A Welcome Home

So rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell therein!.

From Revelation 12:17

Several days ago, my husband and I traveled downstate a bit to attend the funeral of his Aunt Mary. Though it was two years ago, it seems just yesterday that we made the same trek to celebrate Aunt Mary’s 100th birthday. The persistent rain reflected our mood as poignant memories of Aunt Mary and many loved ones passed emerged. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of their absence remains. Memories of every sort and circumstance prompted the tears which would come and go throughout the day.

Though Aunt Mary didn’t want that 100th birthday party, I guessed that she welcomed this change in her circumstances. The past few months had been tough for her. My husband’s cousins shared that their mother smiled just before she passed from this earth of ours. Perhaps Aunt Mary caught a glimpse of her dear husband John and some of other loved ones who awaited her arrival. Perhaps the sudden release from her suffering filled her with joy.

As Aunt Mary’s wake and funeral progressed, a sense of peace seemed to embrace her children. I prayed that this would be only the first of many blessings Aunt Mary will secure on their behalf. Aunt Mary’s almost 102-years boast a myriad of joys and sorrows alike. Still, I think her new perspective has convinced Aunt Mary that every one of them was worth her effort. Though this is certainly already the case, God bless you, Aunt Mary, forever!

Loving God, as you welcome Aunt Mary home, bless her children and all who will miss her until we meet again.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

God’s Enduring Presence

If you read my daily posts with any regularity, you’ve likely discovered that I’ve been struggling with the terrible suffering which seems to have engulfed our world as of late. While I have absolutely no doubt that God is with us in all of this, I’ve been wrestling with how I can possibly improve things for those both near and far. Sunday morning, as I spoke with some fellow parishioners at my parish, I discovered that they, too, have been stressed with pain which seems too difficult to bear. Though I tried to find the words to offer some much-needed comfort, I don’t know that I succeeded. I went home determined to use this space to inspire us all with what we need to deal with whatever lies ahead. When I failed to type even a paragraph in this regard by Monday morning, I attended my parish’s 9:00 Mass on Labor Day in observance of the holiday and to pray very hard for inspiration.

After greeting the usual morning Mass crowd, I saw a familiar face across the gathering space. It was Father Charles! He occasionally stops in when he’s in town visiting family. Our priests always welcome him to join them at the altar and Father Charles always happily accepts. Though I’m not a regular at morning Mass, I met Father Charles some years ago when he joined our pastor at the altar. Afterward, we spoke a bit and discovered that we share a very dear friend. Father Bill O’Connell mentored each of us throughout our youth and as we explored our vocations. Father O’Connell also inadvertently introduced my husband and me. Every time I see Father Charles, I can’t help recalling Father O’Connell’s smile and the lifetime of wisdom he shared with me. Still, when I left Mass on Labor Day, I was convinced that I had nothing to share with you.

When my husband and I returned home after Mass, he headed outdoors to water flowers and I ran upstairs to my desk. On the way, I prayed aloud, “Please help me! I don’t know what to say!!!” Before returning to the few sentences I’d rejected Sunday night, I reopened today’s scripture passages. Though I was already convinced that they are rich with meaning, I told myself, “Maybe I’ve missed something…” I slowly reread every line of the selections from Ezekiel (35:7-9), Paul’s letter to the Romans (13:8-10) and Matthew’s Gospel (18:15-20). It was when I read the very last line of today’s gospel that I spoke aloud once again, “Thank you, Father Charles, thank you Father O’Connell and THANK YOU, DEAR GOD!”

Matthew tells us that, after telling his disciples how to deal with one another’s transgressions, Jesus reminded them, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” As soon as I read the line, an image of Father O’Connell after a rather contentious meeting came to mind. Father was extremely frustrated that he and a group of parishioners weren’t seeing eye-to-eye at the moment. Though he was usually a diplomatic leader, Father was extremely passionate, and correct as it turned out, regarding the topic of discussion and he wasn’t about to give in. His only comment was to quote the last line of today’s gospel with a minor and quite meaningful change: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there will be a fight!” Though Father was far from laughter that day, I laughed until I cried. I deleted what I’d already written on this page and began anew. Though Jesus’ observation concerning God’s presence among us is absolutely true, we humans have seen to it that Father O’Connell’s edited version is also true more often than it should be.

You know, loving one another is seriously difficult business, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of unhappiness, disappointment, suffering and loss. Though I’ve done my best to remind you and myself that God is with us in everything, I find myself as troubled as people with no faith at all when the misery of this world threatens to overwhelm us. Then, I remember Father O’Connell’s frustration after that painful meeting and the positive outcome which came after he calmed down, listened and then worked with his people toward a solution. Then, I remember Jesus’ promise that whenever two or three are gathered, God is with us as well.

Though we may argue with those around us or wrestle with ourselves deep within, when we calm down and listen, answers do come. While it is unlikely that God will use words, it is absolutely certain that God will use you and me to bring God’s loving presence to the needy souls around us and to ourselves. Though none of us can promise a miraculous cure, the overnight rebuilding of Houston, an end to poverty or a loved ones depression or this world’s conflicts, we can roll up our sleeves and do our best to bring love to the moment at hand. More often than not, we’ll manage to do something which makes a very important difference to someone in need and to ourselves.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Once Again, I Thank You, Dear God…

From the depths of my despair, I wept before you.
You heard my voice, dried my tears and responded.

Inspired by Psalm 130:1-2 and God’s Merciful Response to Me

Our little grandson recently celebrated his second birthday. What a celebration that was! It was with deep gratitude that I rejoiced with Daniel because…

Daniel’s mom had experienced productive contractions from Week 26 of this pregnancy. Week 32 marked a major milestone. Another two weeks would bring him close to typical newborn size and development. A day into that week, the telephone rang at 1:00 AM. I heard my husband repeat, “So your water broke?” Tears flowed as they spoke further. My prayers began.

That morning, we learned Baby could remain in utero for two weeks while his mom remained in the hospital. After praying the morning away, I called my son. I heard the concern in his voice as he reported that his wife was experiencing a lot of pain. Because my daughter-in-law is healthy, athletic and incapable of complaining, I took this news to heart. It was then that my prayer changed…

I wept until I found the courage to look heavenward. I wept bitterly as I spoke… “Dear God, I can feed the hungry and be there for the lonely. I can listen to those who need me and I can mourn with those in pain. But this, there is nothing I can do about this. I can’t stop the contractions. I can’t keep that baby in place until the time is right. Only you can fix this. So I beg you for a miracle. I beg you not to allow this baby to be born until he is ready enough. Please give them a miracle because I can’t. This is all up to you.” And on I wept.

Four hours later, our son called: “He’s here! Daniel is here!” All tests indicated that Daniel was behaving like a mini-full-term newborn. His color, weight and reflexes amazed all concerned. Though he remained in the hospital for three weeks, Daniel proved that he was indeed “ready enough”!

Loving God, I humbly thank you for allowing me to pray as I did and for responding with that miracle.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Why Not Now?

They carried to him all those afflicted
with various diseases and racked with pain…
He cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

My sister and I attended a family baby shower last weekend. Seeing our extended family elicited fond memories of our parents, grandparents and siblings who’ve passed. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of these losses remains with me. I can still recall the details of their last days among us.

When the people we love are sick, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this occurs. When their days are numbered, the inevitable isn’t easy to accept. When we recall the healing powers of Jesus, we’re tempted to ask “Why not now?”

When I ponder this and similar questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with trials and tribulations just as we do. If that wasn’t enough, he was nailed to a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I admit that I also know of the things to come. If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that this should be enough to see me through. Our loved ones in the hereafter tell us again and again that this is so. It’s time I listen!

Dear God, when the going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the things to come.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Is Love

As a father has compassion for his children,
so God has compassion for those God loves.

Psalm 103:13

I work hard at holding onto my propensity to trust in the goodness of humankind. I’m not foolish enough to believe that there are no evildoers among us. Still, I do believe that in the right circumstances most of us would choose to do good over evil fairly consistently. So it is that I persist in trusting those I meet along the way until they give me reason not to do so. I can’t claim credit for coming up with this approach. It’s the result of everything I know about God. God loves each one of us and I think I repay this love best when I try to do the same.

Though we’ve been given many sources from which to garner our knowledge of God, I take the bulk of my information from the life of Jesus. Jesus responded to those he met along the way with absolute love. He touched lepers to heal their bodies and their souls. He defended a woman caught in adultery and shared meals with tax collectors. Though they were all viewed as outcasts, Jesus welcomed each one into his company. Jesus even persisted in engaging the scribes and Pharisees. Though most of them were responsible for Jesus’ demise, some listened intently to his message.

Jesus is the consummate lover of humanity. As I wrote above, we show our appreciation best when we imitate Jesus’ efforts in our own.

Loving God, thank you for Jesus who revealed your love and extended your friendship to us all..

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Always Easter!

Then they recounted what had happened on the road and
how they had come to know him in the breaking of the bread.

Luke 24:35

We traveled to Emmaus on our last day in Israel. After adhering to a rigorous schedule the prior week, I welcomed the bus ride from Jerusalem. We visited Emmaus and the old port city of Jaffa on the way. Our stop in Emmaus provided a peaceful interlude. The grounds of St. Mary of the Resurrection Abbey were peaceful, yet full of life. The abbey is located in the Muslim village of Abu Gosh along one of the oldest roads which links Jerusalem to the coast. When we arrived, we found several young people gathered for a program. This took nothing from the tranquility which seemed to embrace us.

After allowing us time to enjoy the outdoors, our guide ushered us into the historic church. Beautiful as it was, Yossi assured us that more awaited us on the lower level. It was there that we discovered an ancient stream which flowed freely as it had in Jesus’ day. I thought that listening to the same the soothing rush of water which Jesus’ contemporaries heard was a gift to be cherished. When our guide pulled out his flute and added his rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria, I tasted a bit of heaven.

The disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus aren’t the only ones gifted with such encounters. Whenever we open ourselves to one another and to the beauty around us, we cannot help meeting God. This the reason the Easter Season lasts fifty days and the reason the miracle of Easter should set the tone for every day of our lives.

Loving God, I will find a bit of Easter in every day!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved