Choose the Better Portion

Mary has chosen the better portion
and she shall not be deprived of it.

From Luke 10:41

This passage from Luke was written about another Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. It seems that Jesus visited the home these siblings shared because he considered them dear friends. Martha was very busy preparing the meal and everything else related to Jesus’ stay. Rather than helping Martha, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet as soon as he settled in to visit with their guests. Beside herself with worry, Martha pointed out this situation to Jesus. Much to Martha’s dismay, Jesus sided with her seemingly lazy sister. Apparently, Mary did the most important thing anyone could do when in Jesus’ company. She listened.

It seems to me that Mary Magdalene emulated both Martha’s and Mary’s roles in her relationship with Jesus. While she tended to Jesus’ need for food and shelter, she also tended to his company. This competent and strong woman who held her own in the worst of circumstances also loved with great resolve. I feel quite certain that she didn’t miss much of what Jesus said or did.

It occurs to me that, in the midst of life-with-COVID-19, I must try to be more like both Mary the sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalene. While I respond to the requirements of each new day as is my norm, I must also take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet and to savor his every word like the Marys did. I did this very well while in Israel, though not so much since I returned home. When our battle with COVID-19 began, I became more rattled than usual. So it is that, every day, I begin again as I am today. There is plenty of time to do what I must and plenty of time to enjoy the love so generously sent my way.

Dear God, be with me as I do what I must for those I’ve been given to love and as I nestle closer to you.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Getting To Know You

Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it.
From Luke 10:41

This passage from Luke was written about another Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. It seems to have been early in their relationship that Jesus visited the home these siblings shared. Martha was very busy preparing the meal and everything else related to Jesus’ stay. Rather than helping Martha, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet as soon as he settled in to visit with their guests. Beside herself with worry, Martha pointed out this situation to Jesus. Much to Martha’s dismay, Jesus sided with her seemingly lazy sister. Apparently, Mary did the most important thing anyone could do when in Jesus’ company. She listened.

It seems to me that Mary Magdalene emulated both Martha’s and Mary’s roles in her relationship with Jesus. While she tended to Jesus’ need for food and shelter, she also tended to his company. This competent and strong woman who held her own in the worst of circumstances also loved with great resolve. I feel quite certain that she didn’t miss much of what Jesus said or did.

Each year, I try to be more like Mary the Sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalene. Rather than storming through project after project as is my norm, I try to make the time to sit at Jesus’ feet and to savor his every word like the Marys did. It occurs to me that I did this very well while in Israel, though not so much here at home. So it is that I will begin again today…

Dear God, be with me as I ease away from Martha-mode and nestle closer to you.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Loving Lent

Give thanks to him; bless his name, for he is good:
the Lord whose kindness endures forever.

Psalm 100:5

Though this is the second week of Lent, it is also Valentine’s Day week. While I consider my efforts to do my best in terms of my Lenten observances, I must remember to do these things with love. Perhaps the bit of chocolate which I enjoyed last Sunday was meant as both a sweet treat and a sweet reminder that love is always a priority in God’s eyes regardless of what we are doing.

With that in mind, I acknowledge the stubbornness and mean-spirited attitude which sometimes characterize my circumstances. Sometimes, it is I who infuses these sentiments into the moment at hand. Though I tend not to bring them in at the onset, I have joined in when others set the tone. It occurs to me that I must be more proactive when it comes to love this Lent. I must bring a bit of Valentine’s Day into every day if I am going to do God’s work. I must dispel the negativity and sweeten every situation with morsels of love. If I truly wish to express my gratitude for God’s presence in my life, I need to show it one loving act at a time.

Loving God, you gifted me with many things, the greatest of which is my capacity to love. Help me to share this gift generously, just as you do.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Abundant Love

While visiting our granddaughters the other day, the eldest shared that she is giving up sweets for Lent. “Not every kind, Grandma,” Ellie explained. “Just ice cream.” I chuckled to myself as I recalled my own similar sacrifices from long ago. It was during elementary school when our parish priest suggested that we transform these incidences of self-denial into opportunities to express our love to God. “If you’ve given up candy,” Father said, “then every time you pass up a candy bar, remind Jesus that you’re doing it for him. Tell Jesus that you love him and this is the least you can do after all he did for us.” Though I cannot claim to have taken Father’s guidance to heart at the onset, he gave me something to think about which eventually took root. So it was that I passed this wisdom on to Ellie.

As I considered the lesson I shared with Ellie, I wondered about my own efforts to express my love to God. I admitted that my Lenten observances pale in the light of God’s gifts to me. The love I offer in return seems a minimal gesture at best. Still, I cannot help sensing that God appreciates my efforts. I assured Ellie that Jesus will be pleased with her Lenten sacrifice because I truly believe that God smiles upon our efforts whenever we try to do our best. From the beginning of time, God has pursued humankind with the energy of a young man smitten by the love of his life. God remains at our sides even when we attempt to run away. Through it all, God uses every means to entice us into a relationship.

For me, the life of Jesus clarified everything in this regard. Though Jesus preached eloquently about God’s love for us, his response to others offered the purest examples of that love. Jesus displayed compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and mercy toward those he met along the way. Whether a Pharisee who followed him in secret, a despised tax collector, an adulterous woman or an ostracized leper, Jesus welcomed him or her into his company. Jesus peered deeply into each troubled heart and responded with what was needed –an assurance of God’s abundant love. Through each of these encounters, Jesus offers the same assurance to you and me.

Though I have heard this account repeatedly since childhood, I find new meaning in the Transfiguration story. Mark’s gospel (9:2-10) tells us that Jesus led his unsuspecting disciples up a mountainside where Jesus suddenly appeared in a dazzling aura. With Elijah and Moses at his side, Jesus revealed the essence of eternity to his incredulous friends. If this was not enough, the Almighty announced from the clouds, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” With those words, the God of Israel underscored Jesus’ words and deeds. I would like to think that Peter, James and John were never quite the same afterward. I believe the same is true whenever we humans encounter God’s abundant love. Knowing that God loves us changes everything.

It seems to me that we all need to puzzle over how we might return God’s love in kind. You know, my granddaughter is rightly satisfied with her Lenten effort. She knows she is returning Jesus’ love with each sacrifice of ice cream. This is an impressive effort for a seven-year-old. Down the road, perhaps Ellie will join us adults in taking her Lenten sacrifices a bit further. Every time you and I give up our scoops of ice cream, we can also find ways to give away scoops of love. It is up to you and me to determine just how to proceed.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved