• The following is the third installment of a seven-part lenten blog/video series sponsored by Franciscan Media. For the previous reflections, click here. For those subscribing by email, click here to watch the video.

    Chinese food is one of the many gifts from God on this earth. Cheap, easily accessible, usually sold in enormous quantities, and basically uniform in quality across the country, it’s the sort of food that I absolutely crave from time to time. Who doesn’t love a towering supply of fried meat and simple carbs?

    And yet, the very things that make Chinese food so desirable—price, quantity, convenience, greasiness/saltiness—are the very things that ultimately make it unsatisfying. As much as I have craved and even went out of my way to get it, I cannot remember a single occasion in which I felt great after eating it. Bloated, lethargic, and somehow still hungry, I immediately regret the decision and swear to myself that I will never eat the food ever again.

    Until the next time I’m craving Chinese food and “just have to have it.”

    Naturally, it is a bizarre situation that any sane person can see is unhealthy. Why would you continually do something that is not only unhealthy, but unfulfilling and unsatisfying? Why continue to look for new answers in the same wrong places?

    Now there’s a powerful question for us with implications far beyond Chinese food…

    In our Gospel this week, we find Jesus asking the woman at the well this very question. Having had five husbands, and currently with a man that is not her husband, we sense a potentially unhealthy pattern in her life. The fact that she meets Jesus alone at a well—a biblically symbolic place for romantic partners to meet (see Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, and Moses and Zipporah)— indicates that even now, after so many failed attempts, she might be continuing to look for a new ‘lord.’

    Again we might ask, Why continue to look for new answers in the same wrong places?

    More than 1600 years ago, St. Augustine, a man famous for his own unhealthy behavior and failings, offered one of the great spiritual insights: in the opening chapter of his Confessions, he writes, “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” For him, our hearts live in a constant state of uncomfortable longing, incomplete and yearning to be filled. We are so desperate to rid ourselves of this feeling that we look to the world for the answer. What will make me happy, we ask. What will make me feel complete and full and content with who I am? There’s always something out there that we need—if we just had that one thing… our life would be meaningful and fulfilling. Food, relationships, status, power, accomplishments, luxury, comfort, fun, stability. Whatever it is, our longing hearts longs to be fulfilled.

    But it never happens, does it? Like an empty stomach seeking Chinese food or a five-time divorcee seeking another husband, we are never truly satisfied. There’s always something more we want. And then something more. And then something more. As much as we might find pleasure in the things of this world, and as much as some things may be quite good for our spiritual well-being, the fact of the matter is exactly as Augustine says: “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.

    In His encounter at the well, Jesus is inviting the woman—and each of us many years later—to give up the constant search for things that cannot fulfill and to turn to the only one who truly can: Himself. He is the living water that quenches thirst. He is the true “Lord” that will never leave us. And He wants us to turn to Him.

    This week, allow yourself to have a personal encounter with the Lord.

    Yes, a personal encounter. A time when your phone is turned off, the door is closed, and your heart is open to hear his voice. A time when all the other fleeting and unfulfilling desires of the world are put on hold—even if just momentarily—and you can simply be with Jesus. A time when you can simply be you, without all of the masks and fronts and public niceties that we put on, and let the Lord meet you as you are—vulnerable, open, and restless.

    At first, this may seem like a daunting task. In the beginning, it may seem difficult or overwhelming, something meant only for monks and mystics. But it doesn’t have to be. Jesus didn’t test the woman’s knowledge, make her perform amazing tasks, or question her worthiness. All He wanted from the woman was a chance to talk. He just wanted to fill her hungry heart.

    If you have a hungry heart, a restless heart that continues to fill itself up with things that eventually fade, then this blog and video are for you. What Jesus asked of the woman at the well is no different from what He asks of us today. He just wants to fill our hungry hearts. All of ours:

    “No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’ How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 3).

     

    Hungry

    Sometimes we fill ourselves up with things that can’t satisfy. Maybe it’s time for a change.

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  • The following is the second installment of a seven-part lenten blog/video series sponsored by Franciscan Media. For the first reflection, click here. For those subscribing by email, click here to see the video. If you would like to subscribe via email, click here.

    “I’ve made it.” In a moment of self-reflection, have you ever looked around at your life—all that you’ve done, all that you have, and all that the future holds—and realized that you were on a mountain? In this moment, you realize, this moment of sublime comfort and perfect confidence, all the pieces of your life have fallen into place and you are finally exactly where you want to be. “I’ve made it… and I don’t want to leave.”

    I can distinctly remember this feeling three times in my life.

    There was the spring of my junior year of high school, a time when, with the help of a driver’s license and regular paychecks, I began to develop my own identity and independence. Add that to having my first serious girlfriend, being a starter on the varsity baseball team, taking AP classes that counted towards college, and a faith that was beginning to mean something to me, not just my parents, and it was easy to think, at 17, that I’d “made it.”

    I think also of my sophomore year in college, a time when the confidence I have in myself today  began to materialize. Beyond the awkwardness and doubt of being a freshman and over the heartache and disappointment of losing the dreams of my two high school loves (baseball and girlfriend), I found myself discovering an inspiring world of new ideas, developing serious friends who liked me for who I was, and enjoying an environment that, outside of some moderate work, was nothing but fun and carefree. It was quite easy to think, at 20, that I’d “made it.”

    Most recently, I am reminded of my summer in Triangle, VA as a simply-professed friar, a time when I began to see myself as a public minister for the first time. Encouraged for four years to focus on my weaknesses and go to the places where I felt least comfortable, I finally found myself in a place familiar to my past experience, doing things that played to my strengths, with a brother that inspired me to be a better man. And I was appreciated for it. It was very easy to think, at 26, that I’d “made it.”

    And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, I can clearly see now that I had not, in fact, “made it” in those moments. While each of one represents a “mountain moment,” a peak compared to what I had experienced before and not to be discounted, the continuation of life has shown me that there are often other mountains ahead greater than the ones of the present. Had I, at any of these moments in my life, decided to stay rather than continue on, remain in what was comfortable rather than risk the trek back down, I would have never experienced the amazing things ahead.

    Such is the experience of Peter, James, and John on the mountain with Jesus. Separated from the other disciples, they are witness to what was probably the greatest sight in human history to that point: the Transfiguration. Right before their eyes, Jesus’ perfect humanity and sublime divinity shine like the sun, a visual representation of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. Realizing they were on the most hallowed of grounds, they fall to their knees in prayer, overwhelmed with the reality before them: they are speaking to God made flesh. Nothing in their experience, or the experience of anyone else who had ever lived, could match what they were now a part of. They had “made it,” in a sense.

    Naturally, Peter wants to stay. Why would they ever leave the presence of God on the mountain? What could matter more in life than this? He offers to build a tent for Jesus, to make the experience permanent for them all. But Jesus declines. While, yes, they find themselves in a proverbial mountain experience, Jesus knows that this is but a glimpse of what is to come; Jesus knows that there are other mountains to climb, other amazing sights to see. To stay on this mountain would be to forgo His entry into Jerusalem, His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and the sending of His Holy Spirit.

    They cannot stay on this mountain. They have to keep going.

    In the second week of Lent, the story of the Transfiguration is a powerful encouragement to all Christians at the beginning of this long journey. Called into the desert and tested by the devil, there is often a part of us that feels overwhelmed by the task. The road ahead might be too difficult, we say. I don’t know if I can make it. Especially when we look around at our lives and find comfort in what we have, it can be easy for us to stay where we are and convince ourselves that we’ve reached the finish line.

    But we haven’t reached the finish line, have we?

    In showing the disciples the glory of the Transfiguration, Jesus offers them—and us—a glimpse of what they seek, not so that they will be content with what they have and stay, but to give them strength and inspiration to continue on ahead. As Christians, Lent is a time in which Jesus exhorts us to get off the mountain and continue our journey. Stepping outside of what is familiar and comfortable, He reminds us of what we lack and offers us a glimpse of what He offers those who walk with him.

    Like the disciples, we have to walk down the mountain. We have to keep going.

    Keep Going

    During Lent, Jesus calls us to continue the journey to something greater than we could ever know: the resurrection.

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  • Surprised by Goodness

    Sometimes all we can see is the bad when goodness has been there the whole time.

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  • Harry Potter, Death, and the Christian Experience

    Is Harry Potter subtly Christian? No… It’s overtly Christian.

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  • Is There Evidence of God?

    Some say there’s no evidence of God. I say they’re right… sort of.

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  • Last year, I started my video experiment. I bought a camera, filmed a road trip, and thought it was a pretty cool medium. When I realized that what I was doing was no longer a cool hobby but rather the next step in my communications ministry, I threw together a welcome video to set the tone for the channel. It was fun and a little corny, but it got the job done. I was happy with what I had made on such short notice and with almost no video background, and it worked.

    After a year, things have changed. That quirky little video we filmed outside of the Church one day wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. The cheesy jokes about Jedi and Medieval Festivals weren’t doing it for me anymore. I wanted something that better reflected where I was now, a year later, and what I hoped to accomplish in the future. I didn’t want a welcome video, I wanted a trailer.

    And so, with time on my hands before things get crazy at the parish, that’s what I did.

    What is a Habit? (Trailer)

    Welcome, Again

    What is Breaking In The Habit about? Here’s a trailer to explain.

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