Service Matters – 3rd Week of Advent

17 December 2012

3rd Week of Advent


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

DeSales 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 Word   Luke 3:10-18

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.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,

“Teacher, what should we do?”

He answered them,

“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”

Soldiers also asked him,

“And what is it that we should do?”

He told them,

“Do not practice extortion,

do not falsely accuse anyone,

and be satisfied with your wages.”


What should we do?”   People from various ways of life put this question to John the Baptist.   They had heard to his call to give up sin and the negative choices in life—-and now they wonder what positive actions can take the place of their former ways.   It is wise when giving up something to choose a good replacement.  They are looking for positive and practical steps forward.   John offers common sense guidance: share, do your job, do not take advantage of anyone.  Reasonable.  Sensible.


How does Jesus answer the same question?— “What should we do?


“Love your enemy; do good to those who hurt you.”   “Take up your cross and follow me.”   Trust me— “I am resurrection; I am life.”   “Forgive.”   “Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”   “Whatever you do to the least of your sisters and brothers, you do to me.”   “Love God with your whole mind, heart, body, and your neighbor as yourself.”


Don’t the Lord’s answers push beyond the strictly reasonable and sensible?    The Baptist’s commands are pretty clear—you do them, or you don’t.   Jesus’ have an open ended quality. With love of neighbor, or forgiveness, or reaching out to the least among us, there will never be a time when we can check them off our “to do list” —over and done.


The Lord’s commandments connect us to him as we go forward, and are all about who we love and shape the kind of person we are.    This relationship and identity are always important, but come to the fore particularly in time of tragedy.    Our faith, articulated so well by St. Paul below is not for some fairetale world of “happy ever afters.”  It is for our real world that is complicated, filled with loss along side happiness and fulfillment, —and sadly, punctuated by tragedy.


Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always.             

I shall say it again: rejoice!

Your kindness should be known to all.

The Lord is near.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Let us be people who find ways to rejoice, who bring kindness to all situations, who pray with faith–-pray for the lives lost and ruined by this shooting.  Let us be with those in need and support one another, and live in the peace only God can give.   The Lord is near.



2. Last Week in Camden

Salesianum School students were here doing great work Monday and Friday.

Saturday students from Philadelphia Cristo Rey High School began service here at 9:00 and were joined by Holy Name Scholars (grads of our parish grade school) at 10:00.    We prepared gifts of warm socks and Christmas cards for neighbors who come to Sandwich Ministry.   We prayed together for the victims of gun violence in the grade school in Connecticut and rang the bell in the Cathedral tower for those who died, their families, and for peace in every place.



3. Upcoming Events

Gifts and Christmas food come to the Cathedral for us to channel to those in need as we approach Christmas.   Monday I’ll be in Wilmington, DE, at Salesianum School all day for penance services—adding to our connection with that Oblate high school.   C.J. Colton and Raphaël Garagnon complete their time with us this week.   An intern with New Visions will stay the week with DSW.   December 22 to 24 the Dolson family will be here for service.



4. Links

I cannot pretend that I am neutral on the topic of guns, (or violence in movies and video games) in this country; so this paragraph comes from a point of view that not everyone shares.   I have always heard the phrase: “Guns don’t kill people; people do.”   While there is truth to that, a gun makes it lot easier to cause mortal injury, and an automatic weapon makes it possible to cause harm to many people.  This is a complicated issue, and there is no magic solution that would make every school utterly safe (or theater, mall, street, or home), but public discussion in this country needs to grow beyond tired truisms and all-or-nothing thinking.   The White House web site hosts a section for citizen petitions.   Check out the one responding to the Newtown shootings on the topic of gun safety.


There have been many reflections on Friday’s tragedy in Newtown.   I want to share one of the best I found on Sunday in the New York Times by writer Ross Douthat.


Read past reflections at the archives of Service Matters  and on DSW’s Facebook page.


Thank you,

 Mike McCue, OSFS

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