Memorial of St. Nicholas, bishop
(Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14)
St. Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra in southwestern Asia Minor (now Turkey), was legendary for his pastoral care. In one story he throws bags of gold into the home of three impoverished girls to save them from prostitution. The money was used for dowries, and the three girls were happily married. Because of tales like this St. Nicholas morphed into Santa Claus, the most famous gift-giver of all, except, of course, for God himself.
Although charming, the stories about St. Nicholas pale in comparison to the generosity shown by God. In today’s first reading the prophet Isaiah envisions God liberating His people from captivity in Babylon. Liberation occurs in the sixth century B.C., and, again, in the life of Jesus. As today’s gospel indicates, Jesus becomes the Good Shepherd who rescues sinners from 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 ingratiating. His love brings us eternal happiness.