From the Desk of Fr. Francis - December 2015


December, 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Infant Jesus grant your heart the Peace you desire.

May His Star enlighten your mind with the splendor of His Truth.

May His Love consume your heart so that it beats solely for Him.



His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136). God’s mercy is limitless. God’s mercy and love are His judgment and sentence. God’s mercy was manifest from the beginning of creation. The mere fact that God loved and loves us into life is an eternal sign of God’s mercy. Throughout salvation history God has shown His mercy to His people, even when, because of our unfaithfulness, we have deserved the contrary. The apostle John reminds us in the Gospel he wrote: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3: 16).

We celebrate God’s eternal love and mercy throughout the year in our liturgies, beginning with the Season of Advent. Advent introduces us to the eternal, immortal, undivided, and supreme God, Who did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave coming in human likeness. Found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2: 6-8). St. Paul’s words remind us that to speak of Christ among us, we must remember the purpose for His incarnation: obedience to the Father’s Will leading His incarnate Son to death…and resurrection. Before we speak of his incarnation and birth, we already focus on his death. We cannot separate the Crib of Bethlehem from the Cross of Calvary. The two are inseparable!

The people of Israel, centuries before the birth of Jesus, heard the prophet Isaiah promise: Many peoples shall come…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2: 1-5). The night Jesus was born into our history…There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests (Luke 2: 1-14). A promise of old and a proclamation the night it was fulfilled … and continues to be completed more fully in the Christ Who continues His journey through time in those who acclaim Him Lord and Savior. However, we are not always aware of the progress of the prophecy of Isaiah and the proclamation of the angels. Why!?

For thousands escaping persecution and certain death for their belief in Christ Jesus, for others held hostage in their own countries by repressive regimes and governments, for millions whose poverty threatens their lives every day, for the homeless, marginalized, poor of any kind, for Christians of various denominations including Roman Catholic who are being challenged to either live their faith with commitment or lose the rights provided them by the fact of their human dignity, and much more you can add yourselves, these wonderful words of hope and joy might seem only empty promises and false illusions. We look around us and see the escalation of violence in many areas around the world and in our own great nation and even in our neighborhoods. We must not let our hearts be overwhelmed by actions of hatred and violence that often occur, or by the tragedies that affect our lives. Where there is life there is hope, and where there is hope there is peace, even in the midst of confusion and pain. Life is still the journey worth living and it is beautiful because God Himself chose to dwell with His own creatures that we in turn, at one moment appointed by God, might live with Him for eternity.

St. Francis sought to rekindle hope in a world that had grown cold. (Saint Francis) highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest intention was to pay heed to the holy gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to retrace His footsteps completely … We should note then … what he did … at the town of Greccio, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ … There was a certain man … named John who had a good reputation but an even better manner of life. Blessed Francis (said to him) ‘If you desire to celebrate the coming feast of the Lord together at Greccio, hurry before me and carefully make ready the things I tell you. For I wish to re-enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with ox and ass standing by, he rested on hay’ … Finally, the holy man of God comes and, finding all things prepared, he saw them and was glad … There simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, humility is commended, and out of Greccio is made a new Bethlehem. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30)

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season. St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people. He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again. He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful. Through the senses, St. Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul.

Grace builds on nature. (St. Thomas Aquinas) The ability to allow the senses to take over and enliven the heart and soul makes our experience with God even more exciting. Not just the intellect, but the whole person enters this intimate relationship with God. And God enters a relationship with humanity taking on every aspect of human life except sin. In the story, as recounted by Celano, it is even stated: Moreover, burning with excessive love, (Francis) often calls Christ the ‘babe from Bethlehem’ whenever he means to call Him Jesus. Saying the word ‘Bethlehem’ in the manner of a bleating sheep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) St. Francis was not one to be held in check by public opinion. Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child and he was not concerned sounding like a child, or acting childlike, even if to some it seemed childish. (When) people were bringing there little children to Jesus … (Jesus) said to (His disciples who were trying to stop them) Let the children come to me and do not hinder them. It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10: 13-16) Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child and remember the child that we once were and are called to become. Our Seraphic Father let love go free, just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and all the people of Israel. David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2Samuel: 7: 20) , could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me … not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more … I will be lowly in your esteem … but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)

Christmas is a time for us to look with the eyes of wonder at the mystery fulfilled and to enjoy the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem. It is a time to bask in the light of a treasure greater than any we could imagine. To see the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, the Savior of humanity, the King of kings and Lord of lords is to allow the tepidity and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens to be rekindled and lightened by the One Whose birth we celebrate in time as we await His return in glory. The Lord hidden in His Word and Sacrament is made visible in so many ways in the sisters and brothers we encounter on our journey. The child within is reborn and we experience the newness and joy of life.

Just a short number of years ago we entered the Third Millennium. Centuries, and probably eons, lay before humanity. Each day is a new experience of that eternal unfolding love prepared for by the prophets, made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary, and that will continue until history’s time becomes eternal life. Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist and each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus. Our Faith is strengthened, our hope renewed, and our hearts filled with childlike wonder and joy in Christ. Not even the terrible fears that have been controlling much of the world and its people these past years can destroy the hope and joy Advent and Christmas offer. Why? The reason is simple but must be believed and accepted to lift us up: Greater is the One within you than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

We begin a renewed journey with Christ as we celebrate his birth. Life is our journey. We set out in the zest and vigor of childhood and youth; we are tested through middle age; we lose our spring as time progresses…but, our faith – as was that of Mary and Joseph who believed the mystery and so experienced the miracle of his birth – allows us to see each moment as a wonderful endowment that makes the journey itself the gift, and the destination that much more desirable. Our journey finds meaning even through the anomalies and heartbreaks we may experience, because of the One Who loves us. His birth in the wooden stable at Bethlehem that led to his total surrender for us on the rough wood of the Cross on Calvary, made His life the reason for our being. Because of Him and His journey with us, we start each new day confident that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are loved by Him.

May the Child of Bethlehem help us celebrate His birth, Light, and Salvation. As brothers and sisters in St. Francis of Assisi let us bring that light, joy and hope to all whom we encounter on life’s journey. Warmed by the love and humility of the Christ Child, may we find that child within who helps us to see the beauty of this world in all its wonder and majesty, and the love of its Creator in all His Humility. Come, let us adore Him in His Eucharistic presence. With Mary and Joseph let us bask in the light of his splendor and trust in Him.

May the Peace, Joy, Blessings…and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones. Blessed and Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year.

Peace and Blessings in the Christ Child

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant


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