22 July 2013
Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
St. Mary Magdalen
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
1. Service Word Luke 11
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
Ethan Strotz is a DSW Year Long Volunteer who serves at Project Hope, a community health center situated just south of the Cathedral in Camden. This week he offers a reflection on work there—reasons to be frustrated, lessons to learn.
In the Gospel, we are told that persistence is rewarded, and initiative is fruitful. We hear that a friend is given more than the loaves for which he asked, out of persistence if not out of friendship. We are also told that those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and those who knock will have the door opened. Jesus is not saying that everything will be handed to those who are good or in need. Rather, it takes a step on our part to get what we need. To ask or to knock can be humbling for many people, but we see that it is necessary in order to receive or have a door opened to us.
This message resonates with me because I am the kind of person who hates inconveniencing others. I do my best to make sure people do not have to go out of their way for me. Whether this is due to pride, an interest in self-reliance, etc., I could learn to exercise more humility. This is in stark contrast to some people I have met in Camden.
Working at a community health center and living in Camden, I have seen that some people are not afraid to ask for help. Almost every week a man named Michael comes into my office and asks me for one thing or another. One week, he may want a phone. The next week, he may ask for a surgery appointment or lawn mower. Another week, he may stop in for his mail and check in just to say hi. I admire this about him because he certainly is not afraid to ask for the oddest and most basic of things. He is willing to discuss details of his personal life with me if it helps him get what he needs. This would be extremely difficult for me; Michael’s manner and humility show me that it is okay to share my problems and life’s difficulties with others, and doing so can lead to solutions and lessons learned.
While Michael is my constant reminder to be humble, he is also a source of great frustration. Michael is good at knocking on the door and asking for what he needs, but he has a lot of trouble seeking. Needless to say, he is not persistent in anything except asking.
Others and I have set up appointments for him and given him resources to help with his health and social needs. However, Michael does not follow through and expects the help he asks for to be given in one visit at his convenience. As we all know, this makes things extremely difficult, especially in the context of modern American healthcare. Despite his expectations, I do my best to help Michael and help him help himself, but it pains me to see the assistance he receives go to waste because he does not act on what others have done for him.
Michael provides me with a good example of persistence in humility. There are needs in life that are impossible for us to fulfill by ourselves. We can succumb to pride and try to solve our problems on our own, or we can be humble and acknowledge that we need someone else’s help. Michael’s example is also one of balance. Some of us are really good at asking while others are really good at being persistent. To overcome life’s difficulties, we must both rely on others and take individual responsibility. We must be persistent in humility.
-How do you do asking for needed assistance?
-What advice might you give Ethan dealing with a person with seeming endless need?
-Is there any area of life where you are persisting, where you could ask God’s help?
2. Last Week in Camden
Tuesday students here from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Sicklerville, NJ, got to experience sandwich ministry, New Visions day shelter, play and work in the park—as well as sharing by some friends in recovery from addiction.
The last two weekends I helped out with evening Masses at a parish in near-by Cherry Hill, NJ. A man introduced himself and thanked “us” for all we do. It turns out this well-dressed man, in this comfortable suburban neighborhood had been addicted, homeless, dependent on the charity of all the various Christian outposts in Camden. He had been wealthy, but lost it all in the course of his son’s tragic illness and death, followed by his own descent into drug use, self-medicating the pain of that loss.
He lost his way, but people organized for good works were there to support him, to offer of friendship, to keep the night from turning completely dark. He went through all this before the Oblates arrived in 2008, but I accepted his thanks for those who served before us at the Cathedral, in our neighborhoods. Inspired by the same gospel—and by the Goodness within —we all try to help those in need.
In the moment, amid setback, discouragement, and no clear sign of progress it be hard to have faith that persistence in good works and faith might eventually unlock doors and lead to good. This man’s witness can help us all keep “planting seeds.” Persistence paid off.
3. Upcoming Events
The inters’ time here concludes Saturday at 12:30 with a lunch and sharing of accomplishments and insights. You are invited.
Pope Francis continues to communicate the gospel message with outstanding effectiveness. He’ll be in the news from Brazil this week. Maybe we can invite him to North Camden when he comes to Philadelphia in 2016.
Intern Mariannie’s immigrant experience blog offers valuable insight on this topic.
Have a Good Week,
Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS