Psalm 96:1-3, 10-13
On this feast of St. Nicholas, many of us conjure up images in our head of a jolly round fellow with rosy cheeks and a joyous laugh that makes his belly jiggle like a bowl full of jello. Good ole Saint Nick! Most of us don't know about the more serious side of good ole Saint Nick though. While St. Nicholas is certainly remembered as the good saint who blessed children with gifts and whose memory still lives on today, he was also a great defender of the faith in the early ages of the Church.
At the Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325, there was addressed a heresy called Arianism, after its promoter, Arius. Arius denied the fullness of divinity in Christ and this error was spreading wildly throughout the Church. Saint Nicholas, a great bishop and defender of the divinity of Christ went to the Council and in front of the community, slapped Arius across the face for his heretical teaching. This literal attack against heresy (and a heretic!) was meant to be a stark way of showing those in erroneous belief that they were wrong, had strayed from the fold, and needed to come back to the truth. This echoes the desires of Christ, who speaks today in the gospel about the need to leave the ninety-nine in search of the one lost sheep. How great is the rejoicing of one who returns to the fold.
While today we usually don't go around slapping people who are contradicting the True Faith (which would consume much of our day, honestly), we are called to pray for these souls and to encourage them and sometimes challenge them. Who in our own lives has strayed from the flock? Let us lift up that person(s) to the Lord today in prayer through the intercession of St. Nicholas.