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.

READ MORE

To love and serve freely

06-30-2019AllRev. Brian F. Manning

Although we like to convince ourselves that short cuts work and are okay, we really know the only way to do something is the correct way, whether it is easy or hard. To be sure, anything worth doing is worth doing correctly; we often forget the large truth of that adage. Today’s scripture is about a genuine, true call from God and demands back a genuine, true response.

We know that Elisha understood the meaning of the cloak that was so unexpectedly laid upon his shoulders right there in the open field. This man felt its weight — and much more. He knew that the mantle and burden of office were now on his shoulders. Alas, Elisha knew that his life was going to take an abrupt and dramatic turn. One can understand his plea for time to go home to tell his parents good-bye. This transformation from farmer to future prophet was a shocking surprise. Note how after Elisha received the abrupt permission of Elijah, he then went off to tie up the loose ends of his life. What must be noted all the more is that his response to his call is never in doubt. He completes his business quickly and then begins his apprenticeship.

READ MORE

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.

READ MORE

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.

READ MORE

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.

READ MORE

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.

READ MORE