Monthly Meditation for April 2020 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      website: skdsfo    email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 April 2020

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 The Lord give you His peace and lead you through the mystery of His Passion and Death

to the joy of His Resurrection and our renewed Life in Jesus!

 The ’Way of the Cross’ cannot end on Calvary; it must go beyond. It goes beyond into the garden that received the dead body of Christ and, on the morning following the Sabbath, saw the mysterious and joyful encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Lord Jesus, risen and alive. The ’way’ is precisely the road that leads, the journey that conveys, the direction to follow. The tragic and triumphant ’way’ of the Paschal Mystery takes us to a new life in, with, and through Jesus.  The ’way’ is a must for all who call Jesus ’Lord’ and ’Savior’. Our Seraphic Father not only loved the Crucified Jesus but was privileged to become a living image of the Crucified Savior and Redeemer.  The ’way’ was imprinted on his mortal flesh as an indication of what lay ahead for him who so lovingly sought to feel as far as possible in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion … that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners. (Fioretti: 3rd Consideration of the Sacred Stigmata) To accept, and even seek, pain for love’s sake is not masochistic or insane, it is the total surrender a person offers to become one with the beloved.

 Our Father St. Francis knew well that the Cross was the sign of the sublime humility and love of God for all creation. He was well aware that the stigmata he bore indicated the future glory pledged to all who accept the standard of Christ and follow His Way, Who is the Truth, as He leads to the fullness of Life, through His Resurrection. The ’Way of the Cross’ finds its total significance, value, and effectiveness in the Resurrection.  If Jesus had not risen, in vain would have been our faith, and we would remain in our sins, says St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15).  If Jesus had not risen, His death would have been nothing more than the tragic defeat of just another deluded ’messiah’, and His memory would bear no other fruit than that of the nostalgic remembrance of a good person who helped others, was misunderstood, and was ultimately executed for political and religious subversion. Jesus Himself, the ’wonder-working rabbi’ would thus be nothing else than a good teacher overcome by history and conquered by evil forces that forever remain superior and invincible to what is good.

 In fact, there is no greater ’subversive’, no greater ’revolutionary’ than Jesus. His life, words, actions, and the witness of His Passion and Death hit at the very core of the human heart.  He aimed at challenging His hearers to change from the very depths of their hearts and to come back to what they were constituted to be when God took the initiative with Abraham promising that He would be the Father of many nations. The ’subversive’ attempts to reach and affect the very foundation, the core of the matter, and the ’revolutionary’ attempts to turn people back to the Father’s Will, are at the heart of the Gospel Message. Thus, true gospel subversive and revolutionary tactics are those that lead us into the depths of our hearts to regain our original ’childlike innocence’ through God’s mercy. Is that not what is expected of us as Franciscans?!  The Gospel life, if lived personally and preached well by example, is an effective witness and ’tool’ in changing the face of the earth.  What happened?!  Have we forgotten the power of the Gospel and the strength our fraternal life gifts us within each other to forge forward as sisters and brothers distinct yet one?! Perhaps we have stopped at the tomb, or remain closed in the Upper Room, as the disciples did immediately following the execution of Jesus.  Each was closed in his own fears and doubts.  We comfortably remain closed on and with ourselves, often for fear of being challenged to live what we profess.  Yet, that is where the significance, value and effectiveness of our professed lives as Franciscans is fulfilled.  When they saw the risen Lord, touched His wounds, and recognized their own brokenness, they became an encouragement and support for one another.

 The Way of the Cross cannot stop at the tomb, even if within that tomb there seems to be life. Life hidden behind the stone sealed and guarded speaks nothing to the world.  We must walk the entire road that Jesus traveled. It is the road that knows the pause and silence of that Sabbath after the excruciating sadness of Friday, but that explodes the next day into His glory. The glory of His Resurrection in our lives does not blind by its brilliance but brightens the darkness of difficulty and doubt.  The glory of the Resurrection does not traumatize with fear and foreboding, but liberates the soul from doubt, the heart from anguish, and the mind from uncertainty.  The glory of the Resurrection does not condemn the sinner with no place to turn, but rekindles hope and trust in the Father’s mercy and forgiveness.  The glory of the Resurrection does not sentence to death, but makes all who accept the mystery sharers in the Life of God Himself!  It enables them to be a life-giving presence for others.

 Jesus rose as He had promised, nevertheless His own could not believe. Even the women, who loved Him so dearly, were on their ’way’ to the tomb to anoint the body, not to encounter the Lord alive. What response was given Him by His closest friends? None of the first followers expected to see Him alive again, notwithstanding His promises and assurances, and not even when some had seen and Jesus gave them the ’appointment’ to meet Him in Galilee.

 –   Thomas…one of the Twelve…said to (the Apostles), ’Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ (John 21:24-25)… Pessimism and Disbelief

–   The two disciples, speaking with Jesus whom they did not recognize as they journeyed  on the road back to Emmaus from Jerusalem, said:  We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel … Some women from our group … reported that indeed they had seen a vision of angels … but him they did not see (Luke 24: 13-25)… Disillusionment and Discouragement

–   When Mary of Magdala told the disciples she had seen the Risen Lord and that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:11)… Cynicism and Skepticism

–   Even when the disciples followed the command to go to Galilee where they would see Him before He ascended to the Father, When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Matthew 28:16-17)… Hesitancy and Doubt

 Thomas, Cleophas and his traveling companion, the Apostles after hearing Mary Magdalene, and many of the followers who saw Jesus on the Mount in Galilee at the Ascension, all had difficulties and even understandable doubts concerning the ’impossibility’ of a person rising from the dead … on his own power!  What a motley crew!  Are we really any different?  The power of the Holy Spirit had to shake the disciples free of fear, doubt, complacency, so they could see and believe. They loved and believed Jesus, but it took an eternal power and a ’real presence’ to lead them into the light of a new Life, rooted in a Person Who overcame execution on a cross and was alive. The death of Jesus sealed the Covenant God made with humanity; and humanity, in Christ, consummated the covenant, fulfilled the prophecies, and set free all who accepted the Gospel Message: God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might … have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3: 16-17). 

 The Resurrection was and still is hard for many to accept, among these are also those who call themselves Christian!  The condemnation and death sentence of Jesus inflicted a mortal wound on the hearts of His followers, as well as on those who still seek to understand and believe today. Their hearts and minds cannot as yet make the ’quantum leap’ of faith into the certitude of the ways of God. Jesus sought to prepare the disciples for this momentous experience, and they still doubted. The material world, the ’here and now’, becomes the only security and ’certitude’ some know; it is a world so obviously frail and prone to ruin either through natural causes or self destruction. The death of Jesus is a fact for some with seemingly no hope, no way out; these persons admire, revere and love Jesus, but they remain standing before the stone that seals the tomb and cannot go beyond the coldness of death.  Their minds cannot understand, so their hearts refuse to believe, thus their lives wander through life without real direction and hope.  How sad! 

 Suffering and pain are real!  They cannot be rationalized away.  We experience them often in life. Consider what the greater part of the world is experiencing with the present pandemic, and the millions of lives in one way or another affected, and the thousands who have died as a result of the virus. The virus arouses a sense of uncertainty and fear in many. There are also those suffer from other infirmities, who live in constant pain and continual suffering, whether spiritual, physical, psychological.  Unless faith takes over and hope is kindled within their hearts, the love of God that conquers all things is the deepest desire of their heart but the furthest sensation they feel.  Serenity and inner peace become just pious words and deep desires.  They may hear words of encouragement, but they are overwhelmed by their own broken body and tired spirit. Even our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi went through moments like this, but he could pray Blessed are You Lord my God. His feet were well-planted in the realities of life and his own physical and spiritual burdens, but his heart was one with His Lord alive and well.   The human condition is common to all the children of God, saint and sinner alike.  How we deal with the circumstances of life, how we allow the Paschal Mystery to affect our life, will determine the ’way’ we will follow.

 The Passion and Death of Jesus speaks to us of the extravagant and limitless love of God for all humanity. The Resurrection of Jesus gives meaning and encouragement to life. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Glorified and Risen Lord Who journeys with us at every moment. It re-presents the whole Paschal Mystery and offers us the opportunity to be with the Risen Lord, Whose Sacrifice we enter, celebrate, and with Whom we seek to become one in Holy Communion.  The presence of Jesus transforms lives. His bodily presence on earth centuries ago gave Him the opportunity to raise people from the dead, to heal the sick, to give hope to the downtrodden and outcast, to reassure the marginalized, to care for the various needs of those whom He encountered.  His sacramental presence raises and heals souls dead and/or weak through sin, speaks to the depths of the heart of those who listen for/to Him in the silence of their hearts, and strengthens us with the grace of His Body and Blood to accept the demands of life. Faith in the living Lord helps us to realize we are not alone, but live and move and have our being with the Giver of all good gifts Who walks and works with and within us. His ’Presence’ is truly ’Real’.  His is a ’tangible presence’ that makes Himself felt according to our willingness to see with the eyes of the heart and not the head alone.  The living presence of the Lord in the Eucharist urges us to see and believe as John and Peter, to touch and acknowledge as Thomas, to go and proclaim that Jesus is Lord as the disciples who had gathered on the Mount of Olives.

 Without the ’Way of the Cross’ we can never arrive at the Resurrection.  Until we open our eyes and our hearts to see the brilliance and power of Jesus and hear and listen to the depth of His words, there is no way for us to enter the marvelous and mysterious reality of Christ Who lives today with us.  Ultimately, if Christ is risen and lives today for me and with me, He is here in my personal life and in that of the whole world, just as He promised. How then can we hesitate to cooperate and collaborate with Christ who calls us to follow Him where we will see Him?   Follow Him to encounter Him in His word, in His Sacrament, and in His sisters and brothers who have seen the Lord on ’the way’. As we meet Jesus on the way in the Word, the Church and Her sacramental life, in our sisters and brothers, even more intensely in the poor, marginalized, alienated, and also especially our sisters and brothers in our Franciscan Family, may we be able to say with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way? Thus, filled with the Easter grace and joy of the One Who was dead and now lives, we can recount to others what has taken place on ’the way’ we traveled, and deepen our unity and love for all in the breaking of the bread. (cfr. Luke 24: 32-35) in the midst of present virus devastating the world with sickness and death, the Risen Jesus tells us don’t be afraid, believe. (Mark 5: 36),  I have conquered the world. (John 16: 33) I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14: 6)

 May the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us that we might have life, and have it in abundance. (John 10: 10) May the Risen Lord Jesus shower the whole world with an end to this global pandemic, gift eternal rest to those who have succumbed to the virus, health to those still affected by it, strength, protection and blessings on the medical personnel and caregivers, blessings of trust and serenity of faith and hope in God’s love on the families and all affected by this terrible sickness. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Health of the Sick, intercede for all Her children so much in need of Our Mother’s loving protection. And may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, who experienced severe infirmities in his own “converted” life, intercede for all of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

 With a promise to kep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Blessed Easter in the light of the Resurrection.  The darkness of the night we are experiencing , will eventually give way to the light of the dawn of the Son, Who rises to promise a new day for us all.  You cannot hold back the dawn!  John Dawd) Christ is our Dawn and New Light! (cfr. Luke 1:78, 2 Peter 1:19, and others)

 Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

 Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

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