Goliath Has Many Faces

Have you faced any goliaths recently? Did you run in fear, or did you face the battle? Was the outcome good or bad? How did you meet your goliath: with grit and tenacity alone, or coupled with your faith that God will help you prevail? All good questions to ask and answer, and only you and I can answer them.

My cat, Sophie, was just diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. She just started a regimen of prednisone and chemotherapy. Now, she doesn’t know how or why she’s feeling the way she is. But I do. And I am, honestly, terrified of losing my companion. She has been with me since the death of my mother, and she has truly established a relationship with me. She spends a lot of time on my lap and nestles in looking for comfort.

Now, I know that some will say to me: I’m sorry you and Sophie have to go through this. And others will say: Hey, it’s just a cat! True. I have friends and family that are also battling cancer, and they have family members and friends to comfort them and give them strength. Sophie only has me. At this moment, her cancer is my goliath.

Today’s first reading is one of the iconic stories of the Old Testament, the triumph of David over the giant Philistine, Goliath. As we know, David prevailed. I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is any story or movie in which the underdog betters the “giant,” the bully in the story, and I cheer at the end when the big guy is deflated. This storyline is used over and over again with different characters and slightly different circumstances. I love a good “David won” ending.

We can make these same storyline comparisons to our times of struggling with significant obstacles: illnesses, job issues, divorce, loss of a child or loved one, etc., so we can all relate. The big question is how we overcome these struggles. David trusted in God, the Lord of Israel, to be his backup and strength. David trusted, and, coupled with his knowledge of the sling, faced the giant and defeated him. I believe each of us has a few “slings” in our arsenals of defense when fighting our goliaths, but none stronger than trust in God and faith in the fact that God will shore us up when we are in need. Very simple to say, but more challenging to put into action. The alternative is to run in fear and be defeated. That is not an outcome any of us want. Facing those fears with faith can only serve to make us stronger than we were when we started the battle.

Do you pray daily, hourly, minute by minute when fighting your goliath? Do you pray for faith even in the good times and not just rely on God when feeling defeated? Sophie may only be a cat, but I still pray that I will have the strength to see her through the tough times and, perhaps, even have to lose her to keep her from suffering needlessly. Her cause is just as important to me at this time of my life than any of the other things I’ve faced. Nothing is too small or insignificant to warrant prayer and trust. Whatever you face will need your prayer and faith to overcome.

Today is the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Here is the goliath in the room of today’s culture, among other issues. The faithfulness and prayer of millions, working in the fields of medical science and political legislation, have helped in making great strides in limiting the destruction of these innocents, but there is much more work to do. Can it be done? I believe it can. Think of the great things our country, as well as the world, has overcome through prayer: the fall of Russia, the Berlin Wall, the great world wars, equality, to name just a few. These accomplishments are not only through military might but the might of prayer, especially the Rosary, to change people’s hearts. If we learn anything from all of this, it is to not give up, ever, in the face of injustice.

So, hang in there! In the end, God will always prevail. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Fishing = Patience

When did you last go fishing? It’s been many years since my last fishing expedition with my father. He used to take my siblings and me to the Grand Haven pier, where we used “cane poles” and bobbers, worms for bait. These were simple poles with no reels. We manipulated the lines with our fingers and spent hours watching the bobbers on the water: up-down-up-down-up-down. It was mesmerizing. It was also very dull until a fish finally took the bait, and the bobber would disappear under the surface of the water. Then the fun began pulling it in and placing it in the creel. After another worm on the hook, tossed out off the pier and, once again, up-down-up-down, and so one. Fishing is supposed to be a relaxing activity. For kids, not so much. But then I think back on it now, how I would love that time of peaceful waiting until the next excitement of a fish caught.

I’m sure it was not always so peaceful for Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Fishing was their livelihood. The waiting could be excruciating, as fish caught meant money and food; empty nets meant continued poverty. And the mundane nature of their work means boredom. The fishermen were either casting nets and pulling in the day’s haul or spending time mending the nets for the next day. Casting, waiting, pulling, and mending, hour after hour, day after day. They lived and died by their nets.

As do we.

Our nets are the mundane activities of each day, working for a living, or taking care of our families. We live day after day of the same thing – up-down-up-down-up-down.

Then, one day, a man came along and called the four fishermen to him. He told them they would still be fishermen, but their catch would be different. Their catch would be the souls Jesus longed to draw to himself to bring them his peace and freedom. The four did not question the call; at least the Gospel does not tell us this, only that they dropped their nets and followed him, not knowing where he would lead them, and something in them must have known that this was the right thing to do. Perhaps they had heard Jesus speaking to the people, and they were touched. Maybe it was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quietly assuring them that he was the real deal. You know the rest of the story.

Jesus also calls you. Unlike the four disciples, you are not asked to leave your livelihood to do his work. Where you are, today is where you are supposed to be, but that shouldn’t stop you from leading souls to Jesus. Whether you wait tables, work an assembly line, sit at an office desk, fight fires, or care for your children, that is where you are meant to be an example of Christ-light and Christ-life. You will cast your nets far and wide by your love and example. Should you be called to a vocation other than what you do today – the Holy Spirit will guide you to discern the will of God. But make no mistake: where you are right now is where you need to be. And perhaps, one day, the bobber will pull below the waterline, and you might just be given the gift of seeing another turn to Jesus because of your example and your patience.

“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Starry, Starry Night

How often do you contemplate the night sky? Especially those clear, cold nights when the stars show so brightly we wish we could reach up and touch them. The city lights tend to obscure the beauty, but it is still there to see. It is a wonder, especially on these early evenings of darkness and late sunrises.

There are many explanations as to why December 25th was chosen as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Look anywhere on the internet, and you get all the reasons, included among them the early Christian counter to the pagan celebrations of the period. An explanation I heard many years ago was that, since the Winter Solstice occurs late in December, and we have the shortest day and the longest night, this is why December 25th was chosen. We speak of Jesus as the Light of the World, the light that pierces the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome the light. Therefore, Jesus is born into the darkest time of the year to bring us his light. This time of year brings, ever so slightly, every 24 hours, a bit more light guiding us to Spring. We mirror this imagery of light when we carry the Paschal candle into our churches at the Easter Vigil, under the cloak of darkness, while proclaiming, “Christ Our Light! Thanks be to God!”

Malachi speaks today of the coming of the Lord, the one who will purify us as the fire of the refiner of gold or silver. Our Lord prepares our hearts and souls to be purified through his love and his commands to love God and one another. We are refined by his teachings to give him the acceptable and due sacrifice – the good we do for one another, not just during the Christmas season, but all year long. We are refined by enduring, with grace, the encumbering trials of life, to overcome them with faith. “Who can stand when he appears?” We can. We can because we live with and through Christ each day, and are willing to undergo the refining process to reach the goal for which we are created — unity with God.

The Christmas Season is often called the season of light. Drive through the city streets and see all the lights: white, blue, red, green, gold. Trees lit up and porches decorated. It is a beautiful sight to behold and we should enjoy it all. But let these be a reminder that, even as these lights uplift us and bring us joy, the true Celebration of Light is the Light of Jesus in our hearts. The “reason for the season,” remember? In spite of the efforts of today’s culture to make Christmas a purely secular celebration, we cannot forget that amid all the partying, feasting, gift-giving and receiving, that the greatest of these gifts is Christ himself. The Son of God comes to earth to guide us, one day, to our true home.

“Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”

God Bless you and your families this Christmas, and may the New Year ring in joy and peace!

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Give Comfort to my People

COM-FORT: a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint; the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress; a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings; a state or feeling of being less worried, upset, frightened during a time of trouble or emotional pain; to give strength and hope; to strengthen by inspiring with hope and restoring a cheerful outlook.

Where do you find comfort? I have to admit, for me, it is a large bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy with a side plate of fried chicken (ya know—comfort food)! Or perhaps the pleasure of petting my cat when she’s on my lap, and I can see the contentment in her eyes when she looks up at me as I scratch her neck and chin. Pretty trite, perhaps, given the definitions above and given the phenomenal imagery in today’s readings. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” I’m sure Isaiah asked the questions: “how do I do this”? “Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock; in his arms, he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.” And from the Gospel: “…he rejoices more over it [the one who has gone astray] than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

I love Isaiah. I especially love this reading and am always thrilled when I get to proclaim it at Mass. I find my heart uplifted and ever more hopeful knowing that my God is telling me that the people’s exile, anguish, and anxiety is over as is mine, and yours. Knowing this, we should be able to shout out from the mountain the glad tidings that we need not fear! Our God is here. He alone rules with power, and he alone will shepherd his people, shepherd us. He feeds us with his own body and blood and carries us close to his bosom with care.

