Father Francis' Greetings - April 2017

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website skdregion.org
email: pppgusa@gmail.com

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

The season of Easter is saturated with Peace.  It is a time for us to enter the Joy of the Risen Jesus and realize that our God is alive and well. We see in the few chapters that end the Gospel accounts a transforming experience for all the first followers of the Lord.  It was an inner transformation, for as yet they were fearful of the Jews, but joy-filled at the sight of the Savior.  No doubt some may have thought that ‘now He will re-establish Israel’, ‘now He will manifest Himself to the world and conquer our dominators’, ‘now the sinners and sinful nations will be put down and Israel will reign as the righteous nation’.  As childish as this manner of thinking may seem, I do not doubt that some, if not all the disciples, may have had similar thoughts or feelings. All we need do is remember what the concern was on the road to Jerusalem as Jesus spoke of His pending capture- torture-death…and resurrection; the apostles were talking about who would be first and powerful in the kingdom, and who would reign on the right and left with Jesus.

The disciples saw Jesus captured and tortured; they knew He died and was sealed in a guarded tomb.  Things were not as the disciples expected.  Things were not as the first followers had hoped.  Things seemed to be moving in a direction totally different than expected and desired.  The disciples stayed together in the upper room with Mary the mother of Jesus. They were afraid and confused, but found inner strength in their common bond in Jesus’ name and all He taught them.  They were at peace within themselves, while still frightened of the world around them. Calm demeanor, conscious awareness, and cautious outlook, were now the elements that helped them slowly regain a hope they had lost on Calvary. They began to bond as the ‘Apostolic Community’ that would fearlessly proclaim the Messiahship and Divinity of Jesus the Christ throughout the world.

Calvary was a tragic day for the first followers of Jesus.  The hopes and dreams of the disciples hung with Jesus on the cross.  Until He gave up His last breath, Jesus could have made everything happen as they had hoped.  When He said, ‘It is finished’, ‘Father into Your hands I commend My spirit’, the Master seemed to go the way of all other Messianic pretenders who, as good, patriotic, and even faithful Jews as they could have been, still ended their hopeful enterprise of re-establishing the independent nation of Israel with their own deaths.  Could Jesus be any different!?  In this case, the answer was ‘Yes’!  These followers could not let go, could not forget.  They were a hodgepodge crew, yet the diversity and diametrically opposed personalities among them, seemed to find a consolation and strength now with each other.  There was a ‘troubled peace’: ‘troubled’ because of human uncertainty regarding the future … ‘peace’ because the spirit of the three years of His life they had shared with Jesus and His teachings made them believe that the dream of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ was attainable…and for some reason, they knew they were the messengers who had to become the message…Jesus’ acceptance of Calvary told them it was ‘the hard way’ they had to follow to give a more effective witness.

At Mass, just before we receive the Body and Blood of our Savior in Holy Communion, the priest celebrant prays in  ‘Persona Christi’ for all the community as well as for himself; he too needs the graces and blessings as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. The priest prays: Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your apostles, I leave you peace. My peace I give you.  Look not on our sins but on the faith of Your Church (people)… Again we hear the Lord in the Liturgy, after His death and resurrection sacramentally re-presented, gifting us with His peace.  This peace can only be felt if it is given away, if we become peacemakers with others because we are at peace with God and ourselves.  We can be at peace and be peacemakers only if and when we disarm our hearts to one another.  If the sign of peace we extend at Mass is not sincere or is even refused, the reception of the Eucharist (the Real Presence of the Living Lord) will have little or no effect in the one receiving Him.  We are integral members of the Mystical Body of Christ. No member of the body acts on its own without affecting the whole body. No member can refuse to support, encourage, forgive the whole body without affecting his/her own spiritual health.  (cfr.1Corinthians 12: 12-26)  Let us never forget that Franciscans have always been considered the women and men with ‘disarmed hearts’.  Our Secular Franciscan family has always been singled out as those people of God who truly make peace a characteristic and a challenge for them to live.

Behold each day He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He Himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest. As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they saw only His flesh by the insight of their flesh, yet believed that He was God as they contemplated Him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says… (Admonitions, #1)

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis reminds all the faithful that only in the living presence of Jesus among us can we ever hope to find inner peace and external serenity. The Eucharist is that awesome and most wonderful gift of the Spirit that re-presents the whole mystery of our salvation – the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. As the early followers were strengthened and empowered to become the message of “Peace and Blessings” to the world, so are we, the spiritual children of Saint Francis, called to live the joyful peace of the Resurrection and offer the experience of new life in Jesus to all whom we encounter.

Our God is a ‘hidden God’ … hidden in the hearts of everyone, for some as a Real Presence, and for others as a nostalgic memory. St. Augustine expresses the longing of the human heart when he writes: O Lord, we are made for You, and our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You.  Repeating this expression, the Church also prays: O God, You have placed in our hearts such a deep yearning  for You, that only those who find You can find peace!  It is this hidden God that the yearning of all human beings for ‘Someone’ seeks out.  This is the God we are called to encounter in our individual lives and help others find and live in theirs. This is the God with Whom we seek a deeper relationship during the Lenten Season.  This is the God of Life in Whose Spirit we have come to recognize Jesus as the Christ, incarnate Son of God, in Whose Death and Resurrection heaven is once more made accessible to us.

People of science tell us how difficult it is today to speak about God when the immensity of the galaxies and the materialism of an entrenched secularism in today’s world question anything that cannot be tangibly experienced.  Even those involved in pastoral ministry realize the difficulty there is to speak about God today. Talking about God has become always more problematic, both because of the new ‘verbage’ required, as well as the difficulties created by a world that has ‘to see to believe’ and anything other than what can be ‘touched’ with the senses is just a ‘figment of the imagination’, ‘a relic of times past’, ‘pious people’s inability to move with the times’, and the like. The spirit of the Apostle St. Thomas lives on! Our society wants instant gratification and concrete answers.  No sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights so shall, the Son of man be…  It is precisely this ‘sign’ we Christians throughout the world remember, celebrate, and believe during the Easter Season, and every time we enter the Mystery of the Eucharist.

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi are we making every effort to be this ‘sign’? Can people hear in our words and see in our actions that Jesus’ Resurrection has filled us with confidence as it did the early disciples to fearlessly confront our world in the power of God’s Word? Has the experience of Calvary helped us see the cross as a crowning moment in life rather than a collapse of our hopes and dreams?  We are spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi; the cross was the unique gift he ‘wore’ visibly before he died. Do we wear ours with dignity and joy, and carry it with confident hope in its fruits?

God’s presence envelops us, even those who have not met or even know Him.  When we build on the positives of life, the beauty of creation, the diversity-power-wonder of nature at all its levels, the complexity of the human person and our ability to reach horizons that other creatures cannot, we encounter a God of Love and Life.  All too often we seek God in the drastic, disastrous, difficult, dilemmas of life. Global fears, economic instability, incurable diseases, natural disasters all ‘make us think’ of God.  At those moments we perhaps see a distorted image of the One Great God of the Covenant who entered an agreement with Humanity and seeks to fulfill it each day.  The Death and Resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus, speaks to us of this God of Life.  St. Francis sang the praises of this God Who is alive and well in all creation, in those who forgive … and even in Sister Death who accompanies us to Life. Do we accept the challenge our Holy Father Francis offers us to do likewise? Have we learned what it means to be an ‘Easter People’ and how to live the ‘Alleluia’ we so often recite in our liturgies and prayers?

When we accept our moment in life and believe in the Lord’s Resurrection, ignorance gives way to knowledge, fear to courage and strength, prejudice to impartiality and tolerance, pride to humility, indifference to concern, over-indulgence to self-control, hypocrisy to sincerity, discouragement to hope, doubt to faith, and hatred to love, because…You can’t hold back the dawn! And the Resurrection of Jesus is the New Dawn bringing the Light of Christ to all willing to accept Him.

May  the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in your life that we might have life, and have it in abundance. May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers each one of us. And, may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter.

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

 

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