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Lent: Are you willing to be surprised by God?

Flannery O’Connor, the American Catholic southern gothic writer, once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

That line has always resonated with me, but never more so than when I sit down to write reflections on Scripture readings, verses that can feel so familiar there seems nothing new to uncover. My latest book of reflections, Not by Bread Alone 2021: Daily Reflections for Lent (Liturgical Press), is my third book of Lenten meditations and prayers, and so the challenge is real — but realer still is the truth that lives within Scripture. Old passages can speak new hope to us at any particular moment of our lives if we are willing to open ourselves up to the work and words of the Spirit. Even the familiarity of Lent itself can turn a season of growth into a rote spiritual exercise if we are not prepared to be surprised by God, sometimes in uncomfortable ways.

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You Can’t Fail Lent

The column originally ran on Huffington Post in 2015, but it’s a favorite so here it is one more time, just in time:

Lent is one of those seasons that always begins with the best of intentions and rapidly goes downhill, at least that’s how it usually plays out for me. I plan to pray more, eat less, and find creative ways to make my favorite time in the Church year more meaningful. Unfortunately, the ashes hardly have time to settle into the wrinkles on my forehead before I’m feeling like I’ve already failed.

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Lent is coming fast. Don’t go it alone.

Ash Wednesday is only four weeks away. I know if feels like we just got through Christmas, but, trust me, Lent will be here before you know it, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a companion to guide you through the desert, especially when getting to church these days is difficult if not impossible due to COVID? I have just the thing for you. My latest book of Scripture reflections, Not By Bread Alone 2021: Daily Reflections for Lent.

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Standing in the desert side by side

Although we’re only one week into our Lenten journey, it feels like we’ve been in this desert for months. At least that’s how it feels to me. Last summer’s revelations about Theodore McCarrick—the now-defrocked cardinal who was also my first bishop-boss and the auxiliary bishop who confirmed my sister as I stood by as her sponsor—sparked renewed anger and disillusionment with our Church. What unfolded next, and continues to unfold day after day as new abuses are revealed like dominoes falling in a never-ending downward spiral, has left many of us bereft, wondering how we continue forward when the ground we once walked on with certainty and trust has become roiling quicksand ready to devour us in one fell swoop.

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Feast or famine: Finding the middle way

By the time we end our Cravings journey in a few weeks, we will be well into Lent. Hard to believe. And yet, the liturgical calendar seems so perfectly timed for this tribe. We can take what we’ve been talking about here and kick it up a notch, if we so choose, in the weeks ahead. As we delve into Chapter 5: Feast or Famine, we can use the lessons here as a precursor to the Lenten journey that will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 14.  Read more

The last chapter is not the end, just the opposite

So this week we delve into our final chapter of Cravings, but that doesn’t mean we’re done with this topic or this journey. In fact, this is just the beginning. At least I hope it is. By this point, I hope you’ve made some peace with food and perhaps have learned to weave in some quiet time to eat mindfully, journal, pray, or just sit in silence now and then. Whatever you’ve started during this eight-week process, keep it up. Continue journaling, if that worked for you. Stay in touch with our community here or build community where you are so you don’t have to go it alone. But, more than anything else, take at least a few minutes every day to be with God. Even if the food habits slip or the mindfulness goes out the window now and then, just keep coming back to the God, to the beginning, and start again. There is no failing here. There is no wrong way to do this. We find lessons everywhere, even in the “mistakes,” even when we beat ourselves up because we didn’t measure up to our own expectations. It all takes us to the next place on the path. Read more

Feast or Famine: finding the middle way

By the time we end our Cravings journey in a few weeks, Lent will be a few days away. Hard to believe, isn’t it? And yet, it seems so perfectly timed for this tribe. We can take what we’ve been talking about here and kick it up a notch, if we so choose. But we can also allow some Lenten wisdom to inform the journey right now, especially as we delve into Chapter 5: Feast or Famine.  Read more

He is risen. Alleluia. Alleluia

Life begins again today. Even without dying, we feel reborn because we have been given the ultimate second chance. Without earning it, without understanding it, resurrection is now our destiny. Never has emptiness felt so full. Alleluia, Alleluia. He is risen. And we are saved.
From my final reflection of Not By Bread Alone 2016 (Liturgical Press). Thank you to all of you who journeyed with me through my book during this Lenten season.

Seven Last Words: a Good Friday reflection

Father forgive them, they know not what they do…

We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did? Read more