May 2020 Meditation 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

 

 

May 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 

The following prayer of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi tells us so much of his love for Mary and his awareness of Her place in the mystery of our salvation.  His love for Her was undeniable. Francis saw the Mother of God and our Heavenly Mother always in relationship to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and, because of that, to the Church.

 

Holy Virgin Mary, among the women born into the world,

there is no one like you.

Daughter and servant of the most high and supreme

King and of the Father in heaven,

Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ,

Spouse of the Holy Spirit,

pray for us with Saint Michael the Archangel,

all the powers of heaven and all the saints,

at the side of your most beloved Son, our Lord and Teacher.

 The Easter Season calls to mind the great truths of our Faith celebrated in this most holy period. The Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary is the beginning of the fulfillment of the Father’s Promise to humanity. Human nature is redeemed on Calvary, assured of salvation for those who live in the light and truth of the Resurrection of Jesus, and is raised up with Jesus and glorified in His Ascension.  The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost heralds the birth of the Church and its coming of age to Proclaim the Gospel to every creature. (Mark 16: 15-16) The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates God in Himself – The Father Who creates; the Son, the Incarnate Word, Who redeems; and the Holy Spirit Who continues the action of sanctification down through the ages. And Mary is an integral participant in every moment from the beginning to the fulfillment of God’s Promises.

 Our Blessed Mother Mary, the mere mention of Whose name speaks of the “Yes” with which she responded to God’s offer to become His earthly Mother, is a powerful and gentle reminder of the eminent role She fulfills in the mystery and history of our salvation. Throughout the liturgical year Our Lady is always present as the Church celebrates the mysteries of Her Son. True devotion to Mary, our Mother and Queen, whose Immaculate Heart envelops all Her children with tender loving care, always leads us to Jesus, Her Son, and to a greater love and trust in God.

 With the passing of time, many “obvious”  remembrances are institutionalized as feasts or celebrations of some sort, so that we do not forget their significance in our journey of faith. The further away we move in time from the actual events and persons we habitually celebrate, the more they can become a mere memory of the past rather than a living experience for us today. When we celebrate God and His saving action in and for humanity, the relevance and experience are always actual and timely.  There can never be a time or occasion when God is not relevant or necessary. If God does not build the house, in vain do the laborers labor.  If God does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. (Psalm 127: 1)

 It is this active presence of God that demands we return to our origins to re-discover the relevance of God’s Word and the impact His Word must have on our daily life.  If we could see the events of our Faith with the heart of those who had seen and walked with Jesus, before and after His Passion-Death-Resurrection, things would be drastically different. If we could only allow the events of our lives and how God manifests Himself to us to penetrate our hearts as Mary did!  She kept all these things in Her heart. (Luke 2: 19)  If we could only remember that we as Franciscans are called to live the Gospel, and thus reflect – keep in our hearts – upon the words of the Word and take them to ourselves, how different our response would be to the challenges of openness, compassion, understanding, patience, acceptance, detachment, transparency, obedience, Franciscan fraternity … LOVE! 

 With the eyes of a Faith convinced and committed, we can experience the same zeal and enthusiasm of the first followers. We too can be excited, enthused and encouraging not only about our Catholic Faith in general, but also about our Franciscan vocation in particular, and all that envisions and expects of us who profess to be Franciscans.

 The Holy Spirit that descended on the first followers is the same Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism and Confirmation.  The distinction is seen in the effects of the Spirit’s presence based on the availability of the person “gifted” by the Holy Spirit. Our Faith, founded on the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, would be of no value had it not been for the empowering of the Spirit in those first followers whose availability to His prompting allowed themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit of God that they might lead others. We are called to lead others to know, love and serve God in the Gospel Life proclaimed by Jesus. In the Spirit, we remember, we celebrate, and we believe Jesus to be the Incarnate Son of God and Redeemer of humanity.  This Faith will bring us to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus, and consequently with one another, just as it did for the first followers. Mary, once again, is the prime exemplar; She believed the unbelievable, was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, (Luke 1: 34-35) and the impossible happened!  The Creator became one with His creature; divinity and humanity became one … through the total surrender in Faith of Mary to the Father’s will. 

 The first and most excellent of all the faithful followers was Mary, our Blessed Mother. Faith accompanied Her into the divine plan that made Her Mother of the Christ, Mother of the Christian, Mother of the Church.  The depth of Faith of the Mother of God, expressed so powerfully at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, was enhanced with the added ministry entrusted to Her by Her dying Son. He called Her to become the Mother of all the Faithful: Woman, behold Your son; Son, behold Your Mother. (John 19: 26-27) Infinitely less than Jesus and eminently greater than all humanity, Mary makes the ultimate sacrifice in offering Her Son to the Father with the same availability to the Father’s Will with which She offered Her first “yes” to become the Mother of the Savior.  She manifests Herself to be, in the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis, the Virgin made Church.  

 The Church maintains the living presence of the Savior, most especially in the great gift of the Eucharist – the living Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior. This same Church continues, with Mary, to offer Her Son – our Brother, Lord, Savior, Word Incarnate, GOD – to the Father, in that one perfect Sacrifice perpetuated through the ages in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are that Church! We, like Mary, offer ourselves each day in loving response to God’s tremendous love for us in Jesus. And we are spiritually transformed by the graces that flow to us from Jesus through Mary.  We are offered the challenge and opportunity to become the living image of the One whom we consume, as He consumes us, JESUS.

 Mother of the Redeemer, She excels in the example of total surrender to God’s Will. Her Faith is an active and essential element of Her very being.  Faith is not just a static acceptance of some theological truth. It is living life in the light of what we have come to believe.  “Believing is seeing”, not vice versa as we are accustomed to presume.  Believing God’s Word, we see God’s almighty power and providence at work in our lives, and thus we can confidently yield to all the Father requests of us. This same Faith places Mary in a position of total trust in God and profound love for all His children, now entrusted to Her motherly care by Jesus.  She stands as the Advocate for all Her children before the Majesty of the Blessed Trinity.  Truly She is, as St. Francis of Assisi acknowledged:   Daughter and Servant of the Most High and Supreme King and of the Father in heaven, Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, Spouse of the Holy Spirit. (Antiphon Office of the Passion) Her intimate relationship with the Triune God enables Her to be our most powerful Advocate in heaven.

 We can see how Our Blessed Mother is significantly and actively present throughout Salvation History.  Mary is the virgin who will conceive and bear a Son … who will be called Emmanuel – God is with us (Isaiah 7: 10-14).  Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, gave birth at Bethlehem, accompanied Jesus to the foot of the Cross, and is in the company of the Apostles and other women in the Cenacle (Acts 1: 14).  Mary is the woman about to give birth,… She gave birth to a son … destined to rule all the nations … the ancient serpent, … pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child…the (serpent) became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus  (cfr. Revelation 12: 1-18). A promise of God’s fulfilling Word in Isaiah and a warning of the struggles that will always ensue between good and evil should never leave us confused or fearful. It is Mary’s good counsel and advice, the last recorded words of Our Lady in Scripture that offer a way that cannot fail. These words reveal our Mother’s concern for Her children and Her own total trust in God: Do whatever He tells you. (cfr. John 2: 1-11).  How much easier could it be!?  Why do we make it so difficult!?

 Present in prophecy, present in history, and present in the expectations of all God’s People, Mary is a life-giving presence that speaks of the power of God working in human history. Mary is a sign of hope for a waiting world. She reverses the obstinacy of creation in Eden and accepts wholeheartedly to cooperate with all the Father asks of Her.  She becomes the Mother of all the Faithful Who enter into a New Covenant with the Father in the Blood of His Son, conceived in Her by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s loving response and daily re-commitment to that response encourages us to respond to the Father and to ask that Jesus come alive in our hearts through the same Holy Spirit working within us.

 Mary was the first to practice the Gospel in all its perfection before it was written. May Her example and prayers enable us and stimulate us to follow that example.  We must make every effort, like many elect souls, to follow invariably this Blessed Mother, to walk close to Her since there is no other sure path leading to Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life – except the path followed by our Mother.  We cannot afford to refuse to take this path, we who want to reach our journey’s end “successfully”. With Her, close to Jesus, we can proceed confidently through life in the midst of whatever we may encounter or we must bear.

 As Followers of the Poverello of Assisi, we strive to live the Faith we profess and to see in Our Heavenly Mother a sure Advocate Who pleads our cause. We open our hearts to the Spirit we have received and we listen to God Who speaks to us in the silence of our hearts.  Francis encourages us to foster an ever-growing love for our Mother Who stands to intercede for us at every moment.  Mary’s life was one continual “yes” to God.  Following Her example, let us gratefully accept sorrows, hardships, fortune, and all life offers and/or demands with the same “yes” Mary offered to God. Her response to God’s invitation allowed the Eternal One to be enfleshed in Her life. During these trying times we have been experiencing, we continue to entrust ourselves to our Mother’s “almighty intercession”. May Her Son Jesus hear the plea we make through Her, and bring an end to the terrible pandemic that affects the whole world.

 With every best wish for you during this season of new birth and new life, I pray we all live as the “People of the Resurrection”. In the midst of all the entire world is going through with the pandemic, let us pray earnestly that God bless our world with healing and freedom from this evil that has attacked all creation. May our lives be a song of praise to the God Who creates, redeems and sanctifies.  He gave us Mary, His daughter, His mother, and His spouse as our intimate companion to help us come closer to one another as Her children, as She leads us ever closer to Jesus Her Son. May we confidently respond, as our Blessed Mother Mary did with a determined “Yes” to all the Father asks of us, and thus become more like Jesus in Whose image Scripture tells us we are created. Let us all be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, first gift of the Resurrection, Whose descent upon the early Church gathered together with Mary in the Cenacle, we celebrate this year on the last day of May. May the Holy Spirit inflame our hearts as He filled Our Mother Mary and all the first followers.

 God bless and keep all of you safe; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; 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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