Love God, self, and neighbor

10-25-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

We all as humans share common feelings, such as joy, happiness, sadness, or emptiness. We do not always experience the same events that others do, but the commonality of what joy or sadness or any feeling means or feels like lets us relate to another person in their feelings. We do not have to experience exactly what someone else has experienced to be able to empathize with the feelings people are experiencing or have experienced. We like to think that our personal feelings are singular, whereas in reality they are only singular to us, but in common with the human heart of others.

Our first reading from Exodus notes how God reminds the Israelite people that they were once outsiders. He reminds them of their time in Egypt. He tells them that they know how it feels to be foreigners in a strange land, and therefore they should do nothing against the disadvantaged. That remembrance of those common human feelings should impel them to be careful and respectful in how they treat others who are seen as outsiders.

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Give Glory to God

10-18-2020Pastoral ReflectionsGive Glory to God

Sometimes after I finish speaking with someone, I later think if only I had said this or that. Or other times: Why did I not think of that answer yesterday when I was talking? Often I realize that I should have said something more or different. One priest, I know always said, Do not ask me a question when I am standing, I cannot understand or give a good answer. I think as I live a life that this response makes more and more sense to me. In the Gospel passages, Jesus is about the only one who has a corrector good answer or comment when he is asked a question or needs to say something. The rest of the characters in the gospel stories seem to be stymied at times or give incorrect answers.

All through the many, many chapters of the Prophet Isaiah we discover the true greatness of God. We are reminded that not only did God create us and know us intimately, but also this great God of ours is so unbelievably incomprehensible that his glory is greater than anything we know. This means that all the “greatness” we know in this world, whether it be super-wealthy, awesome power, or international fame, could only be accomplished through God’s authority. Thus Paul writes to the Thessalonians that God has created them for great things and that God has the power to transform their lives.

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Clothed in Faith

10-11-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

In the sacred scripture this weekend we are to reflect upon images of banquets (sometimes called dinner parties) and celebrations to come to some meaning and understanding of our relationship with God. The prophet Isaiah in his passage writes that all people, not just the selected and chosen ones, will be invited to a special banquet. It appears that this title “banquet” is inadequate in describing the special celebration that was planned. Isaiah is reminding us that when we remember all of the joy and fun found at the best party we’ve ever been to, we still only have a slight glimpse of the day God has planned. This day, this celebration will be the end of all the hurt, suffering, and sadness we have ever known. This great celebration is in honor of salvation, the victory over death.

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Continue the care of the Vineyard

10-04-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Our first reading this weekend, which comes from the Old Testament from the Book of Isaiah, is a poem or song composed by the prophet about his friend, a vineyard keeper. This composition contains a lot of symbols and has great meaning. The storyline is about his friend, the vineyard keeper, and what can happen. We do not learn right away, but ultimately we discover that this vineyard keeper is God. What happens in the vineyard is important to hear and understand as it has great meaning. His friend the keeper had to first decide what field to use and also to make sure that it was free from rocks and stones and ready for planting. He then had to plant the vines, and in addition, he constructed a vat and tower. The story tells us that he did everything right as a farmer, but that crop did not come out the way it should have. Wild grapes resulted, not finely cultured and luscious grapes. This keeper became really angry and decided to just let it all go back to seed and lay fallow. The field and vineyard would be as it would be.

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Love One Another

09-27-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

There is an important message for all of us that applies to our entire life in this weekend’s scripture. We are being advised to not live in the past with any of its negative ways, but to live in the present in a changed and healthy way. Clinging to the past with any of its wrongs or flaws limits us and ultimately can destroy our very being. The courage or valor to change what was wrong to what is right is essential to living a healthy and faithful Christian life. Our scripture this weekend encourages us to change and grow as we need to in life.

The prophet Ezekiel who spoke the message of God during the Babylonian Exile clearly informed the Jewish people that they were responsible for their own actions. He blatantly told them they had failed to accept these responsibilities and always tried to blame their separation from God on other people, namely on their ancestors. They always had excuses for their behavior and never failed to blame their problems on the sinfulness of the many generations before them. Ezekiel boldly challenged them to live in the present time of their lives and take responsibility for their own actions now and also to do what they knew was right regardless of past events.

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Generous and Forgiving

09-20-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

There are many themes in this weekend’s scripture and one of them is that life does not work out equally for everyone. Life is not distributed to everyone in equal parts at the same time. We are all proud believers in egalitarianism for one and all, yet we know that in many ways life rolls ours differently for each person. There is in life some randomness if badness that is not the result of malfeasance or sin takes place. And more importantly, there is some randomness of goodness in our lives that we cannot justify or explain. It is very difficult in life to sort through the many complaints people have. We are biased by our personal histories and so is the complainer. We tend to remember our negatives and nurse them along in our lives and often miss seeing or valuing the many good things that we have. We often carry resentments and grudges quite tightly to our hearts and very rarely carry gratitude and appreciation in the same way. The larger theme of this weekend is how we see life.

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Forgive

09-13-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Our first reading this weekend is a fitting foundation for the Gospel of this Sunday. This passage from the Book of Sirach is a strong platform on which an understanding of our Gospel selection can be built. Sirach was a sacred book that was composed roughly 200 years before the time of Jesus. It was the son of Sirach who wrote this book in an attempt to help the Jews of then live in peace and harmony in the world of their day. He had much to tell them. He told them to let go of anger, as many of them held on tightly to this negative emotion. To them, anger seemed valuable, even when it was not. More importantly, he tells them our sins will be forgiven if we forgive others and, as importantly, we must show mercy in order to receive it.

In our Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus shows this great wisdom of Sirach when his follower Peter asks how often we need to forgive someone who has hurt us. In the story told by Jesus, we learn the king forgave the enormous debt of his servant, but the servant demanded payment and punishment when a fellow slave could not pay what he owed. Clearly we are to be like the king.

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Humility, understanding, and compassion

09-06-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Nostalgia exists for everyone shortly after we start to create and reflect upon our memories. We all remember “the good old days” when we were young(er) and things were different. We remember them as better or as worse than they were. Memory is an emotional intellectual activity when we think about our past. Memorizing the time's table or historical information or data” is different. All generations and cohorts of ages of people think about their past with the same sense of subjective nostalgia. This nostalgic memory influences how and what we think in the presence of ourselves and what we think of others.

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and the Gospel writer Matthew tell us that we are obligated to speak up when we see something or someone doing or going wrong. Ezekiel is quite bold and tells that if we fail to correct the person, that person’s fate is considerably our fault. I would say that is a rather great responsibility for most of us. I suspect this is an exaggeration because we cannot control someone else’s free will decision. As we know, many people will never listen and to try to speak to them does far more harm than good. Matthew says the same thing. We are to go directly to the person if something is not right. And he says if that does not work, there is still more to be done according to Matthew’s passage.

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With Faith

08-30-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

The COVID Pandemic has certainly had us all experience how fleeting life can be. As time moves on, everything still is constantly changing. Sometimes we observe how things are getting better, and then all of a sudden we hear of “clusters” and “hot spots” and how things must again become immediately more restricted. We are living in a day-to-day period of great instability and uncertainty. Our civil society is in turmoil as it is fractured. The long complex history of racism in our country is at the forefront and should be. The great divide of super wealth and the average American’s income exacerbates everything. Race, class, and income are three areas that collide and cause such turmoil during these days. Our governmental leaders have lost sight of what matters for the people. Their common purpose and vision for all of us are missing. The Common Good for all of us is not held as a primary value.

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The Key Is Love

08-23-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Nowadays many times our smartphone can open a door. We can use them via apps to open garage, house, or work doors. We no longer need a traditional metal key. In fact, hotels now give arriving guests an electronic card or send them a special code to their phone to a hotel app so that they may use the elevator or open their room. Some homes now use special lock systems that open via Wi-Fi with an app or a special numeric code. Most of us, however, still use traditional keys to open our houses, even if we use a “fob” to open and start our cars. Although metal keys are slowly being replaced, the name and concept of “key” are still very much in common use. I notice sometimes I need “an electronic key” to get into a file or a network system. Keys, whatever type they may be, are meant to provide security and safety. They are to protect and also at the right time to open up. They also strongly represent power. Who controls the key, to whom is it given, who has a Master Key, and who is “allowed to come in”: all these questions and more tell us about the power of keys and who possesses them. The keys of various categories and concepts are very important in our lives.

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Active Faith

08-16-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The first reading this weekend addresses the Jewish people and, by scriptural interpretation, ourselves, about a common human problem called “insiders and outsiders.” In matters of faith, there is often that human weakness to label people as “good or bad,” or “orthodox or heretical,” or just simply “in or out,” or, in a sense as “true Catholics or bad Catholics.” In religious circles, this decision is often based on membership in an elite or selective religious group. This first passage tells us clearly that what it should be based on is a person’s attitude of faith, not on a real or imaginary membership card to a special society. Oftentimes this drive to have an exclusive faith has many unwritten rules with self-appointed leaders. The rules usually involve extreme pietistic or ascetic practices directed by leaders who are arbitrary and often capricious in their treatment of their members. The prophet Isaiah in this passage reminds us that God is not exclusionary, but God is always welcoming and open to one and all. Indeed, the house of God “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

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Focused on Jesus

08-09-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

At Mass this weekend our opening prayer reminds us that the Spirit is the one who is given to us and that the Spirit will guide us to our promised inheritance. Certainly, this Holy Spirit is hard to pin down or see or recognize most of the time. For us to sense the presence of the Spirit of God requires us to become quiet, centered, and focused. None of this is easy for us as our heads are often filled with flashy lights and booming sounds.

In our first reading, we learn that the prophet Elijah, with a very open mind, was willing to wait for the Lord to appear in some form or way. Recall that the great appearance of the Lord on Mount Sinai was accompanied by great rumbling of thunder and gobs of thick smoke. It made sense that Elijah would be right to expect some dramatic natural event to signal the Lord’s presence. We learn instead that God was not in the earthquake nor in the mighty wind nor in the fire; he was, instead, in the quietest possible breeze. We are happy to learn that Elijah discovers the Lord’s appearance and responds to it. Elijah, who never writes a word, is indeed a man of God for he was in the Lord’s presence and he knew it. Clearly he is a prophet worth listening to and heeding.

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Nourished by God’s Word

08-02-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

The Business Community knows very well that nothing is for free, even when they announce “it is free!” They know, and we should know that somehow or somewhere along the chain of buying and selling, someone, usually we the buyers, will have to pay. The bald truth is that the ways of God are very different. Grace is free. God’s life is freely given. What this truth means for us is found in this weekend’s readings. The prophet Isaiah and the gospel writer Mat-thew tell us so much. The readings today reiterate this revelation. We are told this in the poetry of Isaiah, a letter from Paul, and a story from Matthew.

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