Advent, A Season of Service: Focus on Simple Living

This is the third blog post of our Advent series. Every Sunday we will feature a reflection by one of our current or former volunteers. You can download the entire reflection guide here

Third Sunday of Advent

“The crowds asked John the Baptist, ‘What should we do?’ He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.’”

Luke 3:10-18

Reflection by Michael O’Neill, former Jesuit Volunteer Corps volunteer

“What then should we do?” After my time in Jesuit Volunteer Corps, this question has been seared onto my heart. As many FJVs might say, I have been “ruined for life” (the unofficial slogan of JVC). Being ruined is being aware of the injustices in the world both far and near (sometimes far too near). Knowing of these injustices I constantly find myself challenged with so many questions, “How should I be living my life?” “How do we conquer injustice and build up the Kingdom of God?” “How does my vocation play into this?” “How do I dialogue with others about these injustices?” “Am I doing enough?” “What does ‘enough’ look like?” All these questions always lead back to the question the crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?”

While I have no answers that bring a piece of mind I do find some solace in today’s Gospel. While the answers aren’t clear, the direction is. And sometimes that is what is needed and nothing more. Jesus simply said, “Follow me” not “Follow me with these specific details so you know exactly what the way will look like.” The direction I see John pointing us in is adorning a woven fabric of living a life that focuses on community, faith, social justice, and simplicity. These values are so tightly interwoven that one cannot help fully live one without the others. What John calls the crowds to do is live simply so that they may focus on one another as a community and work together for justice and ultimately, remove all distractions between themselves and an all-loving, merciful, and very mysterious God. So, “What then should we do?” I’d say let us pick up this cross together and head in the direction John is pointing. Reminding ourselves that we are merely workers building the Kingdom and to have faith in the God that leads us.

Focus on: Simple Living

In today’s Gospel, where hear about John the Baptist responding to the question, “What then should we do?” John the Baptist’s response in short is two-fold. First, go forth doing what is just and honest. He calls the crowds to give away any excess to those who lack and being present to others rather than taking advantage of them. Being John the Baptist, this is a challenge to embrace simplicity. Simplicity helps when living a just and honest life but that is only the half of John’s message. The second part is preparation. Simplicity prepares our hearts to be open to God by re-aligning our focus on what is important in life by removing what distracts us and in the process lifting up others in authentic love.

A Season of Service

Engage in simplicity! Unbound yourself from things that distract you from others and God. Do you tend to fill up your time? Untangle your schedule to pray and spend time with God. Then go out and serve (perhaps in a food pantry, or in your local parish, temple, mosque, etc). If you find yourself attached to some material possessions, try to practice distancing yourself from them by giving them away. Donate things you find yourself most attached to either to those you know are in need or to a thrift shop, parish clothing drive, etc.


Mysterious God, you call us to be your humble workers. To simplify our lives and remove those things that distract us from our brothers and sisters; that distract us from You. Help us amidst the struggles of bringing about your Kingdom, to trust in you. To trust in the love you have for us and console us with some direction when we ask “What then should we do?” Amen.
In a season often filled with consumerism and excess, how are you living simply? 

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