Learning to Say Yes

Learning to Say Yes

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes” (Bob Goff, Love Does).

On Thursday, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During Father Kevin’s homily, he spoke about how all of Mary’s life points back toward Jesus. While Thursday’s Feast was not about Mary accepting the Lord’s desire for her to carry within her womb the baby Jesus, Mary’s entire life pivots around God. When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary, proclaiming God’s desire, she submits herself to the will of God. Mary says yes.

The first reading talks about the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. Father Kevin explained that Adam and Eve said “yes, but no” to God when they disobeyed Him and ate the forbidden fruit. Our call is to learn from their humanness, and to learn from Mary. Mary was able to say “Yes!” to the Lord.

This year, I am also striving to say “Yes!” to God’s call in my own life. Volunteer for a year? Yes! Move across the country? Yes! Live with complete strangers for 10 months? Yes!

And even now, as we begin to contemplate what next year will bring and where our paths will tread, my goal is to find God’s voice calling to me, and to always be ready to answer his call not with a “yes, but…” but rather wholeheartedly, without hesitation, to say YES!

“You’ll grow so much from this experience!” This is a phrase I have become quite familiar with over the past few months. Whenever we try to explain to someone that we are Augustinian Volunteers, it seems that this is the catch-all phrase. The “I’m not 100-percent-sure-what-it-is-you’re-doing-for-the-year-but-no-doubt-you-will-grow-from-it” response. We can measure time by counting days or minutes; we can count how many books we’ve read in the past few months or the number of puzzles our community has completed since coming together; we can add up how many community prayers we’ve led or how many meals we’ve shared…but how do we determine our growth while in this program? How do we step back and evaluate just how far we have come on our personal journey since the time we entered the Augustinian Volunteer program?

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity” (Henry Van Dyke).

While there may not be a straightforward answer to this question, I do believe that this program is changing lives- both those of the AVs and those with whom we meet throughout our volunteer experience. At mass on Sunday, Father Leon explained that we live in a world that constantly demands immediate answers. We are always seeking instantaneous gratification, instant knowledge, and rapid action. However, we cannot rush through life without allowing ourselves time to cultivate what really matters. Without time…without hard work…without growing pains and uncomfortable silences…without thought provoking candlelit conversations…without morning prayers together on the way to work or sweating through an Insanity workout as a bonding activity… we would not learn from the experience. We would not learn to trust in the process and to listen for God in our lives. We would not be able to see the intricate ways that God works through the people in our lives or the beautiful reminders that he places in our midst of His immense love for us. If we skipped the process, if we ran through life without pausing to be still and to listen… we wouldn’t ever be able to say “yes!” to what God asks of us- because we would not be able to hear His request.  We’d be too busy rushing from one thing to the next. That is one of the most beautifully simple parts of this year- being an AV means that our days are lived out intentionally. We structure our weeks in such a way that we have time to simply be together, and to pray together, and to listen for God’s voice in our lives together. The thing that makes this year so amazing is realizing that we are not alone- we are a “Community of Love.” Learning how to say “yes!” to God is not something that happens immediately- but we are blessed to be surrounded by people, both in our Ventura community and in our work sites, that are journeying beside us, all striving to come to the point where we can stand up tall and say “YES!”

Erica Papkee

Ventura, CA 2016-2017

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