Share the News!

Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,”
and then shared what he had told her.

John 20:18

While mulling over the coming year, I considered possible projects for our parish families. I’m part of a committee who deal with such things. Last year, we prepared for Christmas and Easter by engaging in various acts of generosity to assist those in need. I found myself overwhelmed by the kindnesses which seemed to grow with every passing week. I admit that recent events near and far compel me to long for the Christmas Spirit and Easter’s “alleluias”. I recall commenting often regarding my fellow parishioners’ good deeds. After all, good news really is hard to keep to oneself.

I admit to offering updates regarding our grandchildren to anyone who will listen. I’m just as eager when my news might be helpful to others. We’re all willing to spread the word when that word is worth spreading. We share a good book and diet tips that work. We tell our colleagues about inroads we’ve made with the new payroll technology and the new boss. We can’t keep the news of a long-awaited pregnancy or a cancer remission to ourselves for longer than it takes to scroll down to a number on our cell phones. I suppose this is the case today because good news is a limited commodity in this Twenty-first Century world of ours. The truth is that good news has been in short supply since the beginning of time. No wonder we share glad tidings whenever they come our way.

With that in mind, I share these glad tidings today: Regardless of what occurs around us and within us, God’s presence is the single consistency which we can always count on and, one day, God will turn all of our trials into good news!

Loving God, thank you for breathing your life into every minute of every day.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Just Love

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5

I admit that I have shed some tears as of late. A recent gathering brought tears of joy over our grandson’s second birthday and the wonderful family with whom I celebrated. Unfortunately, the news on television that very evening was heartbreaking. I turned off the set before the newscast ended because I couldn’t listen to any more. A day later, an appeal for assistance to needy children arrived in our mailbox. If I multiplied the misery that packet chronicled one hundredfold, it would still be only a drop in the bucket of poverty which affects so many of our world’s children.

With each passing day, I worry, I rejoice in the blessings of my own family and I worry some more. And the tears continue to flow. Then, I passed a group of Scouts at the grocery store who were collecting school supplies for their needy classmates. After promising them I’d be back, I headed to another store which advertised an amazing back-to-school sale and I bought as much as I could. I know I shocked those kids when I returned with my bags.

Finally, it occurred to me to ask The Almighty how it is possible to watch over and attend to all of us twenty-four/seven for eternity. It was then that I imagined God smiling in response: “It’s love, Mary. It’s all about love. Just love!”

Loving God, of all of your gifts, our capacity to love is the greatest. Be with me and all of us as we try to love as completely as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Why Not Now?

They carried to him all those afflicted
with various diseases and racked with pain…
He cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

My sister and I attended a family baby shower last weekend. Seeing our extended family elicited fond memories of our parents, grandparents and siblings who’ve passed. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of these losses remains with me. I can still recall the details of their last days among us.

When the people we love are sick, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this occurs. When their days are numbered, the inevitable isn’t easy to accept. When we recall the healing powers of Jesus, we’re tempted to ask “Why not now?”

When I ponder this and similar questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with trials and tribulations just as we do. If that wasn’t enough, he was nailed to a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I admit that I also know of the things to come. If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that this should be enough to see me through. Our loved ones in the hereafter tell us again and again that this is so. It’s time I listen!

Dear God, when the going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the things to come.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Good Reason To Love

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider
that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:50

This is not my favorite scripture passage. Caiaphas sends a chill down my spine. He’s speaking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would leave his entire flock to find one lost sheep. He’s speaking about the Father of the Prodigal Son who gave that young man half his wealth, watched him squander it and then welcomed him home. Caiaphas mustn’t have heard the parable about the pearl of great price for which a man sold everything. He must have missed the tale of the woman who swept up and dusted her house again and again until she found her precious coin. Poor Caiaphas seems to have missed everything of importance that Jesus said because he’s blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his own stature and to remain in power.

You know, there are many people near and far who are distracted by their troubles as well. Though some have lost their perspective through selfishness much like Caiaphas, most suffer distractions wielded upon them by the unexplained and/or deliberate injustices of our human existence. Perhaps Caiaphas’ callousness serves as a reminder that many of our fellow humans have little about which to rejoice today. Perhaps Caiaphas’ hatred of Jesus encourages us to love as Caiaphas could not love. Perhaps Caiaphas’ influence finally changes its direction because it inspires us to care for those who need us most.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for using even our weaknesses to teach us to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always In Good Company

I am the Lord, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand,
calming your fears.

Isaiah 41:13

My husband and his friend share similar foot pain. Year’s ago, Mike endured a battery of tests which he hoped would reveal the cause and a treatment plan. Much to his dismay, the results were inconclusive. A few weeks ago, Mike’s buddy endured even more extensive tests to determine the same. If his friend received any new information, my husband planned to look further into his own situation.

Much to their dismay, Mike’s friend’s tests revealed no new information. Like my husband, he’ll simply have to deal with the discomfort as best he can. I have to add that neither of these men are complainers though at times “simply” dealing with their pain isn’t easy. They know many others who have far greater health concerns and both are grateful that their situations aren’t worse. When they experience “bad foot days”, they simply bide their time until the pain lessens and then move on.

As I consider the practical approach Mike and his buddy have taken to their pain, I must acknowledge my admiration for both of them. My own experiences have taught me that our pain is our pain whether or not it is greater than someone else’s. The good news in all of this is that we never endure our pain alone. God promises to be with us in everything. Regardless of our position on the “pain scale”, God is with us through it all.

Compassionate God, make your presence known today. Allow those who are suffering to see you at their sides.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Easter Blessings

When I turned to John’s gospel (John 20:1-9) in preparation for this writing, my eyes filled up as I read: On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark… “Of course she did,” I told myself. A lifetime of devotion prompted this remark regarding Mary Magdalene’s behavior that first Easter morning. When my husband and I considered a possible trip to Israel, it was Magdala’s place on the itinerary which compelled me to embrace this opportunity. I couldn’t imagine a better way to become more closely acquainted with my childhood hero.

In Israel, when we disembarked from our bus in Magdala, I wasn’t disappointed. I quickly learned that this little town boasted an excellent economy in Jesus’ day. The booming fishing industry paved the way for a variety of merchants and artisans who occupied numerous shops in the marketplace. Nearby homes rested along streets arranged in grid-like fashion much like our own. Magdala’s close proximity to Nazareth likely enticed Jesus to begin his ministry there. I couldn’t hide my amazement as I looked upon the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus frequently taught. Perhaps Mary Magdalene had met Jesus there.

Scripture scholars tell us that Mary Magdalene was a woman of means who suffered from a serious illness. At the time, such afflictions were assumed to be caused by the sinfulness of their victims or by demons. That Mary maintained her stature and wealth in the midst of her suffering is a testament to her strong character. Though we don’t know the circumstances, Mary and Jesus met in Magdala and Jesus cured her. Perhaps Mary had heard enough about Jesus to lay her troubles at his feet and to trust in his intervention. Perhaps Jesus sought out the suffering Mary just as he sought out those in pain throughout his ministry. Whatever the circumstances, this encounter resulted in a lifelong friendship and Mary’s deep faith in Jesus. Mary responded by immersing herself in Jesus’ work and investing her resources in providing for Jesus’ and his disciples’ material needs.

I share all of this today because I think it was fitting that Mary Magdalene approached Jesus’ tomb so early that first Easter morning. The families of those who died visited their loved ones’ tombs three days after burial and, to Mary, Jesus was family. My visit to Magdala increased my understanding of this remarkable relationship. This encounter also revealed Mary Magdalene’s deep connection to us. Scriptures scholars call Mary an avid believer and perhaps Jesus’ closest follower. Mary Magdalene didn’t become a woman of means by hiding in the shadows. Mary’s bravery and devotion impelled her to do everything she did, including remaining with Jesus when rumblings of discontent filled the air around him. Our subsequent visit to the Upper Room in Jerusalem and a nearby church put everything into perspective for me. That room where Jesus ate his last supper induced a smile over all that Jesus had shared there. It also prompted my tears as I recalled all that followed. The nearby church featured a life-size sculpture of The Last Supper. Because this image drew me in, it took a moment for me to see the lone figure nestled in the shadows a few feet away. Mary Magdalene stood silently as Jesus extended his greatest gift to his unwitting disciples, to her and to us all.

This Easter morning, I find great hope for us in Mary Magdalene’s relationship with Jesus. I think Mary would tell us that she was as flawed as the rest of us when she walked with Jesus. Still, Jesus loved her. It was this love which gave Mary the strength to remain with Jesus throughout his ministry and as he endured those long hours on the cross. Whenever you and I ignore the rumblings around us and set aside our own troubles to care for others, we do what Mary Magdalene did for Jesus. At the same time, Jesus does the same for us. Jesus brings us strength and his assurance that we are never alone.

My experience in Israel enriched my relationship with Mary Magdalene. More importantly, it nurtured my love for Jesus. With every step, I embraced Jesus’ path more fully. With every step, Jesus embraced me with the same friendship and love he offered his friend Mary so long ago. The compassion and unconditional love Mary Magdalene enjoyed two millenniums ago are yours as well, today and always. What better reason is there for us all to enjoy a most happy and blessed Easter?

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved