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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Repair What We Can Whenever We Can

Be compassionate as God is compassionate.
Luke 6:36

I admit that I’m repeating myself a bit here, but I can’t help it. A recent phone call ignited my angst regarding the injustices of this life. A few minutes spent perusing the newspaper added to my unrest. I admit to my anger over the suffering of those I’ve been given to love. Whether they are my own family members or starving children half a world away, I find it difficult to accept that there actually is nothing I can do to help. I find myself looking upward and groaning, “If only you would reveal yourself to those in power, they might actually take it upon themselves to fix this mess!” I do realize that repairing this world of ours is a multi-leveled task. Still, a change of heart among the higher-ups as well as the rest of us will certainly help.

In God’s infinite wisdom, God leaves it to us to do the best we can as we see it. God’s assistance comes in the example of Jesus, in the good people around us who urge us on and in God’s presence among us. In the end, it is up to us to bring about change, one moment at a time, one problem at a time, one opportunity at a time…

Patient God, forgive my impatience with others, with myself and with you. Help me and all of us to do what we can whenever we can to make this world a better place.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Lovingly Persistent

“The works that God gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that God has sent me.”

John 5:36

Sometimes, I’m impatient with our humanity. I become frustrated with others, especially at church, when they forget that we’re actually God’s family. I become frustrated with myself when I allow their antics to distract me from the work at hand. So it is that I must return to my childhood musing regarding the behaviors of Jesus’ contemporaries. If it was obvious to me at age eleven that Jesus’ lessons, parables and works had to have come from a loving God, I wondered why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to accept this. They knew that Israel awaited the Messiah. Foreign astrologers had recognized the sign in the night and traveled a long distance to find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. It seemed to me that the Pharisees and many others should have known better than to reject Jesus.

As I consider my current frustration, I acknowledge that times haven’t changed much. We see all that Jesus accomplished from his humble state. We see that Jesus needed no worldly authority to serve us. We see that Jesus sought the company of outcasts and that he set aside his own concerns whenever he was needed. Still, we do as I have done and become angry when others who don’t conform to our hopes and desires.

Jesus persisted in spite of and because of the humanity of those he’d come to this earth to love. Times haven’t changed much and it’s up to me to persist as Jesus did with patient love.

Good and Patient God, help me to do just that!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved