June 2022, Monthly Reflection 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

June 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in St. Francis,

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father

Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love

and gives us His peace!

God’s loving reply to humanity’s response to the Incarnation is perpetuated in and through the Church down the centuries in the celebration of the Mass.  The Eucharistic Liturgy re-presents the Mystery of our Redemption. The Holy Spirit is invoked.  Jesus’ words are repeated over the bread and wine. Simple elements are transformed into the Real Presence of the most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus. With the priest we offer, confect and receive the Divine Viaticum for the journey of life to Life. In the Liturgy we enter the saving grace of Christ’s redeeming act offered once for always and for all. The personal effects of that one moment in time that prepares us for eternity, hinges on how the mystery of Divine Love is seen, believed, and accepted.

In the Liturgy we see our Savior stripped with indignation, crowned with humiliation, nailed with weakness, humanly powerless. By the soldier’s lance the encounter of heaven and earth reaches the epitome.  The thrust of the centurion’s lance was the people’s last response to Love. That lance thrust into the Side and Heart of Jesus was the last attempt to destroy a Love that will reign eternal.  In the Heart of Jesus, thrust open for us, we enter the Father’s loving embrace and are reborn to Eternal Life.

If only those who crucified Jesus had come to truly know Him!  They saw, heard, touched, and witnessed His many works. Opportunities were always available for the people to recognize, acknowledge and accept Jesus. But they were restrained from recognizing Him (Luke 24: 16).  They were restrained by their inability to go beyond their self centered desire for the Promised One to be as they desired and not as He was prophesied to be. The disciples did not recognize the Risen Lord because of their sadness at hopes destroyed by Jesus’ death (cfr. Luke 24: 18-24). Why would people blessed and assisted by Jesus not have opened their hearts in love to Him?  Why do so many of us persist in not surrendering to Love?  Why is it so difficult for us to take Jesus, Whom we acknowledge with Thomas, My Lord and My God  (John 20: 28), at His word?

We too, as the Jews of Jesus’ time, often cry out Crucify Him (Matthew 27: 22-23) when knowingly and often for fear of reprisals we fail to defend the faith itself and/or the essential values of our Catholic expression of faith when  they are being criticized, ridiculed, or openly defiled or persecuted.  We have no King but Caesar (John 19:15), at times is implied by our actions or lack of them when human respect, fear of losing friendships, or so called “political correctness” challenge the very object of our faith either God or mammon (cfr. Matthew 6: 19-24). When the mob instigated and seduced by Jewish leaders and peer pressure cried out Let His blood be on us and on our children (Matthew 27: 25), they could never have realized how prophetic those words were. How often do we join indirectly in that self-condemnation of those who just want to be part of the crowd and sell themselves out?

The Blood of Jesus was poured out on all humanity, not in condemnation, but in a loving shower of saving grace.  When water and blood flowed from His wounded side, the full act of loving acceptance of the Father’s Will was accomplished.  Centuries of anticipation and preparation were now fulfilled. Confirming His “mission accomplished”, before Jesus commended His spirit into the hands of the Father (cfr. Luke 23: 46) from the Cross, He said: Now, it is finished  (John 19:30).

It is finished! Older translations render these words: It is consummated.  The term is so much more beautiful when we understand it not only as the accomplishment of the mission lovingly accepted by Jesus, but also as the total surrender of Jesus to humanity in a loving relationship, to the death, so that “New Life” would be born from this loving union of hearts.  The Heart of the Creator united with the hearts of His creatures in an intimate spiritual espousal that brought to life the image of Christ, through grace, in all who accepted redemption and reconciliation in His Blood.  The Church, born from the side of Christ, lives in the Christian, to continue through the ages the restoration of all humanity in Christ (cfr. Colossians 1: 15-20).

As a side note to the “total surrender” referred to above, our Franciscan “fraternity” is a type of expression of this selfless surrender to the other for the sake of the other. It is this oneness of hearts (“fraternity”),  rather than solely commonness of founder-means-goal-leadership (“community”) that offers the Church a powerful image and reality of what true and full Gospel life is called to be and can be, when it is sincerely lived.

When will true reconciliation with God, and the restoration and perfection of the Covenant, in the Blood of Jesus, be completed by God’s children? How can we ever hope to be reinstated in the grace humanity had before the Fall?  What can we do to become victorious in and with the Victim of Calvary?  Where can we go to find these answers?  Why do we hesitate to respond accordingly once we have found the answers we seek?

We hesitate because we fear letting go of our false securities. We raise them like walls to keep difficulties out of our lives, while we forget that those same walls that keep bad things out often keep good things from entering our lives.  We can go into the abyss of our hearts to rediscover the deepest desires that lie there waiting to be acknowledged.  We must accept Jesus totally – not only “believe in Him” but “believe Him”, and “Live Jesus”.  We must begin in the “Now”, so that the Kingdom of God may be revealed in our lives, and thus be extended by us to others.  Once we willingly do all this, we will recognize God at work around, within, and through us. God is always at work fulfilling His Will. He invites us to share in this wonderful experience.  Participation in the restoration and re-creation of all things in, with, and through Jesus is a magnificent gift of the Father’s Love for us, and a sign of God’s trust in our ability to cooperate with His grace.

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi saw a wonderful way for this to happen. He understood his call to live in the Church as a restoring ministry by an evangelical life style. Thus, he sought to live as most closely as possible as Jesus and His disciples lived. Francis entered a relationship with all creation. He was becoming “the universal brother”. Thus, as others sought to follow him, we begin to understand why Francis placed importance on “fraternity”, and not just “community”.

Francis’ first followers were “brothers” in a very real way.  They all were called and willingly accepted to live the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in obedience, without anything of our own and in chastity, mindful that Brother Francis promises obedience to our Lord Pope Honorius and his successors canonically elected, and to the Roman Church and the other brothers be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors (cfr. Rule 1223).  The brotherhood found its stability in its faithfulness to Francis and his to the Holy Father, who, representing the body of church, was the “link” to God, whose legitimately elected spokesman he was till death.

The binding force among them all, after faith and a knowing and committed response to God’s call, was the responsibility to “be brother” to one another, to the fraternal life. We are not merely a community of goods, even though these “goods” can be ideals, plans, hopes, and the like, as well as common periods of prayer, work, ministry, and more. These are values and “things” any organized group, however so loosely organized, needs and expresses for a good exercising of its purpose. What makes the Franciscan fraternity a very particular and unique expression is the emphasis, even in legislation (Rule), on fraternity.  We are called to live as brothers and sisters. Love, as an act of the will if not necessarily of the emotions, is the root of the effectiveness of our Gospel consecrated life in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is the one who sets the Scripture-Tradition-Magisterial based values our Baptism expects of us to fully and, at times, validly and effectively participate in the life of the Church.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, do we understand the depth and implications of our profession as Franciscans, whether with the canonical vows or the secular profession?  The love we profess to live as Franciscans transforms a community of beings into a family of sisters and brothers. Though members of a family have unique personalities and characteristics, their common family bond is the specifying sign of who they are to those outside their specific family. Our Seraphic Father required his spiritual brothers and sisters to live the words he wrote down for them “without gloss”. Living this challenge, the Poverello of Assisi not only expected but mandated his religious family to live. Accepting the challenge of fraternity lives change for the better. Fraternity is so real that it affects the body as well as the soul.  Love is real! It is not a figment of our pious imagination!  Love is possible and even necessary to be lived before our life can be said to be fulfilled.

In the Blessed Sacrament, central element of all we are as Roman Catholics, we encounter the Mystery and Miracle of selfless and transforming love.  Jesus’ love leads us, enlivens our spirits, enlightens our minds, encourages and enthuses our hearts, entrusts us with His mission, envelops us with His Spirit, and consumes us in a purifying Love that introduces us into the fullness of Life.  Franciscans entering the open Heart of Jesus, pierced for love of humanity, encounter an overwhelming font of grace and transformation. In “fraternity” with Jesus, each one individually, who surrenders to Him, are all enveloped as one in, with, and through Him, and thus with one another. The power of fraternity with Christ forms each member into the one Mystical Body of Christ.

This is the foundation of true and lasting “fraternity” among us. It is not pious devotional sentimentality but total faith, hope, and trust in Love Incarnate.  Nothing is ever accomplished in fact without it first being in the heart and/or mind.  If we are to be faithful to the Spirit of God and also to the spirit of our Franciscan fraternal life, we must love one another in fact and stop just speaking about it (cfr. James 2; 14-26 when he speaks of faith and works; and 1 John 3: 18-19). Jesus Himself gave this all-embracing commandment to us the night before He died, the night He left us the Sacrament of His Love, the Eucharist: This is my commandment, That you love one another (John 15: 17). All else profits us nothing: Love is man’s origin, love is his constant calling, love is his fulfillment in heaven (Marriage III Preface).

My brothers and sisters in our common bond in the Franciscan Family, may we grow in our awareness and love for one another as the family we were called to be. This unspoken vow/promise is what makes the others real and effective.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the pure Heart of Joseph, remind us that we are called to be “all heart”. We know with the head but desire with the heart. May we desire with all our heart what we have come to know and thus grow in the marvelous gift God has called us to share with each other. May we be true instruments of peace and blessings to one another and all whom we encounter on our pilgrim journey through time.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant


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