Every Moment An Opportunity

My husband and I have been in a bit of a frenzy as of late. We’re returning to Israel in a few days and we’re not at all ready. In an effort to prepare, Mike started taking down our Christmas decorations without my assistance. While he worked at stowing away our holiday treasures, I typed at my keyboard for hours on end. I was plugging away non-stop on reflections for our parish bulletin and the daily reflections I’ll need to cover our time away and a few days afterward. In the midst of this frenetic whirlwind, I desperately needed to stop to take a breath. Though writing is my second-favorite activity (time with our kids, kids-in-law and grandkids is #1), I’d had enough. After whispering a prayer that the Spirit would return to inspire me when I started anew, I retreated to my recliner…

Mike had done a superior job. Most of our Christmas decorations had been carefully stowed in the basement. As I sat, I noticed the basket of Christmas cards resting on the hearth. I wondered how Mike managed to take down our Christmas stockings without noticing this bulging basket below the mantel. Though my first inclination was to empty the basket and walk it down to the basement, I thought better of it. Rather, I sat with that basket in my lap and reread all of the Christmas cards and letters we’d received. Though I’d read each one on the day it arrived, I often did so too quickly to fully appreciate its message. This time, I savored each one. As I read, the glow of our Christmas Tree and the lights which were strung about the house returned. Each card’s artwork and greeting revived my Christmas Spirit. The personal messages, letters and signatures before me stirred my affection for each sender. Before long, I’d returned to resounding Christmas Joy. I lost sight of my time crunch. Suddenly, I had all of the time in the world to celebrate Christmas once again.

It was almost two hours later when I carried our empty Christmas card basket to the basement. As I headed back upstairs, it occurred to me that Christmas isn’t meant to be tucked away in our basements or attics. No, Christmas is meant to have a lasting effect which carries us through the months and year ahead. You know, the Sundays after Christmas are numbered until Lent begins. As we tick them off, we use each one to become as familiar as possible with this Jesus whose birth we recalled with such relish. It seems to me that the more we get to know Jesus, the more eager we should be to live as Jesus lived. My short interlude with those Christmas cards provided a poignant reminder to keep all that Jesus has shared in the forefront of my life. Still, doing so throughout the New Year may be challenging.

I find encouragement in the scripture passages we hear this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the first reading (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19), an unrecognizable call wakens young Samuel several times throughout the night. At first, he assumes that the voice is the elderly Eli who has taken Samuel into his care in the temple. Only after Samuel wakes him three times does Eli explain that it is the Lord who is calling. It is only then that Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” In the second reading (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20), Paul stresses our need to help one another with the gift of ourselves. Our presence to those who need us is the most precise means we have to bring God to one another. As I consider Paul’s lesson, I recall that Paul had to be struck blind in order for God to get his attention long enough to call him into service. In the gospel (John 1:35-42), John the Baptist sees Jesus and announces, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Two disciples who hear this say nothing, but they follow Jesus closely. So begins the relationship which changed their lives forever.

Perhaps it was no accident that my husband neglected to pack away our Christmas card basket. Perhaps that call to my recliner was as intentional as the encounters described in today’s scripture passages. The coming days and weeks of Ordinary Time will re-acquaint us with Jesus. This humble tradesman-turned-apprentice-preacher transformed his ordinary life into extraordinary opportunities to care for those he met along the way. It seems to me that this Jesus invites us to acknowledge our own potential to bring the extraordinary to those we have been given to love. When we open ourselves to God’s presence in our own lives, we cannot help sharing what we find. As complicated or mundane as it may be, every moment we’re given provides the setting in which we hear God’s call. It’s up to us to respond as best we can. When in doubt, simply do as Jesus did with love and persistence. Maybe you can also allow yourself a little time off in the recliner to re-energize and to start again!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Rejoice With Mary

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
From The Magnificat

I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the past few days. I rummaged through my car to find a favorite Christmas CD which features The Magnificat. Then, I rummaged through my son’s closet in search of his old CD player. When I remembered that I had given it away, I returned to my desk and slipped the CD into my computer. I’d forgotten I can do this!

The words which are attributed to the Mother of Jesus took my breath away as they always do. When the song ended, I contemplated Mary’s choices and the mindset with which she faced what lay ahead. When Mary embarked upon motherhood, she also embarked upon a treacherous journey. Mary’s worldly lot would be uncomfortable at best. Still, her spirit rested in the presence of the Lord. Mary endured because she trusted in God’s faithfulness to her.

As a child, I was keenly aware that my Lord was with me. Over time, the troubles of this life dulled this awareness and I attended more to what was wrong around me than to what was right. As you know, there have been moments as of late when this phenomenon has repeated itself. Still, when I place myself in God’s presence, my journey becomes do-able once again.

It seems that our own perspectives and our awareness of God’s intimate proximity to us make all of the difference in the world. Mary thrived amidst a lifetime of challenges because she realized that she never walked alone. We, too, amble along in God’s company every step of the way.

Loving God, thank you for remaining with us in everything.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

‘Tis the Season…

Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O God, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:4

I can still smell the turkey. This is quite a phenomenon since we ate our son’s house yesterday. Still, in spite of the lingering aromas in my psyche, Thanksgiving Day is fading into memory. Some shoppers headed out before the leftovers were put away last night. Others left their beds in the wee hours this morning to take advantage of sales. Many who are working today will go directly to the mall afterward with the hope that their wish list items are still available. Overnight, the Christmas Shopping Season made its stealth entrance quite effectively.

If you haven’t given much thought to Christmas yet, don’t worry. Though today’s sales will make a dent in store inventories, those empty shelves will be filled again soon enough. Retailers will seek your contribution to the cause for the duration. In the mean time, I invite you to join me in letting go of the holiday frenzy and in reaching out for a measure of peace.

I’ve decided to tackle the tasks which lie ahead in small increments. I’m going to shop when I can, but NOT until I drop. I’ll save the rest for another day. My husband and I will decorate indoors and outdoors in the same fashion. We enjoy the Christmas Season best of all and we hope to have the energy to attend to every minute of it. In the process, we’ll avoid the weariness which comes with trying to do too much in too little time.

So it is that I invite you to join me in finding ways to remove just a bit of the hustle and bustle of the season from your life. I also invite you to enjoy the little things along the way. You truly deserve to do so!

Loving God, gift us all with a touch of your peace as we prepare the way to Christmas.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

So Generously Restored!

…he leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before thinking about a little volunteer pitch which I’d deliver at Mass that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while working on a few more of these daily reflections. Completing this little to-do list put me in the perfect frame of mind to ask others who are able to step up and occasionally help out with some fairly easy tasks at church.

After practicing my one-minute and fifteen-second speech, I noticed that the November rain had let up. Though the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had a bit more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, God restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many gifts with which you refresh us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Worry Not!

He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Psalm 23:2

I’ve shared often that my husband is the travel aficionado of our family. He takes great pleasure in exploring new places and getting to know the people who inhabit them. Each adventure leaves him refreshed and ready to tackle our daily routine once we return home. As for me, I used to waste away the days of anticipation leading to these treks with unnecessary worry. While my husband looked forward to our vacations with almost as much joy as he experienced while we’re away, I worried about the things I was leaving behind and the potential travel issues which rarely materialized. Today, I acknowledge that the dear man has patiently guided me along long enough to convince me that all will be well in the end.

As I reflect further on Psalm 23, I can’t help thinking that our persistent God has cooperated in my husband’s travel efforts with good reason. I’ve overcome my travel worries and learned to lie down in green pastures, traipse through them and even climb over them as a result. Every time, like my husband, I return ready to embrace life here at home once again. I’ve even begun to suggest destinations for next time!

Loving God, thank you for caring for us even when we are reluctant to care for ourselves. Thank you also for the dear souls who make your care for us tangible.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Respond and Rest

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

My husband serves as our “family grocery shopper” most of the time. When I joined him in retirement, I tried to retrieve what had once been my responsibility. After my first few trips to the store, my husband finally asked, “What takes you so long? I can find the stuff on a list twice as long in half the time. What are you doing there?” When I thought about what had transpired on these outings, I realized that, each time, I had run into a neighbor, a someone from church, a former colleague or a friend. Of course, I took the time to chat. Why not? I had all of the time in the world.

I admit that I eventually relinquished my hold on our shopping lists much of the time. As visits to our grandchildren and my writing schedule have increased, I realize that efficient shopping trips are sometimes in order. I also realize that these grocery-store encounters are sometimes unexpectedly important to me or to the person I’ve met along the way.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were often disrupted by those who needed him. The same is true of you and me. All that is asked is that we respond as best we can. By the way, we’re also allowed to rest on occasion just a Jesus did.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to respond with kindness to them and to my own fatigue as needed.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved