N… Name

At daybreak, he called his disciples and selected twelve of them
to be his apostles: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter…

Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. Some years ago, his name caused our younger son some serious heartache. One evening at dinner, when he could no longer contain his misery, Tim tearfully demanded, “Why does everyone in this family’s name start with an ‘M’ except for mine?” I’d never given Tim’s dilemma a thought, so I immediately and silently begged for guidance before I responded: “Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t choose to have ‘M’ names. When Mike was born, Dad wanted to continue the family name, so we named him Michael. Yours is the only name that we really thought about. I love the name ‘Timothy’ and I love you. It was the perfect name for you.” This explanation was true. It was also enough to allow Tim to finish his dinner with a smile.

I believe that God gives us parents some latitude in naming our children. This is quite a gift since God knows the value of our names. God renamed Abram when God sent him off. This Abraham would father the Jewish people. Jesus gave Simon a new name. Simon Peter became the rock upon whom Jesus built his church. Later, when Saul vengefully persecuted the followers of Jesus, Jesus stepped in and renamed him. Paul became one of the greatest teachers of Christian living.

Though your name and mine were likely bestowed with a bit less fanfare than those of our biblical predecessors, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls our names with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Speak, Loving God, for we will listen as you call our names.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N… Name!

He called his disciples and selected twelve of them to be apostles: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, and Andrew, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James and Judas Iscariot.
From Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. My name is Mary Ellen. My recently widowed aunt suggested this name to my mom just after I was born. In tribute to her sister, my mom gave me called me Mary Ellen. Still, every time she visited, our elderly cousin Bertha insisted upon calling me Margaret Mary. When I reminded her of my actual name, Bertha always responded with the same explanation: “Oh, I know your name. It’s just that I love the name ‘Margaret Mary’ and I love you.” Needless to say, I didn’t mind our cousin’s extra attention or her love. Both made me feel very special.

God gives us parents some latitude in naming our children. This is quite a gift since God knows the value of our names. God renamed Abram when God sent him off. Abraham would father the Jewish people. Jesus gave Simon a new name. Simon Peter became the rock upon whom Jesus built his church. Later, when Saul persecuted Jesus’ followers, Jesus stepped in and renamed him as well. Paul became one of our greatest Christian preachers.

Though my two names were bestowed with a bit less fanfare, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls all of our names with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Dear God, I will listen as you call my names, both of them!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N is for Name

At daybreak, he called his disciples by name… Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter,
and Andrew his brother, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

From Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. The day my mom gave birth to me, she and my dad hadn’t yet selected my name. They had some time to decide because new mothers had longer hospital stays back then. The day after, my mom’s sister visited her. When Aunt Lucille asked my name, my mom admitted that she and my dad hadn’t yet decided. With that, Aunt Lucille immediately suggested, “Mary Ellen! I have Jean Ellen and I would’ve named my second daughter Mary Ellen.” My aunt wouldn’t have a second daughter because her husband had passed away some months earlier. Without a second thought, my mom responded with absolute love: “We’ll name her Mary Ellen!” When my dad arrived, my mom announced her decision. His first response was, “Where did you get that name?” When my mom explained, my dad agreed that his brother’s wife had offered the perfect name for me.

Naming someone is a powerful gift. My mom named me to remind my aunt of just how much she is loved. God renamed Abram when God sent him off to father the Jewish people. Jesus renamed Simon who became Peter, the rock upon whom Jesus built his faith community. When Saul vengefully persecuted that community, Jesus renamed him. Paul is among the greatest teachers of Christian living.

Though your name and mine were bestowed with a bit less fanfare than those of our biblical predecessors, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls your name and mine with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Dear God, we listen as you call our names and we respond as best we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Somebody!

Several years ago, an awesome and astute observation caught my attention and it has remained with me ever since. As soon as I heard those special words, I jotted them down on a Post-it Note. I stuck that bit of paper to the bottom of my desktop monitor screen because I wanted to be reminded of that morsel of wisdom every day. When this reminder lost its ability to stick, I printed the words on a sheet of cardstock, trimmed it down to the size of a business card and laminated the final product. As I write, I can glance at my glossy little sign whenever the Spirit moves me. I smile every time I read, “Everybody is God’s Somebody!”

I first heard those words from the lips of an eighty-two-year-old twin who ran a soup kitchen with her sister. The two were guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I’d wandered by while my husband was watching. Though I normally teased Mike for his intermittent Oprah fandom, that morning I stopped in my tracks and joined him. How could I pass up an opportunity to learn more about the marvelous woman who made such a profound observation regarding God’s love?

As I watched, I discovered that Helen and Ellen ran The Love Kitchen, in Knoxville, Tennessee. They founded this facility in 1986 to feed the hungry. Though of very modest means themselves, these sisters undertook this venture because they wanted to live in accordance with what they’d learned about God. As Mike and I listened, Helen and Ellen shared their most important convictions: “There is one father, Our Heavenly Father; there is one race, the Human Race; and never take the last piece of bread from the table because someone hungrier than you might come in.” It was Helen who went on to explain why they’d continued to cook for the hungry, the homeless, the homebound and the hopeless for decades. “Everybody is God’s Somebody,” Helen said. Apparently, Helen and Ellen had determined that everybody is their somebody, too.

As I considered today’s scripture passages, I wondered if they contributed to Helen’s and Ellen’s perspective. In the first passage from Isaiah (49:14-15), the prophet speaks for God when he proclaims, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” The mom in me shivers at the intensity of God’s love. I can still remember the first time I held my son Mike and then his little brother Tim. Though we’d just met, I loved them more than I thought I could love. I would have done anything for these two. The truth is, I still would. If I in my frail humanity I can be so devoted, imagine God’s devotion to you and to me!

St. Paul carries Isaiah’s message a bit further. He insists that his attention to his ministry will never be shaken because God supports him in this work. Because Paul is convinced that God knows what is in his heart, he dismisses the things others say about him. In today’s passage (1 Corinthians 4:1-5), Paul assures us that in the end “…everyone will receive praise from God.” So it seems that God loves us and the work in which we invest ourselves. If you or I have doubt about God’s ongoing interest in all things human, we must listen further. In Matthew’s gospel (6:24-34), Jesus underscores all that Isaiah and Paul have to say on this topic. Jesus insists that the God who feeds the birds of the air and who clothes wild flowers in splendor will do far more for you and me. In his words today and though everything he said and did, Jesus insisted that each of us is God’s beloved and each of us is God’s Somebody. Our presence in this world cannot be overvalued and mustn’t be overlooked.

I went online for a progress report regarding The Love Kitchen. I found that Ellen passed two years ago. I imagine that her loss was a source of serious sorrow for Helen. After all, the two had shared their lives from conception! At the same time, I imagine that Helen found great consolation in those words she spoke so long ago and that she and Ellen lived by every day. Her sister now knows first hand that, indeed, you and I are God’s Somebody. God’s only expectation is that we follow in Jesus’ and Helen’s and Ellen’s footsteps. It is up to us to make everybody our somebody, just as they did and just as God does.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Wow!!!

Two weeks ago, I arrived uncharacteristically early for Sunday Mass. As was the case for many of us, the May calendar hanging in our kitchen had been full. I hadn’t been early for anything in weeks. So it was that on that beautiful sunny morning I felt most grateful for those precious moments of leisurely prayer.

I took advantage of the opportunity by admitting to the Lord God that I had been engaged in a bout with crankiness. The reasons for my angst were justified. Worse yet, there was nothing I could do to change these things. As a result, I’d become frustrated and irritable. While the sun poured into church that May morning, I asked God to shower me with a bit of wisdom as well. I needed to refocus and to regroup. An attitude adjustment was also in order. Just a hint of assurance that these situations would improve to a tolerable level seemed almost too much to ask for in the grand scheme of things. Still, I prayed on. I had ended my prayer with hope for the best by the time the opening hymn was announced.

I normally enjoy singing and I was grateful that this particular selection was familiar. Knowing the lyrics helped me to sing on in spite of the distractions that gnawed at me. Afterward, as I replaced the hymnal in its rack, someone behind me whispered, “Wow!” and then giggled almost inaudibly. As we moved on with the liturgy, I glanced back and saw a smiling gentlemen. I smiled to myself as I responded to the Lord, Have Mercy. After the Gloria, I heard another “Wow!” accompanied by that little giggle. This happened again at the beginning of the gospel. Afterward, my pastor began his homily with the proclamation, “Beautiful day, short homily!” The man in the pew behind me responded this time with a giggle, another “Wow!” and another giggle. This “wow” was not unexpected as I assumed many of us were doing a mental “happy dance” in response. After all, the day was indeed gorgeous and in need our immediate attention!

As it happened, Father Ray’s words were to the point, to a very inspiring point which touched me deeply. When I looked heavenward to whisper a quiet “Thank you,” the man behind me offered another joyful “Wow!” And, yes, he giggled as well. It was then that it hit me: If I truly appreciated what I have, I would giggle and say “wow” at least as often as my happy friend had done that morning. After Mass, I thanked that cheerful worshiper for his inspiration. I explained that our encounter had to be in answer to my prayer because he’d certainly and unexpectedly lifted my spirit. I also told him that there was a good story in all of this, and indeed there is…

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 17:17-24), Elijah the Prophet is housed and fed by a poor widow and her son. In the midst of his stay, the boy becomes ill and dies. The frantic woman asks the prophet how he can be a man of God if he allows this. Fortunately, Elijah takes God’s love to heart and he begs the Almighty to restore the woman’s son which God does. In the second reading (Galatians 1:11-19), Paul tries to explain his preaching. He’d spent his career persecuting Jesus’ followers. Paul was a good man deeply committed to the traditions he’d been raised with. Only an otherworldly encounter with Jesus was able to open his heart to the loving God whom Jesus had preached. Afterward, Paul could not help sharing this good news with all who would listen. In the gospel (Luke 7:11-17), Jesus responds to a widow who has lost her son with the compassion of Elijah. Because he knows the depth of this woman’s sorrow better than she knows it herself, Jesus raises the young man and returns him to his mother. God’s compassion, that intimate knowledge of all that troubles us, compels Elijah, Paul and Jesus to comfort the rest of us as best they can.

I repeat often that God loves us, yet I sometimes forget this in the midst of my troubles. I write often that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Still, I feel alone in my sadness. I insist that God is aware of everything that happens because of us and to us. Nonetheless, I wring my hands as I wonder why God ignores me at such trying times. Then a man says “wow” and giggles a bit in church and God puts everything into perspective. If we appreciate all that we have, especially God’s absolute love for us, we will find something to elicit a “wow” and to make us giggle with joy in everything.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N… Name

At daybreak, he called his disciples and selected twelve of them to be his apostles: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot.
Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. Some years ago, his name caused our younger son some serious heartache. One evening at dinner, when he could no longer contain his misery, Tim tearfully demanded, “Why does everyone in this family’s name start with an ‘M’ except for mine?” I’d never given Tim’s dilemma a thought, so I immediately and silently begged for guidance before I responded. “Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t choose to have ‘M’ names. When Mike was born, Dad wanted to continue the family name, so we named him Michael. Yours is the only name that we really thought about. I love the name ‘Timothy’ and I love you. It was the perfect name for you.” This explanation was true. It was also enough to allow Tim to finish his dinner with a smile.

I believe that God gives us parents some latitude in naming our children. This is quite a gift since God knows the value of our names. God renamed Abram when God sent him off. This Abraham would father the Jewish people. Jesus gave Simon a new name. Simon Peter became the rock upon whom Jesus built his church. Later, when Saul vengefully persecuted the followers of Jesus, Jesus stepped in and renamed him. Paul became one of the greatest teachers of Christian living.

Though your name and mine were likely bestowed with a bit less fanfare than those of our biblical predecessors, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls our names with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Speak, Dearest God, for we will listen as you call our names.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved