Breaking of Bread

07-25-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

At Sunday Mass we read a major gospel each church year which tells the story of Jesus and His life; in this process we read only selected sections which have been curated to tell the essential story of Jesus Christ. In fact, we read from only Matthew, Mark, or Luke in a three-year cycle because they are gospels which are written from an "eye-witness" point of view. The Gospel of John offers a distinctly different view of the life and message of Jesus. This year our gospel is that of Saint Mark. We do, however, fill in at times with sections from the Gospel of John. Mark is the shortest of all of the gospels, so it is necessary at times to read at length from John to add a depth or a dimension to what we are following in the life of Christ each Sunday. This Sunday we begin the section of John called "the Bread of Life" passage. The Eucharist is the focus of our reading of the Gospel of John for the next 4 weeks. Perhaps these readings will help us put the proper focus on the controversies which are circulating in our Church and in the American public world. I am attempting to provide a reflection for your faith which hopefully supports and helps you to be a faithful disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, instead of being caught up in other things. How often have I said "to know what matters and pay attention to what matters." This advice sounds simple, but often it is very hard to follow.


Green Fields and Restful Waters

07-18-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In today's gospel, the writer Mark was trying to stir the deep memories of the Jews with his use of the image of a Shepherd. In the very long history of the Jews, they had always tended sheep. In fact, we can recall the story of long before the Jews had been Israel, when Abraham and his wife Sarah left their homeland for the Promised Land and took their many sheep along with them. You may recall that at one time even Moses tended the sheep of his father-in-law. The great King of Israel, David himself, was a shepherd. In fact, David was called from the fields when he was tending sheep to be anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel. Sheep and shepherds are in the memory DNA of the Jews at the time Mark is composing his gospel.


What Matters in Faith

07-11-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Although we are usually an infant when we are baptized, the church's theology says that at the time of our baptism, our vocation to follow Christ starts. We are His beloved children and are united to Him. Every one of us at baptism is called to become a holy and good person. How this all happens depends upon the grace of God in our lives and how we accept this grace and live it. In our reading from Saint Paul this weekend, we hear how the great apostle Paul gave great praise and was full of gratitude and amazement that he of all people had been chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and drawn into the eternal mysteries. We need to know and understand that this calling and election is not Paul's alone. This calling and election, in fact, belongs to all the baptized. We need to remember that we also are chosen and are sealed by the promised Spirit. All of this has happened in each one of us and all we have to do, like Paul, is give praise and thanks.


Name of Jesus

07-04-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Today in common discussion we often use the word "revelation, or to reveal" in talking about parents who hold a 'gender reveal party". This word "revelation" is so frequently used in religious contexts. In religious use it means to "show forth" or to "make manifest." The root of the word, however, is a stem that means hidden or veiled. When we listen to or read scripture, the Bible, we are to recognize that God's thoughts and words are being shown forth or made manifest to us. When we read or listen and then also reflect on scripture, the Word of God, we learn many, many truths, ideas, and insights into ourselves and lives which may have been hidden for various reasons.


Heart speaks to Heart

06-27-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The section of the Bible in the Old Testament called the "Wisdom Literature" actually offers a lot of wisdom and insights for us who live today. Just because much of what is written in the Wisdom Books is from well over two millennia ago, it does not mean it lacks meaning and power for us now. We often dismiss our scripture as dusty and irrelevant and look to the scripture of other religions that are as old as our Judeo-Christian tradition. I often think we do this because these writings appear to be exotic and distant, and anything that is different and from far away often appeals more to many folk.


Safe with Jesus

06-20-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When we listen to the various passages of the Book of Job, we hear the suffering Job calling out to God. Our Old Testament reading this weekend is the first response of God to Job's calling out to Him. The irony of the situation for Job is that God's reply is not what Job had expected or hoped for. God, instead, hits Job with a very long list of unanswerable questions. Job, in asking for God to speak to him, never expected what he got when God spoke. He wanted clear direct answers from God that explained everything; instead, God gave Job a battery of unanswerable queries. Job got more than he bargained for; he wanted solutions from God. Job, instead, got confusing "mystery" and learned the very great truth that God's ways are not Job's or often even any of our ways.


God is in Charge

06-13-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

One of the best ways to get people to pay attention to you is to tell them a fascinating and intriguing story. A wonderful story captures the imagination and always contains more than what the story tells. We should realize that the stories of today's scripture at Mass demand our attention and reveal much to us, even though the stories retain some mystery or secrets about God.


We Are the Body of Christ

06-06-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

One of the best human activities we have is to gather as a family and even with friends around a table and have a wonderful meal. Sometimes it can be very fussy food and other times simple and tasty. The meal is really about sharing our connection to one another. Oftentimes this sharing actually involves certain rituals. Who are the cook(s) for special food? Who has set the table? Who serves? Do we wait for everyone to be seated? Who says grace? How does discus­sion take place? Who is in charge of the joy and laughter? Who is to re-tell the most important stories of family and friends that tell us who we really are? And, most importantly, who cleans up with washing the dishes and also the pots and pans and tidies up the kitchen and dining room? So this great symbolism of Jesus being the spiritual food for us and the preparation and ritual that go along with it are indeed most significant. This Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ re­minds us our spiritual food has great and profound meaning. This ritual meal of the Mass touch­es our inner being consciously and unconsciously.


God is Relationship

05-30-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In the "church world"—not only in the Catholic Church but in many other faith traditions—we often use the word "mystery." This word appears when we are unable to clearly and totally explain or define a religious reality or truth. Some folks see this as a failure, excuse, or flaw in a religion, but others see it differently. Although I do understand computers a little, I really do not understand them sufficiently or completely. I know that computers work, indeed they are quite complex, and certainly even the one at my desk is beyond my understanding, nevertheless trying to understand a "quantum computer" used for the most advanced scientific projects is impossible for me. However, I "believe in computers" and their power in our lives. It is striking how people want an absolute perfect definition or explanation about God, but settle for far less in their lives about computers, which often hold their physical lives in balance or critical safety. Lest I wander too far from today's scripture, the reality of Most Holy Trinity is a mystery, both somewhat understood and also a lot not understood. Perhaps it is because the three persons in the singular Trinity exist in a relationship of persons and human persons actually have great difficulty understanding relationships among or between people.


Receive the Holy Spirit

05-23-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Many years ago when I was a young boy, I thought the time between Pentecost and Easter Sunday, all 50 days, was a very long time. It seemed that the passing of time took forever to creep along before we finally came to the great Feast of Pentecost. I remember we always sang "Come, Holy Ghost!" on that Sunday with great gusto and enthusiasm. My motivation for this desire to celebrate Pentecost was not really religious; it was because this Feast meant that going to school every day would be ending because the first weekend in June was coming soon. Religious feasts and holydays helped mark the passage of time for me. We studied about the meaning of the special Feast in school so I knew what it was about religiously, but also knew what it meant educationally!


In the Name of the Love of God

05-16-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is difficult to believe that time has passed so quickly that this week we are standing in between Ascension Thursday and the Feast of Pentecost. Holy Week, with its glorious conclu­sion of Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, is now far back in our rearview mirror. The Feast of the Ascension is past and Pentecost is ahead. The Feast of the As­cension is meant to direct us to understand that we have a responsibility and a mission as follow­ers of Jesus Christ. The Feast of the Ascension tells us that our role and purpose started with the apostles and now have over time been handed on to us, to you and me.

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Love One Another

05-09-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We older baby boomers remember well when the major reform of the Church began with the Vatican II council. When the Liturgy (Mass, mainly) was reformed and put into English, we all could then know and be part of it in a conscious, knowing, and active way. Much like the older Latin Music of our Tradition, some of the newly composed English language music was good and some of it was poor. When we think about it, only a very few Latin hymns have survived the test of time; this is also true for modern English language hymns. I remember from way back then the hymn "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love". It is not sung very often anymore, though its meaning has stayed very true through the decades. The scriptures this weekend with their focus on the theme of the love triggered this memory.


Grow in Jesus, the Vine of Love

05-02-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

I read many books and articles on gardening. Some of the reading is for inspiration and some is for knowledge about plants and the skill to grow and properly care for them. Although the Gospel this weekend comes from the "Discourse of the Last Supper", the images in it are most appropriate to this season of new plant growth and the greening of our land and countryside. It is important to know that during the time of Passover the Last Supper occurred and that the Passover is always every Spring. This is the time of trees budding, plants starting to sprout from the earth, and vines beginning to grow and spread their branches. This is a very critical season for caring for plant life. What happens at this point in time influences the whole of plant life and growth onward. IN our passage this weekend, when Jesus speaks to the apostles about being grafted onto him as branches similar to a vine, they know he means he is the strong vine that will support them and always give them life. At this point Jesus is not addressing his concern over their relationship to one another; rather he is laser-focused on their relationship to him. He is to be their source of life, and indeed of all their relationships.