God told Isaiah, “You are my servant. . . . I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
In this week’s Scripture, the prophet, in turn, spoke the promise to all the Lord’s servants.
“The ends of the earth,” in some ways, describes the remote hamlet of St. Charles, Va., population 950, in the coal fields of the state. The main road does actually dead end into a mountainside.
In nearby Jonesville is Holy Spirit parish, where about 25 people faithfully attend Mass every weekend. Last summer, a parishioner who teaches at St. Charles Elementary School explained to fellow church members that the children who live in St. Charles’ impoverished coal camps depend on a free school lunch as their only full meal each day. When school wasn’t in session, she pointed out, they went hungry.
Holy Spirit parishioners responded as God’s servants, providing for those in need. Every week, they brought food, prepared hundreds of sack lunches and took them to the St. Charles Community Center.
A volunteer at the center explained, “People in those hollers don’t come out. Maybe they don’t have a car, or only have one car that’s not available because somebody has to take it to work during the day. So we deliver the lunches to the coal camps.
“The kids come running out to the road to meet us,” she said. “You can hear them yelling, ‘Lunch is here!’ as you drive up.”
Sixty years ago, St. Charles was a thriving industrial town. Locals recall busy shops, movie theaters and mansions of the executives of several large coal companies. But eventually, the big companies left. So did the wealth gained by taking the region’s valuable resource away to drive economies elsewhere. Only a few small mines — and a lot of poverty — remain.
Still, the families in the coal camps know their summer lunches come from the small Catholic community up the road. It has become a light of salvation to them.
Their excitement at the sight of the delivery car is like that of John the Baptist in the Gospel, when he pointed to the savior coming toward the people: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This Catholic News Service column is offered in cooperation with the North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.
Sunday, Jan. 19
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
- 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
- John 1:29-34
Where do you see faithful servants of God made into a light of salvation? How can you be such a light?
Note: The Sunday Scripture reflections written by seminarians of St. Paul Seminary will return in the Jan. 30 issue.
Category: Sunday Scriptures