Service Matters – Second Week of Advent

6 December 2010

Feast of St. Nicholas

Second 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
  • Salesian Peace and Justice Blog


1. Service Word   Matthew 3

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.   His food was locusts and wild honey.   At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  

… “I am baptizing you in water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.   I am not worthy to carry his sandals.   He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”


John the Baptist is both an appealing and a forbidding figure.  Camel’s hair clothes, locust and wild honey diet, his place in the desert—all suggest a life reduced to essentials.  John’s commitment and credibility have an appeal; there can be no doubt that he believes entirely in his mission and message. But he does not sound like much fun.  He sounds like a “one note guy”—all urgency and correction; “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand,” he cries.


The gospels give us a richer, more complex picture of Jesus.  He can hardly be characterized as a slacker; he has a strong message that does not sugar coat the challenge involved in living a fruitful life.  And Jesus makes it clear that our choices, the way we use our life and freedom, have consequences.  However, he also makes it very clear that he is on our side, pulling for us—and enjoying us.


While John ate insects and honey, we often see Jesus enjoying meals in the company of friends and people he meets in his travels.  “Strong drink” never touched the Baptist’s lips, but isn’t it easy to imagine Jesus sitting down for a couple beers, sharing a bottle of wine or a dry martini with friends for enjoyable and significant conversation.   He touched hearts and minds of people around him, not by monologues from a preacher’s pulpit, but by sharing heart to heart with the people he encountered.   John the Baptist talks about his unworthiness to carry Jesus’ sandals, but on the most intense night of his life, Jesus takes his friends’ feet in hand and washes them.   The Lord’s unexpected, unearned grace changes everything.


One thing that surprises serving in our neighborhood is how, despite the very evident hardships of life here, it is not a completely grim, heavy place.   Humor, irony, good nature, teasing, playfulness, making the best of the situation, hospitality, generosity—are unexpected grace, lightening the load here.   You are a part of that.


Do you feel the Lord on you side, pulling for you, and enjoying you as you go about parenting, relationships, work, school, being a disciple?

Is your expectation about religion more like John’s or like Jesus’ God of abundance?

Is there any place in your life where you might go against the expected behavior and act in grace and forgiveness?


2. Last Week in Camden

Fifteen juniors from Bishop Eustace High School in nearby Cherry Hill, NJ, were here Thursday to Sunday for a service retreat.   Led by service director Pat Arnold and history teacher “Mr. J.,” they served very generously.   Highlights include a very unself-conscious group dance with Holy Name middle school kids on the playground, painting with Camden teens, singing hymns at Mass.   We also delivered dinners to homeless people camped out for the night in the Cathedral neighborhood.


3. Upcoming Events

Monday Philadelphia and Camden area service corps directors meet at Chestnut Hill College for support and planning.  We are hosting the national convention of Catholic Service Network CSN (formerly CNVS) in the fall of 2011 in Philly.


I want to invite everyone to the Oblates’ annual “friend raiser” at Knowlton Mansion in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia.   This has been a fun event for Oblate friends to gather to mix and support our various projects in the area.   Save the date, February 11, 7:00-10:00, 2011, Friday.


4. Peace and Justice Blog    Check out the Oblate Justice and Peace Blog.

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