God’s Attraction

They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:18

The other day, while sharing my joy over finally adhering to a reasonable writing schedule, a friend asked, “Where do you get all of those stories?” I laughed as I recalled my mom’s designation “Little Big Ears” in response to my uncanny ability to attend to everything the adults around me had to say. Much to my mom’s dismay, I filed this information away and too often repeated it at the wrong time. The good news is that I eventually developed some discretion. While my listening skills remained intact, my judgment regarding what to and not to repeat improved immensely. You will read none of our family secrets here!

Another bit of good news is that I’ve also attended to God’s story since childhood. I attribute this phenomenon to my parents who shared their faith freely. Their stories, a very engaging children’s bible and religion classes at school enriched my understanding of God who somehow has always seemed present to me.

When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from their daily lives to follow Jesus, I understand what it was that drew them in. Simon and Andrew, strong, burly and hard-working men, left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Martha and Mary opened their home and their hearts to Jesus even when their brother Lazarus died. Though Mary Magdalene was a woman of means in her community, her devotion to Jesus was complete. Jesus could not contain the wonder within him and just being nearby was enough to draw people nearer. Yes, I understand the attraction.

Generous God, thank you for the gift of yourself and for the gift of Jesus. You have transformed my life from the moment I first heard your name.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Relax and Rest

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many things,
but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It has taken me a lifetime to appreciate my need to slow down and to relax a bit. I truly enjoy the natural beauty around me. Still, I sometimes use more energy listing the reasons that I can’t head out to walk on a particular day than I would have spent actually walking. In the end, I accomplish far less than I might have if I’d been energized by that trek outdoors.

As I contemplate my need to relax, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside of my window. I watch as it seems to wave to me. It occurs to me that I must listen to the Wise One who once told Martha that she worried far too much. Martha needed to be more like Mary who sat peacefully at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. It occurs to me that I must ask Mary to move over a bit so I can sit with her. It is there that I’ll learn to stop worrying about the tasks which lie ahead and to enjoy the moment at hand.

I’m going to sign off now and go for a walk. I want to wave to that tree outside my window in person. Perhaps I’ll find a bit of Mary’s peace along the way.

Generous God, as I set aside my own worries, help me to assist others in doing the same. Teach us all to find your peace in our much-deserved rest.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Choose The Better Part

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41

My most precious childhood memories include large family gatherings. Though I dreaded the preparations, I loved these parties. I usually crept away from the other children and eased myself into the periphery of the adults. I listened to recent news and familiar stories with equal interest. I continue to savor remnants of these wonderful exchanges. As my mother often observed, I didn’t miss a thing! Still, I would have missed it all if I had busied myself with “things” rather than enjoying these wonderful people.

A few years into my marriage, I lost the art of enjoying such gatherings. While my husband engaged our guests, I busied myself in the kitchen preparing, serving and cleaning up afterward. When my poor husband tried to head off to bed, I kept him up with questions regarding the family or friends who’d just left.

Jesus addressed a similar dilemma when he visited the home of Martha and Mary. Martha scurried about to prepare a meal for Jesus and his friends, while Mary seated herself at Jesus’ feet. When Martha complained about Mary’s disinterest in helping her, Jesus offered her little sympathy. Though Jesus appreciated Martha’s concern, he appreciated Mary’s company far more.

I eventually learned Martha’s lesson by letting the dishes go and being present to those I was given to love.

Loving God, you have blessed us with both a work ethic and the capacity to love. Help us to keep these gifts in balance by choosing love over our to-do lists every time.

©2017 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

Rest… It’s okay!

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

It has taken me a lifetime to appreciate our very human need to slow down and to relax a bit. I truly enjoy the natural beauty around me. Still, I sometimes use more energy listing the reasons that I cannot head outdoors than I would have spent by actually walking. In the end, I accomplish far less than I might have if I had been energized by that trek in the first place.

As I contemplate autumn’s arrival, I realize that opportunities to walk outdoors will soon be limited to those days when I can tolerate the temperature. Though I truly enjoy winter’s beauty, I’ll enjoy it firsthand for only a few minutes at a time. I looked away from my keyboard for a moment to respond to the tree outside of my window which seemed to be waving to me. As I watched, it occurred to me that I must listen to the one who once told Martha that she worried far too much. Then, I must watch carefully as Mary sits peacefully at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the affection that comes with them.

Today, I must ask Mary to move over a bit so I can take my place at the Lord’s feet as well. It is there that I will learn to stop worrying about the cold which may or may not come my way and enjoy the warmth of the moment at hand. I’m going to sign off now and go for a walk. I want to wave to that tree outside my window in person.

Generous God, as I set aside my own worries, help me to assist others in doing the same. Open each of our hearts to your infinite love and peace.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Now Who’s At The Door?

Two weeks ago, our new pastor delivered his first homily as our new leader. Since I attend to the scriptures when preparing to fill this space each week, I was anxious to hear what Father Greg had to say about the passages from Isaiah, Galatians and Luke. About a minute into Father Greg’s homily, I knew I would not be disappointed.

Father Greg began by asking a musician from the choir to come forward with an instrument. At one Mass, Julie came with her flute. At another, Joe came with his trumpet. At another, Father Greg went to Ruth and the piano. Each time, he asked our choir director what the next hymn would be and then he tried to play it on the instrument at hand. We all had to acknowledge that Father Greg didn’t do very well. However, when the musicians attempted the same hymn, each one played beautifully. At that point, Father Greg noted that it takes practice to hone our talents and to use them well. Father Greg would sound like a musician only if he practiced. Father Greg went on to remind us of what we’d heard in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul told his followers that he’d taken on the ways of Jesus so thoroughly that he bore his scars. Yes, Paul had practiced what Jesus taught so well that he began to look like Jesus. At this point I asked myself, “Wow! How did he come up with that?”

I had no time to answer my question because Father Greg had moved on to the gospel. That Sunday, we read Luke’s chronicle of Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples. Father Greg observed that we likely think Jesus sent his people off to towns everywhere to prepare the way for him. Immediately after I mentally agreed with that assessment, Father Greg insisted that this wasn’t the case. Rather, he said Jesus sent those disciples to our doors to help us to practice using our gifts so that we, too, will become more like Jesus. Once again I asked myself, “Wow! How did he come up with that?”

This time, I didn’t answer my question because Father Greg immediately explained. “Your doorbell rings and some of the disciples are there. This time, it’s your in-laws who’ve come to teach you patience and perhaps forgiveness. They go home and the doorbell rings again. This time, it’s your boss who’s come to teach you humility. The boss leaves and the doorbell rings again. This time, it’s your spouse and your children and your friends. They’ve come to teach you love.” And on it went until Father Greg predicted that the doorbell will ring one last time. “This time,” he said, “It will be Jesus. He’ll see that you’ve done an amazing job working on your gifts and using them for others. This is when Jesus will say, ‘Wow! You look just like me!’”

I know. Two weeks have passed since my pastor shared all of this and you’re wondering why I’m repeating his homily now. The reason is simple. Luke’s gospel (10:38-42) tells us that Father Greg’s prediction that Jesus will one day come to our doors actually occurred. Unfortunately for those who answered, there was a bit of confusion regarding how to respond.

Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary. They loved Jesus very much and did their best to live and to love as Jesus asked. When Jesus arrived at their door, both sisters were overwhelmed with joy. Martha was the detail person who saw to it that everything was perfect for this visit. Though Jesus had arrived, Martha continued her flurry of activity. The local people prided themselves in offering hospitality to those who graced their homes and Martha took this responsibility to heart. It was Mary who couldn’t take her eyes off of Jesus from the moment he arrived. She didn’t want to waste a millisecond of this visit. As soon as Jesus made himself comfortable, Mary sat at his feet where she remained for the duration. When poor Martha realized her dilemma, she complained to Jesus. Martha likely expected Jesus to order Mary to help her. As it happened, Jesus stunned Martha with his response: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Though I certainly sympathize with Martha who was simply trying to welcome Jesus with the appropriate fanfare, I also understand the reasons Mary nestled at Jesus’ feet. She loved Jesus and his teachings and she’d done her best to live accordingly. When Jesus arrived at her door, Mary couldn’t help taking advantage of the moment to embrace Jesus. I’d like to think that Martha took Jesus’ comment to heart and that she joined her sister in enjoying Jesus’ company. I’d also like to think that my pastor is correct about Jesus’ appearance at our doors. When the time comes, may we all have the sense -and the heart- of Mary to embrace the moment and to embrace Jesus forever.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved