The Mystery of Mercy

07-14-2019Pastoral ReflectionsPope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, n.1, 10, 15

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy… Sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!

Willing to be Vulnerable

07-07-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

They say “in the good ole days” that small-town newspapers used to wrap up their reports of a gathering or event with “A good time was had by all.” This was just how it all was said. People were to conclude that some good food and good company were shared. Thus indeed it was a good time for one and all.

In the scripture in the Old Testament this weekend, there is a similar type line: “The Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.” Those servants are us. Note how the Lord’s power is expressed in positive terms in nourishment and warm comfort. We are the fortunate receivers of this kind of power. The line is the summary of a vignette in which Isaiah gives us an image of the city of Jerusalem as a nursing, comforting mother. Imagine, in knowing this, our hearts and spirits are lifted up and grow.

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Alive in Faith and Purpose

06-23-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We who live in this country experience hunger very differently from other people in distant lands or in a border country to us. In fact, most of us are not hungry at all, but are too well fed with the “wrong foods.” Sadly, hidden among us, even in Franklin MA, are people who are hungry and struggle to get food on the table to eat. We are blessed by our dynamic and faithful Saint Vincent de Paul Society that quietly, faithfully and diligently helps those who are in need. I also am constantly impressed by the many parishioners who unceasingly bring foodstuffs and supplies to the St. Vincent boxes at the entrances to our Church. The struggle of the hungry is constant and the response by these bearers of food gifts is also constant. There are also those who quietly mail in or put envelopes with checks in them in the Sunday collections to help the cause. I often wonder if they or their loved ones have not had struggles in their past that make their hearts and minds sensitive to the hidden needs of others. Since this week is about the Eucharist and the spiritual hunger of our hearts, I thought that I also would remind us all how our Saint Vincent’s feeds those who are hungry of body due to the generosity of the members’ volunteer time and our parishioner’s generosity of good and finance. We who have our bodily hunger fed are easily able to seek to have our spiritual hunger fed. Sadly, some folks only seek to feed the body and not the heart and soul.

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The Holy Trinity Lives in Us

06-16-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When we read or listen to the first reading from the Book of Proverbs this weekend we may become a bit confused by it. Certainly we know that this weekend is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity and we may wonder how wisdom is connected to the Trinity. How indeed does the love of God relate to the Trinity? Do you hear echoes of the beginning of the Prologue of the Gospel of John in this passage of Proverbs? Does not John say that “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God”? The first reading from Proverbs may, at first, be a bit confusing. But ultimately it all fits together. And indeed there is a little of the Spirit of God being “poured forth.” It is in Proverbs 1:23 that we hear: “Lo! I will pour out to you my spirit; I will acquaint you with my words.” Today’s responsorial psalm, in addition, helps us discern a relationship between Wisdom and ourselves whom God has created just a “little less than the angels” and to whom God has given responsibility for and to our fellow creatures. We can easily conclude that it is in Wisdom Literature, especially Proverbs, that Wisdom itself is the common ground we share with God in the wonders of creation, the place where God and people relate and communicate.

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A Spirit of Forgiveness

06-09-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When we hear or read the first reading this weekend, we realize that it is impossible to get away from the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Holy Spirit is a help and aide, so why would the apostles want to hide from the Spirit? The presence of the Holy Spirit is often overwhelming. This scene shows how it amazes people and even gets everyone to understand every one else's language. Quite the feat! The Holy Spirit gets people to go beyond the barriers of language and words. Barriers and walls disappear with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is a spirit of charity, kindness, and unity.

In the reading we learn the people have come from everywhere to worship in Jerusalem on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, which is a harvest feast. Now a "new harvest" is to be gathered through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember this is same Spirit that descended upon the kings of Israel, our Blessed Mother Mary and also John the Baptizer. Indeed this same Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River.

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Jesus prays for us

06-02-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

Today’s scripture readings have us look closely at the last moments of Stephen’s life. Chapter 7 in Acts is all about the witness of Stephen. He even gives a long speech, which really is made up of the beliefs that the followers of Jesus want said at this dramatic time of Stephen. Note how, as Stephen awaits his coming death, we see elements of the life of Jesus himself. Also we know that Stephen is the Church’s first recorded martyr, or witness. He sees and understands that his life is patterned on Jesus’ life. We can also see this. Note in addition how Saul easily ob-serves the death. We also know that Saul’s conversion will also come in time and he will come to believe.

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The Peace of Jesus

05-26-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

Wow! Or, Eek! I am uncertain which to say. In a week and a half is the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven. This happens 40 days after Easter. How has time flown by so quickly! Outside it is still late winter. At night the temperature is in the 40s and during most days it climbs only to the high 50s. We are still getting the April showers in mid to late May. First Communion has been celebrated, graduations and commencements are underway, and weddings have now begun. This weekend is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. And today’s Gospel has a wonderful message for us in our world of constant motion and over commitment. Hear or read in the Gospel of today that Jesus gives his apostles the gift of peace. The peace Jesus gives is far more than a superficial temporary peace or calm. It is very deep and rich in tone and value. This “peace” comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which is the fullness of the messianic blessing—salvation itself. This peace, this shalom, is an absolute gift of God. We also recognize that it is the special gift the apostles need on the night before Jesus dies.

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Seeking your insights

05-19-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

“What is next for our School Building and Property”

I have received requests to repeat last week’s information about the school building and land, and Parish Open Meetings:

In the Lent 2019 Weave Parish newsletter, I discussed at significant length and with great detail our process for our Parish’s future and its use of the School Building and Land. We now know for sure that the school building and land will return fully to us on this June 30, 2019. We must now prayerfully and thoughtfully begin to plan our future with this property of almost 5 acres and an aged school building. At the same time we must operate the building for our 1200 to 1400 Religious Education (CCD) students with building costs at approximately $75,000 per year (insurance, heat, light, grounds, snow plowing and shoveling, maintenance and repairs, etc.). The building is 60 years old and has aged to a great degree and also the use by the Charter School has worn it down considerably. The great question before all of us is: “How does this building and land (i.e. the Patrimony of Saint Mary’s) support the long term Mission of Saint Mary’s Parish?” What is the best and highest use of this land and building to help us worship our God and support the spiritual life of our Parishioners? We need to seek the insights, advice and opinions of all committed and engaged Parishioners to devise the many possible uses of the property in alignment with our Mission. Our Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) will be providing leadership in being listeners and communicators with Parishioners. As a result of these listening sessions and on-going deliberations of the PPC, the PPC will formulate the highest and best use of our Parish Patrimony. They will have as a professional advisor Dr. Bernard Swain Ph.D., a skilled, experienced and accomplished Church leader with an expertise in parish life and process. He will help all of us create the vision or visions of our future use of the property. The Parish Finance Council (PFC) will have the role of taking the wisdom, insights, visions and recommendations which the PPC has prepared and attempt to make the best possible use of the property. The PFC will be the ones who take what is hoped for and help to create what is possible and make those recommendations to me. They will have Matt Kelly, Franklin MA as a Real Estate Advisor. The PPC and PFC have a great responsibility to all of us as they will be the people who help develop the strategy to make sure that we have the highest and best use of the property to help us support the holy work and Mission of Saint Mary’s Parish.

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What is next for our school building and property?

05-12-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

In the Lent 2019 Weave Parish newsletter, I discussed at significant length and with great detail our process for our Parish’s future and its use of the School Building and Land. We now know for sure that the school building and land will return fully to us on this June 30, 2019. We must now prayerfully and thoughtfully begin to plan our future with this property of almost 5 acres and an aged school building. At the same time we must operate the building for our 1200 to 1400 Religious Education (CCD) students with building costs at approximately $75,000 per year (insurance, heat, light, grounds, snow plowing and shoveling, maintenance and repairs, etc.). The building is 60 years old and has aged to a great degree and also the use by the Charter School has worn it down considerably. The great question before all of us is: “How does this building and land (i.e. the Patrimony of Saint Mary’s) support the long term Mission of Saint Mary’s Parish?” What is the best and highest use of this land and building to help us worship our God and support the spiritual life of our Parishioners? We need to seek the insights, advice and opinions of all committed and engaged Parishioners to devise the many possible uses of the property in alignment with our Mission. Our Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) will be providing leadership in being listeners and communicators with Parishioners. As a result of these listening sessions and on-going deliberations of the PPC, the PPC will formulate the highest and best use of our Parish Patrimony. They will have as a professional advisor Dr. Bernard Swain Ph.D., a skilled, experienced and accomplished Church leader with an expertise in parish life and process. He will help all of us create the vision or visions of our future use of the property. The Parish Finance Council (PFC) will have the role of taking the wisdom, insights, visions and recommendations which the PPC has prepared and attempt to make the best possible use of the property. The PFC will be the ones who take what is hoped for and help to create what is possible and make those recommendations to me. They will have Matt Kelly, Franklin MA as a Real Estate Advisor. The PPC and PFC have a great responsibility to all of us as they will be the people who help develop the strategy to make sure that we have the highest and best use of the property to help us support the holy work and Mission of Saint Mary’s Parish.

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All authority comes from God

05-05-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

We learn quite clearly in the bible that all authority comes from God. Only God ruled over Israel; human kings held sway only as God’s substitutes. We also know that too many of them forgot that they served God as the ultimate authority. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus often displayed a distinctive power and authority in all he said and did. In Matthew at the time of the farewell of Jesus scene, the risen Lord begins his instructions to his followers to “make disciples of all nations” by stating, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Our readings this weekend are replete with references to authority, divine and human, good and not so good. The first reading shows us how the Sanhedrin tended to be pragmatic and pretentious, somewhat self-serving and self-contradictory, as many governing groups are.

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