Courage, Kindness, Understanding

05-29-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, a very important Feast Day in our Church Faith and Tradition. The gospel account of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles is a great symbol of how the Holy Spirit will open wide the horizons of our minds and hearts. The power of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is unequaled in power in everyone's life.


A Daily Life of Service and Sacrifice

05-22-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We need to remember that when we read from the Gospel of John, such as this weekend, we are reading a scripture passage which is written after a long time of reflection and living experience. John wrote his Gospel sometime between 90 A.D. and 100 A.D. In art John is symbolized as an eagle, mainly because he soars so high in his thoughts, expressions, and meaning. His Gospel begins with the eloquent words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God …". We recognize that these starting words of John actually match up in theme and expression to the very first words of the Bible in the Book of Genesis. We discover in John that this special "Word" who was in the beginning with God, now begins his journey home to God. The journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem is the journey of the Word made flesh returning home by his Death and Resurrection.


Kindness, Patience, and Goodness

05-15-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The Gospel writer John in today's selected passage tells us that Jesus promises the Spirit. This promise is made during the very long talk that John has Jesus give at the Last Supper. The believers of then would have realized that John had assembled a whole series of quotes of Jesus and had made them prominent by placing them all together at the Last Supper. By John doing this, he is telling us to pay strict and close attention to all these words and quotes. He realizes that the various meanings of these words take power after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, John is the only Gospel writer who tells us the very important teachings and sayings which Jesus gave at the Last Supper. We know that the Apostles had heard these words, but that they needed a great deal of time to ponder and come to understand them. Do not forget that John says at the end of his Gospel that he has only written down so much of what Jesus said as there would not be enough books available for him to write into record all that Jesus said.


Jesus, Our Foundation

05-15-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When I drive down Union Street to where it meets King Street, when I am stopped at the lights, I can see a big construction site just beyond the lights. In a sense I look forward to checking up on it each time I come to the lights. I get to see the progress of it all. I note how it has taken many steps and many different construction trades to build it. Of course, it starts with the General Contractor who has to put it all together. He/They are the ones who have to get the site surveyed correctly, the hole dug for the foundation, and then the forms built and poured for it all. Framers, insulators, plumbers, electricians, insulators, and all sorts of tradespeople and craftspeople have to work on this project. Lots and lots of building supplies are needed. Whether it is a big building or a house, each requires a lot of tradespeople and craftspeople and also supplies and materials. Are you aware that today's readings actually show us a similar construction plan for the church?


The Good Shepherd

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

During these weeks that all of us are trying to cooperate as closely as possible with the Directives of “stay at home” and “social distancing”, our daily life can get a little too close and people can get a little too sensitive. Usually behavior that can be let go can sometimes, can become a major irritant. The friction of being together so much and not having our regular life can cause all sorts of problems. We can forget about the larger common good and go back to the regular narcissistic orientated culture that we had lived in and functioned in each day “What is best for me is really best for everyone.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.