Sermon for Children’s Mass:
Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas Day
by Fr. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900
Gospel. 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, into their city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him.
THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD IN THE TEMPLE
Christmas is over; with the angels we have sung the beautiful anthem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” We have witnessed the tears of the Child Jesus, but we know that those tears were tears of love, and for that reason they did not distress us, but gave us consolation.
Today, with the joy of Christmas still in our hearts, we come with the Holy Family and other pious people to the Temple to witness the ceremony of the Presentation. The first time Our Lord goes out into the world, He directs His Mother to carry Him to church. The moral I wish to draw from this Gospel, dear young people, is, that you should think much of the house of God on earth. We must also imitate the example of Christ and while in church beg our dear Lord to inflame our souls more and more with His holy love.
There are many who do not love the Church, through some depravity of heart, or the bad example of others. Will such be dear to Jesus? Will He love such as these? Jesus weeps for them.
Mary and Joseph heard the great prophecy which Simeon had spoken; they wondered at it, they thanked God for the light bestowed upon Simeon, and also that they had been made instruments of His divine providence.
We, too, my dear young people, must rejoice at the honors which God gives His Son, as we must weep when we see Him suffer. Yes, when you see Our Lord honored, feel joyful and be happy; when you see Him despised, be sad of heart. Is not this Jesus your good God? your beloved Redeemer who shed His precious blood for you? Can you witness the outrages which are heaped upon Him without resenting them, or at least trying to hinder them? What would you say of a son who saw his father badly used, and looked on carelessly and coldly? Should not a boy feel a natural impulse to defend his father by word and deed? Well, he that loves Jesus Christ should at least feel compassion when His holy religion is insulted. St. Teresa once said that a soul which loves Our Lord would sooner die than see Him despised or neglected. Elias the prophet, not to witness the wickedness of the Jewish people, hid himself in a cave, and there prayed that God would take him out of this life rather than be should see Him offended.
After Simeon had congratulated Mary and Joseph on their glorious future, he spoke of the sorrows that awaited Mary. “This child is set for the fall and 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.”
What a terrible prophecy this! Is it possible that this Child, who has come to this world for the salvation of His people, should indeed be the cause of the damnation of many? To whom will He be a ruin? to many in Israel, in the true church. He will be a ruin to infidels and heretics who will not believe in Him; a ruin to the proud who will not bow their heads in humility and faith, and to many Christians. But what Christians will be damned by the coming of Christ? Those who are so only in name; who do the works of the heathen and live in sin; who offend and blaspheme Our Lord, even though they were brought up Catholics. This divine Infant will also be the ruin of many young people, of those who from their earliest childhood cared little for Him, drove Him from their hearts to make room for the devil. He will be the utter ruin of those who, not content to lead bad lives themselves, lead others astray by giving bad example or by bad conversation. The divine Infant is presented today in the Temple. There is nothing dreadful about Him now; but one day they shall see Him, fierce as a lion; they shall see Him as a God, scattering His thunderbolts among sinners; He will demand of them the strictest account of all their works, of all the souls they have ruined, and of whose eternal damnation they have been the cause. May this prophecy not be realized in you. Then it will be too late to please Him; no more time for mercy, but for justice.
There was once a young man at the point of death, who had led a bad life; the priest came and presented the crucifix to him to kiss, saying, “Here, my son, is your hope.” The young man fixed his eyes on the cross and said, “Yes, you say truly, He is my hope, but He is now the cause of my despair,” and these were his last words.
Be you, my dear young people, faithful to Jesus, try to know Him well, do not offend Him, but love Him with a great love; then He will be your salvation and eternal life.
But, O Mary, my mother, what is that prophecy which Simeon makes concerning you: “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce”? In her subsequent life we see the prophecy verified. A sword of sorrow pierced her very soul, when she saw her divine Son insulted, made an object of hatred, crowned with thorns, and cruelly nailed to a cross. Our minds cannot realize the pain which Mary had to suffer. We know that our sins have been the cause of the Passion and death of Our Lord. Let us, therefore, weep all our life for the sins we have committed, and not renew the Passion of Our Lord or the sufferings of Mary. The Blessed Virgin once appeared to St. Lutgard, looking very sad; the saint asked her why it was so. Mary replied, “How can I be joyful when so many, day after day, give me new cause of sorrow by again crucifying my most holy Son?” She also appeared to Blessed Nicoletta Franciscana with her Child covered with terrible wounds, and said, “See how sinners treat my Son, inflicting on Him mortal wounds, and giving me also fresh cause of sorrow.” St. Alphonsus says that when we sin we take the hammer, and most unmercifully pierce the hands and feet of Jesus with nails, and then we turn on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and plunge the sword of sorrow deep into her soul.
But let us follow the story of the Gospel: There was in the Temple at the same time a woman, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser; she was eighty years old, and after the death of her husband, had remained about the Temple serving the priests and engaged in prayer; she knew Our Lord at once, adored Him, and proclaimed Him the Saviour; then, filled with the Holy Ghost, she told them of the marvels of God’s mercy, who had at last sent the Messias.
You see, my dear young people, how that holy woman who served Our Lord in silence and retirement, deserved so great a grace, so great a light of inspiration, as to be enabled to know Jesus. You, also, should love retirement, love to be near Our Lord in the Temple; speak often to Jesus in prayer, and then the Saviour will bring light to your souls, and speak to your hearts words of eternal life.
But there is something else to be considered in the story of this saintly old woman. We have in our cities and villages many who imitate this St. Anna. Let me say something in praise of these: they would willingly remain in the church, day and night, if they were permitted. We call them devotees. They are peculiar in their ways, considered crazy, derided by the good and bad as useless people; but perhaps they are high in the esteem of God. God gives more light to the simple and unpretending than to the philosophers who are puffed up with the pride of their intellect, and use it only to despise what they do not approve. You remember that beautiful story of St. Catharine; she had a great dispute with some learned professors in one of the universities of Alexandria, Egypt, and in the presence of the Emperor Maximian, she so convinced them of their errors, that many became Christians and afterwards suffered martyrdom. It is told of another martyr, who was a poor ignorant man, a laborer in the field, but who had studied Our Lord crucified; this man, when he had been judged guilty of disrespect to the gods and was condemned to death, made such a grand appeal to the emperor, that the tyrant himself acknowledged he was acting only from hatred of the Christian religion and not for the love of truth. These devotees in the sight of the world are useless, but we know that they have consecrated their lives to the service of God. There are also monks and nuns who spend much of their time in prayer. Are these people to be called pious idlers? Do they encumber the face of the earth, and should they be scattered as they have been in some countries? O, how poor and miserable human beings are! They let vice walk openly in the world, and take little trouble about it; but when poor Religious gather together to pray, it makes them desperate, and they do not stop until they have succeeded in suppressing them.
The Gospel ends by telling us that Our Lord lived at Nazareth, and grew in age and grace before God and man. My dear young people, strive to grow in goodness, in virtue, and in sanctity, for it is the will of God that we all should be saints.