Blessed are those prepared to meet him
Today is the feast of St. Nicholas. I hope you remembered to set out your shoes last night to receive gifts of candy and fruit! It’s a noble tradition of the faith, but one that is often overlooked.
Bishop St. Nicholas went from house-to-house in his diocese, caring for people’s needs in secret. His legacy endures today in the form of the candy cane, a treat in the shape of a bishop’s crozier, and even in the person of Santa Claus.
The Alleluia antiphon for today’s Mass heralds: “Behold, the Lord comes to save his people; blessed are those prepared to meet him.” St. Nicholas lived out this antiphon. The legend of his coming with gifts to those who prepare by setting out their shoes foreshadows the Lord’s coming with the gift of salvation. Blessed are those prepared to meet him.
This is only the beginning. The Gospel passage from Matthew speaks of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Jesus pities the hungry people who followed him into the wilderness, and he works a great miracle which points to the Eucharist. An abundance of grace flows forth from Jesus to those people, and all who are prepared to meet him.
This gives me a great sense of responsibility. Do I live like St. Nicholas, serving the poor and helping those I encounter know that Christ loves them? That through his birth an ocean of grace and mercy flowed from Bethlehem into the world? That he heals and multiplies loaves and fishes?
At Catholic Charities we’re called to love those who come to our door and attend to their material needs with food, housing, education, immigration legal counsel, dentistry and so much more.
We’re also called to shepherd them like St. Nicholas with his candy crozier, so they may experience the joy of Christmas and the love Jesus has for them. When I pass out candy canes, people smile. When I tell people that Jesus loves them they give me a hug, they tear up and find a hope beyond any material help we can provide.
We must do both: give help and hope during this season. I have no doubt that we are up to the task. It is our mission to love in this way.
Deacon Kevin Sartorius is the CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma.