“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

No doubt one of the great mysteries of our human existence, it has puzzled the most brilliant of philosophers and caused grief to even the simplest of men and women. Especially for people who believe in an all-powerful, seemingly all-loving God, the lack of answer for such a question, and the prevalence of evil that good people endure, is a thorn in our side.

But I have a question in return: As Christians, those who follow an innocent man who was betrayed and suffered persecution before laying down his life for others, why would we expect only good things in our life? I’m not sure how you interpret “take up your cross and follow me,” but I can’t imagine that it is going to be an easy road. No, my guess is that a life in Jesus is much more difficult than a life without him.

The fact of the matter is bad things happen to good people because we live in a world that relies on things other than Jesus, and that will inevitably produce pain. Not only do we experience the pain of others’ sins corrupting our world, we experience it in our insistence on being our own strength, in refusing to ask for help when we need it, in failing to change our hearts and learn from our mistakes, and really… in the mere fact that we are mortal. Our own weakness—and our reliance on it—brings pain even to good people.

And for me, this is the great paradox of our faith. While the rest of the world tells us that we can alleviate our pain by seeking more control, growing stronger, and seeking perfection, Christians know that it is quite the opposite: it is only when we embrace our weakness, take on pain, and accept that we cannot solve our problems that we are actually the strongest. It is in those moments of desperation, those moments of pain and suffering, of utter failure, that we find that Christ is most alive in us offering us strength.

When we are weak, God offers strength.

When we sin, God offers forgiveness.

When we are hard of heart, God offers patience.

And when our mortal bodies have reached the end of the road and there is nothing left that we can do for ourselves, God offers us eternal life.

So, why do bad things happen to good people? Why do we suffer, experience pain, and fail even ourselves? I’m not sure. All I know is that even in those moment—especially in those moments—God is present to us more than ever. This lent we are called to embrace our failures and own our brokenness, allowing God to be more than we could ever be on our own.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through Lent. I hope that you enjoyed these reflections and will consider buying my book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God, where you will find many other reflections just like these. 


Last weekend was an adventure. Picture this: 40,000 Catholics from around the country all in one place to share their faith, to hear from the best Catholic speakers around, to share in some of the most extraordinary liturgies imaginable and to buy tons of discounted Catholic merchandise. (Okay, not all of the motives were winners!)

Welcome to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, a place that is almost too overwhelming to fully describe! I had the great fortune of making my first appearance this year, and it did not disappoint. With my camera and a bag full of free books to hand out, I walked around the exhibition hall and attended lectures with the intention of sharing my own mission of evangelization and catechesis, while also learning about everyone else’s.

What I found so amazing was the breadth of personalities and spiritualities present. As Catholics, we truly are a big tent, and I met people at LA REC ranging from traditional to progressive, with everything in between, all sharing the same mission: to love and serve Jesus Christ. In a world so divided and focused on what makes us different, it was so encouraging to see so many people come together with only the most important thing on their minds.

At times, I fear that we can get too wrapped up in declaring which type of Catholic we are—as if that matters—and don’t take the time to rejoice in the glory of our diverse Church. For me, that’s what this weekend was about. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I enjoyed attending the Congress!

Have you ever heard someone say that you were “created in the image and likeness of God?” If you have, might might have also wondered, “What the heck does that even mean??” If so, you’re not alone.

In my Christian Anthropology course this semester, we spent four whole weeks unpacking this notion of the imago dei, the image of God, because, really, it doesn’t get a whole lot clearer once you start studying it. With so little to go on in Scripture and the Tradition largely silent, it is one of the theological topics that we put in the “disputed questions” bin, questions that have a lot of opinions but no official magisterial teachings.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some good opinions or ideas worth entertaining. Just because there is no clear-cut answer doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t study it. Like any mystery of faith, the purpose is not so much to “solve the mystery” with a definitive answer, but to enter into it so to grow deeper in our questioning. In other words, the more we ask, the more we realize we don’t know, which, in a way, is something we now know.

Don’t worry, this week’s video is much clearer than my explanation of it. Looking at three possible answers to the question, I want to suggest that it is only when we take all three together that we are able to understand what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God.

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Although a tad overused and basically a cliché, there’s something very truthful about this bit of advice. No one else can get it done exactly the way we want, so why leave it up to others when we are able to do it ourselves? We’re just going to be disappointed.

And if all we’re focused on is a “thing,” a task to be completed, then I think it would be a great motto for life. But is it ever just about the task?

No task is ever separated from relationships; no thing to be done without people doing them. As much as we would like to do everything ourselves, we simply can’t, and really, shouldn’t want to. Doing something ourselves is efficient, yes. It gets a job done and we’re happy. But that’s all it does: it gets a job done. When we do everything ourselves, no one else learns that they can also do it themselves. No one else ever learns that they are capable and responsible and important. Nothing is ever accomplished except for that one job.

What if we had a different approach? What if, rather than “do it yourself,” we tried “do it together”? Sure, each task might be a little more laborious. It might have more conflict and not get done exactly how we want it to. But look what else might happen: others will feel a part of something, share the load, and be able to pass on the skills to the next job. When we do things together, a mission can live beyond us.

For me, this is advice that we greatly need in our Church. Even though we know we should do things together in ministry, even though we’re told to love one another and it’s about the person and not the task, sometimes we can fall into this model, even at Church. Sometimes we try to do everything ourselves, failing to train the next person, to include others, to take the time to make it about “us” rather than the task at hand.

This lent, we are called to go on mission, together. We are called to truly be Church, to look beyond the task right in front of us and see what is really important: the people doing the task. He could have gotten a lot more done if it were about the task. He could have done it all himself and completed it just the way he wanted. Instead, Jesus sent his disciples out of on mission, and never alone. There was something more at work in the mission than just the “work.” Jesus was building something beyond himself, and so must we. As much as we love a “do it yourself” attitude, what our Church truly needs—what we truly need—is a “do it together” attitude.

If you’re interested in more reflections like this, you can purchase my book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God on Franciscan Media: https://goo.gl/6xXV13

So… fun story. I was ordained a deacon on Saturday. I know, right? It surprised me too! Long story short, I was planning on being ordained in June, but when my provincial heard that another province of Franciscans was having an ordination in March, he said, “Why don’t you just tag along with them.” In truth, he said this to someone else who then forwarded it to me, so I doubt he used those exact words.

Regardless, I have had hands laid upon my head, I’ve made my formal promises, and I’m ready to go! So in honor of that great change in my life, I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s Catholicism in Focus to the sacrament I just received: the Sacrament of Orders.