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.


Looking Ahead to Ash Wednesday and Lent

01-29-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary Parish,

Despite the cold and snow last week, we can tell that winter is moving on as the light at the end of the day is lengthening. We need simply to put one foot forward at a time, and soon we will be well through February, which begins this Sunday. It is rather stunning to think that the Christmas Season is now far back in the rearview mirror and that Ash Wednesday and Lent 2021 will soon be upon us. The pandemic, the long process of vaccinations, the recent civil disturbance in Washington DC, and the new federal leadership for our country all contribute significantly to our confusion, uncertainly, and burden of living each day. Parents and students, workers and homebound, elderly and young, everyone’s lives are still challenging beyond the usual pressures and strains of life. We are blessed that we have our faith to focus us, direct us, keep us strong, and let us continue our daily life with hope and peace of mind and heart.


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.


Pray the Prayer of St. Francis

01-22-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Mary's,

This past week held a critical and important event in our country’s history and life. We have inaugurated a new president and vice-president in the worst of times in our civil society. The events in Washington D. C. of the last two weeks tell us in the most painful, violent, and dramatic terms and actions that our nation is facing serious and grave difficulties. Cardinal Seán’s recommendation is ever so correct: that the Prayer of Saint Francis should be our prayer and motivation at this time. We must be instruments of justice and peace. All of us must pray for our country and its elected and appointed leaders to help us to face in justice what is wrong, admit responsibility, and then be reconciled for the good of us all.


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.


Looking Ahead to Ash Wednesday and Lent

01-15-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary’s,

Although our Church in our Liturgical Year has returned to “Ordinary Time” after the Christmas Season, this present “time” is in fact extraordinary for all of us. We continue to face the Pandemic, and in addition in our Town of Franklin we are a Red Zone, and also we are all reeling and reacting to the great tumult and upset in Washington DC with the riot and siege of the Capitol Building with the unfortunate deaths and desecration of our many national signs and symbols.


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"?


Put Your Faith in the Lord

01-08-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary,

We have stepped into the New Year and must continue to put our faith in the Lord in these most troubling of times for our country and for our people who continue to struggle during this Pandemic. We must ask our God to fill the hearts and minds of our leaders on all levels of government to always put the good of others before themselves. We must all remember all of us must respect the laws of our country and work together for our democracy. Ideological and political polarization is destroying the good of our “common good”. Our country needs our prayers said faithfully these days for all of us to move past the violence of Wednesday. We must condemn the violence which has taken place and work peacefully for our country’s future.


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.