A New Vision

04-24-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The last two months have certainly altered our perceptions and understandings about our daily world and life. It appears that whatever people were seeking and whatever things people thought were foundational or essential to life have certainly changed or been shifted. The closedown of our daily life as we know it and the imposing of "social distancing" have caused many people to ponder in positive and also negative ways the meaning of their lives, what their past has been, and also what their future may be like. These past months have allowed and sometimes forced people to ask about "who and what really matters in life." Before all this, many people had been traveling along just presuming everything which we have was good and everything we desired was even better.

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The Power of the Risen Lord in Us

04-17-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is certainly very strange to be writing about the Sunday after Easter when in a certain sense there has been no Easter Celebration here at Saint Mary's. The intense days of Holy Week from Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil and on to Easter Sunday have not taken place as they usually do. Gathering in front of the flat screen to unite ourselves in prayer with either Cardinal Seán at our Cathedral in Boston or with Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Square in Rome may help our inner being and spiritual self, but it simply does not take the place of physically coming to our holy ground and lifting up our hearts and souls to our God who has loved us.

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Walk by Faith

04-12-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Who could have imagined in their wildest dreams — even writers of high tech futuristic space alien dramas could not have foreseen — that we would not be gathering in our holy sanctuary at Saint Mary's Franklin to proclaim and sing Alleluia! on this Easter Sunday 2020. Or that the most beautiful service of Holy Thursday when we remember the Institution of our most precious and sacred gift of the Holy Eucharist would come and go this year only by watching it on TV. I have always treasured the Stations of the Cross of Good Friday. To me, they speak much more than the Evening Service. I feel the loss of this beautiful devotional celebration this year very deeply. For those who attend the elaborate ritual of the Easter Vigil which is celebrated with Fire, Water and Word, it must still the heart to miss those deeply spiritual ceremonies in our church.

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We Will Come Through This

04-05-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Certainly this year Palm Sunday 2020, which is the portal to all of Holy Week and the Great Easter Celebration, has taken on a strange way. We are not able to gather in our holy church and hear the proclamation of Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. We are not able to listen with our hearts to the stirring words of the Passion and Death of Jesus as proclaimed at the time of the Gospel Passion Narrative. At best we can listen with devotion and participate with our hearts as the Great Services of Holy Week take place on the Catholic Channel. This year we join with millions of others throughout the world in a very different way. We shall be using TV as the substitute for our local parish church. Passion Sunday introduces us to the Great Week—Holy Week. Nonetheless, we are followers of Jesus Christ and his Way and this coming week we will with fidelity and devotion remember the great story of the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Media, even the advanced media of today, is not a substitute for physical presence and contact. We know that, as much as we Skype or Facetime our family and friends, we still yearn to see them face to face and to hug them closely.

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God Will Carry Us Through

03-29-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This week we again are witnessing to signs found in John’s Gospel about who Jesus really is. We know that signs often point to something more, or bigger, just like symbols do. In fact some people interchange the words sign and symbol. As we read about Jesus this year in our cycle of Lenten Gospel passages, we learn that he is clearly seen as the source of living water and the light of the world. Indeed this weekend he is also declared the resurrection and the life. All the meaningful signs given in John’s Gospel ultimately point to this last great sign. We know that there are very many other stories of people he raised from the dead, such as the soldier’s daughter and the only son of the widow of Naim. Note that John does not narrate these miracle stories; instead he gives a very long version of the raising of Lazarus. In listening to the story we may end up fascinated by Lazarus, but John strives to keep our attention on Jesus.

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Jesus Is Our Light

03-22-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Are you aware that John's Gospel is all about signs? Do you also recognize that for a sign to have meaning, it must be seen, heard, or read? The Gospel of John is all about signs, and clearly his Gospel has to be read, and then ultimately thought about and understood to some degree.

Our first story this Sunday is from the Old Testament from the Book of Samuel. This story relates the journey of Samuel to Bethlehem to the house and family of Jesse. In listening we learn that God tells Samuel he should anoint the future king of Israel. Accordingly Samuel goes and meets the older, strapping, capable boys and thinks they're fine indeed, yet we learn that none of obvious candidates was the choice of God. Samuel is told again that God not only sees into our heart but also God sees differently than we do. And thus Samuel calls for the remaining son who is the youngest named David. This one, the non-obvious, is God's choice, and thereupon the Spirit rushes upon the young man.

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Spiritual Growth

03-15-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

You may notice how beautifully our main church is prepared and decorated for this penitential Season of Lent. I appreciate the many positive comments and "thank yous" for making our magnificent stained glass window in our sanctuary the main focal point during this season in preparation for the Sacred Triduum and the Feast of the Resurrection. Certainly the magnificent jewel tones of the stain glass contribute to the poignancy and depth of feeling in the Crucifixion scene that is displayed before us. Coming into Church during this season with the great work of art before us can inspire us to deeper reflection upon the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Throughout most of the year, this window recedes into the background because of other appropriate decorations, but in this season this scene of the crucifixion of Christ on the cross can seize hold of us in graced and powerful ways. Note also that there is a second crucifix brought forth in the sanctuary at this season of the year. It is the "Processional Cross" donated to our Parish by the Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus Council. This cross displays Mary beside her beloved Son. This stands at the ambo (pulpit) and reinforces the sacred words of scripture which during this season are preparing us for the celebration of her Son's death and Resurrection. The addition of various colors of purple and violet reminds us of the seriousness of this season.

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Blessed with the Gift of Salvation

03-01-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When we hear or read the great stories of the Book of Genesis, we need to remember that there are always religious truths contained in these grace-filled stories. They are not about history and reality, but are about religious truths. In the story about the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were unable to resist the seduction of the serpent. Alas, they were tested and they failed miserably. We find in our Gospel passage of today a strong contrast in that, despite the three appealing circumstances (food for the hungry, sensationalism, and power), Jesus resisted Satan's tempting challenges. Also note that the selection from Paul's Letter to the Romans contrasts for us the differences in these two situations. The contrast is: one human's disobedience brought about sin and death and another human's obedience freed us from sin and death. Surely when thinking these truths over, we come to realize that we are blessed, even in our human condition, with the gift of salvation.

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Good and Decent People

02-23-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Many years ago when I was assigned as a parochial vicar (an assistant priest) at the Immaculate Conception Parish, East Weymouth, in the second year of our Confirmation Program one of the classes showed a film called "God in the Dock." It was a contemporary interpretation of a Christian on trial and how to prove the accused had any faith. It was the question: was there "enough evidence" to convict the man in the story for being a Christian. Certainly the idea of "is there sufficient proof in one's life of being a follower of Jesus Christ?" is a healthy and valid question. Have you ever asked yourself this question of "proof"? Often we think there is obvious proof of who we are, but the reality is that no one else thinks so because they cannot perceive it. We tend to think too much or too little of ourselves.

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Sermon on the Mount Part II

02-16-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

One of the two biggest topics that is often discussed is the amount of traffic we now have and how few parking places there are. Indeed rush hour and congestion now seems to run all day, from very early morning until very late evening. Parking spaces in the City of Boston can cost between forty and sixty dollars, with monthly rates not too much less. We know here in Franklin how difficult it is to park at many of the houses of worship, including our own. The rules for parking that apply to hydrants, corners, driveways, and access ramps are not always strictly followed. Our Town graciously relaxes the parking rules somewhat for all of our churches on Sundays, but the safety laws still apply. Some folks do not want to know how to use the common sense values of safety and courtesy. It is so normal today for people to think that they are special and that rules and laws do not apply to them, only to other people. Our scripture this weekend invites us to ponder about the spirit and letter of the law and also our freedom to choose.

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Be Salt and Light

02-09-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We may not realize that the gospel passage of this weekend is a continuation of the great Sermon on the Mount. We are moving beyond the Beatitudes to many of the additional words and messages of Jesus. The images and symbols of salt and light are the two major images we are invited to identity with this weekend in the scripture readings. We are asked to ponder their meanings in our lives and how we further the work of Jesus as we live out being salt and light. Common to every culture is the use of salt and obviously we all need light, whether from the sun or artificial illumination, to live each day.

Salt and light are indeed very basic to human existence. In human history there even have been "salt wars." Light has always been needed and treasured. We need light in darkness and in our world we need light to be able to see and read. When we do not have salt or light, we can feel how much we need them. Without light, human life is impossible. Without salt, the food that we eat is without taste and quite flat.

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The Presentation of the Lord

02-02-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend we celebrate another and a different style Feast of the Epiphany, the appearance of the Lord in the heart warming Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. Again this revealing of the Lord is a sign of hope and light for all of us. In our Gospel, Mary shows what joy is after her struggle to keep hope and faith in God for so very long. For, previous to this event, she had various periods of fear and doubt and also anxiety and worry as we learn from the stories of the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt which have been told to all of us. She proves to us by her life that if our lives are grounded in hope that God will act on our behalf, then there is nothing to fear and everything to celebrate. Life has meaning when we trust in the Lord despite the difficulties that surround us. Ultimately his grace will give us peace and joy.  

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