Greetings from Father Francis - December 2016

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.

The Magi came in search of the ‘newborn King’. Arriving in Jerusalem they inquired: Where is the newborn King? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. Having left the palace of the king, the star preceded them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star. They saw the child and his mother…and did him homage. (Matthew 2: 1-12).

Thus began the quest of the Magi from the East, not of the Children of Abraham, for the Child who was the fulfillment of the lives of those truly Wise Men. They accepted the challenge to go beyond the boundaries of their secure and comfortable world in search of Wisdom Itself. The Wisdom of God, incarnate in Jesus, born at Bethlehem, came to lead all humanity back to a deeper relationship with God. He would accomplish His mission by His Love and Truth.

In the Book of Genesis, the sacred writer reminds us that pride seduced freedom at the very beginning of human history when our first parents opted to seek their own interests rather than the Will of their Father and Creator. From that moment, human history, life itself, became a quest to regain what was lost: harmony, serenity, peace. Harmony became enmeshed in the mechanism of compromise, connivance, convenience, and all that cloud our vision of the road traced out for us by the One Who calls us to Himself. Serenity was shaken by the inner struggles of insecurity, indifference, indolence and all that keep our hopes from encouraging us to move forward to grow in the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator. Peace became the unfulfilled dream of those who were challenged daily by fearful anxiety, dominant arrogance, blind ambition. The world has not been the same ever since that fateful moment. And thus began the quest to regain what was lost!

The exact quote escapes me, but someone once said: Life begins as the quest of the child for the man, and ends as the quest of the man for the child … that childlike person hidden within each one of us crying out to be set free. We are like those Wise Men who saw His star and sought Him out. We too seek Him. We are searching for the Child Who alone can help us find what we lost and to re-establish it in our lives. We seek harmony with God, ourselves and all creation. We desire serenity before the challenges we face, assured that all works out for those who trust in God.  We confidently await peace of heart, a fruit of love, that sees the image of the Child (Jesus) we seek in all people.

How can the Message of an Advent of Joyful Expectation and a Christmas of Hope Fulfilled be happy and uplifting when all around us we hear of scandals in religious and political arenas, job downsizing, economic insecurity, division in families, violence in the streets, terrorism around the world, international instability with threats of escalating conflicts that could have devastating effects for the whole world…and much more?

The answer is simple. We follow the star of faith with the inner desire to rediscover the child within us. Within we recognize the Child Who is the Only One who restores us to initial innocence, regardless of how deep we may have fallen in life. Thus, faith blossoms into hope.  And hope enables us to see Love Incarnate and believe in a presence that can and will envelop us all with His eternal Love.  No matter what happens around us, we know that greater is the One within than one who is in the world.

We renew our quest every Advent Season. We know where we are going with our rituals and liturgies. We know the stories that are retold each year at this time to help us get into the spirit of the season. We hear the words of Isaiah who promises to an anguished and frustrated nation, Israel, the Woman who would usher in God’s era of peace through her son. We hear the words of John the Baptist who proclaims the Lord in our midst and tells us to prepare the way for him through humility, trust, transparency of life. We hear Mary’s response to God’s challenge of divine maternity when she says so simply and yet so powerfully transforming: I am no more than His handmaid. Let it be done to me as you say. Yet, every year we allow materialism and consumerism to distract our hearts from the real Gift we were given two thousands years ago. We are blinded by the lights of society’s allurements that often do not speak of the One Whose birthday we celebrate. We are concerned more with receiving gifts that reaffirm ourselves, rather than giving of ourselves to strengthen, reassure, encourage, lift up, affirm the life of another. We must show that we can love beyond the limitations of human nature when we do what we do in the name of God.

Where is the newborn King to be found? He can be found alive in the hearts of every one of us. He is there waiting for us to rediscover his presence.

The Magi met many expected and unexpected difficulties in their quest. They expected the hardships of the journey and the physical demands it would place on them, but they continued nonetheless. They did not expect the fear, intrigue, lying and hypocrisy they found in Jerusalem, but they listened to their heart and did not pull back in fear or discouragement.

Their belief was so strong, that they were even able to go beyond the barrier of disillusionment when they found the child not in a palace surrounded by courtiers and wealth, but in a poor dwelling surrounded by a young woman, simple carpenter and a few beasts of burden. Poverty and humility did not conceal the true splendor of a God so great He could be seen as a Child and still be revered as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings…

In the silence of faith we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. In the joy of great expectations we hurry to the stable with the Shepherds. In undaunted hope we travel with the Wise Men bearing the gift of ourselves. Let all fears be dispelled, all hope rekindled, all love blossom new in our hearts. The Child of Bethlehem blessed our history becoming one with us that we might again be one with Him.

The beauty and simplicity of the Birth of the Savior is wrapped in the aura of faith that looks beyond the obvious child and sees the almighty God.  Faith guides us and we follow its sure light on the way which conducts us to God and His Homeland as the holy Magi were guided to the desired place by the star, a symbol of Faith.

Bethlehem, ‘House of Bread’, speaks of the God Incarnate, Who came to make His dwelling among us that we might dwell with Him. His needs as a human were satisfied through the love and care of Mary and Joseph. He is the One Who satisfies the needs of all humanity. He becomes and remains with us as the Bread of Life. The Eucharist invites every heart be a ‘Bethlehem’ – ‘House of Bread’ – where the Divine Manna is no longer the symbol but the Real Presence of Him Who was born in time that we might be reborn in eternity. Advent prepares the way, and Christmas presents the Gift of the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit. We travel from the Crib to the Cross, from Bethlehem to Calvary, with the one Who is Victor because He accepted to be Victim of Love.

May those whose hearts have grown cold because of the burdens of life or the spiritual battles they are sustaining be warmed, strengthened, and encouraged by the Christ Child for Whom we quest all our lives. 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, and see Him in those with whom we share life’s journey. With Mary and Joseph let us bask in the light of his splendor and trust in Him, and give Glory to God in the highest and pray for Peace to all people of good will.

The Peace, Joy, Blessings…and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones. May the Good Lord bless you; Our Lady and Saint Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care. As we receive the Gift of the Father, His Incarnate Son Jesus, may we learn from Him how to be a gift one to another. Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year 2017.

Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant



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