Who Am I Anyway?

While clearing my desk, I found a neatly clipped stack of papers which I’d ignored for weeks. I shuddered as I acknowledged each reminder to schedule an annual doctor’s appointment or procedure. Though I usually take care of these visits every October, I postponed this effort until New Year 2020 made its appearance because I’d been extremely busy. I promised myself that I’d schedule these appointments in January and complete each visit by the end of February. Still, though I have no known reason for concern, I was reluctant to pick up the phone. Last year’s blood work and numbers guaranteed me a year free of medication. My blood pressure has been consistently healthy and I’ve lost a few pounds. Still, I was anxious as I entered the first number. When a recording instructed me to call back during office hours, I sighed with relief. I admit that I laughed at myself in the midst of all of this. I’m normally the calming force who encourages others along their way. Why couldn’t I do the same for myself that afternoon? I looked at my reflection in the window next to me and wondered who that nervous potential patient was who’d suddenly occupied my body. Where was I?

Today, our Nativity figures and créche rest in storage with the Christmas trees and greenery which adorned the church. The splashes of red flowers and white vestments which joyfully proclaimed Christmas have given way to the green of a new liturgical season. Until Ash Wednesday, we’ll observe Ordinary Time. The math scholars among us will appreciate the reasoning behind this designation. “Ordinary Time” references those weeks between liturgical seasons when we count Sundays in ordinal fashion one after another. As for me, I consider Ordinary Time to be the perfect time to acknowledge our ordinary selves and our ordinary efforts to live our typically ordinary lives as best we can. This time around, however, I’m searching for my ordinary self. You know, the one who managed to escape me as I began scheduling my doctors’ appointments the other day. Where had I gone?

When I turned to the scriptures to prepare for this writing, I was relieved to find that I’m not the only one whose identity has been questioned. Today’s first reading (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6) was authored by an anonymous prophet. He continued in Isaiah’s style to encourage the people to embrace who they were in God’s eyes and to live accordingly. He wrote, “The Lord said to me: You are my servant… I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” There was nothing ordinary about God’s hope for this second Isaiah. Indeed, God had the poor man’s work cut out for him. As I read, I became convinced that this prophet must have questioned his own identity often, especially when things went awry. Did he also ask, “Who am I?” in the midst of his troubles?

The second reading (1 Corinthians 1:1-3) indicates that Paul opened this letter by announcing that he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. Throughout his writings, Paul insisted that he was who he was as a result of divine intervention in his life. The best part of this was that Paul behaved exceedingly more bravely as a result. Even from his prison cell, he preached until the end. As I read, it occurred to me that Paul was able to do all that he did because he embraced who he was in God’s eyes. This seems easy enough. Still, I thought I knew who I am in God’s eyes, yet I couldn’t find myself the other day…

In John’s gospel (John 1:29-34), John the Baptist insisted that he’d engaged in preaching and baptizing to pave the way for one who would follow him. John made it clear that he wasn’t the one for whom the people waited. Still, John’s work proved extremely important. After watching events unfold around him and listening carefully to God’s voice deep within him, John recognized Jesus for who he was. So it was that John courageously announced, “He is the Son of God.” With that, Jesus embraced his identity and set out to spread the good news. In the process, Jesus identified Mary as both woman and mother, Peter as the Rock, Lazarus and Mary Magdalene as dear friends and every other person along the way as accepted, worthy, forgiven and embraced without condition. If those around Jesus knew nothing else about themselves, they knew that they were loved. If asked who they were, each one could proudly answer, “I am me and I am loved!”

Ordinary Time provides the perfect opportunity to acknowledge our ordinary selves, our ordinary efforts and our ordinary lives as God does. Though I didn’t do this very well as I procrastinated in making those doctors’ appointments, I eventually found “me” as I rose to the challenge and scheduled each one. Finally, I realized that God knew where I was all along and that God will take care. Finally, I discovered, “I am me and I am loved!” The truth is so are you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Where Are My Keys?

I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
From Matthew 16:19

I’m sure it was quite a surprise to Peter that he was chosen to lead the first Christian community. Peter had no idea of what being given the keys to the kingdom entailed. Still, Jesus entrusted him with this responsibility. Though Peter was thick-headed and cowardly at times, in the end, Peter allowed his heart to direct him. He is the one who first said aloud what the other disciples feared to whisper even to themselves. In the end, after Jesus was crucified and risen, it is Peter who led the disciples to share the good news of God’s love for us with the world.

As a child, I told myself that I would have been much different from the disciples if I had walked with Jesus. I couldn’t understand how anyone could question a thing Jesus said or did. Today, I know better. In spite of the numerous and generous ways in which God has been revealed to me, I question and worry and despair with the best of them. For us humans, I guess seeing is believing.

The problem is that we fail to see. The treasure lying before our eyes and within our hearts is invaluable. Nonetheless. we fail to see what God has given us. Still, God entrusts us with the keys of the kingdom as well. Like Peter, we’re invited to follow our hearts and to reveal God’s love in all that we say and do. Like Peter, our imperfections aren’t meant to keep us from the good we can do. Today, this seems more important than ever.

Trusting God, you have made us the caretakers of your word and works. You’ve given us the keys to your kingdom. Help us never to misplace them and to always use them well.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Who Am I?

While waiting for my annual physical the other day, I attempted to glance through a magazine. Though I had no known reason for concern, I was nervous just the same. I’d already seen my blood work results. My improved cholesterol numbers guaranteed me another year free of medication. My blood pressure had been consistently good and I’d lost a few pounds. Still, I was anxious as I wondered what the doctor might find. For a second, I actually laughed at my predicament. Normally, I’m the calming force who encourages others along the way. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t do this for myself that afternoon. I looked at the reflection in the window next to me and wondered who the nervous patient was who’d suddenly occupied my body. Where was I?

Today, my parish’s new Nativity figures and crèche rest in storage with the Christmas Trees and greenery which adorned them. The splashes of red foliage and white vestments which proclaimed Christmas so dramatically give way to the green of a new liturgical season. Until Ash Wednesday, we’ll observe Ordinary Time. Math scholars among us will appreciate the reasoning behind this designation. “Ordinary Time” references those weeks between holy seasons when we count Sundays in ordinal fashion, one after another. As for me, I consider Ordinary Time to be the perfect time to acknowledge our ordinary selves and our ordinary efforts to live our typically ordinary lives as best we can. This time around, however, I’m searching for my ordinary self: the one who managed to escape me during that visit with the doctor the other day. Where was I?

When I turned to today’s scriptures to prepare for this writing, I was relieved to find that I’m not the only one whose identity has been in question. The first reading’s author (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6) was actually an anonymous prophet of the time. He continued to write in Isaiah’s style to encourage the people and himself to embrace who they were and to live accordingly. He wrote, “The Lord said to me: You are my servant… I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” It seems to me that there was nothing ordinary about God’s designation or God’s hope for this Second Isaiah. Indeed, God had the poor man’s work cut out for him. As I read further, I became convinced that this prophet must have questioned his identity when things went very well and especially when things went awry. Did he ask, “Who am I?” in the midst of his troubles?

In the second reading (1 Corinthians 1:1-3), Paul opened his first letter to the Corinthians by announcing that he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. Throughout his writings, Paul insisted that he was who he was as a result of Divine Intervention in his life. The best part of this was that Paul behaved exceedingly more bravely than most as a result. Even from his prison cell, he preached until the end. As I read, it occurred to me that Paul was able to do all that he did because he embraced who he was in God’s eyes and he lived accordingly. This seems easy enough. Still, I thought I knew who I am in God’s eyes, yet I couldn’t find myself the other day…

In today’s gospel (John 1:29-34), John the Baptist insisted that he had engaged in all of his preaching and baptizing to pave the way for the one who would follow him. John made it clear that he was not the one for whom the people waited. In the end, John’s work proved extremely important. After watching events unfold around him and listening carefully to God’s voice deep within him, John looked upon Jesus and found God’s Spirit within him. So it was that John courageously announced, “He is the Son of God.” With that, Jesus embraced his identity and went out to spread the good news as he knew it. In the process, Jesus identified Mary as both woman and mother, Peter as the Rock, Lazarus as his dear friend and every other person on Jesus’ path as accepted, deemed worthy, forgiven and embraced without condition. If those around Jesus knew nothing else about themselves, they did know that they were loved. If asked who they were, each one could proudly answer, “I am me and I am loved!”

You know, Ordinary Time does provides the perfect opportunity to acknowledge our ordinary selves, our ordinary efforts and our ordinary lives as God does. Though I didn’t do this very well in the doctor’s office that day (yes, I broke into a sweat and my heart pounded the entire time), I did find “me” on the way home. When the bright sun warmed my hands as I clutched the cold steering wheel, I began to whisper a “thank you” for this unexpected warmth. Before I uttered a word, I found that my heart had warmed as well. Finally, I realized that God knew where I was all along. Finally, I discovered, “I am me and I am loved!” So are you!
©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Keys

I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
From Matthew 16:19

I’m sure it was quite a surprise to Peter that he was chosen to lead the first Christian community. Peter had no idea of what being given the keys to the kingdom entailed. Still, Jesus entrusted him with this responsibility. Though Peter was thick-headed and a coward at times, in the end, Peter allowed his heart to direct him. He is the one who first said aloud what the other disciples feared to whisper even to themselves. In the end, after Jesus was crucified and risen, it is Peter who led the disciples to share the good news of God’s love for us with the world.

As a child, I told myself that I would have been much different from the disciples if I had walked with Jesus. I couldn’t understand how anyone could question a thing Jesus said or did. Today, I know better. In spite of the numerous and generous ways in which God has been revealed to me, I question and worry and despair with the best of them. For us humans, I guess seeing is believing.

The problem is that we fail to see the treasure lying before our eyes and within our hearts. Still, God entrusts us with the keys of the kingdom as well. Like Peter, we’re invited to follow our hearts and to reveal God’s love in all that we say and do. Today, this seems more important than ever.

Trusting God, you have made us the caretakers of your word and works. Help us to share these gifts generously.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved