Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2018

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: skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 November, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

November, dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, reminds us that God loves us into life, and calls to the fullness of life. The journey of life is so wonderful.  The many challenges we encounter help us grow in God’s love.  This gift is also dangerous because of the many allurements and seductions that can entice us to deviate from the path marked out for us.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  If we follow His Way, listen to His Word of Truth, we can expect ultimately to share in the fullness of His Life. He Himself says: I came that they may have Life and have it abundantly  (John 10: 10).  Jesus gained Life for us, once for all, on the Cross of Calvary … Life and the Cross!

There it is again, the Paradox of the Cross!  The Paradox of Christianity! We are always facing these choices, these opposites: positive-negative, good-bad, light-darkness, grace-sin, heaven-hell.  We always have that responsible and awesome option placed before us.  Adam and Eve were offered a test as a requisite to continue living in Eden. In the Old Testament, before the People of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua read the Law of the Covenant God made with His People and told them to choose between life and death … I for my part will serve the Lord  (cfr. Joshua 24: 2, 15).  The people responded in unison that they would serve the Lord, but history for them, and also for us who have opted to follow Jesus, tells us how fickle our commitments can be. Perhaps this is why we have difficulty in reflecting on that most solemn moment in life when we are called to encounter the Source of all Life and see ourselves in His Light.

Our Christian Faith is nourished by the Sacramental Life of the Church. We are redeemed in the Blood of Christ. He constantly encourages and invites us to follow me. In this life of faith we are always speaking of positive values while focusing in on what at first glance seems ‘negative’.  We speak about Life, but refer to it through the Death of Jesus.  We speak about Love, but recognize it through the symbol of hatred, torture, and death, The Cross.  We hope in Heaven, but experience its beginnings through the challenges and pitfalls of life’s earthly journey.  Our humanity is constantly affected by the changing attitudes of nature. We learn how to ‘see’ beyond the barriers that daily seek to impede our forward steps. A faith-filled heart and hope-filled life help us to live life to the fullest.  In this faith and hope we cannot help but recognize how grace offers us the opportunity to “live life and love it”.

Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a unique and inspired prophet for all times.  His approach to life and all creation has earned for him the title ofUniversal Brother. His example instills in the hearts of his spiritual children an attitude of joy and gratitude for every moment of life.  He was a man imbued with a spirit of wonder that made him rejoice even during the most challenging times for him. Several years before his brief life ended – he died at 44 years of age – his body began to succumb to all the effects of the penances he had imposed upon himself.  He even apologized to ‘Brother Ass’, as he called his body, for treating one who was so faithful to him in such an unappreciative manner.  With the knowledge of his terminal condition and the pains of the Stigmata of Jesus he had received two years before, informed that he was soon to pass from this life to the next, he asked that a new stanza be added to the Canticle of the Creatures. The brothers sang:  Praise be You, my Lord, for Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.  Woe to those who die in mortal sin.  Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.  Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.  When he was told that Death was imminent, he called out Welcome, Sister Death!

When we see life as the gift it is, and live life and love it, then even death cannot disturb our inner joy and serenity.  We live each moment as the gift it is. Thus we learn how to ‘let go’ of what we have for what is greater…or better Who is Greatest.

As Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father, how do we live our lives?  What is our attitude to the challenges God permits that remind us of our vulnerability and mortality?  Do we live in the spirit of the letter to the Hebrews that states: We do not have here a permanent dwelling, but we await another (Hebrews 13: 14)? Do we take time to reflect on death as one more step, the ultimate, in getting us to God?  Do we avoid even thinking of the Paschal Mystery that each one will be called to celebrate in his or her personal life?  Are we joy-filled in life?  Do we encourage others to be at peace even in the midst of difficulties?  Are we one of those who fall into that amusing, but true saying: ‘Everyone talks about heaven, but no one seems to be in a hurry to get there’ ?

We have grown accustomed to the amenities of life, the privileges we often see as ‘rights’.  Discomfort is something we seek to avoid.  Criticisms and rejection disturb our calm. Self-centeredness, greed, vengeance become survival tactics that control relationships. In the face of problems we cannot control, we question, barter with, blame God for the ‘bad’ things that happen to us.  Our sainted brothers and sisters teach us that the Christian is enlightened by the assurance of Faith in the Incarnation and Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. St. Paul was convinced that to live is Christ, and to die is so much gain (Philippians 1: 21).  We are challenged to be a ‘People of Hope’, as St. Paul writes to the community of Rome: And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly … While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … We have been justified by His blood … We even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (Romans 5: 5-11) We entrust ourselves totally to God.  If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8: 31)  God has promised us Life with Him forever and He has given us the most excellent means to live in hope as we journey through life in joyful anticipation of His loving embrace – Jesus.  And Jesus established a perpetual means to keep the promise and pledge alive – the Eucharist.

Jesus said: I am the living bread come down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6: 51) When we gather around the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, we reaffirm our faith in Life.  We encounter our daily ‘death and dying’ with serenity.   We anticipate the prospect of heaven through bodily death with joy.  We let go of a lifetime of false securities.  We strive to bepoor in the things of this world but rich in those of heaven (cfr. James 2).   We break the shackles of the responsibilities and affairs that seemed so important in this life, and we do so with the freedom of the children of God who remember that we have here no lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. (Hebrews 13: 14).  We speak of ourselves as strangers and pilgrims on earth … seeking a homeland. (Hebrews 11: 13)  Everything is a gift.  We can offer each moment of our life as a ‘gift’ to others.  We even call on Sister Bodily Death from whom no human can escape with the trust and acceptance of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures. In the Eucharist we discover the source and pledge of Life. The Eucharist is our strength in life and our defiance of death.  We become, mystically, a Eucharistic presence. Thus, our life is an act of thanksgiving.

Jesus is our Life! In the Eucharist our concerns and confusions are clarified, our discouragements and despair are dispelled, our faults are forgiven, our self-centeredness is embraced and transformed into a love that opens our hearts to all. How much more can we say about this ‘heaven on earth’ we are privileged to possess, celebrate, and ‘become’ when our hearts and souls prepare for the encounter!  The Eucharist is ‘communion’ that binds us to Christ in His Redemptive Passion-Death-Resurrection and to all who celebrate and partake of the sacrificial Lamb of God offered for us. The Eucharist is ‘sacrifice’ that ‘makes us ‘holy’. The Eucharist transforms us into the One Whom we receive, thus fulfilling God’s words to Israel: Be holy, because I, your God, am holy (Leviticus 20: 26; 1 Peter 1: 16).   The Eucharist is a ‘pledge of future glory’ as we share in this sacrament of ‘heaven on earth’ (St. Lawrence of Brindisi).  We are offered the opportunity to live in hope, the pledge God offers us: For who hopes for what one sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance (Romans 8:24).

We ‘get lost’ forever in that vast ocean of goodness Who is Jesus in His Word and in the Eucharist.  Consuming the Victim, we are consumed by Him and are ‘lost’ to this world, that we might be found in Him, living already the ‘pledge of future glory’.  The effect of this union fills our hearts and our minds with the assurance of God’s presence. The inner peace and serenity strengthen us. We are empowered to confront challenges, bear burdens, eliminate enemies through Christian love, entrust ourselves totally and unreservedly to God Who has been and is everything.  My God and My All!  is a Franciscan expression of the total surrender our Seraphic Father lived. We spiritual children of St. Francis gratefully and willingly forfeit everything this world holds dear. Eternity is not a pious reflection but a reality we live in mystery until we are called to share it with the angels and saints in glory.

With unwavering hope in God’s mercy and the Life He promises we will share with Him,  we anticipate with joyful expectation the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ(Prayer after the Our Father at Mass) We Franciscans are the Pilgrim People of God – pilgrims and strangers.  We are committed to a deeper relationship with God through prayer-sacrifice-acts of charity.  We profess by the mere fact of these elements to live in hope – a hope that does not betray.  It is a ‘vision’ of fulfillment yet to be possessed, but already available.  Allow nothing to disturb your daily journey to God.  For those who seek to live in God’s presence nothing will succeed in disrupting their inner peace, even if storms rage around them.  As we celebrate the Eucharist that makes us one in His Name, may the ‘Holy Communion’ we share strengthen our fraternity. May the ‘Sacrifice’ we offer open our lives to respond to the responsibilities we have promised to fulfill. This ‘Pledge of Future Glory’ animates us to be enthused and encouraged to accept every moment as an opportunity to grow in and use well the gifts God has entrusted to us.  Let us take to heart the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi: So great is the good which I expect that all pain is to me a delight.

May God bless you; my Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, look upon each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

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