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

More On Time…

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

A time to be born… I enjoy walking outdoors because of Nature’s ongoing evolution. The entire world seems to engage in rebirth during springtime. This growth continues through summer when flowerbeds and gardens flourish. Leafy trees respond to September’s mix early on with subtle changes in color. October brings those changes to fruition only to give way to November winds. Leaves crunching beneath my feet remind me that winter is near. Even then, barren trees hold the promise of new life. Yes, it seems to me that there is always time to be born.

A time to die… Just as Nature engages in rebirth, it also engages in dying all the while. Something old continually gives way to something new. Seeds fall from trees and dance in the wind until they find rest on the ground below. Though no longer part of a living plant, they hold all of the potential they need for life anew. These seeds nestle into the ground with great hope in the things to come.

A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant… If those seeds are lucky, a watchful gardener will see that they are covered with enough soil to survive. If they sprout too closely to one another, that gardener will gently relocate them so each will have room to take root and to receive its share of sunlight and water.

A time to love… Fortunately for us all, God feels it is always time to tend to us, the most beloved of all God’s creatures.

Caring God, thank you for your always timely love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Mary’s Path and Ours

Be on your way, and remember
I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves..

From Luke 10:3

While looking over the ruins in Magdala, we saw a street which is flanked by the remains of shops of every sort. Archaeologists suggest that pottery, fresh produce and woven cloth were likely sold there. A few shops which sported small pools and a well likely sold fish caught locally. Another street was home to a row of houses, a small part of a neighborhood arranged in grid-like fashion much like our streets here at home. Closer to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, there are remains of a warehouse and huge storage vessels. Magdala seems to have been home to a bustling economy. Many Greeks also lived in Magdala which made it a far more “worldly” setting than Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.

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 plagued her. Whichever the case, when Mary made her way to Jesus, her life changed forever.

It seems to me that the same is true for each one of us. Wherever we find God, we find life anew.

Dear God, sometimes, I walk a straight path to you. Sometimes, I wander aimlessly as though I don’t know the way. Always, you stand waiting for me.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Brought Back To Life!

While in Israel, I quickly discovered that the precise locations of the events of Jesus’ life didn’t concern me as much as breathing in the air Jesus breathed and walking where Jesus walked. Meeting people who resembled Jesus, his family, neighbors and disciples awed me. Having said that, I admit that my perspective changed on the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus’ presence was almost tangible.

As our guide led us toward the water, he insisted, “Wait here. You must get onto Daniel’s boat.” Yossi returned quickly to lead us aboard. As we pulled out onto the water, I absorbed the images around me: the sea, the boats, the hills in the distance and the faces of those who sailed with me. I looked upward to ask, “What were you thinking when you looked at all of this?” Before I received an answer, a gentleman came forward to offer a commentary regarding the sea and Jesus’ impact there. I was surprised by this. His passion implied that this presentation was far more than a tour narrative. I assumed this man was Daniel until he stepped back to introduce our boat captain. Seconds into Daniel’s remarks, I understood Yossi’s reasons for booking this tour with him.

Daniel explained that he is a Messianic Jew. He was born to a young unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman and was given up for adoption to a secular Jewish family. Though his family had no faith to share with him, they provided Daniel with a loving home in the port city of Haifa. This proximity to water inspired Daniel’s love for the sea and his desire to become a boat captain one day. Daniel’s family also nurtured his love for music by gifting him with a set of drums early on. Unfortunately, Daniel endured a personal crisis in his late twenties. This death of sorts urged Daniel onto a quest deep within himself. Because his family hadn’t kept his adoption secret, Daniel continued his journey by finding his birth family: his mother and four siblings. With the hope of building relationships with them, Daniel relocated nearby. He stayed in a Kibbutz and found a job on a tour boat.

I recalled our tour guide Yossi’s experience growing up in a Kibbutz. There was no talk of God there. I assumed Daniel’s newfound family were Orthodox Jews as his birth mother had been, so there would be no talk of Jesus with them. Offering tours of “holy” places is big business and certainly not a religious experience for local Jews and Palestinians. What was it then that prompted Daniel to take that extreme step toward Jesus?

Apparently, Daniel discovered Jesus’ tangible presence on the Sea of Galilee just as I had. For five years, he listened to his passengers talk about their belief in Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) as they sailed. All the while, Daniel absorbed the prayers, music and scripture passages they shared. Every day, Daniel pondered all that he saw and heard. In the end, Daniel couldn’t help being moved. Something within Daniel came to life the day he realized that he also believed in Yeshua. Yeshua had become Daniel’s most precious and life-giving treasure.

Daniel has responded by sharing his testimony and his music during tours. He sings the hymns which inspired him and translates them into Hebrew for other Messianic Jews to enjoy. The day we sailed with him, I witnessed Jesus’ passion in Daniel. The love he expressed for Yeshua with every word echoed Jesus’ deep love for you and me. Daniel has recorded these hymns and his own works in an effort to tell all who will listen about Yeshua. He does this in spite of being ostracized by many of his fellow Jews, secular and religious, who resent the beliefs of Messianic Jews. As for me, Daniel’s CD eases me into Jesus’ company every time I listen to it.

I share all of this because Jesus seems to have done for Daniel what he did for Lazarus two thousand years ago. Today, John’s gospel (John 11:1-45) tells us that Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had taken ill and died. When Jesus went to Lazarus’ sisters to comfort them, Martha and Mary insisted that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been with him. Do you know how many times I’ve looked upward and declared, “If you were here, things would be different?”! Raising Lazarus was Jesus’ greatest miracle. Daniel will tell you that this miracle was repeated in him when he welcomed Jesus into his life. I will tell you that this miracle has been repeated within me every time I’ve survived one of the major and minor tragedies of my life. Jesus’ miracle is repeated in each of us over and over again. The best part of all of this is that we can imitate Jesus’ miracle in our own efforts to renew the lives of those we’ve been given to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Reconciled!

“…go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:24

When I became engaged, my parish priest provided all of the required marriage preparation. I appreciated this effort because I had known Father O’Connell since I was four years old and my fiancé had known him since high school. Father was like a second dad to me and I was happy that he wanted to ensure that my future husband and I started this marriage with our best foot forward. Though Father’s talks were all helpful, one bit of advice has proven to be most beneficial over the years. Father encouraged my future husband and me never to go to bed angry with one another. The longevity our relationship is evidence of Father’s wisdom in this regard.

It occurs to me that I need to apply this advice to my other relationships. It’s never helpful to allow recent hurts to age into old scars. When I spend time nursing my wounds rather than dealing with their source, I bring their pain to every subsequent encounter. How much better off I’d be if I sought out my perceived adversary and explored the problem with him or her. Though the result might not always be what I prefer, the air between us will certainly be clearer. Isn’t fresh air always more energizing than smog?

Loving God, it has taken me too long to apply Father’s decades-old lesson to my other relationships. Thank you for giving me the sense to figure this out!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Alive In A New Way

A childhood friend recently shared that my dad and I appeared in one of his dreams. I couldn’t help smiling over this news. Perhaps my dad was signaling his approval of my recent trip to his parents’ village in Canada. Before I could continue my musing, my friend added that my dad looked just as he remembered him and that I appeared as a little girl. Trino and I met decades ago before we entered kindergarten. His dream intrigued me because my dad passed away when I was just eight years old. Though Trino had known my dad, I was amazed that he recognized him six decades later. After discussing the dream and some shared memories further, I hung up the phone and continued my own walk down Memory Lane. I considered the numerous loved ones who’ve passed away in the years since I lost my dad. “Odd that I typed ‘lost’,” I tell myself…

The truth is that my dad would be the first to point out the inaccuracy of my wording. A few years before he passed away, we gathered in our living room to pray for my ailing uncle. When it became clear that recovery was not in his prognosis, my mom encouraged us to pray for my uncle’s happy death. The youngest of us didn’t miss our mom’s meaning and tears flowed freely afterward. It was my dad who assured us that Uncle Gee would be perfectly healthy in heaven. His pneumonia would disappear. The curved spine caused by a childhood bout with polio would straighten and Uncle Gee would walk upright and tall. My dad seemed quite certain that Uncle Gee would live on in a far happier place and that he’d watch over us all the while. With that, my dad taught me that our loved ones who pass away are neither “lost” nor “away”. They are very much alive in a new way.

You know, this past week has been filled with thoughts of loved ones. They include those who were once a part of our own lives and the holy men and women from years and decades and centuries ago who’ve inspired our lives with their goodness. On All Saints and All Souls Days, we honor all of those who now live in that wonderfully new way. We honor some of them by name because we count them among our own family members or our circle of friends. We also honor many others who, unlike Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John of the Cross and Francis of Assisi, haven’t been assigned feast days of their own. Though they remain nameless to us, God and the Church recognize these mighty souls who did the best they could with the circumstances they were given. My friend’s dream set the tone for this week of happy memories and prayerful cheers for all of our loved ones who live in a new way today. With absolute faith in God’s merciful love, I prayed fervently for them and to them all.

I find that the timing of today’s scripture passages couldn’t be better. If you require further convincing of the new way of living which awaits us, read carefully. In the passage from Second Maccabees (7:1-2; 9-14), a widow and her sons willingly undergo torture and death because of “…the hope God gives of being raised up.” In Second Thessalonians (2:16-3:5), Paul’s disciple urges on his followers with God’s “…everlasting encouragement and good hope.” Jesus underscores these lessons with his own. Luke’s gospel (20:27-38) chronicles Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees whose question forced Jesus to address life after this life. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection and Jesus’ teaching in this regard troubled them considerably. As was his custom on such occasions, Jesus used the Sadducees’ knowledge of the scriptures to illustrate the point which they hoped to disprove. The Sadducees had the greatest esteem for the covenant handed down from the God of the Living to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus pointed out that if these holy and beloved patriarchs were dead, then theirs could not be the God of the Living. If theirs was the God of the Living, the patriarchs lived on as well! Though the Sadducees behaved as the villains in this passage, they gave their contemporaries and us cause for great hope.

I admit that belief in life after this life is a given for me. In spite of the tragedies which punctuate this life, it’s impossible for me to deny the new life that is to come. At the same time, I understand the troubles and tragedies which give us all reason to feel a bit like a Sadducee from time to time. At those times, I consider miracles such as the birth of a baby, a wayward teen who grows into a fine adult, an unexpected cure or rekindled love. The joy found in these events hints at the happiness which will come when we live in that new way. In the mean time, I’ll find inspiration in those who’ve gone before me while doing my best before I join them in God’s good time.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved