Seasonal Reflections

Lenten Reflections 2021

Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021

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

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us to not be like the hypocrites who lack humility for their actions. He admonishes those who blow trumpets and bring attention to themselves for doing righteous deeds. Jesus suggests we should do these righteous deeds in private and with humility.

If you have ever lived in community, you know there are tasks that get ignored until someone finally succumbs to fulfilling the duty. Maybe it is cleaning the corner we never use, yet somehow still gets dirty and cluttered. Or it is clearing out the fridge of the items which we are definitely, eventually, (ok, probably never) going to use. Maybe it is washing the perilous stack of dishes accumulating in the sink. We all know of that one task that finally gets done with such grandeur it is hard to not notice who is fulfilling their community duties. I think many of us can relate to both sides of the story, those who have put it off and those who finally get frustrated enough to get the task done, but with recognition. We make such a commotion asking around who each item belongs to in the fridge or stare someone down who is bringing yet another dirty dish just so they know who is doing the task. Sound familiar?

These mundane household tasks are necessary for community life and we can easily make it about the individual and who is doing the work.  We are called to do all tasks with humility. We are called to serve our community members without blowing the trumpets for all to hear.

Daniel Vasquez
AV Alum, San Diego 2013-2014

Thursday, February 18, 2021

DT 30:15-20; PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; LK 9:22-25

In today’s readings, we are presented with clear choices and challenged to make decisions. Moses describes two distinct paths in the first reading: one of life and prosperity lived in the spirit of the Lord and His commandments, or one of death and doom away from God. In the Gospel, Jesus invites the disciples to take up their crosses daily and follow Him. These decisions should be simple. But we are easily led astray, and the right decisions are not always simple. And notably, Jesus reminds us that the decision to live a life walking in the ways of the Lord, the decision to take up our crosses and follow Christ, is not just made once. We must re-commit, choose this again and again, every day. What better day to be reminded of these daily choices than the day after Ash Wednesday? Here at the beginning of our Lenten journeys, we can re-commit to choosing Christ every day. We can choose to live as a symbol of our faith, even now when the visible symbol of ash has been washed from our foreheads. When faced with the daily decision to carry my cross and live a life of faith, I am reminded of my time as a volunteer. In that year, we all consciously make choices to give ourselves for the sake of others. Time passes and our service, our crosses, can change. May we find hope in reflection and the reminder that this daily commitment is possible.

Sarah Dunbar
AV Alum, Ventura 2014-2015

Friday, February 19, 2021

IS 58:1-9A; PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19; MT 9:14-15

The reading from Isaiah today is actually a favorite of mine. In this reading, we are told that the fasting being asked of us is the work of justice and caring for others. And when we work for justice for and with others, these actions lead to our own light breaking forth, our wounds being healed, and our vindication. It reminds me of the well-known words of Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal Australian activist: “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.” We are healed, we are made better, we are brought closer to God when we work in partnership with others toward a more just world for all.

Recognizing that our own healing and vindication is tied to service and justice requires great humility, prayer, and introspection. Lent is a time when we can carve out time to do just that. When and how have you been vindicated or healed this year through your experience as an Augustinian Volunteer? When and how have you maybe not been open to receiving and learning from others, especially people you didn’t necessarily expect to learn from? How can you, as an individual and a community, reenvision traditional Lenten fasting this year to incorporate the approach asked of us in Isaiah?

Cheryl Mrazik
AV Alum, San Diego 2006-2007

Saturday, February 20, 2021

IS 58:9B-14; PS 86: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6; LK 5:27-32

In the readings for today, I was struck by the question with whom do I align myself with? It is so easy for me to align myself with people who are comfortable, who don’t ask too much of me. Yet, the first reading challenges me to examine how my actions reflect the light of Christ. Do I actively remove oppression from my personal actions and the systems I interact with? Do I root out envious speech, give of my resources generously, and minister to the hurting? Through these actions the Lord will guide us and bring about light into the world.

Similarly, in the Gospel, we see Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus does not keep these people at arms lengths, outside of his loving arms; rather, Jesus shares an intimate meal with them. Jesus unites himself with sinners, and not just any sinner: me. Jesus is unafraid to be associated with me and offers mercy to me again and again.

The Pharisees represent our judgmental disposition that is quick to point out the sinful nature of others but miss our own malice that has twisted our thoughts and words. They cannot understand why Jesus would be associated with sinners. It does not align with their moral compass, but the love of God understands the need of those gathered at table with him.

May we ask the Lord today to enter into our need for repentance and challenge us to sit with what is uncomfortable.

Carolyn Dreyer
Current AV, San Diego

First Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2021

GN 9:8-15; PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 PT 3:18-22; MK 1:12-15

How often do you keep your word? I think back on the countless times I’ve promised to stay in touch, workout more, or incorporate more prayer into my life- all said with full intention but ultimately broken on whim or excuse. Today’s readings have me contemplating the promises we make, the covenants we commit to, the words that are backed (or not) by our actions and what value we have allowed our words to carry. So much of the past year has been filled with the right words backed by a lack of action or the wrong words backed by worse action- how do we use our words, our promises, our covenants to guide and inform our actions? As an AV you begin the year with a mission, a covenant, between you and God and your community to act, grow, pray, work and show up this year. But how difficult it is to live out that covenant when you’re tired, sick of social distancing, overwhelmed by the state of the world, it’s tough. But God shows up for us, He tells us that His words must become our sustenance, His strength, our strength, His paths, our paths. No one of us can take on this world alone, not with our empty promises and tired words- we have to rely upon He who is everlasting and who’s promises never fail to lift us up, guide us, strengthen us to be His hands and feet here on earth.

Emma (Gallagher) Edwards
AV Alum, Lawrence 2012-2013

Monday, February 22, 2021

1 PT 5:1-4; PS 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6; MT 16:13-19

I was terrified the first time I tried to teach a room full of Peruvian teenagers on my own. Only a couple weeks into my AV placement, my Spanish still lacked fluidity, and I had little confidence. Classroom management is hard in any context. Classroom management as the weird foreign teacher felt nearly impossible.

Those first months, I tried imposing rules, removing distractions, and even, I’ll admit, some occasional anger. None of that led to respect. Building relationships did. About halfway through my AV year, the students were notably more engaged. They would listen (mostly) and do their work (well, sort of). The students’ smiles got warmer and their laughter at my more-than-occasional mistake more compassionate.

In today’s Gospel, Peter is commissioned famously as “the rock of the Church.” In the first reading, we get Peter’s advice to the Church’s next generation of leaders, perhaps formed after some hard years of figuring out how to be that “rock.”

“Tend the flock of God in your midst,” Peter says. Be gentle. Be humble. Set an example. Listen. That’s how you lead.

On a tough day in my final month in Peru, I looked at a rambunctious bunch of teenagers and told them, “I’m having a bad day. Can you all settle down for just a bit?” Understanding smiles and then quiet. We finished the lesson.

I am no rock. But I can try to be a humble leader, building relationships. “Same thing,” Peter says.

Pat McDonell
AV Alum, Peru 2017

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

IS 55: 10-11; PS 34: 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19; MT 6:7-15

From Isaiah to the Psalms and Matthew, our Biblical guides depict the prophets of each book as seeking the Lord, crying out in their brokenheartedness, and even as being accused of babbling through their words. Their cries issue like rain, producing imagery that may feel overly familiar during these times.

Throughout each reading, there’s also an intimacy between the voices crying out and God who they trust remains present, receptive, and comforting. Isn’t this illustration so much of what we’ve relied on over the last year between families and friends? We might not see our loved ones in person or may need to modify our interactions, but the intimacy of phone calls, letters, and virtual socials reassures us that our loves are resilient and life-giving. For anyone who has experienced great loss this year and whose cries are received by people who continue to be emotionally present, their love is treasured all the more.

Perhaps through this Lent, as we continue to celebrate joys, mourn tragedies, and work within our abilities to face the present challenges, we can tend to our individual relationships with God as the prophets modeled and as we’ve practiced with our loved ones. My prayer for all of you is that we experience some levity during Lent in trusting that God is as accessible as ever and receptive to our calls regardless of distance or the need provoking those cries.

Kelsey Rode
AV Alum, Philadelphia 2017-2018

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

JON 3: 1-10; PS 51: 3-4, 12-13, 18-19; LK 11: 29-32

In today’s reading from the book of Jonah, God had a plan to destroy Nineveh. Upon hearing this from Jonah who was God’s messenger, the king of Nineveh immediately changed his ways of wrongdoing and encouraged his people to do the same. As a result, God did not end up needing to punish Nineveh.

That passage made me think of the times in my own life where I have been grateful for others who gave me the opportunity to learn from a mistake or correct a wrongdoing and become better instead of just providing the punishment or consequence. I am proud of the times I have remembered to pay that opportunity forward to others as well. Showing some grace toward someone can go a long way, as can showing eagerness to make things right and/or learn from our mistakes.

Grace can transform us from being fearful of being hurt to feeling safe and secure which allows us to be our best selves. Whether it is in our community that is our family, our local community or an AV community experience, opportunities to choose to assume the best in people and give them a chance to prove us right are constantly in front of us as is showing others we can be trusted with second chances.

Taylor Gostomski
AV Alum, Peru 2014 and former AV Staff Member

Thursday, February 25, 2021

EST C:12, 14-16, 23-25; PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C-8; MT 7: 7-12

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Seems like a pretty extravagant offer from God. Then again, I can’t say that I’ve gotten everything that I’ve asked God for. (Otherwise my Denver sports teams would win the championship every year!) Maybe God isn’t Santa Claus? I suppose I can’t just send him a letter with the gifts I want, and if I’m on the nice list, I’ll get them. Bummer, I know!

But this Gospel passage tells us something. It tells us that God does hear our prayers and respond to them. “Which one of you would hand your child a snake if they asked for a fish?” God isn’t out to get us. God wants the best for us. Curiously, the Gospel passage doesn’t offer us the objects of the verbs. What are we to ask for? What should we seek? On whose door should we knock? Those could be good questions to sit with and let guide the second half of your volunteer year.

Maybe you could ask for ways you can get more involved at work and in your community. You could ask how you can support someone who seems to be struggling or ask for help and support if you need it. It will be given to you. Maybe you could seek solutions to conflicts that have arisen with your housemates or co-workers. You will find ways to resolve them.

Perhaps you could “knock” on the doors of your neighbors and colleagues (perhaps virtually?). Doors will be opened for you, and you’ll find ways to get to know people better and to learn from them and their experience. Ask. Seek. Knock. I can promise you this: you’ll get more than a lump of coal.

Brian Strassburger, S.J.
AV Alum, Bronx 2006-2007, South Africa 2008

Friday, February 26, 2021

EZ 18: 21-28; PS 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8; MT 5:20-26

Dining in the company of our families, friends, neighbors, and those we love is often a sacred experience – we are receiving the gifts others have to offer and sharing our own. Yet, we know too, how difficult sitting at a table can be when we have unresolved conflicts with a person sharing our table; our bitterness or anger can negatively affect our whole experience. The same is true when we come to the altar, the table of the Lord. When we approach the altar with peace, having forgiven, reconciled, and made amends in our lives, we can share our gifts with God and experience His sacred love. Yet, we sometimes approach the table of the Lord feeling heaviness and the burden of conflict. Our Gospel instructs us how to act when we come to the altar with this heaviness: “go first and be reconciled with your brother, then come back and offer your gift.”

This is no small task, but God’s faith in each of us is often greater than our own faith in ourselves. God knows the strength of his love, and how it can change us if we let it. Wherever you are today, take a moment to reflect on God’s love for you, and how he is calling you to share that love with others who can be difficult to love through reconciliation and making amends. Guided by God’s love, all of our tables — big and small, physically gathered and virtually gathered — can be sacred places for us all.

Claire (Mulhern) Mentry
AV Alum, Chicago 2011-2012

Saturday, February 27, 2021

DT 26:16-19; PS 119: 1-2, 4-5, 7-8; MT 5: 43-48

I was an AV in Peru in 2007. I lived with two awesome girls who, whenever I have a chance to catch up with them, bring me great joy. I have very few memories that do not involve those two wonderful souls, most memories involving eating something somewhere with someone. Our shared experience is one I have cherished and will cherish forever. It has been 14 years since our time in Chulucanas, and I still think back on the lessons learned, including some that are more subtle. This leads me to today’s first reading. Moses relays God’s command to “walk in His ways…” I can say that I did more walking in Chulucanas than at any other time or place in my life, and the walks that stand out to me are those we shared with the Sisters of Mercy, and on one unique occasion with Bishop Dan. I saw the way the sisters and Bishop Dan encountered people along the path. First names were used. Conversations were filled with gratitude and kind embraces. Each encounter was humble, personal, and gracious. I cannot say I remember every arriving anywhere on those walks. The journey was the destination. Watching saints at work, learning from their humility and the ways they walked, are memories I will forever cherish. Those memories urge me to get out and walk more.

Sean Murray
AV Alum, Peru 2007

Second Sunday of Lent, February 28, 2021

GN 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; PS 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; ROM 8:31b-34; MK 9:2-10

Today’s readings for the Second Sunday of Lent describes how God calls each of us to make sacrifices that may not be easy for us to make but will help us grow in many ways. This is an important theme in the Augustinian tradition as we each make our own sacrifice to live in a community of love. And this sacrificial love involves allowing God to transform us by a complete change for the greater good.

My time as an Augustinian Volunteer thus far has transformed me in unexpected ways. In the beginning of my service year, I found myself struggling to get accustomed to the new way of living because I was clinging to things that made my life feel comfortable. But as the year of service progressed, I began to accept the new way of living through the people I encounter at my service sites. Through their actions, they have shown me that sacrificing and letting go of the unnecessary things is the best way to live life to the fullest and to be close to God.

This theme is shown in today’s Gospel, during the transfiguration, in which Jesus did not want his true identity to be revealed until the cross. Peter, James, and John have to sacrifice what they have seen in the mountain in order for God’s will to be played out. And we see this through the trust that Jesus puts in these disciples.

Sheena Cadua
Current AV, Philadelphia

Monday, March 1, 2021

DN 9: 4B-10; PS 79: 8, 9, 11, 13; LK 6: 36-38

I know I’m not alone when I say this year has just been full of negativity. At times, it’s been hard to see the light at the end of this never-ending tunnel. I’ve felt exhausted, defeated, bored, and discouraged. Almost every week I look at the calendar and wonder, “when will things be normal again?” I love how this Gospel seems to take all the complex feelings and put the big things in life so simply. Stop judging, and you won’t be judged. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you. To sum it up – what you pour into the world, the world will pour back into you.

It’s easy to get caught up in the spiral of how awful things are right now. We’ve all experienced loss in one way or another. But, if we keep pouring that negativity out, that’s what we’ll receive back. If we choose to share ourselves and our love with others, that’s what we’ll receive. It’s a simple message, but it might be all we need right now. We all need a little extra love and forgiveness recently, so let’s give it out for free and see what we get back. That’s what God does for us, so that’s what we should do for each other. This Lenten season, how can we pour a little more of ourselves into the world?

Amy (Rowland) Flynn
AV Alum, Lawrence 2014-2015

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

IS 1:10, 16-20; PS 50: 8-9, 16BC-17, 21, 23; MT 23: 1-12

In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues his preaching about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It is his final lines that I find so fascinating: “The greatest among you must be your servant.”

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” It resonates with me during this point of the Lenten season as well as this part of one’s volunteer year. We are two weeks into Lent this year. How are our Lenten missions and preparations going? If we have chosen to sacrifice something, have we continued to keep it up? If we are focusing on prayer this year, have we kept that promise? Are we continuing to prepare ourselves for the death and resurrection of our Lord? It is easy to look back and revel in what we have already accomplished. Can we do as Jesus teaches and humble ourselves as we continue through this Lenten season? I remember during my volunteer year it was about this time where I was looking back on all that I had accomplished. Like the Pharisees, I looked back and exalted the service I had already completed. It is easy to reflect on the good we have already done and think “I’ve done enough, I am satisfied”. Jesus encourages us to remain humble and to keep serving one another in preparation for his coming. Let us use today’s Gospel to remind us to stay humble and continue the good work.

Mickey Palmasani
AV Alum, San Diego 2017-2018

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

JER 18: 18-20; PS 31: 5-6, 14, 15-16; MT 20: 17-28

The Gospel today seems like two separate readings. First, we have what is referred to as the “third prediction of the passion”. And then we get James and John and their mother requesting that they sit next to Jesus in his kingdom. In the surrounding passages in the Gospel of Mathew, Mathew is on a roll of the theme of the last being first in the kingdom of God. This comes to light again in today’s Gospel.

Jesus’ prediction of his passion serves to show us that the path of following him, the “cup” that he asks if James and John can drink from, will not be easy. Will we be crucified in our modern day? Not likely, but we will meet struggles and endure sacrifices. And what is Jesus’ promise? His promise is this: if we sacrifice our wants and needs for others, if we serve others, we will save others. He says the price we pay will be a “ransom”, and ransoms, by definition, give freedom to others. Our service to others has the power to free people to live the lives God wants for them. I don’t know about you, but I would rather live with a community and lift each other up than have power and live in solitude.

Julia Rodrigues
AV Alum, Ventura 2019-2020

Thursday, March 4, 2021

JER 17: 5-10; PS 1: 1-2, 3, 4, 6; LK 16: 19-31

In today’s first reading from Jeremiah, as I reflected on living in community, I had to smile at the phrase, “let us carefully note his every word”. I will be honest: living in a community had some exceedingly difficult moments. At times it felt things I said would be used against me, and yet I myself was also practiced at holding grudges and being overly sensitive and yes, carefully noting every word of my housemates. And yet, at the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” In truth, giving up our own inhibitions to live in peace with others in our households is a form of service. That is not to say we allow our own voice to go unheard; rather that we allow ourselves to speak in a way that constructively adds to the peace among us. That may mean we stay silent when our thoughts against others are destructive or that we prayerfully choose our words before entering a discussion that affects the entire community. That way when “every word of ours is noted”, God has had the chance to whisper to us first.

Let our prayer today be that we may stop and listen for God’s whisper as we do our work in and outside our community. May He inspire us with the wisdom to think before speaking and the wisdom to decide which words we allow into our hearts, the sacred space where He speaks to us.

Jess (Burgess) Smith
AV Alum, San Diego 2000-2001

Friday, March 5, 2021

GN 37: 3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A; PS 105: 16-17, 18-19, 20-21; MT 21: 33-43,45-46

Jealousy…Betrayal…Murder! These are a few of the plot twists that pull us into the Scripture stories today. The Hebrew Testament has even more of these demonic and human dynamics than the Gospels: Cain and Abel. Isaac and Jacob. Even Adam and Eve-“She did it!” How can we hear the voice of God in these readings for us this Lent? The Joseph story helps us.

“Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.”

Did Joseph feel this brotherly hate around home? Being the Beloved son may have often felt like a booby-prize. His colorful tunic seems to symbolize this specialness and focused the brothers’ resentment toward “this master dreamer.” When he approached them in the desert, they plotted to kill him “…and stripped him of the long tunic he had on.”

The key emotion portrayed is envy/jealousy. When might we feel this emotion? And how deal with it, whether we are the one who envies or the one envied for our “tunic”? First, notice it. Then, pray and discuss this section of Augustine’s Rule, “Those who have the strength to lead simple lives should count themselves the richest of people. For it is better to be able to do with a little than to have plenty.” (Chapter 3)

Fr. Paul Morrissey, O.S.A.
Augustinian Site Supervisor, Philadelphia

Saturday, March 6, 2021

MI 7: 14-15, 18-20; PS 103: 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12; LK 15: 1-3, 11-32

While the Gospel associated with today’s reading is one of my favorites to talk about in Lent, I do want to focus on the first reading. Particularly, as I reflected on this reading, one part stood out. “Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt… And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt?”

Guilt has been an extremely crucial concept this year, especially in my role as a white person being involved in social change. Looking at this line, I recall the ways in which I used to hear about God removing guilt and believe that all it took to deal with guilt was to turn to God. In reality, I’ve found that guilt is a natural reaction to actions I take that I inherently don’t feel good about. By nature that doesn’t mean any action I am guilty of is bad, but guilt is a tool that helps warn us about actions that could be bad.

This is where I love the second line tying in. It is never God’s responsibility, or even ability, to rid me of guilt. God spends her energy loving me, yet also treading underneath the guilt of my choices. Like the younger son in today’s Gospel, facing guilt is difficult, and is rarely properly done alone. It is my belief that today’s gospel is reminding me to turn to my community, open up about my guilts, and really listen to what someone has to say about something I don’t want to admit.

Jared Gencarella
AV Alum, Philadelphia 2019-2020

Third Sunday of Lent, March 7, 2021

EX 20:1-17; PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11; 1 COR 1:22-25; JN 2:13-25

In Today’s Gospel, Jesus says that He will raise the temple in three days even though it has taken forty-six years to build. Jesus had the power to do just that, but, as we know, He was referring to His ultimate resurrection and freedom. In the scriptures, three signifies the completion of a journey or new beginnings. Our Lenten journey is a forty-day process of reflection and purification so that we can begin anew come Easter.  Thus, today’s Gospel challenges us to ask ourselves if we are prepared to present ourselves to God for our new beginning.

Jesus’s anger towards the moneychangers at the temple was based on the fact that they used their position to cheat the Jewish folks who paid to enter the temple. Our focus, then, over these forty days should be on what is cheating us of our new beginning. Whether you are a current or former volunteer, parent, friend, or Augustinian, the challenge of setting time to reflect on what fulfills us is ever existent. Lent is a time set aside for us to commit to such reflection. We are called to purify ourselves, not in a punishing sense, but, rather in a freeing sense. Upon reflection, we will be able to remove what cheats us of our ability to love, act justly, and walk humbly. Our freedom, then, comes on Easter when we are ready to truly begin anew having taken inventory of our pains, burdens, and distractions. Let’s use this time, set aside for us, to discover our promise of freedom.

Rodrigo Rivera
AV Alum, San Diego 2016-2017

Monday, March 8, 2021

2 KGS 5:1-15 AB; PS 42: 2, 3; 43: 3-4; LK 4: 24-30

In the First Reading, Naaman journeys to Israel to be healed by the Prophet Elisha. When Elisha instructs him to bathe in the river seven times in order to be healed, Naaman resists and gets frustrated with the prophet because things are not happening how he had expected. It is not until Naaman’s servant reasons with him that he finally does as Elisha commanded.

How often does this reflect our own relationship with God? We come to the Father desiring His help, but we request it on our own terms, unwilling to trust in the Father’s will for us. We, like Naaman, quite literally want things to be fixed with the wave of a hand or through a grand matter-of-fact gesture. Yet, the Lord very rarely works in this way and instead desires our trust, obedience, and cooperation with his plan, not ours.

Can you relate to Naaman’s impatient desire? In what ways are you resisting the Lord’s help or setting the terms for your own healing? How can you let go of expectations and make yourself available to the Lord’s plan for your healing? If this seems overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, I’d like to suggest a simple prayer: Jesus, I trust in You.

René (Schulze) Steinhauser
AV Alum, Philadelphia 2018-2019

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

DN 3: 25, 34-43; PS 25: 4-5AB, 6 and 7BC, 8-9; MT 18: 21-35

In Matthew’s Gospel, I am drawn to Jesus’s words regarding forgiveness, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” As a child, I recall thinking literally about the number of times that I had to forgive my brother or my schoolmates. But as I matured, I began wondering how many times others were applying the same logic in forgiving me. I gained a better understanding of Jesus’s command when I realized how often He forgives- not seven times, not even seventy-seven times, but as often as we need it. This extension of grace is a gift from God that we are called to share with others.

Living and working in community is such a blessing but, needless to say, it often comes with challenges. We’ve all experienced the proverbial “good times” as well as the lows of discomfort in disagreement. The notions of compromise, patience, and forgiveness are just a few things that are required to be good members of community. Learning to recognize our own infallibility can help us to be better partners in creating a peaceful and forgiving environment.

How often am I aware of my own mistakes and offenses?  How often do I hold on to anger instead of leading with forgiveness?  What makes forgiveness difficult?     

Lori Tedjeske
AV Advisory Council Member

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

DT 4:1, 5-9; PS 147: 12-13, 15-16, 19-20; MT 5: 17-19

As I reflected on these readings in the context of a year of service this question kept coming to mind: “Have you chosen God?” You have chosen to serve others outwardly; that is commendable. You have chosen to live your life different than many of your peers; that is selfless. But have you chosen God? Really allowed him to enter into your heart, to dictate your words and actions, to be your moral compass, to guide you in darkness, to be your one and only teacher?

In today’s readings Moses directs the Israel people to teach their children the laws and Jesus directs the disciples to teach the commandments. You too are called to pass on the Lord’s teachings, Christ’s wisdom. But as with most things, we cannot teach what we do not know.  These laws/commandments are not separate from God; they are God; they are the fullness of Love. However, if you haven’t chosen God; if He is not your heart, then these laws and commandments will seem like a series of rules to suffocate and bind. But with God, they are mercy and justice, forgiveness and love, freedom and peace, prosperity and holiness, life and blessing.

In order to pass on the richness of this moral, social, and spiritual code, we have to first know God in our hearts. We must develop a friendship with God by spending quiet time with Him.  This is an ongoing process and can be difficult while navigating work and community life. It is easy to forget to choose God.

St. Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying “The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

I pray the rest of Lent will offer you some quiet time to choose God, to get to know Him better in your heart and further develop your friendship with Him.

Mary (Dillon) Dowsett
AV Alum, Lawrence 2004-2005, South Africa 2005-2007

Thursday, March 11, 2021

JER 7:23-28; PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; LK 11:14-23

Within the harsh language of today’s first reading, I want to pick out what I think is an underlying call to love. We hear God say that the people have “turned their backs” on Him, but interestingly, the focal point of their disobedience is the way they treated the servants, “the prophets,” that He sent. In today’s age we do not generally think of God sending prophets like He did in the Old Testament; however, I would like to think that every person has been sent here by God as a prophet of sorts to testify to His word simply by their creation and life in His image. Now, this reading extends into a challenge for us to not turn our backs on anyone in this world.

While participating in the Adeodatus Prison Ministry Zoom discussion a few weeks ago, one of the participants said something that really stuck with me. He asked, “How is it that God loves them (the incarcerated, those experiencing homelessness, etc.) so much but we do not?” As I continue with my year as an AV, I hope that I have the courage to love and not turn my back on those that I meet and start to see them the way God does. It is no small feat to love more like God does and see Him in all people, but I hope that you will join me in the challenge of performing this act of service every day through, as Pope Francis says, “encounters… where we allow ourselves to be moved with compassion.”

Robby Gipson
Current AV, Philadelphia

Friday, March 12, 2021

HOS 14: 2-10; PS 81: 6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 and 17; MK 12- 28-34

“I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.”
“O Israel, will you not hear me?”
“If only my people would hear me.”

“Hear, O Israel!”

I think I can safely assume that those of us praying with these reflections this Lent are pretty committed to Christian service and are trying sincerely to “walk in the ways of the Lord.” But I think that sometimes we can have difficulty hearing God’s voice clearly because of the noise of our own activities – many of which might be really good things! But are they the things that God is actually calling us to do?

When I started working after my volunteer year, I was doing something objectively good – as a nurse, my job description was literally a corporal work of mercy! But over time, my heart, like our friend St. Augustine’s, grew more and more restless. I knew that God was asking me to do something else. It was only when I began to pray in silence that I was able to hear clearly what He was saying and respond with clarity in return. And now in the religious life, I am grateful for the opportunities for silence to better hear the voice of God and for a community of believers who help me to continue to respond to His call.

How can you foster a spirit of silence in your community, so that you can hear God (and one another!) more clearly?

How can you support one another to respond with courage to His call?

Sr. Emily Persicketti
AV Alum, San Diego 2016-2017

Saturday, March 13, 2021

HOS 6: 1-6; PS 51: 3-4, 18-19, 20-21AB; LK 18- 9:14

In our Gospel today we hear about a pharisee who compares himself to who he assumes he is not.  “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity… or even like this tax collector.”  As those who follow in the footsteps of Augustine who seek to witness to the gift of community and interiority, right away we may be able to identify that the approach of the Pharisee is wrong.

Our path to discovering God (and ourselves), is one that, rather than accusing others, is to in a certain sense accuse ourselves.  This is what Augustine did in his Confessions, and his means of confession is a path to strip away false pride in order to offer ourselves totally to God as we truly are: warts and all.

Believe it or not, God can more than handle all that we are, even the parts of ourselves that we would rather not show God.  In a vain attempt to avoid the path of authentic confession, we often prefer, as we heard in our Gospel, to point out the obvious faults of others. Rather, let us confess who we are, as we depend upon the Lord to strengthen our weaknesses and thank Him for areas in which we are strong.

Lord, allow me the strength to offer my entire self to You, just as you offer your entire self to me.  Allow me to confess truly who I am, that I might be most fully who you created me to be.

Fr. Max Villeneuve, O.S.A.
Chaplain at St. Augustine High School, San Diego

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 14, 2021

2 CHR 36:14-16, 19-23; PS 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; EPH 2:4-10; JN 3:14-21

“It is a gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

I used to think negatively about such passages as these which seem to undermine or damper the importance of service, but now I remember the words that come immediately after these:

“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”

I am not to believe ‘service’ and ‘works’ are second to ‘faith’ and subservient to any piousness, but it seems I am to believe that ‘works’ must be intended only for the gracious love God has prepared for the world. As with many aspects of spirituality, faith, and community, I see an intermingling of intention and action. What is it I do service for? If it is for the recognition I receive from others when I serve, it is not the ‘works’ prepared by God. So why am I called to serve?

I think to one of the first, and most important, lessons I learned during my service year. I was taught by my supervisor that I should never use the word ‘help’ when referencing ‘service’. God calls us to serve not to help. God calls us to share ourselves fully with others and open our hearts to the lessons will we receive not only to focus on the lessons we want to give. In this we perform ‘works’ but not to boast, only to grow in God.

Travis Vermulm
AV Alum, Philadelphia 2019-2020

Monday, March 15, 2021

IS 65: 17-21; PS 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12A and 13B; JN 4: 43-54

Always before confession, during my examination of conscience, I cringe at the fact that my prayer life is often transactional. I pray very hard when I want something; a good outcome at work, good news, protection or comfort and healing for myself and loved ones. I tend to forget to pray when life is going well or thank God for all of the answered my prayers.

This thought makes me ask: does the Lord say the same about me? “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

When we steal the credit from God is that a type of unbelief? During this Lenten Season I hope to give our Lord more credit for all the blessings I have been afforded.  Despite the challenges of last and this year, it’s always good practice to take inventory of all the blessings in your life. Remember that they all come from the Lord. I hope we all remember to thank our Lord for them.

I pray we all continue to be given the gift of faith, with or without the signs and wonders.

Vincent Reyes
AV Alum, Ventura 2014-2015

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

EZ 47: 1-9, 12; PS 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9; JN 5:1-16

Since the beginning of the pandemic 12 months ago, we’ve heard one thing over and over again from doctors, nurses, and experts: wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. During this uncertain time of illness and suffering for many, water (and antibacterial soap, of course) has served as a sort of protector while so many other things spin out of control. In the first reading, Ezekiel writes about water and its incredible ability to give and sustain life. “Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,” he writes. Water sustains the natural world—humans, animals, and plants physically cannot live without it. Of course, water in this reading also symbolizes faith, as the water itself is flowing from the Temple. As Catholics, we are all baptized in water when we begin our faith journey. Just as water gives us life physically, our faith can sustain us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

While we continue using water today to keep us safe from disease, let us similarly lean on our faith to act as a mental protector during these challenging days. As you’re washing your hands multiple times a day, consider praying or using the time to reflect and find mental balance (saying the Hail Mary twice takes about 20 seconds!). Let water act as your spiritual (as well as physical) healer.

Rosie McCarty
AV Alum, Chicago 2014-2015

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

IS 49:8-15; PS 145:8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18; JN 5:17-30

“Ted!!!!  That’s my special doll!!”

Jane screamed as Ted picked up the little fox, wet from falling in a parking lot puddle. She had let him take one of her precious dolls into the store, and in a quintessential little brother move, he had accidentally dropped it in the worst possible place. A nice car ride home with two absolutely inconsolable children followed, ending only when the little fox was scrubbed and put next to the heater to dry. A day in the life.

I felt so badly for both of them. Ted didn’t mean to drop the doll, and 3-year-olds do that kind of thing. And Jane was generous enough to share her doll with Ted, and of course, tragedy struck. It was easy to feel compassion for them — both of them had the right to be upset!

Today’s readings are all about mercy. While I may have the one above example of mercy to share, 95% of the time I could stand to be much more merciful. So, it absolutely blows my mind how endlessly merciful God is to us. And not just when we are understandably upset or make an honest mistake. His mercy for us extends to our entirety, even in our darkest moments.

When Jane and Ted have outbursts, I try to remind myself that they are children, and they are learning. They are only human. I trust that God thinks the same thing, but with the greatest understanding possible. After all, He became only human too.

Tessa (O’Connor) Schenkel
AV Alum, Lawrence 2007-2008

Thursday, March 18, 2021

EX 32: 7-14; PS 106: 19-23; JN 5:31-47

When reflecting on today’s reading, one word kept showing up for me: HOPE. I have come to understand that hope is not blind optimism. Hope is trust in God’s character and in His promise. Hope is seen through Moses when he remembers the covenant God made to his people and hopes for forgiveness and freedom. Hope is when we place trust in a force beyond our control, regardless of the current circumstance. During this past year, I have reflected a lot on this idea of hope, and leaning not on my own strength or understanding, but on the grace of God. I have prayed to have hope with open eyes- eyes that see the suffering yet believe in and work toward a more just future.

In addition to hope, another theme I reflected on with these readings is the power of stillness. We often measure our success by our productivity and output, but busy lives make it difficult to hear God. When we make space for God, it is in this stillness where we can take a moment to look outside ourselves, beyond ourselves. I try to be mindful about taking time to contemplate God and all His wonder and grace. When I do this, I begin to see and receive God in ordinary moments throughout my day- in a phone call with an old friend or in a gust of fresh air on a cold afternoon walk. I invite you to take time to find stillness during these uncertain days, and to appreciate God’s love and wonder in your daily lives.

Anna Thomas
AV Alum, Peru 2014

Friday, March 19, 2021

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

Happy solemnity of St. Joseph during the year of St. Joseph! Today is one of the very few solemnities we get during Lent, and we have a wonderful opportunity to take a step back from the penances of Lent to celebrate one of the best saints of our Church.

St. Joseph is known for his silence. He has no quotes in the bible. Today’s Gospel calls him a “righteous man,” and tells us that he does as the angel commanded him. He has a profound trust in God and docility in fulfilling God’s plan for his life. St. Joseph wasn’t concerned about what the town would think or how he would navigate this seemingly scandalous situation. He simply said yes to the Lord and trusted that He would take care of him and his family. Today let us reflect on St. Joseph’s quiet witness and think of how we can emulate him in our own lives. In what area of our lives is the Lord asking us to let go and trust in Him?

Also, solemnities are meant to be celebrated, so give St. Joseph his due respect and treat yourself in some way today!

Gina Hackett
AV Alum, Lawrence 2018-2019

Saturday, March 20, 2021

JER 11: 18-20; PS 7: 2-3, 9BC-10, 11-12; JN 7: 40-53

Doubt, fear, and acceptance, these three words come to mind when reflecting on the reading and the Gospel. The people in the Gospel are filled with all three of these emotions, and the emotions swirl around the crowd and fight for dominance. Many in the crowd recognize the words, feel the awe they bring, and recognize Jesus for who He is. Yet others doubt Him and His message. The pharisees and the people would say things like, “surely He cannot be the one promised, or, who is He to speak the message of God?” Others still wanted to arrest Him, condemn Him for His actions. The Pharisees feared Him and the power He seemed to have over the crowds, and the authority with which He spoke about the scriptures. For this they wanted to condemn Him. Yet despite those who feared and doubted Him, Jesus kept preaching and reaching more and more of those who recognized and accepted His message as just and good.

So often these emotions play with our own hearts. Too often doubt and fear creep their way into our hearts and try and rob us of the good and the holy that is before us. For those in the time of Christ accepting the message of Christ was no easy feat. For us today we not only need to accept the message of Christ as good and holy but ask how we can then act on it. How can we act with conviction in our hearts to do good and show that the doubt and fear we experience do not rule us?

Stephen Forster
AV Alum, San Diego 2017-2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 21, 2021

JER 31:31-34; PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; HEB 5:7-9; JN 12:20-33

As we contemplate the Word of God for this week, we find the readings to be quite powerful especially for those of you involved in our Volunteer Program. God’s promise to renew his covenant with Israel is not only focused on the Jewish people but an opportunity for us to renew our covenant with God. Coupled with what Jesus tells his disciples in our Gospel, we should find ourselves preparing for Easter with a sincere sense of joy and conversion of mind and heart. The hour is approaching for Jesus to fulfill his destiny as the Messiah. The time has come for us to rethink how well we have done in our Lenten promises so that we can continue on the road to conversion, opening our minds and hearts to what God has been calling us to throughout the Lenten season. Lent is more than a liturgical season but one that provides us the yearly opportunity to renew our faith, to deepen our covenant with God, and to take stock of how well we have responded to our community, our ministry, and our personal journey of faith.

Jesus speaks of his imminent death and resurrection, events that we already celebrate as his chosen people. We all approach God in various ways but God’s love for us is constant and unconditional. We are invited to die to sin and rise with Christ to a new life of grace, much like a grain of wheat, confident in the prophetic words of Jeremiah— “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” We are God’s people, and He remains forever our God of love and mercy.

Fr. Joe Mostardi, O.S.A.
Founding Director of the Augustinian Volunteers

Monday, March 22, 2021

DN 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; PS 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6; JN 8: 1-11

We all make mistakes. We are all human.

Jesus reminds us of this in today’s Gospel when he asks for “the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

This can be a freeing and humbling thought if we choose to let it. Jesus is asking the people to stop judging others without recognizing their own faults and sins. This is easier said than done, and like most things, it takes some work and energy. But we can take this time of Lenten reflection, as a community, to look inward instead of looking to judge others for their own faults. After all, we belong to a great community of sinners, with a few saints thrown in there too.

Over this past year, we have faced and grappled with many external struggles, from a worldwide pandemic to racial injustice to everything in between. So, let us take a moment today to look at our internal struggles and face our own mistakes and humanity. To me, Lent is a season of forgiveness and change and reflection. Before we focus on trying to change others, let’s think of how we can change and better prepare ourselves first.

We all make mistakes. We are all human. Now let’s put the work in together.

Sarah Hannan
AV Alum, San Diego 2018-2019

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

NM 21: 4-9; PS 102: 2-3, 16-18, 19-21; JN 8: 21-30

When I first read the Gospel for today, I chuckled because the disciples just really do not understand what Jesus is trying to stay. It reminded me of my own experience as an AV living in community. Sometimes it was me not understanding what my community mates were trying to say and other times it was them not understanding me, but one thing I know for sure is that I learned the importance of being able to communicate directly and clearly to others in my AV year. I am struck that Jesus calmly responds and clarifies three times to the disciples, he doesn’t give up or get annoyed, he is patient with them and clarifies his meaning again and again. Jesus listens and he responds gently and kindly to the people. I know I am definitely not always as kind as Jesus was to the people, but I see an invitation here to care for the person in front as Jesus does.

What is even more shocking is that Jesus ends by saying, “I am not my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” Jesus is dependent on the Father, which begs me to ask how much more so I am dependent on the people around me and on God. I need the people in front of me, even if I’m annoyed by them and I need my community mates. Jesus is not his own. We are not our own.

Keri Salanik
AV Alum, Ventura 2019-2020

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

DN 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95; DN 3: 52, 53, 54, 55, 56; JN 8: 31-42

Today’s reading from The Book of Daniel reminds us of the faithfulness of our God. King Nebuchadnezzar threatens Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and tells them to serve his god and worship the statue he made “otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace.” But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse and Nebuchadnezzar binds them and throws them into the furnace. But he is astonished when he looks into the fire to see not three men tied up, but four men unrestrained, “and the fourth looks like a son of God.”

During the past year, I’m sure many of us have felt, at times, that we were living in a white-hot furnace – a type of hell. But the beautiful message of this story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is that God will not leave us trapped in this hell. God sends His son, Jesus, to us to free us and protect us from the fire. And even more, if we are faithful to the Lord as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were when they went as far as to say, “even if he [God] will not [save them from the furnace], know, O king, that we will not serve your god”, we have to power to bring other to Christ just as Nebuchadnezzar was when he saw God have saved the three men and said: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego”. We can’t lose faith in our Lord, even when it seems that he might let us burn in the fire. We have to know that Jesus will always be there by our side.

Allison Hayes
Current AV, Ventura

Thursday, March 25, 2021

IS 7:10-14; 8:10; PS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11; HEB 10:4-10; LK 1:26-38

The Old Testament content for today heavily influences the New Testament passages Both the New Testament authors use almost exact quotes from the Isaiah and Psalms passages, specifically the ones focused on Prophecy, to provide evidence that Jesus is the fulfillment of those prophecies. So, I am going to neglect the New Testament and focus on the Old Testament.  We can learn a lot, theologically, from these New Testament readings, but we can learn more about interpersonal living, love, and community from these Old Testament readings.

The Isaiah passage starts with the King of Judah chickening out on a task from God and Isaiah saying, “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?” Isaiah is wearied by the behavior of the King but, despite the King’s failure, still does his job as Prophet.  God is also wearied by the line of Kings, the “house of David”, but He eventually fulfills the prophecy.  Why? We learn that in the Psalms reading. Most ancient religions had gods who operated in a paradigm where you make a sacrifice and the god does something for you.  Not our God, according to Psalms He comes to save His people out of love for them.  Psalms then talks about how God’s people praise Him and do His will out of a response to His love.  It is a mutual, loving relationship. People fail at that relationship all the time- especially in Community. It’s important to follow Isaiah’s example here.  Even when we are weary of each other, the world, our Community, we need complete our responsibilities to each other and make sure our actions are rooted in love.

Jonathan Heisler
AV Alum, San Diego 2016-2017

Friday, March 26, 2021

JER 20: 10-13; PS 18: 2-3A, 3BC, 5-6, 7; JN 10: 31-42

In encountering his accusers, Jesus encourages them to “believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” How am I discerning God’s presence in my actions, attitudes, and participation in the systems around me? This Lent I hope to not only practice listening and attentiveness through prayer and generosity, but also interrogate the ways in which I have been formed to expect God. For me, in addition to sitting in the silence of contemplative prayer, I must increasingly see the ways my dominant racial and gender identities have not just privileged me but formed my expectations of God. Can I be curious about what motivates my actions, the way I move through the world, and the systems that have informed these realities? Can I see how my limited vision has prevented me participating fully in the building of God’s reign on earth?

This clear-eyed discernment can be overwhelming. Like all forms of hurt and separation, the Psalm reminds me that I cannot change or heal on my own. “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.” May an acknowledgement of my need and request for help make room for God’s grace to sharpen my vision and inform my participation in recreating a more just world.

Brian McCabe
AV Advisory Council Member

Saturday, March 27, 2021

EZ 37: 21-28; JER 31:10, 11-12ABCD, 13; JN 11: 45-56

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus speaking to His followers about the importance of everyday actions. In short, Jesus is offering them an explanation about what many people know as the “Golden Rule”. He instructs His followers to be merciful, kind, and free from judgement because that is what they have already received from God.

I love that this passage comes from Luke’s Gospel. Luke writes Jesus as someone who lives out His preaching. In this Gospel there is a tremendous amount of unwritten detail surrounding Jesus’ ministry. Jesus focused His efforts on those who were on the fringes of society. The poor, the outcasted, the unpopular. During His time, Jesus used Jewish hospitality as an instrument in His ministry. Usually, the people you dined with were to be a reflection of your own superior status and yet Jesus dined with tax collectors, the ill, and women (who were not equals in the patriarchal society). When we look at Jesus’ words on the page, we see Him instructing His followers about how to act. When we superimpose His words with His actions, and how He spent His time shown in the rest of this Gospel, we receive a totally new, radical message. Jesus never stopped trying to restore the humanity of the people that society has ignored. So, what does this teaching look like today? I think it is lived out in the dedication to those who have been pushed out. People who are experiencing poverty from a system that led them there. It is focusing on people who are oppressed because the cry for their basic human rights are deafened by louder voices of hate, bigotry, racism, and violence.

Am I spending my time fighting against the ways of oppression? This Lenten season I hope to focus on figuring out the ways I have added to the oppression and making the necessary changes in my life for the sake of those around me.

Marty Palmasani
AV Alum, San Diego 2019-2020

Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021

MK 11:1-10; IS 50:4-7; PS 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; PHIL 2:6-11; MK 14:1—15:47

While reflecting on today’s readings, I found myself drawn to Jesus’ humanity and deep trust in God, specifically in Mark’s Gospel story of the Passion. After sharing the Passover meal with his twelve disciples, Jesus invites three of them to accompany him while he withdrawals in prayer. It is said that Jesus “began to be troubled and distressed” asking God to “take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” We see Jesus intentionally taking time to be alone in prayer with God his Father. He openly and honestly expresses his fear and desire to not enter into the suffering and death that he knew was awaiting him. I find comfort in the honesty of Jesus’ prayer and the trust he displays in God. Jesus trusted that by journeying through the suffering, new life would abound on the other side. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts. This is a reminder to me that God won’t necessarily take away our suffering, rather God can be found present to us in the suffering. It is through our prayer and relationship with God that we can find the strength to take the next step forward, trusting that God is with us each step of the way. During these Lenten days, have you felt able to honestly express to God what is on your heart? Perhaps we too are called to join Jesus in prayer today, sharing any joys and challenges that will lead to new life, trusting that God is present with open and loving arms.

Lisa Mehalick
AV Alum, Chicago 2009-2010

Monday, March 29, 2021

IS 42: 1-7; PS 27: 1, 2, 3, 13-14; JN 12: 1-11

Upon first reading the Gospel I found myself uneasily agreeing with Judas: why should we use the expensive perfumed oil when we could sell it and disperse it to the poor? Is it wasteful to anoint Jesus’ feet? How many mouths could that feed?

For the past six months I have been working at a day shelter for youth experiencing homelessness. From my time at the shelter, I can more clearly see the flaws in Judas’ words. For Judas is speaking of the “poor” in abstract ways. Does Judas have a plan to distribute the money to the poor? Does he know if it would be better to spend it on food or clothing? No. His statement is only meant to critique Mary and the great gift she was giving to Jesus. Whenever we talk about the poor in abstraction, we do them a disservice. We silence their perspectives and experiences and risk making assumptions about what it is that they actually need.

Unlike Judas, Mary is able to see the need that is present right in front of her. Mary shows a clarity that I crave. She expresses her love freely and fully, not worrying about the cost. How many of us have such clarity? The ability to trust our instincts rather than waiting for the perfect moment. What decision are you avoiding? What apology haven’t you sent? As we near this time of Easter how can you love the people who you have been called to love and let go of your indecisions?

Claire Erlenborn
AV Alum, Ventura 2018-2019

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

IS 49: 1-6; PS 71: 1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 and 17; JN 13: 21-33, 36-38

The various accounts of the Last Supper and the Passion we hear through Holy Week, like today’s Gospel, remind me of a crime scene reconstruction in a detective show, with subsequent witnesses adding to the reenactment. I imagine the scene in today’s Gospel: Peter nods to signal the disciple next to Jesus; He asks, Jesus answers, then passes the morsel to Judas; Peter is indignant, pledges his readiness to lay down his life, and is told he’ll deny Jesus within hours. I imagine what might be going on in each mind and heart.

Peter gets so much right, and so much wrong. I’ve taught in many a religion class that Peter’s imperfection is not a bug, it’s a feature. I love Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to fail, and that he is already praying for him, so that when he fails and comes back from that failure, he’ll be that much more able to lead the others. I often pray this with retreat leaders.

That said, I think I’m only now, at 40, starting to actually embrace my own failings as a feature. Working from home and sheltering in place through the year has revealed a lot of the clutter and baggage in my garage, and in my life. What I “gave up” for 2020 exposed things in my physical, mental, and spiritual health that I had to address to be able to respond to the challenges, griefs, and blessings the year brought. I find myself this Lent with Peter, with hope that where I am not able to follow Christ now, I will later.

Jason Coito

AV Alum, Lawrence 2002-2003

Song: Baptize My Mind by Jon Foreman

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

IS 50: 4-9A; PS 69: 8:-10, 21-22, 31, and 33-34; MT 26: 14-25

As we are in the middle of Holy Week, I find today’s readings to be a reminder of the choices that we are asked to make beyond the season of Lent.

In both Matthew and Isaiah, we see the choices that are available. Both options, seem to be a difficult and challenging reality. Judas makes a choice and it a is painful, lonely, and destructive one. The servant in the first reading, as well as Jesus in Gospel, also make a choice. It too, holds its challenges and at times pain. The difference, however, is that the faithful servant in Isaiah, and in turn Jesus, are not alone on that path. “Let us appear together.”

Isaiah reminds us, and Jesus’ death and resurrection, that when we choose what at times can be a difficult path to love our neighbor and to follow love and God, we are not doing so alone. What a comfort knowing that in what is at times a challenging reality, that we have an option to choose to be on a team, and not solo.

As is written in today’s Psalm, “You who seek God, may your hearts revive!” So, as the season of Lent comes to an end, may we be reminded of the choices that are in front of us, and pray to walk the path together with God.

Marie Robson
AV Advisory Council Member

Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021

IS 61:1-3A, 6A, 8B-9; PS 89:21-22, 25 and 27; RV 1:5-8; LK 4:16-21

The Gospel on Holy Thursday is one that we have heard many times. Jesus once again surprises his disciples with his humbleness and willingness to serve others. But what can we uncover this year from a story we have heard time and time again? The part of this story that reveals itself to me this year is the role of the disciples. I don’t know about you, but growing up I always dreaded allowing a stranger to wash my feet in the seemingly ordinary practice that takes place during Holy Thursday Mass. The idea of someone inspecting and washing my feet was distressing to me. This year I began to think about why. Feet are such a strange, and for some people unkempt, part of the body. Allowing someone to wash your feet is, in a way, a form of letting go. It is a form of expelling our privacy, and humbly accepting a service from another, even if only for a few minutes. We are allowing others to see the piece of us that may not be the best piece, but still an important piece. Maybe that is part of what Jesus was trying to show us. It is alright to let go sometimes and allow the love of our neighbors and the love of God enter into our lives through acts of kindness. In the midst of a global pandemic and a politically torn country, what an appropriate reminder this is, to be kind and accept even the most awkward, thorny parts of ourselves and our neighbors.

Megan Carey
AV Alum, Lawrence 2018-2019

Good Friday, April 2, 2021

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

“God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made” begins Christian Wimen’s poem, “Every Riven Thing.” Good Friday seems to be the ultimate riven thing, the event of Christ being torn apart on the cross, his heart stretched between heaven and earth.

God, in this way, belongs to the riven and so knows us. For we are riven beings, torn by sin and strife. We misunderstand each other. We hardly know our own selves. Is your heart broken? Does it feel as though things have collapsed around you? Even creation groans for wholeness.

How do we make sense of all this? The dark thoughts locked in teenage brains; the long walk of an immigrant; a virus that threatens every breath.

Perhaps we can’t. Perhaps we can’t say anything at all, other than nod to the fact, rooted in the experience of Good Friday, that God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

Fr. Dan Madden, O.S.A.
AV Alum, Chicago 2011-2012

Advent Reflections 2020

Advent Week 1

Readings for Sunday, November 29, 2020

Today’s Gospel is never my favorite. In fact, each Advent, I usually muddle through the first Sunday’s apocalyptic, doom and gloom story to get to the more appealing parts of Advent. To be honest though, this year I actually relate to this story more than I ever have. Never in my life have I been so alert. Since March, I’ve been constantly watchful. I’ve been watching the water flow from the sink as I wash my hands for the umpteenth time. I’ve been watching the distance between me and the person in front of me in line at the grocery store. I’ve been watching election returns and Twitter feeds. And I’ve been watching time tick away, wondering how long this newfound alertness will really have to last.

Interestingly, today’s reading from Mark doesn’t give us any instructions on how to feel as we remain in this state of watchfulness. It doesn’t even explicitly tell us that what we are waiting for is something to fear. Certainly, earlier in this chapter, there are some scarier images, but none make it into the passage we read today. What it does tell us, is that change is coming. The old ways of the world will come to pass, and something new will be reborn. If we aren’t paying attention, we might be caught off guard.
It’s human nature to view change as something unpleasant or scary. It’s hard to let go of what we know and have grown comfortable with. However, the stories that await us this season are about change. In the coming weeks, we’ll hear about John the Baptist’s preparations and Elizabeth finally becoming pregnant. These aren’t apocalyptic stories; they are stories about hope. Perhaps then, hope is about standing on the precipice of change, about believing that another world might finally be in view.

This Advent, I’ve chosen to remain hopeful in the face of what feels like the apocalypse. I’m ready for change. I’m ready for that new world; one where we can finally be within 6 feet of one another. I’m also ready for a new world, born on the foundation of equality, justice, and inclusion, particularly for brown and black lives. This Advent, I will watch, I will wait, and I will hope.   

Joanna Bowen
AV Alum, San Diego 2007-2008
Director, Augustinian Volunteers
Song for reflection:

Change by Tracy Chapman

Advent Week 2

Readings for Sunday, December 6, 2020

If you have ever hiked in the Appalachian range, you know that the mountains are mercifully gentle, but things weren’t always that way. Many scientists suspect that these ancient beauties were once as high as the Himalayas. Formed more than 400 million years ago by the fusing of continents, they have been actively eroding for the last 200 million years since the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea. It’s this reality that first springs to mind when I hear the imagery in today’s readings. From Isaiah, a prophecy, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.” It’s a powerful, albeit fantastical seeming image. It can be a beautiful metaphor for preparing for Jesus at Christmas or making space for God in our daily lives. It can also be a reminder that God exists outside of time or at least time as we think of it.

If you’re anything like me, your relationship to time has changed this year. Every time I forget a date or grossly over or underestimate how long ago something happened, I find myself joking “what is time anyway?” It’s intended to be a comical refrain, but wonder now if there is a lesson in it. In the past when I envisioned “mountains being made low,” I always imagined something supernatural, but maybe I should have been thinking of those 400-billion-year-old mountains all along. Perhaps this Advent, as many of us are spending more time outside than we ordinarily would this time of year, we can allow the natural world to be our guide to a deeper understanding God. In the still moments, let’s remember that despite our perception, nothing is really still at all. Let’s remember a God who is bigger than the world of fear, anxiety, urgency and scarcity that so many of us find ourselves lost in. Let’s remember the mountains.

Hannah Kunberger
AV Alum, Lawrence 2008-2009
Associate Director, Augustinian Volunteers
Song for reflection:

Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver

Advent Week 3

Readings for Sunday, December 13, 2020

Each December rolls around resulting in shorter days and longer nights of darkness. Depending on where you live, the temperature outside can drop dramatically, creating a sharp shock to our systems upon entering the outside world from the warm comfort of our homes. While this rhythm is to be expected each year, it still takes adjusting on my part.

We are told in Advent to “Wait for the Light”, just like the song I chose to pair with these readings and reflection. Waiting doesn’t come natural to me. The hardest part is my racing mind coupled with the anticipation, a solid combination where most of my anxieties reside. So this season in the church where we are meant to sink into the waiting, while living in the darkness, always leaves me feeling restless and anxious, even knowing the season’s captivating conclusion of abundant hope.

Yet, these readings put my restless racing heart and mind at momentary ease. As the first reading mentioned God bringing forth justice, my mind floated with daydreams of the brokenness in our world being meticulously pieced back together. In the second reading, we are called to the attention that our God is a faithful one, comforting to the side of me that often chooses despair over hope. And finally in the Gospel, where we meet John the Baptist, who’s central role throughout the entirety of the Bible is to testify to the light, the one we celebrate in just a short week’s time. As I took in John’s role, I rested in the reality that each and every Christian is meant to join him in this sacred act of testifying to the light. While it is important to have scripture as a guide, I don’t just have to read about the light of the world coming to fruition in this passage. I can step back and look at the world around me. There are currently nine Augustinian Volunteers boldly dedicating their year to community, service, and spirituality, during one of the darkest periods of our lifetime. That to me (and countless other examples) is light.

So in our time of waiting, may we also consider the ways in which we can be light for others, just as John the Baptist was to those waiting for the Messiah.

Maggie Morrin
AV Alum, Lawrence 2017-2018
Assistant Director, Augustinian Volunteers
Song for reflection:

Wait for the Light by Jillian Jaqueline

Advent Week 4

Readings for Sunday, December 20, 2020

Here we stand on this fourth Sunday of Advent, lighting the last purple candle, on the brink of welcoming baby Jesus into the world. What a comfort that is! Despite all that 2020 has thrown at us, the lessons are here for us just the same, and perhaps as the reminder we all need so desperately.

One of the takeaways from my volunteer year that I think about often is this notion of saying “yes”. I remember during orientation, Fr. Joe Mostardi explaining the commitment we had made to the program and to ourselves. By committing to become Augustinian Volunteers, we had said yes to that experience and all that it entailed, community life, prayer, service, simple living, and so much more. And as a result of saying “yes” to being an AV, we were saying “no” to many other experiences that we might have otherwise had that year.

This year has resulted in many more “noes” than most of us are accustomed to; no daycare, no commuting, no typical holidays, no sports, no school, no concerts, no Mass, no vacations, no graduations. Some of these were shorter term, others were longer, and some are reemerging again. Although many of these decisions were made for us, we did then actively choose our responses as a result of these “noes”. Perhaps we weren’t able to go out to see a movie in theaters, but we could choose to have a game night at home instead.

In this week’s gospel, we witness Mary say “yes” when the angel comes bearing news that she will bring this baby, Jesus, into the world. Sometimes in the noise of today’s world, I find it difficult to hear what God asks of me. What an example Mary is to us in her willingness to say “yes”. But don’t mistake this to mean she didn’t have doubts or fears. She said yes in spite of those. Hopefully, we will make time to listen more to what God asks of us and let Mary lead our hearts.

My hope for each of you, as we reflect on the past twelve months and eagerly await the birth of our Lord, is to reflect on the many yeses of the year. Although they were likely not the ones we expected, there is grace to be found in this time, and as we continue to actively say yes going forward. We’ve had more intentional time with loved ones, more home-cooked meals shared around our kitchen tables, more time venturing outside to take a walk, ride a bike or enjoy a park, more purposeful gatherings with neighbors to build community, more opportunity for prayer in our homes. How did our priorities change in 2020? What will we choose for 2021 and beyond? How will we say “yes” to being more faithful disciples of the Lord in the future? Let’s not miss opportunities to say “yes” to the holiness to which God is calling each of us.

Jane O’Connor

AV Alum, Lawrence 2007-2008

Song for Reflection:

Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant