Monthly Meditation December 2019 by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

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      email: pppgusa@gmail.com

December 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

At the beginning of the Liturgical Year for the First Sunday of Advent, the Church prays in the Liturgy of the Hours: Proclaim the good news among the nations: our God will come to save us … Come let us worship the Lord, the King Who is to come. The season is filled with expressions of joyful expectation. The whole world waits for an imminent arrival of one who is to fulfill the hopes and desires of all people.

Advent truly places us into that ’heart-set’ of anticipation that brings an inner joy to all who allow themselves to ’live’ the liturgy they celebrate each Sunday, and even weekdays for those who make the effort. Christmas and what follows throughout the Liturgical Year offer us the opportunity to enter the mystery of Christ among us. We listen, as the first disciples, to learn, and then we are sent, as the first apostles, to proclaim.  Learning and proclaiming, reflecting and sharing, entering and inviting … the first experience is for ’me’ and the result blossoms into an overflow of graces and gifts for others to share them as I have come to receive them.  They, in turn, learn-reflect-enter so that they also might proclaim-share-invite.  The journey, the ’process’, begins with the Advent-Christmas Season. We wait for the Master so that we might once again walk in His footsteps and experience the power of His love.  Jesus is the ’Great Expected One’ Who is forever the ’Real Presence’ among us.

The liturgical seasons help to enhance our spiritual and intellectual journey through life.  We deepen our faith and relationship with God as we enrich our knowledge of all He has revealed to us. The seasonal celebrations help us to focus on the mysteries of our Faith. Nevertheless, with all this, there is no need to wait for seasons and days to be with the Lord-Among-Us (Emmanuel).  The Eucharistic Presence – the Real Presence, the Presence of the Prisoner of the Tabernacle – offers us all we could ever desire. The Eucharist is our pledge of future glory.  We become one with Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and lives feel His love in the mystery of the Faith that believes and the Hope that anticipates with certitude, until we see Him face to face in the fullness of His Love and Glory.  The King Who is to come already lives among us and within us!  Give Him the little you have and are. Surrender to His transforming love that never offends our freedom. Let His loving-grace perform the transforming miracle that makes us more and more like Him.  All this in-with-through the Eucharist!  All we have to do is take the time to be with Him!

The Eucharist is a mystery and a miracle. Through the power of the Holy Spirit created ’things’ are transformed into the reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ. Jesus is ’enfleshed’ in our nature each time the Eucharist is celebrated and the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Participating in the Eucharist we accept and follow the example of our Mother Mary, to Whom we were given as children, and She to us as Mother, at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.  The ’yes’ with which She responded to the Angel Gabriel in accepting the Father’s Will to allow the Incarnation to happen, is the same ’yes’ we offer at each Mass.  Our ’yes’ allows an ’incarnation’ to take place that cannot be seen with the eyes of the body, but whose effects are made visible in those who live the Jesus they celebrate and receive. Through the hands of the priest we offer ourselves with the bread and wine.  We are spiritually ’consecrated’ in the One Who is the Eucharist and Who lives with us, and abides within us.

The town of Bethlehem we ’reconstruct’ with our creches, represent on our Christmas Cards, indicate as the birthplace of the Son of God, is a constant reminder of Jesus the Christ our True Eucharist.  The name of the town means ’House of Bread’. In this ’house’ the world was given the ’Bread of Life’. Each Tabernacle and the heart of each one who receives Him worthily are a Bethlehem where The Bread of Life dwells, nourishing us for life’s journey.

Our Seraphic Father writes in his Testament: I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood … I want to have these most holy mysteries honored and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. The life of Saint Francis of Assisi, because he lived the Gospel ’without gloss’, was a life lived immersed in the reality of the presence of Jesus.  Thus, the Real Presence of the Sacramental Lord in the Eucharist was his strength and life.  The mystery of the Savior, Son of the Most High God, Who became one with humanity in time at Bethlehem and for all time in the Eucharist was a mystery St. Francis sought to live and proclaim throughout his life.  Greccio was but a visible sign of the deep love for the mystery of the Incarnation repeated mystically at each Eucharist.  The Christ he loved so much was the Christ Whose living image he became for all to see on Mount La Verna.

The night of Greccio was lighted with candles, embellished with hymns, studded with people from all walks of life who followed the Poverello to ’see’ the poverty of the One Who emptied Himself of His divinity that He might redeem our humanity and rekindle a world grown indifferent to His love.  He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.  But to those who did receive Him, He gave power to become the children of God ... (John 1:11-12) Those who experienced the wonderful simplicity and childlike representation of Bethlehem’s ’welcome’ into our world, were filled with emotions that made that night so memorable, that for centuries Christians of many religious denominations continue the practice St. Francis initiated at Greccio.   The historical Christ, the Bread of Angels and Bread of men, born in Bethlehem of Judah, born in ’the House of Bread’ centuries before, seemed to come alive in the arms of St. Francis as he re-confirmed the total emptying of himself together with all who accepted the challenge of the Gospel Life.  Greccio was but another expression of the Poverello’s response to the Cross of San Damiano.

The world seemed to stop that night.  Time was transported back twelve hundred years. Hearts were catapulted into thoughts of a loving God Who stopped at nothing to get our attention and to make us one with Him. The words St. Francis spoke and the Gospel he sang as Deacon at the Mass celebrated at Greccio came from a heart in love with God. That night, Love was contagious.  If only it could have remained that way forever!  To stay there would have been selfish. We must bring the joy we know and radiate it to others. With Mary, our Blessed Mother, Virgin Made Church, Francis offered his own ’yes’ that the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the represented presence of the Incarnation-Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem in Greccio, would become ingrained in the hearts of all. Prayerfully praising the tremendous gift of the Eucharist, our Seraphic Father simply and magnificently offers a meditation on the wonderful exchange of the humanity and the divinity in Jesus, awesomely present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  The beauty of the prayer deserves to be read:

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!

That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself

that for our salvation He hides Himself under the little form of bread!

Look, brothers, at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before Him!

Humble yourselves, as well, that you may be exalted by Him.

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.

We can see how intimately the Eucharist we possess today and everyday helps us reflect on the wonderful mysteries we celebrate at the beginning of the Church Year.  We talk about proclaiming God Who comes to save us.  The Eucharist is the God Who is already among us with the saving power of that Great Sacrifice offered once-for-all that those who look upon the one whom they pierced may be saved.  We invite everyone saying, Come, Let us adore the King Who is to come. We adore Him hidden in the humility of the small Host and behind the closed doors of the Tabernacle. What our senses cannot perceive, our hearts know undoubtedly that …

His eyes see the depths of the soul,

His ears hear the yearnings of the heart,

His feet approach all who seek Him in truth,

His hands embrace the sincerely penitent and those in need,

His lips speak in the silence of our being,

His heart is open to welcome all into the Father’s loving embrace.

 

The simplicity of the Child of Bethlehem; the trusting faith of Mary and Joseph regarding all they were told about the Child; the poverty of the half-heartedly lent dwelling because there was no place for them at the inn; the confusion of the shepherds who had to go see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us; the probing curiosity of the Magi who said Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do Him homage; the intrigue of Herod who was greatly troubled at the news and with him all of Jerusalem; the heavenly joy of the angels who came to proclaim good news of great joy that will be for all people as they sang Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace … speak to us of the One Who was born to die so that we could be born to live forever.

His earthly life is repeated over the centuries at many times in various ways in the awesome ’Gift’ of the Eucharist.  The angels proclaim His glory and adore His Presence. And, humanity responds as did the people at Jesus’ time! … joy, indifference, confusion, even open animosity. The history of Bethlehem and the continued ’Presence’ in the Eucharist speak to each one of us. We cannot separate the Crib from the Cross.  The wood of the manger that embraced the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem was only a foreshadowing of the wood of the Cross that would lift Him up on Calvary.  Hidden Glory! … to be revealed to humble searching hearts in the mystery of the sacraments until the fullness of His Glory is revealed at the end of time. Only searching humble hearts find and recognize Him.

St. Francis loved the feast of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem was a reality that St. Francis lived every moment of his grace-filled life. In the Eucharist he saw Jesus not born two thousand years ago, but vibrantly alive. He gazed upon the mystery of the Incarnation at each Eucharist.  The whole story of the Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, and the time that leads up to that moment, is an opportunity for us to follow the example of our Seraphic Father and enter into the song of creation once again as we become players in the great symphony of life that God has written.

As spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, have we allowed the precious Body and Blood of the Savior to flow through and take over every fiber of our being? Have we allowed the Lord to be ’enfleshed’ in our lives so that each Christmas we celebrate the Savior present and alive within and among us, and not just a memory of some past event in time? Do we say with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, and with Jesus, Your Will and not mine be done? Do we strive each day, as Franciscans, to grow into a fresh and vibrant presence of Jesus Who makes Himself seen and known through us? Do we recognize our own incompleteness, vulnerability, and susceptibility so that we can share, support and encourage one another? Are we as enthused about being Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi and Sisters and Brothers in the Franciscan Family and all that entails (fidelity to the Gospel Life, Church, Rule, Constitutions, one in mind and heart with the Fraternity, and so forth), as children are when Christmas comes around? Do we see the gift that we are to each other when we allow the spirit of our Seraphic Father to lead us closer to Jesus and Mary?

With these questions that are a frequent, if not daily, reminder for us all, be assured that you and your loved ones will be remembered in a special way in all the Masses I celebrate during this holy season. May God bless you; Our Lady and Good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and she whom we can feel to be our “Mother” St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

In the Name of Jesus I wish all of you a Spirit-filled Advent and a Holy and Happy Christmas Season. And as you enter the new calendar year with all its expectations and uncertainties, may your hopes be fulfilled in a world renewed in Jesus and filled with His Spirit. A Child is born to us! A Savior is given to us! Come, let us adore Him! Fear not!  It is I!  I have conquered the world!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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