Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – June 2019

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

 

June 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi had a deep love and reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament, and concern for the proper respectful reservation and handling of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Writing his Testament, he made it a point to speak of the reverence and adoring posture he had when he passed any church: And the Lord gave me such  faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: >We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we bless You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world= (Testament).  He encouraged the clergy  – of whose group he was as an ordained deacon – to consider the Body and Blood of Christ that they handle and offer.  His concern was that the Eucharist be celebrated and received worthily, and be kept with dignity in appropriate places: Let us all, clergymen, consider the great sin and the ignorance some have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy names and written words that consecrate His Body.  We know it cannot be His Body without first being consecrated by word.  For we have seen nothing bodily of the Most High in this world except His Body and Blood, His names and words through which we have been made and redeemed from death to life.(Exhortation to the Clergy).  Admonishing the friars responsible for the various fraternities of the brethren Francis wrote: I beg you, when it is fitting and you judge it expedient, you humbly beg the clergy to revere above all else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy names and the written words that sanctify His Body. They should hold as precious the chalices, corporals, appointments of the altar, and everything that pertains to the sacrifice…Let it be carried about with great reverence and administered to others with discernment (Letter to the Custodians).  We must, of course, confess all our sins to a priest and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from him…But let him eat and drink worthily because anyone who receives unworthily, not distinguishing, that is, not discerning, the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself (Letter to all the Faithful, 2nd Version).

St. Francis was a truly Eucharistic person whose example encouraged others to revere above all else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (First Letter to the Custodians) because Jesus wishes all of us to be saved through Him and receive Him with our hearts pure and our body chaste(Later Admonitions), thus, 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 (Undated Writings).  The words and example of our Seraphic Father indicate beyond a doubt that our Franciscan Family is a Eucharistic Family. Our strength and nourishment comes from God=s Word and the Sacrament that offers us the Bread of Life, our viaticum, to sustain us on our journey until time becomes eternity.   This Bread of Life sustains us as we share life with one another in Franciscan Brotherhood, and with all the people of God whom we serve in the Universal Brotherhood of humanity. For a Franciscan the Eucharist should be the center of life and devotion!

Two expressions that indicate the central role of the Eucharist for our Catholic Faith are: The Eucharist makes the Church; the Church makes the Eucharist (Henri de Lubac, S.J.), and  The Church of the Eucharist (Encyclical, Bl. John Paul, II).  There is an intimate relationship between the Eucharist and the Church.  Without the Eucharist there is no Church.  Without the Church there is no Eucharist.  We celebrate the Eucharist from the rising of the sun unto its setting (Psalm 113,3). The words of the Psalmist are re-echoed in the words of the Prophet Malachi, My name will be great among the nations from the rising to the setting of the sun; in every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name (Malachi 1:11).  The Eucharist, celebrated throughout the world, is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Entering the mystery of the Eucharist, we acknowledge the limitless love of God for all His children, and our redemption in the blood of Christ.

The supreme act of worship, established by God with Moses and the People of Israel in the slaughter of animals sacrificed to God and the sprinkling of their blood, was a continual reminder for Israel of the presence of the Eternal One in their midst and his care for them, for His mercy endures forever(Psalm 136). The sacrifices Israel offered continually re-affirmed the Covenant between God and His People.  They acknowledged the supremacy of the God of Abraham over them, and they believed that the >People of the Covenant= would always have the protection of God. They did not fear destruction by their adversaries because who is there like the Lord our God (Psalm 113,5), Who promised that  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12,2).  The faithful Jews could never have imagined the far greater meaning of Malachi=s prophecy later on, and how it would be fulfilled for all ages.

Those who heard, followed, and accepted the words of Jesus would understand more deeply, and realize that the Old Covenant was now perfected and transformed by the New Covenant in the Blood of Christ.  Their faith, our faith, is the Faith of the Church, the Faith of the People of God, the New Israel, redeemed in the Blood of the One Great Lamb of God, sacrificed on the altar of the Cross.  By his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (Gaudium et Spes 22). The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus confirms His life and redeeming death, and raises our frail nature to the dignity it had before humanity disobeyed in Eden.  In this pledge of future glory, we raise our hearts with joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Embolism, Prayer at Mass after the Our Father). Each day he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest (Undated Writings of St. Francis). He is with us in the Eucharist, and will come again in all His glory.

Christ is still a Sign of Contradiction, and the Church, Mystical Body of Christ, is a >sign contradicted=, as will the Secular Franciscan who lives authentically his/her profession.  We Franciscans are all one with the Church.  The Eucharist is our strength. The presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar is the Lord Who journeys with us, among us, and within us.  The Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order state: The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church.  Christ unites us to himself and to one another as a single body in it.  Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the fraternity.  The brothers and sisters should participate in the Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of the respect and love shown by Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all the mysteries of the life of Christ. (Constitutions, Article 14, 2).

The Paschal Mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist is that expression of the Faith of the Church that will always be challenged by the world. Contrary ideologies outside the Church have always affected but never really weakened Her resolve. To the contrary, aggressive, offensive, and oppressive tactics from outside have challenged the Church to reflect, renew, and reform itself.  The transforming power of grace, experienced through the Church=s many trials, have been its strength.  Contrary positions and negative criticisms to Gospel values, centuries-old and well-proven Traditions, and the official teaching of the Magisterium of the Church demand an examination of conscience in truth and humility.  Reform is from within; revolt is from without. Reform demands a constant re-examination and honest acknowledgment of failures and faults, as well as successes and virtues. Focusing only on the negatives, without any concrete response to correct them, can weaken the image of the Church in the modern world and thus affect the personal strength of conviction of the faithful.  Our confidence comes from the words of Scripture, Greater is the One within you than the one who is in world (1 John 4:4), and,  I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).

A great early Christian writer, Tertullian, wrote, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.   Trials and tribulations affect lives, property, and human rights. Christians in many areas of the world are tragically attacked; many have lost everything, even their lives, rather than compromise their faith.  Their >martyrdom= encourages us to accept our own martyrdom; ours is different than theirs, but no less profitable and effective. The>martyrdom= most of us will face is the martyrdom of being confronted by a society that often, with belligerence or subtle sophistries, challenges the very root of our faith in Christ and the values we hold as God-given. Family, friends, government, work place, school, media, and so many other sectors of our life, can be the subtle or flagrant opponent to all we believe. The Holy Spirit is the gift of Easter Jesus breathed on the Apostles that first Resurrection Sunday. This Holy Spirit strengthens us to maintain: a simple and unshakable faith in all Jesus taught and all that Jesus is; trust in the promise of Jesus, I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20)an availability to respond with wholehearted commitment to the Gospel Message, you are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14); an apostolic heart that preaches with our life rather than our words the Christ Whom we have come to know and believe; remember the words of St. Peter: To whom shall we go, Lord, you have the words of eternal life (John 6:68); and thus, trust!

Those who see the Church solely as a human institution professing and promoting noble values will always criticize and judge the Church using the values of the world as the measure. The sensus fidelium (>sense of the faithful=) or sensus fidei fidelium (>sense of the faith of the faithful=) is a reality recognized and joyfully celebrated by the Church since its beginning.    The sense of faith must be our guide during the more challenging moments we encounter. Unless we believe with the Church, we will never be able to raise our hearts and  set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3: 2), and rise above the merely human. The personal profession of faith each one proclaims – >I believe=, not >we believe= – manifests the integrity of our religion and thus the credibility of all we preach in the name of Jesus the Christ. Believe in the Church! Believe with the Church! Believe the Church! … who is the Mystical Body of Christ and always speaks the Truth that comes from God through the work of the Holy Spirit, when in union with the Holy Father, its Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

In the Eucharist we believe and >see= what non-believers cannot even imagine.  Our faith in the Eucharist is itself a gift that permits the eyes of the heart to penetrate material appearances and see-believe-receive the divine.  The liturgy is the Church=s way of fulfilling the command of Jesus, Do this in memory of Me.  The >action of the people= (>liturgy=), is the Church=s way of maintaining the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for the sake of His Mystical Body the Church who need and desire His Presence, and as >viaticum= for the Christian=s journey through life to Life.  The Eucharist is the greatest sign of faith in Christ: >my= faith and >our= faith.   My personal profession of faith united with that of my sisters and brothers in Christ=s redeeming Sacrifice, allows the >I= of a personal commitment to be a >we= of communal profession made visible by the intermingling of our lives – All the believers were one in heart and mind (Acts 4:32) . Those who see us will speak of the Christian as the early non-Christian community spoke of our ancestors in the Faith: See how they love one another (Tertullian Apology 39.6).  Their concrete tangible love was rooted in an unshakable faith in God=s Word and trust in the Eucharist they celebrated. It empowered them to become an effective presence of the Christ they offered and received.

I/We believe that the Eucharist is the real and effective re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.  I/We believe that Jesus is truly present after the Consecration of the Mass under the appearances of bread and wine.  I/We believe that the Eucharist re-presents the Mystery of Faith that nourishes our souls for life=s journey. I/We believe that a day without the Eucharist is like a day without the Sun – a day without the Eucharist is like a day without the Son of God who seeks an ever-greater relationship and intimacy with us. I/We believe that the Eucharist, Mystery of Faith, is a more understandable reality than the meaningless actions of a world gone awry seeking fulfillment in itself.  I/We believe the Eucharist offers the opportunity to live heaven on earth really and not solely metaphorically.  I/We believe the Eucharist to be the center of all life because it is God-with-us, the focal point of all creation. I/We believe that the Eucharist irradiates power and blessings so that even non-believers sense an unexplainable presence when they are before the Eucharist. The Church draws Her life from the Eucharist (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia), a life we, the Church, communicate to others.

The Eucharist poses the question and expects a personal response to the question Jesus made to his followers when some of them left because He spoke of eating His Body and drinking His blood; do you also want to leave? (John 6:67).  The gift of our >will= says with the man whose boy the apostles could not heal, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).  The humility of Christ in the Eucharist urges us to respond, to whom shall we go, Lord, You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68). O sublime humility, O humble sublimity! (St. Francis of Assisi).

As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi let us re-confirm our love for the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus; participate more deeply at Mass. Let us prepare well for Mass; and spend some time in thanksgiving after we have received the Lord in the Eucharist.  Let us never forget the value of silence so that we might hear God Who speaks to our hearts, especially after we have received Him in the Sacrament of His Love. Make frequent acts of Spiritual Communion, especially on days that you cannot assist at Mass. Preaching with our lives, let us bring the Christ we receive into the world of the occupations and duties for which we are responsible. Let the Eucharist so shine in your life that whoever sees you sees an image of Jesus. In the Eucharist, Who is Christ, be faithful to Christ and His Church!  Be what you see and receive what you are! (Saint Augustine)

May God bless us; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

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