Service Matters – Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

31 January 2011

Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Memorial of St. John Bosco


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
  • Salesian Peace and Justice Blog


1. Service Word  Matthew 5:1-12

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”


Wednesday Joseph’s House, an effort to address homelessness in Camden, finally began.   It has begun well, offering basic hospitality to some of our homeless neighbors.   John Klein, a friend of the Oblates and one of the persistent leaders behind the project, made this observation from the first night.


A touching moment I happened to catch was a homeless man taking his bedroll and pillow out of a wet plastic bag.  After he arranged his things on the floor, he noticed a guy nearby who was lying on the floor, fully clothed, covered only with a thin blanket.   Seeing the man, he picked up his pillow, tapped the sleeping man on his shoulder, and without a word, bent over and slid the pillow under the stranger’s head.   He returned to his spot, folded up a blanket and used it as a pillow.  I wish I could explain how I felt watching this happen in a room where 18 others were all huddled and struggling to be warm and comfortable.


John Klein’s observation illuminates this gospel.   The kingdom of heaven is Jesus’ way of talking about his vision for order for the world.   His ideal becomes real in actions and attitudes like the one John observed.   Heaven is not primarily reward for the just after death; it is here now when we sync our wills and actions to God’s.   “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”—we can see God’s kingdom now in our loving.


Even doing our best, we will fall short, but we are called to continually do our best and make a difference for good, for the coming of God’s kingdom.   The extreme nature of a homeless shelter offers dramatic moments like the one John relates, but at each moment,  however ordinary the setting, the kingdom of God is at hand.


-Is there a healthy balance in your religious outlook—trusting God to make all things right in the end and also working effectively for love and justice now?
-Can you think of any recent, vivid experiences of the kingdom of God?

-How do you handle moments when doing your best, turns out not to be enough?


2. Last Week in Camden


Monday, 24 January, was the annual feast of St. Francis de Sales.   Our saint never fails to provide inspiration and guidance.

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself; I mean, don’t be disturbed about your imperfections, and always have the courage to pick yourself up after a fall.   I’m glad to hear you make a fresh start each day.   There is no better way of growing toward perfection in the spiritual life than to be always starting over again and never thinking we have done enough.   But most important, don’t lose heart, be patient, wait, do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion.


Wednesday night. Joseph’s House opened, welcoming 19 homeless people off the streets into a calm, safe, warm environment.


3. Upcoming Events

Postponed because of snow last week, I will try again Thursday to join Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia, for Mass celebrating the patronage and inspiration of St. Francis de Sales.   We will meet with student leaders meet to solidify plans for an ongoing connection between the school and the Oblate efforts in Camden.


4. Salesian Peace and Justice Blog

The blog is on a break until our Peace and Justice Committee decides how to go forward with it.   However, past Peace & Justice Blog essays can be found at the DeSales Service Works section of the Oblate web site.  We have just posted student reflections and an essay about poetry and poetic language connected to service and justice.

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