Memorial of St. Nicholas, bishop
(Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14)
A pastor is giving hundreds of bags packed with candy and a toy to the children of his parish today, the feast of St. Nicholas. Nicholas was a zealous bishop in the fourth century about whom little else is truly known. There is a legend about him throwing three bags of gold into the home of three impoverished girls who were about to be handed over to prostitution. The money was used for dowries, and the three girls were happily married. From this tale comes the custom of gift-giving on St. Nicholas Day.
Although charming, such a story pales in comparison to the generosity shown by God in the readings today. The prophet Isaiah envisions God liberating His people from captivity in Babylon. This vision is ultimately fulfilled by Jesus, the good shepherd, in the gospel. He gives up his life to rescue sinners from absolute perdition.
Although children are too often indulged with candy, a little treat along with a hearty catechesis is in order today. We want to teach our young of Jesus’ gift of himself which is far more delightful than any sweet. His love brings us eternal happiness.