Mercy Says It All…

Mercy is what pleases me…
From Matthew 9:13

Unexpected encounters with mercy never cease to amaze me: The school principal who walks a new teacher through classroom management rather than chiding her for lacking this particular skill; the parent who gently removes a story book from her toddler’s ravaging hands to demonstrate appropriate page-turning rather than scolding her little one; the police officer who offers a stern warning regarding that forgotten seat belt rather than ticketing the dad who buckled in the baby appropriately, but forgot himself; the commuter who slips a few dollars into the hand of a homeless man rather than passing judgment. Go ahead. Make your own list of merciful deeds…

Jesus was conversing with the Pharisees when he offered the comment above. His temple adversaries were upset because Jesus ate with tax collectors and other sinners. Jesus responded by making it clear that these “sinners” were precisely those to whom he had come. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus didn’t demand further sacrifices from the suffering souls he encountered. Jesus asked only for enough time to extend God’s mercy to each one.

Mercy extended to those we meet along the way and mercy extended to ourselves is never a wasted effort. Mercy says it all when it comes to God.

Merciful God, thank you for loving us so completely!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Welcome, Neighbor!

“Love one another.”
From John 13:34

The other day, I watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with my grandsons. The show is well done and has been the source of many discussions between me and the kids. It elicited precious memories. Daniel Tiger is one of Fred Roger’s make-believe friends from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood which I watched with my own sons too many decades ago. That effort wasn’t wasted as I truly tried to emulate Mr. Roger’s welcoming ways in my own life. His wisdom inspired my efforts, especially throughout my teaching career…

My most frustrating experiences were the result of observing stubborn or mean-spirited adults who refused to welcome others into the moment at hand as a neighbor would: A teacher who misrepresented a student rather than admit an error; a principal who refused to support a teacher whom she simply didn’t care for; a lunch monitor whose demeanor was less-than-welcoming toward “those” kids; a custodian who took his time when certain teachers called for help. This list exists in one form or another in just about every human institution, I know. How much more we’d accomplish if only we’d welcome one another as Fred Rogers -and Jesus- suggested.

Luke’s gospel tells us that a hungry homeless man, covered with sores, died on a rich man’s doorstep. He might have survived if the rich man had only welcomed him in. Today, God asks us to take notice of those above us, those below us and those who walk at our sides. “Take notice and welcome them all,” God says.

Patient God, I sometimes fail to offer your welcome. Please help me to see everyone around me with your loving eyes and to respond to each one with your loving heart.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Caring For You…

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that
I am fearfully, wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:14

A friend recently shared that she isn’t going to oversee an annual project this year. Though this effort supported a very worthy cause, she simply cannot expend the energy required this time around. She’s getting over the care-taking and recent loss of a loved one and she needs a break. I congratulated my friend for being caring enough and objective enough to prioritize all that is expected of her these days. That event needs to rank among the least of her concerns just now.

It occurs to me that each of us needs to take stock of our activities and responsibilities from time to time. Sometimes, we wrestle with self-imposed burdens which are sometimes far less important than we consider them to be. So it is that I will follow my friend’s example in the days ahead. It’s obvious that I should place the needs of my loved ones first. The difficulty comes with less pressing tasks which perhaps do more for my self-concept than they actually do for anyone else or for me. In the end, my need to love, to serve, to write and to rest must all be considered honestly and with the best interests of all concerned in mind.

Loving God, you have gifted us with a work-ethic and a love-ethic. Help us to live up to both with generosity and good judgment. Help us also to love and to care for ourselves in the process.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

L… Love!

You shall love God…
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

From Matthew 22:37-38

L is for Love. This is a tough one. I don’t have a bit of trouble loving God. Though I admit to having had words with our patient Creator, this is the result of my certainty of God’s love for me. God invited me into a relationship. When I accepted, I committed myself to being completely honest in our interactions. This is my only choice. After all, if I choose not to share my true feelings, God knows them nonetheless.

Early on, a wise teacher shared that there is something lovable about every one of us and that it is up to us to discover what this is. This observation has helped me a great deal over the years. Though I don’t have a flawless track record, I can honestly say that I don’t hate anyone. Still, though I love my neighbor in theory, putting that love into practice sometimes poses a challenge. The good news here is that I do try. The better news is that joy is the result of these efforts.

The toughest part is loving my neighbor as I love myself. Sometimes, I’m judgmental and much of that judgment is directed toward me. If I fail to love myself enough to allow myself the luxury of being a frail human, how can I love my neighbors enough to allow them to do the same?

Love is a tricky endeavor at best. Still, it’s the best work we can do and the best source of our joy. The words from Matthew cited above aren’t a directive. They’re an invitation to heaven on earth.

Loving God, thank you for creating us in your image, especially when it comes to our ability love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

The One Without Sin…

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

From John 8:7

I turned off the television and told myself, “I must be getting old!” The last item in the newscast I’d abandoned highlighted a recent scandal, this time by a political figure. I chose not to listen further because I’ve heard far too much of the same as of late. Scandals used to shock me. They shook my faith in whichever of our human institutions was affected. Still, though our morality is more than a little lax these days, we continue to pick up stones and to throw them whenever given the chance.

The woman caught in adultery sinned. I know. If she had not, Jesus wouldn’t have felt the need to forgive her. Still, Jesus offered his absolution. Then, Jesus sent her off with a single bit of advice: From now on, do not sin any more. Though I’m incapable of writing a treatise on sin, I think there is a lesson here. Jesus’ point is that God is far more merciful than we when it comes to our failures and the things that bother us most seem far less consequential to God. It seems to me that we need to leave the judgment of our sisters and brothers to our merciful God. We have more than enough of our own sins to fret over. Perhaps we need to leave our own judgment to God as well. God is far more patient and forgiving of us than we are of ourselves.

The moral of the story? Lighten up! We must forgive our adversaries and forgive ourselves. God is a firm believer in second chances and we should be, too!

Forgiving God, thank you for your enduring mercy and forgiveness. Be with us as we try to forgive as you do.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved