January 2021 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

January 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In this New Year of Grace 

The Lord bless you and keep you. 

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! 

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

May He live in you. May you always live in Him 

Reading meditatively God’s Word offers answers to some of the basic questions in life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is life all about?  Why sickness, violence, death?  Why worldwide pandemic? Why political and economic unrest? Why is evil so prevalent if everything came from the hands of an all-loving God? And many more questions that leave the non-believer perplexed. Agnostics and Atheists (if there are any real and true atheists!) need to downplay or deny God, or discredit religious belief systems to quiet their own searching hearts.  Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You, was St. Augustine’s Prayer.  How true that is for us all! God remains the Mystery, for those who do not seek Him, and the Eternal Contemporary, for those recognizing His presence in all creation. The history, counsels, prayers, prophecies, of the People of Israel and the Early Church that we find in Sacred Scripture is our story.  We are the People of God, the “People of the Book”, who see themselves in the anticipation of a Savior, in our encounter with Him in time, as we forge ahead in faith, hoping to fulfill the purpose for our creation that we may receive the gift of Life in full.

The drama of our redemption begins in the Book of Genesis and finds its fulfillment in the Book of Revelation. As chief characters in the drama of humanity’s redemption, Scripture speaks to us of God’s call to life and intimacy with Him, of humanity’s disobedient fall through pride because you will be like gods (Genesis 3:5), of humanity’s recall down the centuries through prophetic people who spoke in God’s Name, and of humanity’s redemption in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the One-Who-Is-To-Come, Who is the Eternal Contemporary always with us – Emmanuel.  The writings of the New Covenant (New Testament),  through the teachings of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation,  guide us to live gratefully in this world, as pilgrims and strangers (Hebrews 11:13), until we reach the gift of Life pledged us when we entered our Covenant relationship with the Father, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. God’s Word helps us to reread our faith history from the perspective of God and eternity, rather than from our limited perspective of time alone. Throughout the inspired Word we seek to re-confirm the Covenant Love established with God in our Baptism, that we re-confirm each day as we enter trustingly and unconditionally into the Father’s Will.  We are called to stir into flame the gift God has given you (2 Timothy 1: 6) so that the excitement of being a people peculiarly His own (1 Peter 2:9) may never wane. Thus, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

God’s Word nourishes and nurtures all who receive His Word in truth and trust. The Word of God gives joy to His People. As long as God speaks with His People, His beloved children redeemed in the Blood of Christ, He is still ‘in touch’ with them. Scripture reminds us of God’s relentless and extravagant love for those who so often do not respond lovingly. After their return from the Babylonian exile, the People of Israel wept for joy when they heard The First Five Books of Scripture – ‘The Torah’, ‘The Law’- read to them. Scripture says that the people stood the good part of a day listening with joy to that of which for many years they had been deprived (cfr. Nehemiah 9). That Word was a constant reminder of God’s Loving Covenant with them and they, accepting to listen to the Word, reconfirmed their Covenant with God (cfr. Nehemiah 9). Through good times and bad their hearts were joyful. His Word was His presence. His Word was the sign that God had not abandoned them.  Even the most ‘tragic’ stories and prophecies of Scripture always end with hope in a God Who can never be vanquished.  We are reminded of our God Whose Word will not return until it has fulfilled the purpose for its being sent. (Isaiah 55:11)  All the Old Testament, read in the ‘Key of Christ’, prepares us to encounter God, the Almighty One, with whom we become victors with the Victor over sin and death, Jesus the Lord, the Word enfleshed in time that we might be ‘re-created’ by grace in His eternity.

The first day of the New Year celebrates the Motherhood of Mary and the Name of Jesus, the Word enfleshed.  Mary, the highest honor of our race (Judith 15:9), looks down to heaven in Her arms. The Infant in Her arms that She sees and loves is the fulfillment of Her People’s prayers and hopes.  She says His name JESUS, God is salvation, with a love only a mother can express.  All of Scripture is fulfilled in this Infant (cfr. Luke 1:26-35).  Mary saw and loved what St. John the Evangelist wrote of Him decades later: He was in the world … but the world did not know Him … to those who did accept Him He gave the power to become the children of God … The Word became flesh and dwelled among us … from His fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace … (1 John 1: 10-16) Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the living Covenant the Father makes with all creation. In His Name and redeeming Life-Death-Resurrection we enter into our Covenant with God through the Blood of the Lamb. (cfr. Revelation 7:14-17; 12:11)

Just as in the time of Jesus, our world is filled with so much that disturbs and distresses us: war, violence, natural disasters, social-economic-political-religious unrest, sickness and disease … Death!  If we take time to evaluate the times in which we live, there is so much good that is happening as well. There are people who believe in peace and strive to live it as a witness for others. There are women and men who come to the aid of their less fortunate sisters and brothers often at the cost of their own time-talents-personal treasures, and often even their lives. And what about the young people who seek and truly desire a better world and are willing to work for it at the price of their own comfort and convenience? Then there are the religious leaders who have stopped anathematizing each other because of differences, who are sincerely searching for better ways to appreciate the goodness God instills in every one of God’s children. How about the progress being made in curing debilitating and terminal diseases, and even the rapidity with which a vaccine was found to attempt to arrest the continued spread of the devastating and deadly global pandemic of our age.  Then there is love that brings young men and women to believe in the future and a sacramental commitment before God and the community in marriage. Then there are the infants born of love as a sign of trust in the hope and value of tomorrow. Oh! and there is so much more!  What about the wonderful moments that happen to each one of us personally (These we seem to fail to remember when something undesired occurs)?

The God of prophecy is a God Who sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17) All this should encourage our hearts to peace and joy, even in the midst of the challenges and outright disasters of life.  Inner peace and inner joy, fruits of loving hearts who trustingly surrender to God, give us the harmony and balance for which we yearn in such a cacophonous and unstable world. God’s inspired Word – the Word made flesh – teaches us through the written experiences of our ancestors in the faith. The reassuring message that keeps recurring at all the momentous times of our journey of faith through the millennia is: Do not be afraid! … It is!  (John 6: 20) Keep cheerful. Be at peace. Let God do as He pleases. None of the things you fear will come to pass. These re-assuring words of consolation were offered to set a troubled conscience at rest. It is as though someone was repeating a rather amusing statement that says: “What do you mean worry doesn’t help!  Everything I worried about never happened!”

Worry only destroys inner peace and clouds the vision of our hearts. Often we worry about matters we have no control over or of which we have no certain knowledge. Thus we compromise our inner peace and serenity in useless fretting.  Be concerned and alert, Yes! But worry is belief that failure is inevitable. Fear (or worry) is useless. What is needed is faith (Mark 5: 36). Fear (worry) leads to discouragement, which is one of satan’s best tools. While encouraging others, we must trust in God Who assists us in dealing with all that the He has allowed to occur in our life. We suffer and rejoice, are glad and fearful. These are very human responses to what surrounds us. Even the saints experienced sadness, pain, confusion, even fear. They too, even as our own seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, sought their ‘Simon of Cyrenes’ to help them bear the ‘cross of unknowing, confusion, pain, death’ by opening their heart to them. Nevertheless, ultimately, they surrendered to the love and mercy of God, trusting in His divine providence, and accepted everything. Everything was part of God’s plan they were called to fulfill. They surrendered and accepted with unimaginable joy and sincere gratitude.

The Poverello knew and recognized that his trials and pains were permitted by the One Who is perfectly knowing of all that happens to each one of us. Past, present, and future are all in His all-providing hands and divine Will. So why do we fear and tremble so much? When we accept the truth that the Lord created us with a depth of feelings that respond or react with so much seeming simultaneous delight and suffering, how can we not pause and just marvel?! Marvel? Yes, marvel at a God Who journeys with us at every moment and with everyone. One cannot help but be filled with a sense of inner serenity and joy. We should be immensely satisfied and happy. At the bad things we have experienced, NO! But at the challenges that lie ahead  that will show us at every turn the presence of the Eternal One guiding, guarding, protecting, and strengthening us to grow in His grace and our faith, trust and love for Him in His love for us.  May God be blessed forever!

As we enter a new calendar year no doubt our hearts and minds are filled with mixed emotions.  So much is happening in the world, our nation, and even in our neighborhoods and families, that often we look to the future with a sense of foreboding.  The new calendar creates an illusion of being able to be unaffected by the past that no longer exists, while at the same time it leaves us apprehensive about the future in a world in confusion and upheaval in so many places.  We get so taken up with the past and the future that we fail to graciously accept the ‘gift’, the ‘present’, God gives us to live in the Real Presence of His Eucharist that nourishes and His Word that nurtures and guides.  It is now, in the present, today, that the future opens up for each one of us.  We learn from the successes and failures of the past. We confidently look forward to a future in God’s loving-care. We live our present with simplicity and trust.  We know that we can be effective instruments in God’s plan capable of changing the world.  We must dispel fear and learn to trust. We trust in God, trust in others God has placed with us, trust in ourselves endowed by God with gifts of time to work, talents to use, and the treasure of life and love.

At His birth, Magi came from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). Their search for the Word made flesh is the search of everyone for the unseen God. When they opened the eyes of their heart and saw God in an Infant, Heaven in a stable, Magnificent Dignity in lowliness, Wisdom in external absurdity, Power in impotence, Providence in need, Love in rejection … then, and only then, could they, and we as well with them, acknowledge the wondrous exchange between eternity and time, the Creator and the creature. The Invisible becomes visible. The eternal enters time and is subject to it. The Almighty becomes fragile. The Unknowable is seen. The Spirit becomes a body to love and nurture, hands to caress, and a heart beating at one with His creation.

Mary’s role in all this should open our hearts in such a love for Her that all this new year we should each day say, with Pope St.John Paul II: Totus Tuus – All Yours!   All Yours Mother!  All Yours Jesus through our Mother! … Yes! God’s Mother and ours too!  How could we be otherwise than all Hers? God is goodness, Mary is the Mother of goodness. God is Mercy, Mary is the Mother of Mercy. God is Grace Itself, Mary is the Mother of Grace and Mediatrix of all graces. God is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life. God is our Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.

As the Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father of Assisi let us live this new year in the peace and joy of those who know God is with us.  Our Father St. Francis and our Holy Mother St.Clare  abandoned themselves unreservedly to God’s Will and Word, in an overwhelming peace and joy. Let God’s Word be our guide and His Eucharist, the Incarnate Word in Sacrament, be our Viaticum through life. Jesus, born in the “House of Bread” is our “Bread for the journey” (“viaticum”). Open to God’s Incarnate Word and His life-giving words let us be open to one another in a bond of love and truth that strengthens the unity of our Franciscan Family throughout our region, nation and throughout the world. As we live in the Word and seek to live His words, may we witness a hope that the world seems to be losing.

Some people wait for Friday to ‘step down from the merry-go-round’ of their work-week. Others look forward to Mondays filled with new opportunities and challenges that help them discover the talents and strengths God gives to meet the ‘gifts’ of a new week.  May we all look forward to a New Year of Grace, in which God offers us the occasion to ’unwrap’ the wonderful gifts He entrusts to us that we might grow in grace and be His instruments of Peace and Blessings to all throughout the year and throughout our lives. Having begun the New Year with Mary and in Jesus’ Name, let us let our Mother’s example of silent trust and anticipation of the ‘unraveling’ of God’s will, and the Most Holy Name of Jesus, before Whom heaven, and earth, and those under the earth bend the knee (Philippians 2:10), be our standard and strong support. In His Name is the Father’s Love and the Spirit’s power. In His Name we find peace. He is Peace and Salvation!

JESUS, OUR PEACE, DOES NOT DISAPPOINT ANYONE WHO PLACES THEIR TRUST IN HIM.  LORD, THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS, WE PLACE OUR TRUST IN YOU! May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones. May God bless you; Our Lady Whose Divine Motherhood begins the new calendar year, and her beloved spouse St. Joseph, whose special Holy Year we celebrate, guide, guard, and protect you and your families.


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