Hope-Filled News!

Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,” and then
reported what he had told her.

John 20:18

Good news is hard to keep to oneself, especially when the information will be helpful to others. We share a good book and diet tips that really work. We tell our colleagues about inroads we’ve made with the new payroll technology or the new boss. We cannot keep the news of a long-awaited pregnancy or a cancer remission to ourselves for longer than it takes to scroll down to a number on our cell phones. Still, it seems that good news is a far too limited commodity in this Twenty-first Century world of ours.

The truth is that since we humans decided that our own agendas were our top priorities, good news has been in short supply. Still, at least some of us have also held onto our hope for better things to come. Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem certainly offered a glimpse of hope. When Jesus lived a life of acceptance, mercy and all-encompassing love, hope took on new life. When he made it up the hill to Calvary, Jesus persisted until he embraced death. A few days later, the rumbling in the tomb sealed the deal. Jesus himself became hope-fulfilled. Good news took on a whole new meaning –forever!

Dear God, painful as his passion and dying were, Jesus persisted because of the great good which would result. Help me to persist in doing the right thing as well, even when it’s painful.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Our Post-Easter Efforts

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way…

Matthew 28:8-9

This Monday after Easter, we’re returning to our normal routines. Grandpa and I will babysit for our grandsons, our kids will return to work and the older grandchildren will return to school. Still, I’m taking a moment to consider all that has transpired in recent weeks. Lent was productive, though not always as I’d planned. My Holy Week observances were both sobering and uplifting as I returned to the scene at least mentally. I offered my presence to Jesus with the hope that I would have stayed with him if I had been there two millenniums ago. Today, just as spring offers hints of the beauty to come, I hope to hint at the Promise of Easter in all of my efforts.

When the two Marys went to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning, I wonder what they expected to find. I wish I’d been there when they arrived to find that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus was gone. Did either Mary say, “I knew it! I just knew it! He rose as he said he would!”? Though I can’t be certain of their initial reactions, I do suspect that they responded with great joy when they saw Jesus once again!

As for me, I know what happened and I need to respond accordingly today and always!

Loving God, help me to make my life an ongoing hint at
the amazing things to come for us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seasoned With Peace

Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said, “Peace!”
Matthew 28:9

It’s September and the official first day of autumn is only week’s away. I admit to smiling over the approach of this new season. Though my absolute favorite meteorological phenomenon is snow, I’m anxious to see the colorful array of fall colors which promise to awe all who will take the time to look their way. Eventually, those leaves will give way to the wind and cold. They’ll find their places over the soil. There they will lie in wait for their new work of fertilizing the fruits of springtime.

My autumn musing hints at the expectation of the two Marys who went to Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter morning. Since Passover and the Sabbath had passed, they were free to tend to Jesus’ body which was buried quickly due to the holy days. I wish I had been there when they arrived to find that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus was gone. I wish I had been at Mary Magdalene’s side there to hear Jesus say, “Peace!”

No, I don’t have my seasons mixed up and I do realize that Easter is two seasons away. Still, we must never forget the promise of that day. When Jesus greeted Mary with “Peace!”, he intended this sentiment to echo through two millenniums and then some to you and me!

Dear God, help me always to remember that your gift of peace is offered every day of every season to us all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Irresistible God

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

Mark 1:17-18

My relationship with God began early on. My parents inspired my effort in this regard by taking their own faith to heart. No matter what the circumstances, they found reason to thank God for blessings received or to place the misery of the moment in God’s hands. My parents and all of my family seemed to assume God’s involvement in everything. No matter what, they were convinced that God was aware. They also knew that, in the end, all would work out for the best. Most of the adults I met along the way seemed to share my family’s perspective. When I came across someone whose opinion differed, I contented myself with the knowledge that God loved that person regardless of what he or she thought of God.

I think the adults who inspired my faith took their lead from Jesus’ followers. When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from their daily lives to follow Jesus, I feel certain that something about Jesus drew them in. Simon and Andrew were successful fishermen who left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Martha and Mary ignored the social mores of the day when they opened their home and hearts to Jesus. Mary Magdalene, a woman of means who made her own way in spite of persistent illness, did the same. Did Jesus do such an amazing job of revealing God’s love and compassion and mercy that his company was irresistible? The God I’ve come to know and love certainly is!

Generous God, thank you for the gift of you. You’ve transformed my life from the moment I first heard your name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rejoice! Be Glad! Respond!

Alleluia! Rejoice and be glad! Today, we are more aware than ever of God’s unending love for us. The events of the first Easter plant seeds of unshakable hope in the hearts of all who have heard Jesus’ name. If we take nothing else from Jesus’ final days, we must at least begin to appreciate the joy which awaits us. Jesus suffered the worst our earthly existence has to offer, yet he endured. When Jesus breathed his last on that wooden cross, he opened his eyes once again to life with his Father. Today, Jesus continues to rejoice in the fruits of his thirty-three years among us. After we persevere through the seemingly tragic events of our lives, we will do as Jesus does. I write “Alleluia!” and “Rejoice and be glad!” because, when Jesus rose from the dead, he illustrated as precisely as possible all that awaits you and me.

This year, I began my Lenten Journey one month early. In mid-January, I returned to Israel for a second visit. This unexpected opportunity allowed me to delve a bit more deeply into the story behind the Holy Land’s now-familiar sites. This time, I felt very much at home in Nazareth and Magdala, at the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum and Jerusalem. This time, I moved beyond my awe regarding these places to being completely rapt by Jesus himself. You know, Jesus literally made all of the difference in the world to humankind. Through his life among us, Jesus changed everything. As our guide shared the scriptures and his own archaeological and historical perspectives regarding Jesus’ time among us, I felt I had finally begun to understand. I began this reflection with an invitation to rejoice and be glad. It occurs to me that Jesus calls us to take one step further. Jesus asks that we rejoice and be glad and that we respond to his loving presence in our lives.

Whether we revisit Jesus’ time among us in the holy Land, in the scriptures or in the quiet of our hearts, we find innumerable examples of Jesus’ unconditional love. We also find that those whom Jesus touched responded in remarkable ways. Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well became extraordinary when she responded by accepting Jesus’ presence in her life. She was so taken with Jesus that she ran off to tell anyone who would listen of their encounter. When Jesus cured the man born blind, the man responded with deep gratitude and then shared his good fortune with all who would listen as well. He told not only his neighbors, but also the priests in the temple. While the priests responded by expelling the now-sighted man from his place of worship, the man left filled with absolute faith in God who had gifted him with new life. In every case, those Jesus healed responded by embracing their second chances with Jesus at their sides. Though he was crucified just three years into his ministry, Jesus remained with those he was given to love until they joined him in eternity.

Today, the love which brought peace to the woman at the well is extended to us. The love which gave sight to the man born blind invites us to see with new eyes as well. The love which transformed their lives is ours today. All that God asks on this Feast of Jesus’ Resurrection is that we rejoice and be glad and that we respond by welcoming God into our lives. Though we may not have invested ourselves in failed relationships and we may not suffer from physical blindness, we have all suffered in our own way. Whether physical maladies afflict us or our loved ones, their pain and the toll they take are very real. Though our physical vision may need only a tweak, we have all been blinded by our attitudes and our emotions, our desires and our regret. We have all failed to see God’s love for us at one time or another because our suffering has clouded our perspective. These are the times when God is most insistent that we look to the cross and remember that Jesus would have endured it all for any one of us.

In Jerusalem, I peered into the tomb which biblical scholars, historians and archeologists believe to be the burial site of Jesus. As I stared into the darkness, I imagined Mary Magdalene peering into this place on the first Easter morning. Though she didn’t yet realize that she had reason to rejoice and be glad, she had certainly responded to Jesus’ presence in her life. Nothing would have kept Mary from going to the tomb that morning to minister to the one who had changed her life forever. Today, we rejoice and are glad with Mary and the rest. Just as they did, we’ve come to understand and to celebrate because the life which comes after this life is worth all of our effort. Today, Jesus and all of those who have gone before us invite us to respond to this amazing news.

This is Easter Sunday and today we begin our own quests to live with the Risen Jesus at our sides. Today, we rejoice and we are truly glad! But, most of all, we respond wholeheartedly because Jesus remains with us through whatever will come our way today and always.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In Mary’s Footsteps

Mary, called the Magdalene, from whom seven devils had gone out…
From Luke 8:2

I admit that the attitudes of Jesus’ contemporaries toward illness and other maladies have troubled me most of my life. I was surrounded by sick people from the time I was very young and I couldn’t accept that any of my loved ones deserved their suffering. The adults around me must have agreed because they explained that these events were simply a part of life. All that one could do in response was the best he or she could. “Poor Mary Magdalene,” I thought. My only consolation in her case was that she knew Jesus’ personally. “Lucky Mary!” I added.

As I considered Magdala in Jesus’ day, I imagined Mary Magdalene doing her best to maintain her stature in spite of the mysterious illness which plagued her. I also wondered if Mary maintained this facade when she first met Jesus or if she immediately revealed the pain which tormented her. Whichever the case, when Mary made her way to Jesus, her life changed forever.

While looking over the ruins in Magdala, I recalled the main street which is flanked by the remains of numerous shops. Archaeologists suggest that pottery, fresh produce and woven cloth were likely sold there. Shops which sported small pools likely sold locally caught fish. Another street flanked by a row of houses was part of a neighborhood arranged in grid-like fashion much like ours at home. Near the shore of the Sea of Galilee are remains of a warehouse and huge storage vessels. Magdala was home to a bustling economy and, in spite of her mysterious affliction, Mary Magdalene held her own among prosperous business people and her well-to-do neighbors. This was quite an accomplishment for a First Century woman.

Dear God, help me to walk through my circumstances with the persistent competence of Mary Magdalene.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved