ST. MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD CATHOLIC CHURCH

370 East Main Street
PO Box 7
Wytheville, VA 24382
Phone: (276) 228-3104
Fax: (276) 228-3322
officemanager@stmaryswytheville.com

Welcome to the Pastor's Desk

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent is a time for Christians to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Actually we remember three comings of the Lord. First, we celebrate something that happened in the past, namely, the birth of the Messiah into the world which took place more than 2000 years ago. Second, we prepare for something that will happen in the future, namely, the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time (to judge the living and the dead). And third, we celebrate something that happens in the present, namely, the many moments of grace which are occasions for the Lord to come into the lives of Christians, into our souls as individual believers and in our midst as the community of the people of God.

The First Sunday of Advent directs us towards the necessity of waiting faithfully for the second coming of our Lord. When our Lord will return, what does the Lord expect from us and are we ready to meet Him? Are we ready to welcome Him into our hearts and be our guest for the rest of our lives? The Lord Jesus told a story in the gospel that is, for laborers to be ready for action and ready to give their best when the master returned from his journey. Were these servants excited or anxious about their master’s return? The watchful servants looked forward to the future because they knew their master would be pleased and would reward them for their vigilance and hard work.

The truth is, Jesus entrusts us with His gifts and grace and He expects us to be ready for action and prepared for the future. Our call is not only to believe but to watch; not only to love but to watch; not only to obey but to watch! What are we to watch for? The greatest event to come is the second coming of Jesus at the end of time. But the kind of watching our Lord mean is not a passive or “wait and see what happens” approach to life. The Lord urges us to be vigilant and to be active in prayer.

Advent gives us a vision of our lives as Christians. Advent shows us the possibilities of life. Life is a continuous journey through time. A journey in cycles, like waves of the ocean, tides high and low and high again, on and on. One could never survive on highs or lows alone. These cycles are seen in all aspects of life. Yes, even religious experiences and our faith, we find it a constant change and struggle. Despite all suffering and violence, anxiety and fear in our society there is still hope beyond all these situations as we put our trust in the Lord. The reality between darkness and light, deceit and truth, material things and God are our struggle today. Let us always remember “Christ-become-human” to deliver and set us free from worldly human weakness. We hope for the future he promised, that perfect and complete community, humanity enfolded in God’s love. The only challenge for us is, we should live in the living presence of Jesus every day. Christ’s living presence can be experienced in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible, in our worshiping community in our parish, in our family, in our own souls and in everyone around us. We who ‘wait’ for the coming of the Lord will not be disappointed. He will surely come with His grace and saving help.

As we enter the church’s New Year, let us pause and ponder where our life is heading to. Are we making any spiritual progress? Or making a change for the better or for the worse?

May God bless us and keep us ever prepared for his coming.

-Father Bernie

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Imagine, sitting on the beach with hundreds or thousands of other people waiting to hear Jesus speak. He then begins preaching in parables. What are they to think? How can they possibly understand His meaning. His meaning is simple, because the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven have not been granted to them yet He must speak in simple terms, terms they can understand. To the disciples it was meant to know the Kingdom of God because they were blessed. They had eyes that saw and ears that heard. Others, having dull hearts listened but did not understand. They looked but did not perceive. When we hear the word of God, do we really hear it in our heart? Do we see the work of God around us or is everything coincidental to us as it is to many of those who do not believe in God. Jesus said to the apostles, “ Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears for they hear.” Many of the prophets and righteous people of the Old Testament longed to see what they saw, but did not see it. They longed to hear what the disciples heard but did not hear it. We are privileged as the disciples of Jesus were privileged. They saw the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth; today, we are living in the Kingdom of God, having been admitted into it through the new birth that we received during the sacrament of Baptism. Two thousand years ago, the disciples enjoyed the physical presence of Jesus in bodily form; today, we enjoy the physical presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and in the Blessed Tabernacle. For three years, the disciples enjoyed the company of Jesus. Today, as Christians, we have just as great an opportunity. We can enjoy the company of Jesus throughout our lives. Jesus has made Himself available to us in the celebration of the Sacraments. In the Old Testament, the believers had to make ongoing sacrifices of animals to maintain their righteousness in the eyes of God. Nowadays, our first righteousness is given to us as a free gift during the Sacrament of Baptism at which time God erases and forgives all traces of the original sin and personal sins that were committed prior to receiving the Sacrament. Through the Sacrament of Confession, we have been provided with the opportunity to maintain our ongoing righteousness. Through these Sacraments, we are provided with the opportunity to inherit the Kingdom of God. These are the truths that the Holy Mother church teaches her children. These are truths that require a spiritual heart in order to understand them. They require faith in what is unseen in the blessed hope of things to come.

There are some who hear these truths and they do not understand them because they have become worldly minded, these are the seeds sown among thorns. Then, there are those who hear the truth and immediately receive it with joy. Not pursuing their spiritual growth, they have no root. They only endure for a while. When trouble or persecution arises because of controversy, they immediately fall away, these are the seeds sown on rocky ground. Then there are those who have heard the truth since the early days of their faith formation. They grew in their faith until such time as they could walk alone. They longed for the word of God. They understood the secrets of the Kingdom of God and by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit they persevered in their Faith and hope in the likeness of Jesus Christ. They are the seeds sown in rich soil, the one who hears the word and understands it.

Another truth that the Church teaches us is that God has a plan for all of us, a plan we may not always understand, but a plan we must abide by and believe in. We do not know God’s plan nor do we understand why these things happen to certain people. We do not know why some people get the Covid-19 virus and others don’t. We must just believe in God’s infinite mercy and wisdom. Why have we been shut off from the Sacraments that are so important to our faith? Much like when the apostles who were shut off from the presence of Jesus after His Ascension, we must walk by our faith and not by sight. We must have faith that God will help us through this and bring us all back to worship and celebrate the precious gift of His Body and Blood. And those who are waiting to be received into full Communion with God’s faithful will have the patience and faith to know that God has a plan for them. As we continue to celebrate the Bicentennial of our Diocese let us take a moment to thank God for the gift of 200 years of leadership from our Bishops and the guidance we have received in our Church. To all the clergy and fellow parishioners who have gone before us helping to build this Diocese let us ask God to receive them into His Kingdom and may they rest in peace and perpetual light shine upon them!

AMEN!!

Deacon Charley May