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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Oct. 23, 2011

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

This column is part of the CNS columns package.

Cycle A Readings:

1) Exodus 22:20-26

Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51

2) 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10

Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40

As correspondent for my diocesan newspaper, I cover the western part of Virginia. That includes many, mostly rural communities in the Appalachian region. I've lived all my life in urban areas, but ever since my very first visit to a small Catholic parish in Clintwood, I can't seem to get enough of documenting the Gospel life among people in Appalachia.

Catholics in this largely non-Catholic region love their faith and their church. But they don't come to church to genuflect properly or learn the fine points of church doctrine. As in most remote places in the world, religious ritual and formation have a role, but for the most part expressions of faith are more practical.

Parishioners come together to receive and share the life of Christ.

They come because they love God and they love and want to care for each other and their neighbors. That's what Jesus, in today's Gospel, calls all of us to do: Love God and your neighbor. He says these greatest commandments make up the entirety of his message.

St. Joseph Parish in Clintwood has only about 20 households in an impoverished county where the coal industry has come and gone and left behind a lot of need. There's so much need among their elderly and low-income neighbors that this tiny parish will never be able to address it all. But they try because they love their neighbors.

Every summer, for 12 weeks solid, they host visiting youth groups from around the country who come to help them serve their neighbors with roofing, plumbing and home repair.

The visitors are embraced by the people of St. Joseph who serve them a meal every evening and share their local culture and music. They worship together, learning how loving God and neighbor are part of the same reality.

One youth leader explained that, when visiting with his teens at the end of their work week, "They don't talk about how hard the work was; they talk about the people they've gotten to know."

Conversely, a local parishioner explained, "The young people make a big impression, because everyone knows about them and why they are here. You truly believe you are seeing God."


How is your love of God borne out in your love of neighbor and vice versa?


"Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" (Matthew 22:36)


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