The Gospel reiterates this image of Jesus as the shepherd who will not let one single soul be lost without his constant efforts to bring it back to his fold. It’s a beautiful image. It is, I believe, the ultimate comforting image of our God shown us through his Son. If at any time you are in despair or don’t know where to turn for answers – for comfort – this is the image to which you should turn. I have to admit it will often bring me to tears.

Advent is the season of anticipation – the time of waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus – but also to anticipate the coming time of our redemption in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It should be a joyful time, as well as a time of assessment of the state of our souls. Are we ready to receive him? Are we willing to be as the little ones – the little lambs – to be snatched up to his bosom and carried into that state of comfort? Oh, we can stand firm on our laurels and be “self-made” or “self-sufficient.” But I caution you to remember that those who rely on themselves alone usually find themselves in those states of fear and anxiety. Only our shepherd, only our Lord, and King can bring us to a state of hope – and comfort. I leave you with some of my favorite words:

“In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Awesome Signs Will Come From The Sky

We are in the “end times” of the Liturgical Year of the Church. If you, like me, closely follow the entire Liturgical Year (Advent to the Feast of Christ the King), we see that it follows a clear path. Awaiting the arrival of Jesus into the world; his ministry and teaching; Lent, our time of purification while approaching Christ’s suffering in Holy Week and the triumph of his resurrection at Easter; into Ordinary Time when we deepen our faith in and knowledge of Jesus. It all has a purpose.

These last few days before the start of Advent, focus on the “end times.” The long, descriptive reading from Daniel (kinda scary) about kingdoms being destroyed and nothing will stand, and the apocalyptic words of Jesus in the Gospel telling of wars, insurrections, and false prophets, not to mention earthquakes, famines, and plagues! It’s enough to send you back to bed, cover-up, pull your pillow over your head and hope for the best!

Reading the scriptures in these days sounds much like the state of the world today. Twenty-four-hour news cycles bring us everything going on in the world. We have wars everywhere, countries (kingdoms) fight other countries, religions against other religions, ideology battling ideology, and natural disasters. But is this unique to our time? Certainly not. Throughout human history, there have been wars and grave disagreements, and nature wreaking its havoc. And, yet, here we are, in 2019, still here, albeit still battling each other. Major wars in the world or major wars in our relationships with others. It’s all the same, on and on and on.

So, where is the good news? Where are the awesome signs?

Daniel tells us, “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people.” And our Alleluia verse from Revelations reminds us: “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

The marvelous and wonderous sings in the sky will be our constant faith and hope in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Our Way, Our Life and Our Deliverer from everything that can, and sometimes will happen to us. Nothing can hurt or destroy us as long as we cling to him who promises us all good things in the end. Oh, we may be beaten at times, suffering from the effects of the circumstances surrounding us. But our bodies cannot be pushed into the ground as long as our hearts and souls belong to Jesus. We will be delivered to the crown of life in the end.

In spite of all we see and hear going on in this world, we can find peace. Much of that peace will come in the form of our loving assistance to those who genuinely are suffering the effects of the wars and the natural disasters. Where do they get their hope? They get it from their faith in God and from our generous assistance to their needs, helping to relieve suffering and rebuild lives. We are the bright, wondrous signs in the sky!

Don’t let the false prophets, harbingers of “end times” wear you down to where you do nothing but sit tight and await the Second Coming, or your natural end of life. None of them has been right yet, and none of them ever will. Instead, use your time to bolster your faith and exercise your freedom to live in faith with courage. No one need live in fear of the end. You need only to know that God will be with you to strengthen you in your trials. Oh, you can still run to your bed and cover yourself in fear, but then you will not see the Wonderous Signs in the sky, where God’s kingdom alone will endure.

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

And I Saw Water Flowing Out

If you have ever entertained the thought that you can hide your deeds from the Lord, as you do from your fellow men, you are sorely mistaken! 

How easy it must have been for the merchants in the temple area to fall into the practice of making money off of sincere worshipers coming to the temple. After all, the people needed these things to make their worship acceptable to God, did they not? Why not be the ones to provide the means to fulfill the mandates of sacrificial law. And, so what if they make a profit from it? Why indeed! Why shouldn’t you, then, be the one to profit from providing what people want, or think they need. Someone will anyway, so why not you! 

The “money changers” in the temple felt justified to profit from what people needed to have to fulfill their temple worship obligations. Do you, at times, do the same? Let’s change the picture of the “money changers” to those in our modern-day, who profit from the needs of others: physical, emotional, spiritual. 

Look to your heart to see if in some small (or perhaps significant) way you profit from another person’s gift, talents, or needs; another’s friendship or love; another’s fear or loneliness; another’s willingness to give of himself. Or look to the pride you might have because someone looks up to you, and you relish being of influence. Is it for the good of their soul, and yours, or because you crave power? Once you start down that slippery slope of false reasoning, the gray that governs your actions becomes a blind spot. You sometimes can no longer see that what you do is harmful. You can find so many justifications! Such was the case of the “money changers” in today’s Gospel. To them, it was justified. They couldn’t see how far hey had sunk into the sin of corruption. 

Ask yourself if the alluring power of sin has clouded your judgment so that you can no longer tell where you stepped off the path of righteousness. We can probably reason that the money changers started in good faith, but then it got out of hand, turning a “service” to the people into corruption, and sacrilegious use of sacred ground. Don’t let this happen to you. 

Ezekiel gives us today, also, one of my favorite “pictures” into the heart of God. Grace in the form of water spilling from all sides of the temple, making the seawater fresh and the ground fertile. Life will be abundant; fruit trees will grow bearing fruit; their leaves shall not fade or their fruit fall. The fruit shall serve as food and their leaves as medicine. 

You should be that temple! If you aren’t yet, then stand in the water flowing from the side of Christ to bless and nourish you. Let Christ gently turn the money changer in you out of your heart and return that space to hallowed ground –sacred space for him to dwell in communion with you. And he doesn’t have to wait outside the door until you have perfectly dusted the spaces. He’ll come in now and help you with the chore. 

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

The Case of the Fruitless Fig Tree

A few years back, in one of his homilies, my pastor made a point concerning vice and virtue. Although I don’t recall the exact words he used, the gist of the message was this: vice, by its nature, does not need the grace of God to grow. Vice does very well all by itself, with no assistance. Most of us have no problem giving in to our vices (sins, bad habits, whatever you want to call them). On the other hand, we find it hard to live a virtuous life. Virtue needs God’s grace to grow, because, by our nature, we find it difficult. It has been so since the days of Eden when humanity chose not to trust in God, but rather to take our lives into our own hands with the encouragement of the one who leads us astray, to this very day. And here we are! 

Our life’s journey challenges us. We are challenged to examine what it means to live a virtuous life by examining the virtues themselves. 

Today’s Gospel gives us the parable of the fruitless fig tree, ready to be cut down and burned because it had been fruitless for years, using up valuable resources. The gardener pleaded with the owner of the garden to wait one more year, to allow him to fertilize the tree further, with the hope that it will soon bear fruit and be useful. Is it our time to be nourished and nurtured by the Grace of God through the efforts of our gardener, Jesus? Is it our time to stretch our roots to receive the nourishment of God’s grace, and to spread our branches upward toward the Son? Feel the warmth! 

A life so nourished will begin to find that a virtuous life, although never easy, is a fruitful and satisfying life. Through the grace of God and our attention to the virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance, it will prove worthy of the gardener’s efforts. He is tireless! 

Take a look at each virtue and how to take ownership to better our lives and the lives of those we touch. We will be challenged to look more deeply into our hearts: what weakens and hinders our growth – what can make us strong. 

Take time with this parable of the fig tree. Find your place in the garden and be planted. If you recognize that you are not always bearing fruit, then be ready to be nourished and fertilized. It may not always be a pleasant process, but it will be great in the end!


Faith: The virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes we believe, because God is truth itself. By Faith, we completely commit our entire selves to God. 

Hope:  Hope goes hand in hand with Faith. By this virtue, we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. 

Fortitude: The moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and consistency in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome the obstacles in the moral life. 

Prudence: The virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it. The prudent person looks where he is going. 

Charity: The virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. 

Temperance: This virtue moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. 

Justice: The moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called “the virtue of religion.” Justice toward humanity disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. 

Perhaps some time we can explore each of these in depth. For now, ponder them and know that, like that gardener thousands of years ago, our Master Gardener, Jesus, will not give up on us. As with the fig tree, there is always hope.

God Bless.

Contact the author

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Your Faith Will Save You

True story: many years ago, when I was in my 30s, I recall an incident on a day, which was a particularly good day for me. My work was going well and left the office feeling happy with my situation. You remember those days when everything goes well, and you are on top of the world. I decided that I would stop to pick up my favorite dinner – fried chicken – on the way home. I also recall it was a bright and beautiful sunny day. On my way out of the store and back to the car, a gentleman, obviously homeless, stopped me and asked for some money for food. Now, this is the part I remember most – I told him I didn’t have any money to spare and walked past him. Later, on reflection, I was despondent. I could have given him money; I could also have given him my meal and purchased another for myself. All these years later, this incident still haunts me because I was so full of myself.

I tell you this because of the lesson I learned all these years later: that I was not grateful enough for what I had and too selfish to share with another. When I say it still haunts me, I genuinely mean it.

Now, truthfully, I have, as I’ve grown in my faith, developed a self-program for giving back. The charities I choose to support, including the ministries that feed and clothe the hungry or provide disaster relief around the world. But for some reason, I still can’t shake this one instance of neglect. It is a recurring thorn in my side.

The story today about the ten lepers carries with it several lessons, not the least being a caution to be thankful for what we have and not to hold on to it but to give back. Another lesson is of not being judgmental of those who are not grateful to you for what you do. Can you imagine Jesus “taking back” the healing of the nine who did not return to him? He didn’t. But Jesus was sure to let the one who did return know that his gratitude was appreciated, and his faith saved him.

I have come to believe that saying “thank you” to our Lord in prayer for blessings received is not enough. I must also express that gratefulness in my actions. And not only in monetary ways but also by giving a helping hand when needed or a bit of comfort to someone grieving. These are all ways of saying, “Thank you, Lord, for what you have given me. Thank you, Lord, for my faith in you that allows me to give to others without worry about my want. Thank you, Lord, for the trust that you will always take care of me, no matter what.” These can be hard lessons to learn.

“In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

God Bless.

Contact the author

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Searching for Jesus

I love a good detective story. I love courtroom drama, especially those with numerous twists and turns in the plotline, and I especially love surprise endings. I’m usually pretty good at guessing outcomes, but I relish the surprise when the author stumps me with an end I didn’t see coming.

It seems, in today’s Gospel, that Herod was doing a little “detecting” himself. “’ Who then is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he kept trying to see him.” Herod was stumped, asking everyone who this man is and hearing replies like “John has been raised from the dead,” or “Elijah has appeared.”, or “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
Herod knew none of that could be true. Elijah and the prophets were long gone, and Herod himself beheaded John, so who is this man who performs miracles and speaks the words that are catching people’s attention? He had a mystery on his hands.

Each day we do the same thing. We seek the one about whom we hear such things. Sometimes I think the Gospels, especially the words of Jesus, present us this mystery to unravel. What do these words mean? How do these words impact my life? Why must I – should I – listen? Can it make a difference? Like Herod, so many questions. But unlike Herod, we have answers.

In the wisdom of the Church to incorporate the Scriptures into our worship at Mass (the three- year Sunday cycle and the two- year daily cycle cover almost all of Scripture!), we have the opportunity to have Jesus’ words before us always. Part of the excellent mystery of it all is that Jesus’ words will change in meaning for each of us as we grow older and experience his teachings in light of our growing maturity and experience and, hopefully, our increasing wisdom. We listen; we see the stories come alive in our mind’s eye; we ponder; we learn and occasionally, the find a surprise ending we didn’t see coming — a change in the spiritual outlook on our lives and a clear direction as to where we should go. Whether we follow that direction every time or not will become part of the mystery. But the author of these words will continually spark our interest in searching for our ending.

Herod was looking for “this man” for all the wrong reasons. He had guilt to assuage for his deeds but wasn’t looking for forgiveness. Herod was looking to rid the world of the one who could accuse him and hold him accountable for those despicable deeds. The sad thing about Herod’s search is that, in light of his miserable life, he could not recognize nor appreciate the surprise ending – our Lords resurrection and guarantee of eternal life. Herod was much too grounded in the things of this earth.

“I am the way, and the truth and the life says the Lord.” Here’s the mystery; here is the truth sought in the mystery; the path to solving the mystery and the eternal life gained once the story comes to an end.

God Bless.

Contact the author

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Recognize- Then Count- Your Blessings

I chose this specific date for a reason. For several reasons, really. Can anyone live September 11th each year without recounting the events of the Twin Towers? Today is also my Father’s birthday. He would have been 94 today. And one year ago today I injured my leg. It is still not completely healed and gives me some pain and discomfort when walking. Dates are important to us, and specific dates will cause us to remember events: some happy, some sad, some tragic. I track many things on my Google calendar, especially when those I’ve loved have died, so at least on that day each year I will not only remember to pray for their souls but will revel in the joy these folks brought to my life. March 10th for me is another special date. It is the day I took my Mom’s cat to live with me. It was just two weeks before Mom died. Her Sophie has been a comfort and a remembrance of my Mom and a little piece of her still with me. All the events of our lives are important in one way or another.

Everything that happens in our lives, all these events, can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse. It depends on how we live out our Faith as to how we are affected. Often we curse events, but later realize that somewhere in the pain and sorrow we find blessing. Easy to do with the good things that happen, not so easy with the painful.

Jesus, today, delivers a lecture about who is blessed and who is cursed. How do we understand his words? Blessed are you who are poor – really? – yours is the Kingdom of God; blessed are you who are hungry – really? – you will be satisfied, and blessed are you who are weeping – really? – you will someday laugh. How is the man standing on the street corner begging for shelter blessed? Or the person who is hungry for food or spiritual understanding, or the woman weeping for her loss or lack of security?

And conversely, to you who are rich or filled or who laugh now. Woe to you. How? How can that be? You are cursed if you take the blessings you have been given and keep them selfishly to yourself, and not realize that these “good things” of the earth were given you to then give to others. The poor man is blessed because you helped to provide meals and a place to sleep; those who are weeping will be blessed because you gave comfort and empathy and a realization that they do not have to journey alone. And if you are hated and excluded because you boldly proclaim Jesus? Are you blessed? Yes! You will someday find Jesus standing on his promise to deliver you from all the pain when you share his joy in heaven.

This is the paradox of Christianity. Be humbled here on earth, even if you have riches, and you will rejoice. Those without riches on this earth, who bear the hardship with faith and hope in Our Lord, and with our assistance, will reap the rewards of heaven where every tear is wiped away.

I pray that as you recount the events of your life, among them will be the days you realized that the Lord has given you good things even among the tragedies. I pray that of the days you will mark on your calendar of life, among them will be the days you helped another to go from weeping to laughing, hunger to fulfillment, sorrow to joy and faithfulness to the Lord to the rewards of heaven.

“Rejoice and leap for joy! Your reward will be great in heaven. Alleluia, alleluia.” 

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

A Blueprint for Love

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’m going to guess that most of you reading this post today believe you have the first and greatest commandment down pat. Love God. It’s the “with all our heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” part that I question. I also question it in myself. Is my love for God whole? Or are parts of me still holding back? I ask because if we truly did love God wholly, do we really need the second commandment? Think about it. Perhaps it depends on our definition of what it means to love wholly. But this will not be the focus of today’s reflection.

Instead, let’s look at “The Greatest Commandment, Part II.” Or, the Sequel. Love of neighbor. For this, I’d like to offer you a blueprint for love of neighbor, one that I’ve used often in prayer and when delving into my understanding of how to love others. I hope this will help you also:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”   -1 Corinthians 13:1:7

There – the blueprint. The road map. What I most like about using this passage in my journey to loving others is that I can take baby steps. The first part reminds us that loving is more important than anything else we do. But the second part – this part lets us take those small steps. We can pick this apart and work on each of our shortcomings.

Perhaps we can start with patience if that is your downfall. Maybe it’s arrogance or irritability. Rudeness is a big one; jealousy, or perhaps too much rejoicing when someone you dislike experiences hard times. Are we happy in that? Or can we instead say a prayer for that person to help them? You must know that if you have not yet moved forward in your efforts to love, it cannot be done all at once. Dissect the blueprint. Pick one step and take the time necessary to improve this act of love. You may have to bite your tongue along the way. Try not to! But if you do, step back a bit on the road and look just ahead of you. What could you have done differently? Then, step forward and try again. Each time, with practice, should be easier. One – step – at – a – time!

Note that Jesus says we must love our neighbor, but often, I am asked how to define a neighbor. Well, look up from your phone and texting and social media and glance around you. You will find no shortage of neighbors to love. Whatever their race, creed, ideology, nationality, age, sexual orientation, body type or hair color — these are your neighbors. These are the folks you are commanded to love. Jesus also said that we should love these neighbors as we love ourselves. Love of self must be in the likeness of Jesus’ love for us, not in self-centeredness. Understanding how Jesus loves you will move you forward on our journey to loving your neighbor. Then, perhaps one day, who knows when our love of neighbor will also include those enemies whose only goal is to destroy us. An outlandish idea? Not in the eyes of Jesus. Yes, perhaps one day! Perhaps —

God Bless.

Contact the author

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Take up your Cross with a Smile

Last week Friday I was positive about the direction this post would take, based on today’s readings. I love the Deuteronomy reading when Moses, almost chiding the Israelites about the wonders they had seen; the wonders God performed for them to bring them out of Egypt and to freedom. The Israelites did not always appreciate it.

And then we have today’s Gospel about taking up your cross and following Christ. We are told that this is the way to gain eternal life in the Kingdom, regardless of what we gain here on earth.

Yup! I really thought I had this down. Until this past Saturday, when I attended the funeral of my friend and neighbor, Bob. Bob and his wife Ann live next to me in my condo complex (so close that we cannot open our condo doors at the same time!). I’d call over there, and Bob would ask if I was calling “long-distance”, or if I was visiting, he’d ask if I needed a ride home. It always made me smile. I’ve known them for years, but there is always more to learn about someone’s story.

My original instincts for today was to take the route through the Gospel that, while carrying our own crosses in life, big or small, we would ease our own burdens by somehow easing the burdens of another. And, quite frankly, that is exactly what Bob did all his life. He made people smile. And that made people happy. And that would if only for a few short moments, make life a bit more bearable for some.

Now, I’m not a social media person. I don’t have a Facebook page. Bob had one. I now feel a bit cheated that I was not connected to him in this way, also. Because all I heard at the funeral was about how Bob’s page made people smile. Often he would tell me that he was going to “check on his peeps.”  We were all Bob’s Peeps. He posted his corny Dad Jokes, as he called them; every day he would in some way wish everyone a good whatever day it was. He loved Wednesdays, Hump Day. His Facebook page was called “If You Grew Up in Grand Rapids/Kent County You Remember” – and it had 23,000 followers. Yes, 23,000! People he would never meet or get to know. But they knew Bob.

He wore smiley face suspenders and considered the smiley face his family crest! Now come-on, you’ve just got to smile at that!

Bob was 72 when he died last week. His last few years were hard ones because of medical issues and complications thereof. But he always tried to put on a happy face when with others. I don’t recall him ever really complaining about his health, but to occasionally mention that walking was getting harder. According to Ann, he was even cracking jokes to the doctors when he was having toes amputated due to diabetes. I expect the smile put on the faces of the doctors also made their job easier.

The point of all of this is that we can, no matter what cross life has given us to bear, make the cross borne by others easier to bear. It often doesn’t take much: a smile, a joke, a warm handshake, or a hug.

God Bless.

Contact the author

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.