commitment. Our parish priests and the sisters added to my admiration by expounding often regarding Mary’s life.

When I realized the conditions which surrounded Mary’s motherhood, she stole my heart. Mary accepted her role as the mother of Jesus at the ripe age of fourteen. Mary’s commitment turned her world upside down. Because she wasn’t yet married, Mary might have paid for her pregnancy with her life. Fortunately, though Joseph had every reason to leave Mary to fend for herself, he welcomed her into his home and his life. The good Joseph earned my respect as well.

On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I honor and celebrate this woman who offered me brave example by following her heart and doing what she felt was the right thing. Mary made peace with her life and, as a result, she allowed heaven’s peace to touch our world.

Dear God, thank you for Mary and all of the amazing souls who inspire the rest of us to bring your peace to others.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved