Feast of St. Nicholas
by Fr. Miguel Batres, O.Praem.
Jesus summoned His disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with Me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”
Some time ago, a student told me that he and his roommates were conversing about how it is time for a fire and brimstone homily—the idea being, that the students can use a good shake up before they go home for Christmas. Well, as appealing as that sounds, I am sorry to let you down. The truth is, that I would rather have you desire the food our Lord offers you out of love instead of out of fear.
Perhaps some inspiration from St. Nicholas might help you. It’s unfortunate that people only remember him for his generosity with the poor. If you ask for a summary of his life, people will often say he is the jolly, fat, red guy that comes down the chimney and leaves presents. The truth is much more. St. Nicholas was a bishop and he was imprisoned for the faith. Something that I think might appeal to some of you, is that as a bishop, St. Nicholas participated in the First Council of Nicaea, where he was famously purported to have punched the heretic Arius for denying Christ’s divinity. Such a deed might be perceived as extreme or even uncalled for, so much so that historians or modern scholars would prefer to say this is a legend. But why? When you consider what might move a holy man to do such a thing, there is no need to call this occurrence a legend. There is no need to try to save face. St. Nicholas was a loyal bishop who had a deep friendship with Christ. Such was his friendship with Christ, that to offend Christ was taken as a personal offense. A friend is like another self; no true friend would sit on the side and do nothing, when he sees that his one and only true friend, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is being blasphemed.
Now, I am not asking you to go around slugging people for their sinfulness or their lack of faith, but if you feel so inclined, then we must begin with ourselves. We must consider our friendship with Christ. Christmas break is fast approaching. For students, there can be a temptation to drop the good spiritual discipline you have been forming. The focus of Christmas can easily become a wish list of things that will never satisfy you, or it can simply be all about ME. We can lose the focus of Christ. For confreres, we can get stressed and worked up with all the liturgical preparations and activities that happen during the Christmas season. In the midst of our responsibilities, all of us are in danger of collapsing if we starve ourselves of that necessary nourishment. Hence, Christ’s heart is moved with pity because He does not want us to go away hungry.
Unlike the interpretation of modern biblical scholars, this passage is truly a miracle, and it is truly referring to the Eucharist. This, brothers and sisters, is a consolation. Christ gives Himself to us so that we may be satisfied, so that we may be strengthened for the journey. The food and drink He gives us, is His very Body and Blood. He is the source of grace. He is the source of virtue. In our friendship with Christ, in that spiritual communion, it is not Christ who becomes like us, but it is we who become like Him. His grace becomes our grace. His virtue becomes our virtue. He gives us His very life.
Brothers and sisters, do not lose sight of what we have in the Holy Eucharist, but let us be satisfied and join in with the prophet when he says: “On that day it will be said: ‘Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!’”
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