|Sunday after Christmas|
he Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, iv. 1-7. Brethren: As the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all: but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father: so we also, when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. Therefore now he is not a servant, but a son. And if a son, an heir also, through God.
How are we to understand the words, "God sent His Son, made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law"?
St. Paul here speaks to such Christians among the Galatians as were formerly Jews, and who supposed themselves yet bound to keep the observances of the Law of Mosesl he shows them that by His death on the cross He dispensed with the Law, abolished its types and ceremonies, and redeemed the Jews from the curse and bondage to which it subjected them, delivering them thereby from sin and eternal death. We have received still greater favors than the Jews, because in our ancestors we were converted from Paganism to Christianity, and from children of the devil were made by faith heirs of God. Let us show how we value such blessings by living as children of God, in faith, love, confidence, patience, and innocence, shunning sin as the only real evil; unless we would forfeit our name and privileges as Christians, and voluntarily become a second time the slaves of the devil.
he Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, According to St. Luke, ii. 33-40. At that time Joseph and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning Him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of Him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in Him.
Why did Mary and Joseph wonder at these things?
They were filled with joyous wonder that Simeon was enabled by divine inspiration to recognize the child Jesus as the promised Messias, and to say such great things of Him.
What does it mean to bless?
To give or wish something good to any one; in the first of these senses God alone blesses, because all goods of soul or body which we have, or wish to have, come from Him; in the second sense, angels and men may bless us, in wishing us whatever is good, and in praying for it to God.
We have examples of blessings in Scripture?
Yes; an angel blessed Jacob (Gen. xxxii. 29); Jacob, when dying, blessed his children and grandchildren (Gen. xlviii. 15); Melchisedech blessed Abraham (Gen. xiv. 19); Rebecca was blessed by her brother (Gen. xxiv. 60); and the priests blessed the people. Our Saviour also blessed His disciples with uplifted hands.
Is it good for parents to bless their children?
Yes; for God Fulfils blessings of good parents, as He did those, for example, of the patriarchs Isaac and Jacob.
"The father's blessing establisheth the houses of the children, but the mother's curse rooteth up the foundations" (Eccles. iii. 11).
What virtue is there in the priest's blessing?
Very great virtue; because it is given in the name of the Church, through the merits of Jesus Christ, and comes from God Himself, Whose ministers and stewards the priests are. Parents should see that their children are blessed by the priests who may come to visit them, as the children were brought to Our Saviour, that He might lay His hands on them, and bless them (Matt. xix. 13).
How is Christ the fall and resurrection of many in Israel?
He is the fall, that is, the damnation, of those who do not receive Him, though they know Him to be the Saviour of the world; and of those also who believe in Him, and receive His holy teaching, but do not live according to it. "If Christ had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin" (St. John xv. 22). He is the resurrection or salvation of those who believe in Him, receive His doctrine, and live according to it.
What is the meaning of, "He is a sign which shall be contradicted"?
This was a prophecy that Jesus Christ, His life, works, teaching, and institutions should be the object of continual contradiction on the part of sensual and worldly wisdom. It was fulfilled in the blasphemies and persecutions of the Jews and gentiles, and is confirmed by infidels of all ages, as well as by those Christians who, as St. Bernard says, contridict His humility by their pride, His poverty by their avarice, His fastings by their intemperance, His purity by their impurity, His zeal by their sloth; thus confessing Him with their lips, but denying Him by their deeds. They are not faithful and sincere towards Jesus, and do not love Him, for they do not obey His holy will; they are Christians only in name, of whom Christ is not the resurrection, but the fall, for they are yet the slaves of sin.
What is meant by those words, "thy own soul a sword shall pierce"?
That Mary would have to suffer inexpressible pains and sorrows that would pierce her heart as with a sword. Time made this plain; for how often was not her beloved Son pursued and persecuted? Yet the greatest grief she felt must have been when she saw her Son in His sufferings and death, hanging, like a malefactor, on the cross.
What else is to be learned from this gospel?
First, widows may learn from Anna, who departed not from the temple, how to serve God, by fasting and prayer, "for the widow that liveth in pleasures is dead while she is living (I. Tim. v. 6). Secondly, parents may learn to be careful that their children increase not only in skill and wealth, but rather in the grace of God, by living pious, edifying, and peaceable lives before God and men.
Today is the last Sunday in the year. Ponder with care on the truths and doctrines which the holy Church has laid before thee in the epistles and gospels; thank God with thy whole heart for the great favors and benefits which thou hast received in the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ; examine thyself also whether thy faith is living and efficient, that thou mayest have the hope of being a child and heir of God; ask thyself whether, during the past year, Christ has been thy fall or thy resurrection? hast thou confessed Him in heart and deed, or hast thou been a Christian only in name? With such exercises and examinations occupy thy mind until the New Year, that thou mayest be prepared to begin it worthily.