Reflections for April 2016

April 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace and lead you through the mystery of His Passion and Death to the joy of His Resurrection and our renewed Life in Jesus!


Our world has become more confusing than ever. Things we held dear are disrespected, contradicted, and at times even abused.  Values that were the foundation of our lives are challenged, or totally disregarded.  Faith and belief in a God Who is the source and destiny of all human beings is criticized as old-fashioned or ridiculous to ‘enlightened people’.  We sense a subtle persecution of all that we spiritually value and that makes our lives meaningful.  Sometimes the subtlety gives way to outright contradictory and derogatory statements by individuals seeking to denigrate and render foolish what has been the foundation of the lives of all believers, even those not of the Catholic tradition.  Times never change!  The Resurrection and what flows from that historical event and truth has always been a target of those who understand what belief in that great Mystery involves, and what belief in the Paschal Mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Christ can effect in our world through those who accept the mystery and surrender wholeheartedly to it!


Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus is itself a gift of Faith.  The Resurrection confirms our belief in the Lord Jesus and all He said and did, and all He is able to continue to be and do for us.  The Resurrection is also the moment that challenges us to believe the Lord Jesus, Who is the Christ and Incarnate Son of God, by living without hesitation as He told His disciples to live.  One Who rises from the dead merits – to say the extreme least – our undivided attention and unconditional surrender through life. Why would anyone, who has heard of and accepted the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus, refuse to allow the Holy Spirit of God, first Gift of the Resurrection, to lead them to believe the Good News and live accordingly?!


We should not be harsh, however, on those who are still searching  nor on those who want to believe but are still cautious because reason is still blocking where faith would go beyond.  How did our sisters and brothers in the Faith, the original followers, act on the day of the Resurrection, some even after their companions spoke to them of having seen the Risen Lord and Savior?


–   Thomas … one of the Twelve … said to (the Apostles), ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ (John 21:24-25) … Pessimism and Disbelief

–   The two disciples, speaking with Jesus whom they did not recognize as they journeyed  on the road back to Emmaus from Jerusalem, said:  We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel … Some women from our group … reported that indeed they had seen a vision of angels … but him they did not see (Luke 24: 13-25) … Disillusionment and Discouragement


–   When Mary of Magdala told the disciples she had seen the Risen Lord and that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:11) … Cynicism and Skepticism


–   Even when the disciples followed the command to go to Galilee where they would see Him before He ascended to the Father, When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Matthew 28:16-17) … Hesitancy and Doubt

Thomas, Cleophas and his traveling companion, the Apostles after hearing Mary Magdalene, and many of the followers who saw Him on the Mount in Galilee at the Ascension, all had difficulties and even understandable doubts concerning the ‘impossibility’ of a person rising from the dead … on his own power!  We believe today after the two thousand-year-old event, and after centuries of witnessing the truth by those who believed before us, and some who even gave their lives rather than deny the Risen Lord. The power of the Holy Spirit had to shake them free to see and believe. They loved and believed Jesus, but it took an eternal power and a ‘real presence’ to lead them into the light of a new Life, rooted in a Person Who overcame execution on a cross and was alive. The death of Jesus sealed the Covenant God made with humanity; and humanity, in Christ, consumated the covenant, fulfilled the prophecies, and set free all who accepted the Gospel Message: God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might … have eternal life. For God did not send his Son … to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him   (John 3: 16-17).  The Resurrection was, and is for many, hard to accept.  The condemnation and death sentence of Jesus inflicted a mortal wound on the hearts of His followers, and on those still seeking to understand and believe today. Their hearts and minds cannot as yet make the ‘quantum leap’ of faith into the certitude of the ways of God. Jesus had prepared the disciples for this momentous experience, and many today have heard the story but they could not and cannot fully understand and accept. Why?… because His ways are not (our) ways, Whose thoughts are not (our) thoughts.


Suffering and pain are real!  We experience them often in life. The lives of some persons are in continual suffering and deep in pain, whether spiritual, physical, psychological.  Unless faith takes over and hope is kindled within our hearts, the love of God that conquers all things is the deepest desire of the heart but the furthest sensation we feel.  Serenity and inner peace become just pious words and deep desires.  We hear words of encouragement, but are overwhelmed by our own broken body and tired spirit. Even our Seraphic Father through moments like this, and so did/do his spiritual children. The human condition is common to all the children of God, saint and sinner alike.


The Passion and Death of Jesus speaks to us of the extravagant and limitless love and mercy of God for all humanity. The Resurrection of Jesus gives meaning and encouragement to life. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Glorified and Risen Lord Who journeys with us at every moment. It re-presents the whole Paschal Mystery and offers us the opportunity to be with the Risen Lord, Whose Sacrifice we enter, celebrate, and with Whom we seek to become one in Holy Communion.  The presence of Jesus transforms lives. His bodily presence on earth centuries ago gave Him the opportunity to raise people from the dead, to heal the sick, to give hope to the downtrodden and outcast, to reassure the marginalized, to care for the various needs of those whom He encountered.  His sacramental presence raises and heals souls dead and/or weak through sin, speaks to the depths of the heart of those who spend silent time with Him, and strengthens us with the grace of His Body and Blood to accept the demands that life places upon us with the realization that we are not alone but live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28) with the Giver of all good gifts Who walks and works with and within us. His ‘Presence’ is truly ‘Real’.  His is a ‘tangible presence’ that makes Himself felt according to our willingness to see with the eyes of the heart and not the eyes of the head alone.


The sacred event of Christ’s Passion-Death-Resurrection we celebrate at this season encourages us always to believe that Jesus loves us, is with us, and will always be with us, particularly in the great Mystery of the Eucharist and the celebration of the Mass. Jesus, the Victim-once-again has placed himself quietly on the altar, just as Isaac was placed on the wood by Abraham.  The priest, like Abraham our Father in faith, prepares to immolate the Victim … but where is the fire ready to consume the sacrifice? The fire is the love we bring, the love we carry within us.  Jesus enkindled this fire long ago in our hearts.  It is a “fire” that consumes us so that nothing remains but Him in-with-through us. We place our souls on the altar of sacrifice with the Paschal Mystery of Christ Jesus and become one with Him.  All we have to do is say “yes” and allow the Spirit of God to take over.  The open wound in the side of Christ invites us to enter in and experience the loving embrace of the Father and the gift of His Holy Spirit. The first Gift of Easter is the continued participating presence in our life with His that fulfills each moment.  We enter gradually and more deeply the reality of a Presence that can transform the world as it transforms and consumes us with Love and Mercy.


At times our Seraphic Father’s transports of sentiment may have made him seem like a person overwhelmed.  He endured this experience of God being “so real” to him that the mere thought of Him made Francis weep, sing, go into ecstatic states.  St. Francis of Assisi was a Eucharistic soul who found the power to rekindle his strength continually offering himself with Jesus – ‘victim with the Victim’.  The Eucharist for Francis is the Living Christ, so powerfully imaged as such on the Crucifix of San Damiano, that challenged him at the beginning of his conversion.  The Poverello was in love with Jesus, Who was so real to him in the Eucharist.  The joy of the Mystery re-presented at Mass or re-kindled in the heart at prayer made Jesus always come alive for St. Francis. As he saw Christ present in mystery in the Eucharist, and received Him in Holy Communion, our Seraphic Father was able to recognize and serve Him in people, especially the marginalized, alienated, ostracized, and so on, of society.  No one can emphasize enough how essential the Eucharist was to St. Francis and all he was able to allow God to accomplish through him … and how essential it is to all of us .. or should be for those who seek to live the Gospel after the example of St. Francis of Assisi!


Before He entered His Passion, Jesus, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end: and while they were at supper, He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take this all of you and eat of it, For this is My Body’ … In a similar way, taking the chalice filled with the fruit of the vine, He gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is the chalice of My Blood’ … (Fourth Eucharistic Prayer) The Eucharist was a decisive moment in His relationship with the disciples, and it was the last gift before His redeeming death that He left His disciples to continue,  Do this in memory of Me (Luke 22: 19; 1 Corinthians 11: 24). The Eucharist is the Easter Gift as well as the Easter Mystery.  The Mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Our Lord is the heart of the Church and the “Heavenly Manna”, Who nourishes and nurtures the Holy People of God – His Church – on journey through time toward eternity.


As Spiritual Children of the Seraphic St. Father of Assisi, we pray to him, speak about him, want to know more about him.  The greatest form of admiration is imitation.  Do we imitate the love of our Father Francis for the Eucharist? Do we acknowledge the Eucharist not just as the re-presentation of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, but that His glorified person is truly present among us and thus should be a source of peace, joy, and love?!   Most of us are not called to the unique external signs of those particularly called by God as St. Francis and the Sacred Stigmata, nevertheless, when the Eucharist is truly the center of our hearts and lives, we share, in our ordinary lives, the graces of the saints themselves. Among all the other prayerful devotions, the Eucharist is not so much a ‘prayer’ as a ‘participation’ in the intimate life of God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit.  The Eucharist is the goal to which we arrive each day, as well as the starting point from which we all find strength and direction to live the will of God at every moment.  The mystery of the Resurrection is a pledge of the glory we are called to share one day.  When we cannot participate at Mass, at the very least, take time to reflect on the readings for the day and sincerely and lovingly make an act of Spiritual Communion. Strive to lovingly enter a living relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.  This awe-filled Sacrament binds us together in the great family of the Catholic Church and in our own particular Franciscan Family.  Thus we proclaim the Resurrection and the power of its grace not by what we necessarily say, but by how we live the Eucharist and allow it(Him) to affect our lives.


May  the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us that we might have life, and have it in abundance (John 10: 10).  May the Risen Lord Jesus shower us and our loved ones with peace, joy, and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter;  may Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help us to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers us; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  Blessed and Joyous Easter to you and your loved ones.


Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant


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