Infancy Narratives

12-26-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The section of Luke which we read today comes from a section often called the "Prologue" because the first two chapters of Luke deal with the earliest days of the life of Jesus. They are in a sense the stories before the great story of the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ. In fact, they are often called "the Infancy


God Writes Straight with Crooked Lines

12-19-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In thinking about this weekend's scripture and one of the underlying themes in all of it, we are reminded of the wonderful saying of God writes straight with crooked lines. We learn in the scripture and perhaps from personal observations, we can discover God's presence in the most unexpected places and people. Those who are planners and have a need to be always in control or always be "right" do not like the crooked lines with which God writes. Often they feel threatened. Those who are able to see the hand of God in the crooked lines are amazed and grateful to him.


Advent Preparation - Requires Us to Do and to Act

12-12-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Church-wise we make a big deal about the Third Sunday in Advent and we call it Gaudete ("rejoice") Sunday. I think the major reason is "in the olden, olden days" people used to fast and perform many extra ascetic pious practices during Advent in preparation for Christmas. Thus, when folks were almost through the Season of Advent, they would rejoice that all that extra discipline and denial of self was almost at an end. They used the color rose as a visible sign in church that the end was almost there. In a sense, it is a weakened form of the color of red which is a major Christmas color. Our readings this weekend pick up the theme of the joy that is soon to be here and that the coming of the Light of the World will soon be celebrated. We pick up speed as we come closer and closer to Christmas Day. We can sense Christmas in the air and the liturgy at Mass helps us feel its closeness. The readings for this Sunday reflect this delight. In fact, the whole rhythm of Advent picks up today. We start proclaiming in song the "O Antiphons" beginning this week.


Believe in This Forgiving God Embrace with Hope and Joy

12-05-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We must always remember that the word "gospel" means "good news". This weekend our scripture abounds in "good news". We must remember as followers of Jesus Christ to spread His Good News to one and all by our daily words and actions.


Make for a Brighter Future

11-28-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend we begin a new church religious year. Our year is based upon telling the story of Jesus Christ Our Savior. In a sense, we begin at the beginning and end at the end when everything has been said. To begin telling the story we need to back up a bit before the actual birth at Bethlehem. Thus, we have four weeks called Advent to help us get to the story of Christ's birth and its meaning in our lives. The readings of this weekend help us by focusing us on the future. They, in fact, invite us to rejoice, even in the face of our times and situations, because we know that God will not fail us. They strongly encourage us to plan for the future, because we believe that God will not dash our hopes. They greatly encourage us to strive and work for the promise of a better tomorrow, because we are absolutely convinced that on this very day and every day God is fulfilling His promises and acting on our behalf. We believe that the "Son of Man" is coming and has come. Our great hope and the way we live can make for a brighter future for all who seek him.


Do What He Asked Us To Do

11-21-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our scripture readings are thematically related to the theological concept of the life-pact between God and ourselves that is verified by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. We know from the scriptures that God initiates the covenant and invites us to enter into it and to complete it. We learn that what our "high priest" has begun, we are to continue through celebration and service.

When Jesus told his friends to remember him by breaking bread and drinking wine, he did not mean just to have "good thoughts" about him. In our religious tradition all the way back through the earliest of times in the Old Testament, to remember is a very special action. To remember means to make events or happenings from the past come alive now in this very present.


God's Reign is Already Begun

11-14-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We are now drawing close to the end of our Church's religious and liturgical year. Thus our readings this weekend focus on the end times of our world, which is the return of Jesus Christ in his Second Coming. This usually is not a topic we think about or talk about. Some do, however and they usually make it sound scary and frightening. Our readings today approach all of this differently, these readings call us to faith and draw on our faith to help us face the end times without trepidation.


Giving to God and His Work

11-07-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We witness the kindness and generosity of the poor in the two different widows in the first reading and the Gospel reading this weekend. In reading from the first Book of Kings, we learn about a very dire time of famine in Israel. The prophet Elijah in his travels met a pagan widow. We need to remember that Elijah had been told by God that there would be a great drought and a widowed woman would appear to help him. When Elijah saw the woman, he asked for a drink of water. Asking for a cup of water in a desert climate and place was quite normal. He, however, asked for a second cup He even pressed further before she had even answered and asked for some bread. This clearly poor widow had so little to give him; in fact, she did not even have any bread on hand. She was planning to bake the last of her supplies of flour and oil. In a dramatic way Elijah gave her a promise that if she gave what she had, she and her family would not go hungry during this terrible drought.


In His Greatness He Tells Us How to Live Our Daily Lives

10-31-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Most of us have experienced at least one painful or scary time in our lives. This can be the sudden and tragic death of a spouse, perhaps even the loss of a child. A scary moment can be the loss of a sole income for a family. At these times we never really know what to say. In fact there is very little we can do for the suffering person, but we do know that we have to be there, after all that is what friends do. Friends are people you can turn to in times of need.


Faith Comes Before Seeing

10-24-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The prophecy of Jeremiah found in the first reading was selected because it provides an initial insight into our Gospel passage. Clearly God's compassion, described in the first reading prepares us to learn about the compassion of Jesus for the blind, desperate Bartimaeus.

From the first reading we realize that people who are bound and captured and also exiled in a strange land always pay close attention to their captors and oppressors. They can sense the slightest nuance of change, and now in this passage they can sense change. They know that their captors are now threatened by others and are becoming weaker. The once powerful Assyrians are losing their power as the Babylonians and Medes begin to overwhelm them. The Assyrians seem to be concluding that these exiled Jewish captives are not worth the time and effort and so they should send these foreigners back home.


Service to Others Given From a Loving Heart

10-17-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

If you reflect upon the first and second reading at Mass this weekend, you may conclude that the readings balance each other and offer us some kind of equilibrium and strength for us to continue in our journey as disciples of the Lord. Most people find the first few words of the first reading absolutely shocking as Isai­ah writes: "The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity." How can this please God? How can people being crushed please God? How are we to understand this? Most people conclude that God seems to allow the suffering of the innocent to go on and on, with no intervention or relief.


Try and Do Our Best

10-10-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our Gospel passage this weekend is about Jesus and the Young Man. One should notice that the young man has self-confidence and is also generous in spirit, and in addition, is vibrant in his approach to life. Jesus obviously saw the young man and wanted to speak with him. We realize, of course, that the young man's request was quite a legitimate question to ask Jesus. Perhaps the young fellow was a little out of line by the salutation of "Good Master" for Jesus certainly corrected that. He reminds the young man that God alone is good, and thus in a sense any good we do is because of God. Yet we must hear the entire story for everything to fit together properly.


Sacrament of Matrimony

10-03-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

A bishop, priest, deacon, or lay preacher who is preaching this weekend can certainly stand tall on the preaching box and rant about marriage in this present age and in these times. It is easy to focus a talk on pre-marital sex, divorce or same sex marriage instead of attempting to lift up marriage and encourage people to see the beauty and wonder of marriage. Religious preachers can be quite lazy and often go about bashing and beating people up and do not put thought and effort about lifting up the Word of God and his gifts to us. We all know it is easier to throw around nasty names and criticize without understanding anything than it is to think decently and thoughtfully about something that is important. Oftentimes this bashing and destroying is a substitute for what it is really going on. Certainly, the Gospel tells us this in plain and clear terms.