Below you will find reflections from current volunteers, AV alumni, Augustinians, service site supervisors, and members of our Advisory Board. Each day, we have asked a different person to reflect upon the readings of that day and share their insights with us. Take time to prayerfully read and think about these reflections each day.
Thank you to all who contributed to this effort. Let us keep these people in our thoughts and prayers during this Lenten season.
Pat, Hannah and Shannon
Ash Wednesday, February 13
Thursday, February 14
Friday, February 15 Saturday, February 16
Sunday, February 17
Monday, February 18
Tuesday, February 19
Wednesday, February 20
Thursday, February 21
Friday, February 22
Saturday, February 23
Sunday, February 24
Monday, February 25
Tuesday, February 26
Wednesday, February 27
Thursday, February 28
Friday, March 1Saturday, March 2Sunday, March 3Monday, March 4Tuesday, March 5Wednesday, March 6Thursday, March 7Friday, March 8Saturday, March 9Sunday, March 10Monday, March 11Tuesday, March 12Wednesday, March 13Thursday, March 14Friday, March 15Saturday, March 16Sunday, March 17Monday, March 18Tuesday, March 19Wednesday, March 20Thursday, March 21Friday, March 22Saturday, March 23Palm Sunday, March 24Monday, March 25Tuesday, March 26Wednesday, March 27Holy Thursday, March 28Good Friday, March 29
Ash Wednesday, February 13
Jl 2:12-18; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17; 2 Cor 5:20—6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Holidays often turn into a time of doing. There are events to plan, guests to invite and food to cook. Although Easter is over 40 days away, preparations at Villanova Prep are in full swing. We have already had a Lent assembly, Ash Wednesday Mass and prayer services and days of almsgiving are in the works. At work and in life this year, I often fall into a pattern that mirrors Martha, the constant doer in Luke’s Gospel. It results in productivity, but sometimes I have to wonder, is this what I am really being called to do?
It seems that, often, the better choice is simply to be with God. Work and planning are, of course, necessary and beneficial, but sometimes we need to slow down. In today’s first reading, God asks us to “return to me with your whole heart.” He goes on to suggest ways of doing so, but His first and most basic instruction is to go to Him. As we celebrate the start of Lent, it is important to remember that serving God and serving others does not always involve doing; often, simply being is what we all need. My students sometimes apologize for coming into my room and distracting me while I am working. What they do not yet understand is that they are my work. The relationships I am building with them are the most important work I will do at VPS this year. And how do those relationships develop? By spending time together, talking, just being. The emails, to-do lists and planning can wait. Come in and sit down.
And so it goes with our relationships with God. Yes, we must do His work in this world. But first, we must know Him. Today the ashes on our foreheads remind us that we will return to dust, but God wants us to return elsewhere: to Him, today, right now. As we prepare for Easter, let’s put down the work and the plans; there is being to be done.
Current AV, Ventura
In today's first reading, Moses presents us with clear choices: "life and prosperity or death and doom, life or death, or a blessing or a curse." Who of us would not "Choose Life" when presented with such a dichotomy? However, in our daily lives, it isn't always so black and white; there is a great deal of gray. We must be willing to grapple with the big and little issues in our lives and determine if we are indeed walking in the way of the Lord.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke that in order to be his disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him. Again, this may seem like a clear choice, but it is sometimes difficult to know what this means. We must humbly approach each day by asking the Lord to guide us in the choices we make so that they reflect a true disciple of His.
We must do our best to know the commandments, the teachings of the Church and read the signs of the times to form our conscience so that we can indeed Choose Life by listening to the Word of God and following the example of the Saints. Lent is a journey in which we are called to deepen our relationship with the Lord in prayer and in loving service to others so that we may indeed be people of Faith, Hope and Love!
God Bless You on this journey of self-discovery!
Prior Provincial of Midwest Province
Very Rev. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Friday, February 15
Is 58:1-9a; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19; Mt 9:14-15
It seems every year, at some point in the Lenten season I convince myself to be lax about how I actually participate in fasting. Is it just abstaining sweets? Or meat on Fridays? Or one meal a day? We have heard many different fasting practices and I am quick to see them as an obligation, or if I’m intentional enough I will take a moment to recognize why I am making this sacrifice. The first reading from Isaiah today gives me a new perspective, and one that gives life to a practice that can seem arbitrary. We read that the purpose of a fast is to “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.” It is not an individual-center practice of piety but a communal practice of solidarity and justice.
As an Augustinian volunteer I began to recognize that the meals I had with my community members and the Augustinians was a communal act that had a deep impact on my year. If eating is such a communal act, then an intentional lack of eating, alongside others who are also going without is also a communal act. The sacrifice made at dinner is only properly understood with others in mind. The act of fasting becomes much more powerful when it is in service of others.
AV 2010-11, Chicago
Who are we called to serve? During my volunteer year I really struggled at first with my placement sites. When contemplating a year of service I had grand ideas that I would make a difference and change the world. I arrived naïve and thinking I had the answers. San Diego threw me for a loop. In a city where thousands are homeless, I was serving at a private high school and a diocesan grade school. All the children had uniforms and in reality it didn’t look that far off from where I went to grade school and high school. What was I doing there? It was easy to just be sought out by the students versus going out of my comfort zone and seeking out people in need. So for a while I was content.
In the Gospel of Luke today we read that the Pharisee’s questioned Jesus’ decision to sit and eat with tax collectors, sinners. Why wouldn’t Jesus surround himself with people that were living out the Gospel who already believed he was Lord? Wouldn’t that have made his life easier? But that was not his purpose. He was not there to sit back and wait. He had a mission and he had to actively pursue it with his limited time.
I had to humble myself that maybe I didn’t have all of the answers. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, start to seek people out who might be in need versus waiting for people to come to me. I needed to look past the uniforms and start to see each student’s needs. I attended retreats and service trips to get out of my comfort zone and get to know the people I was serving. I decided that with my limited time as a volunteer I would attempt to go out of my way to learn more about the people that might avoid someone who was in my position, the people who needed attention the most.
Are you seeking out opportunities to serve or waiting for opportunities to seek you out?
AV 2004-05, San Diego; 2005-06, South Africa
Director of Augustinian Volunteers
As children, Lent was often a time where we “gave up” something—such as chocolate or video games—for a short period of time. When Easter arrived, we returned to our sweets or toys, without much of a second thought. As Augustinian Volunteers, the season of Lent can serve as a symbolic time of reflection for our service year and what is to follow.
We chose to commit ourselves to our service sites, community and God—in this way actively dedicating ourselves, for a period of one year, to avoid temptations that could lead us away from our goal of solidarity. Similar to Jesus’ experience in Luke 4:1-13, we embarked on a service and faith-filled journey that was set to take place over the course of one year. In this reading, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus to the desert for forty days. Filled with the blessings of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was hungry, yet fasted. At the conclusion of the forty days, however, Jesus finds himself constantly tempted by the devil. The devil questions Jesus’ faith, devotion and understanding of God.
In the span of our volunteer year, we, like Jesus, can more easily “fast” because we have the constant presence of faith and the protection of community surrounding us. When our year concludes, however, many of us will begin new experiences that could lead us away from the Augustinian tradition. Like at the conclusion of the Lenten season, where Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn away from his faith and understanding of the Lord, we may find ourselves at a crossroads in our new environments.
As we enter Lent this year, I hope we remember Jesus’ mission to carry God with him—not just for a time period, but for always. When the program concludes, we, like Jesus, will be able to stand tall against the devil’s temptations and live a life in pursuit of the Lord.
Current AV, Philadelphia
God is closer to us than we realize.
I find it interesting that the holy servants of God do not realize that they met Jesus when they served the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned and lonely. Jesus actually had to tell them that they had met and served him.
I have been blessed over the past year to take two groups of students, staff and faculty from Merrimack College to Thomonde, Haiti where we work side by side with Project Medishare for Haiti and local community leaders. Our civil engineering students work to bring clean water to those who do not have any. Our athletic training students provide treatment to help Haitians recover from injuries for which no one else could treat them. When did we most experience joy? What was our moment of consolation? And then, When did we feel furthest from god? When did we experience the most sadness? When was our moment of desolation?
I have no doubt that our students encountered God through the Haitians they met that day, but I also know that if we don’t stop to reflect and pray we (like the holy servants from the Gospel) might not realize that we have met God. Jesus visits us in the person of the poor and vulnerable in our world. When we serve the poor and take the time to reflect on our service, we can come to recognize God in those around us. God is indeed closer to us than we realize.
Every night after our work the whole group gathers together for a period of reflection. We take a few moments to pray for some of the people we met that day and then we try to reflect on two questions that can take many different forms. When did we feel closest to God?
Site Supervisors at Merrimack College (Lawrence)
The Scripture readings this week say three things to me: We have a purpose on Earth; we should do justice, and we have been given prayer for guidance. Just as the rain and snow have an earthly purpose—so do humans. On this journey we will encounter injustice often—but “From all their distress God rescues the just.” And finally when we feel lost or discouraged, we have been given the means to pray. The Gospel indicates that God already knows what we need before we pray. Thus we should not "babble" but deeply reflect. This way, our individual purpose will become clear. These are themes we explored as Augustinian Volunteers and continue to explore during everything that follows. Our purpose and how we find it are things that we are constantly realizing. Like seeds, our good works promote growth in this world.
Lent is a time to reflect on our individual and communal purpose. On this journey, we can take comfort in the words of Scripture: “It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Just as we had a concrete purpose during our time as an AV, we are meant to view our life in the same way. I think God wants us to know that our purpose is fluid—always growing and changing. Yet justice is always the goal and our work will not be meaningless.
And when in doubt—pray.
AV 2007-08, Bronx; 2008 South Africa
A week ago, we began our Lenten journeys with ashes marked on our foreheads. The day reminded us of our humility, our humanity, our sinfulness, our repentance. It also reminded us of our solidarity.
During Lent, we are constantly reminded of our need for forgiveness from a merciful but demanding God. In today's first reading, Jonah is sent to Nineveh—a city so big he needs three days to walk across it—and delivers a Divine message. You have 40 days, he says, to change your ways.
And the people of Nineveh have a choice. They can ignore the voice of a messenger of God. They can ignore, perhaps, the quiet whisper in their hearts that tells them, "You can live your life better than this; you can give praise to the One who made you by being more patient, more pure, more steadfast, more dedicated." They can continue making the same choices they have made in the past. Or they can change. Each man and woman who hears Jonah's message is faced with the choice.
But isn't it easier to commit to change when you're not alone? Isn't it easier to admit your own faults and shortcomings when you know that someone is there to bear you up, and build you up, who walks the same path you do? Isn't it easier to turn and give support when someone is waiting to receive and give back?
Every breathing creature in Nineveh, from the king on his throne to the donkey in his stable, listened to Jonah, and heard Jonah and they changed. Together.
We are called, constantly, to repent, to change, to live better lives for our God. But we are not alone in the journey. We aren't the only ones waking up early, or waiting for the bus in the cold, caring for the outcast or the lonely or the lost. We aren't alone in our sinfulness, in our repentance, and we are not alone when we rejoice in the Son of Man, and the remarkable gifts He gives us.
Look around you today. Recognize the gift of one another, and that you are not alone as you strive to change for a God who asks much of you, but is prepared to give more.
AV 2010-11, Lawrence
Today’s readings from Esther and Matthew move me to consider the themes of dependence and opportunity. The First Reading tells the story of Esther surrendering her anguish to God. In this day and age, the notion of dependence gets a bad rap. We too often associate dependence with irresponsibility and carelessness. However, our dependence on God is sacred. We rely on Him for grace, healing, opportunity and so much more. Often we forget how important the act of surrendering our independence to God is, and how much good can come of letting Him into our lives.
Matthew’s Gospel quotes Jesus in a very familiar verse:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find…and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
As I reflect on these words, I can’t help but think of the opportunity I am blessed with in being an Augustinian Volunteer. Now that it is the latter part of the year, however, it is becoming slightly more pressing to plan out what I will be doing next year. I find myself often praying for God’s direction as I try to determine my vocation. Too often, I look for direct answers hoping that one day God will just flat out tell me what I should be doing for the rest of my life. This Gospel reading opens my eyes to the prospect that instead of looking for direct, concrete answers, we are to pray for opportunity over straightforward answers. We are dependent upon God to open new doors for us, and when blessed with opportunities it becomes our responsibility to take action on them.
Current AV, San Diego
In the Scripture today Jesus asks his disciples, “But who do you say I am?” Jesus is not going through an identity crisis. He asks this question to see if the disciples are coming to know him, to know his mission and ministry. He is really just “checking things out” with their understanding of him. He is asking them how they see him. Peter understands the question and responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter gets it.
Do we ever wonder how other people see us? Have we wanted to ask them the same question “But who do you say I am?” We learn about ourselves from others. Sometimes we do not really want to know how other people see us, because we are afraid of their answer due to our own self reflection. But this is how we grow, change and mature, by asking that important question.
Lent is a time for self reflection. It is a time to enter into the deepest part of our self. It is not always a pleasant or joyful experience, but it is a very necessary one. As we are involved in our AV service we will also experience this question of how people see us. We are involved in new life experiences, new ways of living and doing things. As we look at the people we serve we need to ask ourselves, “But who do they say I am?” As I live in community I come to know a great deal about myself from the interaction and reaction of the people with whom I live. This question is part of that lived experience.
Jesus asks the question today, “But who do you say I am?” How much more so do we need to ask this question of others and our own self?
Fr. Tony Burrascano, O.S.A.
AV Advisor Board Member
At the end of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gets right to the point: be perfect. Truly, God deserves nothing less than our perfection. He is Creator, we are creatures, and we owe to God our perfect obedience; anything else makes a mockery of God’s majesty.
During Lent, though, we are reminded, through the Liturgy and our works of fasting and abstinence, just how far we fall short of this perfection. In our brokenness and frailty and finitude, we sin. We treat others and ourselves in ways we know we shouldn’t. We pursue things we know we ought not. And we steadfastly refuse to do those things we know we should do but would rather not. In a few short weeks, we will stand before our crucified Lord and, in necessary humility, acknowledge that He was crucified for my brokenness and frailty and finitude, that I deserve His sufferings and His death.
But God’s grace abounds, and Christ’s words in the Gospel give us a glimpse into how we cooperate with and participate in this grace: we love. We love those we like. We love those we despise. We love those who despise us. Empowered by this grace, we choose to do what’s best for our beloved, no matter the cost, whether that beloved be a family member, a close friend, a partner in community, one to whom our service is directed, a stranger. We act this way for all we encounter.
And notice what happens, and how wonderful God is: God conquers the power of sin through choosing to love, and uproots us from the seedbed of our sin by empowering us to choose to love. Through love, the broken and frail and finite is reclaimed, restored and redeemed. This is the Lenten challenge, and so today, having just begun the Lenten journey, let us pray for the grace of perfection through love.
AV 2001-02, San Diego
2nd Sunday of Lent, February 24
The first reading tells the story of God taking Abraham outside, telling him to raise his eyes to the heavens, and promising that his descendants will be just as endless as the stars. Then this happens: “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”
Now, believe me, I’ve tried to count the stars before, and the very idea that Abraham could immediately put his faith in God after hearing such a promise is impressive, inspiring and a host of other admirable traits. But it is also a bit overwhelming. I struggle by the day..by the moment..to have what I would consider even an ounce of faith in God’s plan. How is it possible that some are able to have so much? Why is it so hard to have such a radical faith?
Perhaps this is the wrong question. Perhaps it’s really this: Why do I ever expect this to be easy? When it’s easy, I don’t learn as much and I question less. When it’s easy for too long, I tend to get restless and wonder what it is I’m looking for. As volunteers, we consciously sought out a program that would stick us in the midst of a lot of things that are downright difficult. Some of them may even come as a surprise. But for each of us, there was something powerful that helped us get to this place, to deal with the harder stuff. Time passes, then one day you will be in a new, challenging situation. Lacking any alternative, you are forced to become the person that can deal with it. Perhaps, my relationship with God is much the same way. It takes time, but eventually, it takes new form because you stuck it out. You have been there for all of it.
Current AV, South Africa
In today’s Gospel, we hear these words from Christ: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
How many of us as volunteers, both past and present, have been quick to judge at our worksites, or in our community? First impressions, both good and bad, can far too often shape our overall view of a person, worksite or experience. And along with judgment comes condemnation. It can be far easier to give up on a relationship at work or in our community without giving it a fair chance.
We would be far better served as Catholics during this Lenten season to live as Christ did. Consider the interactions Christ had with those who did not want to have any relationship with Him: His persecutors. While an extreme example, Christ’s ability to look past the faults and flaws of His executioners and forgive them is a model for us during this Lenten season. Where we are presented with opportunities to condemn and judge and fail to forgive, let us pray for God’s grace to lead us to live as He did. Lent can get away from us if we let it. Let us act as Christ did on the cross: unwilling to judge, and willing to forgive.
Current AV, Chicago
Living in the present used to be easy for me. In college I loved hanging out with my friends, loved my classes, loved my housemates, loved that time in general, loved working with teenagers, loved my growing faith. Life was so rich and I never wanted college to end. Then after I left college I found that my "loving life" attitude changed. Somehow, the way I saw life day to day shifted into just trying to get to the next thing. I waited for a few months til I went to Peru with the Augustinian Volunteers, then while in Peru there were times when I was just trying to get through so I could be home, but then once I was home it was all about just waiting till I could start my summer job, and it goes on. If only this would happen then I would be totally happy. If only I had a perfect fulfilling job then I would be totally happy. If only I found a guy to love then I would be totally happy. But as I lived I realized attaining these fulfillments in life is not what will make us totally happy. Once you have one thing there is always another yearning inside of you. There is always an unexplained want for something more. What this ever-repeating yearning is is our longing for God, to be in His love.
Somehow along the way I lost my purpose of faith, but it is only in the peace of my faith and God's love that I am able to live in the present, to enjoy the present, to be present... Instead of always making it through til I find a guy or til I get a really cool job. Today's scripture tells us. "Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD." For me, what I need to set right is bringing my center back to the Lord. I want to get back to living in the present. Get back to having God as my center and where I anchor my joy and my fulfillment. It is perfectly okay to long for the other good things in life like love, a good job, a good marriage, security (I definitely want those things!), but for me, I don't think that will bring total fulfillment, it is faith that brings it all together for me. (Not that we ever have it all together:)) But I know that it's possible to live and love the present moment in the peace and trust of God. He is with us always.
AV 2011, Peru
In the Gospel reading today, the mother of two of Jesus’ disciples asks Jesus to ensure that her sons are given a place of security and honor, one at his right and one at his left, in his Kingdom. Naturally, the other disciples become angry that two of their own might get special treatment. And as usual, Jesus surprises us and challenges our often intrinsic human desire for recognition and power. He tells us that power, authority and recognition are not what we should seek; rather, our role as Christians is to serve. Greatness only comes through humble service. Despite the repetition of this theme throughout the Gospels, we Christians still struggle to reflect Jesus’ vision in our society and our world today. We still seek power and authority, and often reward and honor people who achieve these things.
As Augustinian Volunteers, you have already responded to God’s call in your life to serve others. But think about your daily life, both in the past, now and in the future. How do you serve others outside your volunteer placements—your community, families, friends, strangers and even people you don’t like? Jesus’ call to service is not for a year, or for a week-long service trip,or for a night once a month at the soup kitchen. His call to service is for each and every moment of our lives. His call to service means living in a radically humble and loving way. His call to service also means allowing ourselves to be served by others, so that together we bring Jesus’ vision for our world to life. Lent is a time to take a look at our lives, and renew our vocation and commitment—as individuals and in community—to service of others in big and small ways.
AV 2006-07, San Diego
As privileged Americans, we are often blessed with a table of plentiful. We eat happily and easily, hardly considering where the scraps go or who might have been able to eat what we waste. In Peru we are still eating at a table with plenty, however, grace is said nightly in extreme thanksgiving for what we do have and for those that don't have the food we have to eat, and nothing is left to waste. To the American eye, the way a Peruvian eats every last bite off their plate even if it requires eating with their hands, or eats every piece of chicken off the bone including part of the bone, may be considered rude at our American family's dining room tables. Where in Peru, not wasting any food is more so what is important, because they feel blessed to have the food they have.
In the Gospel, the rich man eats luxuriously, not considering who goes hungry or who might be there eating his scraps. Lazarus is there to eat what the rich man wastes gratefully and humbly. In the end when both men die and Lazarus goes up to heaven to eat at Abraham's table, the rich man is left to burn in torment. We are all born into different life privileges. I was born extremely blessed; blessed to have food on my table, a solid roof over my head, hardwood floors in my house and a family that loves and supports one another. My Peruvian family too feels they are blessed, blessed in a different way than a typical American might see it, but to them and now to me, they too are blessed. The rich man was born into the blessing of wealth; unfortunately, he chose not to share his wealth. He chose to eat without thinking of those that cannot. We have the choice to choose. We can choose to feed our struggling brothers and sisters, we can choose to serve them, and we can choose to not judge their blessings.
Current AV, Peru
In today’s readings, God is rebuilding. We see that Joseph is saved from slavery in the psalms. In the Gospel, Jesus proclaims, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” God gives us His strength and guidance through difficult times of rejection and criticism. I think an important message for me, as Augustinian Volunteer, is how easy it is for people to reject those closest to them. The tenants killed the servants and son of their landowner. Joseph is sold to the Ishmaelites by his own brothers.
How often are we critical of those whom we are closest to? Especially in community, it can be hard to see each other through the same “holy” lens that many outsiders might. Seeing God in the children I volunteer with at the Boys and Girls Club, or the Merrimack students who sign up for weekly service, that’s easy. Seeing God in my community members after a long day at work when all I want is some peace and quiet, now that can be a challenge. But one of my favorite things about the Augustinian Volunteers is the knowledge that I have a community much larger than myself, that stretches all the way to San Diego then down to Peru and over to South Africa. It gives me strength and energy to know all these other recent grads are working and living in the same way I am, intentionally, and that many before us have done the same. But the reality of this larger community is that it begins right in my own home.
The readings today help remind me to see the goodness in those closest to me, to remember they too are intentionally seeking God and to know that God rebuilds for those who have faith in Him.
Current AV, Lawrence
“All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” These words by Sally Brown as she has her big brother write her Christmas letter to Santa in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” seem to echo, if not the words, at least the feelings and actions of the two brothers in the very familiar story we find in Luke’s Gospel. Maybe they even reflect our own feelings – feelings that at some level we feel are both justified and embarrassing. After all, we just want what is fair. We want what is coming to us. But what is fair? What do we deserve?
“All that is mine is yours.” These words (and actions) of the father to his sons are God’s words and actions to us as well. And this is more than “share and share alike” and “make sure you play nice.” You see, the father had two sons – two children - brothers.
“All that is mine is yours…Don’t you see, this brother of yours was dead and has come to life, he was lost and has been found.”
I want what is coming to me! “All that is mine is yours.” I want what is coming to me! “I give you my son…I give you your brother.”
May this Lent be a time when we can receive with open hearts what (and who) is coming to us – our wayward brothers and sisters limping toward us in shame seeking a reconciling embrace – our sisters and brothers who lash out in what seems anger but is really the confusion of being confronted by a gracious and prodigal God – our loving God running to embrace us, celebrating our return, reminding us that we are His – and because His, each other’s.
Fr. Rich Young, O.S.A.
Site Supervisor at St. Rita High School, Chicago
3rd Sunday of Lent, March 3
The Lord is kind and merciful. The Lord is kind and merciful. The Lord is kind and merciful. And yet it is sometimes difficult to remember and believe this simple truth. And it’s even harder to emulate the Lord’s kindness and mercy. But we are called to do so, everyday. Not just in a certain moment, or with certain people, but rather always and with everyone. While this is an impossible task to conquer in its perfection, Lent is a perfect time to take on the struggle and deepen our relationship with God, fellow AVs, clients, co-workers and ourselves.
The Lord is kind and merciful to those who are homeless, hungry, struggling in school, sick or raising a family alone. The Lord is kind and merciful to your housemate whom you struggle to form a positive relationship with. The Lord is kind and merciful to you. At your workplace it’s probably not always clear to see His ways, to see His kindness when there is injustice and poverty surrounding. It’s not always clear to see what He’s up to when you can’t seem to figure out how to get along with or connect with a roommate. But fortunately we are not called to figure out His ways and determine what His plan is; that is beyond us. But we are called to share His kindness and mercy at work and at home. And we are called to seek His kindness and mercy for others and for ourselves. And we are called to open our eyes and be a witness to His kindness and mercy. And we are called to let His kindness and mercy flood our hearts to make us smile, lend a hand and shower others with love.
“I promise you not a moment will be lost as long as I have heart & voice to speak & we will walk again together with a thousand others & a thousand more & on & on until there is no one among us who does not know the truth: there is no future without love.” -Brian Andreas
AV 2004-05, Lawrence; 2005-07, South Africa
In today’s gospel from Luke, Jesus has returned to his hometown of Nazareth and has just made the bold and shocking proclamation that his is indeed the Messiah, the fulfillment of scripture. At first, Jesus’ announcement is met with shock and amazement—in the verses just before we hear the crowd ask, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” However, their amazement quickly turns to fury. Jesus, not surprised by the less-than-welcoming reception says, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
Perhaps it’s hard for us to imagine how the people of Nazareth could have failed to recognize the presence of the Messiah among them, how they could have more or less said, “Wait, isn’t he that carpenters son? That guy?” Maybe the scene is a bit more familiar to us than is first apparent. For many of us, our lives are steeped in the language and routine of being Catholic—we go to mass on Sunday, we say grace before dinner, we put holy days of obligation on our Google calendars, maybe we even work or serve at a Catholic School or organization. If you are anything like me, however, sometimes in the midst of all that routine, I miss God. Like the people of Nazareth, I do not recognize the presence of Christ in my midst; I am blinded by my own familiarity.
Perhaps this is the challenge and also the blessing of Lent. It is an opportunity to switch up our routine, to recommit ourselves, to try something new and to reawaken to the presence of God in our lives, if we allow ourselves to be open.
AV 2008-09, Lawrence
Associate Director of Augustinian Volunteers
In today’s reading from Daniel, Azariah reminds us that it does not take lavish gifts to worship God unreservedly. It takes trust and our whole heart. During Lent we often give something up to bring us closer to God, but sometimes it is the something we give up that we focus upon more than our relationship with God. Be wholly present to God today. It might seem daunting, but picture your soul—in the form of your heart—resting in your hands, and offer it up to God today in thanksgiving for His boundless mercy. After all, our whole heart is conjointly the least and the most that we can offer up to him.
The themes of forgiveness and of mercy are most present in the gospel reading from Matthew 18. In this passage, Peter very generously offers to forgive someone who has done him wrong seven times—but Jesus counters his generous offer and says that we should forgive more than seventy-seven times—I know that I find it difficult at times to forgive once, let alone seven or even seventy-seven times. I can fully acknowledge that I have been forgiven a lot, yet I still struggle daily to remember to bestow even a fraction of the mercy that God shows me to others. It constantly amazes me to think about how God forgives each of us—His love never fails despite our daily failings to follow in His image and likeness. Let us be more like our Master Creator today—call, write or better yet speak in person with someone whom you have not yet forgiven.
Current AV, Ventura
In today’s readings we hear about the importance of following God’s Law and the teachings of Christ. While these laws are often unpopular in the eyes of society and challenging to live-out, we are told that if we do obey, we will be considered “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The commandments in scriptures are given to us by God through Moses to give us an easier path toward righteousness. God lays out the path in his scriptures so that we will not have to undergo unnecessary hardships. In Deuteronomy, the commandments are reveled to us so that we may go forth and lead by the example of Christ.
God gives us the free will in which to choose our path. Showing compassion and loving others as Christ has loved is indeed following in His footsteps.
Does our service to others excuse us from having to follow the Law? Is serving others more important than following the Law? How would Jesus live in today’s world?
Lori Blake and DeVon Jackson
AV Advisory Board Member
Villanova University, Student Development
As humans it is normal for us to classify or categorize actions, behaviors, thoughts or feelings of others. Based on our experiences and perception of reality, we have tendencies to label these things. Good or bad, right or wrong. Each person has their own path in life to fulfill. They are all answering to God in the best way that they know how at that exact moment in their life. We can offer people in our lives support and guidance, but Bob Marley says, "Before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean."
Life is an assortment of obstacles and challenges. In a fast-paced and ever-changing world everything around us remains dynamic. Our identity, our relationships and even our faith is constantly tested. Each day we are presented with a gift. As Louie Schwartzberg states, every person you run into has a story not only of themselves, but of their past ancestors. If we observe the importance of this moment and open our hearts to the possibilities of what their gifts are, life will flow through you. You will begin to see God in someone's smile, small gesture or simple presence. You will not allow others' journeys to negatively affect yours; it will not harden your heart. So today and every day, I dare you to be grateful for everyone and everything you come in contact with. That connection is no longer good or bad, right or wrong, it is helping you become the person you were meant to be and it is uniting us as a whole that God intended.
AV 2011-12, San Diego
The readings today provide us with a clear understanding of how we must have trust in the Lord, our God. Only with faith can we as humans live in harmony with the land that has been provided for us. I believe that it is the unconditional confidence in His spirit that can help us get through the times of struggle as well as those moments of personal transcendence. I find it ironic, but also pleasing that as I read through these select passages, the theme that stood out to me was about having confidence with God.
The irony lies in my first day of teaching English to Zulu children at St. Leo’s. One of the vocabulary words I had to use in my first period class was confidence. Although I had no lesson plan and minimal previous teaching experience, as I began explaining what confidence meant; I began to feel more self-confident about what I was doing as a volunteer at St. Leo’s. As an intuitive believer, it is the little things like these that make me feel right about the situation and where I’m at with my life. So for today and hopefully onward, I hope to continue to have confidence and faith in God during this meaningful year as an Augustinian Volunteer.
Current AV, South Africa
A Pharisee and a tax collector walk into the Temple. When slightly paraphrased, the beginning of today’s Gospel reads like a stand-up comedy act. In many ways, parables are very much like jokes; perhaps they do not make one laugh the way a standard joke might, but they certainly do help one to see the world in a different way.
This parable opens with an unlikely duo that comes together in a fairly public setting. On one side, there is the Pharisee, on the other, the tax collector. The Pharisee is overwhelmingly condescending, not only announcing that he believes himself to be better than the rest of humanity, but also publically admonishing the tax collector. Contrastingly, the tax collector speaks humbly to God, only asking that God be merciful towards him, for he is a sinner.
If one is familiar with the Gospels, and the message of Jesus, the “punch line” of this particular parable may seem obvious from the moment each man offers his prayer. The haughty Pharisee leaves the Temple unjustified, while the humble and contrite tax collector is justified in his prayer. However, it is important to remember that everything the Pharisee says would be considered extremely good and worthy of praise. He is, after all, a virtuous man who abides by the practices of his faith, while the tax collector was the villain of his day. However, one is so easily drawn to side with the tax collector not because of who he is or what he has done, but because of his willingness to ask for help and mercy.
In our own lives, we all, like the Pharisee, have things of which to be proud: our faith, service for others, hard work or commitment to friends and family. It is not pride in ourselves, but pride over others that cause us to slip into the trap of the Pharisee. When we believe we are better than others perhaps we lose our ability to ask for help and mercy, even from God. In this Lenten season, Jesus once again reminds us that we are all equals in the Lord, and in need of God’s mercy.
Current AV, Philadelphia
Today’s Gospel is arguably one of the most famous passages in the scriptures. Even non-Christians and non-believers know the term prodigal son. Those of us who are even more familiar with the story know that the focus is not so much on the young adult son who messed up, but the father who loved his son so much he forgave him. The image of the father seeing his son in the distance indicates that he couldn’t wait to see his son again.
Springtime can be a challenging time for Augustinian Volunteers. It is far enough in the year that one or more of the others in our community may be getting on our nerves. We’ve been with them long enough that we know their idiosyncrasies, and yet we know we have several months left to endure that person. It is neither easy nor spiritually wise to try to escape in close living quarters.
Perhaps the best Lenten fasting we could ever do is the fasting of disappointment and frustration with others. This does not mean not noticing the irritating things others do; that might be good, but it’s also a denial of reality. In today’s gospel, whatever the son had done—and we should make no mistake about it, he screwed up big time—the father's love overshadowed the son’s mistakes.
One of the great gifts about being a believer is found in knowing that our Father in heaven loves us as we are, and invites us to grow. These next few weeks of Lent, and hopefully the rest of the year living in community with the other volunteers, why not try to be more like the forgiving father and fast from focusing on the negative or irritating characteristics of others?
Very Rev. Gary Sanders, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial of Western Province
My first reaction to Isaiah is cynicism. I can't help it. He sounds more naive than I was on my first day as a volunteer, out to save the world. Weeping is still heard; infants still die; few of us reach a hundred years; and, those who build houses and cultivate the land rarely get the direct benefit from their labor.
The Gospel, at first glance, doesn't help much. Many things that I have prayed for have not come to be "just at that time" that I asked for them.
But Jesus' testimony gives me pause. Just before he is to work this miracle, he reminds us that he is a sojourner. The honor of the prophet comes not from ministering to his own people (although he must do that too) but from going out and ministering to the rest of the world. The "royal official" wasn't one of Jesus' people, but he was the subject of His work that day.
As a volunteer, you, too, are a traveler in a land not your own. Chances are, your volunteer experience is radically different than whatever came before it. Hopefully, once you complete this radical experience, you never go back. Jesus sure didn't retire to Nazareth and live on to a ripe old age.
So I return to Isaiah. I can't seem to find the new heavens and the new earth. But I don't think we're meant to. If we did, what purpose would we have then? We won't get there in this lifetime, but we do everything we can to make it a reality.
AV 2007-08, San Diego
Site Supervisor at Hogar Infantil La Gloria, San Diego
Today’s gospel speaks of a miracle that Jesus performed—healing a man who had been ill for 38 years. The man explains to Jesus that he has no one to carry him into the water, and when he finds a way, someone beats him to the chase. Jesus replies, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
I feel that this passage can relate to us all in several ways. Many times we pray for something we want or for something to change in our lives and when we don’t see immediate results of these prayers, it can be frustrating and discouraging. However, if we remain patient and faithful along the journey, Jesus will come to us in our time of need.
While this miracle is beyond what any of us may ever witness, as Augustinian Volunteers we encounter small miracles every day. When we are in desperate need of food, a large donation gets dropped off. When an impossible child goes one day without disturbing the class. When scrounging for student volunteers, an unlikely one lends a helping hand. When at the breaking point with a community member, light shines through during a conversation or prayer. When having a faith crisis, dinner with the Augustinians brings it back into perspective. The small miracles that occur during an AV year are innumerable and there are blessings all around us if we keep our eyes open.
Jesus tells the man, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” As Augustinian Volunteers, you have risen to the challenge of getting to this step, and while it may be easy at this point in the year to take a break and sit on your mat for awhile, the challenge is now to keep walking. Imagine the greatness that lies ahead on this path God has set out for you.
AV 2010-11, Lawrence
Assistant Director of Augustinian Volunteers
The passage excerpt from today’s First Reading reminds us that the Lord will always be there for us. Have you ever felt as though you were misunderstood or unacknowledged? Only God will ever know that which is dearest to us. In times of our greatest struggles, successes, moments of extreme emotion, and when we truly feel like we are ourselves, God is there with us. His presence may not always be completely apparent but his support is with us always. When you are overwhelmed with a co-worker, frustrated with the lack of resources available for a client, lacking patience when interacting with your students, saddened by the current living situations of a family in need, anxious about what the future will bring for you, you are not alone; the passage reads, “I will never forget you.”
Each Augustinian Volunteer is experiencing something unique at their service site and we will never truly know the emotion, joy, passion, frustration and excitement that our community members are involved with each day. Even after sharing our feelings and the emotions linked with the happenings of our day, we will never know all that resonates in each other’s souls. This can at times be a struggle because you may be left feeling misunderstood, confused and searching. This is when we must turn to God for support and guidance. This Lenten season we must be reminded of the deep love and connection that God has for us and all Creation. When you feel as though you are struggling without an end in sight look for God; he knows you better than you know yourself. Find strength in knowing that God will never forget your emotions, unique personality and passions. Connect with God and continue to live in light of His love during the coming weeks in Lent.
Current AV, San Diego
We are witnesses for our faith and we are called to give testimony to the truth.
The readings today tell us to rely on the testimony of others. In the first reading, Moses had been on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments for so long that the Jews were losing faith. God was clearly angry with the Jews “They forgot the God who had saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt…” Moses assured God that he could get the Jews back on track. Moses reminded God that these were his Chosen People, and that promises had been made to Abraham and his descendants. God allowed Moses to handle the situation
In the gospel reading, Jesus is trying to get the disciples to believe that he is the Son of God, the one they had been waiting and hoping for—for so long. Jesus says that they did not accept his word and tells them to listen to what John the Baptist said. Jesus knew that John had been loved and respected by the people. Then Jesus told them that if they did not believe John, they should believe what Moses said. So, can we always trust someone’s words? Should we believe what someone tells us just because he can refer to past authority? We need to do our own research, our own due diligence. The writings of the Old Testament and the Gospels were guided by God and the Holy Spirit. He is offering salvation. He is offering life after death.
So when we hear the word of God we can accept it and trust it to be true. And we are to use these words to evangelize to others.
Site Supervisor at St. Bonaventure High School, Ventura
While living as Augustinian Volunteers, we are bound to notice differences in the way people live within our own AV community, as well as in the larger community of the new city, state or country we are living in. People grew up differently, talk differently, have different morals and beliefs, eat differently and dance differently. What does this mean? Does it mean that when I (from the West Coast) call them tennis shoes and Lacie (from the East Coast) says sneakers, she is wrong? Does it mean that it is normal to eat chicken, but not normal when Peruvians eat guinea pig? No; it is just different.
In the first reading, people are full of anger because Jesus is different and is bringing about change. They say, “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings...To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.” They see that Jesus lives differently, and immediately want to test Him. He is different, and different is wrong, so He must not be who He says He is.
How do we react to change and to people different than ourselves? Do we automatically put them to the test to try to prove that they are wrong? Do we badger them and try their patience as these people did to Jesus? Do we condemn change? Or are we open to the differences of others and simply try to learn from them, and embrace the new cultures we are able to experience? In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” We are all sent from God, and although we do not know Him the way Jesus does, we were made in His image and so our uniqueness, our differences, are right.
Current AV, Peru
There are many times in our lives when we decide to make a commitment to someone or something. It happens over and over again. In each situation there is always a degree of faith, because we never truly know what the outcome will be. If the commitment is very serious, the faith required will be greater.
Someone makes a decision to marry and to be true to a spouse “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” never fully knowing what will happen or what will be required. Someone may make a decision to become a religious or a priest, never fully knowing what will be needed to live out that decision. Someone, decides to become an Augustinian Volunteer and the very same is true. The degree of faith is proportional to the decision made.
What if one really knew what was going to happen at the time they make the commitment? What if a father or mother knew when they were getting married that they would have a child who would have a serious terminal disease? What if a priest like Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, when he was ordained knew he was going to go into one of the twin towers to minister to the firemen trying to rescue victims of that terrible disaster? What if a volunteer knew all the things that they were going to have to face? Is it better not to know?
In today’s reading from Jeremiah, he says that, “I knew their plot because the Lord informed me.” He knew, so what did he do? The psalmist who wrote our responsorial psalm prays: “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.” Jeremiah’s faith urges him to place his trust in God, in spite of all the things happening around him.
I think Nicodemus deserves some real credit for standing up in the midst of the chief priests and Pharisees! We don’t know what he believed about Jesus at the time, but he stood up because the others already had Jesus condemned. He didn’t change peoples’ opinion but he did take a step.
Lent is that time when we evaluate our commitments in our concrete life situations. Lent is when we continue to reflect on our faith and our relationships with others and also with our God. This reflection can help our faith to grow stronger; it can give us the strength and courage to go where we never thought we would go; to do what we never thought we would do; to be the person God made us to be.
Fr. Rich O’Leary, O.S.A.
Augustinian Site Supervisor, Lawrence
“Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” ~IS 43: 16-21~
How insightful and timely this first reading from Isaiah is, marking this time of year of service to ministry and community. God asks us to look to the present not the past to see God’s almighty actions—we can look around to see that God is something new and wonderful right now—we are called to “spring forth,” to learn and be amongst that.
Perhaps at this time of the year your enduring compassion is being tested. The events of the past, tiring days at your service sites, disagreements within community or the fear of not rising to your own expectations of meeting outcomes. These very well may be weighing you down, making the action of springing forth seem nearly impossible.
How have you put water in the desert, and rivers in the wasteland? Assuredly these sound like miracles out of our reach. However, we can make this reflection more attainable to see how to adjust our expectations of the service we have and can render one another. How will you provide education and empowerment to those who may otherwise have not have received time and attention towards recognizing their own gifts and talents? How will you render options for hope where otherwise hope may not be seen as accessible?
Without a doubt you have been part of this rendering of hope and empowerment already, even if you are yet to know it. Perhaps the enduring love you bring forward into this spring season will allow such further development and enduring compassion to propel you into continued service and presence. This active love you have brought forward to each NEW day represents the propelling nature that will allow you to spring forward for your continued commitment to love and service.
Let your minds and hearts be present to each NEW situation, which is amongst you each day… the opportunity to continue to love and serve in community and ministry.
AV 2008-09, San Diego
“Have faith and strive to live a righteous life” is a simple mantra containing a message that is often echoed and recapitulated in bible verses and sermons as a method of finding favor with the Lord. The favor with the Lord results from individuals making conscious decisions to follow tenets such as attending mass and treating neighbors with the same respect and dignity you would expect upon yourself among other principles. These tenets are expressly stated in scripture through various parables and the story of Susanna and the elders does not divert from the pattern.
Susanna’s plight with the elders and subsequent exoneration illustrates the power and privileges of righteous living. In the passage from Daniel, Susanna was accused of committing immoral and improper acts by two wicked elders. The elders, having failed to seduce Susanna, attempted to have her convicted of adultery. The elders were nearly successful in completing their plan, but Daniel, infused with the Holy Spirit and suspicious of the validity of the elder’s statements, arose from silence to publically disapprove of the handling of Susanna’s ordeal. Daniel’s timely intrusion was largely due to Susanna implementing her faith and belief into her life. Susanna lived a pious life and gained the reputation as a God-fearing women and she was rewarded for her actions and inactions with an immense blessing from the Lord.
As an AV, we are heavily judged on our work and the way we conduct ourselves on and off work sites. Representing the AVs does not afford the luxury to behave in deplorable acts, as we are reasonably expected to lead just lives and place our trust in the Lord as Susanna did in the scripture. Whether we are rewarded has no significance because we are following the path the Lord intended and showing faith.
Current AV, Lawrence
On this Feast Day of Saint Joseph, today’s scripture readings shine light on trust and the faith we put in God. There may be times when one feels lost or abandoned, but the readings remind us that God is alive and well within our lives. It is in those times of darkness that God shines through, helping us to know, to love and to serve him. He is there for all seeking his support and guidance.
Challenges in life are inevitable. Things will never go as planned, or as expected. There will be curveballs thrown at us in life, ones that we won’t think we’re ready for. But no matter what, we must remember Christ loves each of us and is always carrying us and giving us the love and support we need to get back up and continue his will.
Current AV, South Africa
We hear today about the struggle of the disciples to reconcile the fact that they are descendants of Abraham with the fact that Jesus is calling them to be his disciples. Scholars and theologians believe that John's gospel differs from the three synoptic gospels insofar as John is attempting to help a largely Jewish Christian community answer a huge question: who exactly is Jesus?
Perhaps we can find comfort in John—how many of us struggle to answer this question each and every day? How many of us, like the Jewish Christians of around 70 A.D., question our own self identity based on our own history? Who is Jesus and who am I? And further still—how am I called to follow Jesus and serve the people of God?
Jesus tells us in today's gospel that we are doing the works of God. We know that for each of us, those works may look and feel different. What's important is that we keep our minds and hearts open to idea that Jesus was in fact sent by God and, in a way, so were we. Clearly we are not divine, however our humanity allows us to reach out to those in need—in words, actions and prayers. After all, that's exactly what Jesus did.
AV 2004-05, San Diego
Service. When you think about it, this is a big part of the Lenten season. Service from God, service to God and service to others. In Genesis 17:3-9, God served Abraham and us, his descendants, by giving us His everlasting covenant, to be our God throughout the ages; as long as we serve God, in return, by keeping His covenant throughout the ages. Psalms 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 reminds us to serve God constantly—to remember His wondrous deeds and judgments—for God will never forget His covenant with us. In John 8:51-59, Jesus tells the Jews, “whoever keeps my word will never see death.” Jesus solidified these words when He sacrificed His life for us on the cross—His service to us.
Lent is a time for us to serve Jesus even more so through sacrifice, penance, alms giving and serving others. As AVs, service is something we do throughout the year. We serve others through our service sites and we serve our communities in many capacities. We serve God by doing His work here on earth and through the sacrifices we make for community and simple living. However, it can sometimes feel or seem that we are doing service either just for others and/or for ourselves, but we must not forget that we do or should do service as a way to serve God. So during this Lenten season, we should strive to remember that the service we do for others is the service we do for God and that service to God’s children is a great way to thank Jesus for His sacrifice for us—His service to us.
Current AV, Philadelphia
Lent is quickly coming to an end. Holy Week is upon us. The Gospel today ends with a statement that many people were coming to believe in Jesus because of what John the Baptist said about him. Lent is a time for us to deepen our faith in Christ by doing acts of charity and sacrifice. Think of the people who may be drawn to the Lord because of your example during Lent. It is time to take stock in what you have accomplished before Holy Week begins so that you can either continue to commit yourself to what you have promised or make a more concerted effort to jump start your Lenten promises.
Our readings today offer us some insight into what was happening to Jesus as he approaches his impending death. The Scribes and Pharisees are trying to hatch their plot against him because he is challenging them in light of their hypocrisy. Jesus never backed down when confronted with their attempts to find fault in what he does. He remained committed to his mission. This should be a reminder to us all that we too have to be committed to our goals for Lent. By this, we can strengthen our faith in Christ who continues to guide us through this holy season. Even Jeremiah recognizes the power of God within him as he too confronts his opponents. It is never too late to renew your trust in the Lord – Don’t give up on Lent!
Fr. Joe Mostardi, O.S.A.
AV Advisory Board Member & Founding Director of Augustinian Volunteers
Power has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. As I learn more and more of the machismo and domestic violence that pervades Peruvian culture I am saddened by how common and normalized abuse is—even here in the peaceful city of Chulucanas. Considering the history of Peru, the scars of misused political power are far too fresh. Obviously, these are by no means problems specific to Peru but a worldwide disease. My interest in power was further piqued while examining today’s readings.
The first reading (Ez. 37:21-28) is essentially God’s declaration and promise to the people that God will unite them, not under a political power or force but as God’s own creations and people. Divisions of political parties or national allegiance will no longer matter, for God is not interested in a world corrupted and divided. Power plays a huge role in the Gospel too. The Pharisees see Jesus as a huge threat, “If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” (Jn. 11:45-56) Blinded by their own statuses and positions, they fail to recognize all of the amazing things that Jesus has done. How often in our only lives does our thirst for power force us to persecute Jesus?
Yesterday my host father invited us to walk up a giant hill near our house. Stumbling and sliding on the rocks and sand, we made our way up to a large cross at the very top of the hill where we could see almost all of the city of Chulucanas. Laughing and playing with my community and our Peruvian family members, I suddenly realized that I didn’t notice it anymore. I didn’t notice that there are so many things that make us different from one another. When the complicated power complexes were removed, we just were. I think that’s what the great, “I am” had in mind.
Current AV, Peru
It is always striking to read the great insight offered in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In reading this passage, we are given such an incredible opportunity to see the true extent of Christ’s humility. His humility goes beyond life and becomes humility and obedience to the point of death. Though Jesus was always God, He still comes to live among us, giving fully of himself in His ministry and death. It is through this humility that Jesus is ultimately exalted and brought to His place in Heaven.
It is truly a mind-blowing gift that we are reminded of on Palm Sunday as we read about how Jesus humbly walked with us, literally modeling for us how we should live. “Let every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” Let every person know that accepting Jesus as Lord goes beyond faith. Accepting Christ as our savior delves deeper toward faith in His mission, His way of living, the life of humility He modeled for us during His time among us.
Jesus gives us the key to salvation in this passage, but having the roadmap doesn’t mean it is easy to follow. As volunteers, we run into difficulties in living our faith, whether it is through our relationship with God or our relationships with others each day. Putting faith into action is ongoing but extremely meaningful. Jesus was tempted, suffered and even died fulfilling the Father’s will on Earth; He knows our struggles first hand and loves and assists us on this journey through our struggles and failures, as well as our triumphs.
Current AV, Chicago
“You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (Jn 12:8)
Despite the depth of today’s readings, I get stuck on this line every time. What did Jesus mean when he said that? It sounds like he was saying not to do anything about the poor and many Christians take that quote out of context to justify that belief. However, that is not what is happening. Jesus is not negating the importance of charity to the poor; in many ways he is reiterating the importance of it by referencing Deuteronomy (See Deut. 15:11). Beyond that though, Jesus is drawing our attention to him and in many ways to the importance of service.
In reading reflections on this passage I came across this excerpt:
…[the passage] is meant to remind us that our work will never be done, that we must indeed always be prepared to give to those in need. The only caution is not to lose sight of why we bear this obligation. Our duty first and foremost is to love and serve our God. Love of God then extends to love of God’s creation, and especially our fellow human. Our obligation to serve the poor is not really geared towards ending poverty forever; instead, it is a natural manifestation of our love for our neighbors and the communion we are meant to build with them. We are to give to the poor, not necessarily because it will lift them out of poverty (though we certainly carry that hope), but primarily because we love them and wish to ease their suffering...( http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/03/the-poor-you-will-always-have-with-you/)
Today, as we begin Holy Week, let us take a minute to reflect upon the ways in which we are called to be like Mary…to anoint the Jesus we see in those surrounding us each day and to do it in service of God.
AV 2000-01, San Diego; 2001-02, Camden
Former Director of Augustinian Volunteers
In this passage from scripture, John is reflecting on the actions of two of his fellow disciples. He speaks of the betrayal of Judas and the three-time denial of Peter. This passage from scripture reminds me of trying to get my students to give me a good explanation of the difference between involvement and commitment. After many false starts, I suggested that they think of the times when they had eggs and bacon for breakfast. Then I would explain that the chicken certainly had an involvement in the breakfast but the pig was committed.
Peter, Judas and John were very involved in the public life of Jesus. They absorbed his teaching, marveled at his curing of the blind, lame and possessed, and even tried their hand in preaching the gospel of love and forgiveness. But as things got more difficult and the end of Jesus’ public life became more evident; as defeat and not victory raised its ugly head, Judas looked elsewhere for his comfort, Peter waivered in his faith and John’s love was inconsistent.
In the daily routine of an Augustinian Volunteer, I am sure there are times when all goes well and you are involved in all aspects of the routine. The ministry is rewarding, community life and relationships are good and your decision to give a year in service was certainly a good and right one. And then there are days when the involvement seems overwhelming and community seems suffocating and certain relationships will never work. When that happens, it is a good time to reflect on our commitment. Are we really “all in” to the challenge of volunteerism. Are we willing to work at relationships that aren’t going well and disrupt the flow of community life? Is it all about me? Am I willing to sacrifice for the good of the community or must they give in to me? Is the ministry a burden or a means of emptying myself in the service of others?
Judas chose comfort and possessions over service and emptying of self for the cause. He found his choice to be hallow and meaningless. Peter acted with bravado and not thinking through the consequence of his action. In sorrow and repentance he found the truth. John’s love of Jesus finally leads him to total commitment to the gospel.
Lent is a time for reflection on who we are, what our priorities are, why and how well we are doing what we are doing. Our lives are very involved and that is a given in our hectic world. Our commitment is up to us.
Fr. Jack Deegan, O.S.A.
Site Supervisor at ADROP, Philadelphia
In today’s readings, particularly in the first reading, we are challenged with the idea of being countercultural. As an Augustinian Volunteer, we answer a similar call. We have made the decision take a different and less traditional road than many of our peers for a year. We have said no to many of the things that mark success in our society; well paying jobs, our own apartments and cars and a way of life caricaturized solely by individual achievement. We have traded these traditional markers for opportunities such as life in community and an attention to spirituality and faith that will enrich our lives in ways that will unfold for years to come.
Most importantly, saying yes to a year with the Augustinian Volunteers has given us great privilege. In the first reading today, we are reminded that we have been given skills and opportunities to engage those in our society that others have forgotten about. We are told that, “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning, He opens my ear that I may hear.” As Augustinian Volunteers, we are called to walk with others. In community, at our job placements, we have the opportunity to help other seek comfort, acknowledge their dignity and hear their stories. As we prepare to enter into the Easter Triduum, may we continue to seek opportunities to practice Christ’s love in all aspects of our lives as Augustinian Volunteers.
AV 2007-08, San Diego
AV Advisory Board Member
It’s hard to believe that Easter is only three days away. I bet most of us are ready to participate in whichever activity we have (hopefully) not indulged in over the past 37 days. It is easy to become distracted by the materialism of Easter and the pastel colored peeps and M&Ms that surround us in convenience stores. However, today’s readings about the Last Supper bring our attention back to what the central focus of the Lenten season should be: the Resurrection of Christ and the Eucharist.
“This is my body that is for you…This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
We hear both of these phrases each and every Sunday. These simple words bring all Catholics together, uniting us in one body. Acting as a symbol of unity, the Eucharist is a constant reminder that we are connected in the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive the Eucharist we are called to be true and faithful disciples and to act as Christ’s hands and feet. As Augustinian Volunteers, we have committed ourselves to stand up for truth, justice and the dignity of the human person. Jesus has given us “a model to follow” in order to accomplish all of this, so let’s continue to pay it forward.
Current AV, Ventura
Reflecting on the last day of Lent, and the sorrow that conspired that day, it is fitting to take a step back and reflect on why the Lord sent His only son to earth. In the first reading we hear about a prophet coming. It will not be clear who he is by his appearance; he will look just like everyone else, just like us. The Savior of the world will look just like us, showing just how close God can make Himself to us. The second reading reveals Jesus, calling him by name, a man tested by everything, all the pain and suffering of humankind. Jesus suffered like I suffer, he suffered like you suffer, he suffers with us. Then three times in the gospel Jesus reminds us, “I AM”. He is for you, He is for me, He is for the world. God sent Jesus to earth to meet us halfway, so we could better know ourselves. So we could see the potential we have as humans through the Savior that learned obedience from what He suffered, and was made perfect. And that is why he died, to show us who we could be through God’s image, and taking our suffering with him to the grave so it might be an easier road for us, His beloved. Take a moment to remember the times that Christ has taken away your suffering, and let any suffering you feel die with Christ this Good Friday.
Current AV, Lawrence