Called By Name and By Love

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

From 2 Timothy 1:2

Our granddaughter recently made an astute observation regarding our family names. She noted that in her family everyone’s name begins with a different letter. She also noted that in Grandpa’s and my family everyone’s name begins with the same letter except for Uncle Tim. “How did that happen?” she asked. I responded with the same explanation I’d offered Tim more than two decades ago…

It was dinner time and Tim was uncharacteristically quiet. Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old son howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback because we had no idea that this bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” I hoped that telling Tim the truth would sooth his wounded spirit.

“Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t have any choice about that. When we had our first baby and he was a boy, Dad wanted to name him after himself and Grandpa. So his name is Mike, too. When you were on the way, I just knew you were going to be a boy. Dad and I talked a lot about your name, but I didn’t like any of the M names. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved Timothy and that’s why you have that name. Yours is the only name that this family really had to think about.” With that, Timothy finished his dinner with a smile.

I’m happy to report that my granddaughter accepted this explanation as well.

Dear God, please bless all of your children with grace and peace, especially those who question their place in your world today.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

They Couldn’t Resist Him!

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

Mark 1:17-18

In a few days, several friends will fly off to Israel. I’m feeling a bit melancholy regarding their departure as I was supposed to join them for this adventure. Unfortunately for me, circumstances arose which caused me to delay this return trip for another time. Still, as quickly as I wrote about my disappointment, I couldn’t help smiling. I’ve been to Israel twice before and both trips left me filled with awe. Though I know Jesus’ story well, walking where he walked and meeting his modern-day countrymen and women firsthand touched me in amazingly unexpected ways.

It was in Israel that I finally began to understand what caused the disciples to walk away from everything to follow Jesus. Simon and Andrew were hard-working men who left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps Jesus couldn’t contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people to him. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely, all of whom found the courage to approach Jesus.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I did walk where he walked. I breathed the air he breathed and I sailed on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus so often found solace. The truth is that I can’t imagine my life without his influence. When I consider the Jesus I’ve come to know, I understand the attraction. It must have been overwhelmingly amazing to walk with a visible Jesus because simply being where he was proved completely overwhelming to me.

With that, I wish my Israel-bound friends an equally amazing encounter!

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Authentic in Word and Deed

When you read this, my dear husband and I will have returned from an unexpected second trip to Israel. I write “unexpected” because Mike and I were completely surprised by this opportunity. As it happened, our tour director’s able assistant was unable to accompany her on this year’s trek. As a result, Nancy asked Mike if he would consider coming along to help her to manage the group. My husband-the-traveler immediately responded in the affirmative. It was only after a minute or two that he qualified his response by adding that he should probably check with me before committing. Though I had been habitually reluctant to embark upon flights of serious length, last year’s adventure cured me. The people and places we encountered in Israel touched me deeply. This inspiration diminished any discomfort I’d felt while in air. I told Mike that he absolutely should make the trip and that I would do so as well.

One of the treasures I looked forward to seeing once again was our on-site tour guide. Yossi’s wealth of information, his passion for his work and his passion for life enhanced his commentary throughout. Though it took the entire duration of the tour to get to know Yossi with some depth, our effort was richly rewarded. Yossi didn’t always have access to his country’s treasures. He was raised in a Kibbutz and, as Yossi described it, “God was ripped from my heart as a young child.” Within that socialist environment, everyone worked to supply the community with what was needed and that was all that mattered. Yossi celebrated the day his family was able to leave that place to fend for themselves with some autonomy. At the same time, Yossi remained community-minded. He is keenly aware of the plight of the Israeli people and their neighbors both friendly and otherwise. He acknowledged that, while political conditions indicated otherwise, most of the people who occupy Israel get along with one another. Yossi also considers himself to be a secular Jew. Still, Yossi told us often, “You must pray for the people of Israel; for peace here.” I found this to be a curious request in light of his “secular” status. Yossi seemed to read my thoughts as he added, “You must do this. I don’t know how to pray, but you do.” While watching Yossi interact with those around him, I discovered that nothing was farther from the truth.

Yossi carried his backpack everywhere. Among the items he needed for the day, Yossi included musical instruments: his flute and a tiny guitar-like instrument, perhaps a balalaika. At our first stop in Caesarea, we visited the complex constructed by King Herod more than two thousand years ago. It includes a hippodrome, the ideal setting for the first of many concerts with which Yossi gifted us. Whenever the Spirit moved him, Yossi played. He offered his most precious concert in the Crusader church at Emmaus when he played Schubert’s Ave Maria. Yossi played with his eyes tightly closed as his music drifted heavenward. Yes, Yossi prays.

As I read today’s gospel (Mark 1:21-28), I considered what it was that caused Jesus’ contemporaries to take notice of his teaching. Unlike the scribes who lectured in the synagogue week after week, Mark tells us that Jesus offered “a new teaching with authority.” The implication, of course, is that perhaps the scribes weren’t as convincing in what they preached. The scriptures suggest that this was the case because the scribes’ words and actions were a mismatch. Mark tells us that, unlike them, Jesus spoke from the depths of his soul. There was no trepidation or uncertainty in his voice. Perhaps it was this certainty which allowed Jesus to cast out the demon who tormented that man in the crowd. Mark tells us that the demon was certainly convinced of Jesus’ authenticity because the demon addressed Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” Indeed, Jesus not only spoke of the Reign of God; he also made God’s presence in human history a reality through his compassionate responses to those he met along the way. In today’s vernacular, “Jesus talked the talk and he walked the walk.”

When Mike and I toured Israel with Yossi, Yossi didn’t merely share his observations. He illustrated his love for his homeland and for humankind in his every interaction. I determined that Yossi prays because he lives like a man who is attuned to God’s love and concern for us. This is the reason I took Yossi’s words to heart. My association with Yossi gave me a small taste of what those who followed Jesus experienced. In spite of their lowly stature, Jesus shared himself with them. The people took Jesus’ words to heart because he lived what he preached. Little did they know that Jesus truly was the Holy One of God. They had yet to discover that the life of this itinerant tradesman-turned-rabbi would change everything. For you and me, it’s different. We do know Jesus and all that he stands for. So it is that we do our best to live accordingly.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

What’s The Attraction?

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

Mark 1:17-18

Though we celebrated Christmas 2017 three weeks ago, I can’t help smiling when I recall my experience at church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Because this wasn’t a “business as usual” weekend, I left my post at our parish information desk to mingle with those arriving to attend the Christmas Mass. I chatted with more than one hundred people and wished a Merry Christmas to at least one thousand others. I felt as though I was in the midst of a grand family reunion. Indeed, I was!

I used to wonder why the disciples walked away from everything to follow Jesus. What was it that drew them in? Simon and Andrew were burly, hard-working men. Still, they left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps Jesus simply couldn’t contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people in. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely, Each one found the courage to approach Jesus. This was in spite of the fact that everyone else in the vicinity avoided them at all costs.

Though I’ve never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I can’t imagine my life without his influence. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoyed Christmas 2017 so fully. Every Merry Christmas and every smile drew me more deeply into the miracle at hand. God’s love and God’s presence took on human form that day. No wonder Jesus was so irresistible to the disciples. No wonder Jesus is so irresistible to me!

Loving God, thank you for abiding within us and for loving us. Thank you for sending Jesus who transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Dear Child

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

From 2 Timothy 1:2

Our granddaughter recently made an astute observation regarding our family names. She noted that in her family everyone’s name begins with a different letter. She also noted that in Grandpa’s and my family everyone’s name begins with the same letter except for Uncle Tim. “How did that happen?” she asked. I responded with the same explanation I’d offered Tim more than two decades ago.

It was dinner time and Tim was uncharacteristically quiet. Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old son howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback because we had no idea that this bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” I hoped that telling Tim the truth would sooth his wounded spirit.

“Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t have any choice about that. When we had our first baby and he was a boy, Dad wanted to name him after himself and Grandpa. So his name is Mike, too. When you were on the way, I just knew you were going to be a boy. Dad and I talked a lot about your name, but I didn’t like any of the M names. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved Timothy and that’s why you have that name. Yours is the only name that this family really had to think about.” With that, Timothy finished his dinner with a smile.

I’m happy to report that my granddaughter accepted this explanation as well.

Dear God, please bless all of your children with grace, mercy and peace, especially those who question their place in your world today.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Faithful Attraction

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

Mark 1:17-18

When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from everything to follow Jesus, I wonder what it was that drew them in. Simon and Andrew seemed to be strong, burly, hard-working men. Still, they left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Perhaps this God-made-man simply could not contain the wonder within him. Perhaps just being nearby was enough to draw people to Jesus. The scriptures recount numerous instances of Jesus’ interactions with the most unexpected people. Lepers and blind people, sinners and the lonely all found the courage to approach Jesus. This was in spite of the fact that everyone else in the vicinity avoided these outcasts like the plague.

Though I have never seen Jesus as his contemporaries did, I cannot imagine my life without his influence. The things Jesus shared about God’s love for us, God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness drew me in very early on. That Jesus demonstrated these things in everything he said and did keeps me convinced. When I consider the Jesus I have come to know, I understand the attraction of the poor souls who sought him out. It must have been overwhelmingly amazing to walk with a visible Jesus because it is at least that for me.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of Jesus. He transformed my life from the moment I first heard his name.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved