God's Saving Power Is for Everyone

08-25-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is so hard to believe that the new school year is not just approaching, but for some of our young people school has already started. Parents have loaded up SUVs with “stuff” for our young college and university parishioners, and have driven them off to their new residence for the next 8 months. Some local schools have begun sports practices and some schools have actually opened and launched the new school year. New learning has begun for so many of young people that we forget that we who are over “university age” also must continue to learn and grow in many and various ways. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to walk in his ways and also continue to learn more from him.

Our first reading this weekend suggests a vision of universal salvation that is quite exotic. The passage mentions so many distant and mysterious places of old that we can only imagine the beauty and distinctiveness of each place: Mosoch, Javan, Tarshish, Put, Lud, and far distant Tubal. The vision also includes the practical: traveling by foot or wheel. Indeed these far distant and mysterious people stream forth. Everyone is welcome, the known and the unknown. This indeed is a contrast to our Gospel passage.


Journey with Jesus

08-18-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The Gospel and the other scriptures this weekend invite us to think about our journey in life with Jesus. We do not usually use this word ‘journey’ so that the word is less familiar to us; we tend to use the word ‘trip.’ Of course, the whole notion of a trip usually means the daily trip by car to work or school. We know, even before the latest State Study, that our roads are overly congested for too many hours each day and that our public transportation is too little and too poorly maintained. Who would want to take a trip with Jesus at the present moment in Metropolitan Boston? Not really too many of us in case he might hear some of our thoughts or words!!!

But to the matter of understanding this weekend’s scriptural passages:
The very young prophet Jeremiah lived in very difficult and hard times and yet he still proclaimed God’s messages. Although he was from an era when prophets were listened to, he still got into trouble because of his message. Jeremiah told them that for the Jews to hold out from the enemy attacking Jerusalem was useless and indeed God was going allow them to be taken by the vicious Babylonians. Indeed this is the worst of news, but what made it even worse was that Jeremiah told them that God had the power to hand them over to their enemy, the Babylonians. This message that God would hand them over was radically new and horrifying to the Jews of then. The big implication in the message was that the Babylonians were also servants of Yahweh, their God. So in anger they threw Jeremiah in a well to die. It took a non-Jew, a foreigner, to help Jeremiah out of the well and let him continue his mission for God. Know that Jerusalem did ultimately surrender, and the people suffered the indignity of the Babylonian exile. Jeremiah was also included and was exiled with his people. It was a long painful journey and trip to Babylon.


Living Faith Requires Action

08-11-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We tend to think that faith is rooted in reason and in the mind, but faith is actually rooted in feelings and the heart. Faith actually is based in many ways on trust. The scripture this weekend invites us to remember these basic truths about faith.

In the Wisdom section of the Jewish Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament, the actual Book of Wisdom highlights and offers to all of us interpretations and insights into the long memory of Jewish people. The passage today goes back millennia to the very first Passover of the Jews. In this reading we are specially invited to imagine a people who are not yet free, “who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” This enslaved people found courage in their memory of God’s promise to their ancestors. We get the clear sense that they believed but did not dare dream that God’s promise would finally be realized in them. They, however, did escape through the Red Sea. They, in fact, passed over from no real life in Egypt to ultimately life in God’s Promised Land.


Be Rich in God

08-04-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Ecclesiastes, a possible translated name is the Book of the (early) Church. The early faith communities used to read and reflect upon this book so much that it was given the name of the “Church Book.” It is actually the message and sayings of a teacher or preacher named Qoheleth which were gathered into this book in about the third and fourth centuries before Christ. In this pre-Christian era the popular culture believed that the thinkers of that time could unlock the mystery of God. They speculated quite loudly that God perhaps could be defined and understood. Qoheleth, however, totally disagrees with their boast. God, to him, is beyond understanding. And thus he also says that God is beyond our control and indeed God’s actions beyond our prediction.


Gratitude and Praise

07-28-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Back in the biblical times of Jesus, when someone saw a leper, they were always horrified by the sight of the filthy clothes, the skin with sores all over and especially the stench. These sick people had to shout “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever they went. Thus the scene in today’s Gospel of the ten lepers approaching Jesus is jaw dropping with fear and fright for everyone. Remember that one of the ten is a Samaritan, which to the Jews of then was like having leprosy times two. All ten lepers shout out to Jesus to pity them. Jesus tells them to show themselves to the temple priests, who are the only officials allowed to pronounce them “clean” (healed). We learn that as they go along to the priests, all ten are cured. Yet we know that only one of the ten, the Samaritan, returned back to Jesus.


The Holy Balance

07-21-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our summer season has clearly arrived with this beautiful sun and wonderful warmth. For folks who have swimming pools, wonderfully large decks for grilled dinners, or homes away at lakes or oceanside towns, this is a great season of hospitality. In the last three weeks my family has had a constant and wonderful flow of family and friends at our home down in Falmouth. Nephews, nieces, grand nephews and grand nieces, in-laws, and countless long time and newly made friends have visited for a stay or for a great summer dinner. Our summer is a time of great informal hospitality. Are you also aware that the gracious art of hospitality also runs quite deeply in the Hebrew and West Asian traditions?

Our Old Testament is full of examples of this welcome. Indeed the Jews are reminded quite clearly that they once were a wandering people, and it is their obligation and honor to welcome the stranger and alien among them. Our holy scripture makes it quite clear that opening our heart and home to another is truly a holy act. This scripture this weekend should help us purify our hearts and minds over the present controversy over immigration and perhaps come to decisions which are worthy of our faith and our God.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.