Touch The Moment with Love

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me…

From Mark 7:6

My assessment of my circumstances and myself as New Year 2018 continues is moving along. The past few days’ reflections give me reason to pause. I’ve been extremely blessed by many good people in my life who’ve shared God’s love with me. It occurs to me that a priority for this new year is for me to be diligent in doing the same. Though I may not be able to counter all of the ills of this world or of my own life, I can do something to bring God’s love to the moments at hand.

I’m not going to stand on a street corner quoting scripture, preaching or reading my posts to those who happen by. However, I can offer a smile as I pass my fellow humans. I can be patient while waiting in line at the store, using my time to pray rather than to fume. I can smile at that noisy toddler in church so her parents realize that their efforts are appreciated. I can listen to the lonely gentleman who seeks out a willing ear every time I look in his direction. I can phone an ailing friend and visit a parishioner at the nursing home. I can take the grandkids while my son and daughter-in-law enjoy an evening out. I can also donate groceries to the food pantries my parish supports. Whenever I encounter an opportunity, I need to embrace it! This is the best way for me to spend New Year 2018. I will share God’s love along the way to New Year 2019!

Dear God, help me to bring your love to others every moment of every day.

©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

God’s Surprising Plans

That is my joy, and it is complete.
He must increase, while I must decrease.

John 3:29-30

A recent conversation with a friend who was once in the convent elicited memories of my own aspirations in that regard. Though my friend found that a different calling better suited her, she continues to treasure the years she spent with her “sisters”. From the time I realized who the nuns and sisters were, I wanted to join them as well. When discussing this with my mom, I often shared potential “sister names” which I might have liked. My mom always responded by expressing the same sentiment. She would have been thrilled if one of her five daughters did just that.

As it happened, I spent a lot of time with these religious women over the years which included an entire summer during college. Still, I never did become one of them. Oddly, it was during that very summer that my “sister friends” encouraged me to accept a date with the young man who eventually became my husband. Who would have known?

In spite of my marital state, my desire to emulate the good sisters’ work among us has remained with me. Fortunately, my husband not only supports my ministry, but also joins me in it. Like my friend and the other nuns whom I encountered along the way, we have found amazing and unexpected ways to make God’s work our own.

Dear God, you never cease to surprise us with the direction of your call. During this new year, help each of us to respond generously to your heartfelt invitation to join in your loving work.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be God’s Rep

They carried to him all those afflicted…
He cured them all.

Matthew 4:24

The realities of winter and my daily routines are settling in. This holiday season brought much joy, but it also brought sorrow to many who suffered difficult losses. Though our routines soften the emotions involved a bit, mourning continues to take its toll. Still others suffer unexpected illnesses and complications which extend their treatment and recovery. There are also those who maintain their physical health, but who suffer injury to their psyches and to their spirits.

When the people we are given to love are burdened in any way, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. It is this difficulty which reminds me of my New Year commitment. My intent is to bring the spirit and promise of Christmas into every moment of the New Year 2018. Though none of us can “see” God’s hand in anything, we can bring God’s hand to those who need us. We can bring comforting words or a listening ear. We can bring service by running errands or simply providing our company. We can cook a meal or make a phone call. We can all do something which will ease the suffering around us. Yes, we can be God’s hand in it all!

Faithful God, you trust us to bring your healing love to one another. Be with us in our efforts and please lend us your hand when we falter.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Christmas

Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you.

Isaiah 60:5

The blanket of sleet left on our patio by yesterday’s storm slowly melts away. Though it will be a mere memory by noon, it sparkles quite beautifully just now. I recall the sound of sleet tapping my window. How generously it supplied inspiration as I worried and wrote about this very new year! As is always the case, when I stop to listen, I hear what I need to hear…

January 6 is the traditional date of the Epiphany when the Magi of long ago followed their star to the Christ Child. These masters of the night sky carried news of their discovery to what were then the ends of the earth. When I was a child, we always left our Christmas Tree standing until this day when we moved tiny figures of this trio to the stable where Jesus lay. It was on this day that we considered our celebration of Christmas to be complete…

As I look back at the fading blanket of white on our patio, I find that yesterday’s sleet inspires once again. Though our Christmas Tree has been transformed into mulch and our patio will soon be sleet-free, I cannot allow myself to be Christmas-free. The Magi carried news of their Christmas encounter wherever they went. That sleet transformed our patio into a mini-winter wonderland. Our Christmas Tree filled our home with the beautiful fragrance which still lingers. What am I to do in response? I am to share my Christmas Treasures of peace, love and hope in everything I say and do during this new year and always.

Loving God, help us all to keep your Loving Spirit alive in our little corners of your world.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Icy Conditions… Hopeful Conditions…

This, remember, is the message
you heard from the beginning:
Love one another.

1 John 3:11

I have a little headache and a bit of heartache. The realities of the New Year have revealed themselves in full force. I celebrated with many across this world when the clock struck 12:00 AM on New Year’s morning. I shared their relief over the close of Year 2017 and I whispered prayers of gratitude for the many blessings of that year. Still, I realize that there is much to be done if there is ever going to be peace on earth and peace in my little corner of this world.

Apparently, the heavens have a headache, too. A storm is brewing just beyond my window. This is an odd phenomenon. Only rarely do we hear thunder before a snow. If my minimal meteorological knowledge serves me, ice pellets, rather than snowflakes, will fall within the next few minutes. I wonder. Ice pellets sting, unlike snowflakes which gently settle to the earth. Still, in the end, both blanket the earth in white.

My headache fades a bit. There is wisdom to be found in the white stuff which has begun to fall. As those icy pellets tap my windowpane, their music lifts my spirit. I realize that Year 2018 brings its challenges, but it also brings promise. Sometimes, I will be called to respond gently like the falling snow. Sometimes, my actions may sting me or those who need me. In the end, I will do what I can to blanket as much of this world as possible with God’s peace.

Loving God, you never said that our work will be easy, but you will always be with us as we do it. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved