Holy Week… Monday

And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”

Matthew 21:10

While in Israel, our arrival in Jerusalem startled me a bit. This first stop on our tour was at least as frenetic as downtown Chicago on Black Friday. Though all of the places on our itinerary were well-populated, the crowds in Jerusalem rushed in every direction for as far as I could see. It occurred to me that Jesus’ contemporaries felt the same every year as Passover approached. Devout Jewish people filled the holy city to observe this solemn feast. It was Friday when we toured Jerusalem. Sabbath would begin at sunset which prompted the frenzy in the markets. Everyone rushed to complete their errands before the shops closed a few hours later.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Sunday so long ago, I imagine he was anxious as well. It wasn’t the shopping which concerned Jesus that day. It was we who were on his mind. He had worked tirelessly to reveal God’s loving and compassionate ways. Still, many remained who didn’t understand. Sadly, I don’t always behave as though I understand. As I looked into those crowds in Jerusalem that day, I wondered if they appreciated the thinking behind their Sabbath preparations. When I caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window, I wondered if I appreciated the thinking behind what Jesus had done for me.

It seems to me that it’s more important than ever to focus upon all that God has done for us. The gifts of this earth, of one another and our very lives seem more precious than ever. After tending to our loved ones with whom we’re sharing close quarters these days, we might turn our eyes upward and tend to that Ever-present Loved One who remains with us through it all.

Dear God, thank you for loving me through today’s troubles and through whatever lies ahead. I love you, too.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Solitude

After he had dismissed them,
he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone.

Matthew 14:23-24

I enjoy being with people. Whether at a party, out together for a show and dinner or visiting after Mass at church, I enjoy being with people. I will normally choose to spend a day out with others rather than staying home alone. Still, after a series of gatherings or a vacation which immersed me in crowds twenty-four/seven, I long for solitude. Though I’m grateful for the company of others, I’m also grateful to be in my own company as well. These quiet times allow me to regroup, replenish and renew my spirit.

In this technological era, it’s difficult to find time alone. Even when we’re the only passenger on a bus, the only patient waiting in the doctor’s office or at home by ourselves, our cell phones, tablets and other devices provide a constant stream of information, wanted and otherwise. These days, it’s quite possible never to have experienced a moment of quiet during a given day’s waking hours.

It occurs to me that Jesus experienced the same type of bombardment throughout his ministry. When Jesus found himself too tired or drained to go on, he stole away to be alone. Yes, there is something to be said for regrouping, replenishing and renewing our spirits even for Jesus.

I enjoy being with people. Still, I must remember that I’m one of the people with whom I need to spend some time.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of others and for the gift of ourselves.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Rest and Be Grateful

Since on the seventh day God had finished
with the work he had been doing, God rested.

Genesis 2:2

I cringed as I considered all that I had to do. Mike and I had taken off for a few days of much-needed rest up north. We’d returned with a bag of dirty laundry to an inbox full of email and the full calendar we’d left behind. The relaxation we’d felt just hours earlier vanished with the blink of an eye. After filling the washing machine, I decided to see how our outdoor plants had fared while we were away.

As I rounded the corner of our porch, a slight flutter caught my eye. I stopped in my tracks to avoid disturbing a beautiful dove who rested on the edge of our birdbath. Though it was far too cold for her to be here, she rested peacefully. Such visitors usually fly off when I come near. Still, she remained content to stare in my direction. A ray of sunshine caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. As I wondered what she was up to, it occurred to me that she might wonder the same about me. When our gazes met, I realized that I hadn’t prayed much that day. The traffic and drizzle during the drive home had distracted me from my usual sense of gratitude. Did this lovely dove intend to remind me to slow down and to express that gratitude? Before she could reply, I resolved to recapture the restful peace which our treks to Wisconsin always bring. Then, I turned my eyes upward and whispered, “Thank you!”

Dear God, be with me as I make a habit of setting aside my to-do list as needed and of thanking you often.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Above All Else

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

John 5:8-9

The scriptures make it quite clear that Jesus couldn’t resist a troubled soul. On the occasion cited above, Jesus assisted a man confined to a mat on the ground. Though the man somehow found his way to the healing waters of Bethesda, he could find no one to help him into the pool. Every time he seemed close, someone else went in before him. Jesus noted the poor man’s predicament and offered him far more than could be found in the pool. The man accepted Jesus’ gesture with absolute faith.

Jesus’ good deed drew the attention of the Pharisees because it occurred on the Sabbath. When Jesus cured the man and then instructed him to pick up his mat and walk, he violated the Sabbath by causing the man to carry his mat. When the Pharisees saw the man doing this, they chastised him. When they discovered that Jesus was responsible, the Pharisees began to plot against this troublemaker who seemed oblivious of The Law. Jesus responded to the Pharisees by pointing out their error in placing The Law above the basic needs of God’s people.

I admit that my greatest frustration with the Church and organized religion in general is our propensity to confine God, God’s goodness and God’s blessings to our limited understanding. When in doubt, it seems to me that the best we can do is to make love and the well-being of others our top priorities.

Patient God, thank you for our capacity to love. When we’re motivated by love, we always get things right.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Put Love First

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

John 5:8-9

Though this conviction took root when I was a child, I continue to be convinced that Jesus couldn’t resist a troubled soul. On the occasion cited above, Jesus assisted a man whose at least partial paralysis confined him to a mat which lay on the ground. Though the man somehow found his way to the healing waters of Bethesda, he could find no one to help him into the pool. Every time he seemed close, someone else went in before him. Jesus noted the poor man’s predicament and offered him far more than could be found in that pool. The man accepted Jesus’ gesture with absolute faith.

Jesus’ good deed drew the attention of the Pharisees because it occurred on the Sabbath. When Jesus cured the man and then instructed him to pick up his mat and walk, he violated the Sabbath by causing the man to work by carrying his mat. When the Pharisees saw the man do this, they chastised him. When they discovered that Jesus was responsible, the Pharisees began to plot against this troublemaker who seemed oblivious to The Law. Jesus responded to the Pharisees in kind, pointing out their error in placing The Law above the basic needs of one of God’s people.

I admit that my greatest frustration with the Church and organized religion in general is our propensity to confine God, God’s goodness and God’s blessings to our limited understanding. We issue edicts and attempt to enforce rules which sometimes get in the way of our service to one another. It seems to me that, when in doubt, the best we can do is to make love and the well-being of those we’ve been given to love our top priorities.

Patient God, thank you for our capacity to love. When we’re motivated by love, we always get things right.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Labor Day Blessings!

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.

Luke 4:16

Labor Day has had special meaning for me of all of my life. When I was a child, we observed this holiday with a gathering -usually a picnic- in a family member’s yard. Back then, the new school year opened the following day. This last day of “freedom” gave my siblings, cousins and me good reason to celebrate. Later, when I discovered the meaning of “labor” for myself at my first job, leisure time became a most precious commodity. Finally, I understood why my mother allowed herself the luxury of sleeping in one day each week. She truly needed the rest.

It was no accident that the author of Genesis allowed God a day of rest after the six days of Creation. When Jesus came to remind us of God’s presence in a tangible way, he spent the greatest portion of his life working and resting just as we do. Only after living thirty years as a typical citizen of his day did Jesus set out to preach and teach. Even then, Jesus often stole away to rest in the company of God.

On this Labor Day, I hope you seize the opportunity rest and to celebrate the work to which you have been called. Perhaps you share in creating worlds of your own. Perhaps you preach or teach. In one way or another, you care for those you’ve been given to love. Perhaps your best work is “being there” for others. Whatever your calling, your work is precious in God’s eyes and your rest today is well deserved!

Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to labor and to rest in your loving care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved