Good Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Try…

Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Luke 4:24

My sister called to tell me that one of the sisters who taught us in elementary school had passed away. I immediately recalled that she was the single teacher in my school career with whom I had difficulty until…

Glenda and I had been classmates since first grade. All was well until sixth grade when we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher daily regardless of my genuine effort to do the opposite.

One day, Sister assigned essays which would be read to the entire class. Because Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. Somehow, I managed to read my essay without a fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes to pray that Glenda would also do well. A classmate’s giggle interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in the classroom was laughing except for me. When I noticed Glenda’s unbuttoned blouse, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

I explained what had happened while Sister mercilessly reprimanded our classmates. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones as the rest of the class was in deep trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized Glenda and me for a few weeks because we “got them into trouble.” Never mind their merciless laughter which elicited Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger and Sister managed to muster a bit more patience with me.

Dear God, it isn’t always easy to do the right thing. Still, help me to try.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loving Memories

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.
Matthew 20:27

Though I don’t often visit cemeteries, I recently did so to celebrate memories of my loved ones. I know I can do this anywhere. Still, I find tangible peace in these places where I once expressed my grief through my tears and spoke my final farewells. Though the remains of all of the people whom I’ve lost weren’t buried in this particular place, each one came to mind as I gazed over rows of monuments which seemed to go on for infinity.

As I considered these losses which began when I was four years old, I realized the reason I so miss these loved ones. In one way or another, they all enriched my life. Even when some of them were not at their best, they touched me in extremely important ways. Perhaps the most powerful trait which these good people shared was their consistent willingness to put others before themselves. Even when circumstances forced them into acts of generosity and selflessness, they rose to these occasions with grace.

As I stood there, a plethora of memories recounted their good deeds. Though I cried the first time I stood at their gravesites, I couldn’t help smiling on this particular day. I looked up as if to find my loved ones in their afterlife abodes and whispered, “How can I thank you for doing all that you did for me?” Though I “heard” nothing in response, I had the distinct feeling that doing the same for those I have been given to love will be quite enough.

Generous God, thank you for the amazing people who have enriched my life. Help me to do the same for those I meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Light The Way

Wherever we are, we are the light of God’s goodness.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta

While waiting in line at the grocery store, I watched the young person at the end of the aisle bag groceries. She reminded me of someone who’d done this for me a few years ago. In the process, that helpful bagger offered me a glimpse of her very beautiful soul…

I’d told the cashier that I had a case of Snapple in my cart and then I eased the cart forward toward her helper who was carefully bagging my groceries. She gently placed each bag next to the Snapple to be certain that nothing was damaged in the process. As I paid for my groceries, the young woman asked if I needed help outside. I explained that I normally pride myself in being able to load up the car, but that I needed help on this day due to a shoulder issue.

As we walked to my car, she said, “I’m sorry to hear about your shoulder. Did the doctor look at it?” I shared the saga of my shoulder surgery, the post-op exercises and the recovery which forced me into hibernation for weeks. “My goodness!” she said as she placed the groceries into my car. “Well, you take care of yourself. Listen to that doctor and rest. If you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll be just fine. When I say my prayers, I’ll pray for you. I’m going to pray right now on my way back to work. Now you take care.” Her promise to pray for me touched my heart. No wonder I haven’t forgotten her. I don’t think I ever will.

I think Mother Teresa had just such acts of kindness in mind when she offered the wisdom I’ve cited above.

Dear God, thank you for giving us the capacity to bring your light to one another and for those who so generously do so.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Compassion

They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.

Psalm 19:11

While my granddaughters were here for an overnight stay, I stubbed my toe. As you likely suspect, the resultant pain was excruciating. I broke another toe a few years earlier as a result of similar clumsiness, so I feared the worst. Before I recovered from this present-day incident, my youngest granddaughter came bouncing into tho room. When she saw the look on my face, she asked, “Are you okay, Grandma?” Though I quickly wiped away a telltale tear and smiled my best, Claire knew that all was not well. “Oh, I just bumped my toe,” I said. With that, Claire ran to join her sisters in play. “Grandma hurt herself, so we have to be quiet,” Claire ordered.

Though my older granddaughters prefer to be in charge, they listened. They were especially quiet and extremely cooperative. When I joined them a few minutes later, they did everything in their power to lighten my mood. I admit that I was quite touched but the efforts of these three little girls.

My husband and I did our best to create a loving and compassionate home for our sons. Apparently, we succeeded at some level as illustrated by in granddaughters’ merciful management of my misery. God has worked to make this world of ours a loving and compassionate place as well. The best way to show our appreciation is to respond to one another in kind. This is more important today than ever…

Generous God, thank you for opening our hearts to your love. Remind us often that your most pressing request is that we love each other as you love us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Welcomed With God’s Love

May your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.

From Psalm 79:8

I’d had a very tough week. In the midst of it, my childhood friend shared that his ailing sister-in-law had passed away. I’d done my best to pray for her recovery, but this wasn’t to be. The day after, my friend sent the funeral arrangements. Though my husband was presiding at his cousin’s memorial service the same weekend, I announced that I planned to attend this funeral. Though his plate was as full as mine, Mike agreed that there was time to attend both.

The wounds from that tough week were fresh when I climbed into the passenger side of the car with some relief and inexplicable peace. The relief resulted from my husband’s insistence that he’d drive us into the city for the wake. The peace proved to be a premonition of what was to come. Though I’m in touch with my friend often, I haven’t seen his family in decades. His older sister accompanied him to my mom’s funeral, but that was fourteen years ago. Nonetheless, Mike and I arrived to an extremely warm welcome. When I apologized for what I hoped wasn’t an intrusion, the grieving husband would hear none of it. How grateful I was that we were early enough to miss the crowds and to engage him in conversation. When his sister arrived, she immediately approached to ask, “Are you Mary Ellen?” Of course I am and, at that moment, how wonderful I felt to be me.

The following day, at my husband’s family’s service, their welcome echoed the one we’d received the day before. Though my intent was to bring comfort to those suffering difficult losses, these amazing souls brought much more to me. The difficulties of the past week faded into the joy of being loved.

Most Loving God, thank you for the good souls who take the time to love as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved