The One Without Sin…

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

From John 8:7

I turned off the television and told myself, “I must be getting old!” The last item in the newscast I’d abandoned highlighted a recent scandal, this time by a political figure. I chose not to listen further because I’ve heard far too much of the same as of late. Scandals used to shock me. They shook my faith in whichever of our human institutions was affected. Still, though our morality is more than a little lax these days, we continue to pick up stones and to throw them whenever given the chance.

The woman caught in adultery sinned. I know. If she had not, Jesus wouldn’t have felt the need to forgive her. Still, Jesus offered his absolution. Then, Jesus sent her off with a single bit of advice: From now on, do not sin any more. Though I’m incapable of writing a treatise on sin, I think there is a lesson here. Jesus’ point is that God is far more merciful than we when it comes to our failures and the things that bother us most seem far less consequential to God. It seems to me that we need to leave the judgment of our sisters and brothers to our merciful God. We have more than enough of our own sins to fret over. Perhaps we need to leave our own judgment to God as well. God is far more patient and forgiving of us than we are of ourselves.

The moral of the story? Lighten up! We must forgive our adversaries and forgive ourselves. God is a firm believer in second chances and we should be, too!

Forgiving God, thank you for your enduring mercy and forgiveness. Be with us as we try to forgive as you do.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Do Your Best

The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers.
Acts 9:31

When I read passages such as this, I can’t help thinking that the early church must have been an exciting place to be. Jesus’ teachings and miracles were fresh memories which eye witnesses shared with awestruck pride. The apostles had moved beyond their shame and fear over the events that lead to Calvary and the days afterward. Finally, they preached and worked wonders on their own all in Jesus’ name.

Still, when I consider the scriptures, I acknowledge the difficulties which arose within this fledgling faith community. When Paul brought Gentiles into the fold, there were those who expected these new believers to succumb to many Jewish rites which included circumcision. Paul immediately took up this cause with Peter. After consulting with other of the apostles, Peter responded that only what was necessary would be expected. These necessities included ones best attempt to live a moral life aligned with the teachings of Jesus and nothing more.

Today, Pope Francis approaches his flock with much the same issues. There are those who insist upon holding God’s people to every point of church law. Francis, on the other hand, argues with Paul that only what is necessary should be expected. In Francis’ view, this requires living a moral life aligned with the teachings of Jesus and with our own consciences as best we can. As you can see, this is nothing new.

Loving God, help us all to be a good stewards of your teaching. Help us not to hold others to standards which you would never impose and help us all to make an honest effort to be good.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Who Am I To Judge?

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

From John 8:7

As I turned off the television, I told myself, “I must be getting old!” The last item in a newscast highlighted a recent scandal, this time by a political figure. I chose not to listen further because I’ve heard far too much of the same as of late. Scandals used to shock me. They shook my faith in whichever of our human institutions was affected, except perhaps Hollywood. In the world of superstars and celebs, such incidents have become the rule. Enduring love stories in that milieu touch our hearts because the odds are so firmly stacked against them. Oddly, though our morality is more than a little lax these days, we continue to pick up those stones when given the chance.

The woman caught in adultery certainly sinned. If she had not, Jesus would not have felt the need to forgive her. Still, after offering his absolution, Jesus sent her off with a single bit of advice: From now on, do not sin any more. Though I am incapable of writing a treatise on sin, I think there is a lesson here. Jesus is far more merciful than we when it comes to our failures and the things that bother us most seem far less consequential to Jesus. It seems to me that we need to leave the judgment of our sisters and brothers to our merciful God. We have more than enough of our own sins to fret over. Perhaps we need to leave our own judgment to God as well. God is far more patient and forgiving than we are!

Forgiving God, thank you for your enduring mercy and forgiveness. Help us to forgive as you do and to help one another along the way.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

See With God’s Eyes

A recent invitation to my childhood neighborhood reunion elicited numerous memories. Amazingly, I found myself still able to list each of my teachers from kindergarten through senior year of high school. Much to my surprise, a smile or queasy stomach accompanied each name. Fortunately, most of my former teachers continue to cause me to smile, especially Sister Imelda, R.S.M.

Sister Imelda holds the dubious honor of being my first high school homeroom teacher. This role included teaching religion to my classmates and me. Difficult as it might have been to get our attention, Sister did so with ease by providing us with a “question box.” At the beginning of each class, Sister read and responded to one of our submissions. I came to appreciate Sister Imelda’s bravery in doing this after sitting on the teacher’s side of the desk for a few years myself. Our class of fifteen-year-old girls provided some extremely creative questions specifically designed to require a class-length response. The intent was to avoid getting to the previous day’s homework and to prevent the rendering of the current day’s assignment.

Our devious plan might have worked with a less ingenious teacher. In this case, Sister Imelda beat us at our own game. Rather than assigning “the next chapter,” Sister turned our questions into homework. Though she responded to them graciously and thoroughly, she sent us off each day to research “just one more source” regarding the day’s topic. Needless to say, we all knew far more about sin, faith and morals than we cared to by the end of the year. More importantly, by June, each of us saw this God of ours and ourselves with different eyes.

Those “different eyes” explain why I hold on to something Sister Imelda repeated often that year. You see, rather than preaching at us or “guilting” us into submission, Sister presented moral living as a kind of insurance policy which would keep us in our most desirable states. When one of our questions concerned physical intimacy, for example, Sister spoke to the wonder of this gift and the possible consequences. She looked upon the “rules” as shields held around us by a most loving God. If we allowed God to remain nearby, we were protected. “Human beings are drawn to goodness,” Sister often said. “If we keep ourselves good, we will always enjoy the company of someone who truly loves us.”

I cannot speak for my classmates, but Sister’s observation kept me out of the arms of a potential boyfriend or two who were not the least bit interested in my goodness. Sister’s observation also gave me the courage to pursue some friendships which were not necessarily in keeping with being popular. I looked at life and at myself very differently because of Sister Imelda. By the end of freshman year, I had left my elementary school attitudes behind me as I began to develop the vision which guided me to adulthood.

The scriptures are sometimes as unsettling as the questions we mercilessly posed to Sister Imelda that year. When read with the eyes of this world, these passages leave us quite confused. Wisdom (9:13-18) insures us that we understand nothing unless we are gifted with understanding by the Holy Spirit. What if one is not among the gifted? In Philemon 9-10;12-17, Paul writes to his dear friend. Philemon’s slave ran away, and Paul somehow befriended him. Paul wanted this former slave to remain with him, but realized this could not be. Thus, Paul sent the man back to Philemon, asking his friend to see this slave as Paul himself and to treat him accordingly. Paul fully expected Philemon to turn the world he knew topsy-turvy in order to accommodate this request. What if Philemon refused? In Luke’s gospel (4:25-33), Jesus further forsakes the world’s view of things when he calls the crowds before him to hate everything they hold dear. Only then would they be free to be disciples. What type of eyes can look upon all that is dear in this world and walk away from it?

Sister Imelda understood the sort of eyes needed by true disciples, the same eyes needed by each of us: Eyes which value oneself as a child of God; eyes that appreciate goodness, first in God’s children and then in God’s gifts; eyes that rejoice in the joy of others and weep at another’s pain; eyes that visualize the wonder that could be; eyes that make that vision a reality; eyes, once human, but no longer; God’s eyes.
Dear God, please bless us with your vision…

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved