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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Every Life Is Precious

01-26-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners,

At Mass this weekend, we are offering the special prayers which come from the Mass for Various Occasions: "For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life" as directed by Cardinal Seán. On our parish website there will be the text of his special homily for this Mass for you to read if you did not hear or see it on all the various social platforms and media outlets. Although this effort is being expended at the time of the March for Life in Washington, we need to remember that the theme of the opening prayer of this Mass reminds us "that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful in this trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life."

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Life Is More with God

01-19-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We may not realize it, but there is often a lot of formal ritual in our lives. We celebrate the dedication of a new building with a formal event. When someone new moves to our neighborhood, we often bring over a dinner to say welcome. When we visit a newborn at home, we bring a special gift to note the new beginning of life. We all know that a new beginning means a lot; it is for most of us a wonderful sign of hope. Indeed we have heard the saying that “hope springs eternal” and we believe this to be true. Oftentimes the past is clouded and difficult, but we still believe that the future is full of hope and light. In our scripture today, that beautiful newborn baby of Bethlehem is now shown to us as God’s most Chosen: God’s Son.

Our reading from the book of Isaiah was actually written by a second writer who was then named Isaiah. He spoke when the Jews had returned from Babylon and the people were in disarray. They had a lot to do; they had to feed themselves, provide shelter, and also start to rebuild a temple for worship. Their future was unsecured and they were afraid and depressed. They were at an end and also at a new beginning. They were seeking to rebuild Israel, but Isaiah told them the Lord God had a greater plan for them. Indeed Israel as a country and people was to be much more than a rebuilt nation: it was to be a light for the entire world. Isaiah tells the people that through this new Israel, God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth. This message became the vision of the people, and it was certainly a bigger vision than they had made for themselves.

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His Wondrous Compassion

01-12-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In this week’s gospel passage it is quite important to grasp the drama of this scene of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus. We have listened to and enjoyed the wonderful stories of the travel of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the actual Birth of Jesus in the stable, the arrival of shepherds, and then finally the arrival of mysterious kings, the Magi, from the East. Our hearts have been warmed by the beauty of this magnificent story of the Lord’s Birth. And now we hear the story of the adult Jesus and the beginnings of his public ministry of preaching and healing and calling all to the Kingdom of God. The “quiet” of the Christmas story and the young life of Jesus have now ended; the second “epiphany” of Jesus now takes place as he walks with dignity and strength to the banks of the Jordan River. The same as Christmas night, the heavens open and a servant and beloved Son is again given to us.

When Isaiah prophesized, this beloved servant was without a name. Bear in mind, though, that the chosen and beloved one had a mission to act on our behalf, freeing us from blindness and all the various prisons we build for ourselves. This beloved servant will destroy the darkness we create. His compassion will be beyond limitless. That is what the great prophet Isaiah tells us. His graced prophecy directs us to the banks of the Jordan River where we identify the beloved servant at the beginning of his mission.

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Searchers and Pilgrims

01-05-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

On this great feast day and Sunday we gather to celebrate the true love and mercy of our God. We have just celebrated a season and time of gift giving to family and friends. Today in contrast we are given a great gift from our God. This Feast of Little Christmas, often called the Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings, is a time when we are gifted. Much like the three kings we must be open to going and getting the gift, even if it causes inconvenience or effort and work.

Indeed does not Isaiah tell us how great is the gift in the symbolism of Jerusalem and the return of the Jews from Exile in Babylon. Jerusalem is luminescent with great and splendid light. Jerusalem is irresistibly drawing the people home even if they are very far off in a distant land. Everyone wants to come, from mothers to king; it does not matter your station or health.

The distant places which Isaiah names in our first passage are the various places to which Ismael’s and Esau’s progeny had migrated long ago. These fancy names create a mysterious and exotic environment for us today as these very rich and royal people came with gifts of gold and frankincense.

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