Just Standing By…

“It was not you who chose me, but I who
chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…”

From John 15:16

A mutual friend was in the midst of a battle with cancer. Another dear friend called in anticipation of writing a note of encouragement to her. This friend wanted to confirm our ailing loved one’s address and to check on her condition. That particular day had been frustrating in terms of treatment plans and mixed messages from medical staff. I’d just returned home from a session with our friend and her doctors. This meeting left me with a headache. I didn’t know where all of this was going and I didn’t want my sick friend to suffer needlessly. The grueling traffic that lasted for the duration of my drive home didn’t help. So it was that my other friend had to endure twenty minutes of my ranting before we addressed the reason for his call.

With regret for wasting so much time with my complaints, I offered my apologies as we closed our conversation. Though he had his own troubles to deal with, this friend’s response was precisely what one would expect from a friend. He knew exactly what I was going through and dismissed my guilt with unqualified kindness. His effort enabled me to dig in and to support our ailing friend through the long days that followed. My friend’s effort also reminded me to do the same for those who looked to me for encouragement.

Loving God, thank you for the relationships in my life which mirror your love for me. Help me to return this love in kind at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Let’s Help With Those Crosses

Carrying his cross by himself, he went out to what is called
The Place Of the Skull, which in Hebrew is Golgotha.

John 19:17

The Second Station: Jesus Bears His Cross

Jesus might have refused the cross. If he just lay on the ground to die, couldn’t he have avoided that painful trek up to Calvary? My conjecture is meaningless because Jesus accepted the cross. Though another man would have fallen under the burden, he persisted. As I imagine this scene, I remember that Jesus was God’s Son, God’s fully human son. His body felt that burden as fully painfully as any one of us would have.

Isn’t it odd that we struggle for power and prestige while Jesus forsook them both for us? While Jesus embraced his cross, we wiggle and squirm just enough to shake away our own burdens. Comfort is too often our goal. Whether it is physical or emotional or financial, we do what we must to ensure our comfort. It occurs to me that I’m happiest when I look beyond my own “comfort issues” to take care of others. Jesus did this all of his life. Perhaps I can do the same just for today.

Loving God, help me to embrace the opportunities before me. Help me to bring a bit of comfort to those whom I meet along the way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

See Jesus In Their Eyes

Pilate said, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

Matthew 27:22

I’ve decided to seek a bit of guidance as I attempt to continue my Lenten efforts. This has become necessary because I’ve been far more busy than I’d like to be these days. My poor husband also has the flu, apparently one of the strains that this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t prevent. Juggling all of this has kept me from the moments of contemplation which normally fuel my days. So it is that I am plotting my path a bit more strategically, lest Easter surprises me before I’m ready. To guide my efforts, I’m turning to The Stations of the Cross. Though this ages-old prayer isn’t completely historically accurate, it certainly brings to life the spirit in which Jesus walked that road for us…

The First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to rescue him from the crowds’ hatred. Rather, he endured this unfairness which would rob him of his very life.

In the face of Jesus’ unjust condemnation, I ask myself how often I’ve wrongly judged others. Was this the result of my own prejudice or did I simply follow the crowd who shouted loudest? Either way, I’ve decided that from now on I’ll look for Jesus in the eyes of my adversaries. Perhaps when I see him there, I refrain from doing to them what that crowd did to Jesus.

Loving God, help me to set aside my judgmental ways to make room for your unconditional love in my heart.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Psalm for Everything!

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12

While walking the mall, I ran into a friend from church whom I haven’t seen in a while. She’s been there very week, but I’ve been busy at the parish information desk. As a result, we haven’t had the chance to talk. Our matching smiles indicated that we were both grateful for this chance encounter. As we walked along, my friend told me that she’d been meaning to call to thank me for a suggestion I’d given her a while back. We had both been struggling with circumstances we share and she wanted to let me know that she’d finally been able to pray productively regarding them. My friend reminded me of that I told her: “When in doubt, go to the psalms. There’s a psalm for anything and everything we can’t seem to put into words for ourselves.” Apparently, I was right because what she found had helped her to express herself meaningfully and to realize that our frustration with this life is nothing new.

Later, when I arrived at home, I decided to take my own advice. I perused the Book of Psalms for a refresher. I couldn’t help smiling as I told myself, “Yes, there is a psalm for every occasion under heaven!” By the way, I did find the consolation I needed as well.

Dear God, thank you for those wise psalmists who inspire our prayer in so many beautiful ways!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Only A While Longer?

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”
John 13:33

While we were in Israel, I overheard two travelers from another group consoling one another over a friend who was unable to join them for their trip. The person who couldn’t travel with them had been ill and didn’t recover as quickly as they’d hoped. Because these three considered this trip to Israel to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, this turn of events anguished them all. The two who had made it consoled own another with their promise to pray at every holy place they visited for the person they’d unwillingly left behind. Their tone indicated that this illness might be their fellow traveler’s last.

As Holy Week approaches, I imagine conversations regarding Jesus’ situation among his friends. I suppose none of them were anxious to return to Jerusalem with so much uncertainty regarding Jesus’ work. Where would Jesus’ teaching take him? Where would it take them? Was Judas already expressing concern regarding all of this? Were the others happy to follow their teacher or were they struggling with worry as well?

Those fellow travelers found consolation in praying for their sick friend. She would be with them in spirit as they expressed their concern for her to God. The poor disciples weren’t as adept as we are at prayer. Though they had Jesus in their midst, they weren’t certain of what to make of his presence in their lives. Though they’d witnessed so much, they’re weren’t privy to The Big Picture which inspires us along the way.

Loving God, help me to be patient with others and with myself when we puzzle over this life. Help us to remember that you are with us though it all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Live and Learn!

“Teach them to carry out everything I have told you.”
Matthew 28:20

I admit that reading the daily obituaries has become habitual for me. This has been the case since I inadvertently read of the passing of a favorite classmate some months ago. In the process, I’ve come across other familiar names which identified acquaintances from long ago or elicited fond memories. Last week, one of those listed shared the name of an amazing professor I haven’t seen for many years. When I realized this, I offered a prayer for Kathleen and then retrieved my favorite “Kathleen Memory.”

It was the last day of a semester of an extremely demanding post-graduate program. After collecting our final assignments, Kathleen assigned a textbook to be read over winter break. I didn’t hide my anger well as I spoke: “I’ve survived this semester only because I’ve looked forward to Christmas with my family. This intrusion upon this very necessary time together is unacceptable.” Dedicated teacher that she was, Kathleen pointed out that I was no longer in high school and that the assignment stood.

As we left, my classmates applauded my courage and laughed at my stupidity in speaking up. “Mary, just don’t read it. We’re not. The day before class, scan the chapter titles. You’ll know enough to muddle through.” I went home brooding, unsure of what I would do.

As it happened, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. While the kids played with their new toys and my husband tended to other things, I read that book. The truth is that it proved to be very helpful in my subsequent work with children and teachers. When I returned to begin the next semester, I apologized to Kathleen for my attitude. My gracious professor smiled in response. “I admire your passion, Mary. I also admire your commitment. I knew you’d read the book.”

Patient God, when I balk at the things you ask of me, open my mind to your wisdom and my heart to your love. Also, please bless Kathleen today. She inspired some of my best work.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved