Glimpses of God’s Heart

All the believers were together and had everything in common.
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Acts 2:44-45

Last weekend when we gathered for Mother’s Day, my granddaughters happily shared the number of days left in this school year. The school year is winding down for our parish children as well. We’ve already celebrated our Confirmation and First Communion liturgies and we’re looking ahead to Vacation Bible School.

A few weeks before our religious education classes ended for the year, our fifth graders sponsored their annual A Book and A Buddy campaign in support of a local after-school and summer literacy program. The kids collect new and gently used books and stuffed animals. Each of these donations finds its way into the hands of a child who might otherwise not have books of his or her own at home. On the final day of the drive, I carried some of these donations to the children who would sort and prepare them for pickup. I was amazed by the over-stuffed bins of books and animals, many of which were newly purchased for this purpose.

This phenomenon is repeated often at my parish church. Whenever we bring the needs of others to our people, they respond most generously. It occurs to me that this capacity for generosity lies deep within each one of us. When we encounter a good cause, we are hard-pressed to ignore it. How wonderful it is that we have the capacity to express God’s generosity toward others! It is in the midst of these moments of sharing that we experience a full measures of unexpected joy.

Loving God, thank you for showing us how to love one another with our hearts and our treasure.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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All God’s Poor

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:33-35

This is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis’s transition from a life of comfort to a life of poverty was absolute. I write “absolute” because, after leaving everything else behind, Francis stripped himself naked as he walked away from his family’s wealth. With that, Francis embraced the lot of the poorest of the poor who lacked even clothing enough to cover themselves. Though I won’t detail all that happened next, know that Francis remained true to his commitment to the poor for the rest of his life.

When I consider the poor, my thoughts turn to those with dire material needs. Francis’s lifelong generosity inspires my own efforts to assist them. As I reflect further, I remind myself that God’s definition of “the poor” is more inclusive. Some among us are materially rich, but also experience need deep within where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing secure lives, the rest of us sometimes lose our grip on the things which are most important. Francis of Assisi inspired many in this situation to turn their attention from their own treasures to wealth as God sees it.

We’re all counted among God’s poor at one time or another. This much-loved group includes us whenever this life robs us of the things we need. Whether we’re lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parents, we’re in need. Whether we’re besought by a stack of bills or by the demons within us, we’re in need. Francis of Assisi would respond by offering us what we need at the moment and by insisting that, in spite of our other needs, we always have enough of God’s love to get by. I wholeheartedly agree.

Loving God, you recognize our poverty in all of its forms. Thank you for your generous response.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Take Notice

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

Luke 16:31

The most frustrating times of my teaching career, and throughout my life for that matter, occurred when stubborn or mean-spirited adults refused to do the right thing. At school, it was an unfair teacher, a principal who refused to back a teacher whom she didn’t much care for, a lunch monitor who exhibited an attitude toward “those” kids or a custodian who took his time when certain teachers called for help. This list, which goes on and on, exists in just about every human institution, including our circles of friends and our families. Our school secretary often observed, “Jesus himself could show them different and they’d still act that way!”

Luke’s gospel tells us that a hungry homeless man died on a rich man’s doorstep simply because the man didn’t notice him. When I consider my own annoyance with those who refused to do the right thing at work, I wonder how many times I’ve been guilty of the same. How many times have I intentionally avoided or simply not noticed a situation in which I could have done some good? Would it have mattered if Jesus himself had tapped me on the shoulder to get me moving?

It’s time that I forget about the omissions of others. Rather, I need to tend to my own ability to take notice and to take care whenever the opportunity arises.

Patient God, help me to see those who need me with your eyes and to respond to them with your heart.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

How Can I Help?

Suppose someone is without clothes and daily food.
If you say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”
but do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
You see, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:15-17

My recent commitment to exchange my worry for action has urged me into “do something” mode. The amazing people God has given me to love add to the mix as they are constant reminders that each of us is gifted in unique ways. I’m a constant reminder to myself and others that we’re all also burdened with our personal varieties of frailties. Still, God places this world in our hands. It seems to me that this is no empty gesture on God’s part. God created us in God’s own image and likeness. God knows better than we do just how capable we are.

So it is that I’m challenging myself (and anyone who cares to join me) in setting aside our worry regarding the woes which trouble humankind these days. After praying with great fervor for global, let’s look a bit closer to home. Is there something in our communities, our neighborhoods, our schools, our temples, our churches, our workplaces, our organizations or in our own homes which needs attention? If so, please join me in asking, “Is there something I can do to help?” Don’t discount even the smallest opportunity to do good. I’m convinced that your efforts and mine will make a difference somewhere to someone every time.

Caring God, help us to love and to care for one another as you care for us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Budget A Little Love

All the believers were together and had everything in common.
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Acts 2:44-45

During Lent this year, many of our parishioners and their children made those in need the focus of their efforts. We provided little cardboard banks where change and any other “shareable” cash could be stored. Adults gave up their coffee while the kids did extra chores. They all filled their banks with the money saved or earned. By the week after Easter, we had hundreds of banks to open which resulted in thirteen large plastic containers filled with coins. Fortunately, many of our adult participants inserted paper money into their banks which lightened the load for those of us who made trips to the bank with this treasure. My husband and I coordinate this effort and every year the generosity of our parish families takes our breath away. The truth is that this phenomenon is repeated whenever we bring the needs of others to our people.

During our last trip to the bank with a load of change, it occurred to me that the capacity for generosity lies deep within each one of us. When we encounter a good cause, most of us are hard-pressed to ignore it. Our parish families seem to plan ahead for those cardboard banks because every year the total collected increases. Perhaps they budget ahead of time to be certain they can support this cause. Though I have no business advising anyone else regarding budget management, I’ve decided that a line item for giving is a great idea. What better way is there to secure a handsome return -of joy, that is!

Loving God, help us to love one another with our hearts and our treasure.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved