Show gratitude through service

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

Good work. Has someone ever paid you that compliment? It feels good, doesn’t it? But what if you had not been recognized? Would you still feel that sense of accomplishment?

Today’s readings — which should be very familiar to us — are about loving God and treating your neighbor well. And, yes, just because it is the right thing to do.

Jesus taught that there are two great commandments: to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.

This summer and fall have been a challenge, with all of the numerous natural disasters and what can seem like the breakdown of humanity itself. How do we look at these two commandments, really let them soak in and then apply them to address what happens around us?

Many parishes across the diocese, and the world, for that matter, have organized special collections, food and clothing drives; some have even sent delegations to help those most affected.

While these actions are well and good — and need to be done as a part of our Catholic faith — what about those other weeks of the year? Have we considered what loving our neighbor really means — even when there isn’t a disaster?

In any parish community, there are those who have adequate material comfort or live a happy existence without much incident. Then there are those who barely scrape by, or who endure much tragedy and sacrifice.

Herein lies the challenge. Does your parish organize a leaf-raking day for those unable to do so? Do some parishioners need a ride to Mass or other parish event? How about a babysitting offer so that another parish member can attend a function?

How can we, as a parish, live in a manner that truly makes a difference? And not just to earn that pat on the back for a job well done.

These acts should start when we enter the church to worship and thank God for all that God has given us, even the times of adversity. It is in our thankfulness for all that God bestows on us, as we participate in the Eucharistic celebration, that we are nourished and replenished. Then we are able to go beyond ourselves to love our neighbor in those little ways that we may not think are significant, but which may have a real impact on their lives.

In researching for this article, I came upon a reference to a parish where members — after celebrating Mass — go directly to a parish food pantry in a nearby building.

The two greatest commandments are not mutually exclusive. They are not an “either/or” decision but a “both/and” lived experience. They both mean being grateful for whatever hand life deals us so that we can serve others and be that good neighbor.

Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.