One Loving Act at a Time

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20

While growing up, I had visions of grandeur regarding what I would do with my life. I wanted to solve the problems of the world. I wanted to end wars. I wanted to fight against prejudice and injustice. I wanted to end poverty. I wanted to work with special needs children. I wanted to teach. I wanted to become a nun. I wanted to become a nurse…

When things began to fall into place, the path before me became less cluttered. I learned to value the seemingly mundane callings which in reality make all of the difference in the world. A good person who deals fairly and kindly with those around her brings peace to our world. Generous couples who allow their love to spill over onto to those around them bring love to the world. Parents who nurture their children with their time and attention bring hope to this world. Caring for those we have been given to love is the most important work we can do.

The truth is that I still want to solve the problems of the world, to end wars and poverty and to fight against prejudice and injustice. This time around, I’m tackling each of these and more with one loving act at a time.

Dear God, when I wonder if I’m doing my loved ones or this world any good, you dispel my doubt with encouragement. Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God’s Anointed Ones

The Lord is the strength of his people,
the saving refuge of his anointed.

Psalm 28:8

Sometimes, it’s difficult to feel “anointed”. We sometimes consider ourselves to be just one of many regardless of the group we’re in. I come from a large family. My earliest memories include major family gatherings for the holidays, christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. I grew up down the block from our church and numerous people passed our house on the way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where I tended to lines of customers all day long. When I married and began my teaching career, people of every sort continued to fill my life. There were times in each of these settings when I felt lost in the crowd. Then there were those other amazing times…

I’ve always been especially grateful for individual encounters with those around me. Whether a scheduled or haphazard meeting, it is during these precious moments together that I receive glimpses of many amazing souls. Most of them have no idea that they are contributing to my well-being and that of this world of ours simply by sharing their time. I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts and my appreciation of them as often as possible.

You know, God looks upon each one of us as an anointed one. This is the reason God sends us out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the gift of ourselves.

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring you into this world!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Salt… Be Light…

“You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world.”

From Matthew 5:13-16

A compilation of the people who have influenced my life for the better would hold its own against Santa’s list. I am most grateful for the long-term and minute-long encounters which have opened my eyes to one aspect or another of myself, this life, this world and God. You know, we never really know whom we’re helping along the way. The briefest encounter can be life-changing for those involved.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that, whatever our named occupation or standing or relationship to others is, we are all called to be our best and to bring our best to whatever the situation may be. Whether our influence is world-wide or confined to a single room, that influence will change everything for those within this realm.

You know, Jesus didn’t target the temple hierarchy, government officials, local celebrities or the wealthy when he proclaimed that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. God holds each of us in such esteem that he calls us all to be the salt and the light that only we can be.

Creator God, thank you for trusting us to make this world a better place. Help us to use this power with wisdom and love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share Your Good News

“Let us move on to the neighboring villages
so that I may proclaim the good news there also.”

Mark 1:38

Though most people had made their Christmas returns days earlier, I waited. I’d purchased a little cash register for our grandson which would have been a duplicate gift. I didn’t have time to return it before Christmas and I’d forgotten to do so afterward. So there I was…

I enjoy people-watching perhaps more than shopping these days and that afternoon was no exception. While browsing, I observed a little boy and his mom. While his mother patiently urged him toward a checkout line, he skipped and wiggled and looked in every direction except hers. Finally, she patiently nudged him on once again. With that, the little boy announced, “You’re so mean!!” I couldn’t help noticing as that mom brushed a tear from her eye. She gently took her son’s hand and ushered him toward a check-out line.

Though I still hadn’t finished browsing before making my return, I couldn’t let this poor woman leave in her current state. I walked up to the checkout line where I waited behind her. I made a bit of small talk and then got to my point. I told her that my own sons had spoken similar words to me when they were her child’s age. I admitted that I responded with tears as well until I learned an important lesson from my wonderful neighbor. She’d taught me to respond with an “I love you” which apparently touched my kids. Both of my sons’ subsequent outbursts were few and far between. After thanking me for this bit of wisdom, the young mom smiled. As I walked away to take care of my return, I heard her telling that little guy, “I love you.”

Loving God, love is always the best response to our misdeeds. Thank you showing us the way.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Every Moment An Opportunity

My husband and I have been in a bit of a frenzy as of late. We’re returning to Israel in a few days and we’re not at all ready. In an effort to prepare, Mike started taking down our Christmas decorations without my assistance. While he worked at stowing away our holiday treasures, I typed at my keyboard for hours on end. I was plugging away non-stop on reflections for our parish bulletin and the daily reflections I’ll need to cover our time away and a few days afterward. In the midst of this frenetic whirlwind, I desperately needed to stop to take a breath. Though writing is my second-favorite activity (time with our kids, kids-in-law and grandkids is #1), I’d had enough. After whispering a prayer that the Spirit would return to inspire me when I started anew, I retreated to my recliner…

Mike had done a superior job. Most of our Christmas decorations had been carefully stowed in the basement. As I sat, I noticed the basket of Christmas cards resting on the hearth. I wondered how Mike managed to take down our Christmas stockings without noticing this bulging basket below the mantel. Though my first inclination was to empty the basket and walk it down to the basement, I thought better of it. Rather, I sat with that basket in my lap and reread all of the Christmas cards and letters we’d received. Though I’d read each one on the day it arrived, I often did so too quickly to fully appreciate its message. This time, I savored each one. As I read, the glow of our Christmas Tree and the lights which were strung about the house returned. Each card’s artwork and greeting revived my Christmas Spirit. The personal messages, letters and signatures before me stirred my affection for each sender. Before long, I’d returned to resounding Christmas Joy. I lost sight of my time crunch. Suddenly, I had all of the time in the world to celebrate Christmas once again.

It was almost two hours later when I carried our empty Christmas card basket to the basement. As I headed back upstairs, it occurred to me that Christmas isn’t meant to be tucked away in our basements or attics. No, Christmas is meant to have a lasting effect which carries us through the months and year ahead. You know, the Sundays after Christmas are numbered until Lent begins. As we tick them off, we use each one to become as familiar as possible with this Jesus whose birth we recalled with such relish. It seems to me that the more we get to know Jesus, the more eager we should be to live as Jesus lived. My short interlude with those Christmas cards provided a poignant reminder to keep all that Jesus has shared in the forefront of my life. Still, doing so throughout the New Year may be challenging.

I find encouragement in the scripture passages we hear this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the first reading (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19), an unrecognizable call wakens young Samuel several times throughout the night. At first, he assumes that the voice is the elderly Eli who has taken Samuel into his care in the temple. Only after Samuel wakes him three times does Eli explain that it is the Lord who is calling. It is only then that Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” In the second reading (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20), Paul stresses our need to help one another with the gift of ourselves. Our presence to those who need us is the most precise means we have to bring God to one another. As I consider Paul’s lesson, I recall that Paul had to be struck blind in order for God to get his attention long enough to call him into service. In the gospel (John 1:35-42), John the Baptist sees Jesus and announces, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Two disciples who hear this say nothing, but they follow Jesus closely. So begins the relationship which changed their lives forever.

Perhaps it was no accident that my husband neglected to pack away our Christmas card basket. Perhaps that call to my recliner was as intentional as the encounters described in today’s scripture passages. The coming days and weeks of Ordinary Time will re-acquaint us with Jesus. This humble tradesman-turned-apprentice-preacher transformed his ordinary life into extraordinary opportunities to care for those he met along the way. It seems to me that this Jesus invites us to acknowledge our own potential to bring the extraordinary to those we have been given to love. When we open ourselves to God’s presence in our own lives, we cannot help sharing what we find. As complicated or mundane as it may be, every moment we’re given provides the setting in which we hear God’s call. It’s up to us to respond as best we can. When in doubt, simply do as Jesus did with love and persistence. Maybe you can also allow yourself a little time off in the recliner to re-energize and to start again!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

What’s The Attraction?

Jesus said to them, “Come after me;
I will make you fishers of people.”
They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:17-18

Though we celebrated Christmas 2017 three weeks ago, I can’t help smiling when I recall my experience at church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Because this wasn’t a “business as usual” weekend, I left my post at our parish information desk to mingle with those arriving to attend the Christmas Mass. I chatted with more than one hundred people and wished a Merry Christmas to at least one thousand others. I felt as though I was in the midst of a grand family reunion. Indeed, I was!

I used to wonder why the disciples walked away from everything to follow Jesus. What was it that drew them in? Simon and Andrew were burly, hard-working men. Still, they left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps Jesus simply couldn’t contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people in. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely, Each one found the courage to approach Jesus. This was in spite of the fact that everyone else in the vicinity avoided them at all costs.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I can’t imagine my life without his influence. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoyed Christmas 2017 so fully. Every Merry Christmas and every smile drew me more deeply into the miracle at hand. God’s love and God’s presence took on human form that day. No wonder Jesus was so irresistible to the disciples. No wonder Jesus is so irresistible to me!

Loving God, thank you for abiding within us and for loving us. Thank you for sending Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved