Age 23 / Loyola University Chicago
Peru

Valentina Teofilo, from Fond du Lac, WI, recently graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a major in Psychology Pre-Medicine and a minor...
 
 

Lenten Reflections

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.

Thanks,
Joanna, Hannah and Shannon
 

 


Ash Wednesday, March 5
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030514.cfm
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

I am never sure how to transition into the Lenten Season. Often I have prepared by having a King cake for Mardi Gras celebration or gorging on whatever treat that I have told myself to cut back on, but I rarely have taken the time to ease into the transition of a Lenten Practice. It has often been a sudden and abrupt change that has caught me off guard, and I have not prepared myself to take the time and be deliberate about how I am taking on the Lenten Season. 

When I find myself caught off guard I start reaching for some Lenten experience, that is meaningful and fulfilling, but can only grasp onto the rules of Lent (i.e. more time in prayer, no meat, no “hallelujah”, no [fill in the blank with some small vice that does not hurt or challenge]). I never take the time to ask myself what are my reasons for doing so. I find myself halfway through the Lenten season with the recognition that today’s Gospel becomes a call to me to stop doing unimportant actions that are being done for the sole purpose of challenge. I find that my Lenten practices are only surface level and they do not touch my heart—that is not developing the spiritual muscle memory.

This season I hope instead to be deliberate about why I am doing those same practices; I can get stalled in the routine. But the readings do remind me of the importance of these actions if they are done with vibrancy and heartfelt. I recognize how much more meaningful Lent has been when I am not wrapped up in the necessity rule but when I put myself into it entirely and make it worthwhile for my spiritual growth. 

Griffin Knipp
AV 2010-11, Chicago

 

Thursday, March 6
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030614.cfm
Dt 30:15-20; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Lk 9:22-25

In Luke’s gospel today, Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. We each have a cross to bear and it is our choice to do so every day. Jesus says, “…those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” How do we do this? During Lent, we pray, fast and give alms. However, throughout the entire year we make daily sacrifices. As an Augustinian Volunteer, we sacrifice making choices for ourselves and instead function as a part of a whole—our community of other AVs and our service communities.  

One of my patients at the clinic where I serve said to me, “With homelessness comes illness.” We are witness to this statement daily and we strive to break it. The people we serve at the clinic have many crosses to bear and have sacrificed more than I ever have. While they sacrifice out of necessity, I choose to make sacrifices during Lent and throughout the year. Listening to their stories is humbling and even inspiring. It makes me realize the bare minimum we humans need to live and to do so fully. To follow Jesus is to give up our lives for Him. Lent is a good reminder to choose to take up a cross daily…whether the cross is yours to bear or someone else’s you help carry.     

Caroline Kemp
Current AV, San Diego


Friday, March 7
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030714.cfm
Is 58:1-9a; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19; Mt 9:14-15

Why am I fasting and how am I fasting? Am I giving something up because it’s Lent, or am I emptying myself in order to be filled by God? The word Lent means springtime, a period that begins (at least in the Midwest and East) with a nakedness of the trees and a prevailing grayness in the skies. Nature, it seems, is stripped of its beauty. And yet, it is only because springtime begins with such starkness that we can truly appreciate the beauty of things budding forth in all of God’s grandeur.

In today’s Gospel the disciples of John are incredulous that Jesus and his followers are not fasting. Jesus attempts to remind them that if fasting is meant to assist one in being holy, what holier action can there be than focusing on the presence of their Lord.

In the spiritual life of a new community, this is the time of year in which routine can turn to boredom and people’s idiosyncrasies can really get on our nerves. When this happens, does it make sense to do more things? Perhaps it’s better to do less and allow us to be emptied. Jesus’ followers didn’t fast because they were allowing themselves to be filled by the words of Jesus.

Perhaps this Lent (springtime) instead of doing more things, we can fast by doing less. By emptying ourselves, we allow God to work in us. It is only then that things will blossom in us spiritually.

Very Rev. Gary Sanders, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial of Western Province

 

Saturday, March 8
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030814.cfm
Is 58:9b-14; Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Lk 5:27-32

Our Lenten journey is underway. Our resolve to live Lent better this year is strong right now because we are at the beginning. We are still influenced by the reception of ashes from Ash Wednesday. Will we be able to say the same as we near Holy Week? This is a time in the Church calendar to turn our reflection inward so that we can better serve God’s people. St. Paul tells us faith without action is empty. In today’s language, it is simply lip service. 

How do we put our faith into action? The answer is in the first reading from Isaiah. “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” When we meet our brothers and sisters in Christ where they are at and share our gifts and talents with them, we become the light in the darkness. When we take the time to listen to their stories, acknowledge their struggles and do our best to lend a helping hand, we are the light that Isaiah talks about in this reading. This light not only affects those to whom we minister, but it also affects us. We become more compassionate and understanding. We become less judgmental and advocates for social justice–Christ’s presence in the world.

During this Lenten season, may the light of Christ that is in each one of us burn brightly as we minister to those around us in our work, our families and our communities. It is up to us to bring Christ to the world by our words and more importantly by our actions. We need to keep this in the forefront of our minds and in our hearts. When we truly help others, we experience joy beyond our wildest imagination and the love in our heart grows ever stronger. 

Betty Desjardins
Friend of Lawrence Augustinian Volunteers

 

First Sunday of Lent, March 9
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030914.cfm
Gn 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17; Rom 5:12-19/Rom 5:12, 17-19; Mt 4:1-11
 
Lord you are the breath of life.
As we begin this Lenten season,
Increase our awareness of your presence within us.
When we are too busy to hear your voice speaking in our hearts,
Help us to listen.
Increase our awareness of your presence in others.
When it is easier to ignore the needs of our sisters and brothers,
Help us to reach out.
Increase our awareness of your presence in our world.
When we become blind to the beauty of creation,
Help us to see.

Spiritual challenge: Each day this week, spend 2 minutes quietly meditating in the presence of God.

 

Monday, March 10
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031014.cfm
Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Mt 25:31-46
 
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Take a moment and think of the “least brothers and sisters” in your life.

The first person that come to mind for me is Keith. Keith rotates between the street corner nearest my work and the street corner of my favorite coffee shop, holding his cardboard sign, asking for change, trying to keep warm. Keith is physically poor, he has no home to call his own, and relies on the kindness of strangers to afford his next meal. But spiritually, Keith is one of the richest men I know. Spiritually, Keith is certainly not one of the least of my brothers; in fact, Keith teaches me something every time I interact with him, about gratitude and being a good neighbor. 

Keith reminds me that sometimes it’s not the thirsty, estranged, naked, ill or imprisoned that need our love the most. It’s those people who get on our nerves. The people who we avoid conversation with because they make us uncomfortable. Those we avoid eye contact with as we walk down the hall because we don’t want to get “stuck” in another conversation with them. In this modern time, in this “first world” these are the least of our brothers and sisters. These are the people for whom we need to reach deep down to the love of Christ within us, so we may see the light of Christ in them. 

So think again, who are the least of your brothers and sisters? 

Anna Cychowski
AV 2012-13, Lawrence

 

Tuesday, March 11
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031114.cfm
Is 55:10-11; Ps 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19; Mt 6:7-15

Be deliberate. Be deliberate in your prayers.

In today’s Gospel we hear about the differences of prayer. Jesus describes the pagans’ prayers as babbling. They are just words that come out of the mouth just to be heard. These words have no meaning, no emotion behind them. They stream out of the mouth, just to be said. The words lack conviction and purpose and become lost in the noise of the world. Now, I know that I have been repetitive in this paragraph, but I did it to illustrate a possible rut of community prayer, routine.

In the beginning of the year, we were all excited to join together in prayer. We looked forward to our biweekly prayer nights as a community. This excitement and willingness to participate burned strong for a couple of months, but it eventually fell into a routine. Our biweekly prayer sessions soon felt like obligations. It felt like something we had to do after dinner and before bed. Our hearts were not into the planning or participation. We started to lack conviction and purpose in our prayers and consequently struggled with our prayer life as a community. It took us awhile before we could step back and realize that we were stuck in a routine; that we were babbling just like the pagans in the Gospel. Well, we are not babbling anymore.

We have pulled ourselves out of the routine of prayer. Once again we have purpose behind our prayers. We also are excited again to join each other in that sacred space. We have found a new connection with each other. It is almost as if Jesus is telling us as a community, “This is how you are to pray.” And with open hearts and much deliberation we will continue to listen to Him. 

Daniel Vasquez
Current AV, San Diego

 

Wednesday, March 12
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031214.cfm
Jon 3:1-10; Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Lk 11:29-32

Fasting, sackcloth and ashes, all signs significant in Old Testament times. Signs are meant to communicate something. If a sign is not clear, the message is not communicated well and the goal is not achieved. We probably don’t see a lot of sackcloth nowadays and if we did, just what might it be communicating to us? How much attention do we pay to signs? How well do our signs communicate their intended messages?  

Here in Chulucanas we have many signs. For example, a white flag which elsewhere signifies peace, here, hung on the end of stick outside a home, means that in this house corn liquor is for sale today! Talk about confusion!

The presence of Augustinian Volunteers in Chulucanas over the years is also a sign, but what does that presence communicate to the humble people of Chulucanas? Talking to the families who have received the volunteers into their homes over the years of this ministry, there is a clear message of compassion, care and concern. The families who have been blessed with the month-long live-in experience at the beginning of the volunteers’ mission are unanimously edified. They feel themselves blessed by God, hosting in their homes and in the bosom of their families someone who helps them discover God in their midst. They come to share sincere bonds, know that the human family goes beyond borders and nationalities, as well as culinary preferences.  

This wonderful season of the year is meant to give us pause, time to step back and examine the signs surrounding us, signs of God’s love, God’s presence, God’s overriding concern for each and every human being. May this Lent be like an alarm clock, a wake-up call, to become more aware of the signs of God’s love in our midst, and out of gratitude grow the commitment to share freely what has been freely given. We give thanks to God for the grace-filled presence of the Augustinian Volunteers in our midst.

Fr. Art Purcaro, O.S.A.
Augustinian Site Supervisor, Peru

 

Thursday, March 13
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031314.cfm
Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8; Mt 7:7-12

As Augustinian Volunteers we have chosen to dedicate a year of our lives to ask for and seek out what God has planned for us. In community and at our work sites we encounter others who are also searching. As St. Augustine says, we all have restless hearts, which can only be fully satisfied once we rest our hearts with the Lord. Not everyone at our work sites understands that what they are truly searching for is God’s love. 

I volunteer at a social service non-profit where I serve low-income and homeless individuals. I see my clients searching for happiness without finding it; I long to solve their problems beyond giving out lunches or socks. In this passage Jesus says that we earthly sinners are able to help meet each other’s basic needs (bread and fishes) but God’s gifts will greatly exceed any earthly gifts we have to give one another. We are all just trying rest our hearts in God’s loving embrace, so why not help each other out by showing others God’s love through our actions? I pray that by treating my clients with respect and kindness that I may be able to show them the love which Gods feels for all of God’s children. 

Many of my clients have problems that cannot be solved in the year that I am here; however, I have faith that this is where God wants me to be. For, I was searching to serve the Lord and God answered by making me an Augustinian Volunteer. So I will listen to Jesus and keep giving out bread and fish to those who ask. I will keep praying that they will one day ask God to satisfy their restless hearts instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, material goods and other earthly places to seek happiness. That is what I would want others to do for me. 

Bridget Lemke
Current AV, Ventura

 

Friday, March 14
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031414.cfm
Ez 18:21-28; Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8; Mt 5:20-26

During my volunteer year in South Africa, my roommates and I would make a weekly visit to Gogo Gloria.  She had wounds on her legs and struggled to walk. Once a week, we would carry her up the hill outside her house in a wheelbarrow and bring her to a local hospital for treatment of her wounds. This visit was a regular part of my routine in South Africa.

I was amazed by the course of life that brought us together: a naïve 20-something American volunteer and a 60-year old Zulu grandmother who had lived through Apartheid. We talked about everything from Zulu marriage customs to World Cup soccer to the dangers of dating. She was a remarkable person to get to know, and I cherished the time I spent with her.

After leaving South Africa, I thought about Gogo often, shared her stories, and remembered her in my prayers. Two years later, I returned to South Africa with the Augustinian Mission Office, and I was so excited to visit her. The first chance I had, I drove with a couple of volunteers over to her house. I nearly sprinted down the path, so eager to surprise her with my visit. I knocked on the door, and she called me in.

“Surprise, Gogo!  It’s Brian!”
“Oh, Brian, hello.  I thought you would come.”

I was so ready to see her shock and surprise: I had traveled across the world to be there! For some reason, my visit was no surprise to Gogo. She took my arrival so casually, as though she was expecting me. I was baffled by her reaction, but we struck up a conversation as though I had never left.

Perhaps this is how it is with God.  

In today’s first reading from Ezekiel, we hear God speak about welcoming back the sinner and the one who has strayed. However far we wander from God, we are always welcomed back. God is expecting us. God is ready for us, as though we had never left.

Brian Strassburger, S.J.
AV 2006-07, Bronx; 2008, South Africa

 

Saturday, March 15
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031514.cfm
Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8; Mt 5:43-48

Covenant? Contract? Law? Command? Do’s and Don’ts?....

At times it seems that our lives are filled with them. The first reading highlights the importance of the covenant between the Jewish People and their God. It is a form of an agreement that we may not understand. Their society was very structured or  “top down.”

We don’t like to be commanded to do anything. We’d rather be in communication, look for common ground, reach a consensus, rather than be told what to do. In the Old Testament, contracts or covenants were the norm. These were the vehicles through which relationships were managed. The agreement between the two parties was binding and each party promised something and received something. Their purpose was to give life.

The Jewish People received from God that God would always be on their side, be with them and provide for them. All the Jewish People had to do was to be faithful and worship God alone. This relationship would be life giving and provide the Jewish People with a Land flowing with milk and honey. 

When we reflect on their history, it is filled with living out fully the Covenant and other moments (sometimes generations) of not living it. When they did they were able to celebrate life and live it to its fullest. When they neglected the covenant, there was suffering and a lot of pain.

This year, most of you were chosen to be an OSA Volunteer. Not too different from God choosing the Jewish People. How has entering this “mission” brought you closer to God or enriched your life? Has your experience been what you thought or imaged it would be? What changes in your life have you noticed?

Fr. Bill Lego, O.S.A.
Pastor of St. Turibius Parish, Chicago, IL

 

2nd Sunday of Lent, March 16
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm
Gn 12:1-4A; Ps 33: 4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; 2Tim 1:8B-10; Mt 17:1-9 
 
Lord you challenge us with your words—“do not be afraid.
Help us to recognize our fears, those things that hold us back from receiving your love.
Grant us insight into our own hearts.
Free us from our fears and anxiety, give us the grace to free ourselves.
Lord, walk with us, away from our fear and into a fuller life.

Spiritual challenge: Keep a journal of where you most feel God’s presence and where you most feel God’s absence each day this week.

 

Monday, March 17
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031714.cfm
Dn 9:4b-10; Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13; Lk 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.”

Sometimes I love a gospel as cut and dry as Luke provides for us today; succinct and to the point, Jesus outlines his expectations of us. But Jesus’ words are anything but easy. He lays before us the path to righteousness so clearly, yet we struggle to heed his words. What is so difficult about what he is asking of us? Instead of focusing on what not to do, let’s turn this into an opportunity to focus on how we can achieve each of these things that Jesus is asking of us.

Let everything we do start with love. If we start with love, we have no room to judge others and forgiving comes more easily because we want to forgive. I hope you’ll find that loving brings a freedom along with it. Each of us is a light to the world; your presence to your community, to those you serve should live that truth. We have been graced with new energy over the past year as Pope Francis has truly been a light to the world on how and where we should focus our energies; on loving each and every person we encounter. We couldn’t have asked for a better example living among us. Even for me, it’s easy to say I will strive to love, but it’s a different challenge to truly put it into action, not just when it’s convenient or easy. Each time you catch yourself judging a student, a client, a fellow teacher or community member, think of Pope Francis and embody his love. We all struggle with moments of doubting ourselves and many times that is when we turn that condemnation of ourselves outward on someone else. So loving this Lent begins with loving yourself. 

I hope that by this point in the year each of you has come to understand the depth of “give and gifts will be given to you.” The volunteer year, though filled with ups and downs, epitomizes this line. You are giving of yourselves for ten months, but you are truly receiving in abundance. This is God’s gift manifest in those you serve. Embrace them, embrace your remaining time with your community, and embrace love. 

There are five weeks remaining in Lent. Let’s focus each week on a different line; be merciful, stop judging, stop condemning, forgive, and give of yourself. Let God’s love work in you and bring that joy wherever you go.

Jane O’Connor
AV 2007-08, Lawrence

 

Tuesday, March 18
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031814.cfm
Is 1:10, 16-20; Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23; Mt 23:1-12

The first reading from the Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent comes from Isaiah. Several lines from this reading can be paralleled to the volunteer experience, both within the work site and community.
The prophet instructs us to “learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” In the Augustinian Volunteer experience, we learn to do good in the world through our job placements. Whether one is serving in high school campus ministry or as a teacher’s aid or as a nurse at a local clinic, the volunteers are helping to make their communities a better place. Through every smile, conversation or meeting, the Augustinian Volunteers have a significant impact on the people they come in contact with during the workday. Justice truly is our aim.

The second half of the reading from Isaiah reflects on sins, but in a way, it can be compared to living in community. Isaiah states that “though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow…If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you.” This relates to community because there are high and low moments within intentional community. If you are willing and work towards it, good things can come your way within community. “But if you refuse and resist” community can be a challenging and difficult experience. Let’s just hope if that happens, a sword does not actually consume you!

Lizzy Heurich
Current AV, Lawrence

 

Wednesday, March 19
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031914.cfm
2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Ps 89: 2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29; Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22; Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a/Lk 2:41-51a

On this Solemnity of Saint Joseph, we are called upon to trust and to understand God's will. In today's Gospel (LK 2:41-54A) we hear the story of worried parents, more specifically the words of an anxious Mary and Joseph to their son Jesus. This anxiety, or worry, is a familiar emotion for any of us—parents or not—when someone (or even something) has gone missing it is all too easy to want to try to fix the situation ourselves, or to look too hard for a humanistic answer. Oftentimes, it is perhaps the too obvious Divine answer which we overlook: trust in God, trust in His plan. 

I know when I frequently find myself in a state of worry, particularly around this time of the year, and seek various means to return to a more peaceful state, it almost always seems fruitless until I make the time for meditation and prayer. Make time today for yourself to spend some time with God. 

Sara Hoegen
AV 2012-13, Ventura

 

Thursday, March 20
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032014.cfm
Jer 17:5-10; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Lk 16:19-31

In the Gospel today we see the familiar story of the rich man fasting and poor Lazarus eating the scraps from the table. They both die and the tables are reserved. Lazarus is in a good place and the rich man is experiencing the worse place. The rich man does not like it and is concerned that if his five brothers are not warned they will also wind up in this horrible place. He asks the prophet Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn his brothers so that they might change their lives. Abraham tells him that his brothers have Moses and the prophets to guide the brothers to a better life and someone coming from the dead would not make a difference to them. The rich man persists in asking for help for his brothers to hear from the dead.

If someone from the dead appeared to us to tell us how to live, how to change our lives that would be a very powerful message. Who would not listen to someone from the dead? 

We have had someone come back from the dead to affirm how we should live and serve. For us it is Jesus Christ. He did not just show us how to live while he walked this earth, he affirmed all he said and did when he rose from the dead.

Does the presence of one from the dead make a difference in our lives? Does one who rose from the dead truly challenge us in how we live our lives? Can we say that as we serve, as we journey to our work sites every day that the life, death and message of Jesus who came back from the dead makes a difference in our lives? Does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in how we live?

Fr. Tony Burrascano, O.S.A.
AV Advisory Board Member

 

Friday, March 21
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032114.cfm
Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a; Ps 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

God open our eyes to your plans, we pray.

Joseph’s brothers, blinded by jealousy, plotted to kill the very one who would save their lives. The brothers allowed the veil of envy to cloud their vision. Bitterness drove them to destroy their own blood but God already had a plan for Joseph’s redemption and their salvation.

The tenant farmers suffered the same myopia. Driven to serve their own base needs they killed the son of the one to whom they owed their well-being. The religious Jews of the day made the same mistake, killing off their beloved and long awaited the Messiah because He did not fit into the carefully scripted plans they had made.

We pray for the vision of God, to look beyond what we see for ourselves, to look for more than the fulfillment of our own superficial needs, to seek the path that God has for our lives.

At times we find ourselves in the cistern, or the prison cell and we cannot understand the twists and turns God has allowed in our lives.

We set off, prepared for a grand adventure, truly desiring to serve but now dismayed at where the road has brought us or at what we know of human suffering.

Dear Lord, do not allow our lack of understanding to become a stumbling block in our faith walk. Joseph was tempered and perfected in the trials and tribulations of his journey. He kept his faith and lived out his integrity. Not only was he rewarded multiple times over but he was enabled to be used for the purpose that was intended for him all along. Let it be so for us as well.

Naomi Silva
Service Site Supervisor at St. Vincent de Paul Village, San Diego

 

Saturday, March 22
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032214.cfm
Mi 7:14-15, 18-20; Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

We all have different callings in life. The calling to become an Augustinian Volunteer is unique and special but comes with a lot of responsibility and requires a great deal of patience and perseverance. No, you are not always rewarded for your work. No, you are not always praised for what you do. No, you might not even be thanked on a regular basis for the long hours you put in and the many challenges you have had to overcome. But, YES, you continue working hard because that is what you know you have been called to do, that is what is right, and that is exactly what God wants. 

In today’s Gospel Jesus refers to a famous parable. As AVs we share the role of the brother who has always obeyed his father—through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad. “‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’” We have all had days when we have felt underappreciated, but we must never forget that God thanks us each and every day for what we do. There will always be people out there like the younger son—who may take a different route, possibly an easier or even a more glorified one. However, we must never compare ourselves to those others. Keep working hard, keep growing in your community, keep living simply and keep living out what you have been called to do as an Augustinian Volunteer. 

Molly Wiseman
AV 2010-11, Chicago

 

3rd Sunday of Lent, March 23
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032314.cfm
Ex 17:3-7; Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42/Jn 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42
 
God, you call us to repentance and forgiveness.
Give us gentle wisdom in our self-examination.
Lord, be with us as we search our hearts.
Allow us to recognize areas of darkness in our lives that cry out for your light,
Give us the grace to grow in humility.
And in those areas of challenge, Lord, allow us to welcome your forgiveness.
Help us to acknowledge our own hurts.
Work in our hearts, O God, so that we might forgive ourselves as we forgive each other.

Spiritual challenge: This week, take some time to forgive someone who hurt you and, similarly, ask someone for forgiveness. 

 

Monday, March 24
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032414.cfm
2 Kgs 5:1-15ab; Ps 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4; Lk 4:24-30

At times, people ask too many questions. We can't just simply take advice based off of faith, but we must pry into the reasoning behind an advised action. I'm not saying people should ingest information and perform actions mechanically; however, people should be open to the thought that maybe their adviser just knows best. Countless examples of ignorance toward God’s call can be seen in scripture. 

Namaan, the commander of the army of Aram, suffered from leprosy. In order to become alleviated from his suffering, Namaan listened to advice given to him by a young Israelite girl. The servant girl informed Namaan that if he wished to be cured he should visit the prophet of Samaria. Namaan informed his lord who sent the commander to king of the Israel. The king took Namaan’s presence as an offensive gesture stating: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy.” Elisha the prophet heard these words that the king spoke and sent forth word that Namaan should come to him. Namaan sought out Elisha who advised the commander to bathe himself in the waters of Jordan seven times. At first, Namaan found this action to be absurd. He rationalized not listening to the prophet, coming to the conclusion that the Jordan River does not differ from any other body of water. Ignoring the prophet, Namaan returned home to his land. Once he returns his lord tells him to follow the advice of the prophet. Reluctantly, Namaan bathed in the Jordan and became cured of his leprosy. 

If you try to rationalize all of God’s plan, then you cannot be healed. There are times when you just have to take the jump and rely upon your faith. Although we struggle with this, hopefully by the second or third time we hear God’s call, we will respond with faith. 

Paul Ryan
Current AV, Ventura

 

Tuesday, March 25
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032514.cfm
Is 7:10-14; 8:10; Ps 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38

“Hail full of grace!  The Lord is with you.”  

Here we are in the middle of Lent and we’ve spent the first couple of weeks beating our breasts, telling God how sorry we are, asking God to forgive us, and trying to get ourselves turned around so we might be able to see God, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves more clearly.  Now we see the young virgin, Mary, being told that she is full of grace. “She was greatly troubled by what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

We admire her humility and a gentle smile comes to our faces because we know that she has nothing about which to be troubled. We already know what the greeting is all about; we are not hearing this for the first time. What is happening to Mary and how she responds to the announcement she receives becomes for us a necessary model for us on our Lenten journey as well as our life journey.

God is taking the initiative in Mary’s life and is inviting her to be the mother of God’s Son. She hasn’t done this before so she truly wonders how it is all going to play out. At the same time she believes that God will be present to her and she is ready to cooperate with God in this undertaking.

Would we be troubled if an angel appeared to us and told us that we were full of grace? I know we would, but like Mary we believe that the Lord is with us. God is always taking the initiative in our lives. His presence is with us and with the eyes of faith we can sense and reflect on this presence in the people and situations around us. We may not know how things will eventually play out but, like Mary, we need to be ready to cooperate with God. We are never alone. What God does with us and for us far surpasses what we are able to do alone.  

Fr. Rich O’Leary, O.S.A.
Augustinian Site Supervisor, Lawrence

 

Wednesday, March 26
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032614.cfm
Dt 4:1, 5-9; Ps 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Mt 5:17-19

Having just celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation, it seems very appropriate that our reflection for today focuses on the place that faithful adherence to the law both in letter and spirit have in the lives of God’s people.

Moses reminds the people that they must never forget all that God has done for them as they continue to observe his commandants. The covenant that has been established by God with His people must never be broken. They are required to pass on what they have experienced through God’s presence in their lives to their children. The fulfillment of God’s plan for His people is about to come true through Mary’s faithfulness. It is now up to us to continue on the path of faithful response to God’s love by keeping the new covenant established in Christ.   

Lent is our time to be reminded of both the message of God to His chosen people in the Hebrew Scriptures and Christ’s message to us in the New Testament. The plan for salvation is a plan that requires us to be attentive to both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law which provides us with the necessary boundaries we need to act as children of God. It is also a reminder to us all that we, too, have the responsibility of passing on the faith to those who come after us so that spirit of God’s mission continues until the Lord comes again. It is through our understanding of the laws of God and our practice of those laws by our actions that we pass on the faith to others. May Lent be a time of renewal and re-commitment to our faith saying “yes” to God as Mary did.

Fr. Joe Mostardi, O.S.A.
AV Advisory Board Member & Founding Director of Augustinian Volunteers

 

Thursday, March 27
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032714.cfm
Jer 7:23-28; Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Lk 11:14-23

A theme that stood out to me from these three scriptures is openness to God’s call for His people. Openness requires trust. God is asking His people to trust Him in the first reading, and Jesus is asking the people to follow Him in the Gospel. However, the people in the first reading turn against God and choose to ignore His signs. The people in the Gospel attempt to test Jesus instead of trusting in His actions. The Responsorial Psalm asks the people to not “harden their hearts” when they hear God’s voice. When I contemplate this theme of openness to God without questions asked in my own life, I know I have failed at this on multiple occasions. Many times, I have prayed for a sign from God regarding a decision in my life, and at times, I have missed the sign due to daily distractions or I have chosen to ignore the sign because it did not align with what I desired. However, when I do remain open to God’s voice, I end up as an Augustinian Volunteer in Chicago, and it has been an amazing experience thus far. Therefore, my Chicago community and I challenge each other to listen for God’s voice especially during this Lenten season to ensure we are all following on the path God has laid out for us.

Kelly DiDomenico
Current AV, Chicago 

 

Friday, March 28
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032814.cfm
Hos 14:2-10; Ps 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17; Mk 12:28-34

Today’s Gospel reading is quite straightforward. Jesus tells us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The message is clear; there is no need for more context or much analysis. In fact, Jesus’ message can even seem simple. How hard can it really be to love someone else? Yet, everyone who has walked this earth knows the difficulties that come with loving someone. As Augustinian Volunteers, love can take on a whole new set of challenges.  It can be easy to love those we encounter in our worksites. The pregnant teenager, the conflicted high school student and the impoverished child can seem to be able to be loved so easily. As volunteers, we may even feel that our mission and purpose in spending time in service is to love those who are marginalized in some way. Often, the real challenge is to love those with whom we live in community. In community, it can sometimes feel nearly impossible to love the person who never thinks the same way we do, who has different ideas about cleaning, or who just doesn’t seem to be anything like us. If we are only focusing our love on those we serve, we are missing an integral part of the Augustinian Volunteer experience. As volunteers, we can’t step over Christ in our kitchen to get to Him in the street. 

Lent provides an opportunity to make tangible changes in our lives. In community, it provides an opportunity to focus on goals we may have set, but have yet to meet. As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, let us work to love all those we encounter in our lives.     

Joanna Bowen
AV 2007-08, San Diego
Director of Augustinian Volunteers

 

Saturday, March 29
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032914.cfm
Hos 6:1-6; Ps 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab; Lk 18:9-14

As I was reading over the Scripture for Saturday, March 29, the Gospel stood out amongst the rest of the readings. In short, it’s the story of the two people praying; one of who essentially thanks God for not being like everyone else—especially that sinner of a tax collector next to him, and the other, the tax collector, who simply bows his head and asks for God’s mercy knowing very well he is indeed a sinner. Most of us know the end of the story and who went home justified.

This message can be applied to those of us who are participating in service or volunteerism. I think “doing service” comes with a bit of a connotation, sometimes giving the impression that one person is helping another. That is, that one person is doing all the giving and the other person is doing all the receiving. I’m just as guilty as the rest when falling into this mindset—sometimes mistakenly thinking when I’m doing service that there is only one person, group or side who is in need and that I’m on the other side, without need, doing the giving.

However, the more service I do throughout my life, the more I realize that service is actually a two-way street. It’s not me helping a person in need—it is two of us, both in need, but in different ways, helping each other. It’s fitting—as I was researching Augustinian Volunteers to do a year of service, one of the community members who was currently serving in the Peru (where I find myself now) had this quote in their profile on the AV website by Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

I think this quote sums up the Gospel message and service quite nicely. In the Gospel message, we’re all sinners—let’s not kid ourselves and pretend we are any better than the person next to us and that it’s just “others” who are “sick” or in “need” and not us, despite it being so easy to do. In terms of service, it’s similar. Let’s not think it’s just the other person who is in need and that we’re the generous ones who are doing all the giving. As I help another, they help me, even if it’s usually in different ways. Service, and the exchange of giving and receiving, is mutual, not one-sided.

Perhaps you can relate to a time when you were “giving” but in reality you were probably receiving just as much if not more than the other person. Our current pope, Francis, reminds us of this often. The poor or needy are not the only ones in need. In fact, they have much to offer those of us who are comfortable materially, privileged in certain ways, etc. Maybe that’s why Pope Francis wants us to be closer to the poor and needy—not so only we can give them something, but because perhaps he knows they can give us something only they themselves can provide, even if we often think there is nothing we need from them.

As I live here in Peru, I am reminded of this everyday—people who are much less fortunate than I, materially, are probably richer than I could ever be in terms of humility, gratefulness and being appreciative of life. So, when we serve, let’s not go to “help” others (as if it’s only one way), but rather let’s “work together” (mutual partners) since we are really on the same journey despite how things can sometimes appear.

Taylor Gostomski
Current AV, Peru

 

4th Sunday of Lent, March 30
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm
1 Sm 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41/Jn 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
 
Lord, you give sight to the blind.
When we are blind to the pain of others,
Help us to see.
When we are blind to the needs of our community,
Help us to see.
When we are blind to your reflection in the faces of our neighbors,
Help us to see.
When we are blind to injustices in our world,
Help us to see.
When we are blind to your presence within us,
Help us to see.
We thank you and praise you for the gift of your sight in our lives.
Shine in our hearts, that we might see more clearly each day.

Spiritual challenge: This week, take time to challenge someone to think about something differently, or learn a new skill or viewpoint from another. 

 

Monday, March 31
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033114.cfm
Is 65:17-21; Ps 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12A and 13b; Jn 4:43-54

What a beautiful image of God the readings present for us today—a God who brings such joy and happiness that our mourning is turned into dancing! Living in a world plagued by great poverty, violence and sorrow serves as a constant reminder that each and every one of us, no matter the circumstances, is in need of God’s rescue. But how can we allow ourselves to be rescued by God? I like to think of God’s rescue plan is comprised of three simple steps—ask, listen and trust.

We must first gather the courage to ask for God’s help, to place our wants and needs in His hands. This first step requires humility; we accept that we cannot face life’s challenges alone, and we come before God with the recognition that He is all-powerful.

Then it becomes our turn to listen, to open our minds and hearts to what God has in store for us. This second step requires patience, as the timing and manner of God’s response are often quite different than what we expect.

Finally, as God lays out his rescue plan for us, we must trust in Him. This third step requires faith. We might not understand why God has chosen to answer our cries for help in this way, and we might very well disagree with His plan for us. But we are called to trust in God’s loving mercy and carry out His will, believing that He knows just what we need.

As we enter into the second half of this Lenten season, let us turn to God for rescue. May we act as humble, patient and faithful followers so that we can ultimately experience that great joy and delight that God promises us today!

Angela Monaco
Current AV, San Diego

 

Tuesday, April 1
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040114.cfm
Ez 47:1-9, 12; Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9; Jn 5:1-16

In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus speak these beautiful words of healing, “Take up your mat and walk.” What a powerful image of hope in this season of repentance: A man is freed from his infirmity, 38 years of suffering lifted. As we enter into some Lenten introspection, it is worthwhile to imagine ourselves in the place of the sick man in this passage. What do I need to be freed from? Are there ways in which I feel debilitated? What things hold me back in my relationship with God or others? Where in my life do I need healing and reconciliation?

If you are anything like me, it is probably not too difficult to call to mind ways in which you relate to the man on his mat. Whenever I read this gospel, however, it is hard for me to ignore the third character in the story. The third character is not so much a single individual as it is many individuals, who time after time, stepped over the infirmed man. How heartbreaking and ultimately challenging it is to read the words, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool.” Blinded by their own pain, the others were unwilling or unable to recognize the needs of someone else. One has to imagine that the man suffered not only the physical pain of his ailments, but also the emotional pain of being alone and forgotten. 

As Christians and especially as volunteers we are challenged to walk with the most vulnerable among us, to pick each other up off our mats, to share in each others challenges and pain, not because we do not have our own, but because we do. This Lent, let us find new ways to walk together and experience God’s healing love in each other.

Hannah Kunberger
AV 2008-09, Lawrence
Associate Director of Augustinian Volunteers

 

Wednesday, April 2
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040214.cfm
Is 49:8-15; Ps 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18; Jn 5:17-30

Our lives are made up of many different relationships. These relationships shape us into the people we are today. We learn from, and are shaped by, these people positively or negatively. In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus telling us of his relationship with his Father and how the two are intricately connected. 

How can we learn from this beautiful relationship of God the Father and God the Son? How does Jesus invite us into this beautiful relationship? How can our relationships be shaped by the love we see between God the Father and Jesus? How can our lives be different and better because of our relationship with Jesus and his Father?

God, thank you for sending us your son Jesus. Jesus, thank you for showing us the way to the Father. May we all share in this beautiful relationship this Lenten season and beyond!

Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A.
Augustinian Site Supervisor, Chicago

 

Thursday, April 3
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040314.cfm
Ex 32:7-14; Ps 106:19-20, 21-22, 23; Jn 5:31-47

Two themes stand out to me from today’s readings: the act of remembrance and the power of testimony. In the first reading, Moses speaks to the Lord on behalf of his people, the Israelites. His action is one of great faith, in the Lord, and in humanity. Moses recalls the promises that God has made to his people, expressing his belief that God will fulfill them. Remembering is part of having faith. If we remember God’s promises, it shows that we have held on to them in our hearts, that we have not forgotten God, and that we know that God has not, and will not, forget us either.

In the Gospel, Jesus talks about the power of testimony, and how someone else’s testimony can be more powerful than our own. His message echoes the act of Moses. Though the Israelites had been unfaithful to God in the past, Moses testified on their behalf. As volunteers, we are often putting our faith in precarious places: in the homeless person struggling with an addiction, in a student who constantly misbehaves, in our community members as we make ourselves vulnerable to one another, despite only knowing each other for a few months.

The words of Jesus also remind me that one way to show faith in people is to intercede on their behalf, as Moses did. Praying for the intentions of others –whether those of our friends and family; the people we serve; our community members; complete strangers; or our “enemies” – cultivates humility in us, and reminds us that we are all interdependent. Much like in community life, growing in holiness is a group effort, and requires faith in one another. We need to recognize and believe in our power as witnesses to Christ's love. Today, may we remember God’s promise to those who are faithful, and testify to the goodness in all of God’s people. 

Emily Thompson
Current AV, Ventura

 

Friday, April 4
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040414.cfm
Wis 2:1a, 12-22; Ps 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Today's readings lay it on thick.

What a villain is painted in the first reading from Wisdom! This nasty narrator, vindictive and mean, delights in planning the torture of the just man. In defense of a defenseless character, the speaker lashes out against the man who makes every effort to live and teach true goodness. More than that, he plans a despicable test of God: "If the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes." What evil machinations!

In the Gospel, Jesus, the Christ, the one sent by God is linked in no uncertain terms to the just man in the reading from Wisdom. As yet untouched (by what circumstance, John fails to tell us) by those who would hurt Him, Jesus speaks with the voice of the just man, but also the voice of God.

So the correlation is obvious, as John solidifies the identity of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Word.

But what really interests me is the Psalm that unites these readings.
Because yes, I know my Theology and my Salvation History. But still, it's hard to be a wholly good person sometimes. Isn't it?
 
The Psalm is where we gain reassurance.
We have been called to join the camp of the just man, of the righteous, of Christ. But it's not an easy road to take all the time, to put aside petty jealousies and bad days and ill judgments. The Psalm acknowledges that leading an upright life can be hard, and lonely, and at times can set you against your friends. The life of integrity and honor and grace can be so hard sometimes that it breaks your heart. And yet even in the toughest of times, the Lord is close.

It's Friday. You're probably abstaining from meat today. You're at the end of a long hard workweek. You're getting ready to spend all weekend with your community members, like it or not. Make the choices of the good and righteous man this weekend. Be faithful to your camp. And when the little things all build up to leave you impatient and frustrated and tired of being nice, offer it up. Because the Lord is close. 

Chesley Turner
AV 2010-11, Lawrence

 

Saturday, April 5
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040514.cfm
Jer 11:18-20; Ps 7:2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12; Jn 7:40-53

We can usually find in our daily paper some poll being taken on a variety of subjects and a variety of persons. We can know what other people think, but in the final analysis we have to think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions.    

Once with his disciples Jesus took a poll to find out what people were saying about him. In this Gospel passage we have a sample of what people were saying about him: the Christ, the Prophet, from Galilee, from Bethlehem, of David’s family.  

All well and good. The Jesus of our faith, however, can ask us the same question: Who am I for you? Who do you say that I am? The issue is not who does the Pope say Jesus is, nor what the Church says, nor what the Bible says. At some point, sooner or later, we have to come to grips with who Jesus is for me now. A year ago, or many years ago, our answer may have been different.  

Who is Jesus for me?   

Lord/Savior/Judge/Friend/Redeemer/Brother/Helper/Son of God/Healer……

Fr. Bob Gavotto, O.S.A.
Chaplain at St. Augustine High School, San Diego

 

5th Sunday of Lent, April 6
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040614.cfm
Ez 37:12-14; Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45/Jn 11:3-7, 20-27, 33B-45
 
Lord, as you raised Lazarus from the dead, bringing him into new life
So too you call us to renewal this Lenten Season.
As we grow tired of our Lenten promises,
Renew our intentionality.
When we are tempted to doubt your love,
Renew our trust.
As we become busy and lose focus,
Renew our clarity.
When we become focused on our wants,
Renew our gratitude.
God, renew our spirit and help us to welcome you into our lives in new ways.

Spiritual challenge: Think about the Lenten promises you made on Ash Wednesday. Where have you succeeded? Where have you fallen short? Recommit yourself to that promise, or a new one, for the continuation of this week.

 

Monday, April 7
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040714.cfm
Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62/Dn 13:41C-62; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Jn 8:1-11 

God wants to care for us. All we have to do as followers of God is live as He has taught us, trusting that He will protect us from harm. It is not our job to try to fix everything ourselves without trusting in God, nor is it our responsibility or right to condemn others. As human beings it is often easy to lose sight of this simple truth that we are called to. It is often easy to lose hope or feel that we are lost. Through faith and help from others, though, we can start to see more clearly. 

The gift of community is so powerful because it gives us the opportunity to be around people who can love and support us without judgment. When we go through difficult times they can remind us that better times will come, that healing is possible. Community members can help us remember, when we can’t see ourselves, that we have no reason to be afraid, because God will not condemn us, hurt us or leave us alone.

Diana Giunta
AV 2012-13, Chicago 

 

Tuesday, April 8
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040814.cfm
Nm 21:4-9; Ps 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21; Jn 8:21-30

Typically when we pray to God, we generally expect a quick answer. We tend to have a lack of patience in asking for something in our time of need. We expect to be the first priority no matter what, but life does not work that way. When we become impatient or ungrateful, we show part of our worse self. We lose focus on why we are praying and gain focus on when we need our prayer(s) to be answered.

In the gospel, Jesus said:

“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”

When we have complete faith and trust in Jesus and in God, good will come on their time. We need to be patient knowing that they are with us at all times when we take the time to believe in and please them. When we trust in God, no evil will harm us. If we are harmed in any way, God will be there to guide us to a place of light and hope.

Cathryn Connolly
Current AV, Lawrence

 

Wednesday, April 9
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040914.cfm
Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56; Jn 8:31-42

How big are your temptations? The larger a temptation, the more difficult they are to overcome. Each person has their own unique vices, and are tempted by their own idols. For example, I enjoy mass. So the temptation to skip mass on Sunday, for me, is not very big. Thank God. On the contrary, I'm addicted to affection. I constantly seek a pat on the back and words of affirmation. So to me the temptation I feel brag about myself is as large as King Nebuchadnezzer's golden idol (90ft tall and 9 ft wide). 

In the face of their massive idol, we see three men choose to sacrifice the flesh rather than tarnish their soul. The soul and the flesh usually oppose one another. The flesh favors gluttony, the soul favors fasting. The flesh favors hoarding wealth, the soul favors charity for the poor. The flesh demands honor from others, the soul serves others. The flesh is prideful, the soul is submissive. 

As Jesus says in the Gospel: "Anyone who sins is a slave to sin." We were not made to give into the temptations of the flesh. Lent is a good time die to ourselves, to sacrifice desires in hopes to tame the needs of our flesh. To train ourselves (with the help of God) to not be so addicted to comfort. So in the face of your temptations, remember that it is better to have a peaceful soul than a comfortable body.

Vincent Reyes
Current AV, Ventura

 

Thursday, April 10
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041014.cfm
Gn 17:3-9; Ps 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Jn 8:51-59

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis we hear God speaking to Abraham establishing a covenant with the people of Israel. “On your part, you and your decedents after you must keep my covenant through the ages.” God speaks to Abraham with authority. In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus speaking to the Jewish people with this same conviction. “Amen, amen I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” Those who are listening to Jesus’ words are shocked to hear what He is saying. “But I do know (Abraham) and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” The Jews were taken back by what they were hearing. So much so they started to throw stones at Jesus. 

How many times do we hear something that we disagree with and respond the way as those in the Gospel did–rejection and push our faith to the side. During this time of service, you are developing community with fellow Augustinian Volunteers as well as with those you are serving. You must work every day at this relationship, taking in the good and the bad, not just the good as those in our readings did. We can also learn something from the first reading; the covenant is not something that happens in the future. You must work at this relationship everyday. During this Lenten season now is the time to reflect on where do we hear God’s word and how do we react to put this work into action. 

JJ Brown
AV Advisory Board Member

 

Friday, April 11
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041114.cfm
Jer 20:10-13; Ps 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7; Jn 10:31-42

The readings today deal with bearing witness to the truth even in the face of opposition. Jeremiah has been warning the people of the coming Babylonian captivity, and has suffered the loss of friends, rejection from his community, and even imprisonment for it. Jesus is facing execution for bearing witness to being the Son of God and for challenging those around him to reject hypocrisy and to truly love others and God. Jesus and Jeremiah continue with their mission of proclaiming the truth, confident that they are doing God's will.

We are also called to bear witness to the truth. If we know the right thing to do is to stand up for the truth but we face opposition, we should remember that we are doing God's will and trust in him. As Lent comes to a close, let us ask ourselves who needs us to be a witness. How can we stand up for the truth?

Chris Schettini
AV 2009-10, San Diego

 

Saturday, April 12
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041214.cfm
Ez 37:21-28; Jer 31:10, 11-12abcd; Jn 11:45-56

The readings for the week move from EZ 37 bringing together two very different nations into one. This is helping teach the people to learn to love one another as a neighbor, despite obvious physical differences. As an AV we are challenged to live in a location different than our home, making this reading extremely relatable. For myself, I am living in a different country, which is an adjustment in its entirety. I’ve been lucky however for the incredible acceptance, love and constant attempts by the locals to make me feel comfortable in their hometown. I see God in so many of their smiling faces every day.

Then we are brought to JER 31, which talks about the protective hand of God over his people. In Chulucanas we are in the middle of a drought, but the faith of these people despite their constant hardships makes it impossible to not feel God’s presence in this little city. They know He is going to take care of them, He always has, and for this they put their complete lives in His hands; incredible.

Finally we end with JN 11, where the people in Jesus’ day start to believe because of the earthly miracles He was performing. It is easy to believe when you have tangible proof. This year is challenging me to see God in less tangible forms. In my community members each and every day, at my work sites during long tiring shifts, difficult attempts at conversing with the locals, etc. Some days are inevitably going to be more difficult than others, but I am thankful for this challenge. If I can strive to see God in the toughest days and hours, how beautiful of a world it will be on the bright and sunny days.​

Tina Teofilo
Current AV, Peru

 

Palm Sunday, April 13
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041314.cfm
Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14-27:66/Mt 27:11-54

As we enter into Holy Week, we hope you will take time to journey with Jesus through the Stations of the Cross. While there are many ways to do so, we want to provide you with an example that highlights social justice issues and promotes peace in our world today. 

https://educationforjustice.org/pdfs/ej/peacestations.pdf

 

Monday, April 14
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041414.cfm
Is 42:1-7; Ps 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14; Jn 12:1-11

“The Lord God is my light and my salvation.” Psalms 27:1 reminds us to place our complete trust in God. Whether we are experiencing the sadness of homesickness, the frustration of our unjust world, or fear of things unknown, God is with us. He is ever present in our lives. By placing ourselves in his hands, we allow God to act in and through us. Let us strengthen ourselves through God. Let Him show us how to be trustworthy servants and disciples. 

How many times do we question God? In times of need, who do we turn to? A friend? A loved one? God Himself? What qualities does that person possess that allows us to trust in them in times of weakness? Who calls upon us in times of struggle? 

Lori Blake 
AV Advisory Board Member

 

Tuesday, April 15
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041514.cfm
Is 49:1-6; Ps 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15 and 17; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

The book of Isaiah assures us that the Lord has always known us. Our destiny has been revealed only to ourselves; not Him. To be a part of God's plan is not only a miracle but a privilege. To be a servant of the Lord is a privilege. You, that volunteer your time to help others, should see the value of your worthiness. You are "polished arrows" for God!

Psalm 71 tells us of God's salvation being brought forth by his faith in humanity. Out of the mouths, Augustinian Volunteers declare the justice of the Lord. You are people of conscience and love for humanity that is evident in the work that you are doing for the Lord.

Finally, in John's Gospel we learn of Jesus' deep love for the greatest of sinners. Hopefully we can see ourselves at the Last Supper. It should often be asked, "What am I doing in my life that betrays God? How have I denied Him?" Once we can see our sin it is much easier to forgive others. We must always remember not only the depth of Jesus' sacrifice, but the oceans of his humility, mercy and grace.

Kathy Mack
Service Site Supervisor at Santa Clara High School, Ventura

 

Wednesday, April 16
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041614.cfm
Is 50:4-9a; Ps 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34; Mt 26:14-25

Lord, in your great love, answer me.

When was the last time you asked God for help? Prayers of Intercession are one of the main forms of prayer where we ask for God’s assistance in our own lives or those of others. The Responsorial Psalm today, “Lord, in your great love, answer me,” reminds us that we are always looking for the answers to our prayers or an obvious sign from God of how we should move forward in our lives. 

One of the most important lessons that I learned during my AV year is that all of these answers to our prayers of intercession are available to us, we simply need to seek them out in the most appropriate ways and places. For the remainder of your year of service, surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and who challenge you to look deeper at your life in order to see what answers are already obvious to you. Maybe something worth giving up this Lenten season are those things which distract us from seeing God’s answers to these prayers in our lives. Continue to send out those prayers of intercession asking for God’s assistance but also keep your eyes and hearts open to the answers surrounding you. God never leaves us without the tools we need to succeed in this world.

Kelly Lenehan
AV 2012-13, San Diego

 

Holy Thursday, April 17
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041714-evening-mass.cfm
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15

While reflecting on today’s gospel, I cannot help but to think of what has seemed to be a recurring theme throughout this year as an Augustinian Volunteer: serving others comes more easily than allowing oneself to be served. While Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples I find myself relating to Peter who says to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Peter would have preferred to be the person washing, rather than being washed, and I know that myself and fellow volunteers have found ourselves in that position this year. However, we are reminded that allowing our feet to be washed and washing the feet of others are two equally important parts of life as Catholics. We must follow Jesus’ example of love and wash the feet of others, but we are only qualified to do so once we accept our share in Jesus and allow ourselves to be washed clean by Him.

In the second reading we hear the words of Jesus that we hear at every mass, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Through the offering of his whole self, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be cleansed by him, so we are able to clean those who surround us. Through the Eucharist we are offered the chance to be washed clean by Jesus, but we must remember that after washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus says, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” We must always remember to be open to allowing ourselves to be served by both Jesus and His people who wish to be of service to us.

Molly Mescall
Current AV, San Diego

 

Good Friday, April 18
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041814.cfm
Is 52:13-53:12; Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42

As we have come to the end of our Lenten Journey and find ourselves in the midst of the Sacred Triduum, we hear of the theme of the Suffering Servant. Jesus is the example of how to live life to its fullest with a sense of mission and purpose. He helps us to strive to be our best even in the midst of suffering, disappointment and struggle, He gives us hope in the midst of despair. 

We see other characters who give in to despair (Judas), misunderstanding (Pilate) and peer pressure (Peter) when asked to remain faithful in the midst of suffering, ridicule and rejection. It is fear that keeps them and us from living our faith to the fullest. As we approach the Great Feast of Easter, let us ask the Suffering Servant who becomes the Risen Lord to help us to fear less and love more—to live our lives with a sense of mission and purpose based on our faith even in the face of suffering. 

Let us take up our cross and follow Him.  As Our Holy Father Pope Francis puts it: "when we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord." Let us not be afraid to put our faith into action even in the midst of our struggles and challenges.

We adore You O Christ and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross You brought Joy to the World! 

Very Rev. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Prior Provincial of Midwest Province