Busted Halo

Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.

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July 29th, 2010

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…


Over the past few weeks, I have been on a culinary tear through the “Cheap Eats” Capital of the world: Austin, Texas .  You see, on the east Coast, cupcakes are NOT served out of a trailer.  On the east Coast, our idea of barbecue involves defrosting hot dogs in a microwave. On the East Coast, a breakfast taco is simply when you eat leftovers from Chili’s the following morning.  So I have been spending these last days in Austin frantically visiting all of my favorite places… Amy’s Ice Cream, Torchy’s Tacos, Taco Deli, Iron Works… you name it.  Someday I’m going to write a book about my experiences over these past few weeks: I’m going to call it “Eat, Pray, Austin.”

But if I stop to reflect, there’s a reason I have been so frantic about visiting all of my favorite Austin eateries.  That’s because I’m imagining a day in the not-too-distant future… when I’m back in my seminary in DC… a day in which I will be craving a jalapeno-and-cheese sausage… and it will be chicken again for dinner.  On that day, all I will be left with will be the eternal words of Mick Jagger: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Which is why I was a little confused when I first read the part in the Gospel where Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Because there can be lots of times in our lives when we ask God for something… and we don’t get it.  A friend of mine in school always prayed for an “A” before taking a test… he often got a “B” or a “C” even though he studied.  My sister prayed for a pony growing up… she got a goldfish.  I asked God for a hot new car in high school after I got my license so I could get all of the girls… not only didn’t I get one, twenty years later I have no possessions and I’m two years away from priesthood.

And while the Rolling Stones might be an unlikely source for theological insight, it’s the second half of the song that makes it all come into focus.  To paraphrase: we can’t always get what we want, but if we trust in God we’ll get what we need.  The question for us is sorting through what our wants and our needs are.

As Christians, we say the Our Father for many reasons.  We say it when we pray the rosary, we say it when we come to Mass, we may even say it as a penance after confession. But one of the other reasons we say the Our Father is to remind us of our needs in the midst of our wants.

Because as human beings, we NEED God’s kingdom to come.  We NEED to have our sins forgiven.  We NEED to forgive those who have sinned against us.   And as human beings, we need our daily bread… not our daily bread and butter, although it’s nice if the butter happens. But when we pray the Our Father, we not only ask God to meet our needs, we remind ourselves what those needs are.  As Christian we believe that while we can’t always get what we want, but if we trust in God, we’ll get what we need.

Right now, I am in the midst of packing from my time in Austin.  In two days, I will once again be a resident of the East Coast.  So when all of that craziness settles, I am looking forward to having some time to reflect on everything that this year has meant to me.  All I know is that during this past year, God gave me everything that I needed… and a lot of what I wanted.

The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
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  • Dolores and Bill

    Hi Tom,
    I am so happy Dana sent this to me. I am so proud to read this funny, touching,spiritual homily. It speaks to me of what I always saw and loved about you.
    Every christmas I put out the card you made of Santa and the reindeer in the car.
    You have always been and always will be so very special to us. God bless you on your journey to the priesthood.
    Please remember all of us in your prayers.
    Love and a hug,Dolores

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