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Advent, A Season of Service - Fire and Water

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 9:19am

Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center are pleased to bring you this Advent reflection series to support your growth during this important season. We welcome you to journey through these weeks of Advent alongside several of our current and former
volunteers who serve as contributors for this series. We are constantly inspired by their courage to step outside of their comfort zones and their commitment to serving those most in need. They have remarkable stories to share, filled with light and hope. Each week, a different writer reflects on the Sunday Gospel reading through the lens of their volunteer experience. Their insights on the four pillars of faith-based service; Community, Social Justice, Spirituality, and Simple Living, call us back to the true meaning of Advent. Click here to download the complete Advent 2016 Reflection Guide
Second Sunday of Advent“I am baptizing you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.”Matthew 3:1-12
Reflection by MIchael McCormick, former Augustinian Volunteer, current Resources Coordinator at Catholic Volunteer Network
Today we meet John the Baptist, the voice in the wild. For me, John represents the totality of an individual living in accordance with God’s will. Through self-denial, John becomes a healer of sinners. Through self-abandonment, John becomes whole. How can anyone follow such a path?
I find direction in the two baptisms John describes. First, he says, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance.” Then he says Jesus, the one who comes after, “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  John washes, Jesus burns. Both will cleanse me and remove my excesses.
Water and fire were two shaping forces during my service year in Southern California, where there is still a severe drought.  The unforgiving dry heat in the desert town where I worked exhausted everyone. The simple words, “Would you like a glass of water?” became a life-affirming phrase of hospitality. Rainfall, though rare, quenched our spirits.
Fire also formed us. In the dry hills, wildfires often threatened homes. In our community house, the small flame of our prayer candle was like my Pentecost, igniting a love for my three community members that mostly surpassed my self-love.
A lack of spirit, like a lack of water, leaves me dry and thirsting for God. A fire of purpose, kindled by the Augustinians, gives me the courage to proceed. I know I am chaff and dirt, yet God will find my grain and burn the rest – sin and sorrow and all that holds me captive.

Focus on: Social Justice
What strikes me is John’s offer of baptism not only to the meek, but also to the righteous Sadducees and Pharisees. Yes, John harshly rebukes them and commands repentance, but the offer is still there if they shall be humble. As Catholics, we pray that God will protect the poor, which he does. We also pray that God will forgive all sinners – including even the mighty.  I cannot help but think of our political climate, and how often we root for leaders to fail, when we should hope for their redemption and our own.
Service Suggestion
During my volunteer year, program staff would visit our communities as a way of checking in. They would also have one-on-one sessions with each volunteer, usually off-site, always over a coffee or tea. These unhurried talks were a form of service by the staff, giving their full presence to become a witness to each volunteer’s experience, struggles included.
This season, who can you check in on? To whom can you be present to? Make time and be a Christian witness to ONE person’s life, especially in this season when so much time is claimed by trivial affairs and festivities. 

PrayerGod, help me to eat the locusts. Help me find the nighttime path. Help me bend this proud back, help me kneel by the river. Mend my cuts with honey and leaves, wipe the grime out of my eye, paste my tongue to the roof of my mouth and help me remember your silence. Your Voice fills the desert night, your Word kicks against the stomach, your fiery breath scorches me and renews me, you rip me from the dirt and for this I give thanks. 

To learn more about Augustinian Volunteers, please click here. 

Advent, A Season of Service - Focus on Spiritual Growth

Sun, 11/27/2016 - 9:53am

Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center are pleased to bring you this Advent reflection series to support your growth during this important season. We welcome you to journey through these weeks of Advent alongside several of our current and former volunteers who serve as contributors for this series. We are constantly inspired by their courage to step outside of their comfort zones and their commitment to serving those most in need. They have remarkable stories to share, filled with light and hope. Each week, a different writer reflects on the Sunday Gospel reading through the lens of their volunteer experience. Their insights on the four pillars of faith-based service; Community, Social Justice, Spirituality, and Simple Living, call us back to the true meaning of Advent. Click here to download the complete Advent 2016 Reflection Guide
First Sunday of Advent“So too, you also must be prepared,for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”Matthew 24:37-44
Reflection by Madonna Enwe, current Franciscan Mission Service volunteer
I remember sitting in class during my last semester of college, thinking about the image I had seen the previous night: a dead Syrian boy whose body had been washed to shore. I was deeply hurt by that scene and wondered why people, especially refugees, had to suffer so much to find a peaceful home on earth. As someone who had arrived in the United States as an asylee, I was drawn to helping in any way I could to make the lives of refugees and asylees better. 
I had decided to take a gap year between college and medical school, planning to do something health-related. However, I changed my mind when I discovered the opportunity to serve for a year at the Refugee Service Center for Catholic Charities through the Franciscan Mission Service program. I did not want to wait until I became a doctor before I could help people. This opportunity had presented itself to me, and I knew that God wants me to take advantage of it right now, especially when there is a current refugee crisis in the world. Without knowing when our Lord will come back, I cannot push back a call that He has placed in my heart. To better prepare my heart for His second coming, I am called - just as we all are - to  minister to the suffering and needs of the people around me, listening to the Lord’s voice when He calls me to serve, even when I don’t feel qualified.  
Focus on: Spiritual Growth
There are always times when I go for days, weeks, and even months without creating concrete time for the Lord. These moments always make me feel dry and withdrawn from Him, and I feel a sense of peace taken away from me. This passage tells us that we should not let our limitations lead us far away from God, but to strive more often to desire to find peace again and turn to Him. Being alert to serving the needs of others also challenges us spiritually to always be looking for and serving Jesus in those around us. 
Service Suggestion
During this time of thanksgiving and waiting for the birth of Christ, let us daily strive to open our hearts and homes to those who are lonely, living alone or away from home, and suffering in one way or another. Find some way to engage your talents or resources to serve those around you: sing at a hospital or nursing home, donate gifts to refugee centers or crisis pregnancy centers near you, or become involved with young people in your parish to give them more opportunities to  grow in their faith.
PrayerLord, please create in me a clean heart and a quiet spirit that is ready to listen to your call and answer it quickly. Help me not to be blinded to the sufferings of your people around me; rather, let me be an example of your goodness and mercy to those I serve. Even when I hide or run away from your call, draw me back close to you so that I can dwell in your presence and be an instrument of your peace and love in the world. 


To learn more about Franciscan Mission Service, please click here