Fr. Francis' Greetings - January, 2015

Our Lady of the Angels

January 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

 The Lord give you His peace and blessings now and throughout the New Year!

The  prophet, speaking in the name of God, says,  My  Word  will  not  return  without  fulfilling  the  purpose  for which It was sent  (Isaiah 55:11).  From the very beginning of time, when the Almighty Creator and Father of all life brought out of nothing all that is and all that ever will be, there has been a yearning in creation for something, or better ‘Someone’.  This ‘hope’ that groans until now (Romans 8: 22) is our constant companion on life’s journey that urges us to move forward into God’s Providence.  We journey without knowing what the next moment will bring.  We journey, and we trust.  We trust because we believe.  We believe because our hearts have been touched at birth by the Spirit of God Who enables us to see signs of the One greater than all.  He encourages us to know Him more deeply as we see Him in and through the many gifts of His Creation.   And, Jesus is the excellent and flawless example, the epitome of His magnificent creation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … He came to what was his own, but his own did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave the power to become children of God … And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth. (John 1: 1-14)

Jesus is the Word that the Father sent Who returned to the Father having fulfilled the purpose for His becoming one with humanity. We continue His ministry of fulfilment each time we re-present the Mystery and “miracle” of the Eucharist at the celebration of Mass.  It is the same Holy Spirit of God that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving flesh to the almighty and eternal God within her immaculate womb that overshadows the bread and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist.  The “overshadowing” invoked by the hands of the priest , the power of the Holy Spirit,  and words of  Consecration make Jesus the Christ real for us, not just in His Word, but in His Sacrament. This “Real Presence”, through the power of the Holy Spirit, urges us to enter the mystery more deeply and personally, to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation, and to courageously and unconditionally accept the mission “to be sent”, as was He, that we might be a living message of peace and blessings to all.  In Persona Christi the priest celebrant of the Eucharist is both Jesus the Master Who celebrates by virtue of his ordination, but also a disciple and apostle – as are all the faithful – who must listen to what he himself preaches and teaches, live the message he conveys in harmony with God’s Word, Church teaching and Tradition, and go among the People of God inviting all to receive the Good News in the Name of Jesus.

The Eucharist is not just a prayer but an experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God through Jesus in the Spirit.  It is that holy action of the people – the liturgy – into which we enter, often oblivious to the awesomeness of the moment and even to the Divine Presence before Whom we confect with the priest the Sacrifice and Sacrament of our Salvation in Jesus.  The Eucharist re-presents for us – subtly, succinctly, and soundly – all of Salvation History.  The Father’s Spirit and Word, present at the beginning of time and down through the millennia, are in the liturgy breathing Life for those who are participants and not merely spectators.  In the Eucharist, celebrant and people acknowledge their personal and collective sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Together they hear the words of Ancient Israel in the Old Testament passages, the teachings of the Early Church, and the words and life of Jesus in the Gospels. All this preparation (Liturgy of the Word) takes time, valuable time needed to make us realize the awesome experience we are soon to witness and become (Liturgy of the Eucharist). In this celebration the Spirit encourages us to consume the Victim – consummatum est – so that all can be fulfilled and we might share in the fruits of the ‘mission accomplished’ of the Lord.  As we consume Him, He consumes us!  What admirable exchange!  The creature becomes one with the Creator, and shares in the work of his own salvation!

Of His own free will, and to the fullest extent possible, the divine Word was pleased to abase Himself to our level. He concealed His divine nature beneath the veil of human flesh.  In this way, says St. Paul, the Word of God humbled Himself to the point of emptying Himself:  He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).  He “hid” His divine nature so fully as to take on the likeness of a human being in everything except sin, even exposing Himself to hunger, thirst, fatigue, and ultimately death. To use the very words of the apostle of the nations, St. Paul:  he became like us in every respect as we are, yet without sinning’ (Hebrews 4:1).  The climax of His humiliation, however, was in His Passion and Death, when He submitted His human will to the will of His Father, endured great trials and pain, and suffered a most infamous death, the death of the cross. His full acceptance and surrender to the Father’s Will exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee must bend …  (Philippians 2:9). By virtue of the name of “Jesus” alone we hope to be saved. All other names just single out some individual person.  The name of Jesus is a type of sacrament that does what it says: “Jesus” means “God is salvation”.   To call on Jesus’ name is to trust in the “God Who saves”.

The Person of Christ is present throughout the entire liturgy.  The priest, ‘in persona Christi’, leads, encourages, instructs, feeds, and commissions the People of God.  The humility of forgiveness given and accepted, teachings offered and received, nourishment prepared and shared, communion extended and embraced, empowerment instilled and undertaken, are all beautifully expressed in the Celebration of the Eucharist.  The Will of Christ is re-presented each time the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Jesus is the Eternal ‘Yes’ Who accepts for all humanity the office of Victim so that we can become victors with Him through the ‘at-one-ment’ that is reserved for all who journey with Him in Word, Sacrament and life.  The Power of the Name repeated and responded to with ‘Amen’ so often throughout the liturgy, gives all who call on the Name of Jesus trust to live in His Name, insight to recognize His presence every moment, surrender to be an instrument of grace and blessings for those whom we encounter, and confidence to trustingly move forward in God’s Providence.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi we cannot afford to waste valuable time and spiritual energy beginning this new year regretting the past or worrying about the future. Everyone looks for opportunities to ‘clean the slate’ and ‘re-write’ our decisions in order to avoid past mistakes.  One thing among many we must never forget is to learn from the past to grow in the good, and to correct what is not good by reconciling ourselves with God and one another, and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Where the future is concerned, even in the midst of all that is happening in the world and our own lives today, Jesus Himself reminds us that all the hairs of your head are counted   (Luke 12: 17) and all the worry in the world cannot add or subtract one moment (Matthew 6: 27) from the life entrusted to each one of us.  For greater serenity and joy, it might be worthwhile to remember a famous saying of our Capuchin brother and saint, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  All this can so easily be accomplished by remembering that in the Person of Christ we find the trust and courage to live in the Will of the Father, and are empowered in His Name to be an instrument of God’s life-giving Love.  The Eucharist reminds us, renews within us, and repeats for us the wonderful outpouring of His Spirit that will guide us throughout the New Year and for all our life.

Be happy!  God loves you!  Love Him back!   Tell the whole world of His Love!  A dog that does not bark is useless (cfr. St. Gregory the Great) make yourself heard!  Don’t be afraid to be Catholic!  Common denominators are good only in mathematics.  In life’s realms we must be the unique personalities we are and voice the truth we know and believe!  We are not just Christians but Catholic Christians and Franciscans  We must stand out and stand up for whom and for what we believe if we are to give witness, and be salt and light (Matthew 5: 13-16), that all  may experience spirit and life in Jesus. Help others to see in the Eucharist the treasure that must still be discovered in all its richness by so many. Accept the role you were created to fulfill in the priesthood of God’s People – ministerial priesthood and that of the laity – by ‘celebrating’ the ‘extension of the Mass’ in your daily lives. Make the Jesus you receive in Holy Communion be the Jesus others see in you.  Let them see the Image of Jesus in your compassion and understanding, the Will of Jesus in your humility and acceptance of others and the occurrences of life, and the Power of the Name of Jesus in your living without compromise the Catholic-Christian values we profess in a society that seeks to challenge the Christ in us and in the Church.

The beginning of this calendar year holds many challenges for us to encounter and learn from.  They are not frightening nor overpowering for those who see each beginning as an opportunity for learning and growth in grace.   The Eucharist we celebrate and the Eucharist we become is the source and goal of our lives. From it we are strengthened and empowered to be Jesus in this world.  Be Jesus to one another and to the world, that when the call comes for us to enter eternity, Jesus may be Jesus to us in all His love, compassion and mercy.

May the New Year 2015 be a year we allow God to surprise us with His love.  May it be a year that challenges us to grow beyond a complacency of “good enough”.  May it be a year in which we seek to grow deeper in our Gospel Life by making God’s word a daily companion of reading and reflection.  May the new year be a year that brings us closer together as a Franciscan Family that supports, encourages, accompanies, … loves one another.  May it be a year that opens our hearts to seek to know and grow in our Franciscan vocation, and not think that profession seals it all and there is nothing more to learn.  This is a wonderful year the Lord has granted us.   May the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and homes!

God bless you and your loved ones; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.


Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant


Happy New Year filled with God’s

Peace and Blessings

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