God’s Love Story Continues

Happy Easter! I join you and all of the children among us in being grateful that Easter has finally arrived. Throughout Lent 2015, I managed to spend a bit of time rekindling my affection for God. This admission seems odd, I know. When I consider the events of the first Holy Week and the life Jesus lived among us beforehand, I shudder at the reality that I would ever have to work at loving God. Perhaps it is not loving God which is of concern. I have no doubt about my feelings in this area. Perhaps it is what I do with this love which presents the challenge.

This Easter Sunday, I ask myself if it is enough to sit back, smell the lilies and enjoy the alleluias which fill the church today. I tell myself that I put forth a reasonable effort during Lent and that any distractions were the results of my helping others along the way or my human imperfections such as they are. It is Easter Sunday, and our sons, their wives and our granddaughters will celebrate with us this afternoon. In the process, they will fill our home with love enough for a lifetime. What more can I ask for today? As the lilies’ aroma draws me in, they also draw my eyes upward. “I cannot ask for another thing,” I tell God. “Is there something you are asking of me?”

I join in the singing and marvel at our over-crowded churches. I see that the God of Love has successfully convinced us that all are welcome in God’s place. Here at my parish, we assist in this effort by setting out every available chair. We greet friends old and new with a knowing smile as we squeeze into our places for Easter worship. Though our efforts can be comical at times, tangible peace settles over us. The choir and musicians perform beautifully as they lead us in prayerful song. Again, my eyes are drawn upward and I wonder again if it is enough simply to celebrate today. It does not take long for that peace to find a place within me. “Of course it is enough simply to celebrate!” God assures me. “It is Easter Sunday!”

As wonderful as our celebration in church has been, it is not easy to leave the parking lot today. Even after I stay to straighten up before the next Mass, traffic moves at a snail’s pace. Still, I am happy to be in my car. I don’t mind the one-mile-an-hour pace because a lifetime of love will soon appear at our front door. What more can I ask for today? Those last-minute details are a pleasure to attend to. Our granddaughters’ baskets are ready and a few dozen Easter eggs wait to be found. Later at home, my husband assures me that the lamb and ham are coming along nicely. As I check the table, I ask myself if we will need a highchair next year. One never knows when another grandchild will make an appearance. Suddenly, I feel an unmistakable surge of warmth. Indeed, God’s love takes tangible form today and I am most grateful for this precious gift.

This past Lent, I focused upon God’s love which does not run dry. The Old Testament teems with stories of God’s people who so often failed to recognize God’s love for them. Still, every time the people ran the other way, God coaxed them back. Finally, in an effort to dispel any confusion in this regard, God sent Jesus to reveal through his life and death this love which does not run dry. It is Easter Sunday and this is reason enough to celebrate. We fill churches everywhere because God has transformed human history into God’s Love Story, one soul at a time. Regardless of what we do the rest of the year, we gather today because God assures us that there is always a place for us in God’s church and in God’s heart.

At the end of the day, my husband and I stand outside to watch as our sons and their families head down the street for the drive home. “How we love them all,” I think to myself. We haven’t set a date for our next gathering. Still, we look forward to it with great anticipation. In the mean time, we fully expect that they will take care of one another and love one another as only they can. We expect that the love we shared today is a small portion of the love which fills their homes and their hearts. If things go well, all concerned will carry that love to their workplaces and schools and neighborhoods simply by being there. As I watch our children’s cars disappear into the sunset, I wonder what God thought as we drove away from church today. I cannot help thinking that God’s sentiments resemble my own on this wonderful day. Happy Easter!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Love Story

I have filled this space with thousands of words regarding Lent. Still, I manage to become distracted between writings. Early this Lent, I shared that we sometimes make Lenten plans which unfold precisely as intended. At other times, our circumstances disrupt our efforts and send us in other directions. We find that the best we can do is to manage the situation at hand and to do what we must to survive it. For me, Lent 2015 has been a combination of these scenarios. I have often focused more on the events unfolding around me than on my Lenten observances. Though these distractions brought about much good, I felt compelled to recapture my original intent to spend time up close and personal with God.

I knew my dear husband would be gone for a few hours, so I grabbed my Bible and settled into my recliner. Though I have other copies of Mark’s Passion reading, I decided to thumb through the Bible to find it much like I thumb through my scrapbook in search of favorite memories. After all, I have written a good deal about God’s love and the scriptures are the source of much of my knowledge on this topic. The Old Testament teems with stories of God’s people who too often failed to recognize God’s love for them. Nonetheless, every time the Israelites ran the other way, God coaxed them back. The prophets and other brave souls risked life and limb to remind all who would listen of God’s unshakable love for them. Finally, in an effort to dispel any confusion in this regard, God sent Jesus to reveal through his life among us this Divine Love which does not run dry. With this in mind, I settled in to read the Passion of Jesus from Mark’s gospel (14:1-15:47).

The truth is that I treated that Bible more like a scrapbook than I had intended. As I searched for Chapter 14, the headings of the sections which precede it filled me with memories of numerous encounters between Jesus and those he met along the way: A Leper… A Paralytic at Capernaum… A Man with a Withered Hand… The Mercy of Jesus… The Storm at Sea… Jesus Feeds Five Thousand… A Possessed Boy… Jesus Blesses the Children… The Greatest Commandment… The list went on and on. Though they do not appear in Mark’s gospel, I recalled my favorite parables as well: The Prodigal Son, The Wedding Feast, The Good Shepherd and The Lost Sheep. Before turning to the Passion, I considered the kindness and acceptance which Jesus brought to those he met along the way. I considered the many suffering souls whom Jesus comforted by offering them both physical and spiritual healing. When I finally turned to the Passion reading, gratitude for God’s love filled me.

As I read, a chill ran down my spine. For just a moment, I could not read further because I knew what was coming. I looked away from the page and out the window which overlooks our backyard. Bright sunshine poured over bushes which were hidden under mounds of snow just a few weeks ago. Their bent and broken branches pointed every which way. I wondered if they will ever return to their former beauty. “This imagery isn’t lost on me, Dear God,” I whispered. “Even when I’m bent and broken, you love me.” With that, I took a deep breath and turned back to The Passion. I poured over every word of this love story which God authored for you and me.

Only a few days of Lent 2015 remain. As I consider how to proceed this week, I cannot forget the images I encountered as I thumbed through my Bible. That book proved to be as much of a scrapbook as my own albums which are filled with mementos and photos of my children and grandchildren. Of all of the memories I rediscovered in that Bible, the life and death of Jesus offered the clearest illustrations of God’s love. When we focus upon The Passion today, we must remember that it is the culmination of God’s pursuit of us before Jesus’ birth and the culmination of Jesus’ life which was spent loving God’s people, one soul at a time.

This Holy Week, you and I are invited to take God’s love story very personally. Will you join me in spending some time up close and personal with our God whose love does not run dry? Please, join me in revisiting our family memories by walking through Jesus’ Passion with your faith community. Whether you can attend or not, know that God’s love story was written for you and that there is always a place for you in God’s church and in God’s heart.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved