Service Matters – 23rd Week of Ordinary Time

5 September 2011

Labor Day

23rd Week of Ordinary Time

A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Camden, NJ,

De Sales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join

in service, prayer and learning in our struggling neighborhood.



  • Service Word
  • Last Week in Camden
  • Upcoming Events
  • Links


1. Service Matters     Matthew 18:15-20

“If he refuses to listen … treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector.”


I met Josh last fall when I asked him not to shoot up in the stairwell near the school, and he responded, “I’m not shooting up—I’m smoking.”   And he was; he showed me the crack pipe as he passed, embarrassed, coming out of the stairwell.  Our paths cross a lot here, and he always engages as a wise guy, ready to spar when I make observations about the effects of his drug use and living on the streets.   He also consistently expresses shame about his addiction and the life he feels trapped in.


Sunday before the 11:30 Mass I noticed someone lying in a doorway of the parish hall in a bed of tousled newspaper.   Going over to wake the person, I saw it was Josh.   I greeted him, “How are you doing?”   Before the words left my mouth, anyone could see the unintentional irony of that question—sleeping outside, worn and tired from his addiction—he was a mess.   I gave him my water and my banana yogurt and left him to his wake up and clean up activities.


About ten minutes later he found me and said that he is really down and wants to see his mom who was visiting not too far away in Glassboro, NJ.   Can I give him money for the bus?   I said, “No, I do not give money—as you know.”   But I told him I would drive him.   “How would I get back?”   I said, “Don’t!   Stay there.  Get out of Camden!”   He gave more reasons why just a couple dollars was all he needed.   But I persisted— “No money, buddy.   No.”   Finally, we stood silent for 30 seconds.    Then he said, “This is awkward.”


It occurred to me at that moment what it must take for an adult to ask for things in this way.   It is easy, in a sense, for me to say, “No”—or “Yes”—whatever I decide is best.  I hold all the cards. He played his cards and came up without want he wanted.    What a experience—“awkward” to say the least.


This gospel encourages us to share difficult truths with our neighbors and to persist even if the person resists or rejects the insight.   This is healthy because it gets our observations out where they might do some good—and where the observation itself gets exposed to dialogue and possible adjustment.   The final step, if the brother or sister will not take in the insight, sounds like rejection: treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.   It seems that way until you consider how Jesus treated Gentiles and sinners.   Matthew, who relates this story to us, knows first hand how the Lord treats tax collectors.


-Does you image of God take into consideration how Jesus treated Gentiles, sinners and tax collectors?

-What are effective ways you share truth and insight with people close to you?

-Do you have ways of avoiding truth and insight shared with you—defensiveness, counter attack, exaggeration?


2. Last Week in Camden 

Organizing, upgrading, preparing, and working as a team continued.


Thursday Father Joe Wisniewski and Mary Lou Draper visited with donations of school bags full of supplies.   Mary also brought the parish calendar to schedule several dates for service this school year.   We are grateful for their commitment.


3. Upcoming Events

Our local Northgate Park takes a major step—a basic step—this Tuesday when we and three other residents will get an orientation on how to open and close the park.   The former caretaker will turn over the keys, and our broader group will have the responsibility each day.   The city police have committed to coming for closing time.  All this is good for the park moving in the direction of being safe and available.


Friday – Sunday we will have the first DSW year-long volunteer retreat.


4. Links

Check out the DSW website    Also read essays on a range of topics from the Peace & Justice Blog.



Have a good week, Mike McCue
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