It’s All About Love…

Those who sow with tears will reap with joy.
Psalm 126:5

I’ve shed some tears as of late. Another family birthday celebrated via FaceTime eased me a bit deeper into my melancholy. As has been the case since this pandemic took hold, the news added to my heartbreak. I turned off the television before that newscast ended because I couldn’t listen any longer. A day later, I viewed an appeal for assistance to hungry families and a report on the devastation of too many small businesses. If I multiplied the misery chronicled in those reports by one hundred, it would still be a drop in the bucket of injustices which affect so many of our sisters and brothers these days.

With each passing day, I worry, I give thanks for the blessing of my own family, I worry more and tears return. Then, I read blurbs in our parish bulletin about our annual appeal for Aid For Women and the Catholic Charities school supplies drive. Suddenly, the tears stopped. “This I can do something about!” I said aloud.

After conferring with my dear husband about how much we can squeeze out of our budget for these causes, I looked upward. With obvious impatience, I announced, “I wish I could find a cure for the virus,too, but I’m no scientist!” After hurling those words at our loving Creator, I humbly added, “How do you take care of all of this twenty-four/seven even when we fail to appreciate your efforts?” Within seconds, I could almost hear God’s response: “It’s love, Mary. It’s all about love…”

It occurred to me that it was time to wipe away the tears, to do whatever I could in the moment at hand and to leave the rest to God. It also occurred to me that it was time to love as God loves.

Dear God, our capacity to love is an amazing gift. Help us to use it generously.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Up To Us

Be compassionate as God is compassionate.
Luke 6:36

I admit that I’m repeating myself here, but I can’t help it. A recent phone call ignited my angst regarding the injustices of this life. A few minutes spent perusing the newspaper and then listening to a newscast added to my unrest. I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of those I’ve been given to love. Whether they are my own family, starving children half a world away or the sick across town, I find it difficult to accept that there actually is nothing I can do to help.

My frustration almost always gets the best of me. After moaning to myself, I look upward and groan, “If only you would reveal yourself to those in power, they might actually take it upon themselves to fix this mess!” I tell God that I do realize that repairing this world of ours is a multi-leveled task. Still, I add that a change of heart among the higher-ups (as well as the rest of us) would certainly help.

In God’s infinite wisdom, God allows me to stew until I return to my senses. It is then that I acknowledge that God leaves it to us to do the best we can in all of this. God’s assistance comes in the example of Jesus, in the good people around us who urge us on and in God’s presence among us and within each one of us. In the end, God leaves it up to us to bring about change, one moment at a time, one problem at a time, one opportunity at a time…

Patient God, forgive my impatience with others, with myself and with you. Help me and all of us to do what we can whenever we can to make this world a better place.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Week… Tuesday

The huge crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while some began to cut branches from the trees
and lay them along his path.

Matthew 21:8

I suppose it was easy to get caught up in the frenzy over Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, the faces of those around me vied for my attention. Though most were too busy to notice the small group of tourists who hurriedly walked among them, an occasional passer-by offered a smile. Others looked less-than-pleased when our presence slowed their frenetic pace. I couldn’t complain as I’ve sported the same facial expression when hurriedly making my way through the mall or grocery store. These Israeli’s who call Jerusalem home had no idea that they were such an important part of my time there.

I imagined Jesus looking out at the crowds who welcomed him so excitedly. Surely, they resembled our fellow pedestrians as we made our way through the city. Surely, they were as busy or as preoccupied as their modern-day counterparts. Still, they stopped to welcome Jesus and to cheer him on. Had they heard about his miracles? Had they heard about his inability to pass by a person in need? Were they simply thrilled that someone was bucking their Roman rulers or the stringent temple hierarchy?

Though our parish church is deserted this Holy Week and I have no palms to wave, I have many reasons to welcome Jesus into this day and into my life. Though I’ve heard about his miracles, it is Jesus’ inability to pass by any one of us and his love for all of us which draw me to him. Now, more than ever, I cherish Jesus’ company.

Loving God, thank you for this Jesus who continues to reveal your great love for us and who walks with us through today’s difficulties.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peacemakers All…

Blessed are the peacemakers;
you shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

While in Israel, I was amazed by the circumstances of its people and its property. Israel occupies a large portion of what we consider to be the Holy Land. Interestingly enough, the holiest places within its borders are controlled by various entities including Muslims, Christians and Jews. Our guide is an Israeli citizen who respects his countrymen whatever their beliefs. He speaks Hebrew, Arabic and Italian (among other languages). As a result, he gained us access to sites where others are denied entry. Whenever this occurred, Yossi didn’t revel in his success. He simply pointed out that being respectful of the ways of others and meeting others on their own turf or terms usually leads to peaceful encounters which benefit all concerned. “This is the way to peace,” Yossi would say.

Perhaps this is the reason Yossi exhibited some impatience with his Hasidic Jewish neighbors. I was surprised to learn that they make up only ten percent of Israel’s population. Most of this sect live in their own neighborhoods where they adhere to the strictest code of conduct. Our guide also surprised me when he shared that eighty percent of the population is non-religious. It seemed to trouble Yossi to acknowledged that the holiest place on earth is home to so many non-religious people. Yossi shared that the strict rules and intolerance of a few had soured many Israelis’ views of organized religion.

As I pondered all of this, I considered the “secular” Jewish people who shared the path with us during our stay. Though they didn’t profess a religious affiliation, they did work toward change through their interactions with neighbors of multiple ethnicities. I wondered if they realized that they were peacemakers just like Yossi.

Loving God, help us all to work toward peace with loving hands and loving hearts.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Comfort Them As Only You Can

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
…They will meet with joy and gladness.

From Isaiah 35:4-10

Gift Weekend at my parish church was a huge success. Hundreds of my fellow parishioners arrived for Mass with gifts they’d purchased for needy children and teens. The tremendous need which was met turned my thoughts to some of my students from long ago…

Most of the children in my classroom could hardly wait for Christmas. There were a few, however, who dreaded Christmas vacation. They found comfort in the structure of our classroom where the expected almost always came to fruition. Their school lunch was often the best of their meals and our simple class parties were the best of their Christmases. More sadly, the lack of material treasures in their lives paled in the shadow of their lack of security. The adults around them, heavily burdened with their own troubles, didn’t have the luxury of detecting the hopelessness growing in their children’s eyes.

My thoughts wander further to a child of long ago. While Joseph searched for a place where Mary could give birth, Mary focused upon the child within her. When they finally settled among the livestock that night, perhaps Joseph arranged the hay in that manger while Mary labored. Though it wasn’t much, that warm hay provided the best bed Mary and Joseph could offer Jesus that night. Perhaps the best we can do for those in need around us is to provide them with our own variety of hay. Though it may not be much, our best is always enough to those in need and to God.

God of love, help me to comfort those who need you most with my own variety of hay.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

How Will We Change The World?

Peace!… Do not be afraid!
Go and carry the news…

From Matthew 28:9-11

Though eighteen years have passed, I’ll never forget my whereabouts Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001…

I was driving to school when a report of an airliner crashing into the World Trade Center interrupted the local news. The assistant principal and I were discussing that horrific accident when the second assault in New York occurred. Fortunately, our students were all in the building by that time. When the Pentagon was hit, area schools were put in “lock-down” mode. Classroom teachers secured their doors and kept their students inside while the rest of us patrolled the hallways and saw to it that no unidentified individuals entered. Our school district served both local children and the children of military personnel assigned to the military installation just blocks away. Each of us prayed fervently that the base wouldn’t be the next target…

Though eighteen years have passed, I’ll never forget the heroic effort which unfolded by midday, September 11, 2001…

The morning’s devastation horrified us all, yet bravery and selflessness reigned. Uncommon generosity became the norm. Those nearby joined hands to do everything possible to care for those who’d been hurt. Many more did the same during the months and years that followed. This world has never been the same since that day…

I was convinced that nothing would change this world as dramatically as that infamous day did and I was wrong. The actions of those hijackers inspired subsequent assaults. The actions of those first responders and those who who continued their efforts for months and years afterward inspired selflessness and generosity beyond all of our expectations.

What will change the world around us today? It’s up to you and me…

Loving and Merciful God, give us hearts which desire peace and hands to build that peace wherever we are.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved