January 2022 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

My apologies for the lateness in posting the January writings of Father Francis.  Some lovely person took over my debit card and my email account more than a week ago and it  has been difficult regaining control.  The devil herself has been after me!

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 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

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! 

(St. Francis of Assisi)

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

(St. Clare of Assisi adapted)

The image of our Blessed Mother introduces us into an experience of faith-filled events during the New Year 2022. The events presented throughout Sacred Scripture that we will hear during our Sunday or daily liturgies will speak to us profoundly about ourselves and our relationship with God and one another. Our Mother Mary is the highest honor of our race (cfr. Judith 13). Like the great Judith of the Old Testament who fearlessly led and liberated her people and of whom these words were first spoken, Mary is afforded the highest honor. Our Blessed Mother precedes and far surpasses us in faith. Her availability and courage make her the eminent model for all Christians.  Through her divine maternity, she gives humanity our Redeemer, in Whose Death and Resurrection we are liberated from sin and fear. We are offered the challenge that promises success to those ready to live in the freedom of God’s grace, and in the light of God’s love and will.

The last day of the calendar year reminds us that every end is a new beginning. In the Gospel for that day, the Apostle John reminds us:  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…He came to His own and His own did not receive Him…To as many as did receive Him, He empowered to become the children of God…those begotten not by human means, but by God (John 1). The Eternal Word entered a profound relationship with humanity at His Conception in the virginal womb of Mary.

The people of Israel continued to pray in hope. They expected the God of vindication to reveal His power and subdue their enemies. The Word, however, entered the scene of this world as a simple human being. He was subject to all the experiences of time and human nature, except sin. His identity remained so concealed that He was rejected by many of His own. He eventually received an untimely death by execution as a common criminal and instigator of the people against Mosaic Law and Roman rule!

St. John tells us that those who accepted Him would become the children of God (John 1: 12). This adoption in the Spirit allows us to say Abba, Father (cfr. Romans 8: 15; Mark 14: 36; Galatians 4: 6). The Father sees in us an image of His Son. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, accepted the mission entrusted to Him by the Father to enter creation and lead all humanity back to the original grace-filled relationship with God in which humanity was created. We are created to be an overflowing extension of God’s eternal love and life. Goodness of its very nature seeks ever to extend itself. God is the essence of goodness. Thus the extension of His goodness is found in creation. The glory of God is Man come to full stature (St. Irenaeus adapted). We are the highest form of creation. We are the epitome in this world of the kaleidoscope of God’s unique yet varied image. If we only recognized and appreciated the dignity in which we were created and the majesty to which we are called!  O Christian, recognize your dignity (St. Leo the Great – sermon on the Incarnation). The more we exemplify the life of Jesus in our own lives, the more we recognize and begin to restore that dignity and wonder to creation.

It is interesting how brief the liturgical season of Advent/Christmas is. Advent preparation lasts no more than four weeks, and the Christmas celebration of the infancy and childhood of Jesus may last no more than two weeks.  No sooner do the Wise Men leave the house where they offer their gifts – symbolizing love, prayer and sacrifice – to the Child Jesus, than the liturgy introduces us to the wilderness of the Baptist’s desert where in the Jordan River Jesus begins His journey to Jerusalem and the cross. From the Crib to the Cross is the life of Jesus:  Bethlehem to Calvary! Life to Death and New Life! All for us!

Jerusalem is the City of the Most High, where God’s Temple speaks of a mysterious presence among the People, the People God chose to be His own. Jerusalem is where Jesus makes His Father’s Presence known and seen in Himself, the Word-made-flesh. Jerusalem is the City of Peace where the Prince of Peace enters, is proclaimed, rejected, and crucified…and rises! As the journey to Jerusalem begins for Jesus, we too journey with the Infant and the Man: the Child of hope and the Man of Fulfillment, the Infant who flees in exile to safety and the Man Who confounds his enemies, the Infant who needs protection and the Man Whose miracles marvel those who benefit from them confounded those who opposed Him. We become one in prayer and reflection – one in the Spirit – with our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus is the Promised One of God (cfr. Genesis 3) offered to our first parents in the Garden of Eden. He is The One Anticipated for centuries in the words of the prophets and the hearts of the people. He is The One Who bursts into time from eternity (cfr. Wisdom 18: 14-15) when Mary says Yes (cfr. Luke 1:26-38) to the Father’s invitation for her to be humanity’s spokesperson and Mother of His and thus her Son. The fulfillment of the Father’s promise and Jesus’ mission reached its climax during those few years that lead to the wood of the Cross at Calvary. From the beginning of His earthly journey the wood of the Cross is prefigured in the wood of the manger at Bethlehem. One wood embraces the Infant, the other receives the Man. One wood protects the Infant, the other wood raises the Man in ignominy and glory. One wood makes people wonder in joy at the Infant, the other wood makes people responsible for their lives before the Man.  One wood speaks of the beginning of a life, the other wood proclaims the beginning of Life. One wood reminds us of the doors of Bethlehem closed to that young life, the other wood reminds us of the Doors of Eternity opened for all to enter Life. Again, as St. Francis, exclaimed: O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!`

We have celebrated a brief yet powerful season. Like the introduction or preface to a good story, we have been introduced into a life that we must not only read, but live. It would be consoling and pleasant to remain in the nostalgia of the intimacy of the Infancy of Jesus. The intimacy of the Family of Nazareth speaks of the normal challenges of daily life. Everyone encounters these challenges in one way or another. When we accept the invitation of the Master, who summons us to Follow Me, our life begins to have purpose and fulfillment. Leaving the comfort and security of the past, we begin to notice new horizons and achieve greater goals than we had ever imagined. One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore. (Andre Gide)  We must leave the security of sight to travel in the light of a trusting faith that leads where God wills, and to all we could ever imagine or desire.

The beginning of the calendar year is always surrounded by the thought of new beginnings. Many see the New Year as an opportunity to clean the slate and begin all over again. We could attempt this, but it is really impossible to do.  No matter how much we may try to put past things out of our minds, they are still with us. Past events and decisions are either in our thoughts, or their consequences in one way or another seem to affect the circumstances of life. Who we are depends greatly on where we have come from and the decisions we make.  And where we go depends on how we build and learn from past experiences. We cannot remain in the past. We cannot allow ourselves to be walled into a nostalgic reminiscence of historical facts.  We must forge forward in God’s will. The Will of God provides for those who trust in Him. Acceptance of His Will leads to and guides through ways often never imagined, but always fruitful for those who let God be their Forerunner, Scout and Guide.

We die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of wonder, the source of which is beyond reason (former Secretary General of the U.N., Dag Hammarskjold). The “source” is the Father Who illumines us through His Spirit as we wonder at the magnificence of the mystery revealed in Jesus His Son. We no longer wander through life aimlessly.  We are led by faith in that same Spirit. How can anyone just sit back and not be excited about the numerous possibilities God offers us each day! God calls us to proclaim His goodness with our lives and to be His heralds of hope. We are instruments of God entrusted with the mission of enkindling hope in a world that often lives in shallowness. The world is always being seduced by the ancient serpent. This “spirit of division and confusion” even had the audacity to contend with Jesus His entire earthly life. The same “serpent” continues to contend with the Mystical Body of Christ till the end of the ages.

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi loved the mystery of the Incarnation. The gentleness and love of the Savior’s Birth in the poverty of Bethlehem filled him with a tenderness and love for so gentle and humble a sublime and supreme God. The Infant Jesus, for St. Francis, was the little playful lamb at Bethlehem prepared by the Father to be the sacrificial lamb on Calvary. The Poverello’s simplicity, humility, innocence, love were all images of the Jesus Whose visible image he became at La Verna. This Divine Intimacy St. Francis experienced enveloped his life.  What an example of Seraphic Father offers us to emulate! What a challenge for us this New Year!

St. Francis entered the peace of God in his early years and was led quite soon to the God of peace.  God asks that we seek not the feeling of God but the God Who excels all feeling. God asks that we enter the mystery of His hidden yet uniquely obvious presence. How can we seem to always wait to see the miracles of God before accepting the truth of His Presence! Our Seraphic Father lived in the mystery that enfolds and protects with love and truth, but does not always caress with feeling.  St. Francis offered those who asked to follow in his footsteps the possibility of sharing in becoming Christ to the world. The example and words of St. Francis of Assisi led others to disarm their hearts day-by-day to everyone and everything.

A we enter the New Year of Grace 2022 the following could be a simple prayer as well as a reflection of gratitude and trust in the goodness and graciousness of God throughout life:

For all the Yesterdays, THANK YOU, GOD! 

For Today, THANK YOU, GOD! 

For all the Tomorrows, YES! YES! And AGAIN YES! ABBA! 

May God bless us, and Our Heavenly Mother and good Saint Joseph, with our beloved parents, Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, guide, guard, and protect us and our loved ones now and throughout the New Year 2022 in God’s Grace and Providence.

Blessed and Happy New Year 2022 

Peace and Blessings 

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

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