Heaven and Earth Meet

02-26-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Sometimes in our lives we have a critical moment when we discover or come to understand something that gives us dramatic insight or purpose in life. This moment does not happen as often as the cinema or autobiographies portray, but we do indeed at times have this flash of insight or knowledge that profoundly influences our life. The scripture of this weekend shows examples of this: Abraham on Mount Moriah and also Jesus with his disciples on Mount Tabor.

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God Is Committed to Us Forever

02-21-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our Old Testament passage is the first reading during the Sundays of Lent and it holds a great deal of meaning for us. We do not start the reading at the very beginning of the story of Noah, but much later when all the trouble and travail have passed and the flood waters have gone back down. Indeed, the beautiful multi-colored rainbow is now showing forth across the sky for one and all to see. Earth and heaven are connected by this beautiful display of light that tells us God is with us and He is committed to us forever. What a great thought to hold in mind as we launch out and begin the great Season of Lent.

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Do Not be Frozen in Fear

02-14-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Because we think our modern society is so sophisticated and advanced, when we hear the stories of various events in the early times of the Israelites or other ancient people, wetend to view them with a judgmental attitude. Certainly the great fear that the ancient Israelites possessed about leprosy and other skin diseases gives us this opportunity to feel so very superior to them.

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Stay Connected to God

02-07-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our first reading comes from one of the most powerful and meaningful books of the Bible: the Book of Job. This book is about the story of the man who had everything, then he had nothing and all the sad happenings that went on in-between. There he is: Job sitting on a dung heap and he has to listen to speeches from his well-intentioned but nonstop talking friends. Because they cannot understand what happened, they think he should not either. Our passage for this weekend gives a plain view of life from Job. Simply put, he sees life as hard.

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The Power of Christ

01-31-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is quite striking in today's Gospel passage how the demon knew exactly who Jesus was. This shrieking cry from the demon is dramatic and clear in its meaning. To hear "I know who you are" about Jesus from a creature of the darkness and evil knocks us off our seats. This demon, which symbolizes for us all that is evil and dark, is admitting that Jesus is the ultimate threat. The basic truth is that the power and good of Christ is greater than darkness or evil. And this is clear to the powers of evil. Sadly, maybe not so much to us.

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Called to Serve

01-24-2021Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Pastoral Reflections: Our Old Testament and Gospel readings both tell us about people who instantly accepted the invitation of God. The people of Nineveh responded immediately to Jonah and the disciples accepted the invitation of Jesus right on the spot. Clearly, these readings have a major point for us. The people of Nineveh respond immediately and the disciples, both groups, abandon their work of fishing on the spot. The major point of this is that God expects the same from us. We are expected to seize the Call of God and respond forthwith. The response is supposed to be "right now!"—not: "When I am ready."

Making such a response to the call of God demands us to have faith, but also demands us to be free. Saint Paul in the second reading is advising us that we cannot let the stuff of our life get in the way of responding to God's call. When what is in our life keeps us from hearing and responding to God, we are not "free." We are weighed down or overwhelmed or stuck behind a wall. We must have and use our stuff of life for God.

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Personal and Communal Faith

01-17-2021Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

The major message of the readings this weekend is that the call of God is actually directed to each of us and each of us must respond. We must remember and appreciate that each of us is called, but none of us is called alone. We have faith that is personal, but also communal.

In reading the Old Testament with its many stories of people called by God, we learn that God summoned the leaders of Israel in both dramatic and quiet ways. Moses was called by the voice of God from out of a burning bush; the prophet Isaiah discovered his vocation in a fiery vision in the temple. In our first reading, we learn of a different invitation from God, one that is most likely similar to our own. We must remember that Hannah, Samuel's mother, was unceasingly pleading with God for a son and God answered her with the child Samuel. Our reading for this weekend begins with the young man Samuel in the temple when he hears a voice calling out. Eventually, Samuel does come to understand he is being called by God. He then listens, speaks, and then finally he obeys. Samuel is the first prophet during the time of the monarchy.

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We share the divinity of Jesus

01-10-2021Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

I am certain that we all are unaware that in the earliest centuries of Church life the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord was celebrated as the most important manifestation of God's saving power. We all tend to think that Christmas was the greatest and most important feast, or perhaps it was Easter and the Feast of the Resurrection. This simply is not so. This feast of the Baptism of the Lord stood at a very special point in being significant. It is clearly obvious because all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the Baptism of the Lord as the central beginning event of their story. Perhaps some also add in the stories of the early years of Je-sus, but they are not central to the theme and message of the Gospels. Even John's Gospel, "the very different one," also makes the Baptism of Jesus a most important and watershed event. Interestingly Mark in his Gospel does not directly tell us of the Baptism but instead tells us that the heavens are torn open and that an astounding message is given. Mark clearly wants us to recognize the great significance of this event. He wants us to know that God has answered the deep yearning and searching of Israel for a Messiah. Indeed, does he not tell us that Jesus himself is "the favored one"?

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Christ our Light

01-03-2021Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

During the Fourth Century the Feast of the Epiphany developed in the Latin Rite (more commonly called by us the "Catholic Church") from a Celebration in the Holy Land that began much, much earlier in time. It took place on January 5 in the darkness of evening and went through the sunlight of the day of January 6th. The Western Church, the Roman Church, celebrated Christmas on December 25th, but adopted over time this custom of celebrating Christmas on January 6th. Both feasts had the theme of "Light coming into the world." Soon the West called their second celebration "Little Christmas" and titled it "the Feast of Epiphany," meaning appearance or manifestation. Christmas in a sense celebrates the winter solstice and "Little Christmas" celebrates following the light of the brightest star in the sky. Both mean and celebrate the great coming of divine light into our world. There is in many ways a twelve day "Festival of Lights" celebrated in our Tradition.

In the story of the Epiphany is the appearance of what we now say are three Kings, or Magi. Various stories throughout the early church had as many as 12 Kings or Magi. Adding camels and dromedaries and royalty from far off mysterious lands who bring exotic gifts creates a wondrous and dreamy story of Christmas for everyone. It is interesting that Matthew is the only Gospel writer who tells us this story. We believe he does so because this story has elements that allow the early Jewish converts to Christianity to connect the Hebrew Scriptures with the story of Jesus Christ.

